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Election 2022 Candidate Questionnaire – Shayla D. Lynch

Running for: Council District 2Shayla Lynch Election 2022

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

My professional career brought me to Lexington-Fayette County. In 2004, upon graduating law school I was hired by the Lexington Fair Housing Council. For 15 years I fought housing discrimination across the state of Kentucky and fought for safe, decent, and affordable housing. I loved that work!

One thing I love about my community is that there is always something fun to do. On any given weekend you can attend a neighborhood block party, a cultural festival, an art showing, a farmer’s market, participate in a running group, and hear live music at a local venue.

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?

Effectively resolving the city’s affordable housing crisis will involve bringing a diverse group of folks to the table who are ready, willing, and able to propose creative solutions that will result in the opportunity for all to thrive in Lexington. Cultivating spaces for these conversations will be a priority for me.

Creating and maintaining affordable housing is more than grabbing a hammer and nails; the city must critically address what is causing Lexington to be unaffordable and not shy away from the hard conversations.

We should continue to allot money for the affordable housing fund to stimulate opportunities for more affordable housing within the city. We are currently in an affordable housing crisis. Creating avenues for more affordable housing must be a city funding priority.

Currently, low-income families are being priced-out of the city; we are losing the city’s greatest asset–its people. We must address this issue now.

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?

We first need to take a hard look at the 17,000 acres that are vacant, underused and underutilized and answer the question “why” this land falls into these categories. Thereafter we should assess if there are remedial steps the city can take in partnership with others to turn the 17,000 acres into viable and equitable options that make sense considering the surrounding community it is located in, if they are not currently.

To continue to live sustainably, we should continue to educate everyone on the importance of sustainability, and additionally, how and why it affects Lexingtonians on an individual level. To successfully cultivate understanding regarding sustainability, this broad topic has to be made accessible to all.

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.

I support a clear and transparent examination of this issue that will not deprive and displace communities of color and will result in thriving communities all across our county. I believe that we can arrive at an equitable decision that will take into account all interests and responsibly grow as a city and county.

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? 

I was privileged to be appointed to the Mayor’s Commission to specifically work on and co-lead the housing and gentrification subcommittee. I am proud and supportive of the work of the subcommittee and the full Commission. We were tasked with solving age-old problems in 90 days or less; it appeared insurmountable from the outset. However, each sub-committee focused and lasered-in on issues and solutions that will move our city forward if implemented.

I support the recommendations we gave to the Mayor and the city to address gentrification and its effects.

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?

Lexington is strongest when all of her people are thriving. The citizens of this city are the foundation that will determine this city’s success trajectory; thus, we must continue to strive for and attain equity in all sectors. The creative solutions that will resolve some of our city’s greatest challenges will come from the people who live, work and play in our county.

Cross-sector partnerships can be important economic drivers that can encourage new opportunities. I have worked in the nonprofit sector in our community for over 17 years. We are blessed to have many dynamic nonprofits in our county who are doing dynamic work. Naturally, due to the big visions and scarce resources we often find ourselves in, our first instinct is to partner with other nonprofits to accomplish goals. Additionally cultivating relationships within the for-profit community can also help nonprofits meet needs, aid with sustainability, and encourage growth. I support spaces for these type of unique exchanges to occur that could lead to the improvement of quality of life for all.

The pandemic truly brought about unexpected changes to our traditional notions of what a work space should be. During the pandemic I personally witnessed the loss of some of my commercial neighbors; they did not return when the world started to get healthier. I am supportive of conversations regarding how we can creatively utilize vacated workplaces to benefit the community and meet needs.

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 value the role that agriculture plays in our region. Especially, during a time when supply chains are strained from COVID and warfare abroad. Local agriculture allows us to insulate ourselves from some of the shortages.

I support working together to preserve land for agricultural use, while also working to equitably address the urban growth that we have seen in Fayette County.

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?

The model that CivicLex utilizes for On The Table is a powerful one. The opportunities that I had as a table host, table facilitator, and as a participant were all impactful. This same model could also prove effective when deciding how to allot additional funding that will affect us all.

Additionally, transparency throughout the entire decision-making process is also important.

Basic needs for everyone are top priorities–access to fresh food; affordable housing; increasing jobs and job training; education; and, children and youth empowerment. As a community we have yet to achieve equity in these categories.

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?

It is important to encourage habits that will actively support longevity on our planet, while taking into account that everyone’s lives are different and a one-sized solution will probably not fit all. Comprehensive education should accompany any campaign championing the use of alternative modes of transportation and should also answer the question “why”.

Additionally, we will need to work to de-stigmatize public transportation in our city (often associated with low-income individuals) and increase access to it–define existing barriers to access and work to remove barriers that are preventing more folks from utilizing this service.

Lastly, supportive measures must be realistic for today’s Lexingtonian for buy-in to be successful. If our neighborhoods lack ease of access to grocery stores, banks, parks, and other essential services along safe sidewalks and well lit streets, utilizing alternative forms of transportation will be an extremely hard sell. The conversation must begin with an examination of access to resources in each community.