Sign up for personalized issue alerts from Steve Kay

Receive Issue Alerts from Steve KayAs my newsletter subscribers know, I am updating my email list for 2015 so that I can better provide you with information that reflects your interests.

If you would like my office to keep you informed about specific community issues you care about, please take a few minutes to fill out the short form below.  I will provide you with email updates as your issues come before Council.

You can sign up for this new list for 2015 by using the embedded form below, or, if it is not visible in your web browser, you may click here instead.

As many of you have read in the news, the 2015 Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council is taking on important issues like the Downtown Design Excellence Standards and Guidelines as well as concluding budget negotiations.  Many of you have expressed interest in attending meetings, events, or just staying better informed about the issues that matter to you throughout the year.  By completing the form, you will be able to know when an issue, such as our local food economy, is coming before Council.  Even if you have provided similar feedback to me before, I ask that you update me with what matters to you as new issues emerge in 2015 and beyond.

Thank you for interest in the work of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council.

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Gigabit City Update

Fiber Optic Cable

In 2014, Mayor Gray announced Lexington’s intent to become a gigabit city. A gigabit city refers to a city that has the infrastructure and services to deliver data at speeds up to 1,000 megabytes per second (mbps) or 1 gigabyte per second to a household or business. The standard broadband speed for downloads is 10 mbps (16.2 mbps for Lexington). As a frame of reference, that’s the difference between downloading an HD movie in a half hour vs. a half minute.

In practical terms, Lexington’s gigabit transformation will involve building out fiber-optic cables. Fiber optic-cables have a much greater bandwidth than the current copper infrastructure used by the cable companies, and it will allow Lexingtonians to access data at much higher speeds.

A gigabit-capable fiber network will have advantages for businesses and consumers. For businesses, gigabit speeds will provide superior access to the information economy. For example, access to gigabit fiber was particularly helpful to the work of a geneticist in Provo, Utah. Downloading the human genome now takes the geneticist less than 30 minutes on a gigabit connection whereas the same download would take 77 hours over a standard connection. Having this infrastructure in place will be a strategic advantage for Lexington, as it will make our university city better suited for entrepreneurs and businesses that deal in intensive data. Much like access to rivers and oceans was critical during the industrial revolution, access to high-speed fiber networks is crucial for transporting high volumes of information in the new economy. And that’s becoming true for nearly all businesses, as they increasingly rely on the Internet for commerce, use software and applications in the cloud and back-up vital data in specialized repositories.

Consumers also stand to benefit substantially. With a fiber infrastructure in place, consumers will be better able to access high-definition content. Homes that subscribe to Netflix, Hulu Plus, and similar services can enjoy their favorite movies and TV programs over the Web, with family members able to stream content to more than one screen. The trend in content delivery is cord-cutting, which means more families are getting rid of increasingly expensive cable bills in favor of streaming HBO, ESPN and the other content they want over their Internet connection.

A team of city officials and stakeholders has been meeting monthly to explore a spectrum of public-private partnerships options and have released a “request for information” to aggregate private-sector interest. While the gigabit city initiative is still in the learning phase, one thing is immediately clear: Lexington’s density and high education-attainment levels is a competitive advantage for attracting investment in a fiber build out. Because the city has chosen to grow in instead of growing out, more households can be connected per mile of fiber optic cable than other medium-sized cities.

As a member of the gigabit city team, Vice Mayor Kay’s office will continue to keep you updated as this forward-thinking initiative develops. Lexington will soon have more to announce on its growing potential as a gigabit city, including our role as host city to a gigabit city conference in September 2015.

If you want to learn more and be engaged on this issue, I encourage you to connect with a grassroots movement growing to support this initiative, Advocates for Gigabit Internet in Lexington, Kentucky.

Would you like to receive email issue alerts on gigabit city and other Council news from Vice Mayor Kay? Please sign up here.

 

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Budget Process, Fiscal Year ’16

Council has been reviewing the Mayor’s Proposed Budget since he presented it on April 7, 2015.  After review by sub-committees, called Links, Council will consider the Links recommendations and all  proposals from individual council members for additions or modifications. We are scheduled to give final approval in June, for Fiscal Year ’16, which begins on July 1, 2015 and ends on June 30, 2016.  You can read the highlights of the budget as submitted by Mayor Gray here,  You can access the full version here.

Budget Review Timeline:

  • Links Report Out
    Date: 5/26/2015 10:00 AM
  • Public Hearing on Mayor’s Proposed Budget
    Date: 5/26/2015 3:00 PM
  • Revenue Update/Review Mayor’s Late Items/Review Links/Councilmember Recommendations
    Date: 6/2/2015 11:00 AM
  • Discussion of Proposed Amendments
    Date: 6/9/2015 9:00 AM
  • Ratify Budget/Motion to Place on Docket
    Date: 6/11/2015 6:00 PM
  • First Reading of Budget
    Date: 6/16/2015 3:00 PM
  • Second Reading of Budget (Budget becomes law)
    Date: 6/18/2015 6:00 PM

All meetings will be held in the Council Chambers on the second floor of the Government Center at 200 E Main Street, Lexington, Kentucky.

Your feedback is always welcome in the form of public comment or you may reach my Council Office by clicking here.

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Lexington’s Downtown Management District Up For Approval

Drew Fleming, the Chair of the Downtown Lexington Corporation Board, discusses the Downtown Management District with Council

Drew Fleming, the Chair of the Downtown Lexington Corporation Board, discusses the Downtown Management District with Council

The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council will hear the second reading of an ordinance for Lexington’s first Downtown Management District at this coming Council Meeting,  6:00 pm on May 7th, 2015. After a proposed ordinance receives a second reading with a majority of Council’s support, it then becomes law. You can view the presentation made at the April 14th, 2015 Work Session by clicking here.

A Downtown Management District functions much like a homeowners’ association, where all homeowners within a development or geographic area pay an assessment to advance common neighborhood interests, such as beautification, security, and maintenance. You can view a map of the area included in the proposed Downtown Management District by clicking here, and an informative video detailing Lexington’s proposal by clicking here.

The proposed Downtown Management District would have an annual tax of ten cents for every hundred dollars of property value. Council declined to approve a similar proposal  in 2013 because the effort did not have a majority of tax-paying property owners within the district signing a petition in support. (Non-profit and government properties are not assessed.)  State law requires that 33% of all property owners in the district must sign a petition for a management district and they must hold 51% of the assessed value.   In 2015, 51% of tax paying owners who hold 62.5% of the value signed the petition.

Given this increase in stakeholder support, well above the minimum set by state statute, I plan to vote in favor of creating this new district. I believe it will contribute substantially to efforts already underway to make our downtown even more visually appealing and vibrant. That will benefit all of Lexington.

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Knight Grant Supports Local Food: The New Northside Commons Market

On March 31st, 2015 the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation notified NoLi CDC and Bluegrass Farm to Table that they would receive a $550,000 Knight Cities grant to create Northside Common Market, a new public market and food processing facility.  The grant was the second largest grant awarded by Knight nationally. This collaboration between NoLi and Bluegrass Farm to Table has the potential to grow the local food economy in the North Limestone neighborhood and Lexington as a whole.

My office interviewed Richard Young, the Executive Director of NoLi CDC at the West Sixth Brewing celebration. Here’s a short video of that interview:

As Richard explains, NoLi CDC and Bluegrass Farm to Table still have much work to do. I look forward to following their progress and sharing updates with you. If you are interested in learning more about the project or helping out, visit the volunteer portal on their website, http://www.nolicdc.org/northside-common-market/

 

 

 

 

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Lexington’s Investment in Local Food Is Starting to Pay off in a Big Way

Bluegrass Farm to Table

A robust local food system is  good not only for environmental sustainability and for Lexington’s economy, with its deep roots in farming,  but it also supports the community in one of its greatest underlying sources of wealth—the health of our present residents and future generations.  That’s why I worked on grant support and city funding for creation of the first ever local food coordinator position in 2014.  I am grateful to Mayor Gray, Chief Development Office Kevin Atkins, and my colleagues on Council for their support of this initiative.

We were fortunate to hire Ashton Potter Wright as the local food coordinator in the summer of 2014. She has done an incredible amount of work in less than one year on the job.  What follows provides information about just one the of the many developments that the newly-named Bluegrass Farm to Table that she heads has brought to our community.

In cooperation with my office and the Blue Grass Community Foundation, Ashton secured a highly competitive Federal grant that will bring dollars to our city and increase the health of our citizens. The program, to be available starting in June of 2015, is called Bluegrass Double Dollars.  Through a matching program, it will help SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) recipients purchase local foods. The program and its funding are important because while local food improves long-term health outcomes, it is often more expensive than other options.  For those struggling to make ends meet, the program will help overcome this serious obstacle to a healthier lifestyle. We want more families, especially our community’s neediest children, to have access to healthy, local food and the quality of life it enables.

I encourage you to learn more about the program from Ashton and community leaders at the Blue Grass Community Foundation–in their own words–by checking out this great video feature highlighting this new and exciting program:


Also, please “Like” Bluegrass Farm to Table on Facebook so that you can stay connected to the many ways that Ashton and the many cooperating individuals and organizations are working to develop and enhance our local food economy.  You can do that by clicking here.

We can all be proud of the work that Ashton  has done in her brief time as local food coordinator to increase increase revenue for local farmers and improve the health of our community.

 

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Downtown Design Excellence Update

Downtown

 

As the initiative to implement Downtown Design Excellence Standards and Guidelines moves forward, this post provides a review of the history of the issue and then an update on present progress.

What are the Downtown Design Excellence Standards and Guidelines?

The standards and guidelines are zoning regulations meant to protect the character of downtown Lexington. They give the public a greater voice in the look and feel of the downtown.  You can view the proposed standards and guidelines here.

Why is Lexington considering them?

Development projects with potential for major impact on the downtown have been proposed with little or no opportunity for public input. Many stakeholders have suggested that given Lexington’s urban service boundary, we need to stimulate growth downtown that is attractive and conducive to a great American city. The alternative is expansion into the rural areas, which would threaten our signature productive rural landscape.

What are incentives and why are they being supported in parallel with design excellence?

Some stakeholders believe that incentives should be adopted along with the standards and guidelines. In their view, even regulations that foster shared value with design excellence may discourage developments in the urban core. Incentives such as additional staff support, streamlining the development application process, improved public infrastructure, and direct financial assistance are being considered as  ways to encourage well-designed growth and make downtown the vibrant heart of Lexington.

Where does the issue of downtown design excellence stand?

The Downtown Design Excellence Task Force approved the Downtown Design Excellence Standards & Guidelines at the end of 2104 and then continued deliberations in the spring of 2015 about accompanying incentives to recommend. Given the complexity of the issue and the likely large number of new Council Members as a result of the fall elections, the Task Force decided to wait until the new Council was seated to move the recommendations forward.

The renewed effort began with a Council workshop in January, 2015 to provide the background and history for new Council Members and to bring all Council Members back up to speed on the issue. As chairperson of the Task Force, I then presented the recommendations at the February 10th, 2015 meeting of  the Planning and Public Safety Committee. Following the presentation and discussion the Committee asked for more information on the incentives options available and the status of development in the B2 zones which cover the downtown area.

The Planning and Public Safety Committee again considered the recommendations at its April 14th of 2015 meeting. At the conclusion of that discussion I made a motion to place the recommendations on the Council docket. That motion failed, and the Committee chose to keep the issue on the agenda for further discussion at its next meeting, on May 12th, 2015.

I look forward to concluding the discussion in committee and moving the issue on to the docket for approval by the full Council.

 

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Minimum Wage Increase for Lexington: Ongoing Deliberations

Minimum Wage Presentation

Jason Bailey, Director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, presents research on minimum wage

Background

Many state and city governments are raising the minimum wage above the federal minimum, which currently stands at $7.25 per hour.  Advocates for the change often cite the declining purchasing power of the federal minimum wage as well as growing income inequality, whuch is at its highest level since the Great Depression.

The state of Washington has the highest state minimum wage, $9.47 per hour.  Seattle, Washington will have the nation’s highest municipal minimum wage at $15 per hour.  Kentucky’s minimum wage remains in-line with the federal minimum—$7.25 per hour.

On December 18th, 2014, Louisville Metro Government voted to increase the city’s minimum wage to $9 over 3 years.  Louisville’s wage will increase to $7.75 in July of 2015, $8.25 by July 2016, and $9 by July 2017.  While the ordinance has received a legal challenge, Louisville’s County Attorney shared his office’s opinion that the city could raise its minimum wage without being in violation of state law.

Lexington

At the February 10th, 2015 work session, Councilmember Jennifer Mossotti proposed that the Lexington Fayette Urban County Council consider the issue of minimum wage.  After some discussion of the topic, Councilmember Mossotti moved to place minimum wage into the Budget, Finance, and Economic Development Committee.  You can review the full meeting online here.   Streaming Video of 2/10/15 Work Session

On March 17th, 2015, the Budget, Finance, and Economic Development Committee convened and discussed minimum wage.  You can view the full meeting online by clicking here:  Streaming Video of 3/17/15 Budget, Finance, and Economic Development Committee Meeting

Councilmember Mossotti provided an introduction to the issue and then welcomed Jason Bailey, Director of the Berea-based Kentucky Center for Economic Policy (KCEP) to present their research on the issue, which is included in the Committee’s packet:  3/17/15 Budget, Finance, and Economic Development Committee Packet

Because a large number of people wished to speak to the issue and the committee had a limited time to meet, 19 individuals who had signed up to speak were unable to be heard. I voted with the majority to keep the issue in committee and place it on the agenda for the next meeting for further input and discussion.

Next Steps

Minimum wage will continue to be discussed at the June 23rd, 2015 Budget, Finance, and Economic Development Committee meeting starting at 1:00 pm..  Councilmember Stinnett, chair of the committee, said he will also consider calling a special meeting earlier in June to allow for more extensive public input.

This Lexington Herald-Leader editorial supporting the proposed change provides some of the key data on this topic:  “Schedule Hearing on Minimum Wage

I agree with the main contentions in the editorial and am presently in support of this effort.

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Update on CentrePointe

On Tuesday, September 16th, the developers and the administration together brought forward a new CentrePointe TIF proposal for council consideration. The council voted unanimously to support a bonding mechanism for the parking garage, an initiative coordinated by the Kentucky League of Cities. My vote for this project was guided by two beliefs:

1.)  A successful development in the heart of our city, complete with a downtown parking facility, is a good outcome for our community.

2.) The project’s many twists and turns as well as its financial complexity have made the funding mechanisms difficult for the public to understand. This is why I have supported a clear bottom line throughout: no liability for the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government.

Beth Musgrave with the Herald-Leader provides a straightforward summary:

The city’s only obligation is pledging the new tax revenue from the project to pay the debt, Juett said. If the development is not successful, the city and the League of Cities will not be responsible for paying off the bonds. All the risk is on the buyer of the bonds.

During the meeting, Vice-Mayor Linda Gorton also highlighted an important concern: what if the bonds do not sell? We learned that this risk is reduced when a private underwriter purchases all of the bonds up front and then resells them to bond buyers, which we were told is likely. In either case there is no risk to the city.

As the Herald-Leader reported, the city’s only role in the agreement is to pledge a portion of the additional tax revenue to pay back the bonds. That means if the project is economically successful and brings in more tax revenue to LFUCG, a portion of that new revenue will help pay back the bonds.  The TIF bonds will be used to finance the new parking facility and no other aspects of the CentrePointe development.

The council was unanimous in its support for this latest financing proposal. It is my hope that, with this last financing piece in place, this long-delayed project will now go forward successfully.

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Best of Bluegrass (BoB) Adds to Lexington’s Vibrant Music Scene

The 2014 Best of Bluegrass (BoB) is June 9-12, the week before the Festival of the Bluegrass at the Kentucky Horse Park.  BoB will feature performances, workshops and community events in downtown Lexington in conjunction with the Festival of the Bluegrass. There will be free concerts every night in a variety of venues.   Dale Ann Bradley is performing at Thursday Night Live and KET is live-streaming the show.  LexTran will be offering a shuttle service between the park campground and downtown.

In my recent Council Comments,  I spoke with Art Schechet and Tom Martin, two of the BoB organizers and supporters.  They provided some of the background and more information about BoB, the local music scene, and the Lexington Area Music Alliance, a key presence in Lexington’s burgeoning music scene.

Come downtown June 9-12 to take advantage of this opportunity to hear world-class music in a casual setting.  See the full schedule here.

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