Archive for Monday, July 24, 2017

Lawrence City Commission candidate profile: Matthew Herbert

City Commission candidate Matthew Herbert

City Commission candidate Matthew Herbert

July 24, 2017

Editor's note: The Journal-World will run similar stories on each Lawrence City Commission candidate in the days leading up to the Aug. 1 primary election.


Candidate and incumbent Lawrence City Commissioner Matthew Herbert is no stranger to voting against the grain, but he hopes people have noticed more than that.

“I’ve been part of more 4-1 votes than I can even count,” Herbert said. “But my whole goal and what I hope people notice about me is though you may not agree with me, I make a real concerted effort to have all of my votes be reasoned and justified.”

City commission candidate Matthew Herbert

City commission candidate Matthew Herbert

Herbert, 34, owns a property management company and teaches government and comparative politics at Lawrence High School. He holds bachelor's degrees in education and history and a master's degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Kansas.

Seeing things take shape

Herbert, who grew up in Lawrence, joined the commission in 2015 along with fellow newcomers Leslie Soden and Stuart Boley. That election followed controversial decisions on Rock Chalk Park and the HERE apartment complex. Not long after beginning their terms, former mayor Jeremy Farmer resigned his job at a local food pantry and his seat on the commission amid allegations of theft.

Herbert said during the first year of his term, they spent a lot of time dealing with past issues, including HERE’s parking shortage and Farmer’s resignation. He said he wants to continue on the commission to finish what he started.

“For me it was a desire to actually see through what I set out to do two years ago,” Herbert said. “I’m optimistic. We’re beginning to see a lot of things take shape that I believe in.”

Herbert said he thinks the biggest thing he’s learned so far is the value of compromise.

“When you first get started there’s this big fire in your belly and you’re sure that you’re going to drive the bus and everybody is going to fellow,” Herbert said. “And then you soon discover that every Tuesday night you sit on a panel with four other people and you unilaterally can’t do anything.”


If re-elected, Herbert said his main issue is asset management. The city has dozens of facilities and services to maintain — including more than 40 buildings across the city — and Herbert said he thinks the commission needs to look to alternative forms of revenue.

“Even in issues that are controversial, we ultimately have proceeded with a lot of building,” Herbert said. “The one area in which I see a deficiency on our part is in actually managing these assets.”

He said a current example is the Dwayne Peaslee Technical Training Center. The center opened two years ago with support from the city and Douglas County, but it is having to delay a $1.57 million balloon payment on its mortgage after it could not afford to pay it.

Herbert said he thinks Peaslee Tech serves a great purpose but needs to be more financially sustainable. He said he thinks other funding should be pursued, such as corporate partnerships or program sponsorships from the various industries for which Peaslee Tech provides training.

Another issue Herbert would like to focus on is infrastructure. He said infrastructure improvements should be equitably paid for and distributed, including in older parts of the city.

“(Making sure) that we’re not spending all of our money building new roads if we are not spending money maintaining the ones we have,” Herbert said. “There’s a good balance there.”

Herbert said that also means reconsidering the city’s use of benefit districts — such as the one proposed to pay for improvements to Queens Road — and its ordinance that requires property owners to pay for repairs to sidewalks adjacent to their property.

“Asking individuals to pay for something that benefits the entire population, to me, is not the way our system was set up,” Herbert said. “Our system was set up and designed to be equitable so that we all bear a burden and therefore we all pay a smaller amount.”

A third issue concerning Herbert is making sure the commission, in addition to efforts to attract businesses, keeps in mind that there are artists and people working in creative fields that can work from any city.

“The challenge to a city commissioner is how do you design a city so that someone who could live anywhere chooses to live here?” Herbert said.

Herbert said attracting those residents is especially important given the city budget’s reliance on sales tax revenue. He said elements that make Lawrence a desirable place to live include completion of the Lawrence Loop, strong Parks and Recreation programs, and well-maintained parks and infrastructure.

The terms of commissioners Lisa Larsen, Mike Amyx and Matthew Herbert are expiring this year. Eight candidates have filed for the election: Herbert, Larsen, Jennifer Ananda, Bassem Chahine, Dustin Stumblingbear, Ken Easthouse, Mike Anderson and Christian Lyche.

The primary election on Aug. 1 will narrow the field to six candidates. The general election will be Nov. 7.

Matthew Herbert

Address: 523 Kasold Drive

Age: 34

Occupation: Teacher at Lawrence High School and owner of Renaissance Property Management

Education: Bachelor's degrees in education and history and a master's degree in curriculum and instruction

Family: Wife, Rachael Sudlow, and one daughter


Brett McCabe 8 months ago

Matt Herbert might be a nice guy, who knows? The problem has been that either a lack of maturity or a lack of judgement has marked his short term with bad moment after bad moment after bad moment.

From pooh wars with Topeka, to recommending increased funding for Just Food, to Facebook polls, to wasting $1.5 million on the Kasold project, to forcing another ground-level, single-story parking lot upon the city (that's what Lawrence really needed), to disrespecting the voters of the city by selecting their 5th commissioner rather than honoring the votes they had already cast, to picking a fight with a 19-year-old whose vote count will be dependent on the hangover status of his immediate friend-group on election day, to failing to recuse himself in clear conflict of interest votes to - most recently - actually having to seek out advice on whether or not he should bid on a painting job for police department. Really? He didn't just know that it's something that he shouldn't do?

If you want to chalk the Soden and Herbert debacle (not to mention Farmer) up to steep learning curves - fine. Then what we should have learned is that these two massive mistakes need to be fixed at the first opportunity. What I've learned is that the city ultimately gets what it deserves. Just like Trump, Brownback, Kobach and the ELNA, when we grant power to goofs, we get goofy things.

It's going to be hard to fine two people in this candidate pool to actually pencil in on election day. But if you keep doing what you are doing, you will keep getting what you are getting. In Herbert's case, it's been 80% bad ideas and a lot of blather.

David Barrett 8 months ago

Matt Herbert shares with the LJ World that Christian Lyche, the 19-year-old running for city commissioner, rented Herbert's Airbnb under false pretenses, threw a huge party, and caused thousands of dollars in damage while trashing the property. And you classify this as Herbert "picking a fight with a 19-year-old." I disagree with that categorization. If ANY candidate is involved with something like this then I want to know about it as it reflects on their overall character and level of maturity.

Rick Masters 8 months ago

He lives west of Massachusetts Street so he can't be all bad, right?

Bob Forer 8 months ago

McCabe, if you can't find two candidates to vote for might I suggest that you put your own butt on the line and run for public office. I doubt you ever will as experience tells me that most hypercritical folks like yourself don't have the guts to run for office.

Your nastiness on these message boards compares with the Bobs. I am sure your family is proud of you.

Carol Bowen 8 months ago

Our current city commission is one of the more diversified commissions we've had. They are not flashy, but they have accomplished quite a bit. A strategic plan they actually follow, guidelines for economic development, organization of staff and services, a budget based on the strategic plan. (These are off the top of my head.) To have everyone agree sounds creepy. I prefer different view points converging to consensus. There's a better chance my positions will be represented. Matthew Herbert is outspoken and speaks concisely. He doesn't always explain his rationale well. He was elected, because his voters have the same perspective.

David Holroyd 8 months ago

If he utters one word about "affordable housing" he gets a NO vote from me.

He voted for parking fees increased, parking fines increased, higher water rates, sewer rates and of course those increases cause the city workers to get raises.

You cannot keep raising fees and taxes and have affordable housing, Mr. Herbert. You should know that. You teach and the parents of your students are stuck with the increases but NOWHERE is their cutting of the budget. Real cuts! This Markus guy builds a budget then cuts a position from it. And calls it a cut.

About the streets. Why did the bar at 14th and Ohio get preference over many other streets heavily traveled? And is it by coincidence that the homes along that construction area are owned by one of the bar owners and benefited as well.

13th is horrible from Mass to Kentucky. Tennessee has curbing broken and overgrown trees and poor lighting.

Matthew, the parking lots are shameful. Go look at the lot behind Marks Jewelers. The dumpster areas need cleaned and the transformers in the lot are strewn with trash clothing and trash. It is a disgrace. The last Commissioner that took it to heart was David Schauner.

Those lots are the front door of your downtown. If the lots cannot be kept clean very little can be done overall. And to think that revenue is coming from the lots. Where is the money going?

Carol Bowen 8 months ago

The sidewalks on Mass could use a good scrubbing. Back in the day, shopkeepers washed their sidewalks first thing in the morning. Very little cost that.

David, Did you miss the news that a visitor tripped on a sidewalk on Mass and broke his nose? How does the sidewalk ordinance apply downtown?

The fees in Lawrence are a mere pittance. There's such a gap between median income and the median cost of a house, the only way to overcome the gap is to increase wages.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 8 months ago

The sidewalks downtown will connive to degrade. We used to have local, proud owners who kept up their properties. Now we have owners who want the money (lots of money), who expect the renting business to fix everything. Businesses who are already paying to much for their rent, so there is no money left over for fixes.

Charles Jones 8 months ago

I think well of Matthew. In my personal interactions with him, I found that he listens and cares. And he's a wonderful father, which means something in my book.

To tell you the truth, I am grateful to just about anyone who runs for public office. They have to put up with so much grief from people who have lost their sense of civility.

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