Lawless harsh in housing plan decision making

Kernel Editorial Board

In her short time on the city council, Diane Lawless must have gathered a lifetime’s worth of political backstabbing to deliver.

Elected to a seat representing UK, Lawless ran a campaign focused on being a voice for students in a city that seems to largely ignore them.

She said wanted to help students stay in Lexington after graduating. She wanted to clean up the neighborhoods around campus, which isn’t such a bad goal if you know what many of the houses look like.

“It’s about respect, letting students know they are a respected, valued part of the community,” Lawless said in a Nov. 9, 2008 Kernel article, a few days after she was elected.

Yet last week Lawless let all the students she’s supposed to represent know just how much she personally respects them.

Working as the head of the Moratorium Work Group that has drafted changes to legally define family in order to “clean up” the student housing around campus, Lawless has basically made political move No. 1 and executed it perfectly.

Instead of bringing students to the table, she’s keeping them in the dark and playing to the group she thinks will have a better chance at re-electing her: permanent residents who share the neighborhoods with students.

Outside of the committee, no one was aware of the changes Lawless and Co. were drafting. Not landlords and definitely not Student Government President Ryan Smith.

“We’re the sole group being affected by this policy change, and we’re the group that is being reached out to the least,” Smith said. “I have not received one call or e-mail from Lawless (about these changes).”

And it’s not for a lack of trying, especially on Smith’s end. Go to any public meeting, even court cases, regarding students, and their landlords and/or the city and Smith will probably be there.

But the new rules, with exceptions for fraternity and sorority houses and dorms, were drafted without Smith at the table.

So much for respecting students.

The good news is that Lawless’ political ploy has a few more hoops to jump through before being passed into law.

These council and committee meetings should be full of students taking the opportunity to finally let Lawless and the rest of the city council know that they are an influential group in Lexington.

Instead of grouping all students into one big partying mass, individual landlords should be held responsible for the damage and decay of the homes surrounding campus.

They collect large security deposits to insure against damage. Why not take that money and actually use it to fix a damaged or decaying home?

Instead of making those landlords responsible, Lawless did the quickest and easiest thing she could: take it out on the students.

What she doesn’t seem to realize is students will never go away. With UK’s desire to expand without increasing the amount of dorm rooms, students will just move farther and farther out into the city. Moving them out of one district en masse will just create headaches for other districts.

“It’s not about students at all,” Lawless said. “It’s a problem all over the city with different populations … If me and 17 of my friends were living (in one house), there would be the same issue.”

That type of gross overgeneralization by Lawless is the problem itself. The only places that have 17 or more people are the buildings that are exceptions to the rule. Most students just need a place to split the rent and utilities because living in the dorms is too expensive.

But if the goal is to create neighborhoods that students want to continue to live in after graduating, consider the mission a failure.

Keeping students in the dark about kicking them out isn’t the correct way to invite them to stay once they enter the real world. Lawless has shown she doesn’t care for them now. Will she care for them then?

Only if they stick around to vote for her.