For at-large council: Kay, Wallace and Ellinger

Steve Kay
Steve Kay LFUCG

Voters will choose three at-large council members, with the top vote-getter becoming vice mayor. We wholeheartedly recommend returning Vice Mayor Steve Kay to his position and believe political newcomer Adrian Wallace has much to offer the city. Former at-large member Chuck Ellinger II is our third choice.

Kay, finishing his second term as an at-large member, has led efforts to improve life in Lexington. He served as chair of the commission on homelessness, which led to new city investment in fighting homelessness and providing affordable housing. He also helped form Bluegrass Farm to Table, which encourages community health and economic development. He recently set up a task force to look at the impact of infill redevelopment on neighborhoods in transition. His successful push for an increase in the city’s minimum wage was, unfortunately, overturned by the state Supreme Court.

He has nurtured a collegial working environment among council members and a fairly cooperative relationship with the mayor’s office. That’s something voters often take for granted — until experiencing a government at war with itself. Kay does have fence-mending to do with some council members after his puzzling last-minute flip on negotiating with a developer on a new city hall building. But most members see him as the strongest candidate for the leadership role.

Wallace is a minister, Iraq War veteran and father of five who runs his own community-development corporation. From a family with long political, religious and community-organizing roots here, he has been active with affordable housing, homelessness and youth groups. He serves in volunteer roles as diverse as community chaplain for the police department to the president of the Lexington NAACP.

His priorities include curbing crime and drug addiction, restoring rights to ex-felons, building a high-tech infrastructure and encouraging growth of small businesses. Since the primary, he seems to have strengthened his understanding of local growth and development issues and rightly stresses the need for the city to improve public transportation and infrastructure.

Wallace’s priorities fit perfectly with the direction Lexington is headed. What he would bring to the council is a different perspective — the viewpoint of the many residents feeling left out of the city’s progress.

Ellinger, a former at-large council member from 2003-2014, served many years as Budget and Finance Committee chairman. He wants to serve on the council again to ensure the viability of projects like the city’s 5G broadband project, the new convention center and the planned downtown park.

Ellinger prioritizes recreational opportunities along with basic services such as police, fire, streets and sewers. We have criticized him often for not taking more of a leadership role on key issues. However, he is collegial and focused on building consensus — assets at a time when the city is getting a new mayor.

Current at-large member Richard Moloney has earned this paper’s endorsement many times during his public-service career, which included seven terms as 11th District council member and positions within Mayor Jim Gray’s administration. But during his first at-large term he has become a loose cannon in the way he approaches his work and colleagues, such as intimating that an unnamed council member had taken a bribe to support a city hall plan. He has aligned himself with business and political interests generally opposed to city administration priorities. That is his right. But since it is not clear how and where this group wants to lead our city, we can’t support him for reelection.

While many voters rightly seek to put more women in office, candidates Connie Kell and Lillie E. Miller-Johnson are not strong choices. Miller-Johnson, serving her third-term as a soil and water conservation district supervisor, has attended community forums. Neither has a strong enough understanding of the job or the challenges facing city government.

Unendorsed candidates may submit a 250-word response by noon Wednesday.