Of the thirteen candidates running for mayor of Louisville, three live in west Louisville… When the area is the subject of conversation in the race for mayor, it’s often part of a discussion about crime. WFPL’s Gabe Bullard was in west Louisville recently, talking to residents about other issues in the upcoming election.
“We’re on Hazel…between 30th and 34th Street,” says LEO writer and west-end resident Phillip Bailey as we walk down Broadway.
“We’re using the words west Louisville when really, if we want to get down to the minutiae, we’re having a conversation about race,” he says.
And among the top issues Bailey cites in our conversation is the lack of a strong black middle class to provide economic and political support in west Louisville. To talk about how to fill that void, Bailey and I visited Dr. Eddie Woods, the director of the Life Institute.
Woods works with at-risk youth in west Louisville, and he says there are two issues every candidate should keep in mind when talking about the west end…
“If it turns out that we get someone who focuses on community safety and education and a vehicle for getting to community safety, we have a winner in my mind,” he says.
Woods says the first step toward improving west Louisville is better education…and not just public schools, but vocational training and programs that help people find jobs. Woods says rather than focus only on fighting crime in the area, the next mayor should help illuminate other paths in life that make crime less appealing to young people.
“Folks aren’t looking at it that deep,” he says. “‘You should already know how to get a job. You should already want to help the community.’ But if haven’t been taught any of it, you don’t do that.”
Bailey adds that if the city had more opportunities like that, it would help stop the minority “brain drain”. African Americans living in Louisville are less likely than whites to have college degrees, and Bailey says those who do often leave town for better opportunities.
But Eddie Woods says many candidates for mayor aren’t listening to those concerns in west Louisville.
“I’d like to see more candidates doing a little bit more than hanging up posters, hanging up fliers, cluttering up peoples’ yards,” he says. “I like to see the door to door stuff.”
From the Life Institute we drove to the west Louisville home of Afrykah WubSauda. She says the candidates for mayor haven’t spent enough time campaigning west of 9th Street, and when they do, they miss the mark. She cites, among other things, her frustration with Democrat Jim King’s crime prevention plan and west Louisville resident and Democratic candidate David Tandy’s statement about a shortage of dry cleaners in the west end.
“It shows a disconnect,” she says. “They are making these assumptions based on 20 year old statistics. They need to have up to date information and one way to get that is to canvas the community. Hold some events in the community.”
As we leave WubSauda’s home, Bailey says this isn’t just about politicians who aren’t listening, but residents who don’t have a voice.
“We lost a serious voice with the death of Rev. Louis Coleman,” says Bailey. “He was someone who was able to gather some sort of energy and attention around issues in West Louisville. You don’t have that individual or that group of individuals anymore”
And finding new voices to speak for west Louisville will be crucial in the coming months, says Bailey, because with a new mayor will come a new era for Louisville, “and west Louisville needs to articulate a vision for itself in what it wants to see for the next 5, 10 to 15 years. That conversation involves public safety, development, it involves building a black middle class…”
And to spur that conversation, he says, candidates and west Louisville residents will both have to take action…reaching out to each other.