Candidates in the crowded race to replace Lexington Mayor Jim Gray addressed public and school safety, growth, and affordable housing in a public forum Wednesday.
The majority of the six hopefuls, including former Vice Mayor Linda Gorton and current at-large councilman Kevin Stinnett, converged on the need for a closer relationship between the city, schools, and police.
"Expanding our relationship with Fayette County Public Schools. We have to invite them to the table as we talk about crime," Stinnett said. "We have to make them part of our weekly crime meetings with our police department other folks."
Former police chief Ronnie Bastin came out against arming teachers and instead urged leaders to marshal all community resources to get at the heart of what’s behind school shootings.
"We can treat symptoms and we have to school safety, but until we get to the root causes of some of the issues that we're seeing and causing kids to feel like they need to carry guns, then we're always going to be terating symptoms," the former Public Safety Commissioner advised.
Self-employed real estate and apartment manager Ike Lawrence said he favors tighter dress codes or school uniforms that will "get the kids looking alike." He also suggested "limiting their amount of cell phone use during school" and described metal detectors as "a must now unfortunately this day in age."
Former Mayor Teresa Isaac and perennial candidate Skip Horine also endorsed efforts to address the problem of bullying in schools.
Turning to another local hot button topic, the panel took a question on a persistent controversy that's split business advocates and residents concerned about maintaining the city's surrounding farmland. “Infill and redevelopment” and “smart growth” were among the popular phrases tossed around by several candidates who took a cautious tack on expanding Lexington’s urban-service boundary.
But one mayoral hopeful, Skip Horine, argued it’s time for the city to realize the path that it’s on.
"Moving forward in the future, what's really going to happen is that Lexington is going to become like Louisville. It's going to become a metro area," the perennial candidate predicted. "The sooner that we acknowledge that and go forward with that, the sooner we're going to be able to plan for the metro area."
That course was not favored by former Vice Mayor Linda Gorton, who stressed the need for Lexington to maintain its current signature agricultural attractions.
"I don't think we want to be like Louisville," she said. "We are very different and unique, but we must include our ag (community), which can mean tourism, jobs. It can be agribusiness-related jobs. It can be local food."
At-large councilman Kevin Stinnett and former police chief Ronnie Bastin said for now the city should work within the existing boundary, but plan for a future when Lexington business needs outgrow the space available.
Candidate Ike Lawrence encouraged the city to look into rezoning while former Mayor Teresa Isaac cautioned against pricing out homebuyers and businesses, with Isaac pointing to her work on a Live Where You Work program that assisted UK employees with home costs during her tenure.
The six-candidate race will be narrowed to two after the May primary election.