Mayor Jim Gray and Anthany Beatty, opponents in Lexington's mayoral election, faced off in a second debate in as many days Tuesday, tackling questions about public safety, jobs and related problems in the inner city.
The forum at Shiloh Baptist Church on East Fifth Street was hosted by Operation Turnout, a non-partisan social justice organization that has been hosting candidate forums since 2010. The format allowed four questions from moderators and several other questions to be asked by audience members. The questions focused on the candidates' past and current performance, and plans to lead the city for the next four years after the Nov. 4 election. Questions from the audience were written on cards and given to moderators.
The candidates were given a chance to speak before fielding questions. Gray said that 9,000 more people started working in Lexington during his watch. He also mentioned making use of surplus money to start a jobs fund, digging the city out of a multimillion- dollar deficit, increasing the city's public safety personnel, and buying new equipment for police and firefighters. A three-word motto, "Getting things done," has been and continues to be the source of Gray's motivation to lead, he said.
Beatty, a former Lexington police chief who is now an assistant vice president at the University of Kentucky, continued to criticize Gray for "spin-selling" citizens, citing cuts made to public safety and a lack of concern for the city's urban and suburban communities that has resulted in poor leadership by city officials. Spending 35 years in public service has prepared Beatty to lead, he said.
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Throughout the forum, the availability and creation of jobs was the hot topic. Most notably, eliciting loud applause from the 100 or so people who attended the event, were the responses given to a question about how to solve the disparity between Lexington's 5 percent overall unemployment and the East End's 20 percent unemployment rate.
"I've learned that in a career in business — when you focus on the goals, our number one goal is creating jobs — when you stay on track, when you keep it between the radius ... we can make the kinds of achievements that we're talking about," Gray said after mentioning that 150,000 people work in Lexington and that $1 million has been given toward job creation.
Beatty said it's the city government's responsibility to create jobs and develop programs for job seekers.
"I would recommend and I would be looking at how we can encourage ... the opportunity for startup businesses to happen in some of these areas, because the community can thrive upon itself if we can have some small businesses with minorities involved," Beatty said.
During the debate, the candidates agreed on a few topics, including partnering with agencies to help citizens who have been incarcerated to find jobs and improving their quality of life once they are released.