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Blues, Tobia tangle at council forum

Calm demeanors and civilized voices dominated Urban County Council candidate forums Sunday, but the forums left no doubt that the race for the District 2 council seat is a heated one.

"What we have is two different philosophies between the two of us," 2nd District challenger Randy Tobia said of the race between him and incumbent Tom Blues.

Tobia, a write-in candidate, said Blues supported improvements to Douglas Park instead of improvements in his own district, and that Blues favored giving identification cards to illegal immigrants.

"I have never, never supported ID cards for illegal immigrants," Blues retorted.

Blues said it was time for voters to look at his experience on the council. He said he has attended all council meetings and that he paid out of his own pocket for the two trips he took as a council member.

Tobia said he appreciated Blues' attendance record, but that it was not enough.

"I don't want my children growing up in an environment like this," Tobia said.

The exchange between Tobia and Blues about identification cards was about as close as the forums got to being debates.

Sunday's forums at Lexington's Central Public Library auditorium, sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Lexington and the library, were question-and-answer sessions with candidates from council Districts 2, 3, 5, 7 and 11. Those districts have contested races in the November election. People in the audience were invited to submit questions for the candidates in writing, and moderators posed those questions to the candidates.

In the 3rd District forum, with candidates Diane Lawless, Eric Thomason and Troy Lacefield, one question was about the area's relationship with the University of Kentucky.

Lawless said she was hopeful that the city and UK could work together to solve problems created by student housing.

Lacefield, a write-in candidate, said the university's goal to be a top research institution was an absurd, stupid idea, that the school's primary purpose was to educate people. Lacefield, who said he opposed closing Rose Street near the UK Hospital, said that people were ignoring the closure.

"UK doesn't have to abide by our zoning laws," Thomason said, noting that the school is a state institution. He said that perhaps the city and UK could bridge the gap between them.

Edward T. Norton III said public safety was the most important issue in the 5th District.

"That's the basic reason for a government," he said. A storm sewer problem on Montavesta Road, he said, is "a lawsuit waiting to happen."

Norton's opponent, Cheryl Blanton Feigel, said storm water drainage and sewage problems and maintaining the character of the neighborhood were the most important issues in the district.

K.C. Crosbie, the incumbent in the 7th District, and her opponent, Chris Logan, agreed that public safety and traffic were big concerns. Crosbie also said that there were school-related issues in the district. Logan said that storm and sanitary sewer issues affect all districts.

Peggy Henson, the 11th District incumbent, said that the most important issues for people in her district depended upon the part of the district in which they live. For some people, safety is most important, while for others, sanitary sewers are their main concern, she said.

Logan Weiler III, who is challenging Henson for the district seat, said that security, quality of life and "those things that are back-yard specific," such as drivers speeding through neighborhoods, were top concerns.

All of the candidates were asked about tax increment financing, a subject that has come up often recently in connection with the CentrePointe development, a controversial $250 million hotel, condominium and retail complex planned for downtown, as well as with the Distillery District development.

Tobia said he favored TIF money being used in connection with CentrePointe and the Distillery District.

Blues said he did not support TIF money for projects around CentrePointe, but he was in favor of using it in the Distillery District.

District 3 candidate Lacefield said he was not in favor of TIF money for projects around CentrePointe.

"That's a place that will never get built," he said of the complex.

"We really need to examine this," said 3rd District candidate Thomason. He said that the feasibility and financing of CentrePointe need to be looked at first.

Lawless, a 3rd District candidate, not specifically addressing tax increment financing, said she wanted to see a downtown master plan that's an ordinance, not just an idea.

Fifth District candidate Norton said although TIF money is good if used properly, the unknowns about CentrePointe, which include the developers' financial backers, cause him concern.

"It's just we need to have everything on the table from the developers," he said.

Feigel, a 5th District candidate, said TIF would be wonderful for cleaning up blighted areas and said she supported TIF in connection with the CentrePointe development.

Logan, a 7th District candidate, said he was much more excited about using TIF money for the Distillery District than around CentrePointe. He said he thinks there are flaws in the CentrePointe plan and the way that project has been handled.

Crosbie said she was supportive of looking at what could be done in the area around CentrePointe.

"I go back and forth," 11th District incumbent Henson said about CentrePointe and TIF.

Weiler, her challenger, said he thought the distillery project was well thought out but that he's concerned about tax increment funding in connection with it and CentrePointe.

Everyone he's talked to in his district is upset about the prospect of tax money being thrown at a private project, he said.