2022 Candidate Q&A – Linda Gorton

Linda Gorton

Running for: Mayor (incumbent)
Website: https://lindagorton.com

1. Nicholasville Road corridor is a major contributor to how Pensacola Park neighborhood interacts with the city, in fact only one of our routes from our neighborhood goes to a different location (Rosemont Garden); so most of our streets spill out onto Nicholasville Road primarily. While the Imagine Nicholasville Road comprehensive plan focuses on the bus and car, aka the driving experience, our neighborhood often uses other forms of transportation, like walking and biking; as we make up UK professors, medical professionals, students, families, and elderly people. If you were elected again to the mayor position, how do you propose to be our advocate in working to improve upon the Nicholasville Road experience? For instance, how would you help work with us and the state to get a median installed so that pedestrians have a refuge to cross over to the other side? How do you propose to help widen walkways to be more ADA compliant? How do you propose to safely transverse bikers up the Nicholasville Road corridor?

I am committed to addressing multi-modal transportation issues on Nicholasville Road.

Lexington is a spoke-and-wheel designed city, which has significantly outgrown its original design.  Perhaps more than any other roadway in Lexington, Nicholasville Road exemplifies this issue.  Nicholasville Road also exemplifies the fact that, like many cities, Lexington has largely been designed around the car as the primary mode of transportation.  Nicholasville Road is actually a state road, which also presents challenges. 

However, there is some good news.  The federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act recently passed by Congress provides a transformational opportunity to invest in transportation and other infrastructure projects.   The opportunities presented by this funding have not been seen in our nation since the Great Depression.  One of my top priorities is improvements to enhance our roadways, mitigate congestion and create safe multi-modal transportation options, including pedestrian and bicycle.  I will ensure we leverage these funds to provide the greatest impact for our community—and Nicholasville Road is one of our most important corridors.

This is our opportunity to think big, and that is exactly what I am doing.

2.  In February 2020, Louisville Metro Council passed the 100% renewable-energy ordinance setting out the goals of 100% clean electricity for Metro operations by 2030, 100% clean energy for Metro operations by 2035, and 100% clean energy community-wide by 2040. Similarly, Frankfort recently passed a resolution that calls for 100% clean renewable electricity for City government operations by 2023, 100% clean energy for City government by 2030, and 100% clean renewable electricity community-wide by 2030. At the moment, Lexington has no plans for transition to renewables despite having been named “BigFoot” for having the largest per capita carbon footprint in the nation. What will you do to remedy this situation? What renewable energy goals will you propose for Lexington (LFUCG and the community), and what actions and what policies will you implement to achieve those goals?

3.  Per the KRS Chapter 67C, fair, diverse representation is cited as a must when it comes to a planning commission, but Lexington has declared itself not a consolidated local government but an urban county government under KRS Chapter 67a, which means it has its own governing rules in this arena. Currently, they do not have governing bylaws that address a balanced governing body, nor mandates that only a certain amount of appointees sit on the commission that have direct financial interests in development; there are no restrictions on how long a representation can sit on the commission, no real transparency on who is sitting on the board, and a lack of professional representation when it comes to the cities infrastructure (eg. social workers, environmentalists, landscape architects, urban planners, civil engineers, professors, transportation engineers, traffic engineers, stormwater engineers, etc). Planning commission is appointed by the mayor, so if you are elected again, how do you propose amending our current planning commission bylaws to be more transparent, equal, and fair; or ensuring that the commission as it currently stands is brought up to a more fair standard? 

One of my primary goals since taking office is to increase diversity and transparency on all of our boards and commissions.  We need to do a better job of clearly providing information to the community.  Community members should not have to dig through a variety of laws and rules to find the answers to simple questions.  I am grateful for your question, and I will tackle this issue.

The Planning Commission does such important work and is very demanding on members.  My appointments have been diverse and inclusive.  Instead of waiting for people to apply, I have conducted fairs and workshops around the city to educate community members about LFUCG boards/commissions and increase interest in participation.  I am committed to continuing to increase and diversify the pool of applicants and increase transparency across our government.

I wanted to provide some additional resources and information in response to your question.   Voters in the city of Lexington and Fayette County approved a ballot referendum in 1974 to merge into a single governmental unit—an “urban county government” created and governed by KRS Chapter 67A.  Lexington-Fayette County is the only urban county government in Kentucky.

There are laws and rules that address some of the issues raised by the question.  The Planning Commission is required to be comprised of 11 members and the terms are 4-years.  (Zoning Ordinance, Section 1-8).  Each member is eligible to serve 3 consecutive 4-year terms (Council Rule, Sec. 4.506).  The Planning Commission is required by statute to adopt bylaws that govern how it conducts its business (lexingtonky.gov/planning-commission).  By statute, only the Planning Commission can amend its bylaws.   

All members of the Planning Commission, like every other board/commission, go through an application process and are appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the Council.  They are subject to LFUCG’s Ethics Act, as well as their bylaws, which lay out conflicts and prohibited activities.     

4. Neighborhoods currently feel under attack when it comes to developmentally driven projects that are pushed through by LFUCG, with little regard to how they engage with their surroundings.  This is often a result of there being a lack of smart development design guidelines in zoning texts that would ultimately help integrate newer developments into existing urban fabric. The original Imagine Lexington comprehensive plan proposed city design guidelines that would address this issue, but this was nixed on a council level. If you are elected again to this position, how do you propose addressing potential design guidelines with planning staff as they amend current zoning laws to help for better development integration into existing neighborhoods?

I have a well-established record of supporting neighborhoods, which are the foundation and heart of our city.  As our community looks to infill to protect against urban sprawl, it is more important than ever to take into account the impacts of these projects to ensure they do not degrade the character of our neighborhoods.

While implementing design guidelines would require adoption by Council, I support policies to protect the character and context of neighborhoods, as well as historic structures and cultural assets. I support increased transparency and communication as well as creating a growth plan to identify infill and redevelopment areas and provides those protections to our neighborhoods and historic/cultural assets.

5. Do you believe there is a housing shortage? If so, do you support the zone changing of commercial properties to mixed use residential and potential moratoriums on issuing commercial permits to help address the current housing crisis?

As the Mayor who led this city through the pandemic and recovery, I am acutely aware of the need for more affordable housing and for addressing housing affordability generally.  Like nearly every other community in the country, the housing issues in Lexington did not happen overnight.  Tackling these issues requires sustained and intentional commitment.  As Mayor, I created the Department of Housing Advocacy and Community Development to dedicate the intense focus required to create more affordable housing and implement policies to address housing affordability.  I will continue to prioritize this important work—all ideas are on the table.

Affordable Housing:  Since 2014, approximately 3,000 units of affordable housing have been built or preserved by our government.  Sound management has enabled us to leverage $23.6 million in local funds into a total investment of $350 million in affordable housing.  That’s an astounding record.  As Vice Mayor, I supported creation of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.  As Mayor, I have fully funded the Affordable Housing Trust Fund since taking office.  This year, I am taking our city’s commitment to the next level.

While none of us wanted a pandemic, the historic federal funding our city received in response to the pandemic provides us with once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to address affordable housing issues.  This year I proposed, and Council supported, dedicating $10 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to affordable housing.  In my budget for fiscal year 2023, I have also proposed fully funding the Affordable Housing Trust Fund at $2 million.  This enormous injection of funding will help accelerate the pace of construction.

Affordability:  Equitable and affordable communities have diverse housing options for people across the lifespan and income levels.  The 2017 housing study emphasized, and the pandemic made even clearer, our need for more diversity of housing types.  This is particularly important given the growing population of seniors and young professionals.  I support policies to increase housing diversity, while also protecting the character and context of existing neighborhoods.  One example of such a policy is proposed in my budget: to stand up the Neighborhood Investment Initiative to make funds available to our partners willing to improve vacant and blighted properties in our neighborhoods and then return them to our affordable housing stock. This improves neighborhoods and combats gentrification that is pricing people out of their existing homes.

Homelessness:  Our Office of Homeless Prevention and Intervention works daily to ensure an efficient and effective system offering everyone access to shelter, food, employment, housing and other basic needs and opportunities.  The pandemic resulted in unique challenges for our residents experiencing homelessness.  Funds received from the American Rescue Plan Act enabled me to greatly enhance our services.

6. Do you think Lexington is a successful city when it comes to urban planning? If so, why? If not, why not, and what are things it can do to improve upon itself?

Lexington has a long history of innovative land use.  In 1958, we were the first community in the nation to create an urban growth boundary.  The Urban Services Boundary has led Lexington to be seen as a model for smart growth, as it has enabled us to avoid some of the negative consequences of urban sprawl we see in so many other cities and towns across the country.  The Urban Services Boundary establishes a balance between urban and rural land uses that ensures the viability and success of both our city and our productive farms.

While we have had many planning successes, there is always room for improvement.  Like other cities, Lexington must tackle our housing issues, as I indicated in my response to the previous question.  We must increase transparency and citizen involvement and create a growth plan to identify infill and redevelopment areas.  We must enhance our roadways, mitigate congestion and create safe multi-modal transportation options, including pedestrian and bicycle.  The federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act recently passed by Congress provides a transformational opportunity to invest in transportation and other infrastructure projects.  I have the experience and vision to leverage these dollars to provide the greatest impact for our community.