Red Letter Day

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Primary colors

Lawrence's City Commission primary election is on Tuesday. The election will narrow down the current field of nine candidates to six. These six will then compete in the April general election for three seats on the Commission.

It has been quite a while since there has been such a clear stratification amongst all the candidates in a city election. The candidates are grouped into three groups of's almost like a tic-tac-toe board.

Three "progressive" candidates:

Dennis 'Boog' Highberger
David Schauner
Carey Maynard-Moody

Three "Real Estate/Chamber of Commerce" candidates

James Bush
Rob Chestnut
Mike Dever

And three long-shot/vanity candidates:

Jake Davis
Sam Fields
Michael Limburg

For background info, the Lawrence Journal World has a decent section including a quiz where you can match your political opinion against the candidates to find out who to vote for.

The main issue in my opinion is the perennial issue of how to manage growth. The fact is, Lawrence is a very desirable place to live, and we have a lot of people who want to move here, and a lot of businesses, especially national chains who want to expand further into Lawrence. In spite of the simplistic tendency of some to divide the camps into "pro-growth" and "anti-growth" groupings, all the candidates, "progressive" and "chamber" alike favor allowing Lawrence to grow. The difference comes in how this growth is managed. In my opinion, the "chamber" candidates tend to be much more in favor of rampant and poorly-planned growth, including the approval of large national chains without considering quality of life and infrastructure/planning issues. The progressive candidates tend to favor more deliberative attitudes towards growth, taking into account the needs of established neighborhoods and better planning for traffic and infrastructure issues.

While I certainly do not feel everything the current progressive-dominated commission has done is perfect (their botching of negotiations over a second Wal-Mart will come back to haunt Lawrence), I trust them much more on making sure Lawrence remains a desirable place to live then the so-called business or chamber candidates. I do not think Lawrence needs to bend over backwards to encourage sprawl or national chain growth, and I want a commission which will take neighborhood desires and quality of life into consideration when making decisions.

For this reason, I am going to vote for the "progressive" three candidates:

Dennis 'Boog' Highberger
David Schauner
Carey Maynard-Moody

You should vote for them as well.

It is likely that these three, along with the three chamber folks will win the six spots on the general election ballot, setting up a clear contest in April. The other three folks have huge pocketbooks (they have been endorsed by the Board of Realtors, who view growth much the same way cancer cells do) and the three progressive folks need all the support and help they can get.

A brief side note on the domestic partner registry is worth mentioning. The three progressive candidates support it; the three chamber candidates have refused to take any position, pro or con. If you believe in equal rights, this is another reason to vote for Highberger, Schauner and Maynard-Moody.

And a last note...
One of the three "chamber" candidates is a man by the name of James Bush. He is a minister at the First Southern Baptist Church in Lawrence, a denomination known for its extremely intolerant views on the human rights of gays and lesbians. It strikes me as very odd that a minister from such a church is running for office. I can't believe he was driven to stand for office by strong opinions on zoning and sewer planning. I suspect he is a "stealth candidate" for the radical right. He has consistently refused to say anything about his social beliefs during the campaign, for obvious reasons, given that Lawrence is a very liberal city and his views on issues like the domestic partner registry and other social issues would not go over well.

And, it gets better. My husband's business group pays rent each week to meet at the church. Mr. Bush asked the group to pass out literature, speak to the group, and for them to endorse him...all on church grounds, which violates IRS regulations. But that's just man's law, not God's law, right?

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