I’m Eric Whisman, and I’m running for re-election to continue the work I began just last year to help Frankfort reach its potential. I’m honored and humbled by the opportunity to lead my hometown through what has been one of the most challenging times in our lives, but know that I work every day for the betterment of our community and I know we have a bright future ahead of us.
Find Eric’s answers to The State Journal’s weekly questions:
What is your top priority for the city?
My priorities remain in the principles leading my decisions since taking office. To build on our existing foundations to create a better future for everyone and help Frankfort achieve more. It may sound cliché, but I know people are having a hard time, and I’m dedicated to helping!
What’s the first thing you will push for to help the local economy?
I’ve discussed at length Frankfort’s need for a professional organization focused on business development and growth in the city. In light of Covid-19’s impact, it’s more important than ever to create this to help businesses with funding and tools to rebuild, develop jobs for our residents and create a stronger local economy.
What, if anything, should city government do to combat climate change?
As the Capital City and a smaller community, we can lead and be flexible in developing new programs that tackle important issues. We need to do more to address our looming climate emergency, because we must all do you part.
Our City has enacted conservation efforts for some time, changing street lights to LED, planting trees and developing forestry plans to mitigate water runoff and heat generation, I have presented a solution to fix our broken recycling program, which has yet to be adopted. Recently I asked our staff to revisit a previous city energy consumption audit to find more ways to conserve. But more must be done to address these complex issues. Our best opportunity is the buying power of our local utility. As the majority shareholder of Kentucky Municipal Energy Agency (KYMEA), we must demand an energy portfolio that is clean and sustainable. And as all of Frankfort is a river watershed, we need to protect waterways from pollution like fertilizer runoff, and look for ways to conserve our natural resources.
We can do these things and more if we work together as a community and finally realize our place as a leader in our state, nation and world.
Given the city’s latest released plan, do you support Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to fund public infrastructure for Parcels B and C and other downtown development? Do you support the developments themselves? Why or why not?
“When the state demolished the Capital Plaza and the existing infrastructure, they created a need for improvements which the City must provide like sewers, streets and sidewalks. The proposed development plan calls for constructing these features established in our Downtown Master Plan, like rebuilding Washington Street and a public parking garage to serve the hotel, apartments, businesses, new YMCA and all of downtown. The future taxable revenues generated by the development will then pay for these improvements, constructed by the developer for the community. Only a portion of those new property and employment taxes within the defined boundary will be used, and will not affect taxes anywhere else in the city. Since this land was exempted from property tax for over a half century and currently produces no taxes for the City, we stand to gain a great deal. The TIF is a critical component to make this development viable, and I fully support the project and the TIF for these and other improvements as long as they are for the publics use and generate greater investment. We have been given few options but a great opportunity, and the proposed developments will be transformational for our community. I’m excited for our future!”
What changes, if any, should Frankfort make in its economic development strategy?
“Covid-19 requires that we thoroughly evaluate business as usual. Frankfort has made great strides, but we face challenges ahead, and our current system focused on industrial development will fail us. For Frankfort to thrive, the City must take an active role in developing our economic strategy to reduce dependence on government by supporting our citizenry to develop and grow businesses, while attracting new ventures enticed by our low cost of living, community amenities and ideal regional location.
For now, I’ve been leading our City Commission to develop programs to help uplift our locally owned businesses with grants to ensure they survive. But, I believe we should find ways to permanently support the development of small and locally owned businesses that build on our assets, because they will be what sustains us going forward. My goal for Frankfort is to become one of the nation’s best performing cities for small business by 2036, our 250th anniversary. This can be reached by developing a Frankfort Community Development Corporation and better relationships with our Small Business Development Office among other strategic steps to effectively create economic opportunity. But, we must look beyond programs that have led our past for what will create our future.”
Name one recent city decision or action that you disagree with. Be specific and explain your answer.
“Working with an elected body, each selected for their individual policy ideas to create consensus is, challenging. It requires each member set aside their ego and work to find compromise for the greater good of the community. I’m proud to have found ways to successfully work with the majority of the current Commission, but this process means many ideas don’t have futures. Most frustrating is a common theme that hinders the current commission-who often get lost in minutia-creating programs that help our community grow. One program I believe whose time is long overdue is the establishment of a “Community Venture” group to promote the development of small businesses and entrepreneurship. We lack diversified businesses and need to build those that can serve the needs of our residents, build tourism and attract new families. In 2016, Frankfort was named the “10th Best City in America for African Americans” citing our 16.3% African American population, affordable cost of living, university and availability of jobs. We need to establish this focused program to attract minority businesses to establish and grow in Frankfort and maximize upon the assets already in our community. Maybe the Commission will yet support my initiative and help Frankfort reach its potential.”
What is your position on the Black Lives Matter movement and the future of policing in Frankfort?
“The Black Lives Matter movement is a needed “fight for Freedom, Liberation and Justice.” Intrinsic American values that for systemic racism and discrimination have been unattainable by significant numbers of Americans.
While I can never fully understand these injustices, my faith proves that we’re are all created the same and the constitution I took an oath to uphold asserts “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. It is my job to listen and hear, challenge my biases, and do all I can for change!
Frankfort’s police department is ahead of many others, but we can grow by installing new policies to make our department a leader. I want to hire a social worker and counselor on staff to work with officers and the public; expanded existing trainings targeting racial biases; better define situations where officers should use force and expect ever higher standards. We must work through problems in a transparent way that allow officers to learn and the community to grow as one. Finally, we must change perceptions, using terms like “peace officers” over “the force,” because words and lives matter!”