By Kakie Urch
Fox News gave Mayor Jim Newberry a 3:07-minute "grilling" this morning. Well, to me it was, for Fox, more of a gentle sautee, a light poach.
And it’s what we call in the news industry a “match.” That means CNN did the story for real over the weekend on Saturday, with three mayors, context and real questions and "Can you give me a 3-minute match to C Our A for the Tuesday AM?"
With some pork jokes that I didn’t get at first as an intro, thinking they were calling us fat AND toothless at first, the anchors jumped in.
And, in the process, revealed some things that should have been highlighted by the city front and center MUCH earlier. More of the cool stuff on the list.
Here is the link to the complete list, with project estimates and estimated numbers of jobs created, from the Council of Mayors Web site.
It was not prominently on the Council of Mayors Web site on Saturday, because I looked. And it was not on the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government Web site anywhere near prominently as two of us looked on two separate days (and hey, I was able to find those buried Snow Emergency Route Maps in time to avoid a tow the night of the ice storm).
And both parties seemed to miss the point entirely. Fox was up in arms that Newberry couldn't, off the top of his head, calculate the number of jobs created by 5 or 6 specific projects cherry-picked for their alleged ridiculousness off the 160+ item list.
And, so, not quickly knowing the total (if Lexington got half a BILLION, or its entire wishlist) of the entire request, nor this pie fraction probably not even displayed on his monitor, Newberry didn’t answer, except for to say that they had made a reasonable estimate for the entire list.
So that was the mayor’s shake and toss sautee. He was wearing a white shirt, blue tie and in a tighter box shot of the city skyline than he had used for the Saturday CNN interview. Same glasses.
And the Fox anchors came in with woefully little context. They don’t like that the mayor can’t tell you how many jobs in their on-the spot-math problem, but I am telling you Lexington, you will like some of the things on this list.
The first point of attack was a request for $150,000 to replace “unattractive” playground facilities at Castlewood Park with a Splash Park. Now really, how were they to know that this is the heart of an economically hard-hit neighborhood that is on the rebound and those little primarily minority children don’t really DESERVE a Splash Park? (And if you have priced Splash Parks lately, that will be one hose, one 2 foot hole and a porpoise decal).
Also, “unattractive,” for Fox anchors who may not know, is a city euphemism for “ghetto.” OK, if we can’t use the stimulus plan proposed by the black president to build a better playground in a black neighborhood that is working hard on improving itself, we should not wait around for the Black Panthers to ask for a stoplight.
Then, the Fox anchors attacked a plan to build a four-field high school football complex to avoid home-away conflicts. It’s a $3 million project. And it will affect thousands now and for years to come. It will probably save money in the long-run and if you know high school athletics, you can be certain it’s an investment in an economy.
Then, they had a problem with the $8.6 million 8-field soccer complex planned for Cardinal Run North to replace lost space for a soccer league with 3,000 participants. (And we might add 6,000 parents, 12,000 grandparents and however many stepparents. Right there is a project that affects nearly 10 percent of the Urban County’s total population.). And if you know team sports, you can be certain it’s an investment in confident, responsible youth – not to mention kids’ health.
Then, they had a mocking problem with a $2.5 million art park to encourage walkability. This is of course, mocked this week, while next week we can surely await the Fox New match of 20/20's Diane Sawyer report: “Kentucky! How Did It Get To Be The Fattest With NO TEETH?!” And if you know walkability, you know that it is all part of the city’s very concerted effort to get people out on weekends using bike paths, closed streets and downtown parks to fight a “Kentucky Ugly.”
I do wonder where this art park might be, …..hmmmmm….corner of Vine and Rosenberg? And if you know art, you can be certain that some of the best is made right here. Just at lunch today, I put out a wishlist of artists I wanted to see on the plywood that should be erected around the new hole in the middle of downtown any day now.
Nonetheless, the mayor said on Fox this morning, “the list will be posted on the Web site.”
The link to the list is above. Check it out. Parents, there are major, major school renovations .
There’s a $15 million anaerobic composting element, which just rides that green wave.
There are these playing field projects (Full disclosure: I do not play or watch high school football. I just think it’s a good idea).
There is the much-needed stoplight fix at Southland and Rosemont.
There is, in fact, the hurry-up approved Lyric Theater project, new AC at the Kentucky Theatre, a big project at Lafayette High School, and a much-needed Senior Center for the whole city, in addition to a $35 million public safety center that would centralize emergency communications.
It is good that our city is prepared and has a list. By contrast, The Courier-Journal reported today that Louisville's “Mayor Abramson to Meet With Obama On Stimulus Plan.” Mayor Newberry did that nearly a month ago. It’s good that The Council of Mayors, run by Manny Diaz, has gotten this effort together and that Lexington is part of it. It’s not so good that this list was not more publicly available.
But there may be reasons for that. As Fox News pointed out, we’re asking for half a billion because it’s a wish list. We won’t get it all. And so, not all the projects will be funded and it might be best to keep them under wraps so people don’t get disappointed or criticize choices.
It’s not best to keep it under wraps. There are projects on it that reflect our community’s strengths, needs, plans and real steps toward addressing problems. There are innovative things that will create jobs. See which ones you support.
Take a look at the list Lexington. Er, and Mayor Newberry, you too.
Kakie Urch is an Assistant Professor of New Media in the School of Journalism and Telecommunications at the University of Kentucky.