Transcript of League of Women Voters Debate (3rd District)

Here’s a link to the 3rd District Council debate hosted and recorded by the League of Women Voters of Lexington, Kentucky.

*You’ll need to scroll down to the Third District debate to watch it. For some reason, embedding the link with the Third District Debate actually embeds District 10’s debate.

The following transcript focuses on the questions asked and the answers from each candidate, and are displayed side-by-side to allow for easy comparison of each candidate’s response. This transcript will not quite accurately give a minute-by-minute account of the debate and will not necessarily reflect the order in which candidates responded to each question at a glance. Time stamps and order of answers are included just before each response. Ums and the like have been removed to minimize distraction.

If you note any errors, please email

[League of Women Voter’s introduction and other comments are not included in transcript–just their questions– but to find out more about this organization, go to this link:

Introductions by the candidates
Spires – answered first | 2:00 mark
My name is Stephanie Spires and I am running for Third District Council. I am very excited to be running. I think the Third District needs someone with energy and enthusiasm, who is accessible, and I really think that the Third District is such a wonderful district. It is the economic center of Lexington—between the downtown business district,  University of Kentucky, and Central Baptist Hospital. The decisions that happen in the Third District really affect the entire community. And so I think we need a strong leader and advocate who really knows how to champion causes and bring people together to collaborate on solutions. So I want to thank all of you for coming today and I want to thank the League of Women voters and the library for hosting this forum. And I look forward to answering your all’s questions. Thank you.
Lawless – answered second | 2:55 mark
Thank you and thank you to the League of Women Voters, and the people in the audience who are participating, and all those that will be watching. I have been very honored to be able to serve the Third District for two terms now. I am retired from the Bluegrass Rape Crisis Center; I retired in 2003. And I – so for me I have full-time to devote to this. And I am very good at bringing people together with different opinions and different ideas to come up with better solutions. I send out regular emails to my constituents. I have a long list, neighborhoods. I work very hard to be responsive to my constituents on small and large issues.  I have an enormous amount of energy and enthusiasm. I love doing this job. I love the Third District—downtown, UK, the older neighborhoods, many local shopping districts each have their unique issues. I am excited to work with those unique issues. It has been a big honor and I really do appreciate all the support I’ve gotten from my constituents who have helped me get many things accomplished.
What are the biggest challenges in your district?
Spires – answered second | 6:18 mark
I think the two biggest issues facing the city are the pension problem, as well as the EPA consent decree. And the EPA consent decree is really also an opportunity for our city because while we have these projects we are required to do, we can really take a moment and plan how are we going to promote urban infill and development, and protect our urban service boundary. I think as far as the Third District, we have several issues. We have housing—whether it’s affordable housing, whether it’s student housing, H1 overlays. I think we really need to make sure our housing options are attractive so that people want to invest and move into the Third District. Our parks are an issue in our district. Both Phoenix Park and Woodland Park have seen an increase in crime. Those are problems that need to be addressed. And there is some legislation that we can address. I know that there are several people working together; it’s going to take some private funding as well. One of the things I have championed is restrictions on smoking in the parks, which I think will cut down on loitering and trash. It will also protect the parks from potential fire hazards, as well as it promotes healthy living initiatives. Parking is an issue whether you’re on campus or downtown. And we’ve got to look at ways to make parking attractive in the Third District so that others will come into our district and shop and use our retail and our restaurants. And we need to really support those restaurants and those small retail businesses in our district.
Lawless – answered first | 4:42 mark
There are many challenges in District Three that I have addressed–some still addressing. There are older neighborhoods, the density with the rental properties, which were able to reduce through a ZOTA [<–previous reference may be an error; readers please correct] and an ordinance on density. Pension. The pension issue is a big issue for the city as a whole. I’ve worked hard to help the downtown development work day and night on the streetscape projects that went on for three and a half years. I have worked with the downtown merchants, helping them getting things passed that they needed more successful. We have a vibrant downtown. We are the city in the city. We are the economic engine of this city. We are the brand. We are as much the brand of Lexington as our rural landscape. People fly into Bluegrass Airport, Bluegrass Field and they see our beautiful horse farms and they come to downtown. So, I have worked hard to engage my constituents, let them know what’s going on, what’s coming up.  Worked with the neighborhoods, worked on the dangerous intersections, and bike lanes.
Are you in favor of an affordable housing trust fund and are you familiar with –and would you favor – the model Housing First as part of being funded by the housing trust?
Spires – answered first | 8:17 mark
I am a fan of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. I am not familiar with the intricacies of the Housing First program, but I do know that housing first and food first until you take care of those two needs, there’s no room for arts and entertainment and other things in our community unless you provide for those two basic needs. Affordable housing is a huge issue in the Third District. I hear from so many university students and young professionals who say, “I would love to stay in the community and stay in the Third district, but I cannot afford to. I’m having to move out.” We have several condo developments in Downtown Lexington that are sitting vacant because the prices are too high for people to move into. So, affordable housing is a huge issue for the Third District and we need to look at ways to attract those to move who have the resources to move in and invest in our community.
Lawless – answered second| 9:17
Certainly affordable housing is a big issue in the community at large. The Third District has a lot of neighborhoods that do have houses are affordable and there are also many others that could be rehabbed and the Affordable Housing Trust Fund would be one those ways to possibly turn some of those houses around so they could again be a viable part of our community. And sustainability. As far as the homes and feeding first, those are basic needs. If you don’t have a home and you don’t have food, you’re not going to be able to get a job. You’re not going to be able to register to vote. You’re not going to be able to be a productive part of our society. With the economic downtown, we’re seeing more and more people who never thought that they’d be in this position that are now going to our food banks, who are being foreclosed on. So we need find innovative ways to reach out to those people and help them. Over 50% of all housing foreclosures are due to uninsured or catastrophic illness.
In our changing world, social media is becoming more and more a communication tool that allows easy access to news and information.  On a scale of 1 to 5, where do you rate the importance of responding to constituents via social media, specifically Facebook?
Spires answers second | 12:50 mark
I think this is an interesting question because when I was an advisor to the Kentucky House of Representatives, Facebook and social media were just coming online, and my role as a communications advisor was to teach legislators how to be accessible, and how to handle the demands of social media. Constituents want to connect with you. They want to see pictures of you. They want to see videos of you. They want to know where you’re at, where you’ve check into, who you’re hanging out with. And they want to know that you’re out in the community, so you can find out about crime in the community. They want to know you’re walking and knocking on doors and meeting with neighbors. Or that you’re downtown—whether it be at Race for the Cure, or the Fairness Awards—they want to know where you are and what you’re doing to represent them. And I think social media is a huge tool. And you’ve just got to be able to take it—I’ve said this before—whether someone slides you a note on a napkin, or someone emails you, or Facebooks you, or calls you on your cell phone, you’ve really got to be organized in the capacity to respond. Yes, there are more appropriate means to contact your representatives, but constituents—especially in our district where we have so many college students who don’t know to contact and are contacting their council member for something that’s not appropriate to contact their council member for but that’s what they’re doing. We’ve got to be accessible and organized in this role.
Lawless answers first | 11:16 mark
I have personal Facebook page and I’ve had it for a long time. A lot of constituents as well as other people are a part of that. I consistently ask them to please – because I get so many emails at my office – Facebook comes last. So I try to respond to those as quickly as and as many as possible, but I consistently put on there, “Please send this to my LexingtonKYdot gov email so it doesn’t get lost, because I do want to make sure I do respond to each and every one of them. Social media is also a great way to get messages out and I use that Facebook page—my personal Facebook page—to update people when I can on things that are going on in the city that they may want to know about: different fundraisers, different projects, parks, etc. Another issue is it’s been a way to keep up with the neighborhood associations. Many of them have Facebook pages that they post on and I’m able to follow those with their Facebook pages, knowing what’s going on. Just recently I found out there was an increase in crime in the Bell Court area. I wouldn’t have known that had it not been for their social media. I was able to get an increase in patrols.[moderator called time but it sounds like Ms. Lawless said “in patrols” after she was cut off]
What is your position on food trucks in downtown Lexington?
Spires – answers first | 14: 30 mark
I am a fan of food trucks and I can tell you food trucks have saved me. I was recently in DC in a boring meeting and needed some caffeine, and I walked right downstairs to that food truck, grabbed a Coke, and walked right back upstairs. I recognize that if the bricks and mortars had not invested in this community, then the food trucks would not want to be here. And I realize that we have state laws that hinder the food trucks, and so we really need to advocate for the food trucks at the state legislative level to change some of the restrictions. We need to look to Louisville that has a great model.  Their bricks and mortars have seen an increase on the days that they do special food truck events. We need to know what they’re doing, because they’re working within the parameters of the state legislation. The food truck issue has just been an issue that I think we’ve made far more complicated. The state that it’s currently is in, the food trucks aren’t exactly happy with it, the bricks and mortars aren’t exactly happy with it. It really needs some fine tuning and […] we’ve talked the issue to death and we really need to have some action because it’s great, a resource. I think most people really are pro-food trucks, but it’s just what does this legislation look like when it comes out?
Lawless—answers second | 15:45 mark
I too am a proponent of food trucks and I think they are  downtown for special events and there many obstacles. I sat down with them, with somebody from the law department. We went through all the barriers they had. For instance, they had to get—every day, if they were going to be in a different place–they had to go our finance department and tell them where they were and pay a fee. They had to go to the building inspection and get a certificate of occupancy. Neither of those are issues. It is primarily regulated by the health department. So by removing those barriers, they would be allowed to have food truck events all over the city, and I think there are many of those that could work then seven days a week they wanted to. So, it has become very bogged down and gone back and forth. I want them to be successful. I want them to make money. It can be a great addition to our community and I think we also need to have some kind of compromise with the bricks and mortars. They are closed down.
What steps will you as our council woman take to make Phoenix Park safer?
Spires – answers second | 19:09 mark
I think this is a very appropriate question. On Thursday—as you all walked in here, you probably noticed a new fence went up around the building. Park Plaza is starting a renovation that is moving out into the park–the superintendent was stopped five times by city employees who asked how long that fence would be up and he said, “well, the fence is here temporarily but the renovation is going to include retail and it’s going to build out”. And they said—all five groups–, “You mean we have to walk through the park now?”. That is a problem if we have people not wanting to walk through this park. And it’s not the homeless. It’s the loitering that’s going on. It’s the drug activity. Many of the people—being on the library board, I’m familiar with a lot of them. I know where they live, I know who they are. Several of them have even said, hey we’ll come help with your campaign. Because that’s who they are. We’ve really got to put restrictions to prevent loitering in the park. One of the other issues, that the library and the ownership of Park Plaza have been working on—there are some things the city is doing, but the city has said they do not have funding. We have the funding for that and we need the city to work with us so that we can make the proposed $75 – 80,000 changes that are needed. The private funding is there. We’ve been working on this issue for several years. The crime has only increased because we need a strong advocate at the city to work with us.
Lawless answers first | 17: 34 mark
I have been working with the administration on this and this is primarily an administrative issue. They are doing the deep cleaning soon. There’s been some design talk, changing the benches. I’ve also been working with the law department and the parks advisory board, looking at no smoking in Phoenix Park. I think that we can get that but, again, that has to pass the Council. So I am working with the law department on that, as well as looking at closing Phoenix Park when there are not events going on. When a park is closed, in a downtown park, to close it at night because that means nobody can walk through. Also looking at ways in which we can make it safer and someplace that everybody is welcome.  It is a public park and it everybody should be welcome, but the crime has to stop and that primarily is not by the homeless people. There’s a lot of drug activity. There’s a lot of panhandling and aggressive people that are in the park that are not homeless. It needs to be safer and the police need more tools.
Who will you support in a council hearing—a neighborhood or a developer?
Spires – answers first | 20: 56 mark
I think that it—this is a very open ended question because you…it’s kind of very ambiguous and you really don’t know the circumstances are. I think the important thing is to champion for the neighborhoods and to listen to them. On public planning and some of those issues, you really have to stay out of it as your role as a council person. So, it’s kind of an ambiguous question, but I think the most important thing is in any situation you need to talk to your constituents. You need to go out and talk to the neighborhood presidents. You need to knock on doors. You ned to make phone calls to the leaders and say hey, what’s the feeling? What’s going on? Do you all really want to be historical overlay? Do you want parking places? You know, really get the understanding of what your constituents need and then make sure that you’re advocating for that in every arena.
Lawless – answers second | 21:50
As far as supporting the neighborhoods, I certainly support the neighborhoods. However, when there is a zone change hearing, when there is a zone change proposed, you cannot—as a council person—talk to your neighborhood leaders prior to because if you do—and the zone change comes through—and you want to ask for a public hearing when it comes to council, you have to recuse yourself—it’s a quasi-judicial function of the council, which is very different than any of the other the legislative and policy functions of the council. So, you can’t go knock on doors and talk to the neighborhood leaders about whether or not they want a zone change, because if you do, then you cannot call for a public hearing, and you have to recuse yourself from any vote. So, you have to stay out of that. But I certainly talk to neighborhoods about things that are going on in their neighborhood that they may or may not want. I’ve certainly – the board of adjustments, you can go to. I go to those meetings when we have issues coming up that impact that the neighborhood and find out . I go to many of those meetings and I let the public know through email communication about those public board of adjustment meetings and planning.
Lexington continues to experience alcohol problems. Do you have ideas on how to get bars to do a better job of enforcing the law and problems with their patrons? Particularly their underage patrons.
Spires – answers second | 25:30
I was over at the University of Kentucky yesterday and I met with several students. All of them have a fake ID that they use frequently in our bars. So, even though bars do risk losing their ABC license, there is still an issue with underage drinking in bars in this community. And so we need to solve that problem and work together and make sure that’s being enforced. And it’s our obligation to report when we know of bars that are having problems and that are allowing individuals in. But, additionally, I think when we talk about problems with drinking in our district, we do talk a lot about the underaged. You go back to the Final Four. The problem wasn’t in the areas where we had people of age drinking—such as over on South Limestone or Tin  Roof and those bars were doing a great job of carding those people and policing that situation—but it was over on State Street where we started allowing students to drink at 10 in the morning and have loud music on their front porch and we didn’t come in and we didn’t shut them down and we wondered why the problems were so exacerbated at midnight. I think—I’ve talked to police and fire. They feel they’vee learned some lessons. They feel they have some ideas. I know the university is looking at both trying to take the student code of conduct off campus; they’re not quite sure how they can enforce that, but they’re looking into that. As well as making the campus potentially moist, which I think will help these problems as well. So, we all need to work together to solve this problem.
Lawless—answers first | 23:46
That is not really coming from the bars. A bar will lose their ABC license if they serve an underage drinker and they are liable if they over serve someone and they leave their restaurant or bar drunk. Where we have the problem is often in the neighborhoods and at ball games, etc, where people are drinking at home and become intoxicated. That’s the issue. And that’s one of the things we need to really address. A lot of times, they are underage drinking/drinkers. They’ve stepped up during the ball games the areas around UK. Ball game days, I walk around the UK high density neighborhoods and I talk to the young people about, be safe, here are the rules. It’s not illegal to have an open container, but it is illegal to take a drink out of it. So if I see somebody that’s over 21 and they have a drink in their hand, I say, I just don’t want you to get in trouble. You can walk with it, but you can’t drink out of it. I stop and talk to students about, these are the rules. You can’t park in the front yard. When there’s students that – I get complaints about parties, I go and talk to them. And I do this every semester.
Closing Statements
Spires – answers first | 27:09 mark
Well, Joy, thank you and thank the league of Women Voters for having us here today. Thank the library for hosting us again in this forum. I want to thank the audience for being here and those of you who took the time to watch this on TV. I want to serve the Third District. I’m involved in this community. I serve on the Carnegie Center board. I serve on the library board. I’m a young mother. My husband and I foster parent. We know the social services, the general services, the parks and recreations needs. We are out and involved in the community. You can follow me on Facebook and I think you’ll see that. But, I really want the opportunity to be responsive and to work on these issues with other Lexington leaders and with the community.  We have so much great stuff happening in the Third District and we really are at a point that we can either be reactionary like we’ve been typically in the past or we can be proactive and plan for the future growth of our community. So I really hope that you all will look at the candidates and that you’ll come out on November 6 and vote for Stephanie Spires.
Lawless – answers second | 28:21
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time on council and I humbly asked for your vote to serve a third term. I am energetic and enthusiastic. I meet with neighbors. I meet with UK students.  I meet with UK. I’ve met with Dr. Capilouto several times. I meet with the administration. I work with the neighborhoods to bring them together so that the students and the neighbors can be a community rather than in adversity… and welcoming them. That’s why I came to UK in 1969 and I fell in love with Lexington, and I want the students at UK to have that same opportunity. We do have a very small percentage of students that cause tensions in the neighborhoods and I think that those are important to address. The Final Four, that was planned and many of those people were not students, they weren’t from Lexington, and they were out full force that morning. So, again, I have worked hard. I think you will find that my constituents—whether they’re students, long term residents—know that I’ve worked hard to help with infrastructure…[moderator calls time]