Lincoln and S. Limestone and the Lex Downtown Devel Authority

Lincoln and S. Limestone and the Lex Downtown Devel Authority

[pictured: Rob Morris and friends “LexMob” S. Limestone…Not really. But that’s his goal.]

Emotions are running high downtown this week in the wake of the S. Limestone closures which began last Wednesday, July 22. S. Limestone business owners promptly filed a lawsuit and asked the court for an injunction that would halt construction while processes were improved, which was denied in court on Friday.

While there’s great consensus that improving the College Town corridor is what’s best for Lex, very few think the process and execution has gone smoothly. There will be a streetscape Open Forum meeting for the Cheapside Area on Wednesday, July 29 5 pm to 7:30 at the LFUCG building, 1st floor ballroom (200 East Main). This meeting was listed in Ace on July 23, on page 5 and page 9.

By way of summary, three main points have emerged from the ongoing discussions of the role of the Lexington Downtown Development Authority (who pleaded their case for increased funding at a meeting yesterday, July 27) that developed around the execution of the current S. Limestone project:

– the need for better two-way communication between DDA and the LFUCG, and the DDA and Lexington citizens (the website is out of date, and wasn’t designed for dialogue, just broadcasting);

– the need for transparency (e.g., Harold Tate does have a Twitter account @Harold51, but it is not active; the Mill Street Ped Mall proposal, on the other hand, has an active Facebook page with regular updates); perhaps GTV3 could play a role?;

– measurable, quantifiable accountability and results geared toward economic development outcomes. What are they spending; how are they spending it; and what is Lexington getting in terms of bang for the buck?

This is all especially true in the wake of quasi-public/private spending scandals at the Airport, the Library, Kentucky League of Cities, and Kentucky Association of Counties. (DDA announced at yesterday’s meeting that it is complying with Public Information requests.)

It was this environment that greeted Doug Martin, Council Member 10th district when he commented on Twitter yesterday, July 27, that he had been to a “Great board mtg today with LexDDA. Updates on Angliana & long term planning. Lex needs to 4x budget for LexDDA. Time to get serious!” prompting spirited debate and substantive discussion of the issues in some quarters.

JT Shelton responded, “we definitely need more money, but why give LexDDA more when they haven’t proven to be effective?”

Ace contributing writer Andrew Wyllie, a longtime advocate for better two-way communication from the DDA responded,  “Maybe LexDDA would be more successful if they had more money—they really only have a couple people,” asking, “where would you rather spend that money? Scrap everything LexDDA has done? They do have some good ideas.”

Shelton’s response was, “I’m not saying that LexDDA doesn’t need more resources, but skepticism is warranted. What results can we rely on? Examples? I never said LexDDA was a failure, just that I’m not sure it is the best vehicle for addressing Lexington problems.”

He adds, “I don’t pretend to know ins and outs of LexDDA, but [the] only public efforts in last 18 months are support of CentrePointe, not to mention Harold Tate’s planned obstruction of a Mill Street Ped Mall, regardless of possible benefits.”
He asked, “what about LFUCG planning? Why don’t we have highly educated, innovative planners working for city government?”

During LFUCG work sessions this past May and June, CM Diane Lawless repeatedly reiterated her support for the Streetscape project, while questioning DDA’s lack of communication with LFUCG and with citizens. Shelton reiterated some of her recent comments, saying, “point of evidence for lack of public results: has hardly (if at all) been updated since 2007. I think the South Limestone project is brilliant, but that doesn’t mean execution wasn’t flawed and shouldn’t be addressed.”

Council Member Martin recommended, “Citizens can contribute by going to meetings and contributing new ideas. Most important is supporting progress thru consensus. Communities achieve great things by bringing people together for common purpose. Do we move forward together or fight among ourselves? We need less negativity, which discourages risk taking like SoLime & Angliana. Becoming too chique to lambast and tear down.”

Dr. Nick Kouns observed,  “What, for the love of Pete, has happened to respectful discourse? Disagreeing without being disagreeable?” clarifying that we “Don’t have to be quiet to be respectful.”

TashaLee brought a dose of Lincoln to the discussion, commenting, ” ‘A house divided will not stand.’ Sure, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be intelligent debate and thought-provoking discourse,” explaining, I quoted Lincoln because we have already discussed how contemporary Lexington can learn from him.”

Ace contributing writer, Rob Morris (downtown biz owner of Lowells) was the architect of #LexMob (page 5 of the current edition of Ace, and here on the blog—an effort designed to encourage citizens to support the S. Limestone corridor with ped traffic and dollars throughout construction. In the last week, he’s gathered “field trips” to CD Central, Tolly Ho, Sav’s, Tin Roof, Pazzos, and Han Woo Ri, to name a few. He’s been walking the 7 or 8 blocks from Lowells Mechanic Street location off North Limestone to the destinations on S. Limestone, and inviting fellow “LexMobbers” to share the Lowells parking lot and the walk. He’s regularly posted a list of S. Lime businesses that are affected, with maps.

Doug Martin, Shaye Rabold, and Mayor Newberry have also promoted that listing and are also among the Twitterverse who’ve been voting with their dollars on South Limestone—and broadcasting their whereabouts to encourage others.

Rob Morris wrote, “I think that Doug Martin is exemplar for Lexington’s elected leaders: use public forum to think, engage, take stands, debate, do. I agree that we need to bring people together for common purpose, but we also must make room for open and vigorous debate. I disagree on a few key points. Citizen contribution forum is not a 3 pm mtg when most can’t attend—It’s HERE & on blogs. I agree about dialing down ‘us v them rhetoric,’ but we need thoughtful criticism when emperor has no clothes (eg, CentrePointe). And, finally, such criticism should be paired with constructive ideas for moving forward.”

Because no one wants this (thanks Dan Sherman for lightening the mood).

The Public Forum on Streetscape Improvements for Cheapside Park and Main and Vine streets from Broadway to Limestone, 5 pm to 7:30 pm, ballroom on first floor of LFUCG building at 200 East Main.
If you’d like post-show entertainment, Pazzo’s Pint Night is also Wednesday.