WRITER: Rochelle Valverde

As business incubator prepares to expand, county leaders ask for 'sharp focus' on diversity and equity

As a business incubator supported by local tax dollars prepares to expand, county leaders say they want to see more emphasis on making sure women and people of color also benefit from the center. As part of its meeting Wednesday, the Douglas County Commission met with officials from the Bioscience and Technology Business Center to get an update on the center’s operations and its upcoming expansion project. ...

Defense arranges for outside expert to test footwear evidence in Rontarus Washington murder case

Attorneys defending Rontarus Washington Jr. against a murder charge have arranged for another expert to examine footwear evidence related to bloody footprints found at the crime scene. Washington, 24, is charged with first-degree murder and aggravated burglary in connection with the November 2014 death of his neighbor, 19-year-old Justina Altamirano Mosso. Washington’s attorneys, Adam Hall and Angela Keck, ...

Community Police Review Board wants to know how much power residents think it should have, plus other questions about the board's future

After eight months of research and discussion, the city’s police review board is asking residents what they think of the board’s proposed changes to increase oversight of police complaints. The changes are meant to provide greater transparency and accountability in the handling of complaints against the Lawrence Police Department, to improve the complaint process and to increase diversity of board members, ...

Defense says judge should dismiss Washington murder case because of alleged misconduct; prosecutors say allegations lack evidence and trial should proceed

Defense attorneys for Rontarus Washington Jr. alleged at a hearing on Friday that witness tampering and other prosecutorial misconduct were so rife that the possibility of a fair trial for Washington was destroyed and that the murder case against him should be dismissed. However, state prosecutors said those allegations were based on suspicions rather than evidence and that the defense's motion to dismiss was ...

Outside study of Lawrence Police Department moves into next phase; review to inform upcoming search for new police chief

The outside consultant the City of Lawrence hired to study its police department has been gathering input from city and police leaders — and will soon be gathering it from the public. And that feedback could help inform changes to police duties and shape the city's search for a new police chief. In the wake of national and local calls for police reform and protests against police killings of Black people and ...

Lawrence City Commission to discuss city takeover of sidewalk maintenance once initial repairs are made by property owners

Lawrence city leaders will soon discuss whether the city should take responsibility for maintenance of sidewalks once they are repaired to a certain standard. As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will receive a report on potential costs of taking over sidewalk maintenance after initial repairs are complete and direct city staff on any potential actions it would like to pursue. The ...

As frigid weather increases demand, Lawrence City Commission to consider spending another $90,000 on hotel shelter program for homeless people

City leaders will soon consider spending another $90,000 on a program that shelters homeless people in hotels, allowing the program to continue operating another few weeks amid frigid temperatures. As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will consider authorizing spending another $90,000 from the general fund to sustain the program through March 5, which would bring the total city funds ...

District Attorney Suzanne Valdez tells police review board that broadening its review of complaints could be 'problematic'

Douglas County’s new district attorney Suzanne Valdez told members of Lawrence Community Police Review Board that she has some concerns with their effort to strengthen oversight of complaints against police. Valdez, who replaced longtime District Attorney Charles Branson a month ago, attended the board’s meeting Thursday night, where she spoke about some endeavors of her office and commented on the ...

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., is pictured Thursday, July 7, 2016.

Lawrence city leaders supportive of incorporating elements of Green New Deal into city plans

City of Lawrence leaders have agreed to incorporate aspects of the Green New Deal into the city plans, including goals related to environmentally sustainable jobs and infrastructure. As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission voted unanimously to direct staff to integrate five sustainability principles into city plans wherever possible. Jasmin Moore, sustainability coordinator for the city ...

Lawrence City Commission meeting delayed after 'Zoom bombing' with image of sexual abuse, racist message

The Lawrence City Commission’s virtual meeting was delayed Tuesday after an interruption, or “Zoom bombing,” which included an image of sexual abuse and a racist message. As the commission’s virtual meeting was opened Tuesday, it was interrupted in brief intervals by noise or heavy metal music, and part of the Zoom meeting screen displayed an image of two children being sexually abused, and then text ...

After concerns with contract, Lawrence City Commission will take bids for project to repair Bowersock Dam

City leaders have decided not to move forward with a contract to make repairs on the Bowersock Dam after the proposal came in around $400,000 more than anticipated. As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission voted 4-1, with Mayor Brad Finkeldei opposed, to authorize city staff to advertise a request for proposals for engineering services for the design of the dam rehabilitation. The city ...

Defense alleges prosecution had a 'quid pro quo' for testimony in murder case; prosecutors say there is no evidence

Defense attorneys for Rontarus Washington Jr. alleged at a hearing on Monday that state prosecutors appeared to have had a "quid pro quo" with the estranged husband of a homicide victim as part of their effort to convict Washington of the crime. However, state prosecutors said there was no evidence of such an arrangement and that the defense’s allegation was speculative. Washington, 24, is charged with ...

Mark Richter, KU professor who died of COVID-19, remembered as mentor to many

On the wall of Mark Richter’s intensive care room, where he lay sedated as he fought COVID-19, hung two pieces of paper. On one was a bulleted list of facts about his life — that he was a professor, that he had four kids, that he enjoyed a competitive match of croquet — and on the other were photos of him and his family. What the posters could not capture was his baritone voice and its Australian accent, ...

Cost of dam repair project estimated at $1.9 million, higher than city expected; leaders will soon decide how to proceed

After a proposed contract to complete additional repairs on the Bowersock Dam came in higher than anticipated, city leaders will have to decide whether to go ahead with the project as planned or try to reduce some of the estimated $1.9 million price tag. As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will receive an update on contract negotiations with J.F. Brennan Company Inc. and Barr ...

Lawrence police to start pulling over drivers who violate new 25 mph neighborhood speed limit

Lawrence police officers will soon begin enforcing the city’s recently lowered speed limits on neighborhood streets. Starting Monday, police will begin pulling over drivers who exceed the new 25 mph speed limit as part of a $40,000, three-month traffic enforcement campaign. Senior Project Engineer Dustin Smith said in an email to the Journal-World that the first six weeks of the campaign would focus on ...

Kansans whose identities were used to file fraudulent unemployment claims now must deal with tax consequences

People whose identities have been used to fraudulently collect unemployment benefits from the Kansas Department of Labor are now facing another problem: making sure they don't have to pay taxes on thousands of dollars that they never received. Tonganoxie resident Nancy Landi is one of the many people — state officials don’t yet know exactly how many — whose identity was used to file a fraudulent ...

With 'big decisions' ahead, Lawrence City Commission approves spending another $208,000 to study site of Farmland fertilizer plant

Lawrence city leaders have approved spending another $208,000 to further study contamination levels at the former Farmland Industries fertilizer plant, but they emphasized that the most difficult decisions about the site's cleanup were still ahead. As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission voted unanimously to authorize a second addition to its contract with GHD Services Inc., which the city ...

Lawrence City Commission to consider spending another $208,000 to study Farmland fertilizer plant ahead of multimillion-dollar cleanup

As part of Lawrence’s yearslong effort to clean up nitrogen spills at the former Farmland Industries fertilizer plant, city leaders will soon discuss spending another $208,000 to further analyze the spread of the contaminants and develop a new remediation plan for the site. As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will consider authorizing a second addition to its contract with GHD ...

Michael Dye

As problems continue to plague state's unemployment system, Lawrence residents wait 'in limbo' for benefits

The balance in Michael Dye’s bank account is $2.89, and the only people he thinks might be able to help him aren’t picking up the phone. As he looks around his house, his thoughts drift to what possessions he might be able to sell. Dye, like others in Lawrence and across the state, is waiting on unemployment benefits from the Kansas Department of Labor. He said he’s qualified for the extended ...

Lawrence leaders oppose lawmakers' 'Energy Choice Act,' saying it would hurt city's renewable energy goals

Lawrence city officials say a bill that Kansas legislators are referring to as the “Energy Choice Act” is an attempt to limit local governments’ ability to move toward more renewable energy sources and combat climate change. Last year, Lawrence joined other communities across the nation by setting specific goals for renewable energy use, with the ultimate goal of powering the entire city with all ...