Officer Keith Gaines Presents Pilot Proposal at Planning Committee today. UK representatives attend. (UK/LFUCG)
CM Tom Blues characterizes the housing problem as an “issue of safety, of civic responsibility, of common decency” at today’s meeting.”
Officer Keith Gaines presented his UK/Campus Adjacent Pilot Program in front of LFUCG’s Planning Committee—a kind of “Good Housekeeping” style seal of voluntary participation for UK-campus adjacent neighborhood landlords, students, etc.
Many questions were raised as to the legal liabilities and responsibilities of the Council.
CM Andrea James recommended Officer Gaines look into the failed B Seal program for mobile homes in Lexington. She said, “It’s not just a student housing issue, it’s a rental/absentee landlord kind of thing…We have to make sure it’s sustainable, whatever we do.”
CM Doug Martin said, “this is really two separate issues. How many residents are allowed to live in a structure in a single-family zone. That’s a different issue than what are the behaviors and conduct of the citizens in our neighborhoods, whether or not they live there and whether or not they’re students. I believe that our conversation today is the second.”
References September 12 Washington Post article referring to stepped up enforcement at University of Maryland. Responds, “I think if someone’s burning a couch in the street they need to do jail time…if they’re lying out in the middle of the street drunk, there are rules against that. My first instinct is that we need visible increased enforcement…”
CM Julian Beard’s question for code enforcement, “When they burn sofas, do they burn their own, or do they go across the street and burn their neighbors? I’ve always wanted to know the answer to that.”
(David Jarvis’s response from Code Enforcement: landlords put tenants’ furniture on the street when they move out. “We found 14 [sofas] in the backyard of a fraternity house. They were collecting them.”)
CM Stinnett asked about the manpower for administration, also reminds committee that BCTS and Transy should be factored in. (Chair CM Gorton reports Transy was represented on Student Housing Task Force.)
UK’s Tom Harris attended, along with Steve Byars, director of government relations; Victor Hazard, interim vice president of student affairs; Lisa Higgins from Community Engagement. Harris expressed appreciation for the Friday October 16 tour that included UK President Lee Todd.
“Let me address the complaint that UK has not been at the table. We’ve heard that from a number of sources. We’ve been engaged in these issues in many ways for several years through the Town and Gown commission, which Lisa chairs. We’ve got multiple representatives on that commission including students.” References site visits to Penn State, Ohio State “to look at processes there.” Characterizes UK as “clearly committed” adding “the reality is, we’ve been quite modest in our growth.”
CM Diane Lawless, “I plead with you to look at expanding that [UK code of conduct]... the Board of Trustees, Dr. Todd… if a student gets drunk and assaults me, I would like to see that code of conduct as strict as if they get drunk and assault you.”
“Every single neighborhood person we heard from came up and said ‘we love UK students; we live in these neighborhoods because of the diversity. It’s the problems of a few that create a bad name, tension, and animosity…I came here as a UK student in 1969. I fell in love with this community…I want them to flourish, love being here, and want to stay and make it their home…I don’t like shipping out our best and brightest resources.”
Vice Mayor Jim Gray clarifies Harris’s reference to the role of the university and its absence at the table, after service onTown-Gown commission and UK Student Housing task force, “not without a lot of consideration have I made the observation that UK has not made this a priority. Only until the heat has been dialed up has it become a priority…” In the course of dialing up the heat, “root causes” had to be examined, “much of that root cause is the University’s decision, going way back to alcohol on campus and not on campus.” For example, Cooperstown renovation was a UK priority, and now it’s not. The off-campus housing office? “A minimum,” the University has to bring to the table.
CM Blues, “we appreciate your commitment to being at the table. But we’ve got a problem because the Council is not only AT the table, we’ve got something ON the table…It was unfortunate during our public meetings that we had some students who came forward with a kind of entitlement to irresponsibility, and suggested to us that we just ‘get real’ and ‘live with it.’ But we cannot do that. We, as a community, including the University, have a huge stake in preserving neighborhoods that are now being systematically dismantled.” He characterizes it as an “issue of safety, of civic responsibility, of common decency.”
CM Beard “eight to ten students in a vinyl box, I cannot imagine, would encourage a quality education.”
CM Feigel, “I’m still looking for what UK can offer us to help deal with the problem. We’ve been told that you can’t afford a student housing office. We’ve been told that we can’t assess the students a fee. But we haven’t been told what you can do. You’ve said that you’re committed to work with us, but we want to know what is it that you can do.”
“I appreciate every one of you that have been here… Perhaps we’re—no offense meant—perhaps we’re talking to the wrong people. I would like for us to have a joint meeting with the Board of Trustees.”
Harris’s response, “I can certainly talk to the Chair. Obviously, they can do whatever they want to. Typically, they tend to be a policy-setting board…”
CM Feigel’s response, “As. Are. We.”
CM Martin, “You don’t come with any proposals today. And as long as this conversation’s been going on, I think the folks here really expected some proposals. It’s one thing to sit at the table, but it’s a different thing to contribute and come up with solutions to the problem. UK is the 800 lb gorilla in the room.”