Oct 272010

Editor’s Note: The NoC editorial board decided months ago not to endorse particular candidates in this year’s elections. Instead, we have invited First District candidates Marty Clifford and Chris Ford to submit letters of support. We gave each candidate the same request and parameters. Here’s what we received. Election day is Tuesday, November 2.

Marty Clifford for 1st District Council

Marty might not have a Master’s in public policy, but he does have a Ph.D. in getting good sh*t done.

The sign reads “Welcome Home Eagles.” A spirited message over 14 years, or even 111 years, in the making. In the heart of Lexington’s First District, this sign and its homecoming message sits in the front schoolyard of the recently renovated Arlington Elementary School on North Limestone. As of last week, the students of Arlington School have moved back in, signifying the completion of a $12 million dollar renovation that gives Arlington the most up-to-date and accommodating school building in town.

In 1899 Arlington first opened its doors for learning up the children of this historic neighborhood in a one room schoolhouse on Arceme Avenue, a block away from its current location, which is where it moved in 1901. According to the Fayette County Public Schoools (FCPS) website, “Arlington is one of the oldest schools remaining in Fayette County Public Schools. It represents a large piece of Fayette County history and still serves the same surrounding community as it did in 1899. Arlington is a community school where a majority of parents and students still walk to school every day. The staff and community share a strong sense of family and hard work.”

This is as good a starting point as any for a letter of recommendation for Marty Clifford for First District Council representative.

You see, in 1998 Marty, everybody calls him Marty, left the comforts of his nice Bank One finance job to follow his real passion of fixing up historic property in a diverse area of town. Nobody, not even Marty, could have predicted that this ambitious life-changing decision would have the continued impact on Lexington that it has.

Marty chose North Limestone as his new home and bought a century old four-plex on North Broadway Park, directly across from the front door of Arlington School. Over the next couple years, while restoring and living in this building, he noticed plenty of crime in the area and wanted to do something about it. He looked around for a neighborhood association to join, but found there wasn’t one serving the North Limestone Corridor. Always willing to get involved for the common good, Marty started the North Limestone Neighborhood Association, and went to work.

The first project he tackled was not crime, but ice. The 2003 ice storm hit Lexington hard and turned the Northside of town, with its beautiful old-growth trees, into a disaster zone. The city did not have the manpower to respond to the overall relief need. Marty organized a group of neighbors, got the city to give them equipment and support, and worked for three straight weeks ‘til this Northside corridor and its surrounding neighborhoods were the first completely cleaned and recovered areas of town. Similar leadership qualities have been exemplified by Marty year after year, and are what qualifies him to serve as our council representative.

Around the same time, Marty became aware of an effort to tear down the historic Arlington School building. This effort was backed by some shady politics and vested interests. Marty concluded that tearing down Arlington would be a travesty and our neighborhood would lose one of its best assets: a good elementary school where 90% of its young student body walks to school daily. Marty along with Arlington’s ex-principle, who also was a Northside Neighborhood Association president, and a North Broadway Park neighbor who was on the school board, formed a lobby to save the Arlington building.

It took years of lobbying, convincing, engaging other stakeholders, and doing structural and construction cost analysis, but eventually Marty and his gang convinced the school board to save and renovate the building. Without Marty working as a volunteer to lead this effort, the First District would have lost one of its most valuable assets, Arlington School. Arlington was at one point the best school in town, and now has the opportunity to become the best again.

There are at least 20 other stories and projects just as poignant and telling as the two above that prove the importance of Marty in the First District.

Some of Marty’s major improvement projects are:

  • Getting the police, through the C.L.E.A.R. unit, to operate in the First District in order to vastly reduce crime.
  • Starting and coordinating the stakeholders, and serving on the steering committee for the Center Sector Small Area Plan.
  • Creating the Central Sector Neighborhood Coalition
  • Building a community stage in Duncan Park
  • Organizing and coordinating the Back to the School supply give away rally for three straight years.
  • Facilitating Transylvania’s Community Engagement through the Arts Class.
  • Building two community gardens
  • Organizing Alley Clean Ups
  • Finding the funding to plant 50 trees on North Limestone

Common themes flow throughout each of these projects:

  • They all have improved the First District, both in the short and long term.
  • They would not have happened without Marty as a driving force.
  • They all exemplify Marty’s ability to lead, understand, and make change.
  • They show Marty’s ability to form private and public partnerships to get the right people in the right place to make change happen.
  • They show Marty’s commitment and sacrifice for the common good of Lexington.
  • They all show Marty’s values.
  • They all point to Marty being an excellent council representative.
  • They all point to Marty being a superhero for our community.

Marty has accomplished so many important improvements as a volunteer –– he has unconditionally sacrificed the last 12 years of his life with no desire for self-promotion, only to serve this district. His work and passion are relentless. If he’s been able to do everything he has as a volunteer, imagine what he can do for the First District with formal involvement and support from the city.

Also consider:

  • Though the job description for District Council positions does not clearly state how many hours per week a councilperson should be spending on their duties, Marty has been working over the last six months to put himself in the position to work full time (and if I know Marty, it will be far over that) as our representative.
  • Marty’s only agenda is to serve the First District; he has zero political ambition beyond that.
  • Marty has been successful as a business man and has helped spur economic development in the neighborhood.

I truly believe that without Marty, there would be no Al’s Bar, no North of Center, no Limestone and Loudon revitalization, no Grifftown, no Johnson Ave. revitalization, and none of the projects mentioned above.

I live on the northern reaches of North Limestone. I work at the corner of Limestone and Loudon. I am civically engaged in the area. I spend 95% of my time, energy, and money in the First District and on North Limestone. I am voting for Marty Clifford.

–Gentleman Griffin VanMeter

Chris Ford for 1st District Council

Who is Chris Ford?

I am Chris Ford, and wish to represent the citizens of District 1 on Urban County Council. Thanks for allowing me to briefly introduce my candidacy to you.

First and foremost, I am a neighbor and concerned citizen. Just like you, I share a hope for improved quality of life in our neighborhoods, schools and workplaces. I am also a family man, a business leader, community volunteer and active church member. I cherish and value these components of my life, as they offer me relationships which should be present in the diverse life of community service. Lexington has been good for me. My family and I proudly call District 1 home.

What is the Role of Council District Representative?

I am campaigning to serve as your Councilman. I respect the obligation required and level of responsibility associated with Council service. To be elected to public office represents a public trust, between me and all constituents of Council District 1. I will honor this trust, and will never compromise it.

I also understand the role of a Council District Representative is to be a legislative leader. In this role, I plan to formulate policy and set budgetary priorities for all of Urban County Government, and with emphasis on the needs of District 1. And as Councilman, I will keep an open dialogue with the neighborhood and community leaders throughout the district. During this campaign, I have listened to residents. I have also learned, in more depth, of their concerns and suggestions. This won’t change, once I’m elected. I will continue listening and learning.

In my readiness to serve, I believe District 1 will capitalize on my preparedness to lead. Council work requires detailed examination of complex issues. And there can only be one (1) vote cast on behalf of the First District (on any respective issue). I have the analytical skills & plain courage to fairly make the tough choices needed for our district.

When Will Chris Work for Me?

I will remain dedicated to the citizens of District 1. For years I have balanced commitments to family, church, youth activities, and community service. Throughout all these efforts, I have been fortunate to grow professionally and build a successful career in government and housing. Not only does my “day job” provide my family with resources to sustain our household, but my work history has given me real world experiences and job skills which will easily translate into my role as First District Councilman.

I will remain on the job for District 1. My leadership will not be confined to business office hours or stationed behind a desk on East Main Street. I will be out in the district, on ground level, working to get things done. We will be in constant contact with our residents. You can count on me to answer your call and to be a strong leader on the District 1 team.

Where is Chris’ Record of Service

My commitment is to fairly represent all citizens and neighborhoods within our diverse district. I will not isolate my focus to just one neighborhood or corridor. My leadership will work to enable the voices of our citizens to resound from the East End, to the West End, throughout the downtown historic districts and along East & West Loudon Avenue.

Diligently, and without much fanfare, I have been busy working throughout the district. My District 1 community service work includes membership at Historic St. Paul AME Church, volunteering as a youth coach at Castlewood and Douglass Parks, directorships at the Robert H. Williams Cultural Center and First African Kanisa Apartments.

Professionally, I have coordinated LFUCG Community Development projects along Ann Street and the Meadow Park / Bryan Avenue areas. Most currently, my agency (REACH) is leading the efforts to bring affordable homeownership opportunities to the East End (at Equestrian View) and is redeveloping housing within the Castlewood neighborhood.

Why Now?

This 2010 election for Council District 1 is not about Chris Ford, personally. It’s clearly about the residents, schools and businesses of the district. We stand at a pivotal time in Lexington and District 1. The time is now to implement and creatively craft solutions. It’s finally time to turn plans into action. Our need for dedicated public service, innovative leadership and results-based performance has never been more evident than now.

I am humbled to have this opportunity to answer the call for public service. I believe my qualifications confirm my ability to effectively represent you on Council. I hope my interaction with residents during this campaign signals my vision for the future of District 1. We can do this together, starting now, to place Citizens First back in Lexington’s local government. I ask for your vote for District 1 on November 2.

–Candidate Chris Ford

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