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Whitney Baxter – 2020 General Election Questionnaire

Running for: 9th District Council

Campaign Website: https://www.whitneyforcouncil.com/

1. What do you see as the single most important issue facing your district, and what is your plan to address it?

Traffic is our most pressing issue. Most importantly, school related traffic at Jessie Clark Middle School and Wellington Elementary. Additionally, Nicholasville Road is one of the busiest in the state with seventy-five thousand travelers per day. The New Circle interchange is unsafe and needs attention.

To address school traffic, I would have crosswalk signals similar to what is seen at Rosa Parks Elementary installed. Nicholasville Road requires a much larger plan. I will continue to support the Imagine Nicholasville Road initiative and look forward to community input to develop a plan together.

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?

I agree that systemic racism is present in our community and I’m proud we are taking steps to recognize and correct these injustices. The Mayor’s Commission for Racial Justice and Equality is already making a difference because we are taking the time to talk through the issues. I will work with the community to address policies related to education, finance, and law enforcement. Most importantly, I will continue to speak out and demand equality for all.

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?

Examining the needs versus the ambitions of our city must be a priority. City leaders and residents should consider alternatives to unnecessary historical budget expenditures. It’s Council’s responsibility to make smart budget decisions with hard-earned tax dollars. Public safety should receive the majority of our budget dollars followed by essential and social services. We must be conscientious about spending the remainder of our expected revenue until we have fully recovered.

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?

The planning phase and community involvement has been impressive so far. Infill and redevelopment is the best option to protect our landmark horse farms surrounding Lexington. However, we are seeing developments, including some in our district, that have begun development and then stalled. We must hold developers accountable to develop these precious acres we have committed to infill and redevelopment and perhaps set more strict guidelines on what is proposed and how it will be funded.

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?

Plagued with a lack of affordable housing, the City must first preserve the current affordable housing inventory. We also must protect underserved areas from gentrification and resident displacement. We should incentivize developers to build housing to accommodate a variety of income levels and concentrate building efforts in our Opportunity Zones. Continuing to contribute to the Affordable Housing Fund should be a priority as well.

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?

Local businesses and nonprofits are the heart of Lexington and the effects of the COVID-19 crisis will be felt for years to come. As council members, it is our responsibility to step up and offer support. I will work alongside those affected most to develop plans to protect and insulate their future interests in times of crisis. I do support city donation matching programs if they prove fiscally responsible.

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?

Systemic racism is present in our community and I’m proud we are taking steps to recognize and correct these injustices. The work of the Mayor’s Commission for Racial Justice and Equality is already making a difference because we are taking the time to talk through every related issue. Policing and justice equity will only occur when all parties talk openly and I plan on helping facilitate those difficult but necessary conversations.

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?

Everyone has the right to food, shelter, and public safety. Even though the proposed budget for ESRs was depleted, we must concentrate on what can still be provided regarding homelessness, affordable housing, and food security. Thankfully our budget for public safety will go unchanged. I would like to gather those affected to discuss how we can still serve our city and what support is needed from the community to supplement our food banks, shelters, and other community sustaining non-profits.

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?

In order to have a sustainable economy we must continue to responsibly open businesses, start promoting area tourism once again, and address affordable housing and housing shortages. We want to attract people to come visit and spend time in our great city. We also want to convince them to stay and start businesses. Unfortunately, if we don’t have adequate housing for newcomers, they may move to a more accommodating city. Our economy will only thrive if we promote continued economic development.

10. LFUCG Council will soon have the responsibility of council redistricting. What is your approach to including public participation in the redistricting process?

As our city continues to grow, our Council districts will need to be adjusted. To include public participation in this process, I would nominate someone to the redistricting committee that is fair, mindful, and would do their best to represent the different areas of town well. I would also ask for any public input that may help the committee make their decisions.

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?

While much in our economy is uncertain, we can trust in our agricultural opportunities. I am happy to see the support of the Mayor’s Administration and think continuing to encourage conversations between local farmers, restaurant owners, and city officials is important. Food security and hunger is something I am very passionate about. If we can continue to encourage programs such as Farms to Food Banks and FoodChain Lex, we will feed the underserved community and grow our food system economy.

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?

There are changes to be made in our public transit system to increase accessibility. We should address transit routes making them more efficient and consider a Bus Rapid Transit option. Most people shy away from public transit because of its uncertainty. Guaranteed commute times will ease their concerns. Transportation Oriented Developments should be considered as well. Designing more efficient roadways in conjunction with less overall traffic will improve transportation overall.

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?

With the suspension of public comment, those passionate about our community have been silenced. Public involvement is one of the cornerstones of my campaign and I want to encourage participation and open conversations with my constituents. With the challenges of COVID-19, we will have to meet the people where they are even more. Social media, online surveys, and virtual neighborhood meetings may become commonplace. We should take this opportunity to modernize the tools we use for public input.