LJWorld.com weblogs Town Talk
A few leftovers from City Commission forum
A few leftovers from Monday night’s City Commission candidate forum hosted by the North Lawrence Improvement Association:
• There was more talk about the need for Lawrence to focus its economic development efforts on helping small or start-up companies. Candidates Dennis Constance, Aron Cromwell and Gwen Klingenberg all have been regularly touting such a strategy. On Monday, candidate Lance Johnson questioned that some. He said he wanted to help small businesses too, but said he was concerned about pulling efforts away from trying to attract larger businesses.
“Are you telling me that if a company wants to bring us 200 jobs, we’re going to say no because they’re not a small business,” Johnson said. “You’ve got to be kidding me."
Johnson also said he was concerned that candidates haven’t defined what constitutes a small business.
None of the candidates, however, have said they want to stop all efforts to attract larger companies. Often times when candidates are talking about economic development efforts, they are talking about the efforts of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce to market the community to outside companies. As the campaign moves along, it will be interesting to see if candidates spell out whether they are proposing an increase or a decrease in the amount of funding that goes to the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce for its economic development marketing program.
• One candidate did tell the crowd that he has a healthy amount of skepticism about tax abatements. “I think we need to be very, very, very careful about tax abatements,” Dennis Constance said.
Constance said the city doesn’t have good standards for when to grant tax abatements.
Constance also told the crowd that he would not have voted for a special taxing district that was created to help developers with The Oread, a hotel project being built near Kansas University.
A member of the Oread Neighborhood asked each candidate to say whether they supported the project. All said they did, with the exception of Constance. Constance actually said he thought the project was a good one, so good, in fact, that developers would have moved ahead with the project even if the city didn’t create the special taxing district.
• Candidate Tom Johnson did not attend the forum on Monday. He e-mailed me this morning to say that the reason he did not attend was because he was never invited by the North Lawrence Improvement Association. Ted Boyle, president of the association, said he left a message on a phone that he believed was Johnson’s. Boyle noted that the Journal-World did publicize that the forum would be held. About 40 people attended.