June 21, 2024 9:00am

Lexington poll members favor zoning law changes, disagree with actions by UK officials and their congressman

Most also predict that Donald Trump won't get any jail time after being convicted of 34 felonies

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Lexington, KY Correspondent
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Lexington Power Poll members strongly approve of a proposed overhaul of city zoning ordinances to allow for more density and affordable housing in a city where home prices have risen sharply and development of rural land has always been controversial.

On the other hand, poll members strongly disapprove of recent two actions by local officials. One is a move by University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto and the Board of Trustees to take away the faculty’s historic decision-making power regarding academic programs. The other is U.S. Rep. Andy Barr’s statement during a Fox News interview that Jan. 6 rioters convicted of crimes should be released from prison.

And one prediction: Will a New York judge give former President Donald Trump any jail time when he is sentenced July 11? A large majority of poll members don’t think so.

Lexington’s Urban County Council plans to take a final vote June 27 on an overhaul of zoning regulations that would allow denser urban and suburban developments. It would reverse some development trends that have prevailed since the 1970s, allowing the city to develop more as it did historically.

Changes in the zoning ordinance include reducing mandatory building setbacks from the street in some residential zones, allowing apartments in one business zone and providing more incentives for construction of affordable housing.

Power Poll members strongly approve of the changes, by a margin of 77 percent (155 members) to 12 percent (24 members). Eleven percent (23 members) had no opinion.

“The new zoning rules (which are perhaps not new, but rather a throwback to the way cities used to be built) help open the door for Lexington to remain an interesting place while continuing to grow,” said Nick Such, a co-founder of Awesome Inc. “Otherwise, it seems we are doomed to devolve into a suburb of ourselves, a generic American city.”

At their meeting June 11, Council members voted unanimously in favor of the changes, the most comprehensive overhaul of city zoning rules since 1983. The city Planning Commission approved the changes in December.

The second question was about a recent action by UK’s Board of Trustees, at the request of Capilouto, to abolish the University Senate, which since 1917 has shared power with the president and university administrators regarding academic programs. The senate will be replaced with an advisory panel made up of faculty, staff and students, but all the real power will rest with Capilouto and the board.

Capilouto says the changes are needed to “streamline” the university governance process. But many faculty members have strongly objected, calling the move a power grab that was accomplished by a secretive process. The Faculty Senate approved a symbolic “resolution of no confidence” in Capilouto, but it has no real effect.

Power Poll members also disagree with the move, by a margin of 60 percent (121 members) to 26 percent (52 members). Fourteen percent (29 members) had no opinion.

In an interview recently with Fox Business personality Maria Bartiromo, Barr, a Republican who represents the 6th Congressional District that includes Lexington, agreed with her that those convicted of crimes in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the capital by Trump supporters should be freed from prison.

The riot resulted in several deaths and millions of dollars in damage to the Capitol building. About two dozen Kentuckians, including several from Lexington, have been charged in connection with the insurrection.

“It’s just wrong that all these people have been locked up,” said Bartiromo, who has regularly amplified false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump and the riot was somehow the fault of Democratic congressional leaders.

“Absolutely, Maria,” Barr replied without elaborating.

Barr has endorsed Trump’s re-election. While the former president is unpopular in Lexington, he is popular in the conservative rural counties that make up most of Barr’s district.

Only 7 percent of Power Poll members (14 people) agree with Barr and Bartiromo on this, while 89 percent (180 people) disagree. Eight people (4 percent) had no opinion.

The final question asked Power Poll members to predict whether Trump will get any jail time when he is sentenced July 11. A New York jury unanimously convicted Trump on all 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to hide from voters his hush-money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels.

Legal analysts are split about whether Justice Juan Merchan will sentence Trump to any jail time. Penalties for his conviction range from no time to four years in prison. The judge can consider a variety of factors in sentencing, including Trump’s legal history and his violation of court gag orders and attacks on the judicial system.

A large majority of poll members — 72 percent (146 members) —predict Trump will not get any jail time, but 14 percent (28 members) predict he will. Fourteen percent (28 member) had no prediction.

We’ll find out the answer on July 11. Any sentence is likely to be stayed until Trump appeals the conviction.

The former president still faces three more criminal trials related to inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection, taking and refusing to give back highly classified national security documents and election tampering in Georgia. The two federal trials are on hold because of delays by a Trump-appointed judge in Florida and conservative members of the U.S. Supreme Court. The Georgia case is on hold while the Georgia Supreme Court considers an appeal by Trump, who is trying to disqualify his prosecutor.

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About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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