Lexington area citizens gathered Wednesday for community discussions in the city’s first “On the Table” event. They gathered in community centers, coffee shops, houses of worship and other venues to talk about issues affecting quality of life in the city.
Dana Lea is Community Engagement Coordinator for the Lexington Division of Kentucky Refugee Ministries. With the help of translators speaking Swahili, Pashto, Arabic and Nepali, she welcomed participants to a morning gathering at Embrace United Methodist Church downtown.
A few blocks away was an Airstream trailer at the corner of West Sixth and Limestone. Heather Hyden, of the North Limestone Development Corporation was there bundled against the cold.
“There are a lot of people who don’t have email addresses," said Hyden, "A lot of people who don’t have cars, who are on disability or elderly so they can’t get out to any public meetings so it’s important to get out to where they are and get their voice heard.”
On the other end of downtown, participants gathered for lively conversations around tables at the Cup of Common Wealth Coffee House.
Kaelyn Query is a member of the 2016-17 class of Leadership Lexington. She served as group leader for the coffeehouse discussion and other “pop-up” gatherings during the day, “It’s been a lot of the same topics, education, housing, traffic, growth versus in-fill, government policies. Affordable housing’s been a big one. The heroin epidemic has come up quite a bit.”
Nearly 30 people gathered at Lexington’s Red Mile track. Gina Haynes-Sanders was facilitator for one of the tables at the venue sponsored by AARP Kentucky, “We have a very strong sense of community and we have a beautiful environment in which we live in and what we would like to preserve is the beauty of Lexington and yet grow with the changing times.”
Jim Thurmon says the city doesn’t spend enough time or energy to honor its Veterans. Andrea James would like to see more of an emphasis on outdoor activities like she witnessed in Boulder,Colorado. One theme was how folks in Lexington are very welcoming to outsiders but could do more of that with each other.
“It really changed my lens of how I view how we treat each other as neighbors and as community members and I realized we should be just as shiny and fancy for ourselves as we are for those visiting.”
Information from the dozens of On the Table venues will be considered by city leaders in their future planning efforts.
Prior to the city-wide event, organizers expected over 10,000 participants.