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Change Lawrence’s governance structure at “Fantasy Government” event

Thursday, April 16, 2015

In the rough-and-tumble world of local politics, what form of city government is ideal? Should the public elect Lawrence’s mayors instead of the city commission? Should the mayors have more powers? Should local elections be partisan, or occur in the fall instead of the spring? How would changing Lawrence’s government make it more effective?

Learn more and decide for yourself by attending the “Play Fantasy Government: Tackle your Future” event being hosted by students from the Department of Urban Planning’s Politics and Planning class. It will be held May 7, 6-8 p.m. in the Community Room at the Lawrence Union Pacific Depot, 402 N. 2nd Street. Associate Professor Bonnie Johnson teaches the class.

In the spirit of fantasy sports games, participants will be able to choose “players” to fill “rosters” that represent their ideal Lawrence government. They’ll be helped in their decision-making by informative displays created by the students showing player stats on local government, such as the direct election of mayors, partisan versus nonpartisan elections, expanding mayoral powers, or, increasing voter participation through mail-in ballots. 

Participants will be able to create their own rosters proposing what they think would be best for Lawrence and compare theirs to what others choose. People can come and go as they like and have some game day-themed refreshments. 

“There is more to the form of local government than meets the eye,” said Johnson. “The students have been studying the options all semester long and wanted to create a fun way of learning about and discussing different types of government. This event will give people choices and lets them know what the latest research says about the consequences of changing the rules of the local-government game.”

“It is healthy and timely to explore the relationship between Lawrence’s governmental structure and performance,” said Charles Jones, three-term Douglas County Commissioner and former Director of the KU Public Management Center.

“Lawrence is unique in the KC metro area in its odd system of a one-year, rotating, and largely ceremonial mayor,” he said. “How is that arrangement faring? Arguably, not well. Per-capita income in Douglas County ranks 91st out of 105 counties in Kansas. Despite our rich social capital, fine educational institutions, and proximity to the I-70 and K-10 corridors, we falter.”


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