Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Kansas: Progressives take a hit, leaving the future of the domestic partner registry in doubt

By Diane Silver

[revised some and updated 10:13 pm]
Low turnout on the east side may well have combined with the power of real estate money today to knock the number of progressive votes on the Lawrence City Commission from three to one.

The City Commission has five members.

Progressive incumbent Dennis "Boog" Highberger retained his seat on the commission, but incumbent David Schauner lost and newcomer Carey Maynard-Moody was unable to win the seat once held by retiring progressive Mike Rundle.

The candidates backed by developers -- Mike Dever and Rob Chestnut -- came in No. 1 and 2 in the vote with Highberger coming in 3rd. Three seats were open.

Neither Dever nor Chestnut have said how they will vote on the domestic partner registry, although Dever may well be leaning towards a no vote based on a recent comment. Highberger, Schauner and Maynard-Moody had all pledged to vote yes on the domestic partner registry. The final candidate -- Baptist minister James Bush -- had also pledged to vote yes, but he failed to make the cut to win a commission seat.

All of this means that the future of the domestic partner registry is in doubt. It's too early to say what will happen with this issue, though. We lost two certain votes, but we may not have lost the issue. We have to start working with the new commissioners and with incumbents Mike Amyx and Sue Hack.

What happened in the election? A first look indicates that we just didn't get our voters out. We didn't raise enough money for our candidates. Lawrence progressives were hobbled this time by the demise of a coalition that had helped elect Highberger, Schauner and Rundle. This time the developers were clearly more motivated to retake the commission they had once controlled.

Lawrence progressives were a tad disorganized. New groups like Kansas Equality PAC, a group I'm affiliated with, and Grassroots Action (Think I've got the name right on that) were not as experienced and, perhaps, didn't do all they could. All of us could have done better. Next time we will.

The shift on the City Commission means there may be many other changes in Lawrence. In the last few days, for example, I saw a lot of Dever signs in bar windows. Will there be an attempt to repeal the ban on smoking in restaurants and bars in Lawrence? (Personally, I'd hate to see the ban go. I can breathe in restaurants now!) And of course, the developers now have a hold on the Commission. Older neighborhoods may well take a hit, while resources head to the big money folk. Can anyone say tax breaks?

Lawrence School Board, USD 497, results and all the results for Douglas County can be found at the county clerk's site.


Mike said...

I don't think the smoking ordinance is at risk...even Dever said he supports it.

As for the DP registry, I think it really depends on the attorney general's report....if he gives it a thumbs-up, I think it is very likely the registry will pass with the support of Hack, Amyx, and Boog. If the AG says the ordinance would not stand, then I doubt anyone will have the guts to pass it over that objection.

Diane Silver said...

Thanks for the comments, Mike.

As for the smoking ordinance, I suspect that some of the votes against Boog and Schauner may have been motivated by that.

As for Hack and Amyx and the domestic partner registry, they have been the height of vagueness on the issue. We'll have to work with them, and as you say, see what the attorney general says. Obviously, if AG Paul Morrison gives a thumbs down on the constitutionality of a registry, the proposal will die.

But right now I doubt that will happen. The city's legal staff seemed pretty certain that the proposal is constitutional. We'll just have to see.

The sad thing about the result of the election is that before today, we had three certain votes (Boog, Schauner and Rundle). Now we're down to one definite yes vote.

Hope your holiday was great, Mike.

Mike said...

I am pretty hopeful about Amyx....the guy has proclaimed gay pride week and has MC'ed some of the NetworkQ events before, so I don't see any signs of incipient bigotry in him. Hack, although she hasn't ever said one way or the other, I don't think she is a bigot either; she was publicly against the gay marriage amendment two years ago. Still, I agree with you, we need to work with both these folks to be sure.

And it wouldn't hurt to engage with Dever and Chestnut. Both of them are basically pro-business and pro-development; they need to hear how the dp registry will help attract business to Lawrence and make the town a more attractive place for the kind of well-paying jobs (and people who wwant to move here to take those jobs).

In an era when Wal Mart (yes, even Wal Mart) offers DP benefits, there's no excuse for anyone who considers themselves pro-business to oppose them.

Diane Silver said...

I don't know Mike Amyx or Sue Hack, so you're assessment is probably more accurate than mine. However, I am always leary of folks who hedge in public on an issue.

I wholeheartedly agree that we need to work on and with Chestnut and Dever.