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Speculation that retired health care executive and Lawrence neighborhood leader both will enter race for Lawrence City Commission


We’re dismissing questions about the upcoming Lawrence City Commission election like my wife dismisses my request to have access to our ATM PIN number.

First was whether the Lawrence City Commission race would have enough candidates for a primary? Yep. As we reported last week, there are now seven candidates in the race, which triggers a Feb. 26 primary to cut the field to six.

Next is whether any female candidates will enter the race? I’ve been told the answer soon will be yep and yep. I’ve been told to expect two female candidates to file before tomorrow’s noon deadline.

Leslie Soden, a former president of the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association and a founder of the Madre Lawrence group, confirmed to me that she will file her paperwork tomorrow morning.

Multiple sources also have told me that Judy Bellome, the recently retired chief executive officer of the Lawrence-based Visiting Nurses Association, plans to file for a seat on the commission.

Soden has contemplated making a run for the City Commission for the last several months, but a few weeks ago she told me she had decided against it. She said she was going to focus on her duties as a member of the newly created Joint Economic Development Council for Lawrence and Douglas County.

But she also told me at that time she was conflicted because she really does think there needs to be more diversity in the field of candidates.

Soden will bring a definite neighborhood perspective to the City Commission race. She has been deeply involved in neighborhood association issues over the last several years. She became more well-known in City Hall circles by serving as one of the main voices of opposition to the proposed multistory hotel/retail building at the southeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets.

I haven’t yet talked to Soden in enough detail to know her positions on several of the big issues, but the Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods, which Soden has been active in, has taken positions on a couple of the larger issues: the proposed $25 million recreation center and the expansion of the city’s rental registration and licensing program.

LAN took a position expressing concern about the proposed bidding procedures and other parts of the process related to the regional recreation center project. The association also came out in support of a major expansion of the city’s rental registration and licensing process for apartments. Don’t sleep on that issue. It will be a big one for apartment owners and real executives, who historically have been good at raising money for City Commission races.

As I noted last week, it will be interesting to see how large of an issue the recreation center project becomes in the race. It is very possible the current City Commission will make a commitment on the recreation center project in mid-February, a few days before the primary election.

But a couple of candidates — Mike Amyx and Reese Hays last week — both expressed concern about portions of the recreation center proposal during their campaign announcements. Will it be an issue for Soden? I don’t know. Perhaps the biggest question left in this race, other than who is going to win, is whether there are candidates who think this recreation center business is a political haymaker with voters. I’ve heard some people suggest this election could end up being an unofficial referendum on the recreation center project. I’ve heard others say that because the decision already will have been made that it is unlikely. We’ll see.

As for Bellome, I haven’t yet gotten in touch with her to confirm her plans. But she is well-known in the social service and health care arenas in the community, and has gotten to know many community leaders who have served on the board and volunteered for Visiting Nurses Association.

We’ll see if anybody else gets into the field before tomorrow’s filing deadline. The last election two years ago produced only five candidates, so already the interest level is quite a bit higher, for whatever reason. The general election is set for April 2.


cheeseburger 5 years, 4 months ago

Oh great! Soden and Bellome.

I wish there were some female candidates who weren't running with an agenda or weren't widely despised.

Catalano 5 years, 4 months ago

I know of Soden, but didn't think she was associated with LAN. Know nothing about Bellome.

KrampusLawrence 5 years, 4 months ago

Can you name someone who runs for office that doesn't have an agenda?

cagiv 5 years, 4 months ago

Can you list anything specific as to Judy Bellomes agenda or community reputation or are you being purely assumptive ? She is a great asset in this community and had been a positive influence on the VNA, the city, and her industry. She is selflesslly caring and genuine. Attributes you seem to lack based on your unfounded negative assertion above. My guess is your comments are baseless and and wholly ignorant of any reality we live in.

cagiv 5 years, 4 months ago

I honestly dont know what you mean. I've been involved with the VNA on varying items over the last several years and only do so because I believe in their mission and believe they do a very good job.

cagiv 5 years, 4 months ago

Again. Provide something specific. You're making assertions but I have yet to hear provide any thing specific ?

gatekeeper 5 years, 4 months ago

You don't know what you speak of. She is highly respected and a great nurse.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 4 months ago

What you really mean is that you want only candidates who run on your agenda, and you despise anyone who doesn't share your agenda. And you really couldn't care less if they are female or not.

gatekeeper 5 years, 4 months ago

Judy is a great lady and I hope will win a seat on the council. Don't know what agenda cheeseburger thinks she has, but he obviously doesn't know her or her family.

Bob Forer 5 years, 4 months ago

Thank you for running, Leslie. You are absolutely right. There was a lack of diversity in the candidate field. At least now there is one candidate who will represent the people instead of special interests.

Go Girl!!!!

gatekeeper 5 years, 4 months ago

And you don't think every candidate has the 'people' of their neighborhood on their minds while in office? Take a look at what the council has done and tell me they haven't pandered to the 'people' in their neighborhoods in W. Lawrence. Would be nice for once to have someone that thinks about the rest of town, east of Iowa st.

I know nothing of you, but can only imagine a grumpy old man that yells at kids to get off his lawn and complains when the sun is shining and life is good.

Bob Forer 5 years, 4 months ago

Malcontent?? Can't you do better than name calling and dismissive labeling? If it weren't for "malcontents," there would have never been an American Revolution.

I guess you'd rather be a British subject, eh cheeseburger?

jafs 5 years, 4 months ago

Since we elect commissioners, a "few noisy" anything can't dominate, unless the vast majority don't participate.

Can't really blame that on the few, in my view.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 4 months ago

I love it. These women are as qualified as any candidate.

Leslie Soden comes to the race well versed on codes,ordinances and certainly not against economic growth. East Lawrence is well known for mixed use development in the neighborhood. East Lawrence has welcomed mixed use development for at least 25 years.

I don't believe Leslie Soden was against the hotel only speaking out against the height of the structure which according to guidelines should be consistent with existent structures in immediate area. According to 2008 Downtown Area Design Guidelines.

To my way of thinking perhaps a two story convention center would have been evermore compatible.

tomatogrower 5 years, 4 months ago

East Lawrence is often ignored. For example, some of the comments I have heard from people about the Iwig milk store location. "They should be on the west side, since the people with money live there." "I hardly ever travel to the east side, if I don't have to; I'm afraid I'll be mugged."

I and my neighbors have plenty of money to buy Iwig milk, and I have never been mugged or had my house broken into, thank you very much. And my house is worth more that many houses on the west side, so I pay more taxes, and my house will probably still be standing in 50 years, unlike some of the ticky tack out west. So we deserve and demand better streets and other services. I don't think there is one commissioner who lives on the east side, is there?

Bob Forer 5 years, 4 months ago

Don't know anything about Judy Bellome. Can some folks help me out. Does she have progressive tendencies?

bearded_gnome 5 years, 4 months ago

Ms. Soden exemplifies why perhaps this city needs to change from a giant beauty pageant format city commission to an aldermanic or ward system. (that is beause she has so much experience and association with the east lawrence neighborhood.) also, note some disgruntled neighborhood references above. the city commission comprised of representatives from each of the city's neighborhoods, for example, would be more representative than what we have now.

the city would be divided up into wards and each ward would elect its commissioner.

when, pray tell, did we last have a city commissioner from north lawrence? east lawrence hasn't faired much better.

tomatogrower 5 years, 4 months ago

Here, here. I think this should be a question put to the candidates.

bearded_gnome 5 years, 4 months ago

waiting to see if the possibilities materialize.

an endorsement by Merrill would certainly handicap Soden.

and, voting for someone because of gender is just as wrong as voting against someone because of gender, the two sides of one coin.

judge all by content of their character, issues and what they choose to emphasize.

RobertPaulson 5 years, 4 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

SouthernMan 5 years, 4 months ago

Geez, this anonymous comment section just spews hatred and is as vicious as any I've ever read. This newspaper should be ashamed. Responsible , credible newspapers all across the country have transitioned to Facebook or other public platforms which have, for all intents and purposes, eliminated the Merrill's and cheeseburgers of the world. These intellectuals of negativity would never post the things they do if there was a requirement that they be identified.

5 years, 4 months ago

I was wondering if this was going to be an ugly race or not. I'd say based on RobertPaulson's above comment with their brand new userid we can expect to hear more great things from him. RobertPaulson, good luck to whichever candidate you think you are helping with your smear campaign.

Leslie Soden

DennisReynolds 5 years, 4 months ago

You have to admit that it is ironic that you and your organizations have been against tax breaks for developers, yet you live in a place that has received numerous tax breaks, incentives and handouts.

5 years, 4 months ago

Perhaps if you weren't framing it in such a way that because I am against tax breaks to create low wage, part time, service jobs than i absolutely must be against tax breaks for repurposing existing infrastructure, renewable energy, mixed income housing & neighborhood collaboration. You are over-simplifying complex issues.

Catalano 5 years, 4 months ago

If you're a dentist, as you've claimed to be, shouldn't you be working instead of lollygagging around the LJWorld forum? Glad my dentist has his priorities straight.

bearded_gnome 5 years, 4 months ago

^^tomatogrower 13 hours, 36 minutes ago

Here, here. I think this should be a question put to the candidates.

---watch it Tomatopaste! you're actually agreeing with me!

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