Sometimes, you get the feeling that the world is a just place, that rational thoughts and ideas can defeat ignorance, that united effort for the common good can overcome the greed and power of the few.
Other times, reality punches you in the face.
For the past 4 months, many in Lexington had that former feeling, as we witnessed the greatest grassroots political movement that I’ve seen in Lexington in my adult lifetime.
At 7:30 Wednesday night in the LFUCG chamber, they finally got the fist to the gut.
Here’s a run down of all the gory details from yesterdays hearing in which the Webbs received permission to bulldoze our entire block to make way for the Cock and Balls Tower.
1:30- a line going all the way out of the door of the LFUCG building. The hearing starts at 2:00. The chamber is already full. By 2:00, there over 100 people squeezed into the overflow room downstairs.
I went upstairs and managed to bluff my way into the media section on the right.
“What organization are you with?”
“The Weekly Standard”
He eyed my Kentucky for Obama trucker hat, then let me in.
On the left side of the room in the first 4 rows sat a team of old, white, bald, white haired men in dark suits. Hired assassins of Lexington’s downtown culture. The rest of the room, and downstairs, was filled with opponents to CentrePointe.
The proceeding started off with the most callous tactic of the entire 5 hour hearing. The Webbs lawyer, Turner, stated that they will build the CentrePointe project whether they get the TIF funding or not. If the city decides to give it to them, great, if not, they’ll still build it.
This is, of course, a transparent lie. Knowing that the TIF funding was their biggest obstacle and it would play a factor in the board’s decision to tear these buildings down, the Webbs chose to deceive the board. Once the buildings are down, I can GUARANTEE you that the Webbs will be asking for the TIF. Count on it. If you believe this rouse, you probably also believe that Barack Obama is a muslim sleeper agent and Dick Cheney steered radio controlled model planes into the Trade Center.
The Webbs brought out their high-priced Atlanta consulting firm to show photos of pigeon droppings in the attic of absentee slumlord Joe Rosenburg’s buildings on the bock. They claimed that they did not conduct an asbestos search, which is quite convenient considering that demolishing these buildings could swarm the city with that shit.
Then they brought out some guy named Culpepper from another Atlanta firm to pimp how wonderful their CentrePointe project was. This guy looked like he was born and raised on a used car lot. A mix between Chuck Todd, Don Jacobs and The Heavy Hitter.
He bragged on the firm that designed CentrePointe, saying another one of their hotels was used as a backdrop for the Today Show in Miami (oh stars!!! is Lauer coming to Lex Vegas?!?). Then he piled up the bullshit, saying that in CP’s shops, he could see “college students and suburbanites sipping coffee”. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. He also said that these college folks and hipsters could take heart in the fact that some of the bricks from Busters would be used on CentrePointe!!! Yay!!! I take back everything I said, we’ll have some of Busters’ bricks on the block!
Then it was our turn.
Vice-Mayor, and general bad-ass, Jim Gray went first. This speech was so good, I’d have trouble fully describing it in words.
He started with some wonderful thoughts on what dissent is, saying that dissent is necessary for progress.
He mentioned how every great city is now managing to restore its old buildings and incorporate it into their new development. Then…. he broke out the quote. Yes, the quote at the top of this blog.
“Maybe Mark Twain was right when he said ‘I want to be in Kentucky when the end of the world comes, because it’s always 20 years behind’.”
You had me at Twain, Gray. You had me at Twain.
He claimed that there’s a big difference between infill and overfill, then openly laughed at the TIF statement that Dudley’s lawyers made at the beginning. Yes, you have to be reeeeeally stupid to buy that crap.
Dick DeCamp, departing 3rd District Councilman then spoke, noting that we are in bad financial times, implying that the Webbs could get halfway through their construction and decide that it wasn’t economically feasible to continue, leaving us a big pile of nothing there.
Councilman Blues then spoke, noting that 132 years ago today was Custer’s last stand. He ignored all warnings and advice and charged right ahead. If we do the same thing with CentrePointe, rushing this through, we might live to regret it. Good stuff.
Hayward Wilkirson then spoke. Hayward has emerged as the leader of the most impressive grassroots movement I’ve seen in Lexington in my lifetime. There’s not a bit of exaggeration there when I say that. He hammered home the rational points once more, as Dudley Webb sat close by and smirked.
After a few speakers on our side, Jessica Case spoke and gave the best speech of the hearing. She aired the ugly truth about the block. This truth being that Joe Rosenburg is an absentee slum lord on that block and intentionally left those buildings in disrepair to drive down their value and ensure that they would be scrapped for CentrePointe to take it’s place. Dudley Webb looked like he was punched in the stomach during her testimony… I suppose he’s not used to the truth about his scheme being aired publicly.
I found out later that after the recess, Joe Rosenburg came up to Jessica Case and told her the he was going to sue her for defamation of character. What a scumbag.
Preserve Lexington’s lawyer then closed, stating the fact the other Marriotts around the country are incorporating old buildings into their new hotels, or building right next to them. The Webbs argument that this can’t be done is just 100% false. Not that the truth mattered, anyway.
After a 10 minute recess, the public was given an opportunity to speak.
The first handful of speakers were against demolition, and giving some great points. The very well tanned Dudley Webb was pouting, his chin buried deep in his jowl. Right in the middle of this,
Woodford Webb’s Harold Tate’s cell phone went off in the back of the room. What a tool.
Then, the hired suits started coming up to the podium, and the bullshit did flow. Some young smarmy suit got up there and said that the people opposing this project were “a small group of special interests”. He also said that he “was kind of a history buff”, and he didn’t think that the buildings were historic. Right.
At this time I noticed a young person on the good side of a room with a great sarcastic sign up- “OLD STUFF SUCKS”. I know, doesn’t it? Especially those old bald fat white fucks on the left side of the room in the first 4 rows.
Then came the circus. Larry Chiles, of the big $ advertising firm Jordan-Chiles, stepped to the mic and started screaming into it. He said that the entire block was an eyesore, then noted how these “nightclubs” didn’t mean anything to Lexington. He noted the trip that city officials took to Austin, Texas recently and said their whole music scene is poppycock that Lexington doesn’t need. The money quote:
“Lexington is the horse capital of the world, not the weird capital of the world”
Really, he said that.
Then he followed up with another mind-numbing statement, noting a certain presidential candidate’s message of “Change”, and how CentrePointe represented that same thing.
The words “crusty old douche bag” jump to the front of my mind, for some reason.
After someone who must have been on acid stepped to the mic, a black man in dreads took the mic and recited a poem he wrote. After concluding, he said that if this block is taken away, artists will have nowhere to go and Lexington is likely to lose people like himself.
The Webbs all smiled at the thought.
Then a smarmy young white UK law student in a suit stepped to the mic, claiming that he’s a “frequent patron” of the establishments that were there. Never seen him. He also said that no one goes to the Dame for ambiance. Right.
Anyway, he said that UK students need to find jobs after graduation, and that CentrePointe would help with this.
Unless there’s a new academic program at UK in housekeeping, I really find that statement hard to believe.
Another person came up and thanked Webb for being a selfless, altruistic angel, stating that he would take this opportunity to thank him in person.
Projectile vomiting all around the room.
After Dave, Bill Johnston, and the always impressive Janie-Rice Brother gave some great testimony, there was a 20 minute recess before the closing arguments and the ruling.
One board member thanked the Webb side for “educating him on the TIF issue” before his judgement. Yes, apparently the Webbs have been “educating” him on their facts well before this hearing in private.
That just warms your heart, doesn’t it?
Anyway, after all five stating how hard their decision was, they voted 5-0 in favor of demolition.
It was a fight of ordinary citizens with no money pouring all of their free time and energy into saving their city from a boondoggle disaster… vs. against a bunch of millionaires with a team of high-priced lawyers. In that kind of fight, we all know who wins 99% of the time.
But we came close. We came very close. And I doubt that there is a single person involved in this amazing political movement that regrets spending their time and energy on this cause.
More than anyone, we must salute Hayward Wilkirson and Eric Thomason. I cannot sufficiently put into words how impressed I am by the grassroots movement that they started on their own and spread throughout the city. It was one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever seen in my life.
And I know that if the 3rd District of Lexington wants someone who will fight for them over the next several years, they will elect Eric Thomason as their Councilman.
So the fight is over. The rich, white, bald men in suits win again. And now, the Cock and Balls Tower, with its escalators, fancy chandeliers, antiseptic piano bar, top floor suite for the Horse Sheik, and 40 empty luxury condos will grace Lexington for years, until its vacant bowels resemble the horror that is Festival Market.
I’d love to end this on a happy note, but… no, I can’t.
UPDATE: hold the phone, Preserve Lexington says this thing isn’t quite over yet.