Kentucky's 2022 General Election
Franklin County, Kentucky
Candidate Eric Whisman won the May 2022 primary for the Democratic candidate from Franklin County Magisterial District 6. He has no opposition in the General Election on November 8.
We need to invest in parks making spaces available for all ages be it 8 or 80 years old, creating better access to those spaces, addressing housing issues for those most in need, investing in incubators for new businesses, and making better use of our local assets like our own local public institution of higher education. We have the building blocks locally to be great, but we need vision to realize our potential, and I’m excited for the opportunity to bring that about as you’re representative on the Fiscal Court.
Together Frankfort: Describe your vision for sustainable economic growth in Franklin County.
Whisman: Frankfort is unique in our position. For so long, much of our community found easy employment with the State Government, hindering development of small businesses and other growth. It seems traditional “economic growth” has been relegated to commercial shopping centers and some marginal industrial manufacturing with external investors who reap the benefits. We’ve all watched as many of these shopping centers become vacant, as new ones have been built ever closer to the interstate. I don’t believe that continued development of “vacant” land for this use is sustainable nor wise.
My vision for the future is to create incubators that help develop opportunities for our next generation to develop new businesses and to attract new startups and small businesses to Frankfort. We have a surplus of vacant commercial buildings, many former state offices, a lower cost of living, and a highly educated populace and a geographical position that is ideal. This should help us develop programs and incubators to establish new businesses, tech start-ups and even agricultural incubators that can fill existing structures and make use of our natural assets. I believe that locally developed and grown businesses are stronger, more resilient and invest more in the community than larger corporate entities. My vision of economic growth is one that is sustainable over a long period, who helps build our local economy and respects our local assets and our people. These aren’t typically the type of quick return projects, but I believe with an informed vision, dedicated resources, and an engaged community we will see the next decade as one of the most prosperous!
Together Frankfort: What could our community do to address climate change?
Whisman: Climate change is perhaps the most important issue of our generation. Again, as a small community and host to the State Government we should be at the forefront of developing new ideas to address these issues. Frankfort is claimed to be home of the second railroad in America, one of the first cable broadcasting networks in the nation, and home to many other first accomplishments, but somewhere along the line we’ve lost our way.
In fact, a few years ago, we fell last of all 50 states in accessibility of its people to reach its Capital to meet their legislators. We need to redevelop mass transit options, seek out renewable energy and assist our residents to make upgrades to their homes that are more environmentally focused to start. I’ve always thought we have the opportunity to explore hydropower on our river, and having our own local utility company, we have much ability to address the issues before us. We must create policy that focuses on these issues, create a citizens group to guide the efforts and mandate utmost priority for our staff to focus on ways to combat our carbon footprint while we still can.
Together Frankfort: What are your priorities for Planning and Zoning?
Whisman: In my opinion Frankfort and Franklin County Planning and Zoning has been reactionary for far too long. I hope in the future we will become more proactive in developing land use policies that will respect our local historic and natural resources and think about long term impacts more than reward short term gains. This starts with the elected leaders and the staff we choose, and the people they appoint to our boards.
I hope to be influential in making changes that will bring about a new vision and use the resources available to us to envision a better future. The most immediate opportunity is our current Comp Planning process. This should have been completed three years ago, but was delayed and is ongoing. Over the next six months of the input process, I hope to make every effort for our citizens to have an opportunity to take part in the visioning process, to develop the best document possible to guide our efforts over the next 10 years.
Together Frankfort: In what circumstances would you support using Tax Increment Financing (TIF)?
Whisman: I believe TIF has a place in development, but Frankfort’s small size likely makes an effective implementation and financial success difficult. I don’t believe in locking up local tax dollars in the long term without proven ability and proven return. Those dollars in the short term could be more effective in making other investments in our community. I much prefer upfront contributions to projects to help the development we hope to see. However, I’m open to exploring possibilities.
Together Frankfort: Voting - Only 33% of eligible Franklin County voters participated in the last election and that was considered a good turnout. What do you think can be done to increase voter turnout and engagement?
Whisman: Our voter turnout is too low, even when it’s considered good. As home to the State Government we can do better. We need to engage our population and help them see how each vote is their voice and affects them. I feel too often our local government loses focus on the people. We need to engage the public in the processes and mandate staff to include the expertise and opinion of our residents. Far too often local decisions are made in silos, but we live in a time where communication has been the easiest in human history. There’s no excuse to not communicate and engage the public and I intend that in the future our County Government will be more transparent in publishing our work and including our citizens in the process.
Together Frankfort: What is your opinion about election security in Franklin County?
Whisman: I think our local election security is good and has been vetted and reviewed thoroughly, but we are living in a time where misinformation is easily promoted and skepticism is at an all-time high. We must combat that as a local government with open and transparent processes and information. Our recent voter polling location changes have been confusing, and I’m glad our County Clerk is sending out postcards and working to make everyone aware of the changes. I hope everyone will vote this November 8, your vote is your voice!
~~~~~ Gun Violence ~~~~~
Together Frankfort: What specific measures do you believe could reduce gun violence in Kentucky and if elected, what would you do to make sure those measures are put in place?
Whisman: I was in high school in 1999 when the Columbine school shooting occurred and it negatively impacted us all and has been an ever present and growing concern since. I believe that we as a nation must take steps to address the many facets behind gun violence. Adoption of common-sense gun laws that the overwhelming majority of the population support is a good place to start.
We then must take steps to address the growing mental health crisis in our nation and address the root problems. I personally believe that our development system produces an isolationist culture where those with mental health needs are easily overlooked and where help is not an option. I want our community to do better and as the Capital City, I know we can help develop strategies to address these many concerns if we work together.
Together Frankfort: Suicides account for 66% of all gun deaths in Kentucky. Do you have proposals that would reduce those deaths?
Whisman: I think the root of so many of our problems as a society are mental health related and the path of choice is secondary. Still we have to do more to address the issues as a whole and focus resources as a community on addressing the root causes as well as the avenues. Kentucky has the 5th highest death rate in the nation. Elected officials can only do so much but we can act to curb these statistics by giving voice and support to the organizations and people dedicated to making a change who best understand how to make a difference.
Together Frankfort: The federal government has just passed legislation that would send money to Kentucky for gun violence prevention--specifically for enacting a red flag law or something similar. How would you propose to spend that money to prevent gun violence in our commonwealth?
Whisman: Kentucky and Franklin County have to use these resources. Our community has commonly missed out on opportunities to use Federal grants and I hope to see the County make a concerted effort to go after all the funds we can. I would like to see funds used for a red flag background check system, an improvement on the system already in place as well as mental health assistance programs.
~~~~~ Campaign Contributions ~~~~~
Together Frankfort: What is your position on Dark Money?
Whisman: People vote, not corporations. Our election system was established to ensure that people have the right to elect representatives that will protect their interests and ensure their safety. I believe all political donations should be personal, and so called “Dark Money” has no place in our political system.
Together Frankfort: Will you identify all contributors to your campaign, including those who contribute to political action committees that support you?
Whisman: I have reported my campaign contributors and always will and I’m thankful that Kentucky has what I feel have good parameters for campaign contributions and for monitoring them. But we can do better, outside interest groups are circling key important Franklin County elections and it's more important now than ever to know what the candidates stand for and who is supporting their campaign. Thank you to Together Frankfort and everyone who is working to make our local elections transparent!
~~~~~ Health Care ~~~~~
Together Frankfort: What is your position on reproductive health care for women and Constitutional Amendment #2?
Whisman: I believe Constitutional Amendment #2 goes too far, restricting all abortion options, outlawing access even in instances of the life of the mother and incest and I strongly oppose it. It is not the place of the Government to dictate the morality of its people, and our founding Fathers very intentionally created a system that separated church and state for that very reason. Personally, I trust women to make the difficult decisions that best affect their lives.
Together Frankfort: What is your position on expanding mental health care in Franklin County?
Whisman: It is clear we need National action for mental health care. But we can do more locally. Having lost my only sibling to mental health disease, I will be working with the fiscal court to finally create programs to address this issue. We can create options through our local court system, police department and I am determined to see accessible care, counseling and crisis service options in Franklin County that we didn’t have. As the home of Kentucky’s Government, we can and should do more to be a leader for our state!
~~~~~ Housing ~~~~~
Together Frankfort: Would you, if elected, tackle our affordable housing crisis by supporting a city/county ordinance that adopts the Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act (URLTA) to define the rights of renting citizens and families and landlords, and follow the lead of other towns and cities by adopting regulations on Airbnb and other short-term rentals?
Whisman: I hope we will adopt this act to secure the rights and protection of our citizens who rent. I intend to lead the County in efforts to partner with the City on many issues, but our housing options are quickly becoming a crisis. By some estimates more than 50% of the City of Frankfort is rental property, and a large portion of the county. We’ve all seen undesirable rental properties and the conditions of the options that low-income families have. We’ve done little as a community to ensure that landlords are held to a standard.
URLTA is a good first step to consider and we can build on this with expanded rental inspections which protect the landlord and the tenant. We have a local Housing Authority that needs to be expanded and directed to invest in new housing options and we need to incentivize those who want to develop housing options to build affordable housing. I’m proud to have assisted a developer from Louisville a few years ago who invested in Frankfort creating more than 30 units of affordable housing, but since that time no other options have been created. We can and we must do better.
I always remember this: "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."
Airbnb’s are a new trend that I believe will eventually right size based on the market demand. But we are fast losing housing options and need some form of oversite to guide the development of these to the benefit of our community as many other towns have already done. This has to be part of the upcoming comp plan and we need to create policies that direct this type of development to where it will be most beneficial and not at the demise of our residential housing stock.
Thank you, Candidate Whisman, for responding to Together Frankfort's questionnaire. For readers interested in discussing these issues further with Mr. Whisman, his contact information can be found by clicking here.