Saturday, April 26, 2008

Louisville’s Metro Government and Public Input

A few weeks ago I received an email from Metro Councilman Doug Hawkins (R-25) announcing an urgent meeting at the Metro Government Center on Dixie Highway, in the Southwest part of the county. The subject of the meeting was the placement an ordnance storage facility on the levee wall which was responsible for the water supply to the residents in this part of the county, thus, could prove disastrous if something horrific should happen.

The meeting was well attended by some 75 seriously irate residents. The meeting was kicked off by Mr. Hawkins expressing his concern not only about the safety of the facility, given its close location to several resident neighborhoods, the local water supply, and several local schools. Hawkins claimed the 8x16x8 metal and wood unit could be used to store hand grenades, ammunition, and unexploded biological or chemical ordnances, not to mention shells, blasting caps, and so forth.

The Louisville Metro Police were on hand to refute any inaccurate statements and alleviate any confusion about what would and won’t be stored there. And in that job, they were outstanding. However, their “matter-of-fact” answers about the technical specifications of the facility did little to defuse the crowd, whose main interest was why the Southend was chosen, and whether any other location was ever considered. The spokesman for the Metro Police explained (with incredible patience I should add) that when Mayor Jerry Abramson sold the Southfields Training Facility in the eastern part of the county (to generate funds for his downtown projects), provisions for the two state-of-art storage locations weren’t made. The existing ordinance storage was shifted to the Algonquin site; described as a “leaky” metal container located near Louisville’s West End. The police could not address issues such as the affect the unit would have on neighboring property values, although it was generally conceded that adjacent property values could be adversely affected. They did assure those in attendance that the unit was well protected and all safeguards to insure public safety were in place.

But what I found to be the most damning comment was that Mayor Abramson had sole authority to put this unit anywhere he wanted too without consideration to the Metro Council, the police or fire departments, or any other Metro agencies, and certainly not to residents. Although residents were “assured” that the ordinance disposal unit would not present any danger, no one present representing the Metro Government could explain why there wasn’t a public hearing or, if the unit didn’t pose any danger as suggested, why the Mayor didn’t put it three blocks from his resident at the Crescent Hill Levee as a show of confidence. The meeting wrapped up with the announcement that the following Tuesday would be a “Mayor’s Night Out” as the Fairdale High School. Here, I thought, would an opportunity to ask the man himself.

“Mayor’s Night Out” was conceived as an opportunity for residents to meeting with various departments within Metro Government; ask questions and get answers to nearly anything on their minds. Well, I was there, along with 100 other residents. Everyone was in their seats waiting for the meeting to begin. After Mayor Abramson made his usual customary introductions, two ladies asked the Mayor about the ordnance storage unit and why it was being located in the Southend along with every other project the City doesn’t want. What came next was totally unexpected.

The Mayor immediately held up his hand and announced that he wasn’t going to answer any questions regarding the unit. He made the decision to put it at the Southend site and that was that. There would be no questions or discussion. He would not address the matter further. The matter, as far as he was concerned, was closed. With that, the majority of those in attendance meekly walked out.

Now perhaps it’s just me, but I thought the Mayor worked for us, and as such, had the duty and obligation to answer any question put to him by the residents of Jefferson County. Apparently I was mistaken. It has been Mayor Abramson’s increasingly autocratic attitude which is earning him outright contempt in parts of county, and even among those who work for Metro Government. Here is a Democratic mayor who has as much use for unions as a dog has for ticks. He has kept some unions on hold for three years now without as much as a cost of living increase. He has repeatedly tried to rein every agency he could find. There will be no independence of thought under his regime. Is it any wonder he is openly referred to “the King”, “Mayor-for-Life”, or “His Excellency”? Bossism is alive and well in Louisville Kentucky (for those keeping track, Abramson served three terms as Louisville Mayor, then after aggressively pushing for a City-County government merger, was elected the first Metro Mayor. He is now on this second term in that position. The residents in the county are still waiting on city services promised by the merger).

What I don’t understand however, is why unions, who rarely support him, and the numerous community groups and activists (especially those in the county) don’t band together to get rid of this homegrown “Boss Tweed”. With the first Saturday in May fast approaching and the running of the famous Kentucky Derby, wouldn’t that be a terrific time to stage a protest; with the world’s media right there? Wouldn’t that force the Mayor to address issues like stale contracts; the lack of government services for county; the different taxing districts between city and county residents; and arbitrary decisions without public input? Perhaps the time has come to put aside differences and focus on government reform right here in the River City—Louisville Kentucky.

Our occasional guest writer, “Moderate Man”, has decided to wade in on this issue too:

The Southend has been bypassed like a road around a progressive town. We have a mayor who didn't deliver on a retail shopping center like Kohl's at the old Bacons Shopping Center in Shively. A long time regional Christmas event called the Iroquois Winterfest at Iroquois Park was killed and the lights and figurines were taken and absorbed into the mayor’s event, called Light Up Louisville in front of his office downtown. The old 3rd District LPD command center was turned into a training center after the mayor signed off on the sale of the Southfields training center. They were moved into the Central Park 4th District, leaving a delayed response time for those in the 15th council, as they were farther away from their southern beats, including Iroquois Homes housing project. Community Development Block Grants to fix up residential housing in the north half of the 15th council, have been hijacked for downtown housing thus allowing a greater South End rental market with tenants who lack pride in ownership. The mayor tried to have Christopher 2X place a memorial in the Wyandotte Park renovation to honor abused children who were killed. Why wasn't it placed in Jefferson Park with all the other memorials, instead of at a Police training building? Guess the mayor didn't want to look at it out of his office window, as south end residents will now get to drive by it daily on Taylor Blvd. Iroquois Homes is being demolished over a 5 year period and the Abramson administration has no plans currently what will replace it. This includes the Dumeyer Community Center. Where are the kids in this area to play? Two pools, Hazelwood and Wyandotte have been closed and no pool replacement is called for by the administration for the South End. When will someone stand up for the Southend other than the Mayor's puppet council people?

Dark Clouds on the Horizon

The New York Times recently published a chilling set of statistics. According to the April 4, 2008 article, Americans of nearly every demographic are sick and tired of being sick and tired with government and the economy. 81% of those polled said they believe that “things have pretty seriously gotten off the wrong track”. That’s up from 69% just last year, and 35% from 2003. 78% of respondents said the country was worse off than it was five years ago (I’m reminded of then presidential candidate Ronald Reagan asking voters if they were better off now than four years ago, referring to his opponent, President Jimmy Carter). The article went on to point out that there is now a national consensus that we are facing serious problems (duh). Also of interest was that the article pointed out that public opinion usually hits lows only in the months and years after an economic downturn, not at the beginning of one. That's a very bad sign folks.

The public holds both political parties to blame for the current economic and political malaise. 58% of the respondents said they would support an increase in taxes on households making more than $250,000 to pay for tax cuts or support programs aiding the working poor (Napoleon once quipped that the only use for religion was to keep the poor from murdering the rich). However, no breaks would be tolerated for businesses. 43% said they would support a larger federal government that provided more services, which is the highest number since the poll began in
1991. Interestingly, however, 43% said they would support a smaller government that provided fewer services. Basically, people are looking for an out anywhere they can find it.

Historically, its numbers like these which have often produced great social upheavals, and even revolutions. With raising gas and oil prices, a pending health crisis, a recession, an increasing public division on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, global climate change, and now the possibility of food shortages, whoever is elected president in November will have their work cut out for them. There will be absolutely no room for mistakes or “on-the-job” training. The next president is going to have to hit the ground running hard. They will have to have all their players in place and ready to put to their plans in action starting from Day One. And what’s more, they had better tell their lobbyists friends to sit the next four years out. This has to be a populist term. Failure to do so, may bring America to the brink…or worse

Poll Results

Our last poll asked you whether or not you thought we there was a global crisis coming. 70% of you thought so. That’s good enough for me!

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