Ten people are vying for six spots on the fall ballot for Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council at-large seats; each primary voter can select three. For the general election, we recommend two incumbents, two former council members and two political newcomers:
Vice Mayor Steve Kay is finishing his second term as an at-large member and his first as the council leader. While he had adjustments to make in his management approach, the council has been productive and collegial under his watch. One of his biggest priorities this term was passing an increase in the city’s minimum wage, which was overturned by the Kentucky Supreme Court. Kay served as chair of the commission on homelessness, which led to new city investment in fighting homelessness and providing affordable housing. He also helped form Bluegrass Farm to Table, which encourages community health and economic development.
Richard Moloney, who served seven terms as 11th District council member, is in his first term as an at-large member. He has been state commissioner of housing and Mayor Jim Gray’s chief administrative officer and commissioner of environmental quality and public works. His strengths are his knowledge of how government works and his connections within the community and inside city hall. Recently, he worked to get approval for subsidized apartments at the Veterans Administration campus and helped set up a program allowing city workers to mentor in schools a few hours on Fridays. He often demands more information and openness from colleagues and city administration.
The council would benefit from the big-picture thinking and enthusiasm of Harry Clarke, retired director of the University of Kentucky’s school of music. As a 10th District council member, Clarke was a downtown booster and problem solver: finding ways, for example, to better run the Downtown Arts Center and the amphitheater in the Beaumont neighborhood. His commitment to public service became even more obvious after he lost re-election to a better-funded candidate with deep roots in his district. He kept on serving: coordinating band and music programs in public schools and serving on numerous boards and commissions. As a result, his view of city problems and opportunities has broadened.
Chuck Ellinger II was at-large council member from 2003-2014, and was chair of the budget and finance committee. His experience may be needed at a time when state cutbacks, rising pension demands and a new civic center and other projects will likely make budgets tight in years ahead. Ellinger has advocated for public safety improvement and arts and recreational opportunities. He does not propose big solutions to problems, but is detailed and congenial in his work. He is also skilled at running productive, open meetings — a key asset in government.
A newcomer to elective politics, Adrian Wallace is a native Lexingtonian, a minister, Iraq War veteran and a father of five who runs his own community-development corporation. He has been active in community groups focused on housing, homelessness and youth services. He serves in volunteer roles as diverse as community chaplain for Lexington police to the president of the Lexington NAACP. His priorities include curbing crime and drug addiction, restoring rights to ex-felons, building a high-tech infrastructure and encouraging growth of small businesses.
Arnold Farr, another newcomer, got his graduate philosophy degree at the University of Kentucky and returned to teach there 16 years ago. A father of four, his community work has been with grassroots groups like Kentucky Workers League, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and the Kentucky Poor People’s Campaign, an offshoot of the movement started by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and revived by the Rev. William Barber in North Carolina. His priorities are fighting poverty, the opioid crisis and rise of violence. In fact, he wants to work to end poverty in Lexington —a big goal worthy of a council member’s attention.
Of the remaining candidates, Todd Hamill, an IT expert and leader of the Glendover Basketball League for youth, has proposed an idea worth exploring: a neighborhood basketball league that moves around the city.
Matt Miniard, Connie Kell and Lillie E. Miller-Johnson have not mounted competitive campaigns.
Unendorsed candidates may submit a 250-word response by noon Friday.