Sitting at the heart of Lexington is the old Fayette County Courthouse, a gothic-style building that is more than a century old and a focal point of our downtown district. The courthouse is adjacent to the Lexington Farmers’ Market, the Fifth Third Pavilion and the soon-to-be 21c Museum Hotel. This crown jewel of downtown Lexington – which most recently housed the Lexington History Museum – is also empty. The old courthouse was closed in 2012 due to concerns about lead paint among other things, and now this once majestic building is
Lexington’s “black hole.”
Friends, neighbors and colleagues came together upon news of the courthouse’s closure to discuss how collectively, as a community, we would invest resources to keep this important landmark alive. The Lexington History Museum is hoping to have a home again, and the building could also be converted into commercial, professional or retail space – serving a new purpose as an economic driver in a thriving area of downtown.
Revitalizing the old Fayette County Courthouse is one example of how local control could help cities across the Commonwealth spur economic growth and development. Worthwhile projects simply don’t happen because there aren’t enough resources to support them. Local option would provide an additional economic development tool for improving the quality of life in a community when voters choose it use it.
Local option could also apply to education. As home to UK, BCTC and Transylvania University, as well as other premier schools, education has always been a top priority for Lexington. These institutions provide thousands of jobs, drive research and development, and attract the brightest minds and best athletes from around the world. We should recognize that anything that enhances our education system enhances our quality of life. The decision to support a new annex, library or other amenity should be made by the community.
What local option won’t do is take away the rights of voters to debate or prioritize. In fact, local option would increase the dialogue concerning proposed projects. People from across the community will be more likely to discuss the merits of a development and whether it
deserves public funding.
Many of my colleagues in the business community favor local option because they value the opportunities it could provide. They may disagree on which projects matter most to the city or whether those projects should be funded, but that’s the beauty of local option – people have the opportunity to choose.
We should be given the option to discuss our community goals and decide how to achieve them together. Whether you favor projects that improve education, transportation or just maintain the status quo, we have the potential to be a better community, and we should let the people choose how we get there.
Alan Stein is the founder, president and CEO of SteinGroup, LLC, a Lexington, Ky.-based consulting and management company. He retired in 2011 as president and chief operating officer of Ivy Walls Management Company which owned and operated multiple sports franchises and facilities across the country including the Lexington Legends. Over the years, Mr. Stein has been honored with induction into many Halls of Fame including the Bluegrass Business Hall of Fame and the South Atlantic League of Professional Baseball Hall of Fame, as well as receiving numerous honors such as the prestigious Lexington Optimist Club Award and the Volunteers of America Kentucky Man of the Year. He also received the Lexington Forum Spirit Award and most recently the Jim Host Kentucky Sports Business Award. He has served in many capacities for dozens of community and non-profit organizations including his Synagogue, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, and the Salvation Army.