Renaissance (Matthew Herbert)

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Downtown shooting causes city commissioner to talk about ... panhandlers; are city leaders ready to tackle gun issues?

It is an interesting journalistic choice to not identify the individual booing my response as Bob Schumm, the gentleman whose incentive request I had just voted against 24 hours prior. Your reporter was sitting 10 feet from Mr.Schumm. Everyone in that room knew who was booing- why the decision to not report that?

October 9, 2017 at 11:05 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

Lawrence City Commission approves tax breaks for 5-story downtown condo project

(2/2)
Fourth, with the vote tonight, this city commission provided over $1,000,000 in incentives to a project that our own internal reviews stated likely created 0 full-time jobs. The only mention of job creation came via the commercial side of the project - a side of the project the applicant admitted was happening with or without incentives.

Fifth, with the vote tonight, this city commission just stated that we are comfortable basing the parking plan off of a parking elevator scheme of which we have been told 22 spaces cannot exist without. Specifically, when asked what his game plan would be if the parking elevator plan were to not work out, the applicant stated that he had no plan B. All five of us lived through the HERE apartments parking fiasco. I sincerely hope that we will not get to revisit that experience.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly to me personally, I am not comfortable with the ethical gray area behind a city commission providing a sizable, seven-digit economic incentive to a former city commissioner and mayor. Because I know and respect my fellow colleagues on the commission, I can state with certainty that this wasn’t a ‘dirty’ vote. Let me be clear, I am NOT saying I think it was, but the public perception associated with a former local politician receiving a seven digit incentive package from the very first commission that he is not part of, isn’t good. “It doesn’t pass the smell test” as former commissioner Schumm used to say. In our role as city commissioners, we are called public servants. In this capacity we make some personal sacrifices, some familial sacrifices, some occupational sacrifices and some financial sacrifices. Understanding that by serving the community in this capacity you are removing yourself from future million dollar tax payer incentive handouts should be one of those financial “sacrifices”. I may be in the minority on this viewpoint, as I clearly was last night, but I would suggest that a former mayor making a financial incentives request of a commission is inappropriate.

October 4, 2017 at 6:43 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

Lawrence City Commission approves tax breaks for 5-story downtown condo project

(1/2)
I’m not one to typically take votes personally and I understand that different commissioners bring differing perspectives and political ideologies to the table. As a member of a 5-person panel I respect those differing perspectives and am fully accustomed to sometimes being on the losing end of votes. Last night was no different. As the votes were cast I found myself on the “2” side of a 3-2. That has happened to me more than I can count over the past two years. For some reason though, I can’t get past this vote. There are six reasons why I fundamentally disagree with what happened and I feel compelled (particularly for those of you not in attendance) to explain my reasoning.

First, this city commission spent several months coming up with a brand new economic incentives policy that makes it very clear that all projects that receive taxpayer incentives are to provide, AT A MINIMUM, 10% affordable housing units. In our first ever opportunity to make use of this policy we approved a project that provided 1 unit of affordable housing in a 12-unit complex. 1/12 while “close” does not meet our 10% minimum standard. What good is a policy if in the first opportunity to do so you violate your own established guidelines?

Secondly, this city commission just gave out an incentive package worth $1,019,888 if Mr.Schumm resides in the structure, all the way up to $1,130,000 if he doesn’t in order to provide one single bedroom, NOT JUST ONE UNIT BUT ONE BEDROOM, of affordable housing in Lawrence. Do we really believe a single bedroom of affordable housing is worth over $1,000,000 in incentives?

Thirdly, with the vote tonight, this city commission just sent a message that we believe a $95,000 price tag on a 590 square foot single bedroom home is an example of “affordable housing”. I’m uncertain of what problem we are solving by creating $95,000 single bedroom homes for sale. A quick search of the MLS reveals the current real estate market bears more than a handful of homes currently for sale in Lawrence that come with more square footage for a lesser price tag (and no HOA fees in perpetuity).

October 4, 2017 at 6:43 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

A look at what is in the city's proposed 2018 budget, and how much it will increase your taxes

Hi Michelle,
Roads are often constructed based upon the 'growth pays for growth' model. In other words, benefits districts often pay to build the road the first time and then the city takes on responsibility. Since 9th and 19th are existing roads, the city as a whole takes care of their repair and replacement while Queens Road is being built for the first time and is therefore a benefit district project.

July 30, 2017 at 8:10 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

Lawrence City Commission approves fast-track economic incentive program for city business parks

Richard,
Because of the nature of the agreement on Lawrence Venture Park, if the industrial park remains vacant, taxpayers will be on the hook for special assessments to the tune of $9.6 million

By recruiting industrial spec development, we are able to pass special assessment costs onto the developer and therefore off of your (and my) back.

Your statement is valid with regards to normal, private development where the city is not the owner of the land and therefore is never under threat of financial risk. This situation is completely different however as the city currently owns the land. If no development occurs at Venture Park, you will very literally be made to pay for it.

April 5, 2017 at 11:09 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

Letter to the editor: Arts deserve support

For what it's worth, according to the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, the arts contributed $730 billion to the GDP when each day 4.8 million Americans go to work in the arts and culture industry.

March 25, 2017 at 8:06 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

City Commission votes to declare Lawrence a 'welcoming' city for immigrants, pursue additional support

City government is not involved in the immigrant vetting process. Immigration policy and enforcement is the jurisdiction of the federal government.

March 8, 2017 at 12:42 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

City Commission votes to declare Lawrence a 'welcoming' city for immigrants, pursue additional support

Welcoming city does not change immigration policy which is set by the federal government, nor detainer policy once at the jail which is set by the county.

March 8, 2017 at 12:13 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

City Commission votes to declare Lawrence a 'welcoming' city for immigrants, pursue additional support

I'd hate to let facts get in the way of your anger, but your first three examples: Oread, Rock Chalk Park and the police station sales tax vote all happened years before I joined the commission. As to your fourth example of our former mayor, he was off the commission within months of my joining.
As to "sanctuary city status" I encourage you to read the proclamation. You will find this does not now, nor was it ever worded to, establish "sanctuary city" status.

March 8, 2017 at 11:39 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

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