Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ace's What Lexington Needs entry

I just finished re-reading the latest "What Lexington Needs" piece on Ace Weekly and I must say that, from the get go, she is correct. Her solutions are a little off but we do need Ms. Watson, her and the thousands that she refers to.

Ms Watson and the rest of those in her age bracket are asking for the very things that they have been told could be theirs, top jobs, high pay and their choice of the good life. She (and they) left for the starry promises of the larger population centers and the myriad activities for the post college crowd. Was she disillusioned by the job, the location, the weather, or the pace of living she dosen't say, but if she and they are like the many of my generation, who have experienced the same thing, she can come home again.

The flaw in her thinking is in the first sentence of the third paragraph, Lexington must create new jobs. Lexington does not create jobs. The people of Lexington are ones who create jobs, and the creative ones among us create the job that needs us. State and local governments do create any new jobs, they may relocate positions from other areas so that our gain is someone else's loss, but there is no NEW jobs created. Just like the gambling question, states can attract the wagered money from another state, but they cannot create more money.

Ms Watson speaks well of the successes of the existing businesses engaged in emerging technologies, but these technologies were created by the people who brought something to the position not just filled a position. She also speaks of altering the industrial path of Lexington as if we should decide which industries to EXCLUDE, instead of letting the research and development efforts start to synergize and grow. What we could discourage may become the next innovative marvel of the age. She seems to want the jobs to exist for her choosing instead of taking her talents and really creating THE job, by filling THE need and starting THE field of whatever new technology that she wishes.

Young people have, for the past 50 years that I know of, wished and tried to live life on their terms. I have seen some try the same "new" things that I tried(or my friends tried) with limited success. And they have complained (as we did) that the older generation just did not understand. I do understand just like my father understood, but he also knew that I had to make my own mistakes. I had to find my own way through the maze of society and carve out my own niche. The tasks that I now do for work are based in the same principles as when I began, but the methods for completing them are vastly different, some of my own making and some not.

I would welcome Ms Watson and all her new found friends home and as she said "Lexington has great starts on so many of these(her posted ) ideas. Lexington also needs to bring good people home.". I feel that it is her(and their) task to find a way to keep themselves here.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sleuthing Some Other Old Photos

Our Guess the Location winner writes,

Since you seem to be very knowledgeable about Lexington, I found this picture interesting.

What do you know about the body of water (pond/lake/quarry) in front of the UK Admin, where Kennedy Book store and the parking structure now stand? And did it flood? Was that the cause of the flooding that occurred in pictures of Alumni Gym being partially underwater?

What I know, is precious little. But, from a little research, I can deduce that this was a quarry and that it was controlled by the City. The Sanborn maps of 1896 and 1901 show that the area now occupied by Kennedy’s had some small houses on the lots and the rest of the block as vacant. The building on the corner of Bolivar and S. Upper St. is shown to be a school and warehouse, which fits with the following entry from the Lexington Leader of Sept. 4 1893
"A Transformation" The old work house building at the corner of Upper and Bolivar streets has undergone a wonderful transformation during the last few weeks…to the training of the youthful mind: or in other words, it will be used as a city school building, and will be known by the euphonious title, Davidson School, No. 5.
Add to that the entries from the Morning Transcript of July 14 1893
Much talk over crowded conditions of city schools. Home of old workhouse keeper on Bolivar Street being used.
And May 4 1894
Workhouse keeper charges city $6 per rod for crushed rock to be put on Lexington streets.
From that I will guess that there was a quarry associated with the workhouse and the area between Limestone and Upper is the likely spot. Then there is this,
Old rock quarry on South Limestone and Upper being filled in by city. Lexington Herald April 11 1901
So, I think that we can say that it was a quarry. Did it flood? Probably, but most likely it just held water. What we cannot see in the photo is the depth of the water shown. There was a pond just south of Bolivar where an African church held baptisms. This was a part of a natural drainage system flowing from the Ashland Park area toward (and across) the University property, then down through Davis Bottoms and on to Town Branch creek.

This would bring us to the other part of the question, the flooding around Alumni Gym.

The depressed area between Alumni Gym and Limestone did at one time hold water and served as a boating spot for student recreation.


are good examples.

This area was better drained when the entire stream channel was put underground probably in the ‘30s. The photo of the gym flooding was taken in the summer of 1928.

In looking at my sitemeter reading, I am beginning to suspect that our winning guesser works for the local tourism office and Mrs, Sweeper is certain that she is a female based on the decision process of the winning guesses. I hope that I find out someday.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Do We See Some Movement Here

Is it possible that we are seeing some movement on the Federal level toward cooperation between housing and transit?

Back on March 26th a Senior Fellow from the Brookings Institution testified before two Congressional Committees, urging that a change be made in the Housing and Transit policies of the Federal Government. In these testimonials, Robert Puentes argues that housing and transportation are irreversibly linked and that, in the face of the current recession, more integrated planning is needed.

I have posted on this before. On the need for the City to plan for the housing needs AND the transit needs at the same time. That no longer can we allow the land use patterns to dictate where the mobility challenged may live, while at the same time ignoring the transportation needs of the residents of the housing challenged. Why is it the the planners will not engage the transit authority before the housing gets built, nor will the transit planners consider routes until the ridership demand reaches a set level?

In the past, plans from the '30s and "40s showed the transit routes proposed which would cover the immediate future streets, yet from the '50s on that has not been the case.

The Federal government is no better, they have seemed to compartmentalize their interests into narrowly defined solutions conforming to tightly set criteria. In this case, housing is to be funded based on the lowest cost property and location without consideration of access to shopping or employment. Simultaneously, the transportation funding is generally based on trip demand and congestion levels without distinction of mode or concentration of trip timing.

One case in point that comes to mind would be the area around Gainesway Shopping Center. When planned in the late "60s and early "70s, the area was primarily starter homes that had been appended to the Gainesway subdivision, which itself was a section of ranch houses catering to the recently arrived industrial expansion, executives and UK staff. The shopping center occupied the center of the generally residential area, along with a park, 3 schools and apartments housing. Transit served the area and in the initial stages traffic moved both ways, in and out, but as lifestyles changed and an auto-centric mindset established itself the ridership frequency declined to just rush hour peaks. The executives moved up or retired and the starter homes proved to be smaller than necessary, so those owners moved up and out. The apartment housing evolved into lower income and eventually to public & senior housing where auto owership is more of a luxury. As the residential changed the shopping center declined to nothing and was replaced with social service office space. The social relationship dynamics reversed themselves 180 degrees and theoretically, the land uses of the center should now be on the edges, closer to the major roadways(and transit).

This weekend, came the news,
Two of President Obama’s Cabinet secretaries–Shaun Donovan of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Ray LaHood of Transportation (DOT)–are promising to make their bureaucracies work together. And not just in stuffy interdepartmental meetings in Washington, but in crafting their programs as they impact communities nationwide.
This will reflect a Federal policy change of an equally remarkable 180 degree reversal. It also precedes the expected changes of the White House Office on Urban Affairs, which is just in the planning stage itself.

Seeing as how everything happens in Kentucky a few years later than the rest of the nation, I can't help but wonder when we will see this kind of cooperation of land use and housing.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Answer to the Photo of the Month

We have a winner. Well, its the same as last time ps.Lex. Congratulations again.

I told everyone that there was enough information on the KYVL site to deduce the answer and while ps.Lex did not use the same as I, he/she did come up with it.

First, the text in the lower left corner. CS Property(the web site shows C&O railroad) is incorrect for the railroad, it is actually Cincinnati Southern railway. That can be determined by the date of 1913. The C&O railroad entered town from the east and crossed all roads at grade(no bridges). The Cincinnati Southern tracks in the picture is actually a switch track which ran from the current yard area on S. Broadway past the now Southend park, across the High/Maxwell intersection and past the Southern States building(where it currently ends), then by trestle, over Manchester St toward Main, which it also crossed.

Second, the Sanborn Insurance maps(also on this site) for 1907-1920 has, on page 47 the intersection of Payne St and W. Main with, wait for it, ---The Indian Refining Co. office right beside the railroad bridge.

Once again, this has been fun. Next time I'll have to make it harder.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Community Farm Alliances

Mrs Sweeper and I attended a local chapter meeting of the Community Farm Alliance last Thursday evening. I was hoping that we could find out more about the farms of Fayette County who are participating in the farmers market movement that has burgeoned in Lexington lately. Hopefully, there would be farmers offering their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) programs for this year. I wanted to hear about how more farmers were growing more organic foods locally.

I was disappointed.

I met a small number of young people, mostly students, who have great intentions, massive amounts on enthusiasm, and farm experience. These were the "local organizers" of the programs of the CFA.

I heard about their "fresh stop" efforts, their Community kitchen efforts and a "stone soup" program centered in the downtown area. There was mention of a report which identified a "food desert" in Lexington. A food desert is an area which lacks grocery stores and restaurants serving healthier items than "junk food". I did learn about their teaching opportunities such as "farm to school" and the community gardens being set up on the BCTC campus off Leestown Rd.

There are many other places to create "community gardens" and I've heard of one town where an activist has, on her own, arranged for those who wished to garden, to meet those who had backyard space for a garden and where each party benefited.

I was just hoping for more than what I found. I would like to find that some of the many ten acre lots that were created in the past 25 years could be moved from large residential lots to small farms and used to feed the local residents as they once were.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Why is TIF Hard to Understand

Why is the concept of TIF so hard to understand?

Take this comment from Lexdan.
Yes I realize that the Web(b)'s would pay up front for the various infrastructure improvements and that they would recoup that money by paying much lower property taxes for many years to come.

The problem I have with TIF is that this is the kind of thing that politicians can pitch as not costing the taxpayer anything since we aren't paying out any money. Yet for the next thirty years we will be raising that much less in taxes which means we will either need to raise taxes or cut other programs. By financing the improvement through the TIF they avoid the normal budget process where the merits of the improvements are weighed against all the other functions of government. This is not the best way to allocate resources.

Downtown is fine. The property values will rise downtown with or without CentrePointe. TIF is not appropriate here
TIF is not a deferring of taxes to the developer. On the contrary, bonds are to be sold on the promise of being repaid by the diverted tax revenue that would normally go to the State. The taxes will still be generated and the project itself will cause adjacent properties to rise in value, thereby causing the revenue stream outside the TIF district to rise. The monies raised from the bonds are them used for public infrastructure enhancements such as sewers, streets and even public art, but only within the district.

In the case of CentrePointe, the City made the district boundary very tight and included mostly public property, while the Distillery District defined a much broader area. This is a key distinction in that, as the Distillery District improves and the adjacent property is redeveloped( by DD or others) the TIF funds will increase to repay the bonds sooner.

Under a deferred taxation plan the properties in a district that did not improve, yet their valuation rose, could defer their taxes till later which is very unfair. These properties would have contributed nothing, gained from new infrastructure and paid lesser taxes.

And downtown is not fine. There have been many studies done which all point to the need for some sort of revitalization. The Mayor, in his budget address, displayed a map with proposed work to be done in the downtown area totaling somewhere near a billion dollars of development. This will be funded mostly by private monies. Only with the completion of these, including CentrePointe and Distillery District, will the values of downtown rise. People will need to gauge the health of downtown from more than the first floor street face and use the upper floors of the older buildings. Something not done on the CentrePointe block before and on few other blocks now.

There should be transparency in all downtown dealings when public funds are involved but where it is strictly private projects and private money, then any and all secrecy is allowed. When we start requiring transparency of all private funds coming into Lexington and a referendum of approval for projects, those projects will STOP.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Northside Development

I noticed today, that the old Heritage Motors building is being demolished and soon to be followed by the cleaners and the auto rental site. The CVS pharmacy in the middle of the block will then move to the corner site, across from the new GooGoo car wash.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Some Clarification about CentrePointe

Lexdan sent me a comment about Friday's post. I think that it makes better sense to reply here than in the comments section.

It is right to say that the Webb's have NOT asked for TIF financing. I have reviewed all the original newspaper articles and can only find a comment by the author that the project would depend on the TIF. It is not a quote, and from reading a lot of other initial mis-information by this writer, it is used to sell newspapers. All of the elements named(pedways, garage, Jumbotron, etc...) fall into the category of public improvements, things that would be done by the local government, are ancillary to and not required for the project to be complete. The TIF was always to benefit the city as a whole and not the CentrePointe project in particular.

After the Courthouse Design Review decision and the mis-information about TIF was flying, partly due to the Herald-Leader articles, the Webb's agreed to assist the City with a TIF application. It was the City that defined the area and picked the infrastructure projects(farmers market, streetscape improvements, etc.). Does it seem strange to you that the City only placed three privately owned parcels, two of them parking lots, in the TIF district? All the rest is publicly owned or street right-of-way. CentrePointe will be the only development with an incease in taxable value from which to divert the tax revenue to TIF financing for a while. Only after the two parking lots are developed will their taxes be available to add to the TIF money pool. The Council knows that and voted to proceed-The Council alone, because the Mayor only votes on ties. There is a new make-up of the Council now, several members have been replaced, but has this new version even attempted to reverse course, as was done on the water company issue?

It was rightly pointed out that TIF was for improving blighted areas like the Distillery District and that all downtown is not blighted, all downtown no , but this block in total definitely was. Probably as a direct result of the time honored tradition of benign neglect of developers all over America, when they ready an area for development. The TIF laws are different for each state and applying what you read from Chicago, or elsewhere, is just promoting mis-information about the subject. The City of Columbus, Ohio created a TIF district over all of their downtown to fund infrastructure projects and not to line their developer's pockets. TIF actually was created so as to become a normal budgetary means for making government improvements.

Lexdan, you certainly don't think like the Webb's, because they are not backing off of this project in any way. What you do not see is the possibilities of this block. If you want a park on this block, then you are asking to expend $8+ million tax dollars plus development costs plus the eliminnation of continuing revenue in taxes for years to come. That, in the City's and prudent taxpayers view is a triple digit millions loss over thirty years or more. Are our taxes not high enough now?

I stand by my original statement of my post from Friday.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Today's CentrePointe debate

I have refrained from posting about CentrePointe as a common topic because there is so much dialogue elsewhere, but there comes a time when the mis-information out there becomes too great.

The Herald-Leader has lately abdicated its role as a purveyor of balanced news and now just throws out inciting articles as solid news in an effort to sell papers, without any corroborating details of the facts in the matter.

On the other hand, Ace Weekly has left its Arts, Culture & Entertainment heritage and gone straight to whining about things that they have very little understanding. In their posting for today, they have demonstrated just how little they know about the downtown block of which they rant so much. I have responded to their posts before and have been moderated so as to not be published. Therefore I will post here what I commented there, in case they discard my words as inappropriate for their readers tender ears.

The CentrePointe project, is and has always been a private project. Their (Ace Weekly)post show clearly that they do not understand the workings of TIF and who receives and uses the tax money. The Webb Companies have never asked for TIF financing but did offer it as a possibility for the City to undertake. The TIF agreement is to be between the City and the State. The increased tax revenue, which would be generated by a private project, and all other incremented revenue in the agreed upon district that is destined for the State use would have a portion diverted to the City, for use in the TIF district. Such City uses would include infrastructure repairs and new City enhancement projects, all legitimate tax money uses. It would not go to a developer to complete his private project. To date, no tax monies have been used to further the CentrePointe development and none have been promised.

As I commented on the Herald-Leader site, the other commenters there have called for the City to take back the block and develop it in some civic way and to stop wasting tax money that we don't have. Some called for a park(some temporary, some permanent), others a basketball arena, farmers market, new city hall, outdoor civic arena surrounded with shops, etc... All of these will take more tax money(lots) than we have spent so far($0) and start with spending $8 million to buy the block from a private developer. These detractors have not raised, nor are they willing to raise, such funds. This so called "creative class" cannot figure out how to get the ball rolling, nor can they accept someone else's proposal.

This block has always been in private hands and those who own and pay taxes on property should be allowed to use their property as they wish, within limits of good and safety. In a similar vein, I cannot tell this "creative class" that they have to drive a certain type of auto or that the downtown area would be auto free. These are dictatorial measures and should not be tolerated unless agreed upon by the masses(good luck with that).

I have been and will be for the redevelopment of downtown properties, that includes this one, and I will continue to distribute, to the best of my abilities, the correct information about Lexington(it's past, it's present and it's future) and what happens on it's streets.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Another Trade Show and First Impressions

There is still over a year to go until the World Equestrian Games will be held in Lexington. Massive plans are being laid for an extravaganza at the Horse Park and the City is hatching a scheme to lure all the visitors downtown for a festival and ... uh... uh... some other ways to get them to part with their money.

It used to be that when events happened downtown and crowds would gather, that the local merchants and even street vendors could expect a rise in foot traffic and sales. It was every man for himself and all stood to gain. Unfortunately that also applied to the thieves and pickpockets that worked the crowds. This event, or festival, will be different in that the City will control just about all aspects of the downtown streets for those sixteen days. All the street vendors, musicians and artisans will be regulated by the City and woe to all the out-of-towners who decide at the last minute to arrive to test the waters.

There will be an equestrian trade show at the Horse Park for all the owners, participants and fans to buy the latest horse related goodies and the newest products. Hopefully there will also be some Lexington themed souvenirs by which they can remember their trip. At $12,000 per sales booth, these will be some high end sales places.

Now there will also be another trade show, downtown in the Lexington Center, either aimed at the visitors (when they get downtown) or those who cannot get to the Horse Park. This show appears to be for the lesser participants and/or the locals.

All this has caused me to wonder how all these plans and proposals will benefit me directly, in other words, how will my income increase during these sixteen days? Will there be money flowing liberally and how can I intercept some of it? I am starting to feel that I shan't see a significant difference at all and if the past few Fourth of July parades and festivities are any indication the downtown will be overrun with all kind of folk looking for something cheap.

My worst fear is that the Europeans will arrive hoping for some semblance of civility and decent transportation services and we will be found lacking, in one if not both. Getting people from the venue to downtown for re-medaling ceremonies will be a monumental chore. There is a railroad track, shown on all the maps, that runs in a straight line, from downtown to within a few kilometers of the Horse Park entrance. How do you tell a European that there is no passenger service on that line? Not from downtown, a short distance, nor from Cincinnati and Louisville, both medium distances. Parking will be at a premium, both at the Horse Park and downtown, for personal autos and rentals.

Many people fear that we will get a black eye due to a vacant city block, yet it would have been far worse if it was a decrepit, mostly vacant block, that looked nothing like what their historic buildings are. There is currently a surge of remodeling and new businesses in the downtown area which is unusual for an economic downturn and I hope that both they and our visitors can last through the Games.

I have been involved in many of the past "landmark" events of the '80s and '90s and I would like to sit this one out for the most part and just pick up a few memories from the sidelines. I hpoe that I don't have to say that "I told you so".

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Time for a Local Newspaper

I got this from All About Cities, a Canadian blog concerning -what else- cities and urban development.
...residents are becoming more concerned with metro issues — whether transit, roads, housing and crime or the latest from the arts and entertainment scene. Policing, property and transportation issues as they affect day-to-day life in the city tend to be within the bailiwick of municipal governments. ...
This seems to fit the sentiment of a lot of folks in Lexington. Public safety issues, transit issues, land use and development issues and public accountability issues are all hot button items in the Herald Leader, if my reading of the comments online is accurate. I see very few comment or responses to articles on auto wrecks or house/business fires. Some may have something to say about a homicide or accidental death piece, but nothing like the furious exchanges on downtown development and administrative investigations ( be they state or local). Out of ten or so articles from the national and state news sections in this mornings edition I found only 1 lone comment.
...Attracting and retaining both businesses and the employees they want to hire also tends to be a city issue. ...
This is also a common complaint by those so called "creative class" enthusiasts who bemoan the loss of things for them to do and claim that there is a massive "brain drain". I have been hearing this sort of talk since I was in high school. That was 50 years ago.
Those urban dailies that don’t provide enough information on municipal initiatives or sufficient unique and local perspectives — and instead rely on boring newswire stories — are struggling.
Here is where the Lexington Herald Leader can step up to the plate. They need to give us more local flavor, more local opinion, more balance. To their credit, they can, in the space of a few hours, give us about a dozen views of the last night's basketball game, complete with good and bad points of all the action. But take a development piece and you get an information(developers) view and an opinion( I like it/don't like it) , that's all. If we don't demand more from our local newspaper, and by that I mean more local news and views, then we will end up with a situation like the Seattle Post-Intelligencer or the Rocky Mountain News. There are a host of bloggers here in Lexington, but to get a good balance of information you need someone to aggregate it into one place and so far no one is doing that.

And any one who does will get a lot of flack from both sides.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Thinking and Eating Locally

You all have seen me post about the benefits of buying local farm goods and even the possibility of some backyard farming. I cannot do such a thing today because I don't have much of a backyard. At our old house, we used to have a lot of homegrown fruits and vegetables grown in the garden(if we got to them before the tree rats). We have tried to eat as organicly as we can and as locally grown as possible.

Mrs. Sweeper told me of a conversation that she had with a friend about raising chickens and how her friend had bought some chicks, hoping to get fresh eggs. She did not have or want a rooster, just some hens for eggs. She also had a desire for a cow for milk.

At this point, her husband told her that she couldn't drink it as they had no way to pasteurize it. People for many years-like thousands of- have been drinking milk straight from the pail and cheese, butter, yogurt as well. Does he think that it will kill her? All those other people lived, I know that because we are here now.

The FDA has convinced the American public that raw milk is not good for you. First we need to kill all the bacteria in the milk, both good and bad-kind of like a military scorched earth policy. Then we add back all the vitamins and calcium that we took out, bleach it to make it white to please our senses, water it down for 2% and skim versions and raise the price so that the processor get the money, not the farmer.

We, the Sweeper family have been members of a Cowshare program for about two years now and I am proof that drinking real milk, unprocessed milk will not kill you. My whole family is in better health and feels better now than we did several years ago. Two of my sons developed scaly skin on their knees and elbows which took prescription cream to clear, but after several weeks of drinking real milk, the expensive cream was relegated to the back of the medicine cabinet. Mrs Sweeper is like a magnet for mosquitos in the summer and it is worse now that we live closer to the waterfront, but since we have been using a real milk based soap infused with citronella, the mosquitos get to within several inches of the body and then veer off. Sometimes it is comical to watch.

The beauty of the arrangement is that we OWN a portion of a cow. We do not have to house or graze the cow on our property, but we do have to maintain the cow, or at least pay for the upkeep on a community property. In return we get the proceeds of the cow(or our portion) in the form of milk. Rich, creamy, good tasting milk the way it is supposed to be, fresh from the farm and full of all the probiotics necessary for good health.

The family that looks after and administers the herd for all of us cowshare owners also has chickens and will supply us with fresh eggs on a weekly basis. These eggs are larger, fresher and tastier than can be bought in the supermarket for just about the same price. We would be crazy not to avail ourselves of this treasure trove of locavore cuisine.

Lexington has a growing variety of locally owned organic farms producing a multitude of healthy food choices. The make up the bulk of the Farmers Market sellers and they need to be supported or we may lose our sustainable agriculture that is envisioned in the 2040 report that the Mayor has so proudly put forth.

A New Guess the Location

There is a new Photo of the Month. Imagine that, this being April 1 and all that. This is a photo that I found on the Kentuckiana Digital Library site.

A link to a good image is

I will tell you now that the information that they have is incorrect. See if you can tell me where this location is and what(if anything) is there today. There is enough information on their site to give you the answer.