Hannah LeGris | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

Hannah LeGris

Political party: 
Nonpartisan
Incumbent: 
No
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?

Economic recovery, affordable housing, environmental sustainability, and democratizing the power and policy-making processes are urgent issues affecting Lexington. These challenges are all interlinked with one another, which is why it is important to address them holistically, through collaboration and utilizing evidence-based strategies from other communities.

If elected I will advocate for local businesses, directing aid and support to our workers. I want to use the Comprehensive Plan to promote responsible development, focusing on infill, block-by-block development, and equitable investment to create more housing within the Urban Services Boundary for low and middle-income families. It is critical that we incorporate green practices, such as comprehensive recycling, protecting and developing tree canopy, net carbon neutrality, and incentivized transportation (including bike and pedestrian infrastructure, rideshare, and reliable public transit) into our current and operations.

Both the government and our elected officials have an obligation to be transparent, share information, and seek feedback from affected residents. As the 3rd District representative I will create more points of access for constituents, especially those who have been historically disenfranchised and ignored. By taking meaningful steps to change to our processes, we can create a city that is more inclusive and equitable for everyone.

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?

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare many of the injustices within our society. I believe safe and affordable housing is a human right, essential to maintaining our collective health and economic stability. As our community responds to the pandemic, we need to plan in both the short and long-term to protect the housing insecure.

Presently, LFUCG should continue to connect tenants facing eviction with financial resources through the state fund and community rent assistance programs. The KY Supreme Court has struck down Governor Beshear’s moratorium on evictions, which makes it imperative that we work together to provide the resources that people need to stay housed.

At the same time, council should continue the ongoing process of creating more affordable housing stock, improving quality of life for all members of our community. Fayette County follows the KY Tenant/Landlord Act, which governs tenants’ rights; I believe we can also work with fair housing advocates and landlords to provide additional protections to our most vulnerable residents.

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.

Lexington is a center of diversity within Kentucky. However, there remains considerable work to be done to address structural racism and discrimination within our policies and practices. I believe LFUCG can address some of the structural problems of inequality and discrimination in several ways, including:

1. Creating more transparency and accountability within government agencies to ensure that all residents are treated fairly, regardless of background, ethnicity, orientation, income, faith, or ability

2. Funding and simplifying assistance to existing social services and access to affordable housing

3. Continuing to work with effective partner organizations like the Urban League, KRM, KCTC, and Workforce Development to provide education, job training, and assistance

Racism, discrimination, and intolerance are real threats and it is important that we address these issues head-on. To maintain the legitimacy of the government and trust of the public, we need to ensure fair and equitable treatment for our residents. In my role on council, I will work to bring people together and deliver substantive changes to make Lexington a safe, just, 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. I believe diversity makes us stronger and we should protect people who work, raise families, and contribute to our community, allowing all to live without fear of persecution. Our city government’s first responsibility is to its residents and we should work to be inclusive and accommodating for people of all different backgrounds.

As councilmember, I will build partnerships with community leaders throughout the city to meet immigrant communities where they are to develop mutual respect and trust. LFUCG can also offer more and better access to benefits and resources for the non-English speaking population, including translating materials and city services, and extending services with no question about status. In addition, I would partner with groups like CivicLex, Maxwell Street Legal Clinic, and Kentucky Refugee Ministries to promote community-wide education about the reasons for immigration and the roles that immigrants play in our region and economy.

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?

We know that climate change is real and our current system of development is unsustainable at both the individual and institutional levels. If elected, I am committed to creating substantive policies that promote conservation and waste reduction. Government should exemplify these values and incentivize green and energy-efficient practices whenever possible, providing financial incentives, such as tax credits or rebates, for residents and business owners alike.

Our city government should also work with organizations like Reforest the Bluegrass to maintain and improve tree canopy and institute city-wide composting. I believe educating the public is central to the success of these programs, and necessary to cultivate widespread buy-in, so I would propose creating an initiative with Fayette County Schools to promote green practices from an early age.

Incremental changes add up, which is why I try to bike or walk when I’m able. To that end, I believe the city’s Comprehensive Plan and the UK Transportation Master Plan will improve bike/pedestrian access and limit single driver traffic over time. As your councilmember, I would advocate for bicycle infrastructure, public transportation, ride-sharing, walkability, and other green transportation policies.

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, but constituent participation is usually low. As councilmember, I want to extend the city’s outreach efforts as a means to empower residents. Community input is valuable for establishing our collective priorities, and by expanding access online we can attract people who have historically been excluded from the process. LFUCG could also partner with groups like CivicLex to develop citizen budget workshops and provide context and educational tools.

During this economic downturn, it is critical that our spending supports residents, maintains the essential functions of government, and works to minimize the negative impact within the community. Due to Lexington’s reliance on payroll taxes, we must remain competitive and attractive to businesses to maintain our financial health. While the city’s tax collection is constrained by the state constitution, participatory budgeting might alleviate some frustrations by ensuring that residents have a say in how we allocate funds. As a council member, I will prioritize budget items that protect the most vulnerable members of our community, including social services and affordable housing.

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?

Participation is essential to democracy and we can’t lose sight of that. It is a responsibility of the government to make engagement as straightforward and meaningful as possible. When technology outpaces institutional norms, our leaders should familiarize themselves with platforms like YouTube Live, Zoom, and other streaming technologies to open up the process of governance, provide education, and engage the community. If elected, I want LFUCG to solicit more participation by exploring new platforms and more clearly sharing information, such as minutes, meeting notes, and other publicly suitable materials, where appropriate.

I believe that civic engagement and governmental accessibility are mutually reciprocal. As we work through the challenges of governing we should continually aspire to align our process with our values. Through years of working with students, I’ve learned that asking for input energizes and strengthens relationships. Rather than simply accepting limited participation, I will actively seek out diverse perspectives and make opportunities for senior citizens, young adults, renters, people with housing insecurity, students, and others to share their thoughts and join the process.

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?

Poor people, people who are undocumented, and communities of color are at a disadvantage, even more so during this pandemic. They have carried a disproportionate burden, with limited health care, significant financial challenges, and the inability to miss work. This is already a monumental challenge, even in the best of times. However I believe that state and local governments have a responsibility to fill service gaps and keep people healthy and financially stable.

More generally, local governments must be proactive and follow an evidence-based approach when addressing societal problems. As your council member, I want to work with area nonprofits, mutual aid networks, and informal community-based groups to support our most vulnerable residents. From multilingual resources, to emergency housing funds, to resilient service agreements, we should identify best practices in other communities to implement in Lexington. Building relationships is essential to supporting those who have been historically marginalized, who have misgivings about government, or who lack access to basic resources like medical insurance, child care, or technology. Through this process we can develop trust, identify service gaps, and create robust systems that generate lasting support.

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.

Neighborhoods are a fundamental unit of our city, which means that responsible infill and redevelopment practices are vital to maintaining the character of our communities. I support development plans that recognize the identity of neighborhoods and bring residents into the conversation. As a city we must focus on equitable investment to protect neighborhood character and limit the impacts of gentrification. If elected I will advocate for responsible growth, with an emphasis on infill and block-by-block development.

There is also an urgent need for more affordable housing, especially within the Urban Service Boundary. Many Lexington residents continue to rent and they should be given clear rights and responsibilities, which is why council should review the city’s tenant rights. However it is also important that LFUCG creates opportunities for investment and home ownership, both of which are critical for developing household wealth.

I am dedicated to listening to and working with stakeholders so that our present decisions do not compromise our future. We can still promote development without displacement and as your councilmember I will clarify the primacy of values like inclusiveness, liveability, and sustainability.

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?

According to the ACLU, the US imprisons 2.3 million people, about 25% of the world’s incarcerated population; over 70% of those are pre-trial detainees, many of whom are there because they cannot afford bail. The cash bail system penalizes low-income residents, exacerbating unequal treatment before the law, and should be eliminated.

Our carceral system is actively harmful and policymakers at all levels should take action. By redesigning our pre-trial systems, we can reduce prison sentences, save taxpayer dollars, and rely less on the corrections industry. Kentucky has already enacted some reforms, including automatic release of low-to-moderate risk defendants facing certain charges, risk assessment measures, procedural protections for the accused, and banning commercial bail bonds.

Within the scope of council, there are plenty of additional opportunities. For example, when interacting with people experiencing housing insecurity we could forgive legal fines and fees, alter parole procedures, and decriminalize homelessness in favor of providing a “housing first” policy. For the benefit of our community, I think we should seek rehabilitative options whenever feasible, collaboratively setting reform priorities with our residents.