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Mayoral Candidates Talk Crime, Utilities At Transylvania Debate

Josh James

Lexington’s candidates for mayor squared off at a Transylvania University forum Wednesday night.

The debate remained cordial and largely attack-free until the closing statements.

Though incumbent Mayor Jim Gray and former police chief Anthany Beatty converged on a number of questions, from Lexington’s status as a college student friendly town to the mayor’s role in encouraging the completion of the long-delayed CentrePointe project, it was during the final minutes that both candidates highlighted the issues that divide them.

Beatty hammered on the recent spike in crime in Lexington, "and not just crime but the frequency of crime, the intensity of the crime, the boldness of the crime, and the loss of human lives in our city."

Gray responded that the half a billion dollars his administration has invested in public safety since he took office shows that it’s the city’s top priority, but "we have other critical priorities that we can't ignore. Social services, job creation, neighborhoods, roads, parks, and trails. I'd ask Anthany which of these service does he want to cut."

One issue from Lexington’s past made a brief appearance as the candidates fielded a question on public ownership of the water company and whether the city might make another go at taking on the utility.

Asked whether it might be in the city’s best interest, Gray noted that voters already nixed the idea eight years ago, but Lexington will be negotiating a new franchise agreement with Kentucky-American Water or a competitor in the next year. And he said the city deserves a strong voice.

"The city should not pay for the expansion of Kentucky-American into other cities in the region," he said. "This is the same theme that we will be employing with negotiations with Time-Warner on cable. We must be at the table representing our citizens."

Beatty said the city already has too many challenges on its plate.

"This is one of those utilities that's functioning. It's doing what it should do and I shudder to think that the government should take on another entity like the water company to try to manage that when we've got so many other needs like public safety and other infrastructure needs," he responded.

Following five years of debate, voters in 2006 rejected the city’s attempt to use eminent domain to condemn Kentucky American Water by a 61-39 percent margin.

WUKY will host the final debate between Gray and Beatty on October 28. Join the conversation and submit your questions.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.
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