“I was born and raised in Kentucky by a single mother who devoted her life to the underserved. If my siblings and I weren’t at home stuffing mailers for various causes, we were at our mother’s side at the local church fish fry while she advocated for the voiceless and ignored. My mother instilled in me, from an early age, the importance of civic engagement and a passion for a mission-driven work. It is a calling that I take very seriously and that serves at the heart of my decision making.”
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 am fortunate to live in a walkable neighborhood, which dramatically reduces my need for public transportation. Most drives I take are a short distance from my home, work, and our children’s daycare center. For many, the ability to walk or bike whenever possible is a quality-of-life issue. It is also an issue of privilege, which is why I will work to create more pedestrian- and bike-friendly neighborhoods, regardless of zip code, filled with amenities nearby.
While I’m not a regular Lextran passenger, I whole-heartedly recognize the value and necessity of public transportation. I support the Board of the Transit Authority (Lextran), which has complete decision-making power over Lexington’s public transportation. I trust this informed board to make the best possible decisions for public transport with their limited budget. I will diligently review their budget, which is the only point of authority Council has over the Transit Authority.
Nicholasville Road has always been a traffic issue for the city, but we can mitigate this problem by leveraging new technologies, like Lextran’s MyMobile app, and enticing more car owners to ride with innovative alternatives. Currently, Lextran only has six rideshare vehicles in its fleet. Increasing the number of passenger vans and diversifying vehicles, while providing riders with a set pickup and drop-off for commuting to work, would serve as a motivator. The fees for this type of public transportation might be a little higher than normal bus route fees, but much less than Uber/Lyft – and the added convenience would be worth it to many workers who are juggling their work-life balance.
Like so many arterials in Lexington, Nicholasville Road is an underperforming commercial corridor that could absorb some much-needed densification. I am excited to see the groundwork being done for Imagine Nicholasville Road and I’m especially encouraged by the high level of public input. I believe the key to solving Lexington’s challenges are through community engagement, collaboration, and listening. These are the approaches that will drive all my decision-making as a councilmember.
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?
As our city grows and we focus on increasing density, I believe a comprehensive, equitable approach to affordable housing will have benefits across the economic spectrum: low-income workers sometimes fall behind and end up homeless on the streets, students and middle-income workers struggle to meet rent, and higher-income residents have trouble even getting their foot into a home during a low inventory housing market.
Affordable housing is in a state of crisis. People aren’t just being priced out of homeownership, our renters are being pushed out of longtime residences as the cost of living increases at a rate incompatible with current wages, too. As your councilmember, I would fully finance the affordable housing fund. I would explore new ways to incentivize developers to create more affordable housing, provide more rental subsidy, and work proactively to catch up and close the affordable housing gap. Rather than only investing in large construction projects that are time-consuming and face a host of legal and zoning challenges, we could focus on smaller structures. These smaller structures aren’t just more affordable they can be moved quickly in the shrinking housing market, which is essential to combating our affordable housing shortage. I will also explore expediting the permit process for developers’ applications if that developer includes affordable units within a development.
Compassion informs my decisions and I believe it is economically sound to attempt to offer the best to the most. Mixed-income housing is the proven practice for creating inclusive neighborhoods and diversity is essential for sustainable growth. Lower-income people escape from poverty and improve their productivity to society faster when they land in a higher-income neighborhood. Young people often begin in the low-income range and then work their way up. In mixed-income neighborhoods, age diversity enhances the possibility that some of the creative class will live there, too. Low-income residents typically enjoy higher-quality construction and amenities than what is offered in traditional public housing: parks, pools, greener spaces, low-traffic neighborhoods conducive to biking.
Homelessness is increasing because of stagnant and declining wages, the opioid crisis and chronic mental health conditions. People do not make enough money to afford Lexington’s cost of living. While I am for increasing the minimum wage and turning low-wage jobs into family-supporting work, Frankfort, not Lexington, sets our minimum wage.
I would advocate for harm-reduction approaches for those battling addiction and encourage permanent supportive housing models such as the “housing first” method. As your 3rd District councilmember, I will work to maximize the efficiency of Lexington’s current resources for serving the homeless and those struggling to find adequate housing, while making exploring new opportunities one of my top priorities.
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.
I will say this over and over— people do not make enough money to afford Lexington’s cost of living. While I am for increasing the minimum wage and turning low-wage jobs into family-supporting work, it’s Frankfort, not Lexington, that sets our minimum wage.
Property taxes account for a large portion of the municipal revenues Lexington collects. And it’s a sad truth, many people and businesses take advantage of existing tax programs to help their bottom line at the expense of other residents in Lexington. Unfortunately, many of the progressive property tax improvements I champion –- such as reforming tax-increment financing and exploring Payment in Lieu of Taxes relationships –- are subject to their political feasibility in Frankfort. However, I would use my position as a city councilmember to collaborate with like-minded citizens and organizations to exert political pressure on state representatives to foster legislative change that better benefits everybody in Lexington.
Reforming property taxes would be an important component to bringing in more municipal revenue, but it’s just one of many solutions I would like to focus on. Working with the Mayor’s office and entities like Commerce Lexington to help develop and sustainably grow the great community of Lexington businesses so they can hire more people – and pay them more – is just as important to bringing in more revenue. Nothing is permanent and I am committed to fully understanding – and rebutting – our government’s continuing role in facilitating income inequality, which is directly tied to lack of revenue.
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?
Lexington is growing, and the 3rd District is feeling that growth more than most. Infill and redevelopment have been the prevailing growth policy for the last decade, and one of my top priorities as councilmember is redirecting that conversation toward smart, equitable growth. Redevelopment and infill shouldn’t be synonymous with lining the pockets of developers and builders, and “urban revival” shouldn’t come at the expense of pushing our current neighbors out or disrupting the character of residential neighborhoods. Like many of you, I’ve seen my neighborhood go through an immense change in the last decade. The H-1 overlay designation was a huge win for the Pensacola Park neighborhood, and is a great model for preserving existing neighborhoods.
The process of reimagining the Nicholasville Road corridor – utilizing input from the community – offers great potential to serve as a blueprint for how we can develop our corridors into the desirable, amenity-rich neighborhoods we need: welcoming to our wheelchair-bound and differently-abled, cyclists, walkers, and strollers alike. Smart and equitable growth along our corridors also takes away the burden of the 3rd District’s established neighborhoods to bear the brunt of increasing density and infill. Time and time again, developers move forward with plans without discussing the impact it will have on neighbors first. We could avoid what has become the inevitable, long and expensive process if developers would be expected to convene with the neighborhoods before presenting proposals to the Planning Commission meeting. As councilmember, I will prioritize strong communication with residents about proposed development plans that will affect their neighborhoods.
Frankly, we don’t have the necessary incentives for developers in place right now. That would be something I would like to work to establish, in collaboration with the office of economic development and the Mayor’s office. But while I really want that to happen, what’s most important to me right now is incentivizing developers to create more affordable housing in Lexington. More affordable housing would allow for increased density, which provides the economic stability developers are looking for when they choose where to develop, especially in our underperforming and blighted corridors.
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 tehee bylaws to be more transparent, equal, and fair?
I know that Pensacola Park Neighborhood Association has been through some difficult zone change requests. I am frustrated by the hardships this has caused each of you and I think fairer representation and more occupational diversity on the council may have saved the city and your neighborhood a lot of time and money.
I am in support of transparent, fair and equal representation in all aspects of governance and have no qualms pushing against the status quo. I believe a city that is for everybody, is a city created by everybody.
As I was working on these responses to your questions, I learned that the Planning Commission membership is mandated by KRS 100.137. As your councilmember, I would work with the Planning Department and the Mayor’s Office. I would also encourage 3rd District residents to apply to the various board and commission positions open at https://www.lexingtonky.gov/board-commission-members.
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?
Some of the greatest concerns for constituents in our district are directly related to neighborhoods. Smart and equitable growth, improved traffic and transportation, growing the urban canopy, and preserving the historic and unique aspects of our neighborhoods are concerns that I share, and that I have prioritized in my platform.
Having served on two neighborhood associations – for my own neighborhood, Mentelle Park, as a resident, and on the Northside Neighborhood Association as a representative of the Carnegie Center – has greatly increased my understanding of the important role our neighborhood associations play. Nobody understands the needs of their neighborhood better than the people who live there. As your councilmember, I work for you and I will never forget that.
As outlined in my platform, much of my vision for Lexington relies on putting the conversation in the hands of our city’s residents. One of my goals as a councilmember is to provide a greater voice for the people of Lexington – including those who haven’t always been invited to sit at the table – and to continue to improve the lines of communication between our local government and the people that it represents.
I support creating a model for a citizen participatory budget so community members, like you, have direct input on how to spend part of their public budget, which would create a more equitable distribution of public dollars and resources. I will also host neighborhood meetings and roundtable discussions at various locations and times to listen to your needs. It is imperative to have a clear understanding of how I can best advocate for the people in the 3rd District. I will leave all lines of communication open. I believe there is nothing more important as a councilmember than listening to her people. And that’s what motivates me: people. Everyday people like you inspire me to fight for our community. I am ready to get to work.