Are you aware of the theme on our nation's Great Seal? Look on the back of a $1 bill: Novus Ordo Seclorum. Translation: a new order of the ages, signifying the beginning of a new American era.
Normally I talk about the Great Seal when I'm teaching young people about its history and significance, but these days Lexington Mayor Jim Gray has me thinking about it every time I read about the Rupp Arena, Arts and Entertainment District.
The Rupp District also involves an important new beginning, but in what is one of the most historic sections of our city: our downtown, specifically South Hill above Rupp Arena, and along historic Town Branch.
Our city's taproot is in this area. The plan Gray and a citizens task force have put together for the Rupp District elevates our roots, our history while strengthening our assets at the core of our city.
Never miss a local story.
Many of us remember how our downtown began to decline in the '60s and '70s. We faced a hard reality. Apples rot from their core, as the mayor often says, and the same often happens to cities. Our core had started to rot and the rot was spreading to the neighborhoods surrounding the core.
Even though we knew that our community's identity is downtown, we were moving toward leaving it behind, and we were becoming a collection of edge cities.
In my eight years on city council, two as vice mayor, I saw a number of ideas to rescue downtown come and go, with marginal success.
As someone who has a pretty conservative approach to the role of government, I was skeptical of many of those plans and even questioned them.
In 2002, I ran for mayor, as did Gray. It was a second run for me and a first for him, but we both lost.
Now, the plan for the Rupp District has put me solidly in the mayor's corner. People who know Gray say he's a visionary. What does that mean? Well, look at the plan for the Rupp District. Our mayor sees things differently. He sees our town differently. I think that's what strong leaders do. They just see things most do not, at least at first glance.
The Rupp plan is the most innovative that has been presented to Lexington in my memory. Because it is comprehensive, it does what the piecemeal plans of the past have not done. It can stand alone in its vision. It speaks to Lexington; it speaks for Lexington. It brings our heritage forward.
The crowning jewel of the plan is a free-standing Rupp Arena. But the district is about so much more than sports. It's about our history, culture, recreation and entertainment. It's about new places to shop, new places to live and new places to learn downtown.
And, most importantly, it's about jobs.
In my years on the council, and through my work with the Kentucky Economic Development Cabinet and my training in economic development, I know that the true foundation of successful economic development is first making your city more attractive to businesses, making Lexington a city that attracts good-paying jobs.
Communities must never forget their heritage, and must always protect their assets and strengthen their existing business base.
This plan addresses that, and that's why Gov, Steve Beshear and the General Assembly have identified it as the most important economic development plan in the state.
To the members of the Urban County Council: Put your arms around this plan and embrace it. Encourage and help your constituents to do the same.
To my fellow citizens: Go on line at http://ruppdistrict.com/. Watch the video that features community leaders explaining the plan and its significance. This is your responsibility.
Why not a renovated Rupp Arena? Why not a Town Branch and linear park running through downtown? Why not put in place a plan that will pay dividends for our children and theirs?
We can do this. Courage comes first. It's a good plan. It should be embraced by this entire community.