Lexington Mayor Jim Gray has offered his eighth ‘State of the City’ address to city, civic, and business leaders Tuesday. The two term mayor spent much time recapping his seven years in office.
Gray talked about going from financial straits to budget surpluses, expanding the convention center and building an eye-catching park in the heart of downtown.
Still there are challenges, like violent crime, which Gray says has led to the largest police force in the city’s history. “New officers and community policing will help us fight the violence that too often has resulted in shootings on our streets, shootings that are often fueled by illegal drugs and guns,” said Gray.
Long time Urban League President P.G. Peoples says there are two keys in trying to reduce local violence. “We’ve got to keep our kids educated and keeping them in school and we’ve got to have employment for these young folks,” noted Peoples.
Peoples still believes the closing of the mayor’s training center almost a decade ago shut the door on a pipeline to help kids off the street.
The mayor did not mention the anticipated challenge city leaders will face with anticipated state pension reforms. Council Budget Committee Chair and announced mayoral candidate Kevin Stinnett says this was not the venue for to raise that issue. “He is ending on a good note from where he started and we’re on the up and up, but I think that challenge does await the new mayor,” said Stinnett.
As it stands today, Stinnett says the additional cost to the city of Lexington for pension changes could run more than $10 million.
Gray says the city’s choice of MetroNet to install a high speed fiber optic network has its fans, even though work is just beginning on the system. “One guy ever rolled down his window on his truck as he was driving down Main Street and said ‘hey mayor, I love that fast internet,” Gray told the packed room.
Gray says MetroNet is starting to build its network this week.
Council Member Amanda Mays-Bledsoe notes capital investment and public safety infrastructure improvements have been significant. But she says therein lies a challenge, too. “The balance is going to be, with this responsibility on pension reform and other things that are going to come due, and maintaining that same investment, will be the challenge moving forward,” said Mays-Bledsoe.
Lexington Vice-Mayor Steve Kay says the mayor speech is an example of how the city is ‘thriving.’ He says people and businesses are choosing to come to Fayette County.
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