Wednesday, February 11, 2009

448. The Mayor's Talk of the Town at the Metro Democratic Club

For those of you who are stopping by to see which backroads I travelled lately or which theatre seats I've warmed, this entry will be a distraction for you. You can choose to leave now without any concern on my part.

Despite the high winds (with gusts up to 60 mph from the WSW) which blew through here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606 (winds which have died down to a mere 18 mph at present, still a pretty good clip), His Honor the Mayor of Louisville-Jefferson County Metro made an appearance at the Metro Democratic Club. For the second year in a row, he has given a speech on the State of the City, although his handlers are quick to point out that this speech isn't the State of the City, as that is a speech reserved for the very Republican-leaning Rotary Club. Thus far this year the State of the City address has not been made due to weather calamities. Tonight's less formal Talk of the Town was nearly derailed by a windstorm which passed through earlier in the day.

This year's speech to the Metro Democratic Club was far more somber and detailed than last year's, which according to some listeners was a bit too rosily-tinted. When the mayor spoke last year, 61 of the 64 people in attendance rose at the end to give him a standing ovation with a plesant amount of applause. I was among the three who didn't and was called out by one of the mayor's handlers the next day at an impromptu meeting in the Capital Annex in Frankfort. There were statements made last year which, in my opinion, had no basis in reality. Like so many of the speeches the mayor has made since his first election in 1985, there was too much cheering and too little serious examination. This year's speech was remarkably different, so much so that at the end most of the 72 people in attendance, while not rising, did applaud, and I was among them.

The mayor gave an honest account of the state of the City, as well as insights into the state of the Commonwealth and the Republic. I appreciated his very forthright speech about the economic peril all of the governments find themselves in. Much of the beginning of his speech was given over to a monologue on the Acts of God which have recently been perpetrated upon our big town: Hurricane Ike, an Ice Storm, and today's windstorm, all within a six month period, and more importantly, all within the current Fiscal Year, which was already facing a $20,000,000.00 shortfall - more on that in a moment.

Once the mayor got past the weather reports, his attention focussed in on economics and opportunities. The opportunities he spoke of were related to President Obama's Stimulus Bill, which has made considerable progess over the last twenty-four hours and is now being conferenced with a hopeful final vote very soon. According to a mayoral aide, the House version of the bill was 40% infrastructure money, something dear to me as well as many on both sides of the local Bridges Issue. The mayor said no money was requested for the Bridges Project in the current bill although there is a $6,000,000,000.00 setaside for a National Significant Projects fund [that may not be the exact name - the mayor struggled with its title], money which conceivably be used for Louisville's one, two, or three unbuilt bridges. For the record, I am opposed to a new bridge downtown.

The mayor talked about Louisville's tax revenues being tied to our occupational tax receipts. As a former member of the Louisville-Jefferson County Revenue Commission, I know whereof he speaks. Downfalls in employment are felt right away by the resulting decreases in occupational income. The mayor reported 25,255 new unemployment claims here in Jefferson County in December. That's at least 25,000+ employees no longer paying in to the government coffers, and that's just one month.

A question was raised about the proposed sixteen month downtime supposedly coming up for the Ford plant. The mayor was unaware of the sixteen month timeline, something UAW President Rocky Comito seemed to confirm my shaking his head up and down. That the mayor and Comito are not reading from the same page of the hymnal on this matter is of some concern.

Another question, which brought the only testy moments of the evening, was posed by my friend Dan Borsch. An aside - I find Borsch to be one of the more intelligent and creative young leaders in Louisville. Borsch, an attorney among other things, is a former candidate for the Metro Council in 2004 and the campaign chair for John Yarmuth's 2006 Congressional Primary. He asked about how the city's economic forecasters came up $20,000,000.00 short on their estimates last year. The mayor did not seem to know who Borsch was. Nonetheless he offered an answer defending his economic forecasters including one who is the economics chair (or something like that) at the University of Louisville. The mayor asked Dan if he was a U of L grad. I know he isn't. His degrees are from Michigan and Indiana. The mayor offered that our economic forecasters didn't do as poorly as those of some other cities in our region. That isn't exactly a consolation, although it does answer the question. "They were all wrong; our's weren't as wrong as their's but, again, they were all wrong."

Another light hearted question came from Ray Crider, Louisville's Democratic Party computer and camera guru. Ray asked what the mayor had done with all the money he had gotten from Anne? Everyone in the room knew what and who Ray was referring to but the mayor, politely smiling, demurred. Unlike the question asked by Borsch, for which the mayor found the justification for an answer, he properly felt Ray's question on the former congresswoman was best left unresponded-to.

The speech eventually came to an end, and with it the meeting. In attendance were Metro Council President David Tandy, Councilwoman Vicki Welch, Councilman Jim King, one of Jefferson County's District Court Judges (although I'd be lying if I pretended to know her name). Four bloggers were also there: Jacob Payne, Rick Redding, Ben Carter, and Ashley Cecil (who is also an artist). Stephen George of LEO and Dan Klepal of the C-J were present as part of the mainstream media's coverage, which is to say the LEO is getting more and more mainstream even while the C-J is wasting away to nothing. Marty Meyer was representing Congressman John Yarmuth's office. Kentucky Democratic Party Chair Jennifer Moore spoke briefly, then sat down eight feet from me, with nothing between us but space. But, she didn't speak. Not only is she not reading or responding to my emails, she apparently isn't speaking at all. Jefferson County Democratic Party Chair Tim Longmeyer was also present, and he too, didn't speak. Finally Lisa Tanner, who raised money in the Miller/Maze race in the Primary of 2007, and was a state organizer in the General of 2007 for Beshear/Mongiardo, as well as serving as John Yarmuth's 2008 Field Director, was also present.

It was a good meeting.

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The Archives at Milepost 606


Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Never married, liberal Democrat, born in 1960, opinionated but generally pleasant, member of the Episcopal Church. Graduate of Prestonia Elementary, Durrett High, and Spalding University; the first two now-closed Jefferson County Public Schools, the latter a very small liberal arts college in downtown Louisville affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. My vocation and avocation is politics. My favorite pastime is driving the backroads of Kentucky and southern Indiana, visiting small towns, political hangouts, courthouses, churches, and cemeteries. You are welcome to ride with me sometime.