Two newcomers vie for Lexington's 1st District council seat

bfortune@herald-leader.comOctober 22, 2010 

Marty Clifford, left, and Chris Ford

  • Marty Clifford

    Birthdate: July 12, 1958

    Residence: 760 North Limestone

    Occupation: Real estate investor

    Elected office: None

    Web site: Martyclifford.com

    Chris Ford

    Birthdate: Feb. 26, 1976

    Residence: 1554 Astaire Drive

    Occupation: President and CEO of REACH Inc.

    Elected office: None

    Web site: Votechris1st.com

Two political newcomers are vying to represent Lexington's racially mixed, economically diverse 1st District, an inner-city area seeing major developments with the opening of the Lyric Theatre, William Wells Brown Elementary School and community center, and redevelopment of the Bluegrass Aspendale public housing project into single-family homes and duplexes.

Marty Clifford, 52, lives and owns historic properties on North Limestone. Eight years ago, he formed the North Limestone Neighborhood Association, which has been a catalyst for revitalization along that corridor.

Chris Ford, 34, is president and chief executive of REACH, a non-profit organization that works with low- and moderate-income residents to obtain affordable housing, and that offers budget, credit and home ownership-education classes.

The 1st District council seat opened when two-term incumbent Andrea James announced that she was moving out of the district.

"Some parts of the district are very educated, very affluent; others are economically depressed. And they are in close proximity to each other," said Ford, a graduate of the University of Kentucky, where he played varsity football. He has a master's degree from Western Kentucky University.

Seven of the city's 16 historic districts are in the 1st District. Both candidates support historic preservation and say that historic properties need to be part of the district's identity.

"Saving historic buildings is a big part of a positive environment that will have a positive effect on the people," said Clifford, who is restoring five historic buildings on North Limestone. He attended college in California.

Clifford led a group of residents who worked to save Arlington Elementary School from being razed. The Fayette County school system saved the façade and built a modern building behind it. The new school opened this fall.

Revitalization is occurring along East Third Street with the Lyric and the Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden, where the Legacy Trail will start.

But Ford said that in neighborhoods along East Third, streets need to be repaved, and sewer lines and sidewalks replaced. "That is what government is supposed to do, but those needs have been neglected for too long in the East End," he said.

Ford wants to establish an affordable housing trust fund to generate money to build more housing.

He also supports setting up a land bank authority to identify abandoned and blighted properties that could be redeveloped.

Both Clifford and Ford said that residents deserve to live in a safe community without drugs, crime, violence and prostitution.

Clifford cites North Limestone's success in battling crime and drugs by working with police. "We tell the police where we see problems. They have been very good about listening and responding," he said.

If elected, Clifford said, he will set up similar meetings throughout the district.

"The message will be to those that deal in drugs: Stay away," he said.

Clifford said he could afford to be a full-time council member.

On other topics, Ford said that in the district, fewer residents have cars than any in other neighborhood in the city. He said he will work with LexTran to enhance public transportation.

He supports the Bluegrass Community & Technical College's move to the Eastern State Hospital property on West Fourth Street because it will be a catalyst for revitalizing the west side of the 1st District. Also, "people who live in that area can learn new work skills, and that's important for economic empowerment in their lives," he said.

Parts of the 1st District are predominately African-American. Ford is African-American; Clifford is white. Both said that race has not been an issue.

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