In Lexington, pricey park plans and tourism subsidies eclipse plight of 500 homeless kids

by Paul Oliva, The Lexington Times

In Lexington, Kentucky, a juxtaposition of priorities has left many to question the direction of community and government funds amidst an increasingly noticeable issue: homelessness. Recently, the Blue Grass Community Foundation (BCF) announced a $175,000 investment into Kelley’s Landing for a new Kentucky River park project. While the prospect of new green space is traditionally celebrated, this news lands heavily against the backdrop of 500 homeless children in Fayette County, a stark emblem of overlooked necessities.

It’s not just the foundations whose intentions are being scrutinized. The city’s recent financial maneuvers — from subsidies for Keeneland and Lexington Soccer Complex (LSC) to allocating American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds primarily to park developments — seem to echo a similar sentiment of preferential attention. Such decisions reinforce a growing concern that Lexington’s fiscal compass is guided more by prestige and less by pressing human needs.

The handling of the media rollout for the park’s funding announcement adds a layer of complexity to the narrative. The choice to provide the scoop to what could be considered a more upscale, ‘friendly’ outlet, LexToday, over local publications that might cast a critical eye, has not gone unnoticed. It seems to underline a tactic of selective communication that inevitably serves the interests of a particular demographic, while sidelining others.

Yet, as journalist Danny Meyer of North of Center pointed out, even the claim of Kelley’s Landing offering “the first real public access” to the Kentucky River is challenged by the existence of a boat put-in near Proud Mary, a mere 500 feet away. Such revelations feed into the growing discourse that Lexington’s priorities may not align with the community’s most urgent needs.

Scrutiny extends to the municipal government, where subsidies and spending reflect a preference for leisure and tourism over social welfare. Critics might argue that this represents a wider trend of political decisions favoring the rich — the same elite class that stands to benefit from lucrative contracts and the enhancement of property values that accompany such public investments.

Ginny Ramsey is over at the Catholic Action Center holding bake sales to get shelter for homeless kids and we’re giving $1 million to Keeneland? The optics, as they say, are not great.

Linda Blackford, Nov. 3, 2023 column titled, ‘Why are we giving $2 million to soccer, horseracing out of infill fund?’
After endorsing essentially every decision-maker who decided to fund public subsidies to Keeneland and Lexington Sporting Club, Herald-Leader columnist Linda Blackford now says their priorities may be misplaced. ( screenshot)

As we delve deeper, it becomes somewhat ironic that Linda Blackford, a voice that had previously endorsed Mayor Linda Gorton and the councilmembers, now reflects on their misplaced priorities. After all, these are the very individuals who have played a significant role in ushering through an agenda that seemingly favors the affluent. Yet, it’s perhaps this revelation that is most telling — the awakening of influential figures to a reality long felt by the city’s more vulnerable populations.

In conclusion, while philanthropic efforts and city projects like Kelley’s Landing contribute to the tapestry of Lexington, the focus on such initiatives at the expense of addressing homelessness, particularly among children, suggests a profound misalignment. It’s a poignant reminder that a city’s greatness is measured not by the recreational spaces it offers to the few, but by the security and care it provides for all its residents. The hope remains that such realizations will ignite a refocusing of efforts, ensuring that philanthropy and city planning serve as vehicles for communal upliftment, rather than mere symbols of grandeur.

Top photo: An abandoned house near the entrance to Kelley’s Landing. (The Lexington Times)