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Online petition drive asks city commissioners to put $25M recreation center project up for citywide vote

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There was a fairly interesting development this weekend related to the city’s proposed regional recreation center.

It started with an article in the Journal-World on Sunday about the various positions each City Commission candidate has taken on the proposed $25 million regional recreation center.

Candidate Scott Criqui said, among other things, that he would support the commission calling for a citywide election on the recreation center vote, if residents showed they really wanted a vote — like through a petition drive.

“If a group gathered 3,000 signatures or something like that, it would tell me that there is some concern out there,” Criqui said in the article. “But I haven’t heard of anyone who has done that yet.”

Well, Criqui might as well have said the word “abracadabra,” because by Sunday morning an online petition had begun.

The petition is active at the online site Change.org. The petition was started by some fellow named Nick Danger. I didn’t find a listing for him in the local phone directories, but I’m working under the assumption that Nick Danger might be an assumed name.

As of Monday morning, the petition had 69 signatures. I’m not overly familiar with Change.org, so I haven’t figured out yet how to see the full list of signatures. But the Web site shows several of the people who have signed, and it appears to be full of real-life people with real-life names.

It will be interesting to see what the number gets to by the time city commissioners are scheduled to perhaps take formal action on the recreation center project at their Feb 19 meeting.

The petition, of course, has no binding impact on the Lawrence City Commission. Its only impact will be whether a lot of signatures causes commissioners to reassess their thoughts on the need for an election.

Commissioners already have voted 5-0 to not put the issue on the ballot. Most of the commissioners have said that a 1994 sales tax vote for recreation projects and other needs made it clear that residents were in favor of such a project. Commissioner Mike Amyx, though, made his vote with the caveat that if residents presented a significant petition asking for a citywide vote, he would support putting the issue on the ballot.

I’m not sure what number, if any number, of signatures would cause a majority of commissioners to reconsider the idea of a citywide vote. As far as a legal petition that would force the city to place the issue on a ballot, I think that is a pretty tall order in Kansas.

But there is a state-prescribed referendum process for cities, and I believe in Lawrence it requires valid signatures totaling 25 percent or more of the number of voters in the last city election. (I’m basing this off what [I read online].) But if my interpretation is correct that the signatures only have to total 25 percent of the number of voters in the last election, then a successful petition would need somewhere between 1,700 to 2,700 signatures of registered voters. (I don’t have the exact number of voters in the 2011 election in Lawrence. There were 10,839 voters throughout the county in 2011, and I’m estimating about 7,000 of them were in Lawrence.)

If by chance I’m wrong, and you have to get 25 percent of the total number of people registered to vote, the number of signatures would grow to about 20,000. (I’ve got a call into the county clerk’s office to get a better education on this, and will update this post with what I learn.)

The referendum law also requires that the question on the ballot be a specific ordinance that would be adopted into law. So, asking a simple question of whether we should build a $25 million recreation center wouldn’t pass muster. It would have to be something like, an ordinance requiring public recreation projects totaling $25 million or more to be voted on by the voters of the city of Lawrence before construction can commence. (Again, I’m on a bit of shaky ground here in my understanding of the law.)

What is clear, is that an online petition is a heck of a lot easier. We’ll see where it goes.

UPDATE: I chatted briefly today with Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew, and he confirmed that there is a process for putting issues on the ballot. Shew, though, said it is most likely to be used to call for a vote on an item that already has been approved by the City Commission, rather than proposing a new ordinance that the City Commission adopt.

How that would apply, if at all, to the recreation center issue, is a little tough to figure. But Shew said most of the Kansas laws regarding using a petition to put an issue on the ballot call for signatures equaling 25 percent or more of the voter total from the last city election. In Lawrence's case, that would be around 2,000 signatures.

So bottomline, if folks really want to try to create some sort of binding petition-drive, they'll need to do a bit more research with Shew, the city attorney or both.

Comments

DennisReynolds 1 year, 7 months ago

"As of Monday morning, the petition had 69 signatures." WOW! Almost 70 signatures!

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OonlyBonly 1 year, 7 months ago

Added one more and it's over 70

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Mark Kostner 1 year, 7 months ago

I case you don't know who Nick Danger is, he's a character from Firesign Theater's album, How Can You be In Two Places At Once When You're Not Anywhere at All. He's a take off from the Sam Spade character from The Maltese Falcon. One of my favorite comedy albums of all time. I salute the petitioner who used his name.

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KiferGhost 1 year, 7 months ago

You must have been hitting those same drugs the hippies were using because I'd like to know what no build was going on when they were in office. If I remember correctly, they fired Wildgen because he wasn't expanding the infrastructure out west faster than it was suppose to be! And roads need maintenance every year, that's why we shouldn't be building miles more of them than we can clearly afford.

0

jack22 1 year, 7 months ago

Me being from Lawrence, I'm wondering if this guy is at all related to my buddy Danger Bob?

1

Phil Minkin 1 year, 7 months ago

Rather than a legal petition, it is more of a "sense of the community" one. It's only power is to try to make the commission aware of the public's interest is a vote. If there are enough signatures, and there is no vote, it could become an important issue in the election.

4

KiferGhost 1 year, 7 months ago

The desperation of the growth is the only answer crowd, even if it is poorly conceived and executed, shows why Lawrence stumbles along. Twenty years ago we did exactly what you want now and look where we are, needing just one more fix to solve our problems. That is dumb growth and you live with the results.

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KiferGhost 1 year, 7 months ago

Yeah, of course people who oppose building a rec center way out west which only real purpose is to help the developers find purpose for their land they chose to buy is being anti-growth. Consumer1 if the same developer told you to put your hand down on the table and let them beat it with a hammer would you let them? I'd almost think you would.

2

KiferGhost 1 year, 7 months ago

Even Lowe's recognizes the spot is too far west to build their store. Darn Lowe's, anti-growth corporation.

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jack22 1 year, 7 months ago

Yeah. where's our petition for a fourth Walmart?

1

thefisherman 1 year, 7 months ago

So the city commission is citing an election from 1994 to say the community is on board with something? Are you kidding me? After all, the voter base hasn't changed, like, at all since then. eyeroll

18 years' worth of citizens have become eligible to vote since 1994. Their opinions don't matter? What about the people who have died over the last 18 years that might have voted then but who obviously aren't around to have an opinion anymore?

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jafs 1 year, 7 months ago

That's why voters should never approve a tax increase that has no end to it, like the one in '94, or one that's too vague and all encompassing in terms of what it can be used for, in my opinion.

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KiferGhost 1 year, 7 months ago

Do you really think because dumb growth has given us oversized houses and lots used to grow chemically enhanced grass that the lack of density which means more streets with nothing on them to get to these places, more cul de sacs that require more time and energy from our trash service that worked just fine years ago, and all the sprawl that require rebuilding firestations,schools, and other infrastructure that a less dense area has been a fair trade of for the older part of town that used good design?

1

KiferGhost 1 year, 7 months ago

Maybe if the west Lawrence people hadn't bought houses way bigger than any family needs on lots you could grow all the food you'd need in a year you wouldn't be whining that we need to support every lame brained idea brought to use by the same developers you brought us the oversized cookie cutter homes on the mega-lots. Don't whine that the older part of town can survive just fine without the megaplex, you folks have so much money build it yourselves and use those free market skills that work so great for you all.

1

KiferGhost 1 year, 7 months ago

Smart thing for the west Lawrence crowd now is to remove any restrictions on growing gardens. Those massive yards with huge expenditures trying to keep an artificially green grass would be better used as huge gardens. Go ahead, use that entrepreneurial spirit to start a truck farm and make some money off that property taxed burden. Now you'll have to wait a few years to let all the chemicals to leach out before calling it organic but goll darn it, I have faith that such savvy business like people will be able to turn that unproductive yard into something profitable.

1

KiferGhost 1 year, 7 months ago

And if you are out working in the garden every day your need for a gym goes way down, you'll build up muscles and burn fat plenty fast. Try it, productive work. Surely there is nothing productive playing basketball when you could be growing a cash crop. I know our good hard working productive west Lawrence will make this happen, it just makes good sense. Don't want to be idling away your time and yard.

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KiferGhost 1 year, 7 months ago

And also it helps relieve stress so you don't come on here so angry. All those years being angry that the road to KC wasn't quicker by walking on other people's rights. Just think, if you had been gardening your anger would have been lower and you could have dealt driving through Lawrence without so much rage, after all that was the west Lawrence citizens decision.

1

Catalano 1 year, 7 months ago

Wow. You sound angrier than usual, today. Maybe a little scared? And please remind me what the projects were that the "three amigos" turned down over a decade ago. American Eagle and Walmart don't count if you care to go back and check history.

1

KiferGhost 1 year, 7 months ago

The growth to be growing, like cancer, eventually consumes the host as it is doing in Lawrence and people like consumer1 are bought into the chamber crap. Their desperation shows the lack of imagination because in Lawrence we only know a few things and creating jobs is obviously way at the bottom of the list but of course, those who sold the west Lawrence as the ideal bedroom community continue to pass the blame for it not working out on those who proposed smart growth which they hate.

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JackMcKee 1 year, 7 months ago

Does Chad Lawhorn really think this online petition has any legal weight? Wow.

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deec 1 year, 7 months ago

"The petition, of course, has no binding impact on the Lawrence City Commission. Its only impact will be whether a lot of signatures causes commissioners to reassess their thoughts on the need for an election. "

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KiferGhost 1 year, 7 months ago

We already know the commission could care less what the citizens want otherwise they wouldn't be rushing this joke through. I wonder, didn't Fritzel sell the eyesore joke of a warehouse to a wallstreet investment company? How do we know he will be the owner in 20 years when the hand off is suppose to happen? How do we know Lawrence won't be facing a billion dollar equity company that might decide they have other plans for this transfer? How do we know anything about this project when even the current commissioners stated in the article they are still learning new things about it?

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KiferGhost 1 year, 7 months ago

We have twenty years of the pro-growth as brought to us by our favorite developers that was suppose to bring all the money we needed to make Lawrence vibrant but here we are again looking for yet another answer to the growth as the answer mentality. It doesn't work folks and they constantly pony back to the table asking for more and if you don't go along some how you are anti-growth. Clever PR is what it is and look who works behind the scenes, look at all the marketeers and the clever alliance building that goes on in order to keep framing the conversation as the "job creators" vs the "anti-growth" people. Just look at the facts.

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KiferGhost 1 year, 7 months ago

Gardening is the answer. Large yards in west Lawrence, people wanting a workout, people with all kinds of pent up anger and gardening helps with all of that. You hate those property taxes but gosh, you are just growing grass and you don't own any sheep. Maybe lift that ban, raise sheep or start a truck farm, God knows there is enough room in the backyard and think, it all goes to add to the bottom line. Gardening provides the workout (no need for a gym), makes you smile, keeps you in touch with the ground which brighten spirits and relieves all that anger. Surely the west Lawrence people wouldn't be against that, productive use of the land, turning a profit, not idling away time playing games and is growth. Gardening is the answer.

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JackMcKee 1 year, 7 months ago

The Rec Center is about bringing people, and lots of them, to Lawrence. Lawrence, in case you missed it, is a tourist town. We lack an ocean and mountains, but what we have is KU. This is like developing a chunk of a mountain for a larger ski resort. Anyone that can't grasp the basic fundamentals of this project has no business running for City Commission.

1

KiferGhost 1 year, 7 months ago

Read all the studies that show sports do not bring economic gains that offset the costs. If it is such a profitable enterprise why aren't we doing it without the city? This town can't even figure out how to run a putt putt course and yet we are suppose to spend the entire amount of the sales tax that went for many things in the past to benefit the citizens on something that will go for the sports corruption. Sports are corrupt today, this whole project is geared to skirting ncaa regulations in order to recruit basketball players. Along with the other real purpose of big sports, the gambling interests there is no way the city should be involved in this mess.

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JackMcKee 1 year, 7 months ago

That was a whole lot of nothing you just typed. I'm not sure a single thing you posted was on point.

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KiferGhost 1 year, 7 months ago

Yep, wouldn't expect you to since you bought the megaplex plan.

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deec 1 year, 7 months ago

These pro-growth/jobs arguments have also been used to justify subsidizing professional sports taxpayer ripoffs. Research shows that sports development does not benefit communities. Here's one study

http://jefferson.library.millersville.edu/reserve/GEOG301_Cuthbert_Professional.pdf

3

Water 1 year, 7 months ago

Tax subsidized sports complexes do not enhance the local economy but do enhance the quality of life for those who use it.

http://marketpower.typepad.com/market_power/economics-sports-economic-impact/

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flyin_squirrel 1 year, 7 months ago

The studies you are mentioning were conducted on events like the Super Bowl, in towns that already get tourist dollars. Lawrence doesn't get tourist dollars unless there is a football game going on. If you are going to site studies, at least make sure they apply (otherwise you are just another Merrill).

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flyin_squirrel 1 year, 7 months ago

Ok so you proved my point more, we don't have any tourist dollars because college football doesn't attract more dollars to the city according to your study (I bet every business owner in town would disagree with you).

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deec 1 year, 7 months ago

Actually the study I cited was specifically addressing whether taxpayer-subsidized facilities for professional sports franchises have a positive effect on the host cities. They don't.

1

flyin_squirrel 1 year, 7 months ago

We are not a professional sports franchise, nor are we a city that has any outside draw besides the university events.

And the City Tax payers are not paying for the new KU facilities, only a rec center that the entire city can use (which I have said I don't agree with how the process is being handled).

0

deec 1 year, 7 months ago

Oh, okay. So even though major league sports subsidies don't help the local economy, somehow an amateur facility 30 miles from the nearest major metropolitan area will have a positive effect?

Here's a thesis on a similar complex in California, in which the author concludes that this planned facility in Placerville, a much larger market, COULD have a positive economic effect IF all his assumptions are correct.

http://www.csus.edu/ppa/thesis-project/bank/2011/Harper.pdf

0

Charlie Dominguez 1 year, 7 months ago

No, I have to disagree with your assumptions. The Rec Center is about private developers taking advantage of a situation at the public's expense. Its about a group of people that have their tongue hanging out bc they get to sit around Bill Self. Its about ego, and at the public's expense. Take a step back, come clean with the details and let the city vote on it. come on...the last vote the CC is using to justify this was in 1994!

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Water 1 year, 7 months ago

Why did the KUEA approach the city with this deal? Wouldn't it be better for all if they pitched this offer to say 24-Hour Fitness, Gold's Gym, Planet Fitness, Live Strong, Everlast, etc? A private gym would pay the city taxes or at least not cost the tax payer.

January 18, 2013 at 10:20 p.m.

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repaste 1 year, 7 months ago

It is projected to lose about $400,000. per year, no private Co. wants to lose money.

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KiferGhost 1 year, 7 months ago

Here you go west Lawrence, put those yards to use, take up gardening so your property taxes are not just paying to raise grass, get that aggression out, workout, it is a win-win and it is inexpensive enough you won't need a government handout to do it.

0

JackMcKee 1 year, 7 months ago

This isn't about West Lawrence. It benefits the entire city.

1

KiferGhost 1 year, 7 months ago

And yet I don't force you or the rest of Lawrence to subsidize my interests. I guess when you have no answers to why we are being forced to do this it is good to fall back on chamber tactics to avoid answering the questions posed.

2

Cant_have_it_both_ways 1 year, 7 months ago

Many of us feel the same way about the new library, the empT, and all the other things that suck tax dollars away from the community.

1

Cant_have_it_both_ways 1 year, 7 months ago

Although I am not for spending any more money at all, I have to support this rec center as, at least it is a project that has the potential to at least pay part of its own way. Everything else they build in this town sucks huge amounts of money from the community tax base, and we wonder why we don't have any money....

I'll bet if it had a welfare office and a bicycle path attached to it , the old hippy community would be all in.

1

KiferGhost 1 year, 7 months ago

Oh, you mean the government doing things it is suppose to do instead of projects for the wealthy?

3

JackMcKee 1 year, 7 months ago

The wealthy? Please explain.

1

JackMcKee 1 year, 7 months ago

Or if it guaranteed to buy local "art" and offer free shuttles to the attached community garden. These people are so predictable.

1

Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

Do you think there should be a citywide vote on a new rec center? http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2013/jan/do-you-think-there-should-be-city-wide-vote-creati/ interesting yet not surprising results thus far.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

Howdy Folks,

If you agree, please sign the petition below, created by an LJW reader (Nick Danger), that calls for the City Commission to put the rec center project to a public vote in April:

http://www.change.org/petitions/city-commission-city-of-lawrence-public-vote-on-the-public-financing-of-the-regional-rec-center

Please pass this on!

Thanks! Merrill

0

JackMcKee 1 year, 7 months ago

Merrill's already signed it 25 times. He needs your help! He's getting tired.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

What could be the alternative for a lot fewer tax dollars?

How can Lawrence taxpayers get the best bang for our 1994 sales tax bucks and improve the quality of life for families throughout the entire community?

Construct a NW neighborhood rec center with 2-3 gyms and a walking/jogging track for public exercise probably for about $10 million. Now we have achieved shoring up the alleged lack of court space.

Connect the Burroughs Creek hike and bike path to the river levy by way off Hobbs Park through the new development in the "eastside warehouse district". A design path has been created so lets get on with it. Maybe cost $200,000.

In doing the above Lawrence,Kansas has effectively improved the quality of life for more families throughout the sales tax dollar community. And for a lot fewer tax dollars = smart spending.

This is definitely within the spirit of the 1994 sales tax that was approved by families throughout the community.

1

Cant_have_it_both_ways 1 year, 7 months ago

If half of you would spend as much time doing something productive or to better yourselves, our community would be so much better.

Why do you continue to blame the rich man for your ill's? Hard work whether physical, or mental is usually rewarded. You might try it sometime. Just a thought.

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KiferGhost 1 year, 7 months ago

That's right, only the hard workers are rewarded handsomely. A lot of times I see people who look like they are really working hard, sweating, looking ragged, but then I remember, they ain't wealthy so they ain't really working hard. The hard workers are those who had money given to them and work on wheelin and dealin, them there are your hardworkers.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

Not spending $25 million on a project that will require an estimated $300,000 a year of new tax dollar spending for operations will leave a a few bucks left over for new landscaping in the "eastside warehouse district". Plus Rhode Island and Vermont in downtown are ready for some planters on the corners such that Mass Street is sporting.

Also when talk of "gateways to Lawrence impressions' are brought up why not choose massive and beautiful Kansas landscapes? Deciduous oak and maple tree forest accompanied by a wild assortment of beautiful ornamental grasses = very very low maintenance. These it seems would be more pleasant to the eyes than big box like buildings and strip malls.

0

jafs 1 year, 7 months ago

It doesn't really make a lot of sense that the same folks who clamored to have funding for the library expansion and t-bus service put to a vote are also against putting this to a vote.

If they're right, and the vast majority of Lawrence wants it, it's not an issue.

The only reason they wouldn't want to do it is because they're actually afraid that's not the case.

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flyin_squirrel 1 year, 7 months ago

Or because a vote is not required and that is what the officials that were elected are in office to decide.

1

JackMcKee 1 year, 7 months ago

I was trying to hammer this point home all afternoon. This is a relatively minor outlay from a budget item that was already voted on. Do we need to have another vote for the Parking Garage since they now want to add another level? Did we need a new vote on the T because they purchased some new buses? Of course not.

3

jafs 1 year, 7 months ago

Given the vague wording of the '94 tax increase, it does seem to technically fit within the scope, but that's only because the wording is so vague and all inclusive.

I'm pretty sure this isn't the sort of project voters were thinking of when they passed that increase.

We did in fact vote to increase funding for the T system, and for the library expansion.

0

jafs 1 year, 7 months ago

Just because a vote isn't required doesn't mean it isn't a good idea.

And, I don't recall any discussion of this sort of proposal when commissioners were campaigning and elected last time around, do you?

If you're right, and most people would support this, why not put it to a vote?

2

NickDanger 1 year, 7 months ago

Merrill, you falsely say that I'm the one who created the online petition. For the record, THIS NickDanger, is absolutely for building the rec center.

2

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 7 months ago

And you should have the opportunity to show your support in a referendum in the very near future.

Follow the yellow rubber line.

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jack22 1 year, 7 months ago

And This NickDanger will be available behind the rec center after hours for anyone who hasn't fully gotten off from the intial 25 million we spent.

1

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 7 months ago

Can they just put it to a non-binding advisory vote? The result of that vote would be very helpful to the new commission, who should be the ones to make the call even if it is left up to the commission.

1

JackMcKee 1 year, 7 months ago

177 signers. This should be on the front page for a week.

0

JackMcKee 1 year, 7 months ago

Update. As of 11 AM 200 signers. Only 10 can be verified as actual registered voters living in Lawrence. At least 50% are known MU fans.

0

JackMcKee 1 year, 7 months ago

I'll sign it. I know about 100 other people that would sign it too. This is a very popular proposal. It's probably the most widely approved project I can remember.

0

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 7 months ago

If there is a referendum, you'll have the same opportunity to express your support as others could have to express their opposition.

It's called democracy. Why do you hate democracy?

1

JackMcKee 1 year, 7 months ago

Hypocrites. These people not only are loud whiners they also keep a lock down on this discussion and complain in droves if anybody dares to criticize their efforts. I've never seen so many benign posts get deleted from a story. They must have their fingers on the "report" trigger ready for action at any time. It's quite hypocritical from a group that claims it just wants the opportunity to be heard. Shame on the LJW for enabling their censorship.

It is a valid criticism of this petition that there is absolutely no way to verify that these signatures are valid and actually from Lawrence voters or from different individuals, at all.

Show up at the City Commission meeting tonight if you want to be heard. This petition is meaningless.

0

jafs 1 year, 7 months ago

Given your tendency to insult people, I wouldn't be at all surprised if some of your posts were removed.

You might want to check the terms of service for this site.

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jafs 1 year, 7 months ago

That's funny!

You should really read your own posts carefully.

1

Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

City Commission, City of Lawrence: Public vote on the public financing of the regional rec center

Petition by nick danger

http://www.change.org/petitions/city-commission-city-of-lawrence-public-vote-on-the-public-financing-of-the-regional-rec-center

If you agree, please sign the petition below that calls for the City Commission to put the rec center project to a public vote in April:

http://www.change.org/petitions/city-commission-city-of-lawrence-public-vote-on-the-public-financing-of-the-regional-rec-center

Please pass this on!

0

Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

This petition is about asking for the right to vote on the estimated $25 million project that comes with an estimated $300,000 annual operations budget.

When the petition acquires enough signature for the vote that does not kill the $25 million $$$$$$$$$$$$ project. It merely provides all registered voters in Lawrence to voice their position on the matter. It's known as democracy supporting an opportunity that allows the taxpayers to decide IF this is how WE want OUR sales tax dollars spent.

It's like the T , library and pot hole sales tax that voters participated in. The Library tax increase could have been avoided by using this 1995 sales tax money had the taxpayers petitioned the city commission to do so.

Meanwhile what could be the alternative for a lot fewer tax dollars?

How can Lawrence taxpayers get the best bang for our 1994 sales tax bucks and improve the quality of life for families throughout the entire community?

Construct a NW neighborhood rec center with 2-3 gyms and a walking/jogging track for public exercise probably for about $10 million. Now we have achieved shoring up the alleged lack of court space.

Connect the Burroughs Creek hike and bike path to the river levy by way off Hobbs Park through the new development in the "eastside warehouse district". A design path has been created so lets get on with it. Maybe cost $200,000.

In doing the above Lawrence,Kansas has effectively improved the quality of life for more families throughout the sales tax dollar community. And for a lot fewer tax dollars = smart spending.

This is definitely within the spirit of the 1994 sales tax that was approved by families throughout the community.

0

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