Hannah LeGris

Hannah LeGris
Hannah LeGris

Biographical Statement

I am a writer, counselor, and educator working in service learning and civic engagement. My story has centered around community building and social justice, values that I will maintain as your council member. I hold a B.A. in English from the College of Wooster and an M.A. in English from The University of Kentucky. I began my career as an AmeriCorps VISTA in program development at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning. Currently, I work with University of Kentucky undergraduate students as they explore career options and engage meaningfully with their communities. I am running for Third District Council because I am deeply invested in creating a city that is vibrant, engaged, and inclusive. I believe that, by opening access to power and by amplifying others’ voices, we can work together to form a more engaged, empowered citizenry in Lexington.


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)?

Lexington has a variety of transportation challenges, including the poor organization of the public transit system, a municipal plan that favors unrestricted flow, and the overall amount of traffic, all of which diminish liveability within the city. As councilmember for the Third District, I would push to limit traffic, create more opportunities for alternative transportation, and require infrastructure that is pedestrian and bicycle-oriented rather than simply car-centric. I am in favor of improving and expanding public transit overall in the LFUCG Metro region but a robust public transit system requires useful routes, reliable schedules, and frequent service. I use Lextran occasionally, but it is usually easier for me to walk or ride my bicycle to work than to catch a bus, which is itself emblematic of the larger problem. Public transit should be a convenience, not a compromise. Free Lextran routes through the UK/KCTC campus areas have been widely utilized and would be a great model for expanding service with other partners. Demand for public transit may also increase if the city council would consider limiting new development in certain high-traffic areas of town and creating commuter lines, rideshare, and park-and-ride programs to help curtail the use of private vehicles.

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?

Lexington’s housing-insecure and homeless population has been rising for the past decade and the city has already taken important steps I support to address the issue, including creating an affordable housing plan and trust. The market is constrained by space and costs which is why I support continued planning and investment by the LFUCG to keep housing affordable. If elected to council I will push to create more diversified mixed-income housing. In 2015 the Fayette Alliance commissioned a housing survey, which informed the most recent Comprehensive Plan, and found that low-maintenance, evolving format housing (duplex, fourplex, condominiums, detached small homes) can help serve the growing community need. However the state constitution limits the ways through which city governments can raise money, and so affordable housing requires increasing and diversifying the revenue stream. The LFUCG should more pointedly look for grants, public/private partnerships, and federal subsidies to help incentivize affordable housing initiatives. I believe that safe housing is a human right and therefore it is critical that we address this issue intelligently, inclusively, and respectfully for the benefit of everyone within the Lexington area.

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.

The current budget shortfall is partly due to unfulfilled predictions about job creation. As mentioned previously, the city of Lexington is constrained by the state constitution and has only so many ways to raise revenue. Given the structural limitations, participatory budgeting might alleviate some frustrations by ensuring that citizens have an increased say in how, where, and why we allocate certain funds, increasing input and transparency throughout that process. Due to Lexington’s reliance on payroll taxes, it is imperative that our city remain competitive in attracting emergent, responsible industries in order to maintain the financial health of our city. That said, unconstrained growth is not a neutral force and we must utilize our values of compassion, inclusion, and people-centered decision making to inform our planning process. In that vein, as a councilmember I would push for the creation of a minimum-wage pledge for businesses over 15 employees. Many companies have already accommodated the city’s increased minimum wage before it was struck down by the state supreme court; I believe that it is important to advocate on behalf of workers regardless of the legal requirement.

The comprehensive plan promotes development on commercial corridors, but developers have time and again focused their attention on existing residential neighborhoods (primarily because the 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 Comprehensive Plan is a well-researched document, but unless it utilizes more participation from a wider and more representative citizenry during implementation, it could result in more short-sighted, developer-centric practices. I would like the city government to clarify the primacy of inclusion, livability, and sustainability within its decision-making process. In practice this might include an emphasis on:

  • Mixed use development
  • People-centric neighborhoods
  • Green development and sustainable practices
  • Limiting traffic
  • Protecting neighborhoods from disruptive development
  • Pedestrian infrastructure
  • Higher density development in certain areas
  • Bringing in planning staff prior to developers to review needs/interests of the neighborhood so that decisions can be informed by constituents early and often.

Development doesn’t have to be at the expense of preservation. Many neighborhoods suffer from a lack of fresh groceries and bike/pedestrian infrastructure. If elected to the Third District council seat, I will help neighborhoods determine how they fit into the Comprehensive Plan. If developers see the needs as well as the opportunities and the city is able to facilitate conversations between them and the neighborhoods, the process might become less antagonistic. And if that interaction can be driven by
values instead of profit, all the better.

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. 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 believe the government has a responsibility to be accountable, representative, and inclusive which is why I strongly support sunshine laws and transparent practices within the LFUCG. This includes commissions, appointed positions, commercial districts, and any organizations that use taxpayer dollars or advocate on behalf of public goods or interests. In the past, our city may have left out many residents and stakeholders during the development process. As your councilwoman I will advocate for more diversity of opinion, open comment periods, and transparency in the planning process. Inclusivity and equity are both central to my platform and I will bring more perspectives to the conversation so that we can develop plans that benefit the whole community, and not just the interests of the rich or influential. I hope that, by including more people, bringing a range of citizens to their association meetings, adding diverse voices to planning and council workgroups, and incorporating additional opinions into council meetings we can elicit more participation and create a shared and responsible vision for the city.

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?

Neighborhoods are crucial to discussions about our district and city planning as a whole. I believe that neighborhood associations are a great way for people to take ownership and develop strong connections within their immediate surroundings. The city should continue to promote and empower neighborhoods as the bedrock of community development. There is a saying in disaster planning: “Don’t plan about us, without us.” The current COVID-19 crises can be an opportunity for our citizenry to collaborate and plan with neighborhoods as we continue moving forward in the face of adversity. Some examples of constructive collaboration include:

  • Communicating early and often with a wide range of stakeholders no matter the size of the project
  • Proactive decision-making that brings people across sectors together — renters, students, companies, planning commission staff, and, eventually, developers
  • Open dialogue — facilitating a flexible mindset and openness to new perspectives
  • ALL neighborhoods and constituents, not just established members and areas, should be involved in the conversation
  • Regularly and repeatedly checking-in all throughout the process, receiving feedback, generating productive responses with a sense of openness and urgency
  • Transparency — sharing information readily and often with all parties involved

As your councilwoman, I will always be available to people who are passionate about our city. I will be a tireless advocate to make sure that your ideas, concerns, and input will have a place in city hall. And I will do all within possibility to find meaningful solutions for the people of Lexington and communicate fully and respectfully throughout the process.