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Following Cleanup, Scott Hopes for More Action on Vacant Properties

Louisville Metro Councilwoman Attica Woodson Scott says the vacant property cleanup campaign was a success, but it isn’t a solution to the problem.

In addition to being eyesores, vacant properties can bring down property values and blight neighborhoods. Earlier this month, Scott launched the three-day “Cleanup for Christmas” campaign. She used $5,000 of her discretionary funds to pay public works employees to clean up about 30 abandoned properties in west and southwest Louisville.

Scott says constituents are happy with the cleanup, but real change will come when the city can move faster to seize and rehabilitate abandoned houses.

“What I’m doing now is actually meeting with every single department I can think of in the city to jus task the questions: What are we doing about this vacant and abandoned property issue? How can we have a heavier hand on these banks and slum landlords?” she says.

Among the departments and agencies Scott is talking to are” Public Works; Inspections, Permits and Licenses; the Metropolitan Housing Coalition; and the health department.

“Quite frankly, I believe this is a public health issue when I have constituents saying to me ‘I now have mice in my home that I didn’t have before,'” says Scott. “I feel like with all these entities working together, we can find solutions to this issue.”

Many abandoned properties are owned by banks or landlords who live out of town. Scott says the city needs more authority to take over vacant lands and rehabilitate them. She’s also seeking to recoup the costs of her district cleanup from absentee property owners.

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Fischer Again Invites Council Over for Breakfast

Once again, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer is inviting the Metro Council to his house for breakfast.

As mayor-elect last year, Fischer invited all 26 council members to his house. However, plans were updated when Fischer was reminded that any meeting with a quorum of council members is technically be a public meeting subject to open meetings laws. As the law requires, the press was invited.

The press was invited again this year, and, since it’s a public meeting, members of the public are also allowed to attend.

“I guess technically they are. But notifying the media and allowing the media to come in, that is basically representing the public,” says mayoral spokesman Chris Poynter, who adds that anyone who attends will spend most of their time “watching a bunch of people eating.”

Fischer will briefly discuss the past year, but the event is meant as a social gathering, not a business meeting.

“Last year it was really sort of a getting to know you event,” says Poynter. “It’s the first time that all the council had been together with a new mayor. So this time, there are more relationships and we’ve had a whole year of issues to deal with.”

The only other time the mayor meets with the full council is in the summer when he introduces his annual budget. But that meeting is the council chambers, which are a public space.

 

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College Football: No BCS Bid For U of L

The University of Louisville football will not get a bid to a Bowl Championship Series game this season.

The Cards’ chance for a BSC bid was foiled today by Cincinnati, which defeated Connecticut 35-27 in the teams’ final regular season game. Under the final Big East Conference standings and BCS rankings, the bid will likely go now to West Virginia.

U of L needed a Cincinnati loss to be eligible for the automatic bid, but the Cards will still get an invitation to another bowl.

Last year, U of L played in the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl in Florida, where coach Charlie Strong’s team defeated Southern Mississippi.

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Local News Next Louisville Politics

Insight Rebukes City’s Attempt to Cancel Contract

Insight Communications says Metro Government has overreached in its threat to end the cable provider’s contract with the city.

Insight’s franchise agreement expired last year, but the provisions have remained in effect as the mayor’s office has negotiated a new contract. After months of negotiations with no agreement, the mayor’s office announced last week it would end Insight’s contract next month and seek a new cable operator.

In a letter, Insight says federal law does not give the city the right to cancel the contract, even if it’s expired. Insight reads the law to say the city music conduct formal proceedings and put together a public needs assessment. All talks with the company have been informal. Time Warner is in the process of buying Insight. In another letter, the company has asked the mayor’s office to renew the franchise until Insight is sold, then extend the contract for six months after the sale. During that time, the city could negotiate with Time Warner.

The County Attorney’s office is reviewing the letter, but contends the city can cancel the expired contract if proper notice is filed. Neither Insight nor the mayor’s office expects the standoff to affect service for cable customers.

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Louisville-Lexington Partnership Board Named

The economic partnership between Louisville and Lexington will be led by a 21-member board of business executives, university presidents and economic development officials.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Lexington Mayor Jim Gray named the board of the Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement, or BEAM, this afternoon.

BEAM is meant to foster a regional economic around manufacturing. The board includes executives from GE, Ford, UPS, Toyota and other companies with local interests. The leaders of the Louisville, Lexington and Southern Indiana chambers of commerce also sit on the board, as do the presidents of U of L and UK.

The head of the Lexington Urban League is on the board, along with former KET journalist and host Al Smith. There are no labor representatives on the board.

The two mayors are also members. They led the first board meeting, which was convened after the board members were named. Former Louisville Arena Authority Chair Jim Host is leading BEAM.

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BEAM Board Will Be Named Today

The partnership between Louisville and Lexington known as BEAM—the Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement—will begin to take shape soon. This afternoon, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Lexington Mayor Jim Gray will announce the BEAM board and lead the first board meeting.

BEAM has a goal—to attract businesses and jobs to Kentucky, mostly in the manufacturing sector.

BEAM also has money and support. Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Brookings Institution are both helping, and the Louisville Metro Council has passed a resolution endorsing the idea.

BEAM doesn’t yet have a definitive plan. That will be for the board to determine.

The Louisville Metro Council has approved a resolution supporting BEAM. President Jim King says he doesn’t think it’s premature to endorse a plan before the details are worked out.

“I’d like to see this become the template for future partnerships between Louisville and Lexington so that we can have a true regional economy. When businesses are looking to locate in Kentucky, they don’t care about what county you’re in or what city you’re in,” he says. “If we don’t have it, Lexington does and vice versa. I think it would be smart for us to try to collaborate with them in those situations,” he says.

Every member of the council was a co-sponsor of the legislation. A similar measure has been introduced in the Lexington council.

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City Threatens to End Contract With Insight

Louisville Metro Government will cancel its contract with Insight Communications if it can’t reach a new deal over how the cable company operates soon.

The city has filed the necessary paperwork to end its agreement with Insight next month unless a new contract is signed. If that happens, the city will look for a new cable provider, though Insight could continue to operate in Louisville until a new contract is signed.

The talks over a new franchise agreement began in January.

“We wanted to make sure that the services that are provided today, which include cable that’s donated to all local schools, to government buildings, mini-boxes that are donated to the elderly and disabled people, continue under the new agreement and we have not been able to get that agreement yet with Insight,” says mayor’s spokesman Chris Poynter.

The mayor’s office also wanted a guarantee that Insight’s call center would remain in Louisville.

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Fischer Determines Process for Hiring New Chief, Would Prefer Candidate Be Familiar With LMPD

The search for a new chief of the Louisville Metro Police Department will require two expert panels, 26 community meetings, outside help from a local institute and a written position paper.

Mayor Greg Fischer outlined the search process today, adding that he would prefer the city’s next police chief be promoted from within the department or be otherwise familiar with the LMPD.

“Several [current officers] have been trained to be ready for a position like this. Ideally, one of them will rise to the top,” he says. “Now, that being said, we’re going through a process that will determine that. So by far and away, there’s no pre-determined outlook here on who this is going to be and these processes usually result in some surprises.”

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Candidates Begin Filing for Council Elections

Eight District Councilman Tom Owen isn’t surprised another Democrat wants to unseat him.

“No one filed for the seat four years ago in either the primary or the general election. I certainly did not assume that I would draw a bye again,” he says.

Filing for the 2012 elections began last week. Community activist Curtis Morrison is challenging Owen. Morrison’s top issues include fighting tolls on the Ohio River Bridges Project, supporting Occupy Louisville, forming a downtown preservation district and reallocating funds from Greater Louisville Inc. He says his campaign is not meant as an affront to Owen, who has been on the council since merger and previously served nine years on the old Board of Alderman.

“This race is about change,” says Morrison in a statement. “Creating change from the outside, through activism, is important and it’s been fun, but we have to get on the inside if we’re serious.”

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Fischer, Scott to Hold Community Meetings This Week

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and several members of his staff will take questions from the public this evening.

The regular “Talk to Greg” forum will be at Atherton High School at 6 pm. The events are held every other month. In August, Fischer held a virtual town hall meeting, with he and his staff fielding questions posed on Facebook or Twitter. A spokesman for the mayor said more such events are forthcoming, though none have been scheduled yet.

Tomorrow evening at 6:30, First District Councilwoman Attica Woodson Scott will hold her first community conversation. Scott was appointed to the council last month and her forum at the Southwick Community Center will be preceded by a meeting of her District 1 Advisory Council. The group is made up of residents and members of various organizations in the district.