Yesterday, the Herald-Leader posted an article announcing that Lexington received federal rental assistance money. The article more or less reproduces Mayor Gorton’s social media announcements and accompanying press conference.
While we appreciate that the story lets people know rental assistance is available, we want to know why the Herald-Leader is not running stories on the hundreds of people who have been evicted in Lexington during COVID (including over 96 eviction judgements in the first six weeks of 2021, alongside over 500 eviction court cases)?
The article also reproduces, without challenging it, Mayor Gorton’s claim that she doesn’t have legal authority to stop evictions. As we have said repeatedly, including to Herald-Leader reporters, Mayor Gorton does have legal authority to stop all evictions–and certainly has authority to do more than she is now to reduce evictions. For some legal argument, see here and here.
As just one example of the legal path for Mayor Gorton to stop evictions, consider KRS 39A.100(2), which outlines Mayoral powers during a State of Emergency. Section (d) allows Mayors “To order immediate purchase or rental of, contract for, or otherwise procure, without regard to procurement codes or budget requirements, the goods and services essential for protection of public health and safety or to maintain or to restore essential public services”
Since evictions are a serious public health threat (see our open letter in the Herald-Leader for some evidence) this law allows Mayor Gorton to declare evictions a public health threat and advise landlords to cease all evictions. If landlords ignore said advice and execute an eviction, the ample evidence that evictions are a public health threat and the expansive powers granted in KRS 39A.100(2)(d) would allow the city to assume control over the property and halt the eviction in the interest of public health until the end of the state of emergency.
This is just one line of reasoning that allows Mayor Gorton to stop evictions: the broader point is that the law gives her enormous power during states of emergency, and she should get creative to use that power to stop evictions. Instead, Mayor Gorton is relying on halfway efforts from federal funding to save her image on evictions while dozens of people get evicted every month in the middle of a pandemic (and, now, a massive winter storm).
The other broader point is that the Herald-Leader and other news sources uncritically reproducing Mayor Gorton’s narrative that rental assistance is the best she can do allows her to hide behind inaction while people lose their homes. Our media and our Mayor must do better.
Mayor Gorton: STOP ALL EVICTIONS.