Hannah LeGris | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

Hannah LeGris

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?

I believe that affordable housing, responsible development, environmental sustainability, and equity of access to power and policy-making processes are all urgent issues affecting Lexington. These challenges are all interlinked with one-another which is why it is so important to address them holistically, with an emphasis on collaboration and utilizing evidence-based strategies from other communities.

If elected, I will advocate for responsible development, focusing on infill, block-by-block development, and equitable investment. I understand the need for more housing options, especially within the urban service boundary, and I will work with stakeholders in the city, region, and state to ensure that all plans are humane and responsible. It is essential that we as a city incorporate far-reaching green practices, such as comprehensive recycling and waste management, net carbon neutrality, and incentivized low-congestion transportation (including bike and pedestrian infrastructure and reliable public transit) into our current and strategic operations.

Both the government and elected officials have an obligation to be transparent, to share information and to seek feedback from affected residents, and as the 3rd District representative I will create more points of access for both interested and affected groups, especially those who have consistently felt disenfranchised and left out of said processes.

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?

Homelessness and housing insecurity have been ongoing challenges in Lexington for years. These issues remain intractable because of geographical constraints, historical inequity, pricing, infrastructure and development, and municipal servicing. Neighborhoods have been favored or neglected by the city, financial lenders, and utilities over time -- and have changed for good or ill as a consequence. We have learned that communities suffer collectively when they fail to plan and care for all residents.

We also know that Kentucky has a high rate of student homelessness, evidenced by several studies on that issue -- and on housing insecurity in general -- by the LFUCG and other groups. However, there has been some reticence to act and a lack of decisiveness, for fear of angering constituents. I believe Lexington needs to rally its leadership and work with other invested organizations to determine the resources that are available, internally and externally, to help the housing insecure. As a member of City Council I will work to build support at the neighborhood level to promote, invest, and create affordable housing. This issue is larger than any one district; it affects people of all ages and backgrounds and will worsen unless Lexington addresses root causes and works proactively.

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.

Lexington is a center of diversity within Kentucky and has a long history as a tolerant and welcoming community. I believe the city government should continue to work for all its residents, inclusive of ethnicity, orientation, income, faith, or ability. The LFUCG can work to address some of the structural problems of equity and inclusivity in several ways:

1. Simplifying assistance to existing social service benefits and housing

2. Continuing to work with effective partner organizations like Kentucky Refugee Ministries, KCTC, and Workforce Development to provide aid, education, job training, and assistance to people who need it most

3. Promoting multicultural and multilingual spaces in Lexington through arts funding and public/private partnerships

I recognize the ways that people interact with the government and legal system can be markedly different. Equitable and just treatment is critical to maintaining the legitimacy and trust of the public. We can respect the fundamental right of people to demonstrate and express their opinions, just as we can prioritize keeping people safe while celebrating our different beliefs. These values are not in opposition. By engaging with people throughout our city, we can make Lexington a safe and welcoming community for everyone.

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?

The United States has been a nation of immigrants since its founding, and our community is no exception. Our city government’s first responsibility is to its residents. Therefore, I believe that we should protect people who work, raise families, and contribute to our community in a variety of ways -- and allow them to live responsibly without fear of threats or persecution. Local governments are often referred to as ‘laboratories of democracy’ and Lexington should continually aspire to be an inclusive and accommodating city for people of all different backgrounds.

As councilmember, I would work with community leaders at both the neighborhood and citywide levels to meet immigrant communities where they are and create spaces of mutual respect and trust. I know that Lexington can also offer more and better access to benefits and resources for the non-english speaking population, including translating materials and city services. In addition, I would partner with groups like CivicLex to promote community-wide education about the reasons for immigration and the roles that immigrants play in our region and economy. When we value relationships with different types of people, we can better understand the human aspects of immigration and appreciate how different cultures enrich us collectively.

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?

Our current economic system and lifestyle are unsustainable; environmentalism must be practiced at both the individual and institutional levels. I am a strong advocate for bicycling, walking, carpooling, and using the public transit system, both as a society and in my personal life. The city’s Comprehensive Plan and the UK Transportation Master Plan will improve bike/pedestrian access and limit single driver traffic. However, both plans can be massively improved and coordinated to influence traffic design and flow. Lexington must cease promoting private automobiles over public transportation and walkability. Recognizing how neighborhood-centric planning, dependable and equitable public transit, and bike/pedestrian infrastructure can greatly enhance livability while reducing environmental impact.

If elected, I will build consensus to incentivize alternative forms of transportation and develop policies that are oriented toward environmentalism and minimizing waste. LFUCG should continue to incentivize green building practices and provide tax credits for energy-efficient practices for residents and business owners, alike. Lexington should create an offset program with Reforest the Bluegrass to plant more trees and shift toward city-wide composting. Education is central to the success of these initiatives, crucial for maintaining a functional recycling system, and necessary for cultivating green practice from an early age.

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?

Budget development is an important part of the council’s responsibilities, though community participation is very low. As a councilmember I will propose a more intensive outreach effort to attract input from people who have not historically been included in the budget process. It is important to generate dialogue across community groups and through a wide range of channels. LFUCG can partner, accordingly, with civic groups to create additional citizen budget workshops

While tax credits and incentives can be useful for attracting certain economic interests, I believe some of the best ways to develop the city’s revenue base are by developing the city. Broadband internet, public parks and greenspace, livable neighborhoods, and thoughtful development all contribute to quality of life within a city and attract a variety of people. We can reduce brain-drain and increase entrepreneurship with a range of people-centric incentives, which would be the focus of my budgetary priorities. However in order to bridge spending gaps and avoid shortfalls, additional taxation might be needed to generate revenue. By working in conjunction with a long-term commercial plan, Lexington can minimize the possibility of disruption and provide a good quality of life while protecting its future budgetary requirements.

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?

Lexington already holds open meetings for city council but few constituents attend; part of the issue is the lack of civic education and the isolation of city hall from other aspects of public life. Increased civic engagement is key to my campaign and to the practices I will promote as a city council member, especially in regard to transparency and accessibility.

LFUCG could develop more robust partnerships with CivicLex and other organizations to increase familiarity and access to the processes of governance. Rather than simply providing more public education, city government could actively encourage involvement through a citizen-participation program. Given the possibility of more accessibility for young constituents, diverse perspectives, renters, students, the city government could encourage these organizations and establish a stronger relationship with related civic groups.

Publishing minutes and other public information on the LFUCG website is another positive way to increase the availability of information for interested residents. The website for the LFUCG could also be updated to improve navigation and include more translated materials. Finally, the government could consider resident participation when reviewing its own internal processes. For example, council members could host ‘open houses’ several times throughout the year after 5pm to engage more citizens.

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?

We are fortunate to live in an accepting community for people of all backgrounds and orientations. One way to protect the rights of trans and queer people, however, is to ban conversion therapy with an ordinance and to work with state legislators to implement similar protections at the state level. In addition, the city should work with the school board to promote anti-discrimination and anti-bullying policies specifically for queer and trans-identifying individuals. An additional part of the solution would be to ensure that a wide range of constituents are included at the table, and that coalitions are formed that give more space and voice to LGBTQ+ citizens in the system of governance. LGBTQ+ issues are central to my platform and I am invested in getting Lexington’s Municipality Index Score up to 100, which means both maintaining and increasing services and protections for LGBTQ+ individuals across our community.

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.

Development is not a universally positive process. Neighborhoods are the fundamental unit of community -- and redevelopment can be destabilizing and disruptive. I support using assets-based models when creating redevelopment plans to recognize and celebrate the character and diversity of neighborhoods. I will bring residents into the conversation and make space to promote development without displacement. Proper execution of this vision involves public agencies, business owners, tenants, landlords, and homeowners, alike, and generating neighborhood plans that place positive human relationships, and not just economic interests, at the forefront.

It is critical the city creates and funds options for low-income housing within the master housing plan. Home ownership is important for developing household wealth; the city should set-up a commission to encourage home ownership as part of the Comprehensive Plan. But many Lexington residents will continue to rent, and it is also important to protect their interests. I strongly support tenant rights and cooperative housing. Space is at a premium in the city; we need to promote engaged development while disincentivizing irresponsible, unjust ownership. Vacancy taxation and additional scrutinization over the eviction process are possibilities, as are investment in a wide range of housing types and infrastructure to address larger housing issues.