Ronnie J. Bastin- 2018 Primary Candidate Questionnaire
Running for: Mayor of Lexington
Candidate Website: https://bastinformayor.com/
1. What is the biggest challenge and opportunity facing the city of Lexington and your district (if applicable)?
Crime, opioids and school safety and the root causes are the biggest challenges to providing a safe future for Lexington. Violent crime and the opioid epidemic are more specifically driving the rise in crime we are currently experiencing.
I know how to fight crime. As Police Chief I kept crime at low levels, some at historically low levels. During the last down turn of the economy, pressures on the state prison budget resulted in early release of many non-violent criminals back into our community. This began an uptick, especially in property crimes. During the same time, police resources were at lower than normal levels. With a reduction in the force, we had to do more with less and be more creative in our methods to keep crime down. The next factor was the increase of heroin use in 2013. The opioid trade has caused a rise of violence experienced in Lexington.
I know how to fight crime. As Police Chief, I began the heroin task force, using a multifaceted approach and diverse partners to take criminals off the street. In 2013 as Commissioner of Public Safety, I continued efforts by partnering with medical, public health and social service specialists to create awareness programs in the faith-based community. As a result, participating churches now have resources within their congregation that families can reach out to for assistance and support. Police also began carrying Narcan along with Fire Department Personnel. The Health Department began a needle exchange program. The Jail sought grants to implement a substance abuse program and a medically-assisted treatment program. In combination, these efforts have save many lives, giving addicts the chances they need to turn their lives around. As mayor I will support all efforts to disrupt the opioid supply in Lexington. When crime is down, property values increase, schools are safer, businesses are attracted to our community and the economy flourishes.
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.
Often in government, plans are made that are never followed through to fruition. In this case, the newly adopted Goals and Objectives of the 2018 Comprehensive Plan prioritize infill/redevelopment to accommodate future growth. The plan has been outlined and as Mayor, I will work closely with the LFUCG Planning staff to follow the agreed upon goals. I believe that inclusion of all stakeholders in the conversations about smart growth, infill projects and expansion is vital to make sure unanticipated consequences—such as gentrification—are avoided. Smart growth and economic success will be enhanced by investing in infill development.
There are several recommendations I would explore to protect the character and context of existing neighborhoods while fostering opportunities for growth in Lexington. Many of these ideas come from personal visits through Commerce Lexington to other cities and overseas where compact building with a secure by design component have been successfully implemented.
A priority should be to make development decisions consistent, fair and cost effective. This transparency is essential for creating a range of housing choices and maintaining our strong sense of neighborhood connection and inclusiveness. I would also encourage community collaborations in development decisions. Taking advantage of compact building design, mixed use building and providing a variety of transportation choices will be essential. Young millennials are driving less and want walkable and bike able neighborhoods. Empty-nesters and retirees want to stay connected to the community where they can have access to quality healthcare, educational and volunteer opportunities. Affordable housing must be available for all segments of the population. As we grow, we must plan for additional traffic and infrastructure needs. Targeted infill growth on major traffic arteries would allow more use of public transportation.
Land assembly, capital costs and financial risk are often challenging aspects of infill development and solutions will have to be explored. Several recent national surveys suggest that consumers want to live near where they work with plenty of public amenities. This indicates a trend in an increase demand for infill development.
I will support the exploration of incentives for infill and redevelopment projects within the Urban Services Area. I am interested in looking at incentives for development as well as buyer incentives to increase demand in areas targeted for infill development and redevelopment.
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?
Some of the key economic pillars in Fayette County include healthcare, higher education, agriculture, manufacturing and professional services. When a new business comes to Lexington, they are looking for the trainees they need, adequate, affordable healthcare and affordable, accessible housing. Each of these industries has a significant impact on business opportunities, the economy and quality of life in Lexington.
Healthcare is a thriving industry in Lexington that every segment of the population should have affordable access to. Businesses can benefit from have healthy productive employees which brings financial stability and a better quality of life. The growth of healthcare businesses brings opportunities for innovators and entrepreneurs. I would strengthen our ties with private healthcare offices and medical centers in Lexington to market our professional and technological needs in this arena.
Nearly 44% of Lexingtonians aged 25 or older hold a bachelor’s degree, according to recent US Census Bureau data. We must build better partnerships with our wealth of higher learning organizations in Lexington. These organizations will provide us with a workforce that includes jobs of the future because of advances in technology, machine learning, augmented reality and artificial intelligence. But we also need a more robust abundance of skilled individuals such as plumbers, ware housers, equine handlers, construction workers, childcare professionals and custodial staff. Workforce development will be a priority in my administration offering opportunities for youth and adults.
My degree in Agriculture Economics has given me a unique perspective on agriculture. Agriculture provides an estimated $2.3 billion in economic activity. Expanding our local tourism options and the farm to table sustainability emphasis will allow Lexington to attract new businesses and expansion of existing small businesses. Urban agriculture should be encouraged so as to increase our green space, reduce our carbon footprint and create new jobs. This can improve food accessibility and community health. Continued advances in biotechnology, nano-technology, resource conservation and precision farming will be an area where we can excel in new job opportunities. I would form closer ties with the University of Kentucky and the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment to explore workforce development and grant and economics opportunities. Any new businesses should add value to our community without interrupting the beauty of our rural landscape. Any economic develop plan my administration develops would include agriculture as one of our integral, signature industries and would aggressively promote opportunities for enhancing our valuable agricultural resources.
Attracting more light industry such as the highly successful Clark Material Handling Company (forklift manufacturer) and Aventics (pneumatic systems manufacturer) can provide high wage jobs. We must study the environmental impact closely during these considerations. I am not in favor of destroying our current land beauty to heavy industry.
We also need to focus our efforts on supporting the approximately 8,600 small businesses, already in Lexington by making sure they can grow and expand. This will likely lower the demand for more business and industrial land. Most small businesses already have a defined geographic footprint, within the urban services boundary.
Our ability to grow jobs and enhance economic stability will depend on our ability as a community to understand and offer flexible workplaces, technology, communications, collaboration and productivity in these main economic pillars.
4. Why are you the best candidate for the position you seek?
As a proven leader as past Police Chief and Commissioner of Public Safety, I have had the opportunity to be a manager of over half the city’s budget ($200 million out of $350 million), but also a visionary, leading people in city hall (1,750 employees). I have proven expertise in listening to community members to set priorities and then actually build plans that are implemented to change the culture of government and solve many of our most challenging issues. Coupled with solid interpersonal and communication skills, these experiences have made me the best candidate for the position of Mayor of Lexington. In other words, I have led large organizations successfully, listened to community members to set priorities and built consensus to solve problems, all without scandal.
I moved to Lexington as a first generation college student in 1975, married the woman of my dreams and then raised two children. My family has been blessed to live, work and play in Lexington. I am ready to lead efforts to ensure that Lexington will continue to provide opportunities for current and future generations by focusing on how we improve public safety through crime reduction efforts, exploring options to reduce opioid use and partnering with the school system to make sure schools are a safe place for our children to learn. I will also focus on how we plan for smart growth to ensure a robust economy and workforce development, while valuing current amenities that citizens want and need in enjoying a positive quality of life.
There are many illustrations of my responsiveness to Lexington’s challenges.
-I was the only mayoral candidate who attended all six of the Fayette County Public Schools Safety Advisory Council meetings where best practices in school safety were discussed.
-As Police Chief, I managed to come in under budget during the recession by cutting waste and maximizing resources to fight crime. I even turned in excess budget allocations that were not used so they could be reassigned to meet other city needs. The next mayor must be fiscally responsible and able to communicate the importance of line items for council support. I will work with Chief Lawrence Weathers, who is well suited to lead the police department.
-My Police Chief’s Command Staff was intentionally diverse. I devoted much time to professionally developing all police. Many have gone on to lead other organizations.
-When our Police Officers began to not have the language to meet the needs of the Hispanic community, I developed and implemented the Hispanic Language Program, which won a national award of excellence from Harvard University.
-As Commissioner of Public Safety, I began to explore innovative ways to address the opioid crisis. I brought together diverse partners to work towards a common goal of confronting this issue that affects crime, employability and education. The victims include not only themselves but their families and friends from all walks of life. It greatly impacts all aspects of our community. This is just a start.
-After seeing a similar program in another city, I encouraged the Fire Department to access grant dollars to investigate evidence-based practices to reduce the number of frequent flyers using our ambulance service. There are approximately 200 of these individuals. Often these individuals don’t need emergency care but have forgotten to take their medicine, are lonely or need transportation. Since It costs about $1,000 an ambulance run, being creative in reducing these numbers will greatly reduce dollars spent in this mostly unnecessary fashion. I am the only Mayoral candidate who has a proven track record of finding solutions that can be implemented to improve quality of life issues while being fiscally responsible with Lexington’s tax dollars. I don’t have to talk about bringing people together to make a difference in the quality of life in Lexington
– I have lived it! I am the best candidate for Mayor for Lexington.
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?
Lexington is full of culturally diverse and socioeconomic levels of individuals and families. In addition, health may decline as one ages, requiring various levels of assistance. While Lexington has many assisted and personal care options, along with senior apartments, these options may be fiscally out of the reach of many community members. Before we can move forward, Lexington should explore who and how many of these seniors want to grow old in Lexington and what their needs are. Then we can begin to offer resources to assist in meeting their needs. There are a wide variety of models being built around the country from multigenerational communities to mini-neighborhoods to neighborhood revitalizations. There are also proven attributes of sustainable communities that should be considered. This is part of secure by design housing which considers well designed routes with spaces that provide convenient movement without compromising security and promoting a sense of ownership. Older homes could be retrofitted while newer homes could be designed with the safety and needs of seniors in mind. Seniors or not, all in Lexington has the right to affordable housing.
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?
Support for the Purchase of Development Rights Program would continue under my administration as Mayor. The Urban Services Boundary is vital to protecting not only our farmland, but the future of our economy and quality of life. Beyond the importance of agriculture benefits, Fayette County farmland provides travelers and its citizens the experience of some of the most beautiful and unique scenery in the world. We must preserve this treasure.
Agritourism has not reached its full potential. Lexington is in a great position to further enhance tourism by promoting the area as a family vacation destination.
Vacation packaging to include unique tourism attractions (such as cheese making, aquaponics, horses, stockyards, parks museums, art exhibits, universities, architecture, wine, Toyota, bourbon, to name a few) is not yet fully developed. Lexington is also an easy drive from a significant portion of the US population. The landscape of a vibrant downtown continues to transform and will soon include a linear park, an improved convention center, Centre Point and Town Branch Park. Add the friendliest people in the world and our foodie scene with an abundance of farm to table restaurants and Lexington is poised to become more than just a great city to live in.