Meet the Mayor: share a $5M Big Idea with Jim Gray at...

Meet the Mayor: share a $5M Big Idea with Jim Gray at West Sixth after the Twitter Town Hall

On Wednesday, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray invited citizens to take to their screens for a Twitter Town Hall and a Facebook Forum to crowdsource ideas for Lexington’s application for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s challenge grant, the $5 million big idea.  On Thursday, July 26, Lexingtonians can Meet the Mayor at West Sixth Brewery, for an in-person idea exchange.

“Through Bloomberg’s foundation, he’s searching for innovative local solutions to national problems. Bloomberg created the Mayors Challenge to celebrate creative problem solving and innovation that’s happening in cities from coast to coast.” The deadline for submitting the $5 million big idea, which Gray reminds everyone, “must be replicable…to other cities…scalable…sustainable in a larger sense.”

The idea also has to be specific. “Make downtown better” doesn’t fit the terms of  the Bloomberg Foundation’s Challenge. And it helps to be up to date on What Lexington already has, versus What Lexington Needs. “Incubators” are always popular ideas, for example (offered up again in the facebook forum) — often framed up as space sharing and a community fax (actual incubators are more complex hive environments) — but participants chimed in today to remind everyone that downtown alone already has The Plantory (at the corner of Winchester Road and Midland. Awesome Inc and Base 163 are both on Main Street.

Lots of longterm “areas for improvement” for Lexington have surfaced in the online forums but aren’t germane to this particular conversation for this particular challenge grant. (“Bury the power lines, anyone? Anyone?“)

Lexington architect Graham Pohl chimed in via facebook, ” Exploit the natural elevation change from Main Street to High Street: Envision 4 or 5 blocks of Vine Street as a reconstructed Kentucky holler. Town Branch Creek running through the middle at the bottom of a small ravine. A pedestrian walkway, Town Branch Trail, meanders creekside. One lane of traffic on each side, further up the embankments (with bike lanes). Pedestrian suspension bridges crossing the ravine, north to south, with a very high tree canopy over the whole area and naturalized plantings along the creek and embankments. A place that would sponsor enormous activity, and be a jaw dropping, unforgettable experience for visitors.”

Clean, green energy was a popular theme. Pohl said on Facebook, “solar photovoltaics and energy production: it is a technology in which we should be investing. Germany and many other countries have been doing so for years. This year, Germany has experienced days on which almost half of their total electrical energy demand was met by solar pv. This is where we are going. Let’s get there first, not last.”

Rod Lindauer posited “for solar evacuated tube hot water heaters, we could partner with GE, which had a glass plant in [Lex] in the past, they probably hold patents on the coating technology anyway, we could use the old Hughes boondoggle plant on Newtown(?), and recycle our glass waste. Local manufacturing jobs, guaranteed revenue for GE, savings for local families.”

High Speed and light rail for the Louisville/Cinci/Lexington corridor was a chronic refrain. (How about the new Bluegrass Special? What Lexington Needs?)

What will become of all these ideas? What if Lexington doesn’t win Bloomberg’s Challenge grant? Will they all go to waste? Gray says, “We are collecting all of the ideas submitted through the online application, Facebook, and Twitter. While we are going to be incorporating one or more ideas for the Bloomberg challenge application, we are also going to be using the other ideas submitted to guide our strategic planning. The Bloomberg challenge has a focus on the replication of big ideas to other cities, but many of the ideas that will drive our own strategic planning will be the more Lexington-centric ideas. Even if we don’t win the Bloomberg challenge we still get a wealth of great ideas for Lexington.”

On Thursday, July 27 from 6:30 pm to 8 pm, Lexingtonians can Meet the Mayor at West Sixth Brewery, for an in-person idea exchange.