Time is winding up to get your signatures in… you’ve got until the close of day today. Some more folks have filed their papers while some others have made it official they won’t. [See more at the Herald, which also has a nice map showing how your district may have changed.]
Let’s start with good-bye, shall we? Or, on second thought, perhaps good-bye is too good a word.
Jay McChord of the 9th District and Doug Martin of the 10th are leaving City Council. McChord will leave office in December to focus on “personal training and coaching.” Jay’s been on council forever and during Newberry’s reign became known around town as a member of “the Axis of Asshole.” Still, whatever one thinks of his policies, you still have to thank him for his service and all he accomplished, and although he hasn’t yet propped up all the private golf courses by closing all the public ones, he did improve Lexington’s disc golf courses. It is fair to say Jay has earned some time off. Perhaps he can head to the beach, relax by the ocean, and get a good tan.
Doug Martin, a fellow member of that Axis, also leaves us. And we are sad to see him go. We will remember him best for being appointed by Mayor Newberry, barely winning an election against a write-in candidate, unleashing a vein-popping fury of “F*cks” inside a city council task force hearing directed at our own Joe Sonka, and riding to the defense of Commerce Lexington and demanding we increase their taxpayer pay check when all rational voices demanded it be slashed. For all that fun, The Southside Screamer could also be a pleasant conversationalist and seems a decent fellow… suggesting that perhaps non-public life will suit him well and we look forward to seeing him around town, especially now that he has more time to focus (hopefully) on his music. (Yes, sir, I remember… you tell me the night and I’ll show up for the jazz.)
We bid warmer adieus to Tom Blues of the 2nd District and K.C. Crosbie of 7th. Blues has always seemed a decent man and usually came down on the good side of the vote. He’ll leave office having wrapped up a downtown development task force. Crosbie was a pleasant surprise on Council who, like countless regular citizens, seemed to find Jim Newberry’s cronyism and closed-door good-ol-boy way of doing things somewhat unpalatable. She lost her race for State Treasurer but hopefully she’ll be back in some fashion… as far as Republican public servants go, she’s a pretty good one.
Of course, none of these four are going anywhere fast… they’ve got almost a year left in their terms which means there’s still time for each of them to do truly awesome things and we hope they will. Serving on City Council ain’t glamorous and it’s generally not all that rewarding on the pay front (unless you know how to play it), so give them all thanks and a smile when next you see ‘em.
On that note, Ed Lane, 12th District, has filed for reelection. He currently stands unopposed.
Other unopposed incumbents are Bill Farmer, Kevin Stinnett, George Myers and Peggy Henson.
In the 1st District, Marty Clifford will again challenge Councilmember Chris Ford. In the 2nd, Lisa Sanden takes on Shevawn Akers (with a third still rumored). In the 3rd, Diane Lawless faces a challenger of sorts in Stephanie Spires, while Julian Beard in the 4th has one of his own in Sam Cox.
District 7 still has only one candidate on file, Jason Scott Rainey, while District 9 has two: Connie Kell and Jennifer Mossotti (who put out a statement on McChord). In the 10th, we have a Harry Clarke currently running unopposed to fill Doug Martin’s large bright red shoes.
The minutes are ticking away. You still have time. Who will file under the wire? We should have a complete list tomorrow — if you have links to candidate websites or tips on who them newbies are, leave a comment or send an email.
Council-at-Large member Steve Kay proposed a resolution expressing concern about the redistricting plan and the resolution passed, 11 to 3.
Ed Lane, K.C. Crosbie and Bill Farmer all voted against chastising Frankfort for disenfranchising the voters of Fayette County.
Councilman Jay McChord said he was “sick and tired of Lexington looking weak, acting weak” at the state level. “If they don’t like it up there, so be it. Maybe it is time to send somebody else up there,” he said.
Councilman Chris Ford said when an action by Frankfort legislators “harms the citizens of Fayette County, we should stand up and speak.”
“This is classic gerrymandering,” said council member Julian Beard. “I don’t think we should duck our head and go quietly into the night.”
KYGotDissed is reporting some fire from the LFUCG aimed at Frankfort after the people of Lexington were disenfranchised:
Calling the redistricting affecting state Sen. Kathy Stein “ridiculous” and “a travesty,” members of Lexington’s Urban County Council weighed in on the controversy during a work session Tuesday.
Councilman Steve Kay called for a resolution decrying the move. The resolution will be made at Thursday’s regular council meeting.
Councilman Tom Blues said the resolution would be a way “to express our disdain.” Vice Mayor Linda Gorton said the redistricting was “disrespectful” to the elected officials it affected and the citizens they represent.
Councilman Doug Martin said the move was “a complete disappointment,” adding that the political infighting was like the feud between the Hatfields and McCoys.
“Good heavens,” said Councilman Julian Beard, upon hearing the redistricting took effect immediately. “Can we not file suit?”
The city’s legal staff said they would look into legal options.
Tuesday was a big day. It started at the Lexington convention center in a half-full ballroom — which isn’t entirely true because all of the dining tables were full and most of the arranged chairs, just that there was an entire half of the room that was filled only with carpet. Judging by the incessant scraping of silver against faux china, lunch was good.
And so was the Mayor’s speech. His State of the Merged Government address was straightforward, no big frills and no great surprises, but clear and to the point.
The festivities (such as they were) got under way with the Lexington Forum giving its Spirit Award to Alan Stein. The Moustachioed one got a great applause and right off the bat acknowledged his wife, who was sitting at a table with Dorsey Ridley, our (for now) imposed State Senator. “Lexington is so great,” Alan quipped, “it takes two Senators to represent us.”
The crowd was in Kathy’s corner at that moment but when Alan urged everyone in the room to stand up to the disenfranchisement of Lexington, the clapping grew a bit quieter and there were certainly some suits (everyone eating lunch was in suits) who busied themselves with their buttered rolls.
After that it was Mayor Gray, met by a standing ovation. He, too, urged support for, as he put it, “OUR senator, Kathy Stein.” That was as pointed as the Mayor has been on the subject, and much later he welcomed Ridley and said we needed his help. Which is true, but Ridley — who is anti-gay, anti-women’s rights, and pro-coal – might need our help. But that’s a different story.
Gray moved on to Eli Capilouto, president of UK, thanking him for laying out the school’s true mission. As best I can gather, Capilouto’s mission for the school is continuing to raise tuition, give lip service to staff and faculty salaries, and bilk students for even more by privatizing housing. Which again, is another story. But the Lexington Forum applauded.
Gray and Fischer and Beshear went to the Detroit Auto Show. Kentucky’s in a good position because the whole show was about environmentally friendly and hybrid automobiles. We certainly have our share of the auto-industry, so hopefully that’s all true. More applause!
Then it was on to the meat of the speech. The Mayor started out with a quiet slap at the previous administration over health care costs, and then gave the city employees a lot of credit (which may well not be enough for them) for the hit and sacrifices they have made, saying they must be at the front lines of our thanks when the economy recovers. (And I guess if it doesn’t recover, we’ll all be so screwed nothing will matter.)
The Mayor talked about negotiations with the firefighters and corrections workers (the HL has more on the latter here), and said they were still working with the police.
The police and fire pension systems are paid by Lexington taxpayers but the rules are determined by the State Legislature. Gray pleaded with them in the speech to give the power back to the city. The Herald, again, has more:
The police and fire pension system, with its mounting unfunded liability, poses a looming financial problem for the city, Mayor Jim Gray said Tuesday, and he asked Lexington’s legislative delegation to “please step up and help fix our system.”
Lexington is the only city in Kentucky that has its own pension system for police and fire, although the legislature sets the rules that the pension system must follow. All other fire and police departments are covered by the state’s pension fund.
Lexington’s fund was set up during the 1970s when legislation was approved to create the Lexington-Fayette County’s merged government, the first in the state. “Lexington taxpayers have to pay for it,” Gray said of the pensions.
Mayor Gray saved the big headlines — if you judge headline quality by its relevance to Kentucky basketball — for the end, unveiling new designs for Rupp:
The first depicts a new inside for Rupp, with more seats (800 to 1000) and a lot of video boards (the giant one at the top, the purple strips) and the second… who knows. It’s a concourse of the future.
Again, the Herald has more but the Mayor’s point here was that in the possibility of activating the 46 acres of the Rupp district, Lexington can use extraordinary design to create economic growth.
Gray gave an overview of the Rupp process, largely an abreviated rehash of what we’ve already covered here based on the previous public meetings: Free Rupp by turning it transluscent and making it inviting from the outside, stripping away the convention and retail boxing it in, promoting retail and arts around it and — as the Fayette school board just approved exploration of — bringing a public arts school into the heart of downtown.
Gray wrapped up by calling back to Henry Clay who envisioned Lexington as a great city and worked to create it as such, and then told us, “This is our moment, this is our time.”
And then he was done. A standing ovation.
Overall, it was a strong performance as far as Mayoral “State of the Merged Government” addresses go. There were no surprises for anyone who’s followed the city’s machinations over the past year, but Gray delivered it all — as he usually does in these settings — swiftly, without flourish and mostly to the point. He isn’t an orator, but he isn’t Mitch Daniels either, he’s not just reading a pseudo-academic text. Mayor Gray had his points, hit them and within them, one can see the big challenges of heading up a government drowning in debt. He’s more engaging than Newberry (an understatement) and, frankly, comes across as more in charge of the complexities than any one else on the city scene (no offense, Don). Who will challenge him in 2014? To be victorious, that person’s gonna have to go crazy, play to the basest of bases, or Rupp will fail and the statewide UK base that doesn’t understand the cost is likely borne by the city will call all their cousins and the vote will disintegrate.
Right now, it seems like Gray is, all things considered and any number of huge obstacles to overcome, in control.
The best part of the whole morning, though, came afterward in Victorian Square. The stores that were open were empty, the storefronts that are empty were still for lease and the building which is for sale for $12.5 Million was rocking — its empty hallways echoing a tinny song from the 1980s speaker system:
Badfinger’s “Come and Get It,” written by Paul McCartney for the totally amazing must-watch film, starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr, The Magic Christian.
Regardless of who you are or what you think about Rupp Arena, Victorian Square, the state of America or the state of our Merged Government, it was a pretty beautiful moment.
If you want it, here it is come and get it,
Mmmm, make your mind up fast
If you want it, anytime I can give it
But you better hurry cause it may not last
Did I hear you say that there must be a catch
Will you walk away from a fool and his money?
The revenue needed to pay for the 15-month-old arena at Second and Main streets is falling short of expectations, putting the project at risk of failing to cover its debt and having its bonds relegated to “junk” status.
The main culprit is lagging revenue in a special taxing district that forms the foundation of the arena’s financing plan and is supposed to provide the Louisville Arena Authority with more than enough cash to pay its $349 million in bonds.
….The authority expected to have $26 million available — including $6.7 million from the taxing district — for its 2011 payment of $19.1 million. Instead, the district produced only $2.1 million in 2010, which goes toward the 2011 payment.
Coupled with lower-than-forecast income from arena operations, the authority expects to have only $14.6 million.
That’s the gist though there’s much more, including the projected $3M shortfall in 2012 that Jim Host says will be covered with money that was set aside for maintenance, and various other machinations to keep the city from being immediately on the hook.
Here in Lexington, the planned Rupp Area renovation — currently estimated at $260M for the arena and convention center — is quite a way from reality or funding. The city asked the state for $20M to help plan and design the re-do, Governor Beshear gave Lexington $3.5M and the city will throw in another $1.5M for a $5M starting fee.
(Coupled with Beshear’s projected outlays to President Capilouto to privatize student housing on the UK campus, it becomes clear Eli and Mitch’s big show of putting the emphasis on students and declaring themselves disinterested in state funding for the arena was at best a ploy to get the most money from the state and at worst was something of an F.U. to the city for not giving them the new Yum!-like arena they so desperately wanted.)
That $5 Million just for planning and design. A ton more money is going to have to come in and the Rupp Area task force is expected to come back with some thoughts on that financing situation soon. Meantime, conversations around the arena continue and one such is the possibility of selling the naming rights to the arena.
Naming rights bring in big money. They also mean you end up with terrible arena names. Rupp Arena isn’t going to be Rupp Arena or it would become The 5/3rd Toyota Prius Applebee’s Rupp Arena. Or something worse.
The Yum! Center got $75 Million in state funding and an awesomely cool name for a bonus pricetag… and you see how well they’re doing. Both WKYT and Jerry Tipton have looked at fan reaction to the prospect of selling the name of Rupp Arena and both found similarly disinterested fan bases. Tipton also brought us this alternative:
The Green Bay Packers are inviting fans to pay $250 for a share in a major renovation of Lambeau Field. It’s been suggested that Lexington might ask UK fans to buy an interest in the entertainment district. As an incentive, buyers could be eligible for a raffle of premium seating and parking for each home game.
The Packers, like UK, belong to the people, and Green Bay has done some overall interesting things to raise money for their team’s stadium expansions over the past several years. UK doesn’t seem similarly interested at the moment (they’re busy privatizing the student housing, remember).
In his recent book “Big-Time Sports in American Universities,” Dr. Clotfelter notes that between 1985 and 2010, average salaries at public universities rose 32 percent for full professors, 90 percent for presidents and 650 percent for football coaches.
The same trend is apparent in a 2010 Knight Commission report that found the 10 highest-spending athletic departments spent a median of $98 million in 2009, compared with $69 million just four years earlier. Spending on high-profile sports grew at double to triple the pace of that on academics. For example, Big Ten colleges, including Penn State, spent a median of $111,620 per athlete on athletics and $18,406 per student on academics.
Division I football and basketball, of course, bring in millions of dollars a year in ticket sales, booster donations and cable deals. Penn State football is a money-maker: 2010 Department of Education figures show the team spending $19.5 million and bringing in almost $73 million, which helps support 29 varsity sports. Still, only about half of big-time programs end up in the black; many others have to draw from student fees or the general fund to cover expenses. And the gap between top programs and wannabes is only growing with colleges locked into an arms race to attract the best coaches and build the most luxurious venues in hopes of luring top athletes, and donations from happy alumni.
It’s a long article and worth the read, even if these type of stories aren’t new. The explosion of money surrounding college sports has been happening for years and the deleterious effects that come with it should be no stranger to anyone involved in city planning or university sports. Sports teams both undergraduate and professional have routinely bilked taxpayers across the country, receiving new arenas at little cost to the teams and long term cost to their host communities.
Which is not to say that the process necessarily ends in failure. The University of Kentucky Wildcats are certainly a boon for Lexington’s economy, between the games, the restaurants, the vendors, the parking, the t-shirts, and everything else. It’s a brand for the city, too, and, of course, the Rupp plan (like the Yum! one) isn’t just about the arena, it’s about the whole of downtown.
So getting it right is important. Can the Task Force do that? Can they find realistic financing models, real investors? Can they come up with a sound economic plan that won’t lose the city money? Obviously that’s their challenge and what nearly everyone is waiting for (…”nearly” because there are certain powerful people and some fans who seem to erroneously think that leaving the arena as is amounts to some colossal failure… but we’ll get to that later, if it comes to that).
Oklahoma City is often remembered for the devastating 1995 act of domestic terrorism that resulted in the loss of 168 lives and destruction of its federal building. But now, Oklahoma City is getting noticed for how it is financing public projects.
It’s called MAPS (Metropolitan Area Projects) and is a limited-term, one-cent sales tax that began in April 2010 and ends in December 2017. This latest local voter-approved initiative is funding eight projects and is expected to raise about $777 million.
Among the eight public projects are a new downtown convention center to attract larger conventions and bring additional revenue into the local economy, a downtown rail-based streetcar system with six miles of track, a large downtown public park and several senior health-and-wellness centers.
Being funding with a limited term, one-cent sales tax, the Oklahoma City projects are expected to be built debt free.
There are drawbacks and obstacles to something like that happening here in Kentucky, which Dan goes into, but presumably these are the sorts of ideas the Rupp Area Task Force is considering alongside the naming rights, debt-based and other forms of financing.
Part of the idea in the Space Group plan for the Rupp Area is transforming the entire area into an economic engine, not just the arena in hopes the blocks surrounding may also spring up, but putting the two goals together. As Michael Speaks, dean of the UK School of Design, wrote in the Herald this weekend:
Bates has proposed a design-focused district, which other cities have used very successfully to attract new businesses and talent.
Such districts have helped cities burnish their image, and enhance their brands. Well-designed public spaces, buildings, parks and even infrastructure are now recognized as ways to add economic value.
In New York, redevelopment of the derelict High Line elevated railway into a new, elevated urban park has transformed the lower west side of Manhattan into an economic engine generating $2 billion in private investment.
In Miami, developers have even used world-renowned architects to design parking garages. From Seoul, South Korea, where designation as “world design capital” has transformed the city into one of the most spectacular in Asia, to the design-led redevelopment of Syracuse, great design has become not only a quality of life issue, but an economic engine.
It’s possible to avoid the classic arena-based failures of other cities. Step one is getting a decent plan, and step two is making sure it actually is a decent plan. Downtown Lexington has enough problems, it doesn’t need junk bonds added on, but refusing to look at the options is as silly as blindly doing the University’s bidding.
Maybe we could raise revenue by privatizing Eli Capilouto.
Earlier today we ran through the folks who’ve filed to run for office ahead of the January 31st filing deadline as well as some others who have announced their candidacy but not yet made it official with the County Clerk. In Lexington City Council District #2, we noted that Lisa Sanden is filed, Shevawn Akers is announced and a third person, Doug Barnett, currently on the School Board, was rumored.
Barnett sent us the following note:
I wanted to let you know directly that I am not currently, nor will I be, a candidate for LFUCG Second District Council in 2012. While I am humbled to have my name mentioned as a potential candidate for council, education is a passion of mine and the focus of my community service is to ensure that all current and future students of the Fayette County Public Schools receive a world class education and are college and career ready. With those goals in mind, I am honored to serve this community as a member of the Fayette County Board of Education and am honored and excited for the trust this community placed in me to represent it on the School Board. I have no plans to leave this position and I plan to seek reelection to the School Board in 2014. I look forward to continuing to work with our Superintendent, Dr. Tom Shelton, my wonderful colleagues on the School Board, and the teachers and staff of our schools to map the future of this school district and to provide a world class education for our students.
So there you have it. We’ve got a dedicated school board member and that means LFUCG District #2 may be down to just two, which would put both through to the General… but as with all seats, there’s still a week to get your ducks in a row.
Tom Blues, Lexington’s 2nd District Councilmember, is not going for re-election this year, which means its time for some new blood.
Local activist (she’s a driving force behind ProgressLex), mom, cancer survivor and all-round fireball Shevawn Akers is stepping into the fire. Last night she sent this email out to the good folks of Lexington:
From: Shevawn Akers
Date: Mon, Jan 9, 2012 at 11:05 PM
Subject: Exciting Announcement!!
To: Shevawn Akers
Good evening, friends!!
If you are receiving this, it means that our paths have crossed through friendship, our children, community activism or other network. As most of you know, 2011 was a tumultuous year for me, filled with many ups and downs. As a result, I have a renewed passion for making a difference and believe that now is the time for me to make an even larger impact in my community. Since learning that Councilman Tom Blues will not seek reelection this year, I’ve decided to run for 2nd District Urban County Council in the 2012 election. Before my name can be placed on the ballot, however, I need to collect 100 signatures from registered voters throughout the 2nd Council District. As with any election, it takes a team effort to win which is where each of you comes in.
She goes on to ask for a little help here and there — first and foremost, she needs those 100 signatures from registered 2nd Council District voters. If you know folks in the 2nd, you might give them a heads up.
In his first year as mayor, Gray’s main focus has ranged from a grand vision for Rupp Arena to putting the city’s financial house in order.
He dreams big while slogging through the tediousness of running the city.
Terry McBrayer, lawyer, lobbyist and former chairman of the Kentucky Democratic Party, said officeholders, whether mayor or president, normally have a three-to-six-month honeymoon. But Gray has been able to extend his, McBrayer said.
“Right now he has the support of a lot of folks out there,” McBrayer said.
Gray garners backing from “a fairly remarkable base that pulls from many different segments,” McBrayer said. “He continues to cultivate that base. I give him pretty high marks for that.”
It’s a long one, fair and balanced, so read on, covering the back and forth with the fire folks, the police and the city workers, as well as some absolutely ridiculous comments from failed Vice Mayor Mike Scanlon and the Southside Screamer, Doug Martin, who each – predictably – play the role of attack dogs for a certain segment of Lexington’s population.
If you believe Scanlon, Gray is responsible for every terrible thing that ever happened last year. Martin, on the other hand, stumbles in his attacks, basically denouncing Gray’s tenure a failure because Jim hasn’t joined Doug for a Hoveround tour of Doug’s district. Which doesn’t make a lot of sense.
One question I’d like to hear Scanlon, Martin or anyone else answer… with one year gone, who is positioning themselves to challenge Gray in 2014? Who in town is going to run for Mayor? Will they come from the Right? The Left?
Seriously. Three editorials in one day? If they kept that up and just started a blog, Barefoot would go out of business. All our ad revenue would be sucked up and no one would ever stop by. We could just close up shop.
The financial fallout of Lexington’s past error in outsourcing its water supply provides a cautionary tale. The board that oversees Louisville’s public water utility just passed a 3.75 percent rate increase, the same as last year, and will pay a $19.2 million dividend to the city. Meanwhile, Kentucky American, our private water supplier, which pays dividends only to its shareholders, got approval for a 29 percent rate increase last year and can be expected to go for another soon.
[T]he administration of Mayor Jim Gray did the right thing by asking Cheryl Taylor to resign when it became clear that she had been involved in seeking work for her husband, an electrical contractor, through the department she oversaw. That’s nepotism and it is rightly outlawed under our city charter.