Recap: Lawrence City Commission’s April 6 meeting

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The Lawrence City Commission started meeting at 5:45 p.m. today. This was written as a running recap as the meeting was ongoing. We’ll embed the complete meeting video on this page when it’s online. It will appear here.

Confused? See our “meeting lingo” guide at the bottom of the page.

Last update at 9:34 p.m.:

Completed itemsRegular agenda:

• Banning “conversion therapy,” which attempts to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity, for minors.

If passed, if a person or entity is adjudicated guilty or pleads no contest to violating that law, they could be fined up to $500, and each “therapy” session with a minor would constitute a separate offense.

↪️ City Commissioner Jennifer Ananda asked why clergy were exempt from the ordinance. Assistant City Attorney Maria Garcia said it was an attempt to avoid a First Amendment challenge. Ananda said considering the more than double the average suicide rate for transgender kids who experience the practice, she was not willing to make any exceptions. Garcia said that even without that exception, the ordinance would need to directly address clergy if the commission’s intent was also to ban clergy from the practice. Ananda said if members of clergy were engaging in the practice, they would be doing so without a license, which would also be subject to penalties if discovered.

↪️ Public comments: One public commenter said he had heard that “conversion therapy” does not happen in Lawrence, but the ordinance was a good step for the city to affirm its commitment to LGBTQIA people and ensure that it does not happen here. // Dr. Marciana Vequist, a Lawrence psychologist, spoke in favor of the ordinance, saying that there is no scientific evidence that the practice works, but there was evidence that it can cause serious harm. // Another public commenter said she had concerns about some of the language in the ordinance not being specific enough. // Read written public comment here.

↪️ Deferred to schedule an executive session for the commission to seek legal advice from city attorneys. Commissioner Stuart Boley suggested “expeditious handling” of the issue. Vote 4-1, Ananda opposed.


• An update on 12 goals for criminal justice and social justice reform that commissioners named in June 2020.

The full update is here. No action to be taken.

↪️ Assistant City Manager Brandon McGuire walked commissioners through the written report. Capt. Trent McKinley of the Lawrence Police Department said LPD has shifted some nonemergency calls for police services — such as collecting a piece of evidence or video footage of a crime — to “civilian specialists,” and that has been successful. In addition, other city departments are helping with some issues such as vandalism, graffiti and abandoned vehicles.

↪️ Ananda also provided an update on the Douglas County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. She said the ongoing law enforcement contact study is taking longer than expected to complete because there have been fewer folks on the road amid the pandemic. In that study, law enforcement officers are tracking outcomes of traffic stops and pedestrian stops, including data on the race and ethnicity of the individuals in hopes of determining whether and to what extent bias exists among the officers. The Baldwin City, Eudora and Lawrence police departments, University of Kansas Public Safety and Douglas County Sheriff’s Office are all participating.

• A report on a study of Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical’s emergency medical services.

↪️ Misty Bruckner and others with Wichita State University’s Public Policy and Management Center, walked commissioners through some recommendations detailed in the 100-plus-page draft report. One recommendation included phasing out LDCFM’s coroner scene investigation team because that is a service that could be provided by others, she said. Presenters noted some issues and suggestions for service agreements between the city and county.

↪️ Public comment: Seamus Albritton, president of Local IAFF 1596, the firefighters union, urged against contracting with a private, third-party ambulance company to manage some nonemergency medical transfers. He said keeping that service under LDCFM would ensure that people are treated the way they deserve and not as revenue, and that it would keep the employees accountable to the city and county governments.

Pulled from consent agenda:

• Declaring an emergency to issue about $31.8 million in bond sales to finance building projects that were previously approved.

↪️ A member of the public asked to pull that item from the consent agenda. Jeremy Willmoth, finance director, explained that the bond issue was not an emergency in the sense of danger present, but that bids the city had received the same morning would no longer be valid if the bonds are not approved without a second read of the ordinance. Willmoth said it’s not uncommon for cities to do that. Passed, 5-0.

Items passed on consent agenda:

• A request from Paul Werner Architects to rezone land at 1733 Massachusetts St., in order to demolish a vacant gas station and build 12 housing units.

• Authorizing the city manager to come to agreements for distribution of $450,000 in affordable housing trust fund awards.

The next city commission meeting is set for April 13. Check out more local government coverage here.

Meeting lingo:

• Consent agenda: A list of a bunch of items that are considered “routine,” so the governing board usually makes one motion to approve the whole list. A member of the public or a member of the governing board can request that an item or items be pulled from the consent agenda for discussion before a vote. This vote usually occurs toward the beginning of meetings.

• Executive session: Closed to the public, generally to discuss pending legal actions or personnel matters. The governing board may or may not take action once the public meeting resumes.

• Regular agenda: Items the governing board will generally discuss or hear during the meeting, rather than approving them with no discussion.

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