The race for Urban County Council District 7 pits incumbent Jennifer Scutchfield against first-time candidate Michael Moynahan.
Both are capable candidates. We give the edge to Moynahan, who would bring to the council much-needed expertise in providing affordable housing and aiding the working poor.
Moynahan worked for two years as manager of the Coolavin low-income housing complex, leading an effort that earned the 2010 Most Improved award for the property from the Kentucky Housing Corporation and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
He now manages grants to assist low-income families in paying their utility bills and weatherizing to reduce utility costs.
Addressing our long-standing affordable housing problems is a complex, expensive undertaking. His hands-on experience would be invaluable as city government sorts through how to determine the best use of public efforts and funds.
Moynahan also served active duty in the Army for five years, completing Army Airborne and Ranger training. He had deployments in South Korea and in combat in Iraq and is now a captain in the Kentucky Army National Guard and active in veterans groups.
This background could also come into play as Lexington takes on the unique issues of providing housing and other assistance for veterans.
District 7 is largely in the southeast of Fayette County, occupying a crescent-shaped area running from Armstrong Mill on the west to Interstate 75 and from the county line on the south to Mount Tabor Road. A section stretches north to New Circle Road, taking in the Woodhill area.
This is Scutchfield's first term in the seat and, really, her first race. Two years ago she had only one opponent, who was disqualified because his candidacy petition did not have enough valid signatures.
Scutchfield has been relatively quiet during her first term on council but has gained the respect of fellow council members for her thoughtful approach to issues. She has consistently argued for fiscal restraint and expressed skepticism about spending public money on big projects, preferring instead to explore public-private partnerships.
While we admire her approach to her work, Scutchfield's positions on a number of issues are at odds with some long-established protections for both the rural and urban areas.
Recently, for example, she was one of only two votes against a measure to increase property taxes on abandoned properties as an incentive to owners to fix them up or sell them. Addressing neglected, abandoned properties is important to maintaining stable neighborhoods but we fear Scutchfield's vote was grounded more in a narrow focus on avoiding tax increases of any kind rather than the larger benefit to the thousands of owners who maintain their properties and suffer when blighted properties are left to decline even further.
Early in her term, Scutchfield cast the sole vote against designating the Ashland Park neighborhood an historic district and, in her interview with the editorial board, expressed reservations about historic districts in general.
She has also expressed reservations about the Purchase of Development Rights program that protects rural areas in Fayette County, and seems to believe that expanding the Urban Services Area is inevitable.
Moynahan, who supports PDR and advocates for more intense infill development, seems more capable of bringing energy, vision and focus to the challenges and opportunities Fayette County faces.
The unendorsed candidate may submit a 250-word response by noon Friday.