Lexington's Martin Luther King Day march makes its way down Vine Street
Credit Stu Johnson
Downtown Lexington is usually an active place on Martin Luther King Day. And so it was this 20th day of 2014. But, some participants in this year's annual march say more work is needed to further the efforts of the slain civil rights leader. While special Martin Luther King festivities occur at places like the children’s museum and historic Kentucky Theater, the march through downtown remains the city's highest profile event.
Jillian Pyatte, right, watched as Alpha Phi Alpha members Jared Scott, left, T.J. Merritt and Rashad Bigham re-created the scene of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination as people passed during a silent march to commemorate the legacy of the civil rights leader.
Credit Matt Goins - Lexington Herald Leader
University of Kentucky students and staff honored the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s pacifism on Sunday with a candle-lit march past a half-dozen silently re-enacted scenes of violence, including King's 1968 assassination; the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks; and the 2012 elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
A pet project of Lexington Mayor Jim Gray remains locked up at city hall. Mayor Jim Gray wants the city to finance a one million dollar economic development fund. Its grants and loans would help businesses create new jobs. Gray would like to see council act on the ‘jobs fund’, but some council members like Chris Ford want more time before voting.
The fees charged by Lexington for services, such as building permits, are under review. Council members today examined planning and engineering fees for residential construction projects. Vice Mayor Linda Gorton says the personnel costs in providing such services often exceed the revenue collected through fees.
It’s a different look to the front of Lexington’s city hall these days. Safety concerns have prompted the removal of a 30-by-17 foot metal canopy from the Main Street entrance. General Services Commissioner Jamshid Baradaran says inspectors spotted structural problems.
It appears construction on a major downtown development in Lexington will start within the next week or so. Since, before the recession, the multi-million dollar Centre Point project has been on hold. Financing for the office-retail and residential high rise has been the sticking point. Finance Commissioner Bill Omara Tuesday told council member Steve Kay financial support for the project now appears solid.
It’s not ready to let food trucks park just any place downtown, but Lexington’s council might be willing to extend a pilot program. Thursday, council members will likely consider a one year extension. For six months, a pilot program has allowed food truck to operate during specific times in specific spots downtown. Council member Shevawn Akers, who backed the experiment, says so far, no major complaints.
Lexington’s city council has rejected a business tax which would fund downtown beautification. It would have levied an assessment on property owners within a special taxing district. Ferrell Alford, who owns two downtown buildings, thinks such improvements should be left to the owner's discretion.
Lexington city leaders are trying to lower their debt payments. A Council committee recently approved a ‘debt management policy.’ Currently, about 11% of city revenue goes to pay off debts. Finance Commissioner Bill Omara says his goal is to keep that percent to no more than ten-percent.
A proposal from Lexington’s mayor that establishes a one million dollar ‘jobs fund’ goes before the full Lexington Council Thursday. Most of the money would go to existing companies for the creation of new jobs. Jamie Emmons, who’s the mayor’s chief of staff, said Lexington’s incentives differ from those offered by state programs.
When they write a new state budget this winter, Kentucky lawmakers will likely revisit cuts in state funding for childcare. The program, which helped provide working-class parents with affordable day care, stopped accepting new applications last spring. Income guidelines are also affecting thousands of families.
Just as Lexington’s mayor is about to begin the process of building a city budget plan, there’s a slight glitch. Lexington Finance Commissioner Bill Omara told council members Tuesday that revenues are strong, but not as strong as predicted.
One of central Kentucky’s best known social service agencies is refining how it delivers services to thousands of low income residents. The Lexington-based Community Action Council serves 30 thousand people in four bluegrass counties. Just last year, Director Malcolm Ratchford says his agency saw a one million dollar cut in state and federal funding. As a result, the Head Start pre-school program lost spots for 80-children. With funding scarce, Ratchford says they could charge fees for some services in the community at large.
The most experienced member of Lexington’s City Council has announced her plans to leave government service. By the end of 2014, Lexington Vice Mayor Linda Gorton will become the longest serving Council member since local government was overhauled in the 1970’s. She made a formal announcement Thursday before a crowded city hall lobby.
Hoping to improve the appearance of downtown buildings, Lexington city leaders are considering a set of design standards. The idea is to give the inner most downtown core a look that’s attractive to new businesses, new residents and out-of-town visitors. Plus, Council member Steve Kay says such rules and regulations could protect Lexington’s history.
Given the scope of Lexington’s sewer overhaul, the paperwork could overwhelm the council. Currently, it must approve many changes because usually there’s also an increased cost. But, some of that responsibility could be shifted onto Lexington’s administrators.
A committee of the Urban County Council unanimously approved an ordinance Tuesday providing benefits to domestic partners of employees. The vote comes nearly a decade after the city first tried to implement benefits that include same-sex partners. The ordinance must get final approval from the full council. It is not expected to face opposition. If it passes later this month or in early December, Lexington will join Louisville, Covington and Berea as Kentucky cities that offer domestic partner benefits in a state that does not allow same-sex couples to marry. Read more...
Portions of the Fayette County Circuit Courthouse building will reopen this morning. The four story structure has been shut down since Monday, October 21 following a water line break. The break caused extensive damage to sections of the first through the fourth floors. Most of the first and fourth floors plus courtrooms on the second and third floor will open up today.
Trick or treating in Lexington has been moved to tomorrow night. It will still run from six until eight p.m. The weather forecast calls for strong storms to move into the Bluegrass later today. Lexington Mayor Jim Gray says the decision to make the switch comes with weather predictions which the mayor says have ‘gotten worse.’ For families who can’t change their plans, Gray adds there is still indoor trick or treating at Fayette Mall, the Lyric Theater, and the Kentucky Horse Park.
Significant clean up and repair work at the Fayette Circuit Court building continues this week. It was a week ago Sunday when water was seen spilling out an upstairs window. Damage occurred on all four floors of the downtown structure. But, Fayette Circuit Judge Pamela Goodwine says work is proceeding along pretty well.
As Lexington city leaders work to make decisions on spending surplus money, questions persist regarding the police and fire pension fund. A January agreement between the Mayor and police and fire union representatives was hailed as a ‘fix.’ But, Council member Kevin Stinnett noted this week the need for additional city support does raise concern.
Lexington city leaders are taking a first step toward widening a major roadway in Fayette County. The Council this Tuesday voted to spend a quarter million dollars to study improvements to Man O War Boulevard. Council member Shevawn Akers questions whether cost estimates done now will be relevant years later.
What’s being called a ‘broken toilet’ has shut down the Fayette Circuit Courthouse. The leaky toilet was situated on the fourth floor. Lexington Fire Battalion Chief Jeff Nantz says there were inches of water on all four floors.
Lexington Council members are expected to take up an economic development fund proposal Tuesday. Mayor Jim Gray is suggesting two million dollars be set aside in what he labels a ‘jobs fund.’ Gray made a formal pitch to the Council during the last work session. “See it does not mean that we are writing a check for that tomorrow at all. This represents gap financing, loans, principally for local companies that are growing and adding jobs,” said Gray.
Some 80 sanitary sewer projects in Lexington over the next decade will impact many neighborhoods. With that in mind, city officials are working to notify residents to when bulldozers may be coming to their area of town. Mark York, with the Division of Environmental Policy, says a project manager will look for ways to lay pipe in the most cost efficient manner.
A new property tax on certain downtown businesses and residences is under consideration in Lexington. It would create a downtown management district…which would work to beautify the neighborhood. Renae Jackson, who’s president of the Downtown Lexington Corporation, says it would eventually improve the value of their property.
The problem of garbage piling up along Lexington streets has city officials considering new enforcement and collection methods. Waste often accumulates outside rental units and other residences, especially after an eviction. Often old furniture is left on a curb, and it in turn attracts additional garbage. Plus, garbage pickers are a problem. By sorting through piles of waste, city official say they create a safety hazard. Councilmember Peggy Henson believes current enforcement efforts don’t work.
Lexington Council members are seeking more information about costs associated with hiring consultants. It surfaced during a discussion Tuesday at city hall. A request for a 50 thousand dollar consultant fee sparked a larger debate. The money is for advice sought on the creation of an office for homeless services. In the end, the Council asked for a report on money spent on consultants during the last three years.
Council members argue security at entrances to Lexington city hall should be tightened.
A review of security at Lexington’s government buildings is underway. General Services Commissioner Jamshid Baradaran says police patrols and video cameras protect some 25 city-owned buildings. Baradaran says it will likely take time to develop security recommendations.