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Urban County Council Candidates Debate Downtown Issues

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Candidates running for election in three Urban County Council districts that make up downtown Lexington sounded off Thursday on issues ranging from public safety, economic development, and local entertainment. The Downtown Lexington Corporation hosted the debate for candidates from the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd districts.

One of the questions asked whether the candidates support renovation of Rupp Arena.

“We have to grow and I think this will be an asset,” says incumbent councilmember Chris Ford of the 1st District. “I’m concerned whether or not it will create jobs. If it can create jobs, that will go a long way in garnering my full support.”

Challenger Marty Clifford says he supports a renovation with a design that makes use of limited space.

“Just do it smartly. And of course we’ve got to consider the finances that are involved. And hopefully there’ll be a plan that whatever’s invested will be able to recouped from the new plan.”

2nd District candidate Shevawn Akers

There wasn't much debate among council hopefuls from the 2nd District, because  candidate Brannon Dunn was no-show for the event. His opponent, Shevawn Akers, told the audience that she has a long wish list for Lexington.

“I would love to see the Town Branch Creek exposed and brought into downtown as a focal point. I would like to see more trees and shade in downtown.”

Akers also says she supports the idea of implementing a management district to help fund downtown improvements as long as the affected businesses have a voice in the decision-making process. 

The debate also allowed candidates to ask their opponent a direct question. For 3rd district incumbent Diane Lawless and challenger Stephanie Spires, the main point of contention involved attendance at public meetings how much time each candidate is able to spend serving the community.

3rd District incumbent Diane Lawless (left) and challenger Stephanie Spires

“I spend seven days a week, sometimes 8 to 14 hours a day. I have to manage my time, and therefore I have missed these DLC meetings because they’re on Thursdays,” said Lawless.

“I learned that you have to handle, if someone slides you a request on a napkin or they Facebook you or they e-mail you, or they call your cell phone at 3 in the morning. And I’m accessible and you can reach me and I will respond,” said Spires.

When the candidates were asked about the idea of converting one-way streets back to two-way traffic, all emphasized the need for public safety and said the proposal needs further study.

Lexington native Brenna Angel anchored local morning newscasts for WUKY through May 13. She joined the station in March 2010 after previously working for WHAS-AM in Louisville.