Politics

In a race that appears more competitive than once thought, three Democratic challengers are looking to usher in a new era in the Metro Council’s Second District, while a longtime incumbent is trying to hold onto her seat.

RaSean Crawley, Caroline Grundy and Rick Harrison are each vying to replace Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin via Tuesday’s primary election. The vote will likely be the deciding factor for the district’s representative, as no Republicans are running for the seat.

The district stretches east from Preston Highway to include Newburg and areas surrounding GE Appliance Park.

Shanklin is seeking her fifth term on the council. She nearly was removed in 2013 for alleged ethics violations related to discretionary fund spending. She’s said she’s moved on, but some residents remember the misstep.

“That was a big issue,” said Rita Johnson, who has lived in Newburg for nearly 60 years.

She said she’d like to see the district’s annual allotment of $100,000 in discretionary funds be spent more evenly across the neighborhoods — and for that spending to be more visible to residents.

“We don’t see any of it, and I don’t understand it,” she said.

Johnson said over the years, infrastructure maintenance has waned in the district. Potholes pepper the streets, and the public parks don’t look as nice as they once did.

Her neighbor, Ruby Forte, said the next District 2 council member needs to be more accessible when it comes to spending and project funding.

“You should be able to get in contact with them, and they should be able to answer your questions,” she said.

20160513_205843Jacob Ryan | wfpl.org

Ruby Forte (left) and Rita Johnson

Forte and Johnson say they’ve seen property crime ticking up in the neighborhood, too.

“That’s something new for us,” Forte said.

Over in Petersburg Park to the north, a few dozen people were soaking in some weekend sunshine after the days of rain. When we asked what they want in a council representative, many were quick to say someone who can commit to addressing crime.

Bernie Stone said he wants a council member needs to “spread the word of peace.”

Others want more than a message.

Shereka Firman said she wants to elect someone who’ll fight to expand community centers and youth programming in the district.

“They have nothing to do,” she said. “There’s a lot of talent out here, especially in music, especially in instruments, singing, rapping, drawing, all of that,” she said. “But they don’t have nothing to do.”

Firman said meeting the demand for engaging programs can help reduce violent crime.

But Darwin Gober said any effort to address crime and violence would be tough to see through. “You have to be patient,” he said.

In the process, Gober said a council representative must remain committed to residents’ needs, no matter how small. Accessibility, dependability and visibility are key characteristics for anyone seeking to represent District 2, he said.

“Work with the neighborhood, walk through the neighborhood, talk with the neighborhood. You have to be patient in order to get the neighborhood under your wing,” Gober said. “You have to be loyal to the neighborhood in order for the neighborhood to really be with you.”

Jacob Ryan is a reporter for the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.