There are two Josh Davis who live in East Lawrence (maybe more). This post was written by me (I live on New York street; my picture on Twitter profile), not the Josh Davis who is past president of ELNA. He has mentioned that there was confusion in a previous post, so just wanted to clarify upfront.

I am not, by nature, particularly politically active. I have attended both local and city meetings multiple times over the last decade that I have lived in Lawrence. I will freely admit, it is not my default to attend 30+ meetings and spend 100+ hours on one issue, but that is what I have done over the last 18 months on the East Ninth project.

I am not unique. I can think of at least a half dozen people who have attended that many meetings. I can think of another several dozen who have attended half as many.

I also don’t believe that all the hours that I have put into research, attending meetings and talking to neighbors gives me some definitive position to say whether this project should move forward. Nor does that fact that I live in the only owner-occupied home on East 9th.

I do think that that through 40+ meetings that involved input, vetting, discussion and research both before and after by each particular hosting committee/board have provided an opportunity for this complex project to go beyond an acceptable amount of discussion and direction to an extraordinary degree.

East Ninth Street Meetings

This plan, like most, involves trade-offs, at multiple levels.  Green-space, Accessibility, Safety, Sustainability, Parking, Trees, History, Property Taxes, Environment, Transportation, Art, Participation Levels and more have all been considered. The point I am trying to make is that those considerations have been made throughout this process and have allowed us to arrive where we are today.

Every group that has had the final Phase 1 plan presented to them for action has voted in favor of its adoption.

This includes all of these groups in the last three months:

  • Lawrence Cultural Arts Commission
  • Historic Resources Commission
  • East Lawrence Neighborhood Association
  • East Ninth Citizens Advisory Committee

If you want to engage and embrace citizens getting involved in the government process, you have to make that engagement matter. If the process and ultimately the positive recommendations of these groups is not a significant part of your consideration (and vote if you have one), I would ask that you take serious consideration of your method of decision making. You could certainly spend your entire next week reviewing the project in every detail (that would be great as well), but I would suggest that by not having been through the entire process (that the city commission initiated), hearing everyone’s concerns and seeing how the final plan was arrived at, you would still be missing out.

Please take into consideration the time that these groups, their members, boards and the public put into this process, and don’t make my own and many other people’s hours and days of time spent on this process irrelevant.

You can contact your the commissioners directly by email with your thoughts on honoring the process:

Leslie Soden <>; Lisa Larsen <>; Matthew Herbert <>; Mike Amyx <>; Stuart Boley <>;; Bobbie Walthall <>


10 Responses to Want Lawrence citizens getting involved in the government process? You have to make that engagement matter.

  1. John Hachmeister says:

    This is a very unfortunate project that has divided the community. At this point it is a lose/lose situation. Let’s stop for a moment and do the right thing. Let’s ensure that a legitimate traffic count is first conducted and then a serious consideration of how changing this traffic count will affect the neighbors and the community at large. THEN engage artists WITH the neighbors to discuss how to celebrate the community through art. We must avoid “plop art”, which by definition is what happens when outside entities decide what is good for a community. The reasonable thing to do to start healing rifts in the community is to stop and rethink from the ground up. Top down decision making always hurts some and doesn’t always help any in the long term.

  2. Josh Davis says:

    Hi John,

    Thanks for commenting and your participation.

    In terms of your comments on art, the artist have made themselves available at many of the meeting I listed. To the best of my recollection artists were at over 50% of the meetings, may be higher. They even went beyond that to attend and present at other meeting like the PTA at NY School. I must say that the teachers and parents at the PTA meeting actually provided some of the best engagement with the artists because they actually wanted to engage on the subject of art and what would be best for the neighborhood. The artists did adapt their projects significantly based on this and other feedback.

    Some of those who have universally opposed this plan have chosen issues other than art to be the focus on the discussion. That the art has not been a focus at these meetings has everything to shifting attacks on the plan and have very little to do with the artist desire to participate. At the meetings I attended, el dorado and team provided consistent updates on the art, made the artist available, and most of the community chose to focus on other issues. The engagement you asked for was there, sadly it was one sided.

    I would be interested to hear from your experience what projects (both art and streets) in Lawrence that have had more opportunities for the community to provide input than this one?


  3. stephen l griffeth says:

    It is imperative that this bill is passed for the betterment of Lawrence!

  4. Thanks for all the work you have put into this process, Josh.

  5. Chris Lempa says:

    I don’t wish to start a debate on your website, but I do not think the artists presentations were as straightforward as your mentioned, at least at New York School. The last presentation/conversation that I was a part of presented a “front porch” design. That has been, from what I can tell, scrapped.

    I also question the idea of engagement for many of the reasons mentioned in this essay:

  6. Josh Davis says:

    Hi Chris,

    I don’t have too much more to add to what I wrote on Artist participation above. But I will try to address your point. Jarrett Mellenbrunch and James Woodfill were regularly in attendance at meetings. Jarrett made changes based on feedback from walking the neighborhood and talking with residents. He chose to live in Lawrence for a week. He provided presentations to ELNA and the PTO. He made changes based on that feedback. The PTO and New York School staff actually engaged with him in the process on an ongoing basis. He came back to meetings after his new design (ELNA and CAC) and no one voiced any serious issues with their designs. The Lawrence artists were consistently at meetings. Engagement has to be at least two sides; I feel the artists more than held up their part.

    I read the piece you shared here by Sherry Arnstein a couple months back when you shared it on Twitter. She makes a number of good points and it is notable that her writing still resonates today. As it relates to this project, I would say that the number of changes that ELNA and others have made to the process, scope, inclusion and decision making do not ring hollow to me. I don’t know that they meet all the criteria that Arnstein lays out, but I personally would be interested in modern examples of complex projects that do. Both here in Lawrence, but really anywhere.


  7. Brad Gibson says:

    Josh, I respect your opinion and the amount of time you have given to this project. The City Commissioners are being placed in a difficult position at tonight’s meeting. The City budgeted $3,0000,000 for the Design and Construction of the 9th Street project. The design team is presenting a design at tonight’s meeting that will cost the City around $6,000,000 for the Design and Construction.
    If you had $300,000 dollars budgeted to design and build a house and your Architect came back to you with a design for a $600,000 house, What would you do? Go ahead and build the 600,000 house? And would you not be a little upset with your Architect?

  8. Josh Davis says:

    Hi Brad,

    I haven’t see anyone use a six million dollar figure. I have seen 3.5 million range. This project was originally covering six blocks and has moved to seven so that is still in line with estimates.

    I am about to leave the house and don’t have auto approval of comments as I get lots of spam, but if you reply back I will try to approve it, but no guarantees (technology :( ).


  9. Brad Gibson says:

    Hi Josh,

    The figure of $3,567,945.64 in the Design Document is very misleading. Add to that $675,000 for eldorado’s design fees for phase 1 and 2 of the project, 10% for the engineer to prepare the Construction Documents, and the professional fees for Contractor Overhead and Profit, Construction Management and Supervision, and the numerous items not listed in the Cost Estimate and you are now pushing $6,000,000. Read the City’s Request for Qualifications on the City’s web site on the project. Paragraph 2 at the very beginning states: “The Budget for the entire project includes design and reconstruction of
    7 Blocks of East 9th Street from Delaware to Massachusetts

  10. Brad Gibson says:

    Hi again Josh,

    Sorry to keep posting, but if you go to the KCMO City’s
    web site and enter Pennway Streetscape and click on
    20th Streetscape Plan, then scroll down the page you will
    find what a Cost Estimate should look like. Compare that
    to what we received as a Cost Estimate and make your own judgement.

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