Central Kentucky KFTC engages in local work: First District residents speak with Councilman Chris Ford

On September 30 a Townhall Meeting was held at Embrace Church in Lexington. There, residents of the First City Council District met and held a discussion with First District Councilman Chris Ford. The First District is in North Lexington and is historically a low income and largely a community of color. It was a broad and far ranging discussion with a number of concerns raised. Councilman Ford attentively listened and responded where he could. “I don't ever forget that I represent you,” he told residents.Chris Ford

Multiple issues and concerns were raised but the question of affordable housing figured prominently. There was also discussion on the revitalization of the community. While the revitalization has been good in a number ways as we see housing being repaired and new business coming in. It has also been a problem with low-income residents of the community being forced out. Some women from the apartment complex at 468 N. Limestone Street said they are being forced to move. The apartments are being remodeled, and rented out at a higher rate. Residents also talked about zoning issues, speed bumps, sidewalks and public safety.

At the meeting the residents also heard from Raymond Sexton, executive director of Lexington Human Rights Commission. He reported on a recent study the HRC, State of Fair and Affordable Housing Report for  Lexington-Fayettee County. Sexton stated, “We must do something about these problems, but they run deep. We need to address the root problem but also need to address the symptoms.”

Teddi Smith Robillard spoke on restoration of voting rights for former felons. She stated, “one is oppressed and enslaved to the system when they can't vote.  As we go back to Frankfort this winter we really need to get this bill out of the Senate. Voting is a fundamental right that all people deserve.Teddi Smith Robillard"

The question of affordable housing and jobs runs high with former felons even to a greater degree as the broader populations. And, in the First District, this impacts many, if not most, families.

The issue of affordable housing and Lexington's growing homeless population loomed large at the meeting.  The city council has a committee that has been meeting for a few years around an affordable housing trust fund. They are stalled on what the funding source might be. Concern for the homeless and concern around drug and other undesirable activities that take place in those areas was raised. 

Tayna Fogle, KFTC member, stated: “it is not the homeless who are buying drugs. They have no money to buy drugs. The drug activity does not come from the Catholic Action Center and it doesn't come from the homeless. They are there for services. Drug activity is something that goes on everywhere.”  After the event, First District resident Tina Terry praised Fogle for speaking out.  “I admire what she said! Everything that she said was true!”  She stated that she herself was in temporary housing and is waiting for low-income housing. “There is a lot of discrimination in Lexington.”

Another participant, stated after the event that “Lexington needs a homeless coalition like they have in Cincinnati. There they take over abandoned buildings and make homes for the homeless.” He stated that he thinks it is unfair how the police target the homeless. “The police go after people walking with backpacks on” because they think they are homeless.

Many people expressed concern about the residents from N. Limestone who are being forced to move. Travis Robinson, president of the Martin Luther King Neighborhood Association stated that it is troubling that something like this is happening in our neighborhood. “I am glad those women came from those apartments and spoke up.  The bottom line is really about how the neighborhood can help with this situation.”

"The importance of being and working in the community—this is the best way to help someone else”

A woman from the N. Limestone apartments explained that they all came home recently to notices on their doors that said when their lease is up they must move. She stated the apartments are being renovated and the landlord is increasing the rent. “We were not even given the option of staying and paying the rent increase. We would have to apply like a new tenant.” 

In a follow up letter to Chris Ford, Janet Tucker stated, “I am bothered by many of the concerns raised about housing issues and the homeless. I know this is an issue you are concerned about as well. In the immediate, I am bothered by the residents that are being forced to move to move from 468 N. Limestone St. In a city where there is already a lack of affordable housing and an increasing problem with homelessness, to force more low-income residents out of their homes is very troublesome to me. Even the cost of moving alone is unaffordable to many even if housing was available”

crowd at Townhall MeetingThe Townhall meeting arose out of work done by the Central Kentucky KFTC chapter. Our CKY Economic Justice Team had been doing economic justice surveys in the community, talking with both community members through door to door work and community leaders. Chapter member Greg Capillo said, “A lot of folks have an agenda for the first district, but often they did not seem to be listening to the people that lived there.” This was a way to do that. We asked residents what they liked and didn't like about their community and what they would like to see.  Many said they felt disconnected from city government. We along with community members met with Chris Ford on a couple of occasions. He was very receptive to working with us and the Townhall meeting was planned out of those meeting.

Chris Ford stated, “I have been fortunate enough to work with KFTC over the years and I am grateful to them for this opportunity to talk neighbor to neighbor and person to person.”

The issues raised are ongoing issues and most are too complex to be resolved on the spot. As we look to the future, KFTC member Mantell Stevens said that this showed “the importance of being and working in the community – this is the best way to help someone else.”

The Central Kentucky Chapter of KFTC will be continuing this important work. E-mail KFTC Organizer Beth Howard at bethhoward@kftc.org if you have an interest in getting involved or join us at our Central Kentucky Chapter Meetings every third Thursday at 7 p.m. at The Episcopal Mission House on the corner of 4th Street and MLK Blvd. (across from the Arts and Science Center). 

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