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

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
What's Next
Trending Today
Who Are You? Watching This Breathtaking Video Could Be the Moment You Change Your Life
2 min · 13,219 views today · "Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a job that you need so you can...
How a Trump Presidency Would Unleash a Torrent of Racist Violence-And Devastate the Left
Arun Gupta · 11,951 views today · The Left should take the Trump threat very seriously.
Welcome to Marinaleda: The Spanish Anti-Capitalist Town With Equal Wage Full Employment and $19 Housing
Jade Small · 11,558 views today · With virtually no police, crime or unemployment, meet the Spanish town described as a democratic, socialist utopia. Unemployment is non-existent in Marinaleda, an Andalusian...
When You Kill Ten Million Africans You Aren't Called 'Hitler'
Liam O'Ceallaigh · 10,833 views today · Take a look at this picture. Do you know who it is? Most people haven’t heard of him. But you should have. When you see his face or hear his name you should get as sick in...
Maya Angelou's 3-Word Secret to Living Your Best Life
3 min · 6,596 views today · Dr. Maya Angelou says that in order to be the best human being you can be, you must follow one simple directive: "Just do right." Watch as Dr. Angelou reveals how you can never...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 6,526 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...
Forest Man
16 min · 6,459 views today · Since the 1970's Majuli islander Jadav Payeng has been planting trees in order to save his island. To date he has single handedly planted a forest larger than Central Park NYC...
How to Criticize with Kindness: Philosopher Daniel Dennett on the Four Steps to Arguing Intelligently
Maria Popova · 5,646 views today · “Just how charitable are you supposed to be when criticizing the views of an opponent?”
Alan Watts: What If Money Was No Object?
3 min · 4,242 views today · How do you like to spend your life? What do you desire? What if money didn't matter? What if money was no object? What would you like to do if money were no object? Spoken...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 4,090 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
11 Traits of People With High Emotional Intelligence
Raven Fon · 3,729 views today · Lately, new ways to describe human interactions, social behaviours, and many facets of psychology have emerged on the social network scene. One of those descriptions is “high...
10 Shocking Facts About Society That We Absurdly Accept As Normal
Joe Martino · 3,619 views today · When you take a moment and look around at the world, things can appear pretty messed up. Take 5 or 10 minutes and watch the 6 o’clock news. Chances are, the entire time, all...
Do You Have Time to Love?
Thich Nhat Hanh · 3,321 views today · The greatest gift you can offer loved ones is your true presence.
What It Really Means to Hold Space for Someone
Heather Plett · 3,021 views today · How to be there for the people who need you most
Doctors Response to Daily Mail Bigotry is Beautiful
Neil Tiwari · 3,011 views today · A poetic open letter to the Daily Mail newspaper from Dr. Neil Tiwari, in response to a bigoted attack on his colleagues, is going viral and it's beautiful.
Capitalism Is Just a Story - Rise Up and Create a New One
6 min · 2,421 views today · How many of us have a sneaking suspicion that something pretty fundamental is going wrong in the world? We keep hearing about the potentially devastating consequences of...
Real Change in Democracy Comes Not in the Voting Booth but Activism at the Grass-Roots
Ilze Peterson · 2,247 views today · Many years ago, the late Judy Guay, a low-income woman from Bangor, founded the Maine Association of Interdependent Neighborhoods in order to advocate for the neediest in our...
Caitlin Moran's Posthumous Advice for Her Daughter
Caitlin Moran · 1,961 views today · My daughter is about to turn 13 and I’ve been smoking a lot recently, and so – in the wee small hours, when my lungs feel like there’s a small mouse inside them, scratching to...
Ten Ways We Misunderstand Children
Jan Hunt · 1,949 views today · 1. We expect children to be able to do things before they are ready. We ask an infant to keep quiet. We ask a 2-year-old to sit still. We ask a 3-year-old to clean his room...
Fighting Trump - Residents Opposing Donald Trump's Scottish Golf Resort
14 min · 1,945 views today · Documentary on the residents protesting against Donald Trump's golf development on the Menie Estate in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Directed and Presented by James Trosh.
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Grassroots Action: Deciphera Deal Action Alert