The six candidates for three at-large seats on Lexington's Urban County Council shared their ideas on topics ranging from public safety to sidewalks at a Tuesday night forum sponsored by Operation Turnout, a nonpartisan social justice organization.
The event, moderated by Valeria Cummings Swope and Patrice Muhammad, was held at the Lyric Theatre.
The candidates offered numerous suggestions when asked to assess the state of the city's Parks and Recreation Department.
Never miss a local story.
Councilman Steve Kay said the department's park and community center assets are underutilized, and there is "not significant enough programming in any of them."
"We need to get more people into the parks," he said, noting that people who "misuse" the parks will be more likely to stay away if the parks are used by everyone.
Attorney Bill Cegelka, who served on the council from 2002 to 2006, said equipment has been neglected during the past four to six years, and he suggested a community-wide assessment of youth programs, to include asking young people every five years to provide input on what kinds of activities they would enjoy.
"We need better programming in our parks," he said.
Several candidates mentioned the need for community centers.
In some neighborhoods, "the youth have no place to go when they come home from school," said Councilman Kevin Stinnett.
He said schools could be opened at night to provide a place for kids to go, and summer programs needed to be brought back.
Richard Moloney, a former council member and Urban County Government administrator, agreed, saying centers such as the William Wells Brown Center were underused in the summer.
"It's a community center," he said. "It's supposed to be for the community."
Faith-based organizations and nonprofits also could be tapped to help with programming, said Chris Logan, a minister and business owner who said parks and recreation was underfunded.
He told the crowd that "equal funding" also was needed.
Sports leagues, facilities and other opportunities for active seniors also are lacking, said Jon Larson, the Fayette County judge-executive.
"It's also greenspace," he said, mentioning that he would like to see a Kentucky River Trail created.
Toward the end of the forum, the moderators had some fun by asking the candidates to name their favorite hero or heroine from local government, past or present.
Cegelka chose former council member David Stevens, who he said "has been a great mentor" to him, and Moloney chose a man he called his mentor, former councilman Robert Jefferson.
Kay named Jim Gardner, a former council member who went on to chair the school board.
"That was the essence of public service," Kay said, adding that serving on the school board was "the most thankless public job that we have."
Stinnett, who indicated he aspires to be vice mayor, picked Vice Mayor Linda Gorton, praising her for bringing the council together after previous vice mayors clashed with the mayors with whom they served.
Larson, a criminal defense attorney, reached back to abolitionist Cassius Clay, a duel-fighting Kentuckian who was appointed by Abraham Lincoln to serve as an ambassador to Russia.
The top vote-getter in the at-large race Nov. 4 will become vice mayor. The second- and third-place finishers will become at-large members of council and serve four-year terms.
Moloney, who served on the Urban County Council from 1987 until about 2007, was the top finisher in May. Kay, the only at-large incumbent, was second. Stinnett came in third, and Cegelka was fourth.