Charles D Smith | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

Charles D Smith

Political party: 
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?

One of the biggest concerns is the amount of money the LFUCG is spending to maintain its’ old and outdated office spaces. Estimated deferred maintenance costs make it very important that a new Government Center be built: sooner, rather than later. The ultimate savings can be used for other services that will benefit all of Fayette County.

Lextran has the capabilities of being a huge benefit to our community. For many, many years there have been many attempts to encourage people to ride the bus. Mostly those efforts have failed, but Lexington already has the infrastructure (Transit Center, new Lextran garage and offices, and new electric buses) to make bus travel convenient and affordable for everyone. The more riders, the more routes can be run.

Question 2: 

In 2015, nearly eight hundred students in Fayette County Public Schools were homeless. There is also a severe shortage of affordable housing for people in our community that make minimum wage, even when they are working full time. What will you do to address the problems of homelessness and the lack of affordable housing in our community?

I would encourage the LFUCG to follow the lead of the University of Kentucky by raising the starting wage for employees to $12.50 per hour. Since 2015 the Office of Homelessness Prevention and Intervention has been funded to try and overcome obstacles to having a home. The most recent count of homeless people in Fayette showed a drop of 12.5% from January 2019 to January 2020. So progress is being made and funding for these programs needs to be kept in place.

Lexington Community Land Trust has plans to build more affordable houses in the Davis Bottom area as soon as the land is turned over to them by the state. These houses maintain their affordability even when the owner decides to sell, since the land belongs to the trust.

Question 3: 

What is the role of the Lexington Urban County Council in opposing white supremacy, addressing racial inequality and supporting racial justice for Black people, Indigenous people, Latinx people, immigrants, those who are undocumented, and all people of color in our city? Please identify at least two policy initiatives you would propose while in office to address racial and systemic inequalities.

In our current national political climate, it is very difficult to sidestep this issue. The recent removal of the confederate statues from the courthouse is very symbolic that in Lexington we want all people to be comfortable and get respect from their government.

Ending the war on drugs, which has incarcerated an inordinate number of “minority” people, would be a great start. The stigma of serving time in jail makes it very difficult to overcome and get a good-paying job. But ending this war on drugs is not something our local city council could do; it would have to come from the Federal Government. It is very important that Lexington treat all of its citizens and their own LFUCG employees fairly. The ordinances are in place, people must be willing to accept people of all faiths and races. I try to always do so.

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?

Once again, this seems to be an issue that our national government needs to resolve. The pictures of children being held in cages along the border make all of us think we, as America, need to be better than that. The knowledge that many potential immigrants wait for months and months on the Mexican side of the wall just to simply have a hearing on whether they can legally enter the country or not is terrible. This system should be streamlined to prevent such hardships.

I, like I think most Lexingtonians do, believe that the vast majority of legal and illegal people entering our country are good people who want a better life, not the kind of people that are described as being non-desirable and detrimental to our country. We need a better, more humane system to assimilate immigrants and potential immigrants.

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?

I am very concerned because so many think climate change is a hoax or a farce. I do not. I think it is very real and needs to be addressed globally, nationally, and locally.

While I am on the council I will encourage ridership of our LexTran buses, as they transition to an electric bus fleet. Making downtown and our neighborhoods more walkable will also encourage less use of automobiles. I wish there was an inexpensive way to separate bike paths from automobiles; many people do not feel safe in the bike lanes on heavily traveled roads. Lexington is finishing many dedicated bike/walk trails and that is a start. Many people are working to increase Lexington’s tree canopy which I totally support.

All of these things are important. For Lexington, many of these problems could be solved with more money, but apparently that is in short supply.

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?

Lexington needs to do something to broaden its stream of revenue so it is not so dependent on payroll taxes.Additional revenue could be used to solve a host of problems, environmental and otherwise.

I would propose that the LFUCG create a citizens fee that would be paid by each resident of Fayette county over the age of 18. I think something in the $5 to $10 per month range with a sunset provision that would end it in 5 years.

Revenue raised (based on Fayette County's population) would be in the $15 to $40 million range. These additional funds should be split equally among the 12 council districts, where the people in the each district could decide to fund one or two projects per year.
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?

One of the main reasons I decided to run was because of the frustration I had felt when attending zone change hearings, where the neighborhoods are at a tremendous disadvantage.

I am proposing the government lease or allow space to be used for a Neighborhood Resource Center. Two or three government employees could work at the center, which should have ample parking and space inside for mid-size meetings. Ideally the center would be open some evenings and citizens could get copies of documents necessary at cost. They would be able to hold meetings with developers there or meet with other government officials or council members. The center would be equipped with the technology to make presentations.

The resource center could also house the Fayette County Neighborhood Council which could continue to offer training classes for neighborhood associations in a central location.

Easy parking, some evening hours, and the ability to access documents concerning neighborhood changes would increase the transparency of government.

Question 8: 

Transgender students are more vulnerable to bullying than their cisgender peers (Cisgender is a term for people whose gender identity matches the sex that they were assigned at birth.) What protections or policies would you propose or support to protect trans youth in Lexington from bullying and discrimination?

The Lexington Fairness Ordinance was passed almost 20 years ago. I continue to believe that Lexington is at the forefront of making sure everyone’s rights are protected. I personally have always had a live and let live attitude and try to give everyone equal respect.

As a council member I would have to develop a clearer understanding of what kind of action the Urban County Council could take to help with bullying or discrimination.

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.

The continued gentrification of many neighborhoods creates economic problems for tenants living in those areas, many who have lived there for several years. There is nothing I know of in the Tenant’s Rights ordinances that gives anyone protection if a landlord gives proper notice of increased rent.

I know several council members have raised the alarm on this and I am very open to try and find solutions to help people stay in place.