Six months in, mayor offers update on Racial Justice-Equality report

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Racial Equality Meeting

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Six months after a diverse community group handed over its detailed recommendations, Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton offered an update Friday on the status Mayor’s Commission for Racial Justice and Equality Report.

The dozens of pages of recommendations came after weeks of meetings and hundreds of hours of work, research and discussion. In a letter to stakeholders and the community, Gorton said much has been done with much more still to come.

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Her letter is below:

Hello everyone,

It has been just six months since we received the final report from the Mayor’s Commission for Racial Justice. After a summer full of meetings, the report was compiled by the 70 hard-working members of the Mayor’s Commission for Racial Justice and Equality, chaired by Roszalyn Akins and Dr. Gerald L. Smith.

The 68-page report includes 54 recommendations that touch all corners of the community.

Since I received the report Oct. 23, 2020, we have been working to implement its recommendations. It has been very important to me to make progress, and I’m proud to report that we have implemented many recommendations. I have attached a Progress Report (see below).

Another way to measure our progress is by tracking the funds we have spent in Fiscal Year 21 to implement the recommendations, plus the funds I have included in my budget proposal for Fiscal Year 22. Altogether, I estimate this funding at $4.9 million … so far.

The specific details are available at the end of the Progress Report.

Lisa Higgins-Hord, University of Kentucky Assistant Vice President for Community Engagement, has spent many hours helping our City Hall team with the implementation. Thanks to Lisa, UK and Dr. Capilouto for its unfailing support of this initiative.

To complete the implementation, I have included a new senior aide position in the Mayor’s Office in my budget proposal for Fiscal Year 22. This person will be devoted exclusively to completing the implementation.

When I received the report from the Commission back in October, I was determined to put it into action. Despite the pandemic and all of the challenges of the past year, Lexington has made considerable progress in rooting out systemic racism in our community. We still have work to do, but we’re off to a solid start.

Sincerely,

Linda Gorton

Mayor

Our progress to date

Action on Mayor’s Commission for Racial Justice and Equality Report Recommendations

ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY

  • A Request for Proposals has been issued for a Disparity and Availability Study whose goal is determining the availability of Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), and Women Business Enterprise (WBE) in the area.
    • Proposals have been received, a consulting firm has been selected, and the contract is currently being negotiated. Once an agreement has been finalized, the contract will be recommended to Council for their approval, anticipated by mid-May.

Economic Opportunity Recommendation #2: Issue a disparity study to determine if there is a disparity between the availability and utilization of MBE Firms.

HOUSING AND GENTRIFICATION

  • A new Department of Housing Advocacy is included in the Mayor’s Fiscal Year 2022 Proposed Budget.
    • Mission Statement: To develop and implement strategies to build strong and equitable neighborhoods, provide needed guidance, and ensure sustainable growth and development to improve quality of life for Lexington residents.
    • Purpose: Recognizing the importance of strong and equitable neighborhoods, the Department of Housing Advocacy and Community Development uses federal, state, and local funding to provide a variety of public service to the community, including Homelessness Prevention and Intervention, Affordable Housing, Code Enforcement, Grants and Special Programs, Historic Preservation, and Community and Resident Services.

Housing & Gentrification Recommendations

#1: The city must create an Office of Housing Advocate, by ordinance and with permanent funding, to centralize and provide oversight of the full spectrum of housing needs in our community.

#3: The city must put in place mechanisms to keep housing affordable. It is possible to stem the tide of gentrification, while creating more housing opportunity for all Lexingtonians.

#5: The city must financially invest in gentrifying neighborhoods and neighborhoods that are at risk of gentrifying where disinvestment and displacement has occurred, and is occurring.

  • A new Code Enforcement Assistance program is included in the Mayor’s Fiscal Year 2022 Proposed Budget.
    • This program, which will be managed out of the Commissioner’s Office of the Department of Housing Advocacy and Community Development, will be for low-income/eligible homeowners to address and remediate housing violations issued by Code Enforcement.

Housing & Gentrification Recommendation #2: Changes must be implemented in the Division of Code Enforcement. Our recommendation is the Housing Code of the City of Lexington be re- imagined into a Code Agency that places the health, well-being, and protection of residents (especially the most vulnerable) and neighborhoods as its mission.

  • The City has allocated over $2 million in local funds and another $10.1 million in federal funds to eviction assistance programs to aid in eviction prevention. This program is ongoing.
    https://www.lexingtonky.gov/how-do-i-get-help

Housing & Gentrification Recommendation #4: The city must allot a portion of the COVID-19 funding toward eviction prevention initiatives.

RACIAL EQUITY

  • The city is working on locating space, training partnerships, and programming for one or multiple Job Training and Community Center(s). The city already offers job training through several partners, and job training is again part of the Mayor’s budget plan for FY 22.

Racial Equity Recommendation #3: Establish a Job Training and Community Center

  • Proposals have been received and a contract will be awarded in the next few weeks for Diversity and Inclusion workshops for all city employees.

Law Enforcement Recommendation #13: Enhance and establish bias training and evaluation procedures.

  • A full communications plan is currently being developed with the city and the University of Kentucky College of Communication and Information to create a dynamic plan that will remain current, comprehensive, and responsive to our community. The College of Communication and Information at the University of Kentucky is interesting in partnering with the city to build a comprehensive communication plan to share progress and seek feedback, creating targeted campaigns and channels for different segments of the community.

Racial Equity Recommendation #2: Create and Implement a Multi-Media Communications Strategy Designed to Educate, Inform and Engage the Community on Matters of Racial Equity

LAW ENFORCEMENT

Police Transparency Website

Council approved in March that body-worn cameras will expand to entire police force. Additional cameras have been purchased, and it is anticipated that they will arrive and be fully deployed across the police force by late summer 2021. https://www.lexingtonky.gov/body-worn-cameras

Law Enforcement Recommendation #3: Officers be required to wear body worn cameras

  • The acquisition of technology that allows for automatic activation of body-worn cameras when a Taser or weapon is drawn is included in the Mayor’s Fiscal Year 2022 Proposed Budget.

Law Enforcement Recommendation #3: Officers be required to wear body worn cameras

  • Police training for de-escalation techniques is ongoing and continuing, especially as it relates to use-of-force incidents.

Law Enforcement Recommendation #5: Reviews of Police de-escalation and use of force

  • Strengthening the current anti-retaliation policy is being included in the pending update to Police policies.

Law Enforcement Recommendation #6: Anti-retaliation policy against complainants

  • Enhancement of information in Police reports, specifically information related to searches where a person was handcuffed but not arrested, is complete, following a Police Executive Order (an immediate change to an existing policy before it can be formalized) issued by Chief Weathers dated October 12, 2020.

Law Enforcement Recommendation #8: Enhance information in police reports

Law Enforcement Recommendation #9: Enhance Community Relations

  • Professors at Eastern Kentucky University, the University of Kentucky, and the University of Cincinnati have been consulted and asked for recommendations and input on how to improve providing of reports and analysis data.

Law Enforcement Recommendation #10: Police to provide reports and analysis

Law Enforcement Recommendation #11: Submit information to the National Use-of-Force Data Collection

Law Enforcement Recommendation #12: Recruit new officers for the Lexington Police Department and Fayette County Sheriff’s office based upon the recommendations from the publication Hiring for the 21st Century Law Enforcement Officer

  • The city is collaborating with other stakeholders and social service agencies to establish a Sobering Center. This Center would provide an option for an alternative to detention for citizens cited for being under the influence.

Law Enforcement Recommendation #16: Sobering Center

  • LPD is reviewing other models with Dean of the University of Kentucky, College of Social Work, in order to be able to effectively and successfully divert 9-1-1 calls related to addiction, mental health, and homelessness to professionals outside of law enforcement. Police are already working with New Vista and their Community Outreach team to utilize those resources as appropriate.

Law Enforcement Recommendation #15: Establish 911 Diversion Plan-Pilot

  • Bias Training for Police has been enhanced.
    • The bias training module has been updated.
    • The training was submitted to the Kentucky Law Enforcement Council and approved to teach. 
    • The training will be utilized during the next new hire recruiting class. 

Law Enforcement Recommendation #13: Enhance and Establish Bias Training and Evaluation Procedures

RELATED PROGRESS OUTSIDE OF RECOMMENDATIONS

These investments allocated and proposed in the community from the city, with the cooperation of the Council, have been over $4.9 million to date.

Money Allocated Previous to Mayor’s Proposed Budget

  • $2 million in local funds for Eviction Assistance Program
  • $500,000 allocated for Disparity Study
  • $122,237 in local funds to purchase body cameras for officers that did not previously have them
  • $120,000 allocated for Diversity Training Program

Money in Mayor’s Proposed Budget

  •         $20,000 increase in LFUCG Minority Recruiting Efforts
  •         $80,000 in personnel funding for new Racial Equity position in Mayor’s Office
  •         $25,000 in professional services for Mayor’s Office Commission initiatives
  •         $602,694 for five Neighborhood Resource Officers, 1 sergeant, and vehicle expenses
  •         $1 million increased allocation to Affordable Housing Trust Fund
  •         $229,921 for two positions to create Department of Housing Advocacy
  •         $200,000 for Code Enforcement Assistance Program