WRITER: Chad Lawhorn

Vaccine drive-thru sign

Health department begins new COVID color code system; it shows we are halfway to point where mask mandate to be considered

The color codes are back. Douglas County’s COVID status is in a code yellow — the second of three levels of severity — according to a new system announced by the local health department on Wednesday. More importantly to some, the county is about 25 new cases a day from the point where local health leaders would once again start pushing for a communitywide mask mandate. As it stands now, masks are ...

Girod: Still no mask mandate at KU; university in a 'good place right now' on Big 12 shakeup

The University of Kansas continues to hold pat on two of the biggest issues in its world right now — masks on campus and a reorganization of the Big 12 Conference. In a video message to the campus community, Chancellor Douglas Girod said Wednesday that KU has not yet seen information that has caused it to mandate masks be worn on campus. Instead, the university is sticking with its “strong ...

City commissioners hear financial results for 2020; they express hope that city's financial reporting is set to improve

Lawrence city commissioners closed the book on 2020 at their Tuesday evening meeting as they received the city’s financial audit for the year when the pandemic started to rear its head. Commissioners were told financial results for the period were solid — given the impact of the pandemic — but the city’s accounting practices received a red flag for a third year in a row from auditors. Auditors with ...

Lawrence Public Library wins grant to create diversity-based internship program

The Lawrence Public Library has received a nearly $100,000 grant to fund an internship program that will pay for master's degrees for people of color who want to work as librarians. “Historically, library professionals have been overwhelmingly white,” said Brad Allen, executive director of the Lawrence Public Library. “There are a lot of barriers to entering the profession, especially for marginalized ...

Remind yourself who is on Tuesday's City Commission ballot, plus see how much they've received in campaign donations

Four candidates vying for three seats on the Lawrence City Commission all have raised more than $5,000 during this primary campaign season, while the rest of the field has collected far less in contributions. Tuesday is the last chance for voters to cast a ballot in the Lawrence City Commission primary. Last week, candidates were required to file campaign finance reports listing how much they have raised in ...

Local sales tax collections are way up; how the city and the county are planning for them are way different

As one local government is poised to raise its property tax rate and another is set to pass a budget that requires dipping into $8 million of reserve and relief funds, here’s a piece of good news from a source that doesn’t always deliver that variety. The state of Kansas is reporting that both governments probably will get a lot more sales tax revenues this year than they once expected. The Kansas ...

Mural honoring front-line workers planned for one of downtown's largest buildings

I suspect there are times when waiters and waitresses serving me wished they were 8 feet tall. It would allow them to stand back farther when putting another basket of chips and salsa in front of me. Well, soon, there may be 8-foot-tall servers in downtown, but not quite that way. Instead, plans have been filed to paint a mural on one of the biggest buildings in downtown Lawrence. The mural will honor ...

KU now recommending — not requiring — masks indoors

The University of Kansas wants students, faculty and staff to wear masks indoors on the KU campus, but it has stopped short of mandating that they do so. The announcement comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its guidance on masks on Tuesday, recommending that anyone over 2 years of age wear a mask indoors, even if fully vaccinated. Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health later that ...

Chancellor says requiring masks at KU again will get serious consideration

The University of Kansas hasn’t yet made a decision to require masks again at its campuses, but the topic is going to get some serious consideration, Chancellor Douglas Girod said Wednesday. “Douglas County is not a hot zone right now, but we know we are surrounded by them,” Girod said. Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health on Tuesday stopped short of issuing a new public health order that would ...

'Don't panic,' Girod says of Big 12 unrest; stakes are high for KU, but school must avoid making a rash decision

The decision by Texas and Oklahoma to pursue a move to the SEC came like a thunderbolt. The response to that decision shouldn’t, University of Kansas Chancellor Douglas Girod said in some of his first public comments about unrest in the Big 12 Conference. In a brief interview Wednesday, Girod indicated the Big 12 is in a better position than some may believe due to the contract provisions that essentially ...

Plans filed to locate a 'wine academy' in Warehouse Arts District in East Lawrence

You probably could make a pretty interesting list of what you could learn by attending music festivals in Italy for 14 years. For Michael Kirkendoll, wine is near the top of that list, and he’s opening a new “wine academy” in East Lawrence to share some of it — both wine and knowledge, that is. Kirkendoll, an associate professor of piano at the University of Kansas, has hosted a contemporary music ...

KU budget cuts for new year total about $22 million for employee expenses, about $2.5 million for all other spending

When it comes to budget cuts at the University of Kansas this coming school year, almost all of them — roughly 90% — are going to land on university employees. KU chief financial officer Jeff DeWitt told the Kansas Board of Regents Tuesday that KU has planned for $24.8 million in budget cuts for fiscal year 2022, which began in July. Documents presented to the board show that $22.3 million of the cuts are ...

New street taco chain coming to downtown Lawrence

I’m rusty at a few things, but eating tacos is certainly not one of them. (Despite watching about three hours of instruction on the Olympic channel this weekend, my sand volleyball skills are pretty rusty, as my game never progressed beyond the dragging-the-cooler-to-the-beach stage.) Regardless, there is a new Mexican restaurant chain called Rusty Taco that is moving to downtown Lawrence. The Dallas-based ...

County Commissioner Shannon Portillo is a finalist for Minnesota position that could require her to leave elected post

Updated at 7:41 p.m. Monday Douglas County Commissioner Shannon Portillo has been named a finalist for a college dean position in Minnesota. Portillo is one of three finalists vying to become dean of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. Portillo, who was first elected to the Douglas County Commission in November, would have to vacate her position on the commission if she ...

Lawrence's tight housing market gets tighter in June as prices increase; buyers increasingly paying more than asking price

If you are cruising around Lawrence and see someone wearing running spikes and toting about $15,000 in cash, the scene probably isn’t Olympic related. Instead, it might be someone simply trying to buy a house in town. The latest home sale numbers show you had better be fast and have some extra money to sweeten your offer. “Each month, it seems like I report the same thing about the Lawrence real estate ...

Haskell enrollment expected to drop sharply; housing costs for some students may rise by thousands of dollars

When in-person classes resume next month at Haskell Indian Nations University, enrollment is expected to be low, and a new pandemic-related policy may significantly boost the cost of housing for some students. “I think it will be half of what we normally have,” Jean Finch, director of the Haskell Catholic Campus Center, said of Haskell enrollment numbers for the fall semester. “If we have 500 students ...

Federal bureau agrees to changes in Haskell president position designed to attract more candidates

A leader of Haskell Indian Nations University is optimistic a behind-the-scenes change in the structure of the university’s president position will attract a broader pool of talented applicants for the open job. Brandon Yellowbird-Stevens, president of the Haskell National Board of Regents, confirmed that federal officials have reclassified the Haskell president’s position to a pay grade that will make it ...

Developer files plans to build new single-family neighborhood west of South Lawrence Trafficway

As Lawrence real estate agents continue to tell stories of how tight the local housing market is, local developers are getting more aggressive in their efforts to convert land into new neighborhoods. The latest gambit: Take land that is zoned for a big-box retail center and turn it into a single-family housing development. A new plan filed at Lawrence City Hall is particularly interesting because it calls ...

Large automotive service center coming to 23rd Street; Lawrence-based Allen Press names CEO

When you drive a vehicle as leaky as mine, a quick-service oil change is the only option. (If it took too long, you would have to change it twice.) Hopefully that is not your situation, but regardless a large quick-service automotive garage is coming to 23rd Street. Laird Noller Automotive confirmed it has started work on a new automotive garage at 814 W. 23rd St., which is across the street from Noller’s ...

Is KU poised to start tearing down buildings? Understanding the empty desks, the decay and the debt pressuring KU's finances

For decades, the best thing that has been said about Wescoe Hall on the University of Kansas campus is that at least KU didn’t ever finish building it. The concrete, 1960s-style classroom complex with a much-maligned design was planned to be 25 stories tall — the tallest building in the state at that time — before someone thought better of it. Here’s a new thought: Tear Wescoe down. No, that is ...