By Bill Robinson
Robert Blythe, 62, is seeking his sixth term on the Richmond City Commission.
A lifelong resident of Richmond, he holds degrees form Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Eastern Kentucky University, where he taught mathematics until retiring. He continues to serve First Baptist Church, Francis Street, as pastor.
Blythe provided written responses to series of questions the Richmond Register posed to the eight city commission candidates.
The Parks and Recreation Department took the biggest funding cut in the 2012-13 budget. After the city finished the 2011-12 fiscal year with a surplus of more than $3 million, should some funding be restored to parks and recreation?
“I believe the Parks and Recreation budget should be reviewed to ensure that we can provide the finest recreational opportunities for our community and the highest quality of life that we can afford. I would support a budget increase if it is warranted and if we can justify it.”
The number of Richmond firefighters recently fell to 52, two below budgeted strength. Do you think the city can provide adequate fire protection with that number?
“The true test of whether or not we have a sufficient number of firefighters could be that we find ourselves in a situation which we are not able to handle. This could be tragic. Therefore, I feel that we should follow the standards established by the industry and apply them to our community. If we are not in compliance, we should take necessary measures to comply.”
How should the city resolve its storm-water issues? Would you favor a storm-water fee to fund improvements?
“We have no choice but to take necessary measures to combat our storm water problems. Many communities have faced the same situation and have found it necessary to levy a fee to provide the funds to remedy the problems. The problem affects the entire city. In addition, all available grants should be pursued.”
Defend rezoning of property at Barnes Mill and Lancaster for a student housing project.
“I supported rezoning of the Lackey property at Lancaster Avenue and Barnes Mill Road. It was a good decision and the entire community will benefit. I personally support the project because of the additional benefits such as the straight road where there is presently a curve. I have a friend who was injured in a head-on collision in that curve. If this saves a life, it has been justified.”
Does the city sufficiently support, promote its Human Rights Commission?
“The Human Rights Commission should prepare and submit a budget of what it feels is necessary for its operation to be able to fulfill its mission. The city should give support. But, the Human Rights Commission might also seek other sources to provide an opportunity for community participation on a higher level.”
Should the city expressly ban discrimination based on sexual orientation?
“I am undecided in the matter of modifying our current Human Rights Ordinance to include the additional protected classes – lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered persons. The reason is that as I continue to seek the community’s feelings, I find that all want fairness, but are not certain that this is the way to achieve that fairness. Even among the legal profession, there is concern about designating certain protected classes.”
Are minorities adequately represented among city employees and are give equal consideration for promotions?
“I feel that fair consideration is given to all in seeking employees for the city, and I find that some of our departments are doing a better job at seeking to have our employee staff representative of our community. Where I personally have concerns, I address the matter immediately and use the available avenues.”
What can the city do to redevelop its downtown?
“In a recent meeting of the Kentucky League of Cities, the matter of approaches to revitalizing downtowns was a topic for discussion. A city south of us has taken an approach which I feel might be something that we should consider. It involves the city taking the lead in bringing the downtown businesses and residents into a cooperative agreement to further its own interests.”
Should the city allow drink sales after 9 p.m. on Sundays?
“The record will show that I gave a representative “no” vote to the matter of Sunday alcohol sales. However, this subject is also an economic consideration. I do not find anything magic about the hour to discontinue the sales.
Biggest accomplishment, biggest disappointment of past two years?
“The past year has seen a continuation of the measures put into place by the previous administration to bring the financial situation of the city to a more stable condition and one that is sustainable. We have made adjustments regarding the cash flow of the city’s operation to allow the necessary daily functions to proceed without constraints.
“The human resources of the city have been reviewed and adjusted where needed to make the city more efficient in its provision of services to the citizens. We have attempted to make the operation of government safer for the employees and secure from isolated threats to the person and work of the city’s personnel. We recently were able to give our employees a raise after three years of no change.
“For the next two years, I would like to get some of our concerning matters under control. We must, again, address the storm-water problems. We must monitor the public safety needs of our community—police and fire—and give all the necessary support to accomplish the purposes of each. We must maintain an adequate personnel level to accomplish the very purposes for the existence of local government, and we must properly compensate and reward these employees.