LaClair Visits USS Harry Truman

Lawrence Central Rotary’s own Chip LaClair told the story of his recent tour of the aircraft carrier the USS Harry Truman. 

Chip, his father, and his brother joined a small group of defense contractors who were flown out to the ship as it was underway in the open sea.  Chip is a pilot himself, so the experience of landing and taking off from the deck of an aircraft carrier was quite dramatic for him. Chip described the tail hook landing mechanism and the launching catapult and proudly cited his Tail Hook Society membership credentials. 

Chip was impressed with the professionalism of the crew and commented on the challenge of training and managing such a large and diverse crew on extended deployments.  Chip shared souvenirs and photographs of his memorable experience.

The USS Harry Truman was built at a cost of 4.5 billon dollars and commissioned in 1998. It is taller than a 24-story building and can accommodate a crew of more than 5,000.  The vessel carries 90 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters and has a 1,096 foot by 257 foot flight deck.  Two nuclear generators power the ship, and it can reach speeds in excess of 30 knots. 

The USS Harry Truman is the flagship of Strike Group Eight, which is a group of war ships that can project military power around the globe for the interests of the United States.   The ship has seen action in the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf and provided hurricane relief in the Gulf of Mexico. Its home port is Norfolk, Virginia. 

Biking Boom in Lawrence

Cindy Bracker is a biking enthusiast! Not only is she race director for the “Tour de Lawrence,” she also races and rides regularly herself, making time between stage performances at Lawrence community theaters and running her business, Bracker’s Good Earth Clays, Inc.

Cindy reminded Rotarians that Lawrence is ranked #7 in the nation as a “bike-friendly” city.  The City of Lawrence has earned this distinction by giving ongoing attention to creating “Complete Streets” and to developing the Lawrence Loop, a walking and bike trail around the city  limits that will be 22 miles long when it is completed. 

Lawrence Central Rotary’s sustained initiatives on behalf of biking also contributed to the recognition.  In addition to running an annual Community Bike Ride each July, the Club maintains information about bicycling clubs, rides, and special events at 

Bicycle clubs in Lawrence conduct regular weekly rides of varying lengths and difficulties on various terrains. In addition, there are races and special rides taking place all year long. A number of local businesses serve bicyclists.

Small Details Reveal Big History

Diana Staresinic-Dean, director of Franklin County Historical Society, told how her research into the background of her home in Ottawa, KS, revealed intriguing history of people and places in Kansas. She promised that if people dig deep into details about a person or place in their own lives, they can uncover a network of past events that will be unfailingly interesting and sometimes significant.

Affordable Housing Challenges the Lawrence Community

Ron Gaches, Chair of the City’s Affordable Housing Advisory Board, outlined the dilemmas of providing affordable housing in Lawrence. A retired lobbyist and a professional in government relations, media, corporate communications, and association management, Gaches is well prepared to be a spokesman on this complex topic.

A 2018 housing study by BBC Research and Consulting identified Lawrence needs: affordable rentals, affordable homes to buy, and homes that are accessible. One in 4 homeowners and 6 in 10 renters are “burdened” by spending more than 30% of their income on housing. Gaches declared that Lawrence needs to reshape policies in order to change the trend line. He believes that if someone works here, they should be able to live here.

The affordable housing issue has a thirty-year history in Lawrence. Following a series of study groups on homelessness and housing, the City Commission established the Affordable Housing Advisory Board in 2015. Since its formation, the Board has researched funding options for affordable housing. In recent years, Lawrence residents approved a sales tax that is expected to generate over $350,000 per year over five years, placing $1.25 million per year into a trust fund to support affordable housing initiatives. Cash flow is beginning now.

The Advisory Board has defined on-going as well as short-term goals. They can be read on the Board’s website. While the group is pleased that Lawrence’s Plan 2040 encourages affordable housing initiatives, there are distinct barriers/challenges to address: a shortage of lots for building new structures; limited infill options; few new housing starts; and growth that continues to occur in the more expensive neighborhoods west of Iowa Street.

Propel Helps Uganda with Education and Health Programs

Mickey Wolard and Drew VonEhrenkrook discussed the work of the local Propel Foundation. Propel provides programs and curriculum to help build sustainable communities in Uganda centered around education.

Founded in 2014, Propel’s vision is to “ignite passionate and productive education among teachers, community members, and volunteers and inspire quality learning among all children and adults. From teacher trainings to community development and elder care, the Propel Foundation’s main focus is to help create sustainable communities centered on academics and well being.”

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