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“I’m running for Council because when I moved to Lexington over a decade ago, I felt a sense of belonging. I felt warmth, acceptance and love. Lexington is my home, the Third District is my heart and I am dedicated and motivated to continue this legacy of inclusivity. In the Urban County Council, I will represent all residents of the Third District and advocate for sustainable, affordable, and equitable policies, adapting new technology, and utilizing my legal background and experience in local Government. I believe everyone – regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, age, or ability – can live and thrive in Lexington. I will consider the needs of all our residents when examining new developments in housing, education, employment and public safety.”
Where do you stand on the issue of public transportation in Lexington? Do you ever use public transportation? Why or why not? In light of the fact that there are many, many people commuting to Lexington from Jessamine County, clogging Nicholasville Road and filling the air with pollution, this is a pressing quality of life issue, especially for neighborhoods like ours. What are your plans for addressing the current inadequate public transportation system in Lexington, how do you propose to incentive people to use it, and how do you propose to fund smart and implementable solutions to this? And ultimately how do you plan on promoting Imagine, Nicholasville’s goals of making it a people oriented zone (e.g. walking, biking, etc)?
I strongly support public transportation. For two years, I used the bus system here exclusively and even though I have a car now, I still use it when I can!
LexTran should be responsibly expanded and we should strive to eventually make it free of charge, as has most recently been done in Kansas City. These two aspects of public transit are intimately linked, because as the transit network expands, we can expect a corresponding increase in jobs related to transit as well as an increase in the city’s tax base. A better transit system will benefit everyone because it will remove the necessity of owning a car, which is a significant barrier for people in low-income jobs.
Currently the routes offered usually increase travel time, but once it is expanded it will be the safer and faster mode of transport.
We also need to lobby the state and federal government for more investment in public transit, which will become more of a priority as the severity of the climate crisis becomes more evident; Public transportation reduces air pollution, reduces traffic congestion, increases mobility and independence; especially to those individuals who had to relocate due to gentrification.
I share the goals of Imagine—I believe the way forward in Lexington is through promoting high-density, mixed-use development, which will dovetail with a more effective transit network and significantly reduce the need for people to use cars for everyday tasks. High-density development and public transit also facilitates an increased feeling of community, something I know well from growing up in New York City. Development that takes human needs rather than convenience for cars as its guiding principle will have to proceed hand-in-hand with the expansion and improvement of public transit, more and better bike lanes, and other innovative transport options.
People have died this winter in Lexington, sleeping out on the street. Homeless people can be seen regularly, pushing carts of their belongings on city streets and begging for help on street corners. Where do you stand on the issue of building affordable housing in Lexington, not only for the homeless, but for working families struggling with rising rents? Do you support the idea of creating mixed income housing? Why or why not? What are your ideas for addressing the shortage of affordable housing here? How do you propose to create funding streams to address this need? What would you do to incentivize developers to build more affordable homes? Or how would you address the lack of requirements at a city level to provide affordable housing within new major developments?
I believe that safe and stable housing is a human right. No one should have to worry about where they’re going to sleep at night. I support the strengthening of the Lexington Affordable Housing Trust. A key part of housing policy in Lexington must include further measures to combat gentrification and to mitigate and eventually eliminate its tendency to displace longtime residents.
Moving forward, an effective housing policy would require coordination between city planners, policymakers, and the communities themselves. Specifically, the city needs more affordable housing stock in conjunction with higher density development. High-density, mixed-use, and mixed-income development benefits everyone: owning a car becomes less necessary, important businesses are easily accessible to foot traffic, and when vehicle traffic is reduced, bike safety increases and the city’s carbon footprint shrinks. Additionally, high-density development lends itself to investing in our public transportation system. Research shows that every dollar invested in public transportation yields approximately four dollars in economic returns through job creation, increased retail business, and increases in home values. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, but the most straightforward is to strongly incentivize or simply require new developments to be (1) mixed-use whenever appropriate, and (2) to contain a particular ratio of affordable housing to so-called luxury housing. In the meantime, there are other tools available to the Council, including but not limited to rent control.
I also believe that we should make use of new construction techniques in new mixed-use and mixed-income developments. The architect Michael Green recently designed a seven-story structure called the T3 Building in Minneapolis. That building is remarkable because it was constructed entirely from wood, using groundbreaking construction techniques. The T3 Building alone will sequester around 3,200 tons of carbon during the lifetime of the structure. In Stockholm, Sweden, 31 towers were recently built along the city’s waterfront using the same material and technique. In addition to being a sustainable way to build that provides a massive carbon sink, building with cross-laminated timber allows quick construction—the T3 Building was constructed in two and a half months. If harvesting is done properly, it allows forests to thrive while providing people with jobs, construction materials, clean air, and protection from erosion and flooding. Although this aspect is slightly outside the purview of the Council, successful implementation of this policy very well might foster the growth of the forestry industry, which would provide people in other parts of the Commonwealth with environmentally friendly, steady, and good-paying jobs.
To address homelessness in the short term, I support a number of strategies that were proposed as part of the city’s current five-year strategic plan for increasing affordable housing and decreasing homelessness. They include: reducing the number of evictions; enhancing discharge planning and reentry programs (e.g. from hospitals, foster care, prison, etc.); supporting homeless case managers to work with individuals from intake through housing stability; expanding access to primary care, mental and behavioral health services; and increasing in-patient and mobile rehabilitation services.
There’s been conversation recently about the fact that revenues are not keeping pace with spending in Lexington. Stagnant wages have been cited for the inadequacy of withholding tax revenues, while some of the city’s largest developers are granted tax breaks to build projects that only further enrich themselves. How do you plan to address this if you are elected? Name specific examples of how you would increase $$ coming into city coffers.
To meet our city’s future budget needs, I support revising pricing models for city services and fines. For example, fines for speeding would be linked to the income of violators and how much over the speed limit they were traveling when caught. This approach has the potential to not only fairly penalize offenders and reduce instances of speeding but also to generate more revenue. It is currently in use in several other countries.
I would also propose we implement higher fees for faster processing times or better service. This intervention is typically applicable to any paper-based transactions or services, such as business licensing fees, construction permits, or land registration fees.
Additionally, I would propose we optimize collections and audit processes to increase collection rates. This might include allowing individuals to opt for payment plans or creating amnesty programs that would waive penalties and additional fines as an incentive for individuals to pay fees.
I also support the erection of smart kiosks throughout the downtown area with interactive maps and local information for restaurants, attractions, events and shopping. These kiosks have the potential to generate several streams of income while collecting important information. Initially, installation of the kiosks can be paid for or subsidized by a semi-permanent advertiser that can display an ad on the outside of the kiosk. Thus, there is little or no cost to the city to install the kiosks. As for the ongoing revenue, the city can sell advertising space on the screen to different advertisers who can run ads or offer coupons to users. In addition to this, users can purchase tickets to attractions, events or public transportation from these kiosks. A small fee can be charged to the company selling the ticket. Next, the information collected from the kiosks, such as what attractions/restaurants/events are being searched for or how many people or cars are passing the kiosk can be sold to businesses in the area. These different revenue streams should not only pay for the upkeep of these machines, but also generate extra income for our city.
Finally, I would propose the creation of a bank to be owned and operated by the Urban County Government. This institution would allow the LFUCG to streamline the service of its existing debt. Fees that are currently paid to private banks or brokerages would be greatly reduced or eliminated, freeing up a substantial amount of money. The council could then use the Bank and its attendant savings to do things like prioritizing low-interest loans for minority-owned businesses or guaranteeing home loans to those who might not otherwise be able to borrow money due to redlining or other discriminatory practices. Secondly, even though the primary purpose of the Bank would be institutional, it could also engage in financial education efforts in vulnerable communities and offer retail banking services to areas that aren’t currently served by private banks. This would create another revenue stream for the city in its own right. Currently, the Bank of North Dakota is publicly owned and operated by the legislature of that state, and reliably produces a windfall for the state’s general fund. California is poised to follow suit, having passed a state law to authorize publicly owned banks within the last year.
The comprehensive plans promotes development on commercial corridors, but developers have time and again focused their attention on existing residential neighborhoods (primarily because they property values are cheaper to buy in these areas than commercial, which leads to a higher profit margin for developers). How do you propose to incentivize developers to actually develop in the commercial sectors that are in desperate need of densification? And on the flip side, how do you propose to uphold the other parts of the comprehensive plan that seek to preserve and enhance existing established neighborhoods? Particularly when these two can, and are, at conflict with one another and the development community?
The primary tools used by most municipalities to implement a comprehensive plan are the subdivision and land development ordinances and zoning ordinances. The guidance provided by the plan should result in ordinances that meet the intent of the plan. I would modify land use regulations to ensure that developers must build consistent with the plan.
I envision working with neighborhoods to focus on improving stability, home ownership, property values, protecting significant views, and provide high quality infill in established neighborhoods. Additionally, I believe we should work with residents on an individual basis to address property maintenance and safety concerns, make broader efforts to spur reinvestment through infrastructure improvements and/or limited small-scale residential redevelopment.
Do you support amending the city bylaws which apply to the appointed positions within governance? The current bylaws, for instance, have no restrictions in regards to who can sit on commission from a development standpoint, no restrictions on how many times a particular district can be represented, etc etc. This has often led to a lack of representation, from a variety of different scopes, would you support your district in amending the bylaws to be more transparent, equal, and fair?
I support amending the city bylaws to make these appointed commissions representative of the communities that are affected by their decisions. I believe it’s important to err on the side of being as democratic as possible, and so the Council should ensure that representation is equitable, both between districts and between special interests like developers and ordinary citizens. These commissions need to speak with the voice of the people, not just those who stand to profit.
As future council, how would you enforce ensuring that established neighborhoods are properly brought to the table early on in discussions? And considered important stakeholders?
I support the implementation of participatory budgeting in Fayette County. I believe that ordinary citizens can and should contribute directly to formulating the spending priorities of the Urban County Government. We can look to cities in other countries, namely Brazil, for compelling evidence that participatory budgeting results in more equitable public spending, increased transparency and accountability, increased levels of civic engagement among all citizens—but especially by marginalized and poor communities, and a greater level of civic knowledge across the board. Implementing participatory budgeting across Fayette County would require some work on the part of the Council, but I believe its long-term impact would be extremely positive. This could be done by further empowering existing neighborhood association groups, and that would effectively foreclose on the possibility of neighborhoods being left out of any important discussion.