How Will We Grow?

On Thursday, August 31, at 1:30 pm in Council Chambers the Urban County Government Planning Commission will hold a work session for public input on their recommendations to Council for the Goals and Objectives section of the five-year update of our Comprehensive Plan.  The plan provides a guide to both broad policies and specific planning decisions over the next five years.

To help people understand more about the Comprehensive Plan and the update process, a group of us have developed a short video with a perspective on the challenges we face and an outline of how decisions will be made. You can also learn more about my views from my interview with Tom Martin and my op ed piece, both published earlier this month in the Herald-Leader.

The public will have additional opportunities for input as Council considers the recommendations from the Planning Commission and decides on the final wording of the Goals and Objectives.  I will provide updates about those opportunities. And, as always, you can share your views on these important decisions directly with Council members.

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Additional Clarifications on Statue Vote before Council

Thank you to the many constituents who have contacted my office about the John Hunt Morgan and John C. Breckinridge statues.  I support the Mayor’s resolution as a reasonable path forward that respects and preserves the long history that led up to and followed the Civil War, and also respects our current views about what we should and should not honor in that long history.

Many of you have contacted me seeking clarity about the substance and process of Council’s work on this important issue.   Please see a few frequently asked questions, answers, and contextual details below:

What vote is Council taking?

On Tuesday, August 15, 2017, Council unanimously voted to place the Mayor’s resolution on the docket.  On Thursday, August 17, 2017, we will have the first reading of the Mayor’s resolution on the docket at the Council Meeting.  Specifically, the resolution before us asks Council to express support for moving the statues to a more appropriate place.  You can read the full resolution by clicking here.  The resolution also asks the Mayor to determine the new location and report back to Council with that information within 30 days.  Council’s vote of support is important because it expresses solidarity to the Kentucky Military Heritage Commission.

Who has authority over the statues?

The Kentucky Military Heritage Commission maintains a registry of significant Kentucky military heritage sites.  The John Hunt Morgan and John C. Breckinridge statues are part of the registry.  The designation means that under state law no one can remove or significantly alter the statues without the Commission’s consent.  Should the Council approve moving the statues to a specified location, the city  intends to ask the Commission to schedule a meeting to approve moving the statues.   If the Commission approves, the city will then be able to relocate the statues.  For additional information on the Commission’s role and scope of authority, please see KRS 171.780 to 171.788.

What is the timeline?

As noted earlier, Council unanimously voted at the Tuesday, August 15, 2017 Work Session to place the resolution on the docket.   Placing an item on the docket means that it will go before an official Council Meeting to have a public reading.  Under the normal course of business, each piece of legislation in the form of an ordinance or resolution will receive a first reading at a Council Meeting and a second/final reading at the subsequent Council Meeting.  Council also has the option to suspend the rules and give a first and second reading to legislation at the same meeting.  Following two readings and an affirmative Council vote, the legislation can then become law.

The resolution to move the statues will appear for a first reading at the August 17, 2017 Council Meeting.  The second and final reading, assuming the Council does not suspend the rules to give the legislation first and then second reading at the same meeting, will be on Thursday, August 31, 2017.  However, this vote is not the last step for Council.  The resolution also asks the Mayor to recommend, within a 30 day window of the resolution’s passage, where the statues will go,  a necessary step before moving forward.  Should the Council approve the move to a specific location, the Kentucky Military Heritage Commission will need to meet to consider the city’s request.  If they approve, the city will then be able to transfer the statues to a new location.

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 Field to Table Dinner – August 19, 2017

Field to Table Dinner

The second annual Fayette County Farm Bureau Field to Table Dinner will be held this Friday, August 19, 2017 at Grimes Mill Winery in Lexington, Kentucky.  For those did not attend last year, this is a beautiful event with outstanding food.  You can see photographs from the 2016 event here.

Tours and social hour will begin at 6:00 p.m.  Dinner, featuring delicious food from chef Ouita Michel, will be served at 7:00 p.m.  The ticket cost is $75 per person, which includes a $25 tax-deductible donation to FoodChain.  You can purchase your tickets here and see the Facebook event for additional details here.  I look forward to seeing you there.

 

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Council Adopts FY 2018 Budget

The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government (LFUCG) begins a new fiscal year on July 1st of every calendar year.  Therefore Council must adopt the Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) budget before the end of June 2017.   I am pleased to report my colleagues and I approved the budget on schedule at last night’s (6/22/17) Council Meeting.  You can view the FY18 budget ordinance and its formal path before Council here.

The most significant change to the FY18 budget versus previous years is the addition of 30 new police officers, the largest one-year increase for Lexington police since the city and county merged governments in 1974.  Also included is sustained funding for the One Lexington Director, a staff person who will coordinate a community-wide response to drugs and crime.  Council revisions to the Mayor’s Proposed Budget (MPB) were relatively few but included adding 12 staff to Fire & EMS as well as debt service for bonding the connection for Citation Boulevard and Winburn Drive.  To support these and other changes, Council reallocated budget funds, perhaps most notably $500,000 combined from the Jobs Fund and the Public Infrastructure Fund.  You can see the complete, detailed list of adopted Council revisions here.  The list includes recommendations from Council and late budget updates from the Administration.  For reference, the original MPB is available here.

The FY18 adopted budget was the result of a process I believe gets progressively better each year.  Communication has improved, and the congenial norms of Council help us focus on doing good work.  Much of our discussion during our final Budget Committee of the Whole Meeting focused on how to increase staffing sustainably for a growing population.  Lexington has seen robust economic growth, but projections for the upcoming years suggest a plateau in the rate of increase.  As part of our budget conversation, we also discussed ways to best support our signature rural area, including using PDR funding for Castleton Lyons.  While a majority of Council did not support this item for FY18, we will continue to look for ways to preserve our iconic bluegrass.

I am thankful to my colleagues for contributing to a smooth process.  As a Council, we will continue to look for ways to improve.  I appreciate the thoughtfulness of my fellow Councilmembers who have chosen to withhold many important priorities until we can review the fund balance in the fall.  I am also grateful to the work of Administration in crafting the budget and the thoughtfulness from the public’s engagement.

 

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Message of Affirmation for Lexington’s Immigrants

I am the child of a refugee and immigrant. As a child, my father fled with his parents and little sister from oppression and persecution in Russia, arriving at Ellis Island in 1923.  So I have a personal reason to deeply value the openness and inclusion experienced by so many immigrants as they were welcomed to our country.  I have worked in my public life to ensure we continue to be that place of welcome.

In response to community fears, some colleagues and I put together a public service announcement emphasizing how much Lexington values its immigrant community. Please feel free to share this message of affirmation and inclusion.


 To learn more about how GlobalLex is making Lexington more welcoming for all, please see my earlier blog post here.

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Council to Update Economic Development Zoning Ordinance

On Thursday, May 11, 2017 Council approved the first reading of legislation to amend the zoning ordinance for Economic Development zones in the Expansion Area.  The ordinance that will be updated is Article 23A-10, which you can read here.  As a reminder, legislation must receive two readings at Council Meetings before becoming law.  The second reading of the amending ordinance is scheduled for the upcoming Council Meeting, which will be on Thursday, May 25, 2017 at 6 pm.  For those who have followed this issue, an earlier version of the ordinance received a first reading on September 29, 2016.  The ordinance has received substantive changes since then, which is why a new first reading was necessary.

The overarching intent of the zoning ordinance text amendment (ZOTA) is to help the Economic Development zones better fulfill their purpose, which is to foster contextually appropriate development that creates high paying jobs.  The revisions make an increasingly popular form of development—mixed used—easier to do.  Mixed used developments, for example, often combine residential units, cultural amenities, and businesses in a manner that lets individuals live where they work with nearby restaurants.  To get additional background on the reasons for advancing the ZOTA, please see this video of the December 1, 2016 Council Workshop.

Much of the deliberation before the Planning Commission and then the Council has focused on a new category of zoning uses known as supportive uses.  Planning policy wonks might be familiar with principal and conditional uses in zoning parlance.  A principal use in a zone is a use that is allowed “by right.”   Conditional uses, in contrast, are more case-specific uses that require approval from the Board of Adjustment.  Supportive uses are principal uses, but they have restrictions on their proportions in the development.  For reference, the supportive uses in the ZOTA are below:

  1. Supportive uses shall not exceed a maximum of eighteen percent (18%) of the otherwise permitted floor area within a development, as identified on the associated final development plan. Mixed Use buildings shall count toward the maximum permitted floor area of supportive uses herein, but not count toward the residential use maximum identified below in Article 23A-10(j)12b. Structures dedicated solely to residential use shall not count toward the supportive use maximum because they will be limited by Article 23A-10(j)12b and d.
  2. Residential land uses shall not exceed eight and one-half percent (8.5%) of the gross land area within a development, as identified on the associated final development plan.
  3. A maximum of twenty percent (20%) of all supportive uses may be constructed prior to construction of other principal permitted uses listed in Article 23A-10(b). The allowable floor area for supportive uses shall be calculated based upon the total number of gross acres within the boundary of the final development plan and the permitted maximum Floor Area Ratio established in Article 23A-10(g).
  4. The maximum density for townhouses (3 or more units attached) shall be 12 dwelling units per gross acre, not to exceed 360 total townhouses. The maximum density of multi-family dwellings shall be 24 dwelling units per gross acre, not to exceed 360 total multi-family dwellings.

I would like to thank the various stakeholders in the community, the private sector, and LFUCG who have helped craft an ordinance that helps amend our zoning regulations to support development for high paying jobs in the existing Expansion Area land.  I appreciate the careful concern to safeguarding against unintended consequences and look forward to voting in favor of the ordinance next week.

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LFUCG Set to Award $150,000 in Workforce Development Grants

LFUCG allocated $150,000 in its fiscal year 2017 budget for grants that develop our workforce.   This new budget item originated from the General Services & Planning link, a subcommittee tasked with reviewing a portion of the FY 17 Mayor’s Proposed Budget.  The first round of awards supports skills training for Lexingtonians and assists with employment entry/reentry.  Grantees must be public, nonprofit, or private agencies and must deliver services within Fayette County. These grants and the programs they support will help individuals earn a more livable wage, which will have a multiplier effect of good outcomes for their families and our community.

Below is the Office of Workforce Development‘s recommended list of the award winners, the amounts they are to receive following Council approval, and brief descriptions of the programs.

Urban League / Bluegrass Comm. & Tech. College ($37,500) – Provide Certified Fiber Optic Technician training courses to teach participants to install, terminate, and test multi-mode fiber optic networks. Provide soft skill training to participants.

Jubilee Jobs ($20,000) – Provide 2-week, 7-step employment assistance program: one-on-one professional resume preparation, mock interviews, job preparation and conflict resolution workshops.

Building Institute of Central Kentucky ($20,000) – Provide classroom, lab training, and licensure for HVAC, plumbing, electric, carpentry, and property maintenance. Will also provide training for: OSHAL 10, First Aid, CPR, and EPA608.

Opportunity for Work & Learning ($20,000) – Provide Forklift or Customer Service Representative Skills Certifications, job readiness, and soft skills

Hospice of the Bluegrass / Bluegrass Care Navigators ($20,000) – Provide tuition scholarships for participants to earn Certified Nurse Aid (CNA) certification, and to pay for their State Competency Evaluation test.

Food Chain ($20,000) – Provide on-the-job training to participants in Food Chain’s processing kitchen (culinary methods, employability soft skills, health department requirements, etc.)

Build Inclusion Inc. / Easter Seals Cardinal Hill / Down Syndrome Association of Kentucky ($12,500) – Provide high school students and young adults with disabilities with supported employment services (career-readiness, job exploration, job shadowing, internship opportunities, etc.)

The grantees will submit quarterly performance reports in coordination with the Office of the Chief Development Officer and the Workforce Development Manager.  If you would like additional context on this program, please see the associated presentation by Workforce Development Manager Elodie Dickinson at the March 21, 2017 Budget, Finance & Economic Development Committee meeting.  Should you or your organization be interested in future funding opportunites, please email Elodie Dickinson at edickinson(at)lexingtonky.gov.

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Council Meeting on Our Immigrant Community

Committee of the Whole Urban County Council Meeting on the immigrant community was held on March 16, 2017 to provide information to Council and the public on the status of the issue in Lexington.  The meeting specifically covered background information, present policies, and impact.  If you would like to learn about these topics, please view a video the Committee of the Whole meeting below:


 

I would like to thank all speakers for sharing their expertise and perspectives.  They are as follows: Isabel Taylor, Marilyn Daniels, Darryl Thompson, Elizabeth Leibach, Chief Mark Barnard, Betty Abdmishani, Edith Villalobos, Michelle Estrada, Bishop John Stowe, and Freddy Peralta.  For my views on this issue, please see an earlier blog post here.  For information on Global Lex, an outstanding program to make Lexington more welcoming to immigrants, please read my blog post here.

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In Time for Spring, Council Makes Way for Market Gardens

London Ferrell Community Garden

London Ferrell Community Garden

Lexington is fortunate to have a grassroots community that supports sustainable and affordable food access. Local food helps Lexington’s economy and promotes public health while also providing a link between the infill and redevelopment core and our signature agrarian green spaces. With spring approaching, I am pleased to report that Council has taken the final step to incorporate community and market gardens into our regulations.

The need for community gardens is formally recognized in the Themes, Goals, and Objectives of the 2013 Comprehensive Plan.  At the request of numerous constituents, I brought the issue of community and market gardens to Council at the August 18, 2015 Council Work Session. Council then voted to move the issue to the Planning and Public Safety Committee to draft a recommendation for updated legislation.

After review at the December 8, 2015 and February 9, 2016 Planning and Public Safety Committee meetings, Council and staff determined that the best way forward was to advance two parallel tracks of legislation. The community gardens legislation was designed to allow groups of individuals to share a plot of land for a collective yield.  Shared gardening can develop affordable produce for a neighborhood, a sense of community through work, and add vibrancy to the built environment.  Enacting the legislation required a modification to the Code of Ordinances, which had to be advanced through Council.   Market gardens, which allow on-site sales, required a zoning ordinance text amendment (ZOTA) in the zoning ordinances and therefore review by the Planning Commission.  With consensus-driven tweaks to the community gardens legislation,  the Committee advanced an ordinance recommendation to Council.  Council then gave the ordinance first reading at the March 17, 2016 Council Meeting and second reading at the April 7, 2016 Council Meeting, making the proposed legislation law.

The complementary market gardens ZOTA needed review from the Planning Commission. The Commission initiated the text amendment at the October 27, 2016 and recommended 9-0 the staff text at the January 26, 2017 meeting. The approved recommendation went to Council, which gave the first reading at the February 23, 2017 Council Meeting and the second reading at the March 2, 2017 Council Meeting. Both the community gardens legislation and the market ZOTA updates are now law.

Many thanks to my colleagues on Council, staff, and all of the community leaders who have helped support civic green spaces, our local food economy, and public health.  If you are interested in starting a community garden, Seedleaf offers a Masters Community Gardener Training here.

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Refugees and Immigrants

My father was a refugee. As a child of five in 1921 he fled with his parents and little sister from oppression and persecution in Russia.  The family spent two years moving around Europe waiting for sponsorship, and finally arrived at Ellis Island in 1923. My father and his family were lucky in their timing, arriving just before more restrictive immigration laws were enacted. Here is what Wikipedia tells us about those laws at that time:

The Immigration Act of 1924, or Johnson–Reed Act, including the National Origins Act, and Asian Exclusion Act (Pub.L. 68–139, 43 Stat. 153, enacted May 26, 1924), was a United States federal law that limited the annual number of immigrants who could be admitted from any country to 2% of the number of people from that country who were already living in the United States as of the 1890 census, down from the 3% cap set by the Emergency Quota Act of 1921, which used the Census of 1910. The law was primarily aimed at further restricting immigration of Southern Europeans and Eastern Europeans, especially Italians and Eastern European Jews.[1][2][3] In addition, it severely restricted the immigration of Africans and outright banned the immigration of Arabs and Asians. According to the U.S. Department of State Office of the Historian the purpose of the act was “to preserve the ideal of American homogeneity”.[4] But though the Act aimed at preserving American racial homogeneity, it set no limits on immigration from other countries of the Americas.[5] Congressional opposition was minimal.

Unless we are Native Americans we all have some story of immigration in our backgrounds. Many of those are also the stories of refugees. It is important to remember those stories.

Recently at a Council meeting I made this statement about immigrants and law enforcement in our community.

As the issue of immigration has become more heated, I believe it is important to provide more information to our community about both the values we uphold and the practical actions we take to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone in our community. So I want to share my views publicly, views I have already shared with Council Members

First, I believe it is important for us to affirm that we are a nation of immigrants. Consistent with that history and the values that underlie it, the actions we take intend to welcome immigrants regardless of nation of origin or religious affiliation.

Second, it is important for us to affirm that we are a nation of laws. Those laws separate local, state, and federal responsibilities.

For local policing to be effective, all in the community must feel that they can report or provide information about offenses without risk to themselves and their families. Our police ensure that all people have equal protection and services. They do not divert attention from more important policing effort in order to check for immigrant status. The federal Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) is charged by federal statute with that responsibility.

Our community has benefited greatly from immigration, just as individual immigrants have benefited greatly by becoming part of our community. I believe we need to and will do our best to continue that mutually beneficial relationship.

As the child of a refugee and immigrant this issue is highly personal and touches me deeply.  Even were that not so, as an elected official I have a responsibility to speak out in support of fair and compassionate treatment for immigrants in our community.  And even were that also not so, as one member of the community, along with thousands of others, I welcome and support all people who choose to make this their home.

 

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