Board Members present: Jeff, Alison, Ted
Community members present: 13
Ted called the meeting to order at 7pm
Our special guest today is Chief of Police Rich Lockhart
Ted thanked everyone for coming out in this heat, the hottest day of the year so far.
Ted introduced our guest, Chief Rich Lockhart, and said we will keep an eye on him, in North Lawrence style. We will have a Q&A session with him after he speaks.
Our guest introduced himself and talked about meeting Ted the first time and hearing about North Lawrence for the first time. Chief Lockhart said he was an officer in Kansas City, Missouri for about 26 years, and he enjoyed all the different neighborhoods there and visiting the community meetings there. He met people in these neighborhoods who were proud of their history and actively involved in their neighborhoods. He said that community policing is about meeting the people you work for in the neighborhoods. The Chief gave us a brief overview of his work and education history. His most recent posting was as the police chief in Warrensburg, MO which is a small college town of about 20K people and 8K students in central Missouri. They didn’t have strong neighborhood associations there, however.
The Chief talked about a few folks who work in the police department in Lawrence, many of whom have diverse backgrounds and educations, and a number of whom are lifelong Lawrencians, some with family roots that go back decades. He said he was surprised that our police force has already done many of the trainings that are considered quite progressive throughout the country. His goal post-pandemic is to have the community get to know our 138 (current number; 155 would be fully staffed) police officers and what they do in the community. He described how fun being downtown was during the basketball celebrations were this spring, and how the interactions with the police force by the public were almost all positive.
A resident asked about traffic enforcement. Chief said that they need to focus on problem areas, so send complaints to the department. The resident said the J turns downtown are a real problem.
A resident talked about speeding traffic on Locust going toward 9th street as well as on North 7th street. Usually it’s the same folks speeding 80mph, and it is often at odd hours, like early in the morning when people might be backing out of their driveways.
A resident spoke about how large trucks on the truck routes usually don’t drive the speed limits. Locust street becomes 6 feet narrower from 8th to 9th street. The Chief asked what the speed limits on the truck routes (arterial streets) are. It is 30 mph.
A resident talked about people speeding off of the bridge, turning east on Elm, and not slowing down until the speed hump early in the 300 block. They also said Walnut Street from 7th to 9th is a problem area.
A resident asked about improvements related to Lyons Park, as there is no stop sign from 24/40 down 7th street, and people just speed rather than slow down to 30 mph when they cross under the I-70 bridge. They are worried about more people and children coming to the park but traffic still rushing by until they get to the tracks.
A resident also talked about the fact that there are no protective railings for pedestrians along North 2nd Street sidewalks south of the intersection. The resident suggested the Chief walk the area when traffic is moving to understand how traffic moves in relation to pedestrians and how fast people drive coming north off the bridge, trying to beat the light at Locust.
Ted asked about the probability of getting neighborhood resource officers again. Trent McKinley, who is still on the force, was actually our first resource officer for NoLaw. We had two other afterwards, but currently we do not have one. Resource officers are more like liaisons between the community and the police department. They are invested in getting to know the people they serve, understand what is actually going on, work with the residents on common goals, and respond to the needs of the neighborhoods.
In Kansas City, they had CAN centers, Community Action Network, staffed by people who worked with dedicated officers from the police department and operated in many neighborhoods. From these centers, the department could connect with people in the neighborhoods at times when they weren’t on call for a crisis. The Chief pointed out there would be differing needs in different neighborhoods throughout the city, so each action center would work on different issues.
A resident asked if cars were ever positioned in North Lawrence overnight. The Chief said that the city is divided up into four quadrants, and there are 4-5 in each quadrant every day. We are in “D” quadrant. Officers are supposed to take calls in the area in which they are assigned. The Chief said that a large number of his officers started in 2020, so during the pandemic, they were trained NOT to get out of their cars. They are working on changing this and interfacing with residents now that pandemic restrictions are eased. They have created a new position for community engagement and diversity, and these officers will attend events. He says if we need a police car up here for any reason, let the department know.
A resident said that their place of work hosted a coffee hour with police officers with staff before the pandemic started and the meeting was quite positive and productive.
A resident asked what the best way is to give input regarding the police department. The Chief said the city commission meetings are a good way to get and give input. But also, you can use this email address: OPA@lkpd.org for praise, concerns and issues with members of the police department. City of Lawrence website: lawrenceks.org also has links for the police department.
Ted said that a couple of chiefs ago, the police chief didn’t think that the police department should not do traffic. This chief though the city should have a traffic division. Ted has talked with the city commission about this idea, but so far, nothing has materialized. Ted meets with each commissioner individually once a month to talk over issues.
Ted briefly highlighted the history of the Sandrats and the Bluebellies for the Chief. Earlier, Ted talked about how North Lawrence used to be Jefferson and was annexed by Lawrence in 1870 after being voted down a few years prior.
The Chief offered to have an officer come to meetings whenever we wish to give us updates about what is going on with the department and the neighborhoods.
Ted brought up two more agenda items for the meeting.
Neighborhood survey: Kirtsy and Jennifer have been working on an online as well as a paper/door-to-door survey for residents that will roll out online and throughout the neighborhood soon. Kirsty was the resident who surveyed people about the loss of the tennis courts. She got the idea to reach out to more neighbors with a survey to see what people are thinking about. The online survey will be posted on Facebook and on the NLIA WordPress site (northlawrencekansas.com). The point of doing the survey is to help the NLIA learn from residents what they like about the neighborhood and what are concerned about. This could help folks who don’t have time to come to the neighborhood meetings get more involved.
Information gathered on the surveys will be de-identified and only used for the purposes of NLIA. None of the information will be sold to third parties.
If you have a neighbor who is not online and wants a paper copy of the survey, you could print one for them and tell them how to get it back to NLIA, call Ted or email the coordinator with their information so we can contact them in person to get them a survey.
NLIA lost its CBDG funding in 2017 because we were no longer 51% low-to-moderate income (we dropped to 41% because of people with higher incomes moving to the neighborhood). So we lost our funding for our mailings (postcards and newsletters), essential paperwork like registering as a non-profit with the state, and what was a small coordinator salary. A printing and bulk mailing of the newsletter twice a year usually ran $1000 per print/postage for a four-page newsletter.
The postcards that we used to send out two or three times a year to notify residents about the picnic and the chili supper would run $300 per mailing.
Currently we reserve a small amount of the money raised at the holidays to help cover the bare-bones of the operation costs of NLIA (with the blessings of these businesses).
During the pandemic, we did not hold most of our usual fundraising activities that would directly cover some of the operating costs for NLIA. The Cabin Fever Chili Supper in February and the fall picnic in September are two events that we will start holding again this year. We will continue to hold our garage sale as well, in which Midland Care holds a fundraising cookout where the proceeds are split by Midland Care and NLIA.
Band night: Dave, a trombone player for the New Horizons Band, spoke about the idea of holding a band night in North Lawrence. He talked about what they did before COVID — playing nursing homes in Lawrence, and joining in with Free State High School in concert. They got the band back together in March this year and had a short spring concert season. They played at Meadowlark, in Baldwin in the square, and Corpus Christi School. Dave also plays in the North Topeka band.
The idea: Hold a concert, at a place in NoLaw that has chairs and a power supply. A resident asked if this could be at the Depot (yes, it could be). People could bring lawn chairs and blankets and there is a covered baggage area on the West end of the Depot that has power.
New Horizons Band doesn’t meet during the summer, so they will reconvene in the fall after Labor Day. They rehearse at 4pm on Friday afternoons and perform at nursing homes during this time as well.
The attendees were in favor of this idea, so we will work on having a fall performance of the New Horizons Band at the Union Depot. We will look at rain dates and other logistics, and think about what musical pieces we might like them to perform.
We did the drawing for the gift certificate. It’s great to have so many members here!
We WILL have a July meeting of NLIA on Monday, July 11th, 7pm, Peace Mennonite Church.