Lexington faith leaders analyze city's plan for COVID-19 relief money

Posted at 3:27 PM, Sep 09, 2021

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — When the city was awarded more than 100 million dollars in federal COVID-19 relief assistance, Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton invited the community to participate in an allocation think-tank for lack of a better term. Everyone could bring their ideas for how to best spend the money to improve city services.

Last Friday, Mrs. Gorton unveiled the result of those meetings and it’s a fairly exhaustive list. Everything from improvements or additions to police headquarters, parks, and community centers were included, along with rental assistance money, homeless intervention programs, and establish a savings fund so that the city could not only build a surplus, potentially but avoid going into debt when purchasing necessities.

Faith leaders across central Kentucky aren’t discouraged by some of the decisions, they’d just like for city officials to consider a few tweaks to the plan. They gathered on Thursday in Lexington to share the counter-proposal they plan to submit.

“Our focus is on the dire need for minority business development to address the economic disparities,” said Reverend Clark Williams of Lexington’s Shiloh Baptist Church.

Rev. Williams said too many minority-owned businesses aren’t getting their share of the pie when it comes to doing business with the city.

These leaders also feel that the investment in tangible items, while important, isn’t nearly as valuable as making an investment in people.

“She (Mayor Gorton) mentioned money for parks, but that would be pretty much for infrastructure and not for programming,” Clark said.

Clark and Pastor Mario Radford, from Lexington Growth Point Church, are hoping to see a greater commitment to summer camps and employment for those in minority communities.

“Camps that would be offered at city parks and in community centers located in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods at minimal, or zero cost to families,” Radford said.

Most would agree that the benefit of those programs is fairly obvious, but there’s a more subtle benefit that would be derived.

“Professional opportunities for our youth that could lead to promising career pathways,” Rev. Radford continued, explaining that if you have those summer programs, naturally they’d have to be staffed with counselors and other staff members who might not otherwise have a chance to work or to interact with people who could one day help shape their futures.

The leaders are also hoping to see a little more diversity in the City Council chamber and on the Lexington Fayette County Public School board. They noted that the minority is now the majority in our public schools. They say they have spoken with Superintendent Dr. Demetrus Liggins about this matter and hope to see some progress when two open board spots are filled.

Reverend Clark said a good amount of progress has been made in the last 18 months, pointing specifically to the elimination of no-knock search warrants. But they all agree that more needs to be done.

They hope to be able to discuss their counter-proposals with city leaders sometime this fall.