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Lexington mayoral candidates talk crime, traffic, and a new city hall

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Stu Johnson
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Next Tuesday, voters in Lexington will decide who should take the top job in Urban County government. It’s a choice between staying with a veteran at Lexington City Hall or going with a relatively new voice in local government.

Linda Gorton is seeking her second term as mayor of Kentucky’s second-largest city. She served previously as vice mayor and spent 16 years as a council district representative. David Kloiber is completing his first two-year term on the Lexington City Council. He is making his first run for mayor. He runs the Kloiber Foundation, which focuses on educational grants.

Violent crime has been a regular topic during the fall campaign. Gorton said the word “violence” carries a lot of definitions. The retired nurse said statistics show, overall, this form of crime is not escalating.

“Violent crime, statistically, by the FBI and the national crime statistics people is down two percent here since last year,” said Gorton.

Gorton said that category includes crimes like murder, rape, arson, and assault. The mayor noted the number of homicides has already exceeded last year’s total. Gorton added a third of the murders this year are related to domestic violence while none had occurred at this point last year.

Challenger David Kloiber said there needs to be an overarching plan that gets community leaders, judges, officers, and elected officials all working together to address violent crime.

“Creating a system that identifies individuals before they cause these second and third instances of violence, these retaliatory violent crimes. And making sure we have wrap-around services to give people the opportunity and hope to get out of these situations,” said Kloiber.

Staffing challenges continue to be seen in public safety, particularly in police, 9-1-1, and at the jail. Kloiber suggests looking at a 36-month buyback of new officers to improve retention. He said more might be done to persuade officers considering retirement to stay on.

Gorton said a different recruitment approach is being implemented. She noted creative commercials are showing results. She claims the city is starting to see more interest in jobs at the jail and pay increases are also helping.

The primary home of many city employees is found in the Urban County Government Center on Main Street. It’s been there since 1984. The 102-year-old building formerly housed the Lafayette Hotel. Most will admit it’s showing its age.

Kloiber says upkeep and maintenance projects currently carry a hefty price tag.

“We could take those costs and get a new facility, purchase another building, do a renovation. We could do so many things right now to get us out of that and we need to,” said Kloiber

Kloiber went on to say, quote, “it’s fiscally irresponsible to stay in that building any longer.”

Gorton agrees it’s time to move out of the 12-story historic building. She said previous efforts, from four different administrations, didn’t fully evaluate the space needed. Gorton said it’s too soon to say if that means new construction in a new location. She said it might involve renovation of the current building.

“It could be added onto in the back with a beautiful addition to overlook the trail. There’s a lot of possibilities there. So, we’re open to anything that works,” said Gorton.

Another common question or complaint set before anyone in city government is about traffic congestion. Gorton said, currently, nothing can be done about the spoke and wheel arterial system in Lexington. But she does favor some more circular options.

“I’m a proponent of roundabouts because they work all over the world. And all over the world, you see them in neighborhoods where, you know, at a four-way stop you can put a small roundabout in and it moves the traffic,” said Gorton.

David Kloiber said it’s not feasible to do a major roadway overhaul when it comes to moving traffic around the bluegrass community. But, he says planning development is a key responsibility of city leaders. Kloiber noted further residential growth near Hamburg could mean less commuting traffic on Nicholasville Road.

“If we’re intentional with our planning, and we make sure there are communities nearby those hospitals, we can eliminate some of that traffic on Nicholasville Road from people who are having to commute from Jessamine County, if we had affordable housing closer to the interstate,” said Kloiber

In the May Primary, Gorton easily received the highest number of votes. The incumbent secured 74% of the vote in May and Kloiber received 14%. In less than a week, the two will once again be awaiting voting results.

Here's more with Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton:

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Here's more with Mayoral Candidate David Kloiber:

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Stu has been reporting for WEKU for more than 30 years.
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