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Election 2022 Candidate Questionnaire – Arnold Farr

Running for: Council At-Large

Does this candidate have a Primary Election on Tuesday, May 17, 2022? Yes Election 2022 Arnold Farr

Question: What brought you to Lexington-Fayette County? What do you love about our community?

I did my graduate work at UK in the 1990s. I finished my Ph.D. in 1996 and was hired by St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia P.A. In 2008 UK offered me an opportunity to come back to Lexington. I was happy to return to the city that meant so much to me when I was a graduate student. Lexington is large enough to have everything that I need and small enough for me to get around with some degree of ease. The city has a friendly, cozy feeling and it is easy to feel like one is a part of a community. My family and I love the various festivals that the city has. We jump at every opportunity go to them.

Question: Like the rest of the nation, Lexington faces critical challenges around developing adequate Affordable housing for low-income families and increasing attainable missing middle housing for the average income resident. What specific policy recommendations do you have to address these different challenges?

First, we need to redefine Affordable housing. The definition given at the Federal level is very inadequate. It is a rather random number and it does not account for the cost of living in different parts of the country. One has to account for income, cost of living, the number of people in the home, distance to work, means of transportation, etc. I also think that the people of Lexington and their needs should be put before those of developers. The city should also bargain with developers on behalf of our citizens who need affordable housing. That is, any contract given to a developer must include the building of house that our citizens can afford.

Question: The 2018 Comprehensive Plan, Imagine Lexington, prioritizes infill redevelopment within the Urban Service Boundary as a primary strategy to accommodate our growth needs. How do you propose we incentivize infill and redevelopment to activate the approximately 17,000 acres of vacant, underused and underutilized land (much of which exists on our major commercial corridors) within the Urban Service Area? What specific policy recommendations or incentives do you think we could utilize to ensure we sustainably use our existing resources to meet our needs?

I think that this space could be used for Affordable housing if we had the will to do so. Our local leaders have a duty to the citizens of Lexington to make sure that housing is affordable. However, the need for an incentive suggest that our will to do the right thing for our citizens is rather weak. Therefore, I take it that it is developers who need an incentive as well as people who live in the areas that would be developed. I mention the people who live in the areas to be developed because many people are not on board with more development in their communities. I must be clear, any discussion of an incentive without a previous discussion with all persons involved or impacted is a shot in the dark. It is to assume what people will want without talking with them. So, at this moment I will shoot in the dark and suggest that tax breaks would give developers and members of a given community some incentive to develop these unused spaces. The best approach is to bring to the table for conversations all persons who are stakeholders in any attempt to develop these spaces. That would include local government, developers, and members of the given community. Policy should grow out of these conversations.

Question: The balance between our urban and rural areas is essential to our unique economy, environment, and quality of life in Lexington-Fayette County. Since the last expansion of the Urban Service Boundary in 1996, only 51% of the land brought within the boundary has been developed, and no Affordable housing has been built in those dedicated expansion areas. Do you support an expansion of the Urban Service Area during the current Comprehensive Planning update process? Please explain.

With the present amount of unused and undeveloped space within the Urban Service Boundary there is no need for expansion at the moment. This position may not hold for the future as Lexington is growing at a rapid rate. It is projected that our population will increase by 40,000 by the 2025. Presently there is enough space that needs development within the Urban Service Boundary that expansion is not necessary. However, expansion might be necessary in the future.

Question: To grow Lexington-Fayette County sustainably, we must grow equitably and consider impacts on our marginalized and underserved communities. What specific policies would you recommend to incentivize community-driven investments in historically disinvested neighborhoods while preventing displacement which can result from gentrification? 

People who live in communities that have become the target for gentrification must be involved in the conversation about how to develop their community. That is, our citizens should be equal partners with city government and developers. increasing funding to help them with home repair. People who live in a given community ought to have a voice in revitalization plans. I also believe that we should reduce or freeze property taxes for long-time residents of underserved communities. We should protect senior homeowners by increasing funding to help them with home repair. I would also create a stabilization voucher to protect long-time residents in low-income communities. Community and land trusts, as well as tenant protection and anti-eviction ordinances must also be established.

Question: What do you see as the pillars of Lexington-Fayette County’s strong and diverse economy? What specific policies do you recommend for: a) activating existing economic development land for jobs, such as the nearly 250 acres at Coldstream; b) creating opportunities for job growth utilizing the significant vacant office and commercial spaces within our urban area, and c) leveraging our unique assets and community strengths to support job growth and continued economic prosperity?

The diversity of Lexington’s population has contributed to its diverse economy. For example; restaurants make a great contribution of our economy. When I lived in Lexington as a graduate student in the early 1990s we had to travel to Cincinnati for Indian cuisine. Now there are several Indian restaurants in the city. With the expansion of restaurants and other venues for entertainment Lexington is able to keep money generated by labor in the city within the boundaries of the city.

Question: Fayette County agriculture industries are a significant part of our local economy and cultural identity, having a $2.3 billion dollar annual economic impact, supporting 1 out of every 12 jobs, and anchoring a $2 billion dollar local tourism industry. What specific policies do you support to ensure the continued strength of our agriculture industries and the rural land that supports them?

I believe that we much do all that we can to protect local agriculture. Our entire economy is impacted by the agriculture industry. A recent study shows that a 10% decrease in agricultural output would lead to an overall decrease of more than $26.5 million in output for businesses and services in Fayette County’s agricultural cluster. This would mean a loss of $81 million for the state. I said in response to an earlier question that I believe that at some point in the future it might be necessary to expand the Urban Service Boundary due to Lexington’s growth. However, that does not necessitate failure to protect our agricultural industries. If expansion becomes necessary in the future, we will have to make a distinction between what land in needed to protect our agricultural industries and what land is not needed for such.

Question: The federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) funds offer Lexington-Fayette County a transformational opportunity to invest in transportation, water, power and energy, environmental remediation, public lands, community resilience and broadband. What specific policy recommendations do you have for approaching quality of life investments and capital improvements to make the most efficient use of these funds in the coming years? What are the top priorities for investment in Lexington-Fayette County?

My top priority is ending homelessness in the city and greatly reducing poverty. The amount of homelessness and poverty in a city is a reflection of the health of that city. These issues are intertwined with quality of life concerns. In addition to my concerns about homelessness and poverty, I am concerned about the overall quality of life for all of our citizens. We need to invest in a much better system of public transportation. Many of our citizens find traveling to and from their jobs to be quit burdensome. We need more busses running much more frequently than they do at present. Regarding environmental issues (this includes water, power, energy, public lands, and transportation) I believe that the city should undergo an environmental audit. This would allow us to work with an expert who can help us develop a better plan for the city and how to make the best use of our resources.

Question: According to the Center for Neighborhood Technology, the average Lexingtonian spends 24% of their income on transportation costs and 26% on housing. What specific policies would you propose to incentivize public transportation, bike/pedestrian improvements, and walkable developments near existing infrastructure to help alleviate both traffic and transportation costs in our community?

As I said in response to the prior question. We need to improve our system of public transportation. I would encourage the city to work with Lextran in order to remedy our public transportation problems. I think that an improved public transportation system would give our citizens an incentive to use it. I’ve talked to many people in town who do not use public transportation because it simply does not work for them. They told me that they would use it if it was more efficient. We also need to rethink the structure of our sidewalks, streets, and bike lanes. Many people who ride bikes still feel unsafe on our roads. I believe that we need to do research in cities that have been successful in their public transportation efforts. If I’m elected I will create such a research program.