Bill Farmer, Jr. – 2020 General Election Questionnaire
Running for: 5th District Council
Campaign Website: https://www.lexingtonky.gov/council-district-5
1. What do you see as the single most important issue facing your district, and what is your plan to address it?
Continued safety and security throughout.
Whether that be advancing sewer repairs faster than the pavers can finish it, to enhancing senior benefits beyond the still new Senior Center in Idle Hour Park or slowing things down with signage, traffic calming and enforcement. Listen for inclusiveness. Learn the root need. Lead with answers that work!
2. Given your understanding of Lexington’s long and complicated history around racial injustices, what do you plan to do to directly address inequality and its root causes in our city?
While STEM is good those graduates need to become active business owners and entrepreneurs in their own right. To me a long-term, well thought out partnership with the entities like the Urban League would bare the most fruit. We must lead by example, demand better from our community and innovate. I am also a proponent for meeting out in the community so folks can have better access to their local government.
3. In recent years Lexington’s budget obligations have outpaced its ability to generate revenue. In the FY 20/21 budget, this has dramatically impacted everything from economic development to social services. What strategies do you recommend to address revenue shortages while balancing spending priorities?
For the last two budgets we have effectively spent ourselves smaller. The current budget relied too heavily on “one time” funds. One perhaps opportunity of the pandemic is the ability to look at the budget and the income strategies behind it in a whole new light. We need to re-center on what we need to deliver as a city and then begin a different kind of budget process to accommodate that demonstrated need.
4. Lexington’s 2018 Comprehensive Plan encourages infill and redevelopment as Lexington’s main growth strategy. What specific implementation aspects of the Comprehensive Plan are working and what challenges need to be addressed?
Everything comprehensive plan related needs as much public knowledge and input as possible even during a pandemic. Recently the lack of public comment has been a side obstacle but in the flat of it more folks need to know what the plan says and what the strategies look like to make that happen. Without context some have not understood the current dynamic of housing needs right now and the decisions both the council and Planning Commission are making.
5. Lexington faces challenges across districts with regard to housing affordability, diversity and accessibility. What is the City’s role in addressing affordable housing and how would you recommend prioritizing policy change to address these challenges?
The city’s role in affordable housing is to keep to keep the Commission on Homelessness working for great partners and more importantly keep funding in place for more successes going forward. If anything I’d formalize or otherwise make the funding permanent.
6. The impact of COVID-19 on local businesses and non-profits will be significant and long lasting. What will you do as a council member to support their recovery and foster their resilience?
I want to continue the critical and life-saving work I helped lead through the council. First, the local stimulus program that benefited both profit and nonprofit entities followed by the eviction assistance fund of the same nature to landlords and tenants. All politics is local and more programs like these will help folks here and now. Giving folks hope to move forward is needed at a time like this.
7. In recent months, much of our country’s attention has been directed to issues of systemic racism, specifically as it applies to policing and the justice system. What measures would you support to ensure that Lexington’s policing and justice system is equitable?
Black Lives Matter. The signs and the reality are everywhere. Both my and the councils’ best work is to support Mayor Gorton and her initiative-driven Public Engagement Committees. That important work and those outcomes will need legislative leadership which I pledge. With so many needs, focus will be important to the long lasting healing and change that is required. I believe every citizen has a responsibility to oppose white supremacy, address racial inequality and support justice.
8. Revenue shortfalls have made it difficult for the city to continue supporting external social resource agencies at a time when they are needed most. What specific city-level policies do you support to ensure that every resident has access to a basic quality of life?
Social service agencies provide programs and outreach that help so many, especially those who are most at risk. For this reason, I was morally obligated to help lead the council in refunding those agencies not funded in the mayors proposed budget for the greater good. That $2.1 million in essential community support passed the council last night. For many assured relief is at hand. I believe we can reorient needs now based on COVID and then examine more stable funding across the spectrum.
9. Lexington’s tax revenue base is dependent on a thriving and sustainable local economy. What are your top three priorities for helping the city promote and support economic development?
Jobs is the answer. We need to immediately reorient our economic calling card to attract new jobs that are unfolding in fulfillment and logistics. Those jobs can foster in different places along and near the Interstate 64 and 75 corridor. Strengthened housing priorities for those job seekers is needed. Lastly the Citation Boulevard connection from Newtown Pike to Winburn Drive here in Lexington reshapes opportunity across Lexington’s north end. It’s timely completion warrants priority.
10. LFUCG Council will soon have the responsibility of council redistricting. What is your approach to including public participation in the redistricting process?
By volunteer or by service this will be the 4th post census redistricting that I will participate in on behalf of the 5th district either directly or in the official capacity. Public input is key and between my weekly Enews and direct neighborhood engagement that highlights the best input one can have.
11. The agricultural sector has a $2.3B economic impact on FayetteCounty, accounting for over $8.5M of the city’s payroll revenue. It is poised to grow with the support of Mayor Gorton’s Administration for making Fayette County a center for ag-tech. As a councilmember, what are your priorities for the agriculture and food system economy?
The immediate priority there is food safety here in Fayette county. We have to use that wealth to help those in need here first. Beyond that everything local is better and more in demand than ever. The new Chevy Chase Farmers’ Market I helped foster is fresh proof of that.
12. Well-planned infrastructure strengthens communities, boosts local economies, expands opportunity, and promotes equitable development. What policies would you support to achieve a more accessible, efficient, and sustainable transportation system in Lexington and the Bluegrass region?
I have long been a multimodal transportation advocate. From bike lanes to first the Legacy Trail and now the Town Branch Trail. The commitment and lasting determination to connect Masterson Station to Jacobson Park. Few cities have made such a bold statement in reshaping themselves. I am proud to have helped so far and look forward to successive projects.
13. Lexington has temporarily suspended public comment in all public Zoom meetings. Meaningful public participation is vital to a responsive local government, and COVID-19 has created a new set of challenges in that regard. What strategies would you support to make ongoing public participation accessible for all?
I have worried over this and lament the loss at every meeting. LEX TV folks continue to vie for the best online answer. I am one of four that voted to begin in-person meetings again not only as a point of engagement with the council but the public too. Resolution here is one of my top priorities. I would like a good resolution here as soon as safely possible. We must be guided by the voices of our constituents now and always.