Apr 052013

Bloomberg bust, part 2

By Mary Grace Barry

Editor’s note: In part one, Mary Grace assessed the shortcomings of Lexington’s entry in the Bloomberg Mayors Challenge. Here, she examines what that proposal says about how the city sees itself.

Well, we didn’t win. Twice.

Lexington didn’t come out as either the “fan favorite” in the Huffington Post’s people’s choice for the Bloomberg Mayors Challenge or as a real winner chosen by Bloomberg Philanthropies. Bummer.  Continue reading »

Mar 062013

By Mary Grace Barry 

In late February, this email showed up twice in my inbox:

“Vote Lexington! The Bloomberg Mayors Challenge is nearing the finish line. This is a competition for the best ideas to improve cities. Our idea, CitizenLex.org, created by our citizens for all citizens, is up against ideas from 19 other cities nationwide. Million-dollar prizes are at stake. Starting today, you have the opportunity to Vote Lexington at www.huffingtonpost.com/mayors-challenge. Vote Lexington at the Huffington Post site, now through March 6. Tell your friends, tell your family, use Facebook and Twitter, tell everyone…Vote Lexington!”

(Didn’t you get it? Must not be on the city’s email blast list. Or, you’re not in the right network. Hopefully, we’ll have a website to ameliorate that soon.)

The Bloomberg Mayor’s Challenge is a contest to spur national innovation through initiatives developed in cities, initiatives that can be replicated in other cities. In other words, it’s an attempt at an end run around national governmental programs in a time when the capacity (or will) of federal government to address problems seems to be floundering. Bloomberg Philanthropies will pony up $9 million to the “five boldest ideas”: $5 mil to the winner, $1 mil to the next four runners-up. 305 cities submitted proposals; 20 finalists were chosen; Lexington is in that 20 (hence the email). Continue reading »

Nov 072012

By Mary Grace Barry

“Time accomplishes for the poor what money does for the rich,” writes labor organizer Cesar Chavez in his “Good Friday Letter.” Published in 1969, the letter is addressed to E.L. Barr, Jr., the president of the California Grape and Tree Fruit League. Chavez’s farm worker’s union had enacted a table grape boycott in order to gain better working conditions. Staunchly non-violent, Chavez was troubled by growers’ accusations that strikers had been violent.  Continue reading »

Sep 052012

Letter to Mr. Fallon

By Mary Grace Barry

There were several startling things in the Herald-Leader article that splashed across the front page on August 27. “Victorian Square returns to ownership of The Webb Companies” ran the title, as if it were an old timey “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” moment.

One of those startling things was the quiet refusal to probe deeper as to why Victorian Square was listed for sale in mid-January at $7.25 million, assessed at $1.4 million, and sold at $1.7 million.

That aside, the strangest thing was the sense of time warp. So we’re back in the 80s with the Webbs redeveloping a space based on a popular model? (The boutique plan that Victorian Square uses also popped up in bigger cities in the 80s, often in re-purposed buildings like downtown train stations. While popular, it failed in places like Indianapolis and clearly has failed here.) Continue reading »

Jul 132011

Dear Editor:

In your June 22 editorial, “Austerity comes to Lexington,” you wrote: “Austerity is always sold as disciplining government through the use of good business practice.”

Your comment reminded me that austerity is really a disciplinary practice of the body — not of governments or businesses, abstract entities that know nothing of being “austere” or “spendthrift.” We tend to treat governments and businesses as if they are living and breathing entities, and they’re not. We live and breathe; they do not. The point of this distinction is that governments and businesses do not suffer the pain of economic “austerity measures”— citizens (those breathing things called “humans”) do. Continue reading »