The Bluegrass Politics Debate: City workers, immigration

October 3, 2010 

Welcome to the final Bluegrass Politics Debate. Over the past eight weeks, the candidates for mayor of Lexington and the 6th Congressional District have debated a topic chosen by the Lexington Herald-Leader. The candidates for U.S. Senate declined to participate in the debate.

The rules: The candidates ask and answer the questions. Questions are limited to 35 words. Answers are limited to 75 words. Rebuttals are limited to 35 words.

Mayoral debate

The candidates: Mayor Jim Newberry and Vice Mayor Jim Gray

Week 8 topic: City workers

Newberry's question for Gray: To avoid damaging layoffs and save millions, I've reduced government payroll by 250-plus positions and cut the Mayor's office budget 32 percent since 2008. Why is council's budget down less than 1 percent under your watch?

Gray's answer: Once again you've ignored our city employees. I continue to support responsible management of Lexington's resources but most importantly our tax dollars and I've had to intervene to stop your wasteful spending. All four public employee membership organizations endorsed my election, including those who supported you in the past. Firefighter Chris Bartley says, "We've been under attack the past three years. Jim Gray's open-door policy will be a refreshing change." Read more at

Newberry's rebuttal: Throughout this debate, you've failed to answer virtually every question I've asked. Just like your record as vice mayor, you just criticize. You've offered no real leadership or solutions. What have you been waiting for?

Gray's question for Newberry: City employee Pam Brandenburg has said, "We just want our voices heard again. We simply cannot afford another four years of Jim Newberry." Why not talk with and listen to city employees?

Newberry's answer: City employees helped me make changes that now enable our government to operate faster, better and cheaper. While other cities suffered massive layoffs, I protected essential city jobs during the worst national recession since the 1930s. But I work for the entire community, so I've made tough decisions. I tightened government's belt, saving at least $15 million annually and cutting the bureaucracy by 250 positions. My staff and I took two-week furloughs. You did nothing.

Gray's rebuttal: Your attitudes expressed here demonstrate the significant differences in how we value employee contributions. Building Gray Construction I've learned to value employee opinion and leadership. Public employees recognize the difference and support my election.

6th District debate

The candidates: U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Versailles, and Republican Andy Barr, a Lexington lawyer.

Week 8 topic: Immigration

Barr's question for Chandler: Since 2007, you've approved enough spending to increase the publicly held debt from $4.9 to $9 trillion. Why did you oppose a May 7, 2009, committee amendment to provide an additional $200 million for border security?

Chandler's answer: Because protecting America is my top priority, I've consistently opposed amnesty for illegal immigrants and supported building a fence and sending additional troops to the border. Your attack is deceptive. I've repeatedly supported dramatic funding increases to secure our borders, and voted against this amendment because it would have stripped funding from our troops' rebuilding of Iraq and Afghanistan and from our response to the deadly H1N1 virus outbreak. Are you against these important efforts?

Barr's rebuttal: We need more than lip service. We need a congressman who will consistently vote for border security and enforcing our immigration laws so states don't have to do the job for the federal government.

Chandler's question for Barr: In these tough economic times, illegal immigration takes critical jobs from American citizens. Will you pledge to support increased funding as I have for the E-Verify program which checks the work eligibility of potential employees?

Barr's answer: On June 24, 2008, you voted against extending the E-Verify program. On June 12, 2009, you voted against an amendment that would have made the E-Verify program permanent. Then, on July 17, 2009, you voted against a ban on funds being used to delay the implementation of a requirement that federal contractors use the E-Verify program. You talk about supporting E-Verify, but unlike you, I will actually vote consistently in favor of it.

Chandler's rebuttal: Funding I supported improved E-Verify, slashed the error rate and reduced costs. Before these improvements, you would've been irresponsibly locking in a system that hurt small businesses and let illegal immigrants slip through the cracks.

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

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