The two men who want to lead Lexington agree on many things, such as encouraging more downtown development and preserving area farmland. But Mayor Jim Gray, who is finishing his first term, and Anthany Beatty, an administrator at the University of Kentucky and a former Lexington police chief, differ on what needs to be done to improve public safety in Lexington.
Gray said the city is safer than many cities of similar size, and the city has spent millions of dollars on public safety over the past 3½ years of his administration. Beatty, however, said more needs to be done.
"You cannot put a cost on one human life," Beatty told the Eastland Parkway Neighborhood Association at a forum at Spencerian College on Tuesday night. The event was moderated by the Lexington League of Women Voters.
Gray and Beatty face off in the Nov. 4 general election. In the May primary, Gray finished first, nabbing 56.6 percent of the 44,931 votes. Beatty received 37.9 percent, and English professor Danny Mayer finished a distant third.
According to July campaign finance reports filed with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, Beatty had $34,362 cash on hand 60 days after the May primary. Gray had $6,900. During the primary, Gray raised more than $520,000. Beatty raised more than $178,000.
Tuesday's forum was one of several in coming weeks. Questions posed to the candidates included what could be done to address texting while driving, and whether Lexington should move away from payroll taxes as its main revenue source.
Gray nixed a controversial reinvention of Rupp Arena and attached convention center after the May primary because of a lack of support from the University of Kentucky, Rupp's main tenant. Beatty repeatedly questioned the Rupp project during the May primary.
Rupp, however, still came up Tuesday night. The candidates were asked whether public money should be spent to renovate the iconic downtown attraction.
Gray said that Rupp Arena and the attached convention center need an upgrade. Rupp Arena opened in 1976.
"When the time is right, the plan is ready," Gray said. "We have improvements that need to be made, but when the time is right, we have a good plan."
Beatty said he does not oppose renovations to Rupp Arena, but "I oppose the idea of using public dollars to fund such a project," he said.
Much of the general election campaign so far has focused on public safety. At least five people were injured in seven shootings between Friday night and Monday afternoon. The recent surge in violence was the most since a four-week period in June and July, when four people were killed and at least a dozen were injured by gunfire.
Beatty said the city has to provide more funding for police officers.
"We have to get back to what we were doing in years past. We have to re-staff public safety folks," Beatty said. "We have to fund those folks back to where we were historically."
Beatty said that the city should have 700 police officers. By having more police officers on the street, police will have a chance to do more prevention and community policing so the city can be proactive rather than reactive.
Gray, meanwhile, claimed his administration has spent more on public safety — hiring officers and replacing aging police cruisers and fire trucks — then previous administrations. Moreover, the city's violent crime rate was down 7.8 percent from the previous year.
"Unless you are involved in an illegal activity, you have a very small chance of being the victim of a violent crime," Gray said, referring to previous statements made by Lexington police Chief Ronnie Bastin.