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'I can put a face to these reports': Incoming Lexington councilwoman hears more than just numbers in State of the City address

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Tayna Fogle for 1st District
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Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton laid out lots of numbers in her annual State of the City address, most pointing to progress she sees the city making on issues, such as affordable housing and gun violence. But one new city council member says her mission is to put a face on those figures.

Gorton’s annual assessment of where Lexington stands featured no shortage of facts and figures. Sprinkled in with those stats were brief examples of how city government is working for individuals, some of whom were in attendance.

Also in the audience, seated in the front, was Tayna Fogle — fresh off her election to a new, and more diverse, Urban County Council. As she sat and listened to the recap of how well city programs have performed, the African-American community organizer said she might have heard something different from the long-serving city officials seated around her.

"As an impacted person that has lived some or most of what the mayor addressed dealing in recovery, with homelessness, evictions, the whole nine yards... I bring another perspective," Fogle says.

The new council member said she hopes not just to represent the First District, but to bring the stories that sometimes make their way to council second-hand to life.

"I'm hoping that council will work with me, and I can actually put a face and a family and humanness to these reports, that seem to be numbers and pats on the back," she tells WUKY.

Fogle said she’s encouraged to see the number of city partners Gorton mentioned in her speech and is eager to watch them in action as she settles in to her new role. When it comes to how she views her job, the voting rights activist says it’s about shining some light on people left in the dark.

"Voices that have not been heard, that's who I'm representing," she adds. "Or folks that are not seen."

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State of the City

In many ways, the yearly address felt like a reset, a return to the pre-pandemic formalities and tinkling glasses inside a blue-lit ballroom packed with city leaders and local officials that were the norm before 2020.

"For the first time in two years, we're in person for this annual address," Gorton began.

An address that, for the first time in a while, didn’t feel dominated by crises — be they health, economic, or weather-related. Coming off the heels of her landslide re-election, Gorton was able to return to more upbeat themes. Take the city’s financial outlook, for instance.

"Overall, our economy is thriving," she said. "Unemployment in Fayette County is 3.1%. Employment has surpassed pre-pandemic levels. And in July, we set a record for the number of people employed in Fayette County."

It was a speech that leaned heavily on data, meant to make the case that Lexington is either making strides or, at least, moving in the right direction — even on stubborn issues such as crime. In her speech, Gorton defended the use of new license plate readers, pointing to more than "200 success stories" attributed to the soon-to-be expanded program.

On the topic where the mayor faced perhaps the strongest criticism during the last campaign – gun violence – Gorton maintained the city’s youth anti-violence program, One Lexington, is working.

"We have greatly expanded One Lexington and it is getting results," the mayor reported "Between 2021 and 2022, we saw a 50% decrease in gun-related homicides among youth and young adults."

The speech was light, however, on new policy prescriptions, instead making the case that the direction forged by the administration during its first term is yielding returns.

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.