In seven hours, two were dead. What will Lexington do to prevent more bloodshed?

May 23, 2017. Lexington Herald Leader.

Two fatal shootings in Lexington in seven hours on Monday have caused some residents to fear a spike in violent crime, but police say the killings don’t necessarily indicate a brutal summer ahead.

The shootings Monday increased the murder toll to seven in 2017, the same total the city had by the same date in 2016. However, gun violence escalated, and by the end of 2016, Lexington saw 24 murders, the highest total in 15 years.

Interfaith group wants Lexington to contract with anti-violence organization

April 25, 2017. Lexington Herald Leader.

A Lexington interfaith coalition is asking city leaders to contract with a national organization to try to reduce violent crime in the city.

At its annual Nehemiah Action Assembly Tuesday night, BUILD was prepared to ask that a city representative attend a conference of and advocate for a contract with the National Network for Safe Communities.

Lexington should try anti-violence strategies working in other cities

April 21, 2017. Lexington Herald-Leader.

No one in Lexington should have to worry, like Cheryl Birch does, as she leaves before dawn for her job at a local hospital, “Am I going to step out into gunfire, step on somebody.”

Mayor Jim Gray has made reducing gun violence, especially to protect Lexington’s youth, a priority and is asking the council to approve funding for 30 new police officers.

But more police doing the same things won’t produce different results.

Pumped up by pope, anti-poverty advocates joining Vatican summit in Calif

January 25, 2017.

WASHINGTON (CNS) — For 27 years, Pat Campbell-Williams has worked on Detroit’s West Side, organizing her neighbors to tackle tough economic justice issues. It’s good work, she acknowledged, but she didn’t know if anyone cared beyond the city limits.

Lexington council votes to spend $10 million surplus

March 20, 2014. Lexington Herald-Leader.

The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council on Thursday unanimously agreed to spend a $10 million surplus from this year’s budget.

Resolution 45 commits the city to spending the surplus on affordable housing and homeless initiatives, among other items. The surplus was created by $5 million in savings and $5 million in unanticipated revenue.

The Rev. Adam Jones, co-chairman of Building A United Inter-Faith Lexington through Direct-Action (BUILD), praised the council for passing the resolution as others held up a sign with 500 bricks drawn on it; each brick contained the signature of a Lexington resident who agreed with spending for affordable housing.

“We wanted to make sure that the council and mayor knew that it is a step in the right direction,” Jones said. “However, the full resolution of the affordable housing resolutioncrisis must include an affordable housing trust fund with a dedicated revenue stream.”

A council committee had set aside $3 million for affordable housing and $500,000 for homeless initiatives. The city plans to spend $2.9 million on body armor, Tasers and 65 police cruisers; $2.9 million on fire equipment, including thermal imaging devices and repairs to aging fire buildings; $2.5 million for three fire trucks and an ambulance; and about $535,000 on community corrections or the county jail.

Affordable housing has been a growing problem as the city has lost 28,000 apartments affordable to minimum-wage workers in 20 years, a recent report found. Also according to the report, by czb consultants, Lexington is losing 400 rental units each year to higher rents. The report, issued last month, recommended spending at least $3 million to $4 million a year to address the problem.

Greg Capillo, a representative from Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, said the lack of affordable housing in Lexington affects him, and it needs a secure fix, but “budget surpluses are not secure.”

“As a young person who works a low-wage job, I’m personally in a precarious situation with a landlord who is not up to par, but I don’t think I can get rent that’s as affordable elsewhere,” Capillo said.

It has not been decided how the affordable housing and homeless funds will be spent, but the council is to receive a detailed plan in coming months. Mayor Jim Gray said they must take one step at a time.

“Have a plan and work the plan,” he said. “This is a significant first step. … I trust, hope and believe the affordable housing advocates recognize what a big step this is. It’s rare for a council to make this significant of an investment.”