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CivicLex Candidate Survey

District 5

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Bill Farmer Jr.

Top Three Issue Priorities:
Education, Public Safety & Transportation

Liz Sheehan

Top Three Issue Priorities:
Development & Housing, Energy & Environment, & Public Health


Agriculture & Food Systems

Bill Farmer Jr.

Most Significant Issue: Better distribution of locally grown food.

Plan to Address it: Helping to provide more community gardens as we have already done in several places across the district.

Liz Sheehan:

Most Significant Issue: With 18% of kids in Fayette County Public Schools facing food insecurity, the availability of food and proper nutrition is an issue that needs to be addressed within our community.

Plan to Address it: When considering development projects, the city should focus on areas that include known food deserts within the city. For a community to be livable for all ages, accessible and affordable food is vital. We should also continue supporting and growing local programs like GleanKY, Seedleaf, and God’s Pantry.


Arts & Culture

Bill Farmer Jr.

Most Significant Issue:
We recently addressed what I consider the most significant issue facing Arts and Culture. That was the need for a dedicated source of funding for public arts projects. I worked for 12 years to put a program in place and we finally achieved that goal when the Council approved my proposal to set aside 1 percent of the amount the city borrows or bonds each year for a public art fund. The Council also reorganized the public arts commission to develop an arts master plan.

Plan to Address it: I echo Mayor Gray’s sentiments when he said “Arts equals jobs.” Having worked for over a decade to get this funding mechanism in place, I will work to make sure that it achieves its intended goals and the funds are used effectively and efficiently.

Liz Sheehan:

Most Significant Issue: Art often acts as a vehicle for having difficult or novel conversations. The city should invest in more public art that engages citizens in needed conversations and do more to invite the community into the planning and selection process.

Plan to Address it: Sustained funding for projects through LexArts, like the book benches, should remain a priority. We should support initiatives highlighting the important contributions of Kentuckians of all backgrounds, such as Breaking the Bronze Ceiling. A public art program where local artists submit proposals for temporary or permanent exhibits could be started. The city of Atlanta (https://art.beltline.org/) has a model for this we could potentially use in the Town Branch Commons.


Community Design

Bill Farmer Jr.

Most Significant Issue: Protecting and maintaining green space is my greatest concern for the Fifth District. That is why I have worked to provide funding for parks throughout the 5th. We rejuvenated and expanded the playground area in Lakeview Park off of Lakeshore adding a trail in the park. I was also a catalyst in the redevelopment of Lakeview Park apartments. The Clay’s Spring Park now has a water feature that I funded through my council office. The spring was the original water source for Ashland.

Plan to Address it: We will continue to identify and address similar projects in the District.

Liz Sheehan:

Most Significant Issue: During community feedback sessions, the public overwhelmingly supported maintaining the Urban Services Boundary; thus, we should focus on infill and redevelopment projects.

Plan to Address it: When development projects are presented to the council, we should prioritize infill and redevelopment, particularly new housing units and mixed use spaces. Community engagement and feedback in the process is essential to ensuring we preserve the character of existing neighborhoods. There may be some discomfort when new projects are proposed in established neighborhoods, but as a community we have placed value on protecting our natural resources outside of the Boundary. Balance will be key.


Development & Housing

Bill Farmer Jr.

Most Significant Issue: Providing folks with a framework to understand and embrace infill redevelopment.

Plan to Address it: To continue to provide realtime examples of and pathways to both better infill and affordable housing.

Liz Sheehan:

Most Significant Issue: Lexington is facing a multitude of issues surrounding development and housing: a growing affordable housing shortage, neighborhood gentrification, and homelessness. In January 2017, we had 1,051 people experiencing homelessness. These are not issues we can shy away from as a community; bold action is needed to address these problems. While housing prices across the country are rising, we should protect our city from becoming unaffordable for current residents or others looking to locate here.

Plan to Address it: Fully funding the affordable housing trust fund should be a top priority. We should continue to support the Homelessness Prevention and Intervention Board and the Continuum of Care. They have a clear strategic plan outlined and are working toward meeting their goals. We need to support housing development projects. While focusing on housing needs and infill development, we should be mindful of gentrification. Current residents shouldn’t be priced out of their own neighborhoods.


Economic Development

Bill Farmer Jr.

Most Significant Issue: This still has a great deal to do with providing for housing alternatives that keep jobs on the move here in Lexington.

Plan to Address it: To continue to provide a welcoming environment for lining and working here.

Liz Sheehan:

Most Significant Issue: Job creation, wage growth, and training contribute to the overall wellbeing of individuals within our community by offering folks the opportunity to support themselves and their families. Job creation and business recruitment allow us to expand services and city development by increasing the revenues gained from the payroll tax that comprises the majority of our city funding.

Plan to Address it: To attract new businesses, the council should work to create a city where people want to live. This minimally requires exceptional education, public safety, sound infrastructure, entertainment and culture, and inclusiveness. The council should examine regulations for inefficiency and barriers to entry. To help existing businesses, we need to make it clear local businesses are essential to our economy, provide resources for their continued success, and partner to increase their exposure.


Education

Bill Farmer Jr.

Most Significant Issue: The principle education-related issue facing the Council is the safety and security of our children as they travel to and from school. As Lexington continues to grow, I do believe we can do a better job communicating and coordinating development with the future needs of Fayette County Schools.

Plan to Address it: We will continue to emphasize police presence in and around schools as we have done in the past.

Liz Sheehan:

Most Significant Issue: School safety and the school safety property tax increase come up frequently when I am out walking in neighborhoods and talking with residents throughout my district.

Plan to Address it: While the FCPS Board manages their own budget, we can do more within our community to ensure safety and wellbeing within neighborhoods so that it doesn’t carry over to school. One way to do this is to partner with local civic and faith groups who are invested in violence prevention and youth development. Another way is to offer training for parents and caregivers on how to talk with their children about mental health and coping and how to recognize signs of violent or problematic tendencies.


Environment & Energy

Bill Farmer Jr.

Most Significant Issue: The arrival and installation of the fiber optic network here in Lexington

Plan to Address it: To continue to support the work needed to make Lexington a gigabit city.

Liz Sheehan:

Most Significant Issue: Stormwater management and sewer upkeep are an issue for my district and the city as a whole.

Plan to Address it: The EPA consent decree requires continued work on upgrading sewers and improving our watershed. Protecting and growing our tree canopy relates to our water quality and stormwater runoff. I recently participated in a tree inventory by the Urban Forest Initiative in my neighborhood. We learned how increasing the tree canopy helps reduce stormwater runoff as trees capture rain, which eases pressure on our drainage systems, in addition to other environmental and aesthetic benefits trees provide.


General Governance

Bill Farmer Jr.

Most Significant Issue: Results matter in local government. Like any large organization, local government can be a complex and frustrating system of rules and regulations that must be navigated in order to get those results. As a council member and chair of numerous important committees, I have been able to deliver results to the 5th District. How the city is governed is a direct result of how we as the representatives of the people do our jobs.

Plan to Address it: I intend to continue to work hard for the people of the 5th Council District and to represent their interests to best of my ability.

Liz Sheehan:

Most Significant Issue: Transparency and communication are areas we can improve. I regularly hear from residents that they don’t know what is happening at the council meetings or that they feel blindsided by decisions that directly affect them. From a council procedure perspective, ordinances and resolutions go through work sessions, multiple readings, opportunities for public comments, and are televised. There is a disconnect between the procedures and public knowledge.

Plan to Address it: If we want informed and engaged residents, then government must be more accessible. We need communication beyond email and web pages; some residents don’t use these. We need to go to people where they are, instead of expecting them to come to council meetings; work schedules and childcare are two of the barriers to attending council meetings. We need to move away from lengthy legal documents, like the council agendas or 500 page budget; information can be summarized in a more readable format.


Immigration

Bill Farmer Jr.

Most Significant Issue: Assuring that every citizen that is legally residing in the District is treated with respect and the consideration they deserve as a legal resident.

Plan to Address it: Part of being an effective Council member is maintaining communications with everyone in the district. I will continue to be available to every citizen to listen to their concerns and petitions.

Liz Sheehan:

Most Significant Issue: Immigrants are valued members of our community. They are our neighbors, business-owners, friends, and co-workers. We need to breakdown misconceptions and build an inclusive community where people feel they belong.

Plan to Address it: Lexington celebrates its multiculturalism through many annual festivals and events. Some of these are sponsored by LFUCG and deserve continued support so we can increase cultural awareness. We can also highlight immigrant-owned businesses. To create a community of belonging, services must meet the needs of everyone in the community. Global Lex reports over 160 languages spoken in Lexington; to avoid language barriers, we need to ensure access to government services in multiple languages.


Public Health

Bill Farmer Jr.

Most Significant Issue: See my response to the public safety question. The opioid crisis is the most significant public health issue facing our community.

Plan to Address it: Obviously, there are no easy answers here. The answers lie in more effective treatment and intervention programs.

Liz Sheehan:

Most Significant Issue: The opioid crisis is gripping the entire country, and Lexington is no exception.

Plan to Address it: There is no magic solution to the multifaceted opioid epidemic. We can start with expanded mental health funding for more and better treatment, show compassion for those struggling with addiction, and work to reduce stigma and increase opportunities for housing and employment after treatment. We should keep our first responders supplied with overdose reversal medications, as well as educating the public on the use of those medications.


Public Safety

Bill Farmer Jr.

Most Significant Issue: I am proud of the job we have done addressing many of the safety issues in the Fifth relating to vehicle and pedestrian traffic. There will always be challenges in this area and we will address them as they arise. The opioid crisis and crime in general will continue to be our most challenging public safety issue.

Plan to Address it: I have been one of the Council’s most outspoken advocates for additional police officers, fire fighters and funding for the equipment they need to do their jobs. My plan is to continue to promote effective communications between citizens and law enforcement and find ways to help them do their jobs. I am also committed to finding more answers to the opioid crisis in treatment and prevention programs.

Liz Sheehan:

Most Significant Issue: For a city of its size, Lexington is a relatively safe place to live. In fact, Lexington was recently ranked the 3rd safest city by Safewise.com based on crime data collected by the city. However, the recent rise in homicides and concerns about gun violence are deeply troubling.

Plan to Address it: The city is limited in its ability to enact restrictions on guns. We are able to promote responsible gun ownership: educating folks to not leave loaded guns in unlocked cars, proper storage habits, etc. The city can also partner with civic organizations and faith based groups that are working to address violent crime in Lexington. Youth intervention programs can help to keep our young people safe and form lifelong relationships within their community.


Transportation

Bill Farmer Jr.

Most Significant Issue: I do not believe there is a single most significant transportation issue facing the 5th Council District. Overall road maintenance and traffic planning are issues our community must continue to deal with on an ongoing basis. Both directly impact the safety of all people and vehicles using our right of ways.

Plan to Address it: I have made road maintenance and improvements a priority as 5th District Council representative. I have worked close with neighborhood associations and leaders to promote the kinds of changes and improvements that must be made. I have worked to appropriate record amounts of money in road resurfacing and maintenance projects. We have constructed sidewalks and bike lanes. The transportation and safety needs of the district will continue to be a priority for me in the future.

Liz Sheehan:

Most Significant Issue: With our projected population growth, traffic and traffic flow are major concerns. Decreasing commute times on public transportation, increasing pedestrian safety, and increasing bike safety would help get cars off the roads. Residents in District 5 are also concerned with speeding and failure to stop at stop signs in their neighborhoods, particularly when children live nearby.

Plan to Address it: We need it to be easy, convenient, and safe to commute without a car. Our upcoming Town Branch Commons will increase bike and pedestrian paths, as well as connect different areas of the city. With the recent high profile accidents involving pedestrians, we must do more to increase pedestrian safety. This could be through traffic slowing measures, more crosswalks with attention signals for drivers, and more sidewalks.


Richard Young