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

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

LAWRENCE — 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 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 Play Fantasy Government: Tackle your Future, which will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. May 7 in the Community Room at the Lawrence Union Pacific Depot, 402 N. Second St. Students from the University of Kansas Department of Urban Planning’s Politics and Planning class are staging the event. 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,” Johnson said. “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 K.C. 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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