In a speech kicking off his mayoral campaign Tuesday night, former Lexington police chief Anthany Beatty touched on issues ranging from the number of sworn officers protecting Lexington to what he described as "elitist" spending on downtown projects such as Rupp Arena.
Surrounded by a crowd of supporters in a ballroom at the Embassy Suites, Beatty said he wants to focus on "proactive public safety ... exceptional public service and ... superior fiscal stewardship."
He told the gathering, which at one point included former mayor Jim Newberry, that the number of sworn police officers on Lexington's force is lower now than it was seven years ago, even though the city has grown.
That, he said, needs to change.
"What we did back then is not happening now, folks," Beatty said, referencing his years as chief. "We should not be reactors in fighting crime, and I think that's where we've gotten.
"We cannot allow our community to get labeled as a crime-ridden community."
Beatty is also branding himself "the man for mayor of ALL of Lexington."
"The amount of time that's been focused on downtown has been a detractor" from the rest of the city's concerns, he said. "Lexington is more than downtown."
Beatty said the city should focus on providing necessary public services to its citizens and "let the private sector do what it does best; that's be entrepreneurial."
On the topic of the Rupp Arena renovation and the downtown arts and entertainment district, Beatty asked his audience to consider the amount of debt it will require citizens to shoulder, what percentage of citizens it will benefit and whether it will still be "a grand attraction five to 10 years from now."
Beatty suggested that the Rupp project should be paid for "with private funding and by those who use the venue."
"You don't want to build an addition on your home that you can't afford to maintain," he said. "We must be accountable for our dollars."
He pointed to the city's settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency that requires improvements to sewer lines as one of those pressing issues that has taken a back burner to downtown projects.
The city and EPA signed a legal agreement, called a consent decree, that requires Lexington to make improvements to its sanitary and storm water sewer lines. City officials have said the cost of designing and constructing new sewers to bring Lexington in compliance with the Clean Water Act, passed in 1972, will be an estimated $600 million.
"The citizens of Lexington will be faced with heavy penalties if they don't meet the mandates," he said.
Beatty, who has tapped public relations executive Phil Osborne as his campaign manager, is one of two people trying to unseat Mayor Jim Gray. The other challenger in the May 20 primary is Danny Mayer, an associate professor of English at Bluegrass Community and Technical College.
When asked whether he is concerned about being outspent by Gray, Beatty, who now serves as vice president for campus services and public safety at UK, said he is "not the least bit concerned."
Beatty said it's "a given" that he'll be outspent.
"I just view that as an opportunity for success," he said, noting that he grew up "dirt poor" in Lexington and has worked hard throughout his life to achieve his goals.
Angelique Bell was among the green-shirted volunteers who worked the crowd at Beatty's kickoff party, where a long bus bearing Beatty's photo and campaign slogan greeted attendees.
"I've known his reputation for years and know him to be a very honest, sincere man who cares about the Lexington community," said Bell, a consultant for nonprofits. "He cares about all of the citizens of Lexington, regardless of socioeconomic status, and improving their lives."