With the new year, hopefully comes some optimism about job creation. That might be the theme of many a politician across Kentucky. Lexington Mayor Jim Gray enters his second year in office this weekend. While the bluegrass community has traditionally featured one of the state’s lowest un-employment rates, Gray says joblessness is still a significant issue in his town. “We’ve got folks in our community that need jobs, still we’ve got a stubborn un-employment at above sever percent which is almost double what it was five years ago, so we’ve got to constantly work at it,’ said Gray.
Gray also admits prescription drug abuse is an issue facing many families in the Lexington community. He says that kind of systemic issue must be faced head on to help the community grow.
“We need to, We must address increasing drugs and prescription pill abuse.. these sorts of issue affect a city… even affect Lexington,” said Gray.
The mayor of Kentucky’s second largest city envisions a transformation of his downtown area over the next decade. Recent attention recently in Lexington has focused on renovation of Rupp Arena and the area around the home of the University of Kentucky basketball team. A task force recommends Rupp be refurbished along with plans for a new convention center. Mayor Jim Gray says this amounts to a different kind of downtown revitalization.
“When we re-stitch the fabric of the city around Rupp and those 46 acres, we really have the potential to re-invent the city,” added Gray.
Gray believes the national honor bestowed up local poet Nikki Finney amounts to a ‘beacon light’ for the bluegrass community. Finney, who teaches poetry at the University of Kentucky, won the National Book Award for Poetry in November. Gray says it exemplifies how Lexington has positioned itself in the ‘arts scene.’
“When we think about production..when we think about quality of life…quality of place and the kind of place to live and work…having a active and engaged arts community is something that adds enormous value,” explained Gray.
As Jim Gray prepares to enter his second year as Lexington mayor, it also represents a new year of cooperation with the urban county council. Gray served as vice mayor on the council before moving into the city’s top job. While there have certainly been some disagreements between the mayor and members of the council over the past year, Gray says it’s just part of the executive-legislative process.
“Sometimes what you see in the council meeting is the real passion of folks…and often the disagreement but that’s a healthy thing..that represents a kind of transparency that’s healthy for our government right here at home in Lexington,” concluded Gray.
The mayor and urban county council will get back to work after a holiday break in early January.