Bill Farmer, Jr. | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

Bill Farmer, Jr.

Political party: 
Nonpartisan
Incumbent: 
Yes
Question 1: 

What do you think are some of the most pressing issues facing Lexington in 2020? What is your vision for Lexington, and how will the lives of Lexingtonians be improved as a result of your time in office?

The COVID-19 crisis is going to put tremendous financial pressure on LFUCG in the years to come. I believe my ability to listen and learn, as well as my experience and proven record of accomplishments best equips me to provide the leadership needed to address what may very well be some unprecedented challenges. I envision ALL of Lexington coming together, as one community to heal and continue our progress.

            My priorities as a council member have always centered around public safety and strong, conservative fiscal policy. I have worked tirelessly for stronger neighborhoods, safer schools, road and infrastructure improvements, accessibility to and accountability in all of local government.

            The Fifth District has seen major improvements to streets and roads, including the addition of bike lanes and sidewalks, a major tree replacement program and the addition of more police officers in neighborhoods and around schools. Lexington has achieved so much and is becoming a notably beautiful city. We have overseen an historic reconstruction of Lexington’s water and sewer infrastructure, funded numerous safety programs, including pedestrian safety, improved and expanded parks and recreation facilities, and located the new, $13 million Senior Citizens Center in the Fifth.

Question 2: 

What is your plan for increasing access to safe, equitable, affordable housing, building homeownership and financial equity, and ensuring long term residents are not displaced from neighborhoods undergoing redevelopment? What is your position on tenants’ rights ordinances and halting evictions, rent, and mortgages during periods of high levels of unemployment such as the current COVID-19 pandemic?

I will continue to support every effort to find, plan and build affordable housing. I believe there are more partners that can help bring more inventory to the market. By putting Neighborhoods First, I will continue to fight for established neighborhoods, protecting their place in Lexington’s vibrant culture. I am open to learning more about how our community can protect and help citizens during COVID-19 and through high levels of unemployment. In working on COVID-19 issues the initial response of the council was to set aside $1.9 million of the response funding for immediate use to help folks avoid eviction. This will be a grant program similar to what council did with local businesses.

Question 3: 

Kentuckians from across the state are coming together to say Black Lives Matter and to demand that all Kentuckians can move through our communities without fearing for our lives or our loved ones. What is the role of the Urban County Council in opposing white supremacy, addressing racial inequality and supporting racial justice for Black people, Indigenous people, and all people of color in our state? Please tell us about at least one policy initiative you would propose or support as a Urban County Council member to address racial and systemic inequalities.

Black Lives Matter. The signs and the reality are everywhere. I believe both my and the councils’ best work is to support Mayor Gorton and her initiative-driven Public Engagement Committees.

            That important work and those outcomes will need legislative leadership which I pledge.

            With so many needs, focus will be important to the long lasting healing and change that is required.

            I believe every citizen has a responsibility to oppose white supremacy, address racial inequality and support justice for all. As leaders on the Urban County Council, I believe our responsibility is even greater. We have a responsibility to provide for the general welfare and assure fair and equal treatment for every citizen.

Question 4: 

In recent years, elected leaders in the Kentucky legislature have been pushing for more proactive cooperation with federal immigration agencies, including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. What is the role of local city councilors in this conversation about protecting undocumented immigrants in Kentucky?

Throughout my time on council I have only had limited communication with the agencies listed. The question is prefaced on Kentucky legislative action and I believe both the jurisdiction and possible action are there.

Question 5: 

The science on climate change is more robust than ever, and many agree that we are in a critical moment for the future of our planet. What has you concerned about climate change? What will you do as a city councilor to minimize Lexington's carbon footprint?

Longterm benefit to sewer capacity and water quality in local streams and creeks will help to keep the 5th District and Lexington unique and special. We have taken major steps under the $590 million EPA Consent Decree to address one of our community’s most pressing environmental issues. While it doesn’t directly impact our carbon footprint, the work being done to correct the neglect of our water and sewer infrastructure has been, and will continue to be, a priority for Lexington. Further, we have an opportunity to engage and involve nongovernmental entities to fight climate change, partnering with the City to achieve better and effect positive results.

Question 6: 

How would you include constituents in your district and across Lexington in the development of the annual budget? What area(s) of the budget would you prioritize funding? What revenue increases would you propose to meet our city’s future budget needs?

As a lifelong resident and small business owner in the Fifth, I continue to be open and accessible to everyone in the District. I proudly consider myself the most accessible "retail" politician in Lexington and believe one of the reasons voters in the Fifth have re-elected me numerous times is my proven record of open and vigorous dialogue on all the issues we face. Encouraging and seeking citizen engagement and perspective is critical to the effectiveness of our Urban County Council. I try to do this everywhere I go and in everything I do. Meetings with neighborhoods and individuals is typically frequent and timely outside of our COVID-19 times.

            This is the wrong time to raise taxes. Without question the next budget for Lexington is going to be a difficult one, but we must address our needs without further burdening those in our community who are already struggling to make ends meet. My priorities will be the same as they have always been, public safety, maintaining the highest level of basic government services and making sure the needs of the Fifth Council District are addressed as efficiently and fairly as possible.

Question 7: 

Important meetings in the local government are often held during hours when many working folks are at work or unavailable. What specific initiatives would you enact to make local government more accessible to those who may not have the time or resources to participate?

All of the important meetings of our local government are in the evening. All formal council meetings and zone changes. Those are forums for decision making. I have been a proponent for meetings outside the government center before and now. Right now the advent of Zoom has made every meeting much easier to view. The hard work before us here is the work to make public comment part of the conversation again. Folks who hijack our meetings with hate speech have to be weeded out so the good conversations can go on.

Question 8: 

What will you do to provide support for individuals and families who will not receive COVID-19 stimulus payments, including people who are undocumented and young adults who were listed as dependents on their parents/guardians’ 2019 tax filings? What are your plans to address the disproportionate economic and health impacts of the pandemic on poor people and communities of color?

As I did with the budget I will continue to find ways to help. The council budget priority was to restore the funding to nonprofits. We did so. Then we administered a grant program for the most local of businesses - very successfully. Right now we have immediately placed $1.9million aside to help prevent evictions. These are all important outreaches that we need to continue.

Question 9: 

What is your plan for ensuring that long term residents are not displaced from neighborhoods that are undergoing redevelopment? What is your position on Tenants’ Rights ordinances that seek to protect renters from unjust evictions? Please explain.

As part of the Neighborhoods In Transition Task Force I see first hand applications in fostering our most precious neighbors. Community fabric doesn't always find better neighbors just because of new construction. As a proponent of Neighborhoods First, this is the best example of why they should.

Question 10: 

Substandard conditions in our jails and detention centers disproportionately impact Black and Latinx Kentuckians. Do you support ending cash bail and investing in alternatives to incarceration and detention? Why or why not? What is the role of the Urban County Council to enact these types of policies?

The Council’s job is to provide for the best facility possible for detention. That work is always on going and protecting those in custody is no less important than anywhere else. Not sure we have a role in bail policy, but do know that we as a council and for me individually will never stop trying to make the detention center as fair a place for all who stay there.