LJWorld.com weblogs Town Talk

Taking stock of Tuesday's City Commission election and wondering how school bond and recreation center issues will affect the general election


I think I’ve finally shaken the snow from my ballot box, so, how about some news and notes left over from Tuesday’s Lawrence City Commission primary election?

• Getting it Done Early: For the first time in memory, there were more people who cast advance ballots than who went to the polls on Election Day. According to the unofficial numbers, 2,910 cast advance ballots, while 2,480 cast ballots on Election Day.

• A Bond Bounce: The talk at the Courthouse Tuesday night quickly turned to how different the April 2 General Election will be from the lightly attended primary election. The main reason is because there will be a $92.5 million school bond issue. Everyone expects that issue to do far more to drive voters to the polls than anything the City Commission is expected to do in the coming weeks.

How big of a bounce may it create in terms of voters? Well, there were 5,390 voters in Tuesday’s primary. The last time the Lawrence school district had a bond issue election was in April 2005. That bond issue drew nearly 21,000 voters. There easily could be 15,000 new voters coming to the polls in April. It could be argued that Tuesday’s primary election may be a poor predictor of how the general election will shape up. But primary elections traditionally have had a pretty good crystal ball quality to them. In 2005 — despite more than 10,000 new voters coming to the polls in the general election — the top three winners in the primary election all ended up in the top three in the general election.

But the possible scenarios this time around will be good for political conversation over the next several weeks.

• A Geography Lesson: I’ve put together a very quick and lazy analysis of voter returns. (Descriptions like that are why a career in marketing has never worked out for me.) Last night I got a breakdown of the vote by precincts. I’ve quickly made a list of how many precincts each candidate won. That’s interesting but don’t read too much into it because several of the precincts were only separated by three or four votes. It also is worth remembering that the precinct totals only include Election Day votes. Advance votes have been counted but haven’t yet been added in on a precinct by precinct basis.

Anyway, here’s what I found: Mike Amyx, the top vote winner, won or tied for first in 24 precincts. They were spread out all over the city. Just try finding an area of town that Amyx didn’t have some success in. Jeremy Farmer, the second place winner, won or tied for first in eight precincts. He also had victories in a wide area, including both in eastern and western Lawrence. Scott Criqui, the fifth-place winner, won or tied for first in five precincts. They all appeared to be in either central or East Lawrence. Rob Chestnut, the fourth-place winner, won four precincts. They all appeared to be in west Lawrence. Leslie Soden, the sixth-place winner, won or tied for first in three precincts. East and central Lawrence were her wheelhouse. Terry Riordan, the third-place vote winner, won or tied for first in just two precincts. But as the overall results would suggest, he didn’t do poorly in really any region.

• The Recreation Center: So, what did this primary election say about how voters feel about the proposed $25 million city recreation center? Beats me. Amyx was the top vote winner, and he has been expressing a lot of concerns about the project. He has called for a public vote on the issue. But the second- and third-place winners, Farmer and Riordan, both have been generally supportive of the project.

Chestnut, in fourth, hasn’t really landed in one camp or the other, although he has raised some questions about the financial aspects of the proposal.

The fifth- and sixth-place finishers, Criqui and Soden, both have expressed multiple concerns with the recreation center project and the lack of a public election on the issue.

What will be interesting to see is how big of an issue the recreation center will be in the general election. Here’s one thought: Historically, fifth- and sixth-place finishers have had a tough row to hoe to break into the top three of the general election. I wonder if Criqui and Soden will try to make the recreation center issue more prominent to give their campaigns a jolt of momentum with new voters. I have no clue what their strategies will be, but I’ll be watching to see if candidates start running ads and such around the issue.

Amyx told me last night that he’s confident the recreation center will be an issue, even though the City Commission is expected to issue bids for the project before the April 2 election. But here’s an important thing to remember about that: It will be the next City Commission that will be asked to approve those construction bids for the project.

“You can’t have something that has been all the talk for the last several months to suddenly just not be an issue,” Amyx said. “It needs to be an issue because the next commission will be involved with it a lot.”


Bruce Bertsch 5 years ago

Hey Commissioner Amyx. You were elected as a representative of the people. There is no need for an election on the Rec Center. City Commissioners need to do the job for which they were elected. This is still a Republic and not a Democracy.

somebodynew 5 years ago

Well, as a "representative of the people" maybe he wants to hear how the people NOW feel, NOT the ones in 1994, which is the vote the rest of them are relying on. Times, economics, and people have changed significantly since then. Plus, there seems to be a lot of 'things' not quite in the open just yet about this whole deal.

Carol Bowen 5 years ago

Moderation Man

  1. Please describe what you think the "job" is regarding the recreation center.
  2. How do you know Commissioner Amyx is not representing the people?

Jason Johnson 5 years ago

Amyx is certainly representing me on this issue. I wasn't here in 94, and I don't want this to go through how it stands now. This is clearly a cash-cow for Fritzl, and I won't have any part of lining his pockets (or the other developers) with taxpayer dollars.

Charlie Dominguez 5 years ago

The Lawrence of 1994 is not the same Lawrence of 2013. But you do have reason to worry. The last thing the public wants to approve is both the Rec center and the school bonds.

So Commissioners, Line Up behind the Rec Center and see if the public chooses basketball over school buildings!!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years ago

This is just a rationalization by someone who's afraid that this might not be approved in a city-wide election, which could still be scheduled for the April 2 election.


Richard Heckler 5 years ago

Thanks Chad for your 2 cents...... and the report on voter turnout.

Jim Russo 5 years ago

Although probably no election should focus solely on one issue, it would be helpful to know how each of the remaining candidates would have voted on February 19 regarding preliminary approval of the rec center (we already know that Amyx voted no).

Chad, any chance you could ask this very specific question?

Chad Lawhorn 5 years ago

We're formulating our plan of what issues we will quiz candidates on over the next few weeks. I suspect the recreation center topic will get some discussion. We did have this article in late January about the candidate's views: http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2013/jan... Thanks, Chad

Jim Russo 5 years ago

Thanks for that link. The article sheds a great deal of light on how the candidates view the issue.

Richard Heckler 5 years ago

If the city is truly concerned about the health of citizens they could offer up a voucher for each live in property owner of interest for say $1500 to be used toward the purchase of exercise equipment. This would cost taxpayers wayyyyyyy less money. Plus there would not be the ongoing expense of a rec center year after year after year.

A wild estimate would be $15,000,000 over time and would likely attract new people to Lawrence. This plan would absolutely demonstrate a genuine interest in the health of Lawrence citizens.

"Lawrence,Kansas the community of healthy homes courtesy of citizen tax dollars"

Of course not everybody in town will apply just as not everybody will use the high dollar rec center.

gatekeeper 5 years ago

Just like instead of redoing the library, every person in Lawrence could have gotten a Kindle and we still would have spent less money. As long as anyone in West Lawrence screams for it, they do it and make us all pay.

Richard Heckler 5 years ago

The only way to get a true reading on the Rec Center issue is to place the matter on the ballot NOW!

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