As many of you know, we have a mayoral election going on here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606, the first real one we've had since the 1998 Primary. Actually, every city in the Commonwealth has a mayoral election this year along with elections for their councils and commissions. My friend Greg Anderson is running for mayor in Murray. Another friend, Will Cox is running in Madisonville. I'm supporting Jim Gray in Lexington. Here in Louisville, in the Democratic Primary, I am working for and supporting Greg Fischer.
Earlier today, a debate was held between the Louisville candidates, one of several which have taken place (and a few more which will, one of which is the Metro Democratic Club's debate, scheduled for March 10). Today's debate focussed on downtown issues, something near and dear to me and people who think like me. It was sponsored by the Louisville Downtown Management District, whose Director of Operations is my friend Ken Herndon, who is supporting Tyler Allen. I did not attend the debate so I won't comment on it. Instead, I am providing a link below to where one may listen to the debate on Louisville's National Public Radio station, WFPL, 89.3.
Below that link I've copied straight from the LEO Weekly's webpage the comments of its political reporter Phillip M. Bailey. You can listen to the audio and read Phillip's comments to form your own opinions.
From the WFPL webpage: http://archive.wfpl.org/soa/20100216SOA.mp3
From LEO Weekly's Fat Lip webpage, a loose play-by-play by Phillip M. Bailey:
12:13 p.m. The first question returns to a question around merger and the different taxes and public services between those who live in the city and county. Democrat Greg Fischer says we need to review merger and look at what has worked and what hasn’t, but Independent candidate Jackie Green points out that it’s impossible to make everyone happy and maybe there needs to be a referendum to change the tax rates and services.
12:20 p.m. Last year, in our annual interview, LEO Weekly asked Mayor Jerry Abramson about the tax structure post-merger. When asked about the different tax rate Abramson said:
JA: In terms of the money that’s spent in the urban service district, only the money generated by those who pay a higher tax — and you pay a higher tax if you live in the urban service district — those are the dollars that pay for the extra services.
From time to time you have people asking, why do people who live in the urban service district get free garbage [pickup]? The reason is they pay two-and-a-half times the property tax. Nothing’s free. As more and more folks want more and more services, then we’ll be in a position to be able to say, this is what it costs, and this is what we could deliver. There’s a mechanism in the statute that allows that to happen.
12:24 p.m. The focus turns to local businesses and giving them more incentives to build downtown. And given what’s happening at ear X-tacy, this conversation certainly has the audiences’ attention.
Democratic candidate and Councilman Jim King says downtown development will be a mark if we’re a great city (or not) and Louisville needs more business anchors in the area. “We can give tax breaks, but ultimately it’s about safety and the perception of safety,” he says, adding that will be a centerpiece of his administration and continuing the crime fighter aspect of the campaign.
King’s “crime first” position on downtown contrasts with Fischer, who puts housing and bringing people back as the engine for development.
Democrat Tyler Allen continues a line that he made during our one-on-one interview, saying that it was a great first start, but that momentum was lost after Fourth Street Live was created.
12:34 p.m. You can’t talking about downtown development unless you deal with the juggernaut — The Ohio River Bridges Project — and the candidates have dug in their positions over which bridge to build first (downtown or east end), the project’s viability and whether the favor project at all. It’s a subject where Green and Allen shine even though their positions are considered irresponsible by the mainstream.
12:41 p.m. “Would you be in favor of toling any of the current downtown bridges?” For a $4.1 billion project you can’t avoid that question.
Councilman Tandy points to private financing, but tolling is certainly an option even though he said it could have different rates in different areas.
Democrat Connie Marshall favors tolling becuase it works in larger cities.
Councilman King says no, he’ll need to see a financing plan. He wants federal dollars invested as they were promised years ago. “It will be neccessary to complete the project,” says King.
Green: “I do not support tolling on the three existing bridges. We don’t know who will be towed or the rate. It will change our traffic patterns and modify our regional cross river economic exchange…You’ll increase the price of a meal on the other side of the river.”
When Fischer brought up needing more transparency, Allen slapped back and asked how are we going to get transparency when we turn the decision over to an unelected tolling authority? Can the Allen campaign to get their candidate to get this excited and energized about an issue other than transportation?
12:48 p.m. The discussion turns to creating a downtown police division. Councilman Heiner says we haven’t reach the point where downtown is absolutely safe and it will not grow until that perception changes, but it’s too early to say if we need an isolated division.
Tandy: “I’m certainly open to it, but we need to talk to Chief Robert White … before we get to that point we have to utilize the resources we already do have.”
Besides Councilman King, who has made banging the drum of gangs a centerpiece, the candidates appear to all believe that a substation isn’t needed until the police department is consulted. Maybe this conversation is related to the creation of a new substation in the Shawnee neighborhood. In January, Councilwoman Cheri Bryant-Hamilton, D-5, announced a new partnership with the Shawnee Neighborhood Association, the Shawnee Weed and Seed program and Metro Police extending the department’s 2nd division headquarters into the French Plaza.
1:05 p.m. After the debate tune-in to WFPL 89.3 FM at 1:30 for post-analysis on State of Affairs. The panel will include Courier-Journal columnist John David Dyche, law professor John McGarvey and WFPL’s own Gabe Bullard.
1:10 p.m. “How will you be different or the same as Jerry Abramson?”
“Interesting question,” says Heiner, adding that job attraction, transparency and finding efficiencies in Metro government.
Councilman King highlights that unlike Abramson, he has a background in finance and job creation. Bringing up transparency, as council president he created the government accountability committee.
Tandy’s considered to be the most Abramsonesque by many, and he brought attention to that he can work on the local, state and federal levels. Interestingly, he didn’t really answer the question.
“I need a deep breath and much more than 60-seconds,” says Thieneman. It couldn’t be an easier question for the Republican businessman, who released a television spot attacking Abramson, but the Louisville developer added his support for Senate Bill 80.
Allen says he’s like Mayor Abramson in that they both love the city, but did something few elected officials do in Louisville, be brought up the Mayor of Christmas Past — Dave Armstrong. The difference, Allen says, will be he challenges common perceptions and conventional wisdom.
Before going off on a tangent into his still foggy biography, Fischer told the audience he wants to redefine and repair the relationship the Mayor’s Office has with the Metro Council even going as far to say he wants the two branches to be peers.
1:21 p.m. The 30-second closing statements. Overall this forum contrasted the differences and consensus among the candidates on job attraction, local business incentives, crime downtown and the bridges project. Nice.
I'm hoping Phillip (or someone) can explain his comment of Greg's "foggy biography." I'm not clear on that - no pun intended. Feel free to make any other comments.