Lexington council seating assignments a source of “conflicts” and “chaos”

LEXINGTON, Ky. — The recent Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council discussions on their proposed new seating chart have sparked a public debate among councilmembers. The issue came to the forefront during a Council Rules and Procedures subcommittee report-out during Tuesday’s General Government & Planning Committee meeting.

A source with knowledge of council operations reported that councilmembers Denise Gray and Jennifer Reynolds had a conflict in public view over seat selection on the first day of the new council term. This led to the subcommittee’s desire to codify a seating arrangement. The proposed seating chart would place councilmembers in numerical order by district, a change from the current free-for-all described by some on council during Tuesday’s meeting.

Councilmember Denise Gray described the current process of selecting a seat on the council dais as “chaos”. (LexTV screenshot)

Councilmember Denise Gray described the current situation as “chaos,” stating that it would be, “Nice to have in writing some rules to eliminate as much confusion as possible. Because let me tell you, the seatings this year were chaos.”

Councilmember Jennifer Reynolds also spoke in favor of the proposed seating chart, saying, “I think that this is what we came up with and we came up with it for a reason.” She further explained that the seating chart felt necessary this year due to various conflicts and debates over seating positions.

Councilmember Jennifer Reynolds explains her reasons for wanting a seating chart. (LexTV screenshot)

Councilmember Kathy Plomin expressed reservations about the seating arrangement based on council districts and suggested considering seniority. She stated, “I think that we should and I know Councilmember Brown mentioned bringing forward an amendment that looks at seniority.”

Councilmember Tayna Fogle speaks about the proposed seating chart on Tuesday. (LexTV screenshot)

The climax of the discussion came from Councilmember Tayna Fogle, who raised concerns about the “segregation of the council.” Fogle questioned whether the seating arrangement would reflect the racial divide in Lexington, stating, “All the people of color on one side, all the powerful white people on the other side.” She further expressed her disappointment with the seating chart and asked, “Is there power up in these chairs?”

Vice Mayor Dan Wu concluded the discussion by acknowledging the complexity of the issue and assuring that the seating chart was not intentionally designed to create divisions. He described the seat selection as “unnecessarily complicated and dicey” this year and emphasized that the subcommittee’s decision was based on resolving a problem in the fairest way possible. Wu stated, “I looked at what the new seating chart would look like and I saw exactly what you saw. Okay. And I understand the idea of intent versus impact.”

Vice Mayor Dan Wu discusses the reasons behind the proposed seating chart at Tuesday’s General Government & Planning Committee meeting. (LexTV screenshot)

The council’s proposed seating chart has brought to light underlying tensions and concerns within the council. While the intention behind the seating arrangement was to create order and resolve conflicts, it has inadvertently opened up a broader conversation about representation, power dynamics, and inclusivity within the council. The discussion is set to continue at the September 19th General Government Planning Committee meeting, where further deliberations and potential amendments to the seating chart are expected.

Top photo: Council Administrator Stacey Maynard listens to Council discussions of their seating chart. (LexTV screenshot)