Lawrence, KS - Events Local News Groups Contact
Grassroots Action: Deciphera Deal Action Alert
By Films For Action / filmsforaction.org
Nov 12, 2007

By now, most subscribers to the Grassroots Action list know the basics about the Deciphera story: that on October 23, the City Commission awarded a multimillion dollar tax break to Deciphera Pharmaceuticals WITHOUT PUBLIC DISCUSSION; that the Commission's only discussion of Deciphera occurred behind closed doors, in an executive session held earlier in October, with the CEO of the Chamber of Commerce present; that Grassroots Action filed a complaint with the District Attorney alleging a violation of the state's Open Meetings Act (which requires city officials to discuss public policy in public); and that the District Attorney has asked the Kansas Attorney-General's office to investigate this complaint.

The Journal-World has reported these facts well. But what's the larger significance of the Deciphera story? What's at stake?

Beneath the skin of the story, several issues loom large.

Not least is the continuing viability of the City's tax abatement ordinance, which was unanimously passed by the City Commission in October 2003 – almost four years to the day before the Deciphera vote. This law guides City action with respect to tax subsidies. If this law is permitted to fall into disuse – if the Commission elects to view city tax law as a gentle hint, rather than as a requirement – then Lawrence will effectively have no policy for evaluating and granting requests for tax relief. City Commissioners will simply act arbitrarily, without rule or review

Also at stake is the City's living wage measure, which requires firms receiving City tax abatements to keep their workers at least 30% above the poverty line. (In 2007, the living wage in Lawrence is $10.83 plus benefits.) This law also passed unanimously in October 2003 as a central part of the tax abatement ordinance. If the City Commission now arrogates to itself the right to award tax breaks at will, without observing the living wage provisions of the abatement ordinance, Lawrence will effectively have no living wage policy.

Commissioners might say that they do not intend to alter city tax or wage policy – that the Deciphera decision was a once-only action, not to be repeated – but a precedent is no small matter. If the Commissioners are given the discretion to disregard city policy at will, they will be limited in the future only by their own wishes.

The City Commission, in sum, appears to be challenging city ordinance as well as state law. Even worse, we believe, is the underlying abrogation of democracy and transparency. The Commission has an obligation to invite public and honor input; to seek the widest publicity for its deliberations; to court and cultivate civic participation. Acting arbitrarily and unilaterally to give Deciphera a tax break is a grave violation of public trust in each of these respects. The public is denied the chance to review Commission plans, and previous decisions are tacitly overturned, without appropriate prior discussion.

This puts the entire City Commission under a cloud. Although the Mayor, who has avowed a personal financial interest in Deciphera, recused herself from the final vote, all five City Commissioners appear to have attended the private discussion of the tax break, and four voted to approve it. Curiously, this tax break was never mentioned out loud prior to the vote. The words "tax break" and "tax rebate" do not appear in the minutes of the October 23 City Commission meeting.

Perhaps worst of all, the City Commission seems to be unwilling to correct this grievous error. Tuesday's City Commission meeting has been billed by the City Manager as an occasion for the Commission to "explain" the Deciphera vote – but not, evidently, to reconsider it.

We believe that the only suitable course is to rescind the Deciphera decision, not to "explain" it. The City Commission should obey its own rules; invite Deciphera to submit a request for a regular tax abatement, if Deciphera wants tax relief; and rededicate itself to democracy and the rule of law.

This is a defining moment for the City's elected officials. What they do next will be remembered.

Join us, if you like, at Tuesday's meeting. Public comment is invited. And please note, too, that the City Commission will also consider on Tuesday whether to write a letter IN FAVOR of building a trafficway through the Baker Wetlands. Many Grassroots Action supporters will want to express opposition to that course of action as well.

Thanks all, take care,

David Smith for the Grassroots Action board

0.0 ·
0
Trending Today
PROPAGANDA (2012)
95 min · 6,136 views today · Since it mysteriously appeared on YouTube on July 18, 2012, ‘Propaganda’ has been described as ‘1984 meets The Blair Witch Project’, ‘A mouthful of scary porridge’, and ‘Even...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 4,361 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
The Science Behind Connection
9 min · 3,171 views today · Evolutionary Biologist, Bruce Lipton, visits the Beatles Ashram in Rishikesh, India with UPLIFT writer, Jacob Devaney. Making a pilgrimage back to one of the epicenters of...
Life Goes On: A Positive and Uplifting Response to Dark Times
2 min · 2,859 views today · Recent world events have a lot of people feeling fearful and angry. But there is much more good than bad in this world, and I choose to remain hopeful. This video explains why.
The Safety Pin and the Swastika
Shuja Haider · 2,528 views today · The frameworks of liberal identity politics and “alt-right” white nationalism are proving curiously compatible.
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 1,402 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 1,049 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Obama's Hidden Role in Worsening Climate Change
Stansfield Smith · 445 views today · It should be a scandal that leftists-liberals paint Trump as a special threat, a war mongerer – not Obama who is the first president to be at war everyday of his eight years...
Stunning Photos By Alexander Semenov Showcase The Alien Beauty Of Jellyfish
Earth Porm · 430 views today · Jellyfish appear like beautiful aliens in Alexander Semenov’s photography, calling a new attraction to a magical species of marine life. Alexander Semenov is a marine...
How Mindfulness Empowers Us
2 min · 416 views today · Many traditions speak of the opposing forces within us, vying for our attention. Native American stories speak of two wolves, the angry wolf and the loving wolf, who both live...
"Desert Goddess" Remembers Arizona's Glen Canyon
7 min · 286 views today · In this excerpt from the award-winning documentary DamNation, filmmakers Ben Knight and Travis Rummel interview the "desert goddess," Katie Lee. When the Glen Canyon Dam was...
Dinosaur explains Trump policies better than Trump!
8 min · 282 views today · Donald Trump is actually the corporate triceratops, Mr. Richfield, from the 90's TV show sitcom, "Dinosaurs". 
Make The Serengeti Great Again | Resource Scarcity, Demagogues and How Creativity Can Trump Hate (2017)
5 min · 264 views today · A Familiar Tale of Resource Scarcity, Demagogues, and How Creativity Can Trump Hate A quick, original, illustrated allegory that pokes at the demagogues we’ve got with an...
Defiance in the Face of Oppression - Iranian Artist Atena Farghadani Defends the Right to Draw
Gavin Aung Than · 247 views today · Atena Farghadani is a 28-year-old Iranian artist. She was recently sentenced to 12 years and 9 months in prison for drawing a cartoon.  
Why It's Crucial for Women to Heal the Mother Wound
Bethany Webster · 235 views today · The issue at the core of women’s empowerment is the mother wound
Bertrand Russell & Buckminster Fuller on Why We Should Work Less, and Live & Learn More
Josh Jones · 223 views today · Why must we all work long hours to earn the right to live? Why must only the wealthy have a access to leisure, aesthetic pleasure, self-actualization…? Everyone seems to have...
18 Empowering Illustrations to Remind Everyone Who's Really in Charge of Women's Bodies
Julianne Ross · 181 views today · When Brazilian graphic designer Carol Rossetti began posting colorful illustrations of women and their stories to Facebook, she had no idea how popular they would...
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 177 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
HUMAN (2015)
382 min · 177 views today · What is it that makes us human? Is it that we love, that we fight? That we laugh? Cry? Our curiosity? The quest for discovery?  Driven by these questions, filmmaker and artist...
Deconstructing Hierarchies: On Contrived Leadership and Arbitrary Positions of Power
Colin Jenkins · 167 views today · Bosses don't grow on trees. They don't magically appear at your job. They aren't born into their roles. They are created. They are manufactured to fulfill arbitrary positions...
Load More
What's Next
Like us on Facebook?
Grassroots Action: Deciphera Deal Action Alert