April 19, 2024 9:00am

Poll members predict new property tax for Lexington park improvements will be approved by Council, voters

They also approve of the choice of Mark Pope as UK's new basketball coach. And they trust the governor, rather than the legislature, to do what is best for Kentucky.

Photo of Tom Eblen
Lexington, KY Correspondent
article image

By more than a 2-to-1 margin, Power Poll Lexington members predict City Council and Lexington voters will approve a new dedicated tax for public park improvements.

An even bigger majority think Mark Pope is the right choice to replace John Calipari as the University of Kentucky men’s basketball coach.

And when asked whose leadership they trust more to do what is best for Kentucky — Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, or the General Assembly’s Republican super-majority — the vote was similarly lopsided.

Lexington’s Council is likely to vote April 25 on a proposal to create an additional property tax of 2.25 cents per $100 of assessed value to create a dedicated fund for improvements to public parks in Fayette County. If approved by Council, the tax measure would appear on the Nov. 5 ballot so voters can make the final decision.

Sixty-one percent of Power Poll members (122 people) think Council and voters will approve the tax increase, while 33 percent (65 members) don’t think so. Six percent (12 members) have no opinion.

The Parks Sustainable Funding tax is estimated to raise about $8 million a year for park improvement projects and cost the average Lexington homeowner about $53 more in property taxes each year. The fund would be used only for capital improvement projects in parks, beginning with those already on the city’s parks master plan. For more information, check out this page on the website of CivicLex, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that promotes civic engagement in Lexington.

“In addition to the tax for the parks, consideration should be given to providing a tax to support the arts in Lexington,” said poll member Everett McCorvey, director of UK’s nationally renowned Opera Theatre program. “The arts bring life and business to communities and should be supported more broadly by the citizens who benefit from what is provided through the arts in our community.”

Rev. Anthony Everett, president and CEO of The Centre for Prophetic Activism, had other ideas for city resources. “I believe city government will approve the tax,” he said. “Unfortunately, they will throw pennies at the unhoused. I would love to see them match the same amount of funding for the unhoused.”

Our second question focused on the new leader of Kentucky’s secular religion, college basketball. Pope succeeds Calipari, who left for Arkansas after UK fans turned sour on him after 15 years. Sure, UK won its 8th national championship under Calipari, in 2012, and went twice each to the Final Four and Elite Eight.

But Calipari’s “one and done” recruiting style fell out of favor amid disappointing results over the past four seasons. When the Cats were one and done in last month’s NCAA tournament, Big Blue Nation was done with Calipari, who left to take the head coaching job at Arkansas.

Given the stature of Kentucky’s program, fans were hoping for a big-name successor such as the Chicago Bulls’ Billy Donovan, Baylor’s Scott Drew or UConn’s Danny Hurley. But Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart went with Pope, who played on UK’s 1996 national championship team and has been the coach at Brigham Young University.

So far, Pope is getting an enthusiastic reception from fans and sportswriters. Herald-Leader sports columnist John Clay wrote a column approving of the choice, headlined “Mark Pope might not be the coach Kentucky fans wanted, but he might be the coach UK needs.”

Power Poll members also approve of Pope by a wide margin — 66 percent (131 members to 8 percent (16 members). Fifty-two members (26 percent) have no opinion.

The other big news this month was the end of the General Assembly’s annual session. Perhaps the most controversial bill was a tough anti-crime measure that will cost taxpayers more than $1 billion over the next decade. Critics said the bill was too punitive and also unnecessary given the state’s declining crime rate.

Legislators also approved a constitutional amendment, which will be put before voters statewide Nov. 5, to allow public money to be spent on private school education, something that has never been allowed before. (Power Poll members predicted in February, by a 74 percent to 22 percent margin, that voters will defeat the amendment.)

The Republican super-majority angered many Louisville and Lexington residents by asserting its authority over issues that are usually left to local control. Lawmakers mandated a change in Louisville’s metro charter to make local elections there non-partisan. And it prohibited Louisville and Lexington from banning housing discrimination based on renters’ source of income, such as government housing assistance money.

A more popular piece of legislation was the bipartisan “momnibus” bill, which puts new resources towards women’s and children’s health. But Republican legislators declined to change the state’s tough 2023 anti-abortion law to provide exceptions for rape and incest.

Republican lawmakers overturned virtually all of Beshear’s vetoes, including the crime bill. And despite a large state budget surplus, they declined to put money toward dedicated raises for public school teachers and Pre-K programs statewide, which Beshear had requested.

“The people’s well-being, and their will, were not served on several issues in the recently concluded session of their elected representatives,” columnist Al Cross wrote in the Northern Kentucky Tribune. “That’s true of every legislative session, but it’s particularly remarkable for one that had billions of dollars in surplus the General Assembly could have used to give the people some things they want and need. The overarching issue is the Republican-controlled legislature’s maintenance of a big surplus to justify more income-tax cuts, to reach its stated goal of abolishing the tax.”

Given the sharp policy differences between the Republican-controlled General Assembly and Beshear, who won re-election last year by a comfortable margin, it seemed like a good time to ask Power Poll members: Whose leadership do you trust more to do what is best for Kentucky?

Poll members chose Beshear, by a margin of 83 percent (166 members) to 10 percent (20 members). Thirteen members (7 percent) had no opinion.

Power Poll Members: Do you have a friend or colleague who should be on Power Poll? Please invite them to join!

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.

More on This Poll

More Polls

More on This Poll