Traffic is our most pressing issue. Most importantly, school related traffic at Jessie Clark Middle School and Wellington Elementary. Additionally, Nicholasville Road is one of the busiest in the state with seventy-five thousand travelers per day. The New Circle interchange is unsafe and needs attention.
To address school traffic, I would have crosswalk signals similar to what is seen at Rosa Parks Elementary installed. Nicholasville Road requires a much larger plan. I will continue to support the Imagine Nicholasville Road initiative and look forward to community input to develop a plan together.
Examining the needs versus the ambitions of our city must be a priority. City leaders and residents should consider alternatives to unnecessary historical budget expenditures. It’s Council’s responsibility to make smart budget decisions with hard-earned tax dollars. Public safety should receive the majority of our budget dollars followed by essential and social services. We must be conscientious about spending the remainder of our expected revenue until we have fully recovered.
The planning phase and community involvement has been impressive so far. Infill and redevelopment is the best option to protect our landmark horse farms surrounding Lexington. However, we are seeing developments, including some in our district, that have begun development and then stalled. We must hold developers accountable to develop these precious acres we have committed to infill and redevelopment and perhaps set more strict guidelines on what is proposed and how it will be funded.
Plagued with a lack of affordable housing, the City must first preserve the current affordable housing inventory. We also must protect underserved areas from gentrification and resident displacement. We should incentivize developers to build housing to accommodate a variety of income levels and concentrate building efforts in our Opportunity Zones. Continuing to contribute to the Affordable Housing Fund should be a priority as well.
Local businesses and nonprofits are the heart of Lexington and the effects of the COVID-19 crisis will be felt for years to come. As council members, it is our responsibility to step up and offer support. I will work alongside those affected most to develop plans to protect and insulate their future interests in times of crisis. I do support city donation matching programs if they prove fiscally responsible.
Systemic racism is present in our community and I’m proud we are taking steps to recognize and correct these injustices. The work of the Mayor’s Commission for Racial Justice and Equality is already making a difference because we are taking the time to talk through every related issue. Policing and justice equity will only occur when all parties talk openly and I plan on helping facilitate those difficult but necessary conversations.
Everyone has the right to food, shelter, and public safety. Even though the proposed budget for ESRs was depleted, we must concentrate on what can still be provided regarding homelessness, affordable housing, and food security. Thankfully our budget for public safety will go unchanged. I would like to gather those affected to discuss how we can still serve our city and what support is needed from the community to supplement our food banks, shelters, and other community sustaining non-profits.
In order to have a sustainable economy we must continue to responsibly open businesses, start promoting area tourism once again, and address affordable housing and housing shortages. We want to attract people to come visit and spend time in our great city. We also want to convince them to stay and start businesses. Unfortunately, if we don’t have adequate housing for newcomers, they may move to a more accommodating city. Our economy will only thrive if we promote continued economic development.
As our city continues to grow, our Council districts will need to be adjusted. To include public participation in this process, I would nominate someone to the redistricting committee that is fair, mindful, and would do their best to represent the different areas of town well. I would also ask for any public input that may help the committee make their decisions.
While much in our economy is uncertain, we can trust in our agricultural opportunities. I am happy to see the support of the Mayor’s Administration and think continuing to encourage conversations between local farmers, restaurant owners, and city officials is important. Food security and hunger is something I am very passionate about. If we can continue to encourage programs such as Farms to Food Banks and FoodChain Lex, we will feed the underserved community and grow our food system economy.
There are changes to be made in our public transit system to increase accessibility. We should address transit routes making them more efficient and consider a Bus Rapid Transit option. Most people shy away from public transit because of its uncertainty. Guaranteed commute times will ease their concerns. Transportation Oriented Developments should be considered as well. Designing more efficient roadways in conjunction with less overall traffic will improve transportation overall.
With the suspension of public comment, those passionate about our community have been silenced. Public involvement is one of the cornerstones of my campaign and I want to encourage participation and open conversations with my constituents. With the challenges of COVID-19, we will have to meet the people where they are even more. Social media, online surveys, and virtual neighborhood meetings may become commonplace. We should take this opportunity to modernize the tools we use for public input.
I agree that systemic racism is present in our community and I’m proud we are taking steps to recognize and correct these injustices. The Mayor’s Commission for Racial Justice and Equality is already making a difference because we are taking the time to talk through the issues. I will work with the community to address policies related to education, finance, and law enforcement. Most importantly, I will continue to speak out and demand equality for all.
Public safety and security concerns. My priority will be to see that our neighborhoods enjoy safe and secure conditions to lead their daily lives. It is essential to ensure we have enough well-trained, well-equipped officers on our streets to help you when you need it most, and that our public safety efforts are up to the expected standards of our citizens. My goal will be to serve on the Council’s Planning & Public Safety Committee.
My priority will be to see that our neighborhoods enjoy safe and secure conditions to lead their daily lives. It is essential to ensure we have enough well-trained, well-equipped officers on our streets to help you when you need it most, and that our public safety efforts are up to the expected standards of our citizens. My goal will be to serve on the Council’s Planning & Public Safety Committee.
In addition to budget tightening, we need more options to diversify revenue. We are overly reliant on occupational taxes, which limits revenue growth potential. My focus will be to fight to ensure essential services (public safety, trash collection, street paving, etc.) are maintained at the highest possible level—and simultaneously that the city consults with economic development and employment experts routinely such as the U.K. Gatton College of Business and Economics.
The Division of Planning has formed an advisory panel including developers, community representatives and residents to help define/develop a Public Engagement Toolkit. The goal is to offer developers overall guidance and to educate citizens on development review process and how to find info about proposed developments and stages in process where they can have input. A huge step forward. And we must educate the public about the Comp Plan and of its importance to our growth.
Lexington’s Affordable Housing Program, which includes the Affordable Housing Fund, the Affordable Housing Governing Board and the Office of Affordable Housing, is focused on these challenges and I will certainly support their important work going forward as additional strategies are developed and implemented to promote pathways to affordable home ownership as we close the affordability gap. We must ensure our local regulations are not unnecessarily increasing development costs.
Many citizens face financial difficulties to pay their mortgage, utilities and essentials. We will continue to deal with impact of the Coronavirus for the foreseeable future including some businesses that may not reopen. The current and next City Council will need to focus on related fallout to keep our city moving forward. I would recommend an impact subcommittee be established in Council’s General General Gov & Social Services committee to study the matter in greater detail.
Internal and external checks and balances are essential towards making sure our officers carry out their duties properly and always act with integrity. That requires the proper direction from the Mayor, the Council, the police chain of command, and certainly the community. There must be ongoing dialogue and comprehensive reviews in place.
Clearly, the Mayor/Council must do everything possible to ensure future funding keeps pace with the need but that may not be possible without the support and generosity of private sector. There is nothing more vital than taking care of the less fortunate. The work these organizations do has a large impact on quality of life for so many people. With the budget shortfall, there is tremendous uncertainly right now and we must set our priorities and move forward. Everything is on the table.
We must continue to build on relationships with Economic Development Partner agencies like Commerce Lexington and U.K. in our efforts of job recruitment and retention. They are key to attracting new businesses in health and educational services, technology, retail trade and manufacturing. In addition, I support strengthening the City’s Job Fund--a business incentive program designed to support business expansion. The value of a strong workforce development program should also not be overlooked.
Informed citizens are our democracy’s best defense. The Council must utilize every means possible to get the word out to constituents and the community at large regarding the specifics of the upcoming redistricting process, including newsletters, social media, neighborhood meetings and such. Public participation will be vital to the discussion.
The importance of the Ag sector to our community’s economy cannot be overstated. I strongly support Mayor Gorton’s effort to make Fayette County a high-profile center for Agri-tech. As the Mayor has noted, our highly educated workforce, low-cost of living, quality of life, Ag infrastructure, and world-class University of KY make this area extremely attractive to such new businesses. We are well-positioned to be extraordinarily successful in this area of economic development.
I support the ongoing work of the Lexington Area MPO--a federally mandated planning organization that tracks population and transportation trends in Fayette and Jessamine County in order to develop solutions for managing our growth and transportation needs. They also coordinate the allocation of federal transportation funds for our area, including investments in roads, public transit, bikeways and walkways.
The suspension public participation is temporary and warranted due to the disgusting abuse of the opportunity by an small number of attention-seeking individuals who sought to disrupt meetings and anger and inflame tensions. There are several other options for public feedback to the Mayor and Council, including by telephone, email, social media, etc. The Council Administrator has publicly informed the Council that a solution is being sought to resume public participation as soon as possible.
My first step will always be to keep an open mind and to seek out and listen to all voices in the district and in the community. The ongoing message must be made clear that in Lexington, racism, intolerance, injustice, discrimination, and hate will not be tolerated. I will fight to ensure our policies, practices, and norms offer equal opportunity and prosperity for all.