Lexington mayoral candidates talk about crime, housing, and land use
The Primary race for mayor of Lexington includes a veteran at city hall, a first-term Councilman, and a minister. The field of candidates will be trimmed down to two who will advance to the fall contest.
Community violence has been a common subject for discussion during the spring campaign to head the state’s second-largest city. Current Mayor Linda Gorton previously served as vice-mayor and spent years on the Council. She said statistical data shows violent crime is down 5% from the same time a year ago. Gorton said One Lexington, the city’s crime prevention initiative under Devine Carama is making a difference.
“Devine’s building a very strong coalition of partners…in the schools…in the neighborhoods…with the police…with non-profits. It’s amazing and we’re very hopeful that this is gradually working,” said Gorton.
The city is in the process of installing license plate reading cameras, also known as flock cameras, in high crime areas. The pilot program calls for 25 cameras with the possibility of expanding to 100. Mayor Gorton said those already in place have been beneficial in six stolen car cases, assaults, and an animal abuse case.
One of her opponents is Adrian Wallace. He volunteers as a chaplain in the police department and said he absolutely opposes flock cameras. He noted a Louisville newspaper article talking about neighborhood associations using similar cameras to, what he termed, profile people, coming into their community. Wallace added he wouldn’t want that in Lexington.
“There’s a lack of transparency and accountability. I won’t say blanket that they’re a bad tool and resource, implemented the correct way. I think what we have to focus on is police oversight and accountability which we lack and we’ve said that we’ve needed for years,” said Wallace.
Wallace and mayoral candidate and current city council member David Kloiber both claim certain violent crimes are on the rise. Kloiber said flock cameras are only beneficial after the fact when it comes to crime.
He supports the group violence intervention program proposed for years by a coalition of Lexington churches. Among other things, it seeks to reach those involved in gang activity and use various resources to steer them out of a life of crime. Kloiber noted it deserves a chance to work.
“This has been a problem for many years and we don’t have the time to develop something new from scratch. We can’t reinvent the wheel. I like that we have a proven policy that can be used in order to address this issue,” said Kloiber.
Mayor Gorton counters that by saying her administration has talked to officials in other towns with GVI where crime has actually risen.
Following the death of George Floyd through police brutality in Minneapolis, Lexington, like many communities experienced weeks of social unrest. The mayor formed the Commission on Racial Justice and Equality which offered recommendations.
Gorton said body cameras for police, a permanent commission, a neighborhood food van and a new equity and implementation officer are all tied to the report. David Kloiber said more intentional listening to the community and re-establishing the mayor’s training center to boost minority employment are needed. Adrian Wallace, who’s served in leadership with Lexington’s N double ACP, said bridge-building is needed through new leadership to unite black and white communities, faith communities with the non, and build consensus on how to move forward.
Although there’s not a visible permanent fence or line to signify Fayette County’s urban service boundary, it garners a lot of attention by many people. The ongoing question is should the boundary where city services flow be expanded.
Adrian Wallace says he’s not sure about when, where, and what the triggers for growth should be. He said millions have gone to preserve rural land and not enough for infill infrastructure.
“That is the number one issue that most people care about, sadly because I think there are a lot of other things that we really need to focus on. But we do only utilize 30% of our landmass and we have to make sure that whatever policy that we’re implementing to protect our farmland, also then make sure that we invest on the inside,” Wallace.
David Kloiber manages the Kloiber Foundation which has an endowment to provide educational technology grants. He said a nearby interstate offers opportunities for economic development both commercial and residential. He believes now is the time to expand the urban service boundary.
“I think the timing needs to be related to what’s happening to the people living in your city and right now we have people being pushed out of their communities, out of their homes, and into the surrounding counties. So, when should the boundary be considered to be moved? Is completely dependent upon if we want to keep our people here,” said Kloiber.
Linda Gorton said Lexington lays claim to being the first city in the U.S. to have an urban service boundary, set up in 1958. She noted it’s not healthy if a city doesn’t grow. But Gorton added the city is known for intentional planned growth.
“The census has shown us that about every decade we grow somewhere around 30 thousand people. Very steady. We can handle that. We’re not out of control and we have to be able to handle the infrastructure and that kind of thing so, it’s just not the right time right now,” said Gorton.
Linked with the discussion about the urban service boundary is the need for affordable housing. All three candidates agree on that point. Gorton said the addition of $10 million in federal ARPA money boosted funding for affordable housing to $25 million. She said almost 3000 affordable housing units have come online since 2014, but more are still needed.
“And this is why I put this new program in my budget for blighted properties because we’ve got to turn those into affordable housing but they need work. So, we’re not going to let up on our efforts for affordable housing because it continues to be a need,” said Gorton.
Adrian Wallace said one of the largest lies heard all around the country is that homeownership isn’t for everybody. He noted affordable housing efforts need to point to that end goal.
“Not only affordable rental units but then also help to move people into homeownership. Many of the people in Lexington don’t qualify to purchase a home yet, but what the city can do is make sure that we protect affordable housing but also focus on homeownership,” said Wallace.
David Kloiber said there’s a need to build more housing units at all price points, across the board. And the first-term council member added the term affordability may not be the same for everybody.
“People making lower than $35 thousand are having trouble getting affordable housing units because we just don’t have them. But people making more than that are also having issues. Rent prices are increasing, housing costs are increasing, and these forces are coming together and pushing people out of the city,” said Kloiber.
A fourth candidate William Weyman is also running for mayor of Lexington. He has not participated in forums nor run what would be considered an active campaign. The first round of campaigning is nearly over with the field narrowing to two candidates come next Tuesday night.