Lawrence city commissioners agreed Tuesday that they don’t want to eliminate the Sustainability Advisory Board, though it may be due to be reimagined.
Three of five commissioners also agreed with a recommendation to dissolve four boards and move their duties under the city manager’s office: the Transient Guest Tax Grant Program Advisory Board; Public Incentives Review Committee; Sales Tax Audit Committee; and Special Alcohol Fund Advisory Board.
The city’s Board and Commissions Structure Committee, created about a year ago, was tasked with limiting the number of boards to 10, not counting those required by state statutes.
Several current and former members of the Sustainability Advisory Board spoke during the meeting to defend the board and its purpose. Commissioners agreed that they thought the SAB has an important purpose, and they want to revamp it and reimagine how it might function.
Commissioners Amber Sellers and Courtney Shipley had some questions and concerns about the recommendation to move four boards’ duties under the city manager’s office, specifically the duty of deciding which events get funding from the city’s transient guest tax.
Currently, community members and organizations can apply for grant funding. The advisory board reviews the applications and makes recommendations to the Lawrence City Commission about funding allocations. Commissioners then vote on final funding decisions.
City Manager Craig Owens said the city is trying to “unhitch specific allocation of a small portion of the city’s budget from the policy advisory boards and commissions.” He said he was suggesting that those dollars get spent “like the rest of our city dollars,” and that the final call would still be the commission’s.
Sellers suggested moving the TGT program advisory board’s duties to the eXplore Lawrence Board. Shipley suggested moving them under the Cultural Arts Commission. Both were skeptical of moving the TGT grant funds into the city’s overall budget.
Commissioner Brad Finkeldei said he thought the commissioners may actually decide to allocate more funds to events than the limited budget that the TGT board is given to spend. Sellers said she thought it was unfair to present that as a direction to take.
Mayor Lisa Larsen asked whether there would still be a grant program for the TGT. Owens said that was up to the commission. He said it costs half a million dollars a year to run the boards and commissions the city currently has, and he asked if it was effective to use volunteer boards and commissions to allocate dollars in other places.
Ultimately, Finkeldei, Larsen and Vice Mayor Bart Littlejohn said they agreed with that recommendation as proposed.
Commissioners said they want to wait until the temporary Community-Police Oversight Work Group finishes its work to determine what the Community Police Review Board should look like going forward before acting on any recommended changes to it. The BSCS suggested merging the CPRB with the Human Relations Commission, as both have as part of their missions to combat racial bias and other types of bias within the city.
Commissioners also generally agreed they want to consider how mayoral appointments are done, especially if voters decide next year that the city should have a directly elected mayor.
Below is the full letter from the BSCS, followed by the board’s recommendations:20231121-BSCS-recommendations