Harry Clarke- 2018 Primary Candidate Questionnaire
Running for: Urban County Council At-Large
Candidate Website: https://clarkeforcouncil.com/
1. What is the biggest challenge and opportunity facing the city of Lexington and your district (if applicable)?
Lexington’s expected growth in population in the next few years will demand some of the most critical and controversial decisions our Lexington/Fayette County government has considered since its charter. On one hand we want the city to grow, intelligently and appropriately. On the other hand, the debate will be where to put that growth, relative to housing, businesses, offices, and the amenities that go with quality living. This debate will obviously be between the emphasis on infill, redevelopment, mixed use and the like and the expansion of land use by increasing the land designated as the Urban Service Area. I argue that this is not only the biggest challenge facing us today, but also one that will have far reaching consequences on the future of Lexington.
2. The newly adopted Goals and Objectives of the 2018 Comprehensive Plan prioritize infill/redevelopment as a primary strategy to accommodate our growth needs. In fact, studies indicate there are many infill/redevelopment opportunities throughout the city. What specific recommendations do you have to protect the character and context of existing neighborhoods while pursuing this needed strategy? Would you support a program that provides incentives for infill/redevelopment projects within the Urban Services Area? If so, what specific types of incentives.
The city has used the terms such as infill and redevelopment often, but without a clear explanation of what those terms actually mean in real change. Monumental change is coming. The difficulties of maximizing available land and altering the existing landscape and infrastructure is going to cause serious anxiety among segments of our population. Current zoning regulations do not deal realistically with the kind of situations that will occur when serious moves are made to use and alter vacant and occupied land. Is it more painful to increase the Urban Service boundaries or to cause distress among constituents who are affected by or have rigid personal beliefs about density. I am a firm believer that by far the greater damage would be to expand the Urban Service Area, altering the character and depreciating the international reputation of Lexington forever.
Yes, there will have to be new incentives provided by government, beyond what is currently offered. I wish I had the perfect answer to propose such incentives, but alas I do not. I can offer only the promise that if elected this will be a passionate cause on my agenda.
3. Land use planning and economic development go hand-in-hand. What are the main economic pillars in Lexington and what specific planning policies support their growth? What specific policies do you support to ensure we create 21st jobs that maximize our unique assets?
My response to this question in my last campaign is still pertinent, as stated here in a somewhat altered state. We are a growing health, education, technological, legal, tourism and entrepreneurial community, enterprises that do not demand large scale land use or heavy manufacturing but rather smart concepts of infill and redevelopment. Economic development will depend on aggressive national and international recruiting of enterprises that fit that model. Recently, Bob King, the President of the Council on Postsecondary Education said recently that businesses are looking for communities with “business-friendly environment, strong cultural amenities and good schools,” particularly communities with “universities with strong programs in software development and recognized research.” Further, he says, and I couldn’t agree more, employers are looking for people “who are good with their heads; not just good with their hands.” He believes, as I do, that today’s industries need creative thinkers, strong leaders and collaborative team members.” At the city-led and UK sponsored University Cities summit this past fall, UK economist Ken Troske said, “We are fortunate, our wealth is in smarts. Gift from the gods.” The summary also concluded that “economic development here must focus on activating our abundant intellectual capital to create more locally grown jobs while giving low-wage workers the opportunity to develop more skills.” These thoughts relate specifically to the educational capital and the entrepreneurial spirit we enjoy, and come as close as I can imagine to what Lexington’s policies should be to “maximize our unique assets.”
4. Why are you the best candidate for the position you seek?
I spent 43 years as a member of the faculty and an administrator in the School of Music at UK, dealing not only with the students, but the faculty of several colleges, the UK Administration, the Alumni Association, the Athletic Department, and the Development Office. My experience as a member of the Council brought the endorsement of the Herald-Leader with the comment that I was “remarkably astute and effective. Thoughtful, open-minded, attuned to details while also seeing the big picture.” I hope those comments are true and as such give me the momentum to continue those qualities if elected. I currently hold membership on eight different boards and commissions, including the Board of Adjustment, the Water Quality Fees Board, the Tree Board, the Board of the Friends of the Arboretum, and this involvement should demonstrate my interest in public service and give me perspective beyond the norm.
5. Like the rest of the nation, Lexington’s population is aging. In the next decade and beyond, a majority of households will be headed by someone 65 or older for the first time in our history. Our aging demographic has significant implications for housing and neighborhood design. What specific recommendations do you have to ensure we provide safe, accessible, affordable housing to our seniors in ways that ensure they maintain independence and social connections as they age?
I am a member of that demographic. The options for our aging population include, among others, “aging in place,” joining an assisted living facility, and downsizing. Aging in place often demands significant alteration of the mortgage paid home to make it accessible and safe, but there is a void of interest in adjusting a home by builders, and the cost is unreasonably expensive. It is a fact that many seniors have considered adjusting their living by moving into a condo type facility with the same amenities as their original home, but smaller and more accessible. Unfortunately, many such facilities in Lexington, rather than providing downsizing in size and price, cost more than the home in which they live. Given the emphasis on infill, senior living facilities of quality without undue cost is one reasonable outcome of the infill projection.
I would support action that would grandfather real estate taxes for seniors. There is no reason why the increase in home values need to increase the taxes our seniors pay and it would have minimal impact on the city’s income.
We have a beautiful new senior citizens center that is used to capacity. One center is not enough to serve the large aging population among our 330,000 citizens and I would recommend a serious study for location and funding for an additional center in a completely different part of town. In addition to that, we have small community centers throughout the city that can be adapted for more logical use by our seniors, including programs similar to those in the Senior Citizens Center. Other concepts that need study include adapting our parks to better serve our seniors, improving the transportation system for seniors who no longer drive and increasing neighborhood programs designed especially for seniors. I do not support the idea of increasing density by adding new structures on existing single family residential lots.
6. Fayette County agriculture is an annual $2.3 billion industry that supports one in twelve jobs in Lexington. Fayette County farmland is the factory-floor of this industry, which also anchors a burgeoning travel and tourism industry. To ensure continued viability of our agricultural industries, do you support an annual funding allocation to the Purchase of Development Rights Program? Why or why not. What other specific policies do you support to ensure the continued strength and growth of our agriculture industries?
I not only support annual funding allocation for PDR, but convinced the Council in my second year as a Councilmember to double the $1M to $2M city contribution, with the understanding that increase would still be matched by state/federal funding. I am concerned that there is no clear understanding of the impact of PDR on our land use and agriculture production among council members. I am equally concerned that PDR does not have the aggressive policies necessary to lobby for continued success. That may be manifest in the fact that PDR has a large balance that has given cause for the city to remove even the $1M in the 2019 budget. In order to ensure continued growth, it is important to continue to promote to the public the total impact of agriculture, beyond horses and general farming, and to stress the contribution to the local economy that pairs nicely with the economic pillars described in question number three. It may be true that what the public perceives, the city pursues.