Regular public commenter Chris Flowers files to run for Lawrence City Commission

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Chris Flowers

Regular public commenter Chris Flowers has filed to run for the Lawrence City Commission.

Flowers, who grew up in Plainville, moved to Lawrence in 1999 to attend the University of Kansas. Flowers has regularly attended City Commission meetings for the past few years, where he frequently makes public comment. Flowers, who ran unsuccessfully in 2021, said he was motivated to run again after a recent commission meeting when another frequent public commenter was told he was not allowed to comment at a particular part of the agenda.

“I feel that they need to be more lenient on public comment,” Flowers said.

The commenter, whom Flowers described as someone frequently critical of police, was told he could not comment on a city proclamation for police week, muted when he continued to speak as a virtual meeting participant and made to leave City Hall when he later showed up in person. Flowers said the recent situation was just the “straw that broke the camel’s back” for him, representing what he sees as a wider issue, namely that the city seems to be tougher on enforcing public comment decorum and policies on the people they don’t want to hear from.

Flowers also wants the city to be more accountable when it makes mistakes. One of the examples he gave was when the city recently applied an herbicide in error to a 5-acre native prairie remnant at the Prairie Park Nature Center. He said the press release the city initially put out downplayed the situation and didn’t acknowledge that the herbicide application was a mistake. He said it wasn’t until the next day, following a lot of public comments, that the city made a statement that accepted responsibility.

“I support that, but the initial reaction was kind of different,” Flowers said. “And it just seems that’s the kind of reaction the city will initially give and then if there is enough public outcry, that’s when they’ll do their thoughtful response or whatever, where they’ll actually take some accountability for it.”

Flowers said that if elected, he would also push to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms by drastically reducing fines and penalties, as the city has done for small amounts of marijuana. He said some people are using mushrooms in small doses for their mental health and some studies have found the use is beneficial to people with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“In terms of body autonomy, if this is a substance that is helping members of the public with their mental health, then the government shouldn’t be arresting and ticketing people and sending people to jail for it,” he said.

Another concern Flowers has is city spending. The example he gave was the recent traffic-calming project in Old West Lawrence. He said that after the initial layout of traffic diverters and other traffic devices was unpopular with many residents, the city should have stopped spending money on it then rather than continuing with second and third designs. A city-hired consultant spent 1.5 years piloting the different versions and the commission approved a $306,250 design for a permanent installation in April.

Flowers, who works as a delivery driver, said in addition to City Commission meetings, he also attends some city advisory board meetings.

The terms of Lawrence city commissioners Courtney Shipley, Amber Sellers and Brad Finkeldei are expiring this year. All three incumbents have filed for reelection. In addition to Flowers, four others have filed for the election: Dustin Stumblingbear, Mike Dever, Justine O. Burton and Joshua Olafson. Burton has also filed for the special election for a two-year term on the Lawrence school board.

A primary will take place Aug. 1, and the general election will be on Nov. 7. Lawrence has a charter ordinance that calls for a primary if the number of candidates who file for the City Commission is more than two times the number of open seats.


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