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Leslie Soden
March 23, 2015

City Commission candidate Leslie Soden answers your questions

Moderator

Hi everyone. Welcome to our online chat with city commission candidate Leslie Soden. If you have questions for Leslie, post them below, and we'll try to get to as many as we can. Welcome, Leslie.

Leslie Soden

Hi Chad, thanks for setting this up. I'm looking forward to answering questions!

Yeoman2

Don't you think that it is high time to start removing those stupid roundabouts from our city streets? I ride on a school bus as an attendant and the near misses at these damned fool roundabout intersections by distracted drivers that do not have a clue as to what the "Yield" sign means.

Leslie Soden

Round-abouts can definitely be a major hassle with uninformed drivers and even reckless drivers. I just had to honk at someone the other day that completely ignored my car already in the roundabout, that had jumped out in front of me! I have also personally witnessed a semi-truck stuck on a roundabout just to the west of Wakarusa on Harvard. So I have very mixed feelings about roundabouts. I think some work well, such as at 19th & Barker, assuming drivers are using it correctly. But other roundabouts, such as north of Peterson Road on Kasold, seem like extremely unnecessary expenses. I think we need to hold off on adding more roundabouts for now.

Moderator

I've received some questions via e-mail, and I'll try to pass some of those along as well. This one is from Melinda: What would change if you become mayor?

Leslie Soden

Hopefully our budget priorities will immediately revert back to our core city services, especially in terms of public safety. I want to make "mental health issues" a new City Commission goal right off the bat. This will steer much of the internal decision-making at city hall. We also need to upgrade our current police facilities as well. Then we need to kick off a global review of our "emergency services system", which includes our police, fire, county jail and hospital. Let's start getting at some of these root issues, instead of applying band-aids.

foodboy

For all candidates: What commissioner, past or present, do you admire most and which of his/her qualities will you bring to the job?

Leslie Soden

What a great question. I'm afraid my personal knowledge of individual commissioners only stretches back maybe 5 years, so I have a limited pool to draw from. Of course Marci Francisco I admire for her due diligence and in depth understanding of issues, and her willingness to get down into the weeds to fully understand a problem. David Dunfield has been working with me on my campaign this campaign season (and last election too), and his careful & thoughtful consideration & diplomacy I greatly admire. And I have admired the long-term partnership that formed between Boog Highberger and Rob Chestnut, two Commissioners that are considered on the opposite sides of the political spectrum, but worked hard to come together on issues.

Moderator

This question is from Gary: You have indicated your support for increased mental health services for youth and adults in Lawrence. Can you site specifically what you have done in the past two years to address this issue?

Leslie Soden

Remaining open to all solutions, big & small, I feel has been my biggest asset. During my last campaign 2 years ago, I discussed with people the need to revisit fully funding the WRAP program in schools. WRAP is jointly funded by the school district, the county and the city. We need to restore our funding in that 3-legged stool. Lately in the past year or so as Chair of the Lawrence Affordable Housing Coalition, I have learned much about the importance of supportive & transitional housing, and how it needs to become part of our toolkit here in Lawrence. This coalition has worked hard in the last year with the Horizon 2020 Steering Committee, to bring the issue of affordable housing into the spotlight, and to add goals and solutions to our Horizon 2020 updates. I am happy to report that the Steering Committee has indeed chosen to make affordable housing a priority in their updates & revisions.

Moderator

This one is from Marcel: Sidewalk construction and maintenance are a major part of the infrastructure component for implementing safe routes to schools across town, and for improving walkability in North Lawrence in particular. Do you support the city taking over the maintenance component of sidewalks, making it a specific component of the "non-motorized transportation budget line item"?

Leslie Soden

Funding that budget line item is definitely important, and I'd like the city to look at funding it from the special infrastructure sales tax. I do think the city needs to take greater initiative in identifying & prioritizing first of all where sidewalk gaps exist, such as near schools, bus stops and grocery stores, and then working with the property owner to build a sidewalk. I'd like us to try that collaborative approach, rather than 'taking over" a sidewalk on personal property.

Moderator

A reminder that you can post more questions in the space provided below. This one is via e-mail and is from Shawn: Do you feel that the police presence or number of active police officers in Lawrence could be reduced without danger to residents?

Leslie Soden

This is definitely a question that cannot truly be answered until we take a global look at our "emergency services system" (fire, police, jail & hospital). After we do a comprehensive review, we can determine what kind of police officers we may need to add to the force. I am especially a fan of the Neighborhood Resource Officers and School Resource Officers, who are police officers that work more on the "preventive" end of the scale. But enforcement of the law is important, and there will always be people that break the law no matter how much time & energy we put into "preventive" resources. Until we start treating the root causes of crime, I would not be comfortable with changing the number of police officers.

MelindaHenderson

No, that wasn't my question. My question was: If elected, how would you use social media to enhance communication with the residents of Lawrence? Would that change if you become mayor?

Leslie Soden

I think the city has started doing a great job in using social media to better engage & inform residents. For example, in the past few weeks or so, City Hall has been putting out weekly emails to residents that outlines the City Commission agenda in plain english, and then giving a wrap up of what happened at City Commission the night before, in plain english. I would love to hear any and all ideas related to using social media. Let's try those ideas out. Some will work, and some won't. I'm open to suggestions.

Moderator

This is an e-mail question from Tony: Do you support providing Broadband Fiber(1Gb) Internet to every home and business in Lawrence?

Leslie Soden

I think the city needs to begin investigating offering fiber optic Internet as a municipal utility. The end goal will definitely be to every home and business in Lawrence. To keep implementation costs down, I would like us first to create a net over the city that brings fiber to our large businesses and schools. That would be VenturePark, East Hills Business Park, the Peaslee Center, Haskell Indian Nations University, KU, BTBC, the hospital, public schools, City Hall, and downtown. After this net has been implemented, and we have a revenue stream coming in from those subscribers, we can look at filling in the gaps in between, such as small business and residential. Let's look at what other communities are doing to make it a basic utility, and learn from their successes and mistakes.

Moderator

This is an e-mail question from Shawn: Do you think additional westward expansion of the city is practical or necessary?

Leslie Soden

Eventually expansion west of K-10 will happen, of that I am confident. Our city is hemmed in on 3 sides by floodplain, North, South & East, so that puts a limit on how we can grow. West is our most practical direction. Investing in infrastructure to make that happen is a budget priority that needs to be weighed next to our immediate public safety needs. In the next two to four years as a City Commissioner I would prioritize public safety needs over extending infrastructure past K-10. For now let's focus better on infill for development, and put "extending infrastructure" on the long-term Capital Improvement Planning budget.

Moderator

Well, our hour is up. Thank you to everyone who participated. And thank you Leslie for being with us today. We have chats scheduled for all six candidates in the City Commission race. Our next one is at 3:30 today (Monday, March 23) with candidate Matthew Herbert.

Leslie Soden

Thank you so much, I enjoyed it. And thanks to all of you that submitted such great questions!

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