BUILD claims small victories, but expresses disappointment that Police Chief, LexTran Director skipped meeting

Lexington, Ky.–Building a United Interfaith Lexington through Direct-Action (BUILD), held its annual “Nehemiah Action” meeting Monday night. The group invited Police Chief Lawrence Weathers, Director of LexTran Jill Barnett, and members of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council to hear testimony on three local issues: gun violence, microtransit, and housing.

Each issue featured four parts: background on the problem, testimony from a community members about their experience with the issue, a proposed solution, and a response from city leader(s).

The Lexington Times reached out to BUILD to see how it went. While there were some small victories, a BUILD spokesperson expressed disappointment that neither Chief Weathers nor LexTran Director Barnett attended the meeting. Additionally, the spokesperson indicated that all of the seven Council Members in attendance committed to support the group’s “1%” proposal to fund affordable housing in Lexington.

Correction: BUILD clarified that all seven Council Members DID commit to support the group’s “1%” funding proposal.

Full summary of the meeting, from a BUILD spokesperson:

For the violence campaign – we wanted to ask Police Chief Weathers to visit New Haven, CT and Miami-Dade, FL to meet with their police departments to hear first hand how they were significantly reducing violence through GVI. But Police Chief Weathers refused to come.

For the microtransit campaign – we wanted to ask the Director of Lextran, Jill Barnett, to implement a Microtransit pilot program in Lexington that would address the transportation barriers folks in Lexington face due to poor public transportation. Jill Barnett refused to come. We did ask Councilmember Ellinger, however, to host a software demonstration with Via, who is a microtransit/transportation technology company and to invite other stakeholders. Councilmember Ellinger committed to do so by October 31st.

For the housing campaign – first we asked the seven Councilmembers in attendance – James Brown, Chuck Ellinger, Tayna Fogle, Shayla Lynch, Dave Sevigny, Jennifer Reynolds, and Denise Gray – to support Councilmember Brown’s 1% ordinance tying the Affordable Housing Fund to previous years revenue which will go before the full council in June. Second, we asked Councilmember Brown to work with BUILD to help identify a dedicated revenue source that would bring the total yearly allocation for affordable housing to $10 million per year. Councilmember Brown agreed.

Somewhat unusually, there were no real surprises. It was disappointing that Police Chief Weathers refused to come, especially when the asks were simply to visit two other police departments that are reducing violence. So far every reason the police chief or mayor has given for not wanting to do GVI has been discredited, so we’re not totally sure their real reasons for being so resistant. Mayor Gorton said she worried GVI would target the black community. But there is nowhere out there that even suggests such a thing. Not to mention, the Urban League of Middle Tennessee is spearheading GVI implementation in their area, and they certainly wouldn’t’ push for GVI if it targeted the black community. The mayor and police chief have said that GVI doesn’t work, but again – when it’s implemented with the National Network for Safe Communities it reduces violence. We were hoping if the police chief visited fellow law enforcement that are using GVI and seeing results, maybe he would change his mind. Since he did not show, we urged all in attendance to call the Police Chief and voice that he should visit New Haven and Miami-Dade.

We were also disappointed Jill Barnett did not come. This is the largest gathering of citizens concerned about public transportation, and she refused to come. We got more than 600 signatures last night that we are delivering to the Lextran board meeting tomorrow along with a letter urging her to implement a microtransit pilot program.

Related documents:

You can read detailed descriptions and proposed solutions to each issue within the meeting agenda. The GVI fact sheet contains additional research from the group on GVI.

A promotional flyer for BUILD’s 2023 Nehemiah Action

Photo: BUILD held their annual “Nehemiah Action” at Central Bank Center on Monday. (Contributed)