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Urban County Council District 5

QUALIFICATIONSA Member must be at least 18 years of age, a resident of the city for not less than 1 year prior to his or her election, a qualified voter and resident of Fayette County for at least one year prior to filing, and must be a resident of the district for at least 6 months immediately prior to filing and must continue to live in the district if elected.TERM:District Council Members are elected for two-year terms and may serve up to six consecutive terms. At-Large Council Members are elected for four-year terms and may serve up to three consecutive terms.DUTIESThe Urban County Council is the legislative branch of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government. The Council has the power to establish budgets, set policy and levy taxes, subject to limits set by the Charter and state laws.OTES:The Urban County Council consists of 12 District Council Members and three At-Large Council Members.The At-large member who receives the most votes in the general election becomes the Vice Mayor. In the absence of the Mayor, the Vice Mayor is the presiding officer.Sources: https://fayettecountyclerk.com/web/elections/becomingacandidate.htm; https://www.lexingtonky.gov/departments/urban-county-council

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  • Bill Farmer Jr.

  • Liz Sheehan

Biographical Information

What do you see as the single most important issue facing your district, and what is your plan to address it?

In recent years Lexington’s budget obligations have outpaced its ability to generate revenue. In the FY 20/21 budget, this has dramatically impacted everything from economic development to social services. What strategies do you recommend to address revenue shortages while balancing spending priorities?

Lexington’s 2018 Comprehensive Plan encourages infill and redevelopment as Lexington’s main growth strategy. What specific implementation aspects of the Comprehensive Plan are working and what challenges need to be addressed?

Lexington faces challenges across districts with regard to housing affordability, diversity and accessibility. What is the City’s role in addressing affordable housing and how would you recommend prioritizing policy change to address these challenges?

The impact of COVID-19 on local businesses and non-profits will be significant and long lasting. What will you do as a council member to support their recovery and foster their resilience moving forward?

In recent months, much of our country’s attention has been directed to issues of systemic racism, specifically as it applies to policing and the justice system. What measures would you support to ensure that Lexington’s policing and justice system is equitable?

Revenue shortfalls have made it difficult for the city to continue supporting external social resource agencies at a time when they are needed most. What specific city-level policies do you support to ensure that every resident has access to a basic quality of life?

Lexington’s tax revenue base is dependent on a thriving and sustainable local economy. What are your top three priorities for helping the city promote and support economic development?

LFUCG Council will soon have the responsibility of council redistricting. What is your approach to including public participation in the redistricting process?

The agricultural sector has a $2.3B economic impact on FayetteCounty, accounting for over $8.5M of the city’s payroll revenue. It is poised to grow with the support of Mayor Gorton’s Administration for making Fayette County a center for ag-tech. As a councilmember, what are your priorities for the agriculture and food system economy?

Well-planned infrastructure strengthens communities, boosts local economies, expands opportunity, and promotes equitable development. What policies would you support to achieve a more accessible, efficient, and sustainable transportation system in Lexington and the Bluegrass region?

Lexington has temporarily suspended public comment in all public Zoom meetings. Meaningful public participation is vital to a responsive local government, and COVID-19 has created a new set of challenges in that regard. What strategies would you support to make ongoing public participation accessible for all?

Given your understanding of Lexington’s long and complicated history around racial injustices, what do you plan to do to directly address inequality and its root causes in our city?

Continued safety and security throughout.

Whether that be advancing sewer repairs faster than the pavers can finish it, to enhancing senior benefits beyond the still new Senior Center in Idle Hour Park or slowing things down with signage, traffic calming and enforcement. Listen for inclusiveness. Learn the root need. Lead with answers that work!
For the last two budgets we have effectively spent ourselves smaller. The current budget relied too heavily on "one time" funds. One perhaps opportunity of the pandemic is the ability to look at the budget and the income strategies behind it in a whole new light. We need to re-center on what we need to deliver as a city and then begin a different kind of budget process to accommodate that demonstrated need.
Everything comprehensive plan related needs as much public knowledge and input as possible even during a pandemic. Recently the lack of public comment has been a side obstacle but in the flat of it more folks need to know what the plan says and what the strategies look like to make that happen. Without context some have not understood the current dynamic of housing needs right now and the decisions both the council and Planning Commission are making.

The city's role in affordable housing is to keep to keep the Commission on Homelessness working for great partners and more importantly keep funding in place for more successes going forward. If anything I'd formalize or otherwise make the funding permanent.

I want to continue the critical and life-saving work I helped lead through the council. First, the local stimulus program that benefited both profit and nonprofit entities followed by the eviction assistance fund of the same nature to landlords and tenants. All politics is local and more programs like these will help folks here and now. Giving folks hope to move forward is needed at a time like this.

Black Lives Matter. The signs and the reality are everywhere. Both my and the councils’ best work is to support Mayor Gorton and her initiative-driven Public Engagement Committees. That important work and those outcomes will need legislative leadership which I pledge. With so many needs, focus will be important to the long lasting healing and change that is required. I believe every citizen has a responsibility to oppose white supremacy, address racial inequality and support justice

Social service agencies provide programs and outreach that help so many, especially those who are most at risk. For this reason, I was morally obligated to help lead the council in refunding those agencies not funded in the mayors proposed budget for the greater good. That $2.1 million in essential community support passed the council last night. For many assured relief is at hand. I believe we can reorient needs now based on COVID and then examine more stable funding across the spectrum.

Jobs is the answer. We need to immediately reorient our economic calling card to attract new jobs that are unfolding in fulfillment and logistics. Those jobs can foster in different places along and near the Interstate 64 and 75 corridor. Strengthened housing priorities for those job seekers is needed. Lastly the Citation Boulevard connection from Newtown Pike to Winburn Drive here in Lexington reshapes opportunity across Lexington's north end. It's timely completion warrants priority.
By volunteer or by service this will be the 4th post census redistricting that I will participate in on behalf of the 5th district either directly or in the official capacity. Public input is key and between my weekly Enews and direct neighborhood engagement that highlights the best input one can have.

The immediate priority there is food safety here in Fayette county. We have to use that wealth to help those in need here first. Beyond that everything local is better and more in demand than ever. The new Chevy Chase Farmers’ Market I helped foster is fresh proof of that.

I have long been a multimodal transportation advocate. From bike lanes to first the Legacy Trail and now the Town Branch Trail. The commitment and lasting determination to connect Masterson Station to Jacobson Park. Few cities have made such a bold statement in reshaping themselves. I am proud to have helped so far and look forward to successive projects.

I have worried over this and lament the loss at every meeting. LEX TV folks continue to vie for the best online answer. I am one of four that voted to begin in-person meetings again not only as a point of engagement with the council but the public too. Resolution here is one of my top priorities. I would like a good resolution here as soon as safely possible. We must be guided by the voices of our constituents now and always.

While STEM is good those graduates need to become active business owners and entrepreneurs in their own right. To me a long-term, well thought out partnership with the entities like the Urban League would bare the most fruit. We must lead by example, demand better from our community and innovate. I am also a proponent for meeting out in the community so folks can have better access to their local government.
Under normal circumstances, smart growth and development would be my primary area of focus. However, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic present the most pressing issue. The pandemic has highlighted many long-standing issues. We are witnessing residents getting ill-some dying; neighbors losing jobs and businesses; residents facing foreclosure, eviction, and food insecurity; and our children, educators, and parents adapting to new methods of education.

With the added stress on our already-strained budget, thoughtful leadership and creative partnerships, not across-the-board cuts, will be required to ensure we are meeting our community’s basic needs. We need to continue working with state legislators to increase our revenue sources, maximize federal/state funding designed to alleviate economic strains, consider what expenses are necessary, and be prepared to use more of our contingency fund.
We must have honest conversations about the priorities we collectively advance as we face budget strains. I will advocate for continued support to address affordable housing, our nonprofits, and the basics of governing. In order to attract revenue-generating high paying jobs we must focus on policies demonstrating the strength of our community. We can work to increase our revenue by building relationships with state legislators and lobbying for changes in the laws controlling our revenue sources.
We must continue to preserve our agricultural economy by maintaining the Urban Service Boundary and the PDR Program, assessing development on our corridors, promoting infill and redevelopment, making progress on the consent decree and improving sustainability of government buildings. Challenges: increasing the diversity of our housing, affordable housing, pedestrian and bike safety, decreasing single-occupancy vehicles, improving sustainability in the community, incentivizing green building.
Our comprehensive plan is an agreed upon document voted on by Council and should guide our decisions. Addressing our affordable housing shortage is a goal of the plan. It is the responsibility of the government to work toward this goal and to ensure we are meeting residents’ basic needs. We can establish dedicated funding for our Affordable Housing Fund. We need to prioritize mixed-use and mixed-rate development, particularly along our major corridors with access to public transportation.
The success of local businesses affects all of us in a variety of ways, and they need our support. A local COVID-19 relief fund of $2.5mil was established for small businesses. Since the fund is a partnership with Commerce Lexington, we should ask them to hold workshops to get businesses ready to apply for future funds made available from the state and federal government. Some missed the prior opportunity to apply for these because quick action was needed before the funds ran out.
PUBLIC is the first word in Public Safety. While all residents aren’t experts in law enforcement, they should have a say in the welfare of their community, especially where there are inequities. At Chief Weathers’ swearing-in ceremony, he spoke about compassion, community policing, and listening to the public about what is and isn’t working. The community asked for no-knock warrants, mandatory body camera usage and a citizen’s review board.
Our Extended Social Resource (ESR) program has been used in the past to provide funding to nonprofits in our community providing essential services, such as housing support (e.g. Arbor Youth, Hope Center), addressing food insecurity (e.g. GleanKY, God’s Pantry), and safety and mental health (e.g. Greenhouse17, NAMI). We must continue this program. We could look at government owned properties that might be used for a community land trust, similar to the Davis Park neighborhood.
We need to look at where the majority of revenue comes from: Occupational Tax. My priorities would be: 1) Higher wage jobs: attract high tech jobs with our gigabit infrastructure, and look at ways to raise local wages. 49% of our kids in FCPS qualify for free or reduced lunch, meaning many families are not making enough income, 2) Stop our “brain drain” of young professionals and college students leaving Lexington,3) Attract businesses by continuing to increase the quality of life we offer.
A commission of diverse residents and community leaders should be appointed to create an independent, inclusive and transparent process. All meetings should be public and recorded. Accounting for future growth, the population should be evenly distributed across districts without splitting neighborhoods. Amendments by Council to the commission’s proposal should be made cautiously. Councilmembers who rely on votes to get elected should not be the people who are determining how the lines are drawn.
We can attract new farmers by supporting training programs in college and the K12 level (ex. FCPS Locust Trace AgriScience Center), urban farming, and organizations like Black Soil. We can increase public involvement, learning experiences, and tourism within the industry, similar to Horse Country, the education center at Bluegrass Stockyards, and the UK Cooperative Extension Service. We can continue to expand our Farm to Table programs and farmer’s markets.
To get people to consider alternatives to our reliance on cars, we need to address safety concerns and time constraints. For bicyclists and pedestrians, we need to increase safety by adding more bike and pedestrian paths, lowering speed limits, and educating the public on how to drive with bikers. For our bus systems, we need to shorten commute times. We could add dedicated bus lanes and another transfer station. To do all this, we need increased ridership so that the system can sustain itself.
We need to look at who is participating in government and who is absent. If we want a city that works for all of us, then everyone needs a voice in our government. Whether it be seats on boards/commissions, shifting meeting times, providing childcare at meetings, allowing for different formats for public feedback, we need a structure that gets everyone to the table when decisions are being made.
Addressing racism must start with listening. The Mayor’s commission has met since July, including subcommittees of residents and professionals from across Lexington. We should listen to their suggestions and those of our communities of color and then act swiftly. To increase transparency, we can set up a website to list an action plan, metrics, and regular progress reports. We can appoint a dedicated person to oversee this work. We also need to work to engage more of the public in government.