The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on Thursday, February 20th at 1:30 pm in the Council Chambers on the 2nd floor of the Government Center at 200 E. Main Street. The public is invited to comment on the implementation chapter of the Comprehensive Plan at this hearing. If you wish to comment at this hearing, please sign up at the table inside the entrance to Council Chambers. You may also comment on-line prior to the hearing as well as view the adopted 2013 Comprehensive Plan and the draft of the implementation chapter here.
Recently Mayor Gray welcomed three Code for America Fellows to Lexington to start a ten month partnership. You can read the press release here. Code for America is a non-profit that places technology developers, designers, and researchers from major technology companies within local governments to work alongside city staff to solve community issues with new technology. The issues addressed include citizen engagement, criminal justice, and public health. Lexington wants to focus on using data to drive more decisions about allocation of resources. A local Code for America Brigade is at work on some of the same issues.
You can see Lexington’s page with its community partners listed here. Some of the alumni cities include New York, Boston, Chicago, South Bend, Macon, Kansas City and Louisville.
After spending time in the selected cities, the fellows will reconvene in San Francisco to share experience and proposed solutions. You can read more about the national initiative here.
We welcome Code for America Fellows Erik Schwartz, Lyzi Diamond and Livien Yin to our community.
Each year the U.S. Census Bureau collects information from a sample population of the United States through the American Community Survey. In 2012, it studied cities with a population of 65,000 and greater. The League of American Bicyclists then analyzes this data to assess the state of bicycling across the country in the “Where We Ride” report. As a caveat, the Survey only records commuting to work on a bike if it was the primary mode of transportation to work.
From 2005 to 2012, Kentucky increased bicycle commuting 97.7%. Lexington-Fayette County ranked 38th out of the top 70 largest cities with the highest share of bicycle commuters, showing a 92% growth from 1990 to 2012 and a 16.7% growth from 2000 to 2012. Lexington is also one of the top 50 cities where bike commuting is growing the fastest, one of the top 20 bike cities in the southern region, and ranked 2nd in percentage of bike commuters in cities with a population of between 300,000 and 1 million.
We are relative late-comers to understanding the importance of alternative modes of transportation for the health of our community. We are working to catch up. The good news is that we are making progress.
At its meeting on Thursday, January 29, 2014, Urban County Council approved acceptance of a sub-grant from the Blue Grass Community Foundation that provides major funding, along with support from LFUCG, for creation of a position of Local Food Coordinator within the Office of Economic Development on a one-year pilot basis. The expectation is that the pilot will demonstrate sufficient value to attract additional external funding and to justify making the position permanent within LFUCG.
The Local Food Coordinator will work to accelerate development of the local food economy within our region. The Coordinator will work with producers to expand markets for local farm products, work to develop processing facilities and other value-added capacity, and support increased distribution and marketing services. The Coordinator also will provide education for the general community about both the health and the economic benefits derived from increased availability of fresh, local food.
Many thanks to the underlying funders: Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, Kentucky Agricultural Development Board, and Mt. Brilliant Foundation. And many thanks to Kevin Atkins, Chief Development Officer, to Mayor Jim Gray, and to the many others inside and outside of LFUCG who worked on grant proposals and supported this effort in other ways.
For those of you who may have missed it, here is a brief summary of some of the areas Mayor Gray highlighted in his 2014 State of the City address.
In the area of employment:
Employment is increasing, unemployment is decreasing, and our economy is out-performing those of most similar size cities. The city is continuing to invest in economic development with the JOBS fund, designed to provide incentives to attract start-ups already identified as innovative and likley to succeed.
In the city budget:
Reforms in health insurance and the pension have saved the city almost $62 million since 2012. Other savings and efficiencies have occurred because of initiatives such as the new employee health center and pharmacy, energy-saving programs, newly negotiated contracts for jail services, and a revived plan for the needed Emergency Operations Center.
In Public Safety:
The Police, the Fire Department, and Corrections are close to having all of their current staffing positions filled. There is a new ambulance and 27 new paramedics on the streets. Crime is down 7.8% since 2012 and there were no fire-related deaths in 2013. Lexington is one of the safest cities of its size in the country.
In Social Services:
The city is building a new Senior Citizen’s Center; has increased social service agencies funding by 20% since 2012; and is in the process of hiring the first coordinator for the newly established Office of Homeless Intervention and Prevention.
Development and funding:
In the next few days the new design for Rupp Arena, the convention center and parts of Town Branch Commons will be unveiled. To create a new tool to generate revenue for projects like those proposed in relation to the renovation of the Rupp Arena, the city is pursuing state-level legislation that would allow local governments to initiate a public referendum for up to a 1% increase in the sales tax for specified projects. In Lexington, a 1% sales tax would generate an estimated $34 million per year. If approved, the increase would sunset when the project is complete.
You can watch a video of Mayor Gray’s speech here.
I recently filmed a Council Comments on bicycle and pedestrian safety with Scott Thompson, the Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator for the LFUCG and the Metropolitan Planning Organization. You can see the Council Comments here.
We met at the Legacy Trail trailhead at the North Lexington YMCA. The Legacy Trail is a dedicated trail which extends eight miles from the YMCA to the Kentucky Horse Park. Plans are about to be made for that will begin in the spring to complete the trail through town to the Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden on Third Street. Most of the trail through town will be on existing roadways, with either special markings or dedicated lanes.
LFUCG currently has more than seventy miles of bicycle facilities. Twenty-eight miles of trails are on roads, with either bike lanes or “sharos”. ”Sharos” are lane markings that indicate to motorists that bicyclists will be present. The markings also lets the cyclist know where in the lane to be. The rest are dedicated trails which are completely off road.
As cycling increases, it is important that we respect each other’s space. There are classes and public safety campaigns to encourage cars and bikes to be aware of each other. Hopefully these and other efforts will lead to increased understanding of how to share the road, and increased safety for everyone.
On November 21, 2013, Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council unanimously approved a resolution extending benefits to what are commonly referred to as “domestic partners” of our employees. (More on that terminology below.) After the vote, one council member, who might at one time might have found this hard to support, commented: “Times change.”
Yes, they do. And in this case the change is for the better. I posted an earlier blog on this issue and will not repeat the reasons why I felt this deserved support. But I do wish to note that this vote tells me that as a community we are moving steadily toward assuring fair and equal treatment for all our residents. Dr. King has famously noted that “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” This vote reflects that principle, and makes me proud of my community.
I wish I could say the same for our Commonwealth on this issue. The official language of our resolution uses “qualified adult” and studiously avoids the term “domestic partner” which is simpler and clearer. Why? Legal reasons, reflecting prohibitions in state statutes and ordinances regarding the establishment of any legal alternatives to marriage.
Times have changed in Lexington and a few other communities in Kentucky. And times have changed in many other states and at the federal level. But they have not changed quite so much at the state level in Kentucky. We have to wait a bit longer for the moral arc of the universe to complete its work. We know it will.
A recent article by Robert Steuteville raises significant questions about the ways we have come to think about revitalization of neighborhoods. The article has direct relevance to Lexington, particularly the North Side. While I do not agree with all the details in the article, and might quibble with some of the underlying assumptions, one paragraph struck me as particularly relevant:
I make a distinction therefore between revitalization that is desirable and necessary to avoid economic collapse and gentrification — when the truly rich arrive — that prices out the working class and poor.
How do we, as a community, distinguish between “ revitalization that is desirable” and “gentrification”? The way we answer that question will make all the difference in the world to the people who presently live in the predominately low-income neighborhoods in our community.
Steuteville suggests that “lean urbanism” is one helpful way to think about this complex set of issues, and he lays out in the article some of the principles and provides a few examples of what lean urbanism might mean in practice.
Feel free to comment online, but if you would also like to be included in a larger, informal, face-to-face conversation about the article and its possible implications for Lexington, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council’s Design Excellence Task Force has completed a draft of Design Standards and Guidelines for Lexington’s downtown area. The Task Force has scheduled a public meeting to gather public input on the draft from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, November 14, in the third floor conference room of the Phoenix Building, 101 East Main Street. You can find a copy of the presentation and the draft Design Standards and Guidelines here.
The Task Force was appointed in 2010 by the Urban County Council’s Planning Committee to move toward “form-based and/or design-based codes” that would provide guidance and support for improved design. While the city already had some design guidelines for the Courthouse Area Design Overlay Zone in the heart of downtown, there had been substantial changes in the buildings within and around the overlay zone and new changes were contemplated in the near-future.
If adopted, the proposal would establish standards and guidelines applicable to most of downtown, with a structure for administration and review of proposals composed of staff and Review Board.
Yesterday the General Government Committee approved an ordinance allowing the extension of benefits to the qualified adult dependents of LFUCG employees. (For legal reasons, the phrase “qualified adult dependents” is used in place of the more common phrase “domestic partners”.) The action will be reported out at the Council Work Session on November 12th and on the Council docket for first reading on November 21st. You can find the packet for the Work Session here when it is posted and for the Council meeting here when it is posted. You can also read my blog about the issue here. Thanks to all of those who have worked for and supported this issue in this community for years.