Tuesday, March 9, 2010

604. Mayoral Forums - or is it Fora?

Last night I arrived in the 100 block of W. Kenwood Avenue for what was billed as the International Forum for the Mayoral Candidates. The event was held in the heart of Louisville's wildy diverse international community, the South End, at the Americana Center, at 4801 Southside Drive, a building which for many years housed Holy Rosary Academy, a Catholic girls school. The school closed many years ago and through the efforts of a lot of people, including Louisville Metro Councilman Dan Johnson who represents the area, the old school building has been transformed into a community center for people of all ages and ethnicities. The Roman Catholic Church next door, Saint John Vianney (where on October 9, 1960 I was baptized the first time) is a largely Vietnamese parish and I'm told that the main service there is in the Vietnamese language, something which took some form of official dispensation from either the Archbishop or perhaps, even, the Pope.

The forum was held so as to offer an opportunity for these non-traditional (and mostly non-voting) residents to hear from the women and men seeking the office of mayor of Louisville, one of whom will in fact succeed the current mayor, who was first nominated to run back when I was 24 years ago. Translators were available for those who did not clearly understand all the English being spoken, and clearly there were a number who didn't. Small groups of French, Spanish, and Swahili speaking folk listened intently to their official translators provided by the community center - a few others, Sudanese, also huddled with their own personal translators.

Hanging out in the back of the hall was an interesting experience. Here were Cubans, Dominicans, all kinds of Africans from many different countries, handfuls of Eastern Europeans, and many others. And unlike most political forums, there were also people of all ages, from the very young to the very old, all interested in the curious form of republican democracy which makes our government different from those more familiar "back home" wherever that might have been for the 150 or so in attendance.

While Louisville's earliest settlers were mostly of English or Scotch descent, arriving from the most part, down the Ohio from places in Pennsylvania, or the transylvanians from Maryland and Virginia, their sameness didn't last long. In the new century came the French to Portland and Paristown, the Germans to Germantown, the Irish to Irish Hill, and others. Still later were the Jews, who settled in Smoketown along 1st, Brook, Floyd, and Preston near the Old Male School. In the closing decades of the most recent century came an influx of Cubans and other latinos along with the Eastern Europeans, especially since the fall of communism. We've worked hard to be a welcoming community, in large part through Catholic Charities and the Kentucky Refugee Ministries. For a xenophile like me, Louisville - the word itself is essentially French meaning Louis' city - is a wonderful place to live.

If last night's forum was heterogeneous and heterochromatic, tomorrow night will be something of the opposite, where everyone is similar, in at least one way. Tomorrow's forum is for the Democratic candidates only. It is sponsored by the Metro Democratic Club and will begin at 6:30 pm sharp at the American Legion Hall on Bardstown Road. Members of the club, in theory all Democrats, will be afforded the chance to write down a question and submit it for the panel of candidates, which number eight or nine. All but Burrel Farnsley have indicated they will be present.

The Metro Club is Louisville's largest Democratic club and its membership leans somewhat to the left. It will be interesting to see how the crowd plays to the candidates and vice versa. After all, there is some theater involved in all of this - the key is knowing who is acting and who is real. For the record, I am supporting Greg Fischer.

Several more of these forums - or fora - are scheduled between now and the May 18th primary.

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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.