Lawless, Spires talk about relationship between UK, neighborhoods in debate

By Chase Sanders

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Student and university interests were discussed Sunday night in at the Student Center. A debate between 3rd District Councilwoman Diane Lawless and candidate Stephanie Spires proved to be an open forum for students and local voters.

The two candidates discussed what they can do to improve relationship between the UK and neighborhoods.

Spires wants to address parking issues that affect both students and neighborhood residents.

“I think we need to work with the university on parking. You can’t have students living on South Limestone and expect them to park all the way at the football stadium,” she said.

Lawless said her record speaks for itself and wants to continue to strengthen ties between UK and the community.

“I have worked really hard to improve the neighborhood and university relations. I walk around the neighborhoods, and I try really hard to get students engaged,” she said.

One topic that was covered was the law limiting the number of people who live in a household.

Lawless believes that the law has been effective in a positive way.

“I think it has helped, and the students who live in those homes are safer,” she said. “I increased fines for code violations.”

Spires disagreed with her opponent and thinks there are better ways to make sure the law is followed.

“No, it’s not working. What we need is stronger penalties for people who violate the laws. We have struggled in our community to enforce ordinances,” she said.

The two also talked about considering using taxpayer money to renovate Rupp Arena.

Spires thinks it’s important to move forward with the project, because the convention center brings tourism revenue to Lexington.

“We can bring in more conventions and shows. That’s what our city needs. I do think it’s something our community needs in the future,” she said.

Lawless thinks the project is promising and hopes to keep the public included in the ongoing process of evaluating the situation.

“The renovation is certainly a long-range plan,” she said. “There will be a lot of public meetings, and it’s looking to be mostly privately funded.”

The candidates also talked about changing one-way streets to two-way streets to alleviate traffic.

Lawless says she is interested in improving intersections and pointed out that a study has just begun to see what steps would be best to take.

“We could possibly get federal dollars to fix the intersections, and make them safer. This is something that’s just starting, and it’s going to take a long time,” Lawless said.

However, Spires is not too sure about changing street directions for safety reasons.

“I have some reservations about this project. I’ve spoken with police and fire, and they have concerns about it slowing down their response times,” she said.

Food trucks were also a topic that was covered in the discourse.

In a number of cases the issues vendors face with regulations has been driving them to take their business to other cities.

Lawless wants to make it easier for the food trucks to service consumers in the 3rd District.

“They don’t have to all be downtown. They can be successful across the community. I think we should not be so narrow in our vision of where food trucks are. There have to be compromises to move forward,” she said.

Spires agreed action needs to be taken to help vendors and spur business.

“This issue is not moving forward very well. I am for food trucks. The food trucks want to be here and the bars and businesses want them to be here,” she said.

Safety was of the most important issues covered. Lawless believes her experience will be beneficial to the community.

“I was the director of a crisis center for 30 years so I understand those safety issues,” Lawless said. “We need to educate our students. I try to get out and engage them.”

Spires wants to address the problems the police force faces and believes many issues can be solved with more manpower.

“Crime is up in the whole area. We’ve got to fully fund the police, because they’re trained in that area,” Spires said.

Both candidates agreed that quick action needs to be taken to ensure students’ safety.