In the primary, 13 people contested for six Urban County Council at-large spots on the ballot this fall. Of those, voters can choose three candidates for at-large positions. The candidate who receives the most votes becomes vice mayor. Vice Mayor Linda Gorton is not seeking re-election.
Our choices for the three at-large positions — Richard Moloney, Kevin Stinnett and Steve Kay — all have deep experience in city government.
Each has served on the council while Moloney, who left the council in 2007, also worked as Environmental Quality and Public Works commissioner and chief administrative officer in Mayor Jim Gray's cabinet until last October. Stinnett has represented the 6th District for the last decade, and Kay, concluding his first term as an at-large member, served on the Urban County Planning Commission for several years, including a term as vice chair.
Beyond their years in government, each has particular strengths.
Moloney has a passion for, and knowledge of, the nuts and bolts of government. While representing the 11th District and in his roles in the administration, he has worked hard to improve water quality, advocated for affordable housing and kept a close watch on the budget. His long experience as a legislator and an administrator has given him insight into getting things done both at the council level and by working with city employees.
Stinnett has gained respect for his attention to budgets — both the big picture and the details. As vice chair of the budget and finance committee, he often leads council discussion when budgetary issues arise. He has consistently received high marks from constituents within the 6th District, where he has advocated for a host of stormwater- and sanitary-sewer improvements.
Kay has taken a leadership role on important issues, most notably homelessness and affordable housing. He served as co-chair of the commission on homelessness which made the recommendations that formed the basis for the council's actions to alleviate both homelessness and a lack of affordable housing. Kay was also an early and persistent advocate for creating a local food coordinator position to help farmers find markets for their products and work to increase demand for locally produced food.
Each of these candidates also gives rise to concerns, particularly in regard to how he would function as vice mayor, a role that provides leadership for the entire council.
Kay sometimes seems to stumble as a legislator in his eagerness to move things forward.
For example, while a majority of council clearly favored offices and funds to address affordable housing and homelessness, and had allocated money for a first year of operations, Kay burned up political capital by twice pushing for votes for ongoing funding before details of the programs had been fleshed out. Ultimately, with directors hired and programs outlined, the council did approve funding unanimously.
While we're all for open discussion of public affairs, the reality is that legislation is more likely to get passed when council members work diligently to build support behind the scenes and bring things to the table when they know they have the votes.
Moloney's very experience and passion present a challenge for him. As vice mayor he would be challenged to look at things afresh, dismissing former alliances or acrimonies.
Like Kay, Moloney sometimes grows impatient with the pace of government; but the job of the council is to make government work, not to rail about its shortcomings.
Stinnett's judgment came into question recently when he voted against providing a HUD loan for the 21c Museum Hotel project downtown.
Although he had voted for an incentive package for the project two years earlier that included the loan, when it came to a final vote his articulated concern was that art displayed at another 21C was objectionable and he feared bringing one into Lexington could endanger the city's children.
Throughout the evening Stinnett seemed to flip-flop on the loan but finally voted against it, even though it passed with a comfortable majority.
Stinnett, who has ambitions for higher office, is often seen by other council members as playing to the audience watching council meetings. But Stinnett will be much more effective — whether as vice mayor or an at-large member — if he focuses his talents on leading the council.
The other three candidates on the ballot have either a history of political service or a strong desire to serve.
Bill Cegelka is a former district council member with good ideas and a solid reputation for constituent service. Chris Logan, a pastor with a financial planning background, has ably prepared himself through several political runs for public service. Jon Larson, Fayette County judge executive, has a long history of civic engagement.
However, Moloney, Kay and Stinnett are the standouts in this field.
Unendorsed candidates may submit 250-word responses by noon Wednesday.