Renaissance (Matthew Herbert)


Comment history

City Commission considers creating own janitorial staff; plan would come with high price tag

A couple items that I believe are of importance to note:
First, part of my dislike of our current contract with ISS for janitorial services is that ISS is a Topeka-based company. I believe in a town of nearly 100,000 people we shouldn't have to farm out our janitorial services. Our budgetary expenses should be kept inside the city whenever possible. Buy local but think global, right?
Secondly, the article mentions how much more expensive it will be to run janitorial services internally instead of hiring them out to an outside provider. I'm not ready to fully agree with this math just yet. It will of course be more expensive, but just how much more expensive is highly debatable. Under our current agreement with ISS, we have one full-time and three part-time workers cleaning city facilities. The math that was provided last night as a comparative showed the city hiring five full-time workers. I need to get to the bottom of exactly why 1 full-time and 3 part-time have to be replaced with 5 full-time to mimic services.
Finally, given that the city has received some complaints about the quality of the work being done, most recently from Bert Nash, what better way to handle quality control than to actually staff those who do the work? I can imagine it is very difficult for ISS to keep good people. After all, you work them 22 hours per week and pay them as little as $8/hour with no benefits. There aren't a whole lot of people wanting to do top notch work for $176/week before taxes. There are even less of those people who can pass a thorough background check to allow them to work in places such as a police station. I believe we will have a much easier time finding (and more importantly retaining) good quality workers as a city if we offer full-time work at a living wage. It's the difference between $504/week and $176/week, before taxes.
My time spent working as a teacher has taught me one very important life lesson; you have to model the behavior you expect from others. As a city government, if we expect businesses in our community to pay a living wage, we must lead that charge and ensure that those who work inside our city government buildings are also making a living wage.

February 17, 2016 at 8:04 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

Editorial: Bad idea

I appreciate the newspaper coverage of this issue as it has garnered good discussion on the ways to implement this program most efficiently and effectively. This editorial seems to speak down on the proposal because it would create more administrative duties and therefore cause either more staffing ($$) or dilution of current duties and therefore be inefficient. I agree completely. Placing giant boxes in the middle of city hall is not how this program should play out. Adding staff members to process hundreds of cans of corn is not how this program should play out. It is interesting to me that the editorial (and others) are speaking down on a proposal in spite of the proposal having not yet been written. They are, in effect, criticizing something that doesn't yet exist. To answer these concerns, allow me to brainstorm my thoughts on this proposal, again clarifying that no formal policy recommendation yet exists on this issue. As I see this playing out in the form of a specific proposal, individuals who opt for the donation in lieu of payment would make their donation at their food pantry of choice and would receive a "receipt of donation" similar to what the Goodwill offers you for your tax records when you make a donation of goods. The individual could then place the receipt of donation into the yellow envelope and submit that as "payment". I have yet to hear a reason why processing a receipt of donation would take any more time, staffing or money than processing my $3 check. If it seems like making the donation of food would be going out of your way, then don't do it. Pay the $3 ticket as you have for all of eternity. That option remains fully viable.
The reality that I hope is not lost in all of the fighting over this idea is that we have a large segment of our population that faces daily food insecurity. What is particularly unfortunate is that the actions of our former Mayor have created a subtle, yet devastating, impact upon the amount of donations individuals are giving to Just Food. As one volunteer at Just Food relayed to me the other day when I asked how it was going he said "We do what we can for who we can everyday, but when the shelves are bare our options are scarce".
The editorial is right that every other city in America that has done such a program has done so on a short-term, typically confined to a holiday basis. While charitable giving is often stronger near the holidays, hunger is not seasonal. We have the opportunity to pioneer this program and to serve as a champion for those in our community that need us most. Your feedback is always appreciated on this matter.

February 8, 2016 at 9:32 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

The ins and outs of a proposed increase in parking fines for downtown Lawrence

David -
Thanks for asking about who received the donated salary. As you recalled correctly I did make a pledge to donate 100% of my salary to charity. So far, the following organizations have received donations (in no particular order):
Watkins Museum, Bert Nash, Children's Miracle Network, Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence, Just Food, Douglas County First Responders Valor Awards, Van Go Arts, Lawrence Education Association, Habitat for Humanity, Lawrence Adopt-A-Family.

February 5, 2016 at 7:42 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

City Commission approves Menard Inc. incentives package, clearing the way for new manufacturing facility in Lawrence VenturePark

Bob- the wages are set as part of the agreement and are annually evaluated. If the business does not meet targets, incentives are cut or eliminated all together. Under the agreement, the company will offer at least 100 full time, with benefits jobs paying an average hourly wage of $14.61. You are right that we campaigned on taking a firmer stance on abatements. It is our intention to make sure these are used only in situations where large numbers of primary jobs with competitive wages are created. The city has a living wage floor of $12.65 for incentivized businesses. It should be noted that Menard's is exceeding that wage for 100% of their workers and is purchasing from the city nearly 30 acres of additional property that they do not currently have plans to build upon.. This gives me confidence that expansion will be in order in the future and as such job growth should far exceed their initial 100 number. This is a good move for the city.

January 20, 2016 at 6:46 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

City Commission rejects shopping development in south Lawrence

I'm not sure I understand your position on the need for the city commission to be unanimous in our votes. First and foremost though, I want to address your statement that our divided votes indicate an inability to put our "collective heads together". Because of KOMA laws, no quorum of commissioners can EVER speak on an issue together outside of a public meeting. I am free to speak to ONE fellow commissioner on a specific issue and that is it. To say that we don't put our heads together is entirely accurate - because we can't, legally. For almost all issues that come before the commission, individual commissioners meet with constituents prior to the meeting to formulate their position but often hear the position of their fellow colleagues for the first time on Tuesday night. As to the option of holding study sessions which would allow for a unified discussion within the confines of KOMA, study sessions are held for broad topics, such as "incentives" which we will be discussing next Tuesday at 3:30. They are rarely, if ever, held for a specific single item on an agenda.

Now, back to the underlying philosophy that you seem to hold stating that our votes would be better if unanimous. We are a country built on the notion of representative democracy. At no level of governance by committee do you see unanimous votes occur. How many 435-0 votes do you count in the House? How many 100-0 votes do you count in the senate? How many 9-0 votes do you count on the Supreme Court? On last night's issue, even the planning commission that forwarded us the recommendation did so on a 6-2 vote. In representative democracy, unless a community as a whole thinks alike, it would be highly unlikely for the elected body serving that community to think alike. Your advocacy for unanimous voting does little other than promote principles of groupthink, which I would argue is NOT something this community would want.

January 6, 2016 at 7:38 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

Public incentives approved for apartment project at Eighth and New Hampshire

Brett -
As a point of clarification, there was nothing anti-developer about my vote. Nor was there anything "anti" towards this development. I encourage the development and I encourage the density it will bring. I am concerned about potential parking concerns for the development, but ultimately wasn't going to vote against the development on parking grounds. I encourage you to go back and read the minutes or watch the broadcast. You will note one VERY important fact. Mr.Fleming, representing the development group, states that with or without the incentive the project would be built. That makes the vote very simple. If you vote for, you give away $316,000 in sales tax revenue and get the development. If you vote against, you retain $316,000 in sales tax revenue and get the development.

December 2, 2015 at 9:15 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

City Commission names three finalists for city manager vacancy

Bob -
The decision to put the light at BBP & BobWhite was based upon two factors. First, from a traffic standpoint, this is a pro-active not a reactive decision. Once the K-10 connection opens up we are anticipating a substantially larger volume of traffic heading down 15th/BBP. The current stretch of 15th has substantially fewer stoplights than either 6th or 23rd rendering it a 'speedway' of sorts. This light is designed as a traffic calming device. Secondarily, BBP & Bobwhite is located right next to a school (Corpus Christi). I don't think taking into account the necessity of student safety is pandering to the wealthy; I think it's good common sense. When I campaigned, I reiterated that good local governance is two things: public safety & infrastructure. This project meets both criteria, in my opinion.

November 19, 2015 at 7:23 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

City Commission names three finalists for city manager vacancy

Brett- the decision to utilize signalization instead of a roundabout at BBP & Inverness was based upon three factors. For one, a roundabout was nearly double the cost of signalization. Specifically, $240,000 more. The cost savings from NOT doing the roundabout will more than pay to close our sidewalk gap over there ($220,000 anticipated cost). Secondly, there were huge right of way issues with the adjacent property to the north. And, finally (though the least important of the three factors based upon commission conversation), that stretch of road is on a significant incline. Roundabouts function at their best on level terrain which is why every roundabout but one in Lawrence is positioned on level terrain.

November 18, 2015 at 8:27 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

Numbers show achievement gap between Lawrence high schools

I sincerely hope that the "take away" from this article is not that readers equate LHS as a 'lesser' school. If you define a kid by a test score, you have already failed. I am incredibly proud to work in a building that celebrates diversity the way LHS does. I'm incredibly proud to work in a building that understands outcomes don't have to match for levels of growth to match. It's a great day to be a Lion.

November 9, 2015 at 6:20 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

College course on voter registration proposed in Kansas

Am I reading this correctly that the entire course will be just about voter registration? Is this a semester-long course? I feel really sorry for the professor that has to stretch that content out for 4 months. I teach voter registration to seniors every semester; it takes about an hour to teach. Do you know your name? Do you know your address? Do you have a state-issued photo id?

October 27, 2015 at 6:20 a.m. ( | suggest removal )