Archive for Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Editorial: Let voters weigh in on police HQ

August 8, 2017


Lawrence city commissioners’ decision to move forward with building a new police headquarters without voter approval is not without risk.

Last week, commissioners approved a $255 million city budget for 2018 that increases the property tax rate by 1.25 mills. The mill levy increase will enable debt financing for $17 million for the first phase of the new police headquarters. A property tax increase for the purpose of issuing debt does not require a public vote under state law.

In 2014, Lawrence residents voted 52 percent to 48 percent to reject a 0.2 percent sales tax increase to pay for a $28 million police headquarters.

Commissioners see a big difference between the current proposal and the one voters turned down.

“Are we supposed to not make decisions as commissioners on issues that confront us?” Vice Mayor Stuart Boley said. “I think we’re doing our job by doing it this way. We have a responsibility to the police, who are our employees, and to the public, for whom we’re providing public safety. I think we have that responsibility and we’re meeting that responsibility.”

Commissioners Mike Amyx and Matthew Herbert said they felt the 2014 vote was a rejection of the proposed sales tax increase, not of the police headquarters. Both voted to approve the 2018 budget as is with the police headquarters and property tax increase.

Mayor Leslie Soden was the only “no” vote against the budget. But she didn’t oppose the police headquarters per se; rather, she opposed increasing taxes to pay for it.

To be sure, there are distinct differences between the 2014 proposal and this year’s plan beyond the tax approach and the pricing. The 2014 project was to be built on property the city would have to purchase. The new project will be built in phases on land the city already owns, with one option being a property at the intersection of Overland Drive and Wakarusa Drive. That site could make it possible for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office to locate on the site in the future.

But while they are different projects, the concepts are similar — a tax increase to fund construction of a police headquarters. Given how close the vote was in 2014, it would have been reasonable to think Lawrence voters would have supported this new, less costly proposal.

City commissioners are elected to make decisions on behalf of the residents they serve, and not every decision should be decided by public vote. But raising taxes to build a multimillion-dollar police headquarters is a decision that seems to warrant voter approval, and commissioners may regret not seeking it.


Francis Hunt 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Your statement "City commissioners are elected to make decisions on behalf of the residents they serve, and not every decision should be decided by public vote." You are absolutely correct and public safety should never be put to a vote. Your final sentence is incorrect and irresponsible. "But raising taxes to build a multimillion-dollar police headquarters is a decision that seems to warrant voter approval, and commissioners may regret not seeking it." Is that a threat to the commissioners during an election year? It "seems" to warrant voter approval? It doesn't warrant voter approval, it warrants a group of elected officials who fully understand the need to make a decision, something the previous commission didn't have the nerve to do.

The negativity the ljworld has for the police department becomes reckless when you are willing to risk public safety without having a clue what you are talking about. Whoever you are writing this editorial I am curious, have you personally toured the facilities the police are working out of? Did you ever sit down one on one with the previous Chief and discuss this issue? Have you been on a ride-with to get an understanding of the inefficiencies? My guess is no. Obviously like the other anti-police residents in this community you don't feel it is necessary to have a complete understanding of the situation.

We elect officials to have a complete understanding of a situation and to make difficult, not popular decisions, especially in regards to public safety because the average citizen does not have the time or the desire to do so. A new facility has been needed for over 10 years and no other commission had the courage to do it, they were too busy with rec centers and libraries and getting re-elected to make a difficult but responsible decision. I for one appreciate this commission putting a phased plan in place and taking care of business. Kudos to vice-mayor Boley, well said.

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Well written letter, and I completely agree. A new police headquarters is badly needed, long overdue, and commissioners are supposed to make decisions such as this. You can't have a public vote on every decision that needs to be made. As a retired peace officer, I agree that public votes do not need be held regarding public safety issues.

David Holroyd 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Mr. Bloss, if I am correct, you do not pay taxes to the city of Lawrence. You may favor a new police facility but you do not have to bear the burden of bullding it, maintaining it ( another tax increase for that is to come).

Mr. Boley, talks about affordable housing, but each time he votes to raise water rates, sewer rates, parking fees ( and by the way the parking lots are in horrible condition, why?) and now raises property taxes, Mr. Boley is talking out both sides of his mouth. He is not consistent. Affordable housing does not equal higher taxes!

Brandon Devlin 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Mr. Bloss may not, but I do pay taxes to the City of Lawrence and favor a new police facility and fully expect that my taxes will have to be used to build it and maintain it. That's part of living in a community and paying taxes on property I own.

So what?

Carol Bowen 9 months, 2 weeks ago

David, Off the topic note. There is no such thing as affordable housing. People who need housing cannot find jobs that would provide them with the income needed to afford housing.

Carol Bowen 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Charles and Francis are far more eloquent than I am, but I wholeheartedly agree that our police department needs new facilities. A phased plan gives time to review the assets and spread out the budget over years.

Lawrencians were absolutely euphoric over the recreaion center, regardless of cost. No one asked for a vote even though a waste water treatment plant and the police department facilities were already a concern. So, now we have to accept the responsibility for past choices. We spent the money on a rec center. Now, we will have to raise taxes to address practical needs like a new police department facility.

Melinda Henderson 9 months, 2 weeks ago

This Lawrencian was not euphoric over the rec center and that money most certainly could have gone to pay for a new police facility. Previous city manager/commissions chose a very expensive "want" over a public safety need. So now we're stuck with where we are. Public safety is a core service and should never be funded by voting to pay for it with a sales tax. We are going to be cleaning up from the past 10-12 years of commissions during Corliss' tenure for a long time. This is just the beginning. That said, I do think we're going to need to have an in-service on the difference between wants and needs in this town. The sooner, the better.

Bob Summers 9 months, 2 weeks ago

If people in government quit flooding the country with criminals from foreign countries and inculcating children in their schools to covet other peoples possessions, Larryville would not need a larger building to house their employees that catch criminals they created.

Paul Beyer 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Another "BS" post from one of the "BS forum trolls" here.

Kevin Elliott 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I have to laugh at the BS comment above, hyperbolic non factually based "opinions" can only be perceived as a joke and not to be taken seriously.

Not only is public safety not to be voted on, there are many civil and legal obligations for law enforcement including quality of facilities that are required to avoid legal sanctions.

Chuck Wehner 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I toured the West Lawrence facility before the vote and found they were only using half the building and because of that and buying the land I voted against it. In my opinion they are approaching it in a much more rational way this time. Not buying the land, building in phases as there needs grow and spending 17 million as apposed to 40 million is much more desirable.

David Holroyd 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Melinda , if you plan to continue to live here, you will pay more and more in taxes to support the programs and facilties,,,no one is even talking about the maintenance and extra personnel to be hired...and that is just the city side...the school district is another issue...

And with the city manger, Mr. markus,,,dont expect anything big to come..he is building a resume and the city commissoners are going along with everything he says.

Carol,,,,if affordable housing depends on jobs,,,tell that to Stuart Boley !

Carol you must be rich to afford the extra taxes....:)

Carol Bowen 9 months, 2 weeks ago

No, I am not rich. It's a tough call. City commissioners put in a lot of time receiving input, doing their homework, and arriving at conclusions. We should respect the decisions of the current and past commissions. That's how our system works.

I was adamantly opposed to the rec center. I attended meetings and expressed my opinion. I felt the project should have been put to a vote. The police department facility should have been built. At the time, my position was definitely in the minority. Supporters felt and still think that the rec center was/is an economic stimulus.

That was another time. Now, voters need to understand how important and practical an investment in our police department is.

Brandon Devlin 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Not rich, just a member of a community that understands the responsibilities for living in said community.

We're not talking rocket science. If you a.) want to live in a community and have the services that come as a part of that community, then b.) you pay taxes on sales and property. Or c.) you move to a community that offers less services or fits your budget a little better.

Richard Heckler 9 months, 2 weeks ago

" The mill levy increase will enable debt financing for $17 million for the first phase of the new police headquarters."

The first phase .... how many phases will there be?

Is this going to be another $30 million tax dollar project ultimately?

How much money is City Hall anticipating spending on a police station?

Taxpayers deserve some straight talk.

Is the property tax rate of 1.25 mills being dedicated to the police station? Or how many ways is this money going to be spent?

Did I understand that the new location is currently owned by taxpayers?

How will the 15th and Wakrusa property be disposed of? If the city owns the property can taxpayers expect to receive top market value?

Richard Heckler 9 months, 2 weeks ago

"with one option being a property at the intersection of Overland Drive and Wakarusa Drive."

What are the other options?

Deborah Snyder 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Oh... WAIT-T-T-T a minute!?!

Why would the city even Con - sider building a police headquarters in the diametrically OPPOSITE corner of Lawrence from the city/county JAIL???

WTH? I mean, seriously -- think about that for one minute! In what universe does that begin to make sense?!?

  1. Let's talk about access, shall we? K-10, the SLT, versus the back-end of Walmart and Free State High School?!?

  2. Let's talk about vehicle mileage, oky-doky? Who thought it made sense to book 'em in NW Lawrence, annnnnnnd drive 'em to the SE side of the city to incarcerate?!?

  3. Let's talk about public safety, alrighty? How is it SAFE for pedaling pedestrians, school children, the hard-of-hearing elderly, city buses and commercial traffic for the police car ferrying going on between the jail, the courts downtown and the police HQ to be so astoundingly far apart from each other?!?


Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 9 months, 2 weeks ago

It is correct that I will not be paying taxes for a new LPD headquarters. I will be paying more taxes for three new deputy sheriffs, and other improvements. We are taxed way too much, in my opinion, but I never balk at paying taxes for public safety.

Calvin Anders 9 months, 2 weeks ago

The police department's insistence that a consolidated facility is key to their success is misguided. This all buys into the armed occupying force mentality that pervades law enforcement culture in our country. We should be looking for ways to decentralize our police and integrate them into our community. And this is not a criticism of our current police department. It is an observation that a move to consolidate is a move in the wrong direction. If the city council wants to be respected by voters and show they can make some leadership decisions, they should look beyond what the police leadership thinks they need and consider what would best serve the community.

Ken Easthouse 9 months, 2 weeks ago

You know, there was one city commission candidate who was openly against increasing the mill levy to fund a new police station, entirely on the premise that voters should have a right to weigh in on the decision. Lo and behold, that person lost in the city primary by a not-small margin.

As much as it pains me to say it, looks to me like the voters have spoken.

Calvin Anders 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Wow Ken, some ninja level reductive logic there. I don't imagine that most voters looked at only one single issue in making their choices and I don't imagine that most voters assumed that other candidates were eager to move forward without more feedback. It's not like other candidates had slogans like "Even if voters tell us they don't want something, we will push it through anyway".

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