Saturday, February 25, 2006

Metro Council District 13

South End politics in Louisville Kentucky is unlike politics anywhere else in the state. Here, party registration means little, though the South End is predominantly conservative, working class, union, and registered Democrat. It’s the home of two union locals and four Democratic Clubs. Here it’s more personality than anything that will get you elected, so long as you don’t violate good old fashion traditional values like home and hearth. In fact, once upon a time, Republicans could get elected, but that was because they understood that they needed to “run their district” not the party line.

The Kentucky State Republican Party should have learned that lesson in 2002 with the creation of the Metro Government and new Metro Council, but didn’t. You would think they would have learned their lesson the second time around with 2004 State House and State Senate races. Thanks to gross mismanagement, they lost every one of their races in Jefferson County. Ok, you say, they’re bound to have learned by now. Nope. They completely blew the Special Election for the 37th House and Senate seats thanks again to gross mismanagement by the same folks. With the 2006 election season upon us, you'd wonder if they’ll finally understand what it takes to win.

A case in point is the upcoming Metro Council District 13 election, which is located in the South End. Formerly held by Fairdale’s Ron Weston, this race already promises to be the most interesting. Weston, a political novice and who had recently switched to Democrat, won the election in 2002 against Republican Sharon Woodring. Weston won the Special Election for the 37th House seat in February of this year to replace fellow Democrat and Fairdalian Perry Clark, who quit his 37th House seat to run in the same Special Election for the 38th Senate, which came open when Republican Dana Seum-Stephenson was found unqualified to hold the seat she won in 2004 since she was an Indiana resident (whew!!) So, that left Weston’s Metro Council seat vacant. The Metro Council gets to vote on and appoint a replacement, who will serve out the remainder of the term, which expires this November while an election for the seat takes place. Now, let’s set the stage and you can see what I mean about South End politics.

The candidates for the appointment are Cindy Hollis, Sharon Woodring, Vicki Welch, Max Brown, John Gatton, and Renay Davis. All but Hollis and Brown are active candidates for the seat. Sharon is a Fairdale activist and a Republican LD Chairperson. She considers herself a moderate. She lost to Weston in the 2002 General Election (Rick Johnstone, another Fairdalite and former State ABC chieftain who engineered Weston’s election, and Sharon have a long history of intense mutual dislike). Cindy is a popular school teacher, a conservative Republican (formerly active with the local party). She lives outside of Fairdale. Cindy and Sharon used to be good friends; however they ended up opposing each other in the 2002 Primary for the Metro Council seat and remain rivals. Vicki, a Democrat, is a political unknown. She’s active in the Yorktown Neighborhood Association, but that’s about it. She seems to be trading on her name more than anything else (her husband is a former judicial candidate). Max Brown, a Republican, calls himself a Fairdale activist. Maybe. No one seems to know much about him. John Gatton, the other Democrat, is the former campaign manager for Denise Weiter, who ran for a Metro Council seat in 2002. She lost to Republican Doug Hawkins. John lives on the far side of the district in Leemont Acres. Renay Davis is a conservative Republican and former Legislative Aide to Doug Hawkins (Cindy Hollis is also a close friend of Hawkins). Most everyone involved in the 2002 District 13 Council race, not running this time, are helping Renay.

As you might be able to tell, from the appointment to fill the term to the election itself, is less about party registration or political leanings as it is about Fairdale versus those outside Fairdale. Weston took good care of Fairdale, and admittedly, they had been neglected in the past (past representation, by the way, was always Democrat). He even gave his alma mater, Fairdale High School, $40,000.00 for their football stadium (Weston was an assistance football coach there about 20 years ago. He is on their board of trustees. His son is president of the board. His wife is secretary. Several of his political allies also serve on the board). Fairdale got roads repaved, new sidewalks, drainage improvements, and streetlights just to mention a few, while the rest of the district pretty much did without (that’s not to say that Weston didn’t follow the time honored tradition of taking credit for other people’s efforts throughout the district). The obvious concern is that should another Fairdale candidate win, the residents outside Fairdale get more of the same (or would that less of the same?) In short, it’s about limited resources and a lot of need, and those limited resources not being properly spread out. Sound familiar?

As an aside, whoever gets appointed will have little if any money to spend on the district since the majority of it went to Weston’s school, which is bound to tick off some folks. The appointee will also be trying to learn the job; doing the job; and trying to run for the job at the same time. I’ve been in politics for about 28 years now, and that sounds like a prescription for a disaster to me. Heck, they won’t even get any choice committee assignments! Of course, if one of the current candidates does get appointed, they’ll have an unfair advantage over the other candidates in that they will be able their “incumbency” to influence the election, which would also be at taxpayer expense. My suggestion is that the Metro Council appoints one of the non-candidates, either Brown or Hollis (Cindy has more community experience), since this is really nothing but a “temp” job any way and therefore party registration won’t really matter that much. This would also help keep the race a little more honest.

So, there you have it. A typical race in the South End where the emphasis is less about party politics as it is about the personalities and their cliques who decide who’ll gets drainage and lights; whose roads will get paved; and who’ll do without…again. Not much positive comes to the South End unfortunately. Someone needs the courage to put aside the petty “us versus them” mentality and step up to the plate to represent the entire district equally.

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