Gray releases 'Fresh Start Plan' for Lexington

Mayoral candidate Jim Gray released a 36-page booklet Wednesday that outlines his plan for "putting Lexington back in business."

The Fresh Start Plan includes creating a cabinet-level position that would put more emphasis on planning, preservation and economic development; bringing back the chief administrative officer position; giving local companies preference on city contracts; and moving the mayor's office from the 12th floor to the first floor of the government center.

Gray, the vice mayor, is challenging incumbent Mayor Jim Newberry in the Nov. 2 general election.

During a briefing before he released the platform document at a campaign event held in a private home in the Stonewall neighborhood, Gray described the plan as a broad, flexible vision for the city.

"It's really important to create a vision," he said. "Vision is about aiming so high you'll never get bored. And it's about imagination. And it's about on-the-ground, day-to-day implementation."

The booklet is sprinkled with quotes from people such as former President Harry S. Truman and Kentucky writer Wendell Berry. There's even a line from Downtown, a song made famous by Petula Clark in 1965.

It also includes broad philosophical statements and smatterings of Gray's business and family history.

But Gray said it spells out 77 "actionable steps" spread over 13 key areas, such as traffic, environment, public safety, the arts, aging and diversity.

A couple of hours after Gray's plan was released, Newberry campaign manager Lance Blanford called it "a bunch of initiatives that Mayor Newberry has already completed or started." He said Gray had done nothing as vice mayor and now wants to "add another layer of bureaucracy to local government and rearrange the furniture at City Hall."

The plan mentions Newberry only a couple of times:

Gray takes issue with Newberry's claim that 2,300 jobs have been created during his administration, noting unemployment has risen under the current mayor. (Newberry argues the jobs he takes credit for kept unemployment from rising even higher).

Gray also says Newberry hasn't learned from the stalled CentrePointe development "since he's making the same mistakes and has refused to support design guidelines within downtown."

Newberry has repeatedly argued that a public official should not publicly oppose an otherwise legal development such as CentrePointe or the proposed CVS drugstore on East Main Street.

Gray says that doesn't mean the mayor can do nothing.

"The mayor has, if not formal authority, a lot of informal authority to encourage and guide development," he said.

Gray touts his business experience throughout the plan. But he also said he wants to hire a chief administrative officer, or CAO, because he says elected officials need the steadying influence of someone with expertise in running government.

Former Mayor Teresa Isaac, who preceded Newberry in office, had a CAO, as did former Mayor Pam Miller before her. Newberry doesn't, but his administration says Joe Kelly, who has the title of senior adviser, fills that role.

Moving the mayor's office to the first floor would allow Gray to "meet with staff and citizens alike in a cooperative environment that inspires confidence," the plan says.

Gray said he would be following an open-space concept used at Gray Construction, where he is chairman and CEO.

Gray said he had help from his campaign staff in writing and editing the document, but added that "my fingerprints are all over the plan. This was not a delegated task."

The booklet will be handed out and discussed at gatherings in neighborhoods across town, Gray said. It is posted on his campaign Web site: jimgray.org.

Although there is a printed, bound copy of the plan as well as an electronic one, Gray said it is not cast in stone. Changes can be made, he said, as people read it and make suggestions.

"I learned a long time ago that plans can intelligently be changed," he said.

After it took Gray nearly a half hour to explain his plan Wednesday, he was asked how he intended to communicate it in a world that often reduces political platforms to 30-second sound bites.

"I can't explain my business in 30 seconds," he said. "But somebody who wants to learn ... will ask the questions.

"If we get those people, I will have done a large part of my job because those people will become apostles and proselytize."

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