Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry — facing an election challenge this year from Vice Mayor Jim Gray and former mayor Teresa Isaac — delivered a State of the Merged Government address Tuesday, stating Lexington has made major progress during his three years as mayor.
"Remarkable progress has been made in the last 12 months, and 2010 is poised to be the most significant year in Lexington's history," Newberry said, citing the World Equestrian Games among other things. "Yes, we do have problems that we need to address, and yes, we can and will do better, but for today, please know that Lexington is moving steadily in the right direction."
Newberry pointed to more jobs, a cleaner environment, new roads and sidewalks and two national horse breed headquarters relocating to the Kentucky Horse Park as gains made during his administration.
He said the city had joined in a public-private partnership with Commerce Lexington and the University of Kentucky — called The Bluegrass Business Development Partnership — to create 2,357 jobs, "almost two for every one of the 1,126 days of this administration."
Argonne National Laboratory will locate its battery research lab here and Summit Biosciences, manufacturer of generic prescription drugs, announced it will move to Coldstream.
He pointed to the continuing renaissance of downtown, ticking off investments of $78 million in the Showprop development on Angliana Avenue, $16 million in the first phase of The Lex, $13 million at the Hilton, $16 million at the Hyatt, $6 million at the Lyric Theatre, $17 million for an overhaul of South Limestone, plus $560 million at the UK Medical Center and $134 million at the UK school of pharmacy.
A "Higher Education Triangle" has been created with UK, Transylvania University and Bluegrass Community Technical College when it moves to the campus of Eastern State Hospital. Newberry said: "The physical, economic and educational impact of the Higher Ed Triangle will profoundly affect Lexington throughout this century."
In 2010, many infrastructure projects will be completed, including a nature center at Raven Run, Newtown Pike Extension, South Limestone overhaul, the Lyric Theatre, terminal improvements at Blue Grass Airport and completion of the airport's runway, a wireless broadband network for public safety officers, Cheapside Park with Fifth Third Pavilion, 11 miles of trails and streetscape improvements on Main and Vine Streets.
But Gray, who was in the audience, said Newberry's vision for Lexington has been "clouded by bad decisions and misplaced priorities."
Gray was critical of the mayor's closings of fire stations without public or Urban County Council input, and he said a lack of leadership led to the failed CentrePointe development.
He also condemned Newberry's "slow and weak response to the troubling and extravagant spending of taxpayer money at Blue Grass Airport and the Kentucky League of Cities."
Isaac did not attend the event in the Patterson Ballroom at the Hyatt Regency.