One Potato, Two Potato
By Todd Piccirilli
Lexingtonians have a few options when deciding on who to vote for in the mayoral race. We suggest the trusted eeny-meeny-miney-mo system.
Harsh? Maybe but it emphasizes the slim pickin’s in this race (see also Senate). There are two candidates who are politicians to the core. And on the other end of the spectrum are three candidates with perhaps too little political experience to effectively manage the position.
Fortunately, we need only narrow the field to two at this point. According to Kitty Ware, Election Coordinator, the process in the mayoral primaries is a simple one. “All of the names are on the ballot for the May primaries, and the top two vote-getters go on to the November election.” The election is completely non-partisan.
Starting with the incumbent, Mayor Miller has received her fair share of praise and criticism. Miller’s opponents, as well as many others in the community, have criticized her moves over the last five years, especially in terms of fiscal matters. The increase in payroll tax just weeks after her inauguration, the herbie-fee and expensive development studies might all be drawing harsher criticism if it weren’t for the booming economy and low unemployment rates. Still, Miller has shown that she is willing to listen to the city, not just the prominent businesspeople and influential organizations in it but the neighborhood associations and the individuals that attend public meetings as well.
Although she didn’t respond to our question by our deadline (prompting us to recommend new or improved spokesperson staff if [and probably when] she’s elected), we did get a few prepared highlights just prior to paste-up, which included: her support of the arts, 15 years on the Council (five as mayor), and founding the Farmer’s Market and Lexington Children’s Museum. The prepared statement reads, “Her budgets have reflected conservative political policies, including the establishment of the city’s first rainy day fund and a proposal to cut the garbage tax by 11 percent.” Got it.
The only other candidate with a political background comparable to Miller’s is Dr. Charles “Chuck” Ellinger. As the current Councilperson-at-Large and a U.K professor, Ellinger has been involved in Lexington politics for over a decade. His plans for the city are straightforward. “I’m absolutely opposed to moving the airport,” said Ellinger, who is also opposed to building a parallel runway. However, he is not against airport expansion altogether. Among the changes that Ellinger wishes to initiate as mayor are a greater emphasis on basic services such as fire, police and storm management, a closer relationship between local government and U.K. and the formation of a liaison position to work with the administration and the neighborhoods.
Ellinger provided well-rehearsed responses to issues that certainly are of concern to our readers. However, the question we asked was why should ACE readers vote for you? From the outset of the interview, it was obvious that Ellinger had no idea who or what ACE is.
We took this as a red flag, and not because we’re raging egomaniacs. Fifty-two thousand readers is a substantial proportion of the voting populace. The paper’s been in existence for ten years, and is available in hundreds of outlets all over town, and in surrounding areas. A bit out of touch with the needs of our readers? Well, if he has no idea who they are…you be the judge.
The other three candidates could easily fall into the “thank you but we’re looking for someone with more experience” category. This is not to say that we can only support career politicians (God forbid), merely that some relevant experience is necessary for good government, and certainly to lead the city into the next millennium.
That said, the best of the remaining pack is Chris Henkel. Here is a man like those fabled pioneers of yesteryear, brimming with gumption and not afraid to speak his mind. Of course these are the very qualities that likely cost him some endorsements, but he appears to have a genuine concern for the well being of the city. That’s worth something.
A carpenter by trade, Henkel, has demonstrated civic involvement as president of the Ashland Neighborhood Association and his associations with Citizens for Ethical Government and as an avid preservationist.
His plans for Lexington’s future include revitalizing downtown and bringing communities, especially those he considers to be the town’s “hidden ghettos,” closer together. He obviously has a vested interest in preservation, but this goes beyond old buildings. “People move here for the horse farms, trees and wholesome living,” said Henkel, “We need to continue to sell on this.”
The other two candidates have gained notoriety for being involved in adult entertainment businesses. Walter Brown Jr. owns a local strip club and has little to no involvement in civic matters, and (for better or worse) an axe to grind over last year’s controversy about restrictions on nude dancing.
Will McGinnis III gets points for ambition if nothing else. He proudly claims to be the owner of three businesses, but he is known for only one-a strip-o-gram service (he is both owner and entertainer). He also has some definite ideas for changes in this city. Like Henkel, he wishes to revitalize downtown. He’d also like to see criminals pay for their stay in order to cover the costs of building a new detention center, and he calls for lowering city taxes. Not bad for someone who will turn only 30 this year, but once again a demonstration of public service or civic involvement is severely lacking.
McGinnis feels he can make up for this lack of experience by making sure he surrounds himself with experienced people. This may be the balancing factor for all three of the non-politicos.
In summary, if it’s experience you want, Mayor Miller is the clear choice (with the caveat of an expanded spokesperson staff); and if it’s new blood, Chris Henkel gets a somewhat out-on-a-limb reserved nod. IF he goes belly up in this race, we’d certainly be interested in revisiting some of his ideas in the next City Council race.