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Recreation center debate causes commissioner to question 'relevance' of Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods; other notes from last night's Rock Chalk Park meeting


There will be all types of shots taken at the proposed Rock Chalk Park and the city’s $25 million recreation center. There will be bank shots, hook shots, 33-foot three-point shots, that come up three feet short, taken by my teammate who never passes the ball. You get the idea.

But at Tuesday night’s City Commission meeting, the project created one other type of shot: a shot over the bow.

City Commissioner Hugh Carter delivered one to the Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods. The group had issued a formal statement criticizing how the city was moving forward with the project. Specifically, it called for the commission to hold a citywide election on the issue and questioned the proposed process that will allow the $25 million recreation center to be built using a bidding process that significantly deviates from the city’s open-bidding policy.

Carter on Tuesday said that he had read that statement and wished he could give it more weight. But he said he’s no longer convinced that LAN is representative of neighborhoods across the city.

“I’m concerned about the relevance of LAN at this point,” Carter said.

Carter pointed to the group’s letter that stated the association met and unanimously voted on the group’s position. But Carter questioned what that really meant. He said if LAN was representative of neighborhoods in the city, that would suggest that the majority of people in every neighborhood in the city were against this project. He called that idea “inconceivable.”

Of course, what I think the letter meant was that every voting member of LAN who was at the meeting voted in favor of the organization’s statement expressing concern about the project. The question is how many people actually were there to vote?

I asked that question shortly after the group came up with the statement, but I don’t have a real firm answer on it. About 20 people attended the LAN meeting, but not all of them are voting members. Generally, anybody can attend a LAN meeting, but you have to be appointed by your neighborhood association as a representative to LAN before you can vote. I don’t think LAN President Laura Routh was trying to hide the vote total when I asked her about it. I just think she didn’t have her meeting notes in front of her when I contacted her. She did say, though, that it was a well-attended meeting by LAN standards.

The idea that the organization has become more of an east Lawrence/central Lawrence dominated organization isn’t a new one. But it is not often that a city commissioner calls it out as publicly as Carter did on Tuesday.

“My feeling is that LAN is becoming more of a faction and more polarizing,” said Carter, who is leaving the commission in April when his term expires. He recently was named as the new vice president of external affairs for the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce.

It will be interesting to watch relations between LAN and City Hall in the next few months. I don’t know enough about LAN’s current membership to provide insight on its reach across the city. It has, at times, had a good reach into west Lawrence. It was pretty active in that area during the time the city was debating whether to build a new Walmart at Sixth and Wakarusa.

It wasn’t long ago that you normally could count on someone with fairly strong LAN ties being a significant candidate for a City Commission seat each election. But that trend has diminished some the last couple of elections.

Routh is a newly elected president for LAN, and that will be interesting to watch too. In the past she has frequently questioned the City Commission on several issues ranging from operations of the police department to transparency at City Hall.

Whether LAN becomes more or less of a player at City Hall remains to be seen. One thing that is certain is that my basketball buddy will be looking up what a “shot over the bow” is. If there is a shot to be taken — and missed — he certainly wants to know about it.

While we’re on the subject, here are a couple of other news items and notes from the Rock Chalk Park debate last night at City Hall:

• City commissioners agreed 5-0 that they aren’t planning on putting the idea of a $25 million recreation center project to a citywide vote. Commissioners conceded they have been questioned by residents about it, but they are sticking to the position they previously have expressed.

That position is that because the project isn’t raising any new taxes a vote isn’t necessary. The city held citywide elections related to sales tax increases for the T, for public infrastructure, and most recently for a property tax increase to expand the Lawrence Public Library.

But all of those projects involved tax increases. This project will be paid for through existing revenues from a sales tax approved by voters in 1994 for recreation and other projects. Some residents, however, have argued that given the city will be adding $25 million worth of debt to its books for this project, that a vote would be appropriate.

Commissioners on Tuesday indicated they were concerned about setting a precedent that every large project had to be subject to a citywide vote. Instead, they said they believed residents still supported the idea of electing commissioners to make those types of decisions.

City Commissioner Mike Amyx went along with the statement, but he said he would support putting the issue to a vote, if a significant number of residents presented a petition seeking a vote. Details on how many people would need to sign weren’t clear.

• City Manager David Corliss did alert commissioners that they likely will see a request in the coming weeks for industrial revenue bonds related to the Rock Chalk Park project and Thomas Fritzel’s entity, Bliss Sports, that will be building and financing the facilities for KU.

The idea of an IRB for the project has come up before but hasn’t got a lot of attention because the project was still working its way through other issues. Industrial revenue bonds have to be issued by the city, but the city is not financially obligated to pay those bonds in case of a default. Private companies often seek the bonds because they provide lower financing rates and some tax advantages. For example, construction materials are exempt from sales tax, if the project is being paid for with industrial revenue bonds.

• Ernie Shaw, the leader of the city’s parks and recreation department provided a new set of numbers to city commissioners last night to try to alleviate concerns that the proposed 181,000 square-foot, eight-gym recreation center would be too large.

He said new numbers for 2012 showed that the city had 123 youth basketball teams in parks and recreation programs, with about 1,200 kids participating. In total about 500 games were played, and the department tries to provide gym space for at least one hour of practice per week for each team. Currently, the city essentially owns three gyms where it can provide those practice sessions and relies heavily on use of school district gyms to accommodate both the teams.

The department also has about 155 adult basketball teams in its program and about 200 volleyball teams, Shaw said.

“I’ve been here 40 years now, and I can tell you that we continue to fill up our facilities,” Shaw said. “It is not a stretch to think that parks and recreation, that the community, needs a facility this size.”


Richard Heckler 1 year, 3 months ago

With all due respect why is it the banks,builders and real estate agencies will not finance,build and manage instead of laying on the backs of the taxpayers to promote their real estate ventures?


Richard Heckler 1 year, 3 months ago

This PLAY sports complex issue is large in scope which began probably around 2007. USD 497 was the first phase with their 20 million $$$$ contribution. Now with the Field House about to be approved tax payers will have at least $50 million invested. Plus $300,000 a year for operations. How much more per year this adds to the USD 497 budget I do not know.

This field house is part of PLAY

Overview In 2006, a committee of interested community volunteers came together to study the needs and potential for state of the art competitive and recreational sports venues within the Lawrence, Kansas community. The committee requested the support of local organizations to financially support a feasibility study and needs assessment to evaluate the need and potential support for these facilities. The City of Lawrence, Lawrence Public School District, Douglas County, Kansas, and the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce partnered to financially support this study.

PLAY Committee Members Kelly Barth, Mark Buhler, Dave Corliss, Fred DeVictor, Rick Gammill, Mike Grosdidier, Sue Hack, Paige Hofer, Bonnie Lowe, Pam Madl, Julie Manning, Scott Morgan, Wayne Osness, Linda Robinson, Bob Sanner, Ernie Shaw, Doug Stremel and Doug Vance.

The Mission Statement of PLAY Partners for Lawrence Athletics and Public Youth (PLAY) is a partnership of The City of Lawrence, Douglas County Kansas, Lawrence School District 497 and The Lawrence Chamber of Commerce to conduct a needs assessment and feasibility study to evaluate the need and potential support for state of the art competitive and recreational sports venues for our community.

Background and Process In August of 2006, the PLAY Committee selected Treanor Architects, P.A. of Lawrence, Kansas as the prime consultant to complete this assessment and needs study. Treanor Architects brought a team of consultants to assist in this study: Green Play LLC, Landplan Engineering, Richard Caplan and Associates, and Leisure Vision/ETC. This team has worked together over the last eight months to conduct a needs assessment, a random public survey, worked with the PLAY committee to identify new and improved venues, and developed this final study and report.

The first step in the needs assessment was to collect data from a variety of sources. Three methods were developed to collect data for this study. The design team has completed the following:


Richard Heckler 1 year, 3 months ago

" In the parlance of the trade, many chains are simply over-stored." This economy may not bounce back anytime soon.

America has 9 million or more homes on the market and no jobs for an estimated 26 million.

Retail chains are cutting back. - America is Over Stored

America Is Over Stored ( Do Lawrence,Kansas planners,Chamber of Commerce and city government not realize this?)

The Wall Street bankers boom town economics building frenzy produced a bumper crop of new retail space. But the occupants haven't materialized.

The carnage in retail hasn't been this bad since an anarchist bombed Chicago's Haymarket Square in 1886. In January, Liz Claiborne said it would shutter 54 Sigrid Olsen stores by mid-2008; Ann Taylor announced that 117 of its 921 stores would be closed over the next three years, and Talbots axed the Talbots Men's and Talbots Kids concepts and 22 Talbots stores. Even Starbucks has scaled back its yearlong saturation-bombing campaign.

But back out inflation and sales of gasoline, and retail sales fell in real terms in the past year. Clearly, demand is down.

And supply is up. This decade's building frenzy produced a bumper crop of new retail space—from McStrip malls built near new McMansions, to hip new boutiques in the ground floors of hip new Miami condo buildings. But as is the case with those McMansions and condos, the occupants for new retail space haven't materialized.

In the fourth quarter of 2007, the national retail-vacancy rate rose for the 11th straight quarter to 7.5 percent—the highest level since 1996, according to research firm Reis, Inc.

With new projects coming online—34 million square feet of retail space will be completed in 2008—the rate is expected to spike further to 8 percent. In the parlance of the trade, many chains are simply over-stored.


The economy has gone from bad to worse since this publication. Let's not duped again,again and again and again and ......


cheeseburger 1 year, 3 months ago

Congrats Commish Carter - you've finally arrived at the same opinion many of us have had for a long time - that LAN, and its present leader, are largely irrelevant. A couple of squeaky wheels sure do make a lot of noise!


Clark Coan 1 year, 3 months ago

They put the Lawrence Transit System expansion up for a vote, so why not the Rec Center and the $43 million police headquarters.


melott 1 year, 3 months ago

One might say, this might cause one to question the relevance of Mr. Carter.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 3 months ago

Carter if falling back on a tried-and-true tactic-- If you don't like the message, and have no reasonable way to counter it, attack the messenger.

Very petty, Mr. Carter. But you'll be well paid for that sort of thing soon.


Hoots 1 year, 3 months ago it. Now for things I don't want to hear in the future. I don't want to hear that we don't have money to fix our roads, sewers, water lines, or that we don't have money for any other project that's a necessity. Also don't tell me you need more money from me because I don't have it.


bearded_gnome 1 year, 3 months ago

^^clawhorn 8 hours, 43 minutes ago

There are multiple components that were included in the 1994 sales tax election. Legally, the way the ballot language was written is that the sales tax revenue can be used for any governmental purpose. The two largest campaign points in Lawrence, though, were recreation projects and property tax relief. The city does still use the sales tax money to offset the equivalent of 5 mills of property taxes in the city budget. Thanks, Chad

---so, 1994 tax moneys today could instead be used to fix our badly decayed water and sewer lines that are far beyond their proper replacement dates.
we have trouble reliably providing water to ourselves but this RC-park is just too attractive!

we build roundabouts as we still have broken, too bumpy, streets; note NH downtown, 7th downtown, or Mane st. from 6th all the way north, just a few examples??? c'mon people.

and, there's only one water pipe supplying water to north lawrence.

get the right priorities.


biggunz 1 year, 3 months ago

The chronic complainers on the ljw are not representative of the whole city. Sorry Toto, I don't personally know anyone who DOESN'T want the facility.


lunatic 1 year, 3 months ago

Interesting that LAN did not call for a vote or scream about supporting rich developers when the city put millions into the Poehler development.


Phil Minkin 1 year, 3 months ago

It's hard to believe some people are still fighting the battle of the T they lost soundly in a city wide election. They are the Japanese soldiers on an island still fighting WW II.


Mike Myers 1 year, 3 months ago

I think all commissioners but one have their eyes closed, their hands over their ears and they are saying lalalalalalalalalalalalala every time anyone brings up the idea that the MAJORITY OF PEOPLE IN LAWRENCE DONT WANT THIS THING. The people want a nice usable rec center on the west side FOR THE WEST SIDE PEOPLE and they want the rest of their money SAVED or spent prudently for the recrationall needs of THE PEOPLE. Someone bring me that petition to sign. Sorry for the yelling but I don't think we are being heard.


tomatogrower 1 year, 3 months ago

Why don't you try putting it up for a vote, and finding out how relevant LAN is? Are you worried it won't pass?


Richard Heckler 1 year, 3 months ago

Taxpayers always need their local Watchdog Organizations which is what LAN represents.

There is plenty of logical reason behind watch dog groups. One example = The special sales taxes that local government does not want consumers to know before entering such an establishment.

Another quite substantial example.

About local development Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston joins us to talk about his new book, "Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (And Stick You with the Bill)." Johnston reveals how government subsidies and new regulations have quietly funneled money from the local poor and the local middle class to the rich politically connected.

Both provide quite an interesting expose. David Cay Johnston is one informed dude regarding our tax dollar wallets. His many books are provocative and mildly entertaining. It's hard to be entertained when your tax dollar wallet is perpetually picked.


jafs 1 year, 3 months ago

If Carter is correct, then there's no downside to putting it to a vote, since the majority of residents in the majority of neighborhoods will vote to approve the project.

I find it very possible that the majority of city residents oppose this project in its current form, not at all "inconceivable".

If there were only a way to find out - wait, there is. He and others who are so sure they're right have little to lose if they are in fact correct. So why not put it to a vote?


Richard Heckler 1 year, 3 months ago

Now on this approval of KU's portion of this project. It is my belief that the City Commission actually has no jurisdiction on KU projects because KU is a state organization. If KU owns the property city approval is merely a formality if my memory serves me well.


Richard Heckler 1 year, 3 months ago

City Commissioner Hugh Carter is welcome to his opinion but from what exactly does he base his character assassination?

If the City Commission is representative of taxpayers why is the fear of putting this matter up for a vote?

I would bet that voters do not believe politicians represent the majority of voters especially regarding spending of tax dollars,special sales taxes etc etc etc.

Now are 5 elected officials truly representative of 68,000 people? Hardly. Lets's allow the thousands of voters to decide on this issue and we'll see .

City Commissioner Hugh Carter is definitely representative of the Chamber of NOT Commerce.

I believe City Commissioner Hugh Carter represents the economic terrorists that which are unfriendly to business and supports over extending markets.


JackMcKee 1 year, 3 months ago

Ironically, Laura Routh and the rest of the no growth namby pambies like wasting money on things like parking garages and empty buses. This is a real win for everyone in Lawrence that has a desire to improve the city long term.


consumer1 1 year, 3 months ago

Mr. Carter you have my deepest repect for standing up against the LAN bullies. Congratulation. It is too bad you are not running for re-elction.


Carol Bowen 1 year, 3 months ago

How is LAN any different than the Chamber? Both organizations are volunteer and representative. Does the Chamber represent every business? Probably not.

Looks like Carter did not appreciate a different point of view. Too bad he had to be so petty. Very unbecoming for a city commissioner.


toe 1 year, 3 months ago

Tax and spend always wins in Lawrence. You have to learn to live with the fact Lawrence is dominated by government workers that vote for their own interests. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Done deal. Better to concentrate on the weather.


JackMcKee 1 year, 3 months ago

Do any of you opposing this understand the consequences to Lawrence if conference realignment leaves KU in the dust? This is a much more important project than anything this city has seen in 50 years. Laura Routh is losing relevance and it just makes her want to explode.


eugunieum 1 year, 3 months ago

I too live in the west side of town and am not excited about this complex being built. It seems there are so many big $$ projects the city wants to do, yet we keep hearing about lower than expected tax revenues and cut backs. We probably do need a new police station, even if we made it out of the old Sears store. So what do we do? Build on to the library, a sports complex, and some other project that I can't remember right now. Oh yeah, the multi million school bond. I'll have to move somewhere cheaper b/c my property taxes and sales taxes here will be too high. Oh well.


Bucksilver 1 year, 3 months ago

Poolside, please explain how Carter, or any City Commissioner for that matter, "gets a piece of the contract pie". That's a pretty condemning statement, and if it's unfortunately true we need to hear what you believe to be going down. Thanks in advance for your follow-up.


poolside 1 year, 3 months ago

Darn, and I voted for Carter. I live in west Lawrence by the high school and I have NO desire for this sports monstrocity. And I Have been talking to LAN to voice my opinion. If it was put to a vote Hugh might have a better idea of what the whole city wants but he would rather slam the voices as "inner" city. But as usual-why should he care as long as he gets a piece of the contract pie. Disgusted I am.


irvan moore 1 year, 3 months ago

so mr. carter thinks some organizations (who will be employing him shortly) have relevance and others who don't agree with his views dont? it appears mr. carter doesn't really represent neighborhoods and citizens accross the city either


Phil Minkin 1 year, 3 months ago

Does Carter think that the Chamber represent Lawrence? I remember a poll the chamber did of its 600 or so members. Less that 20% responded and yet is was taken as gospel about the direction Lawrence should take.


Steven Gaudreau 1 year, 3 months ago

"That position is that because the project isn’t raising any new taxes a vote isn’t necessary" Will the city leaders guarentee the project will operate in the black? If not, who's dollars will be used to fund the operating costs of the failed project? Also, who cares if the project is not using new tax dollars? The tax revenue dollars being diverted to this project could be used to lower the mill levy which would benefit the community more then a soccer field.


d_prowess 1 year, 3 months ago

I am glad to finally hear the city commission acknowledge this point:

"they said they believed residents still supported the idea of electing commissioners to make those types of decisions."

This is exactly why we elect a city commission! We elect people that we feel will take the time to learn about the issues facing the city and proceed in a manner that is best for Lawrence as a whole. If a majority of people don't like the job they do, then you vote them out and choose a new group of people. We can't put everything to a vote, despite people on these boards constantly calling for such actions.


Cant_have_it_both_ways 1 year, 3 months ago

The CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) moneys could be much better used than to provide one sided income for those like Laura Routh and those like her. These political pockets need to be addressed.


jack22 1 year, 3 months ago

I’m concerned about the relevance of our City Commission at this point, are they looking out for our best interests or those of a couple money hungry developers who seem to run this town from behind the scenes?


Matthew Herbert 1 year, 3 months ago

it sounds like the one thing that the City commission can definitely agree upon (5-0 vote) is that none of the citizens of Lawrence will have a say in whether or not this project happens. Why do you we even hold city hall meetings and allow the public to chime in when the outcomes have already been written?


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