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Local News Politics

Allen To Discuss 8664 With Fischer

8664 cofounder Tyler Allen will be among five people presenting ideas for Louisville’s future to Mayor Greg Fischer later this month.

The 8664 alternative to the Ohio River Bridges Project (8664 calls for an east-end bridge only and a parkway through downtown instead of Interstate 64) won the Create Louisville Big Idea contest, which was organized by Louisville Public Media (WFPL’s parent organization), DRIVE young professionals group and the Greater Louisville Project. Louisvillians were invited to submit their “big ideas” for the city. The ideas were then put to a vote, and the thinkers behind the five highest vote earners were invited to present their proposals to the mayor on February 22nd.

Neither Allen nor fellow 8664 cofounder J.C. Stites submitted the idea to the contest, but the original submitter has opted to let Allen act as his proxy and pitch 8664 to Mayor Fischer. Fischer currently supports a two-bridge project.

“We’re excited because we have long known people have responded to this big idea,” Allen told the Courier-Journal. “To have it validated through this effort is very gratifying.”

Allen ran as a Democrat in the mayor’s race last year. He came in 4th in the crowded primary, which Fischer won. Allen later endorsed Republican candidate Hal Heiner in the general election.

Here is the release on the Big Idea from Louisville Public Media:

Create Louisville: Your Big Idea, a project designed to elicit fresh thinking and new ideas for moving Louisville forward, garnered more than 2,300 votes over several weeks last fall with voters choosing among more than a hundred Big Ideas submitted by community members.

When the voting ended, the Big Ideas that garnered the most votes were:

1. The “8664” campaign to remove the interstate highway along the Ohio River downtown rather than reworking Spaghetti Junction and building a new bridge.

2. A “Big Tree Planting Campaign” to dramatically increase the tree canopy throughout Louisville.

3. “Louisville City Text 311” to make Louisville a mobile-ready city with multiple text/app services.

4. Establishment of a “Creativity Fund” that will provide stipends each year to ten individuals to support their work pursuing an idea, project, or new product they have devised.

5. Development of the “Southern Strut,” a destination shopping and entertainment district along the Third Street corridor near Churchill Downs.

The authors of the five top Big Ideas will meet later this month with Mayor Greg Fischer to brief him on their ideas. The Mayor and his staff have reviewed all of the Big Ideas submitted.

“The Big Ideas project certainly engaged a lot of people in thinking about how to move our region forward – dreaming up creative, new approaches to making Louisville a more distinctive place to live and work,” said Carolyn Gatz, director of The Greater Louisville Project, which sponsored the Big Idea project along with Louisville Public Media and DRIVE, a young professionals group.

“Our thanks go to everyone who participated either by submitting an idea or by casting a vote – or even many votes — to choose among them,” Gatz said. “This project demonstrated that we can have fun thinking, together as a community, about how to improve Louisville and the quality of life all of us who live here share.”

Heather Howell from the young professionals group DRIVE said, “We were amazed by the interest and participation in what was a small project driven mostly by volunteers. That speaks strongly to how much people care about Louisville and how they want to create an exciting future for our city.”

A full list of the Big Ideas submitted can be seen at www.greaterlouisvilleproject.org.

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Local News

Bridges Authority Remains Dedicated To Two Bridges

The bi-state authority overseeing the Ohio River Bridges Project has reinforced its dedication to the project as it’s planned.

The authority clarified its position in a meeting Thursday by passing what it calls its strategic objectives. They outline that the Ohio River Bridges Project is two bridges and a reworked Spaghetti Junction. The body says it will not break the project into three separate pieces or consider eliminating parts of it.

Authority member Joe Reagan says it’s possible the authority has not made that clear.

“Our job is to make sure that we understand the facts, that we do the analysis. We’ve been doing that. What’s been missing is a clear message to you and to others is that maybe we haven’t done our job telling you we know where we’re going and what we’re going to do, and now we’ve done that,” he says.

The authority’s actions come amid what some say is growing opposition to either the entire project or the tolls that may be required to finance it. Reagan says some of the opposition may stem from a misunderstanding of what the authority is doing and why. A financing plan for the 4.1 billion dollar project must be complete by the end of the year, and Reagan says the authority has been working on it all year.

During the meeting, the body briefly discussed proposals to split the project into three separate pieces, but concluded that it isn’t feasible. As in previous meetings, several members of the public spoke for and against the project, and the possibility of using tolls to pay for it.

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Local News

Bridges Authority Unlikely To Curb Opposition

The bi-state authority appointed to oversee the long-debated Ohio River Bridges Project is set to begin meeting this month. The fourteen-member panel, with seven member each from Kentucky and Indiana, is committed to building spans in downtown Louisville and eastern Jefferson County and a reworking of Spaghetti Junction, now with an estimated cost of more than $4 billion. Opposition groups, however, are committed to fighting the project. They favor some variation of the current plan, and say the formation of an authority isn’t going to silence them.

One of the most vocal opponents in Metro Government of the two bridges plan is Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh. She also opposes the mayor’s four appointments to the authority because they do not include any council members. She says the public should have a representative on the panel .

“We don’t vote on anything. We don’t get to deliberate on anything,” she says. “Their recommendation goes to Frankfort, and we have no vote in Frankfort, other than our elected officials.”

Even though the authority will have public meetings, Ward-Pugh wants citizens to have a more direct voice in the project. She says two bridges are unnecessary and too expensive, and predicts that will eventually become clear to others.

“Once we move forward building the east-end bridge as is slated to be built first, this community and the leaders now who are for two bridges will understand clearly why we just need one East-End bridge and we’ll have time to try it on for size and see what works,” she says.

Ward-Pugh’s plan is similar to the one put forward by the group 8664. It proposes only an east-end bridge and a new parkway in place of interstate 64 downtown. 8664 leaders say they will remain committed to their plan as the authority begins its work. And then there’s the conservation group River Fields, which has its own ideas about bridge location.

“River Fields isn’t in favor of massive concrete projects at all, but is aware of the purpose and need of this project,” says River Fields’ attorney Bob Griffith.

Griffith says the current plan for two bridges is outdated and ignores modern public transportation. A fresh study, Griffith says, would recommend improved public transit, a reduced Spaghetti Junction and, if needed, a downtown bridge but no east-end bridge. He says River Fields is calling for the current plans to be re-examined and has taken the matter to court.

“River Fields and the National Trust for Historic Preservation have filed a lawsuit which challenges the environmental impact statement and ask that it be re-opened for further study,” he says.

“The basic project has been studied enough,” says Joe Reagan, president of Greater Louisville Inc, the chamber of commerce, and a member of the bi-state authority. He says more research won’t reveal anything new.

“This is what has been studied and it has been determined. And it is a system. And the system works if you work the system. If you try to cherry-pick and say we’re only going to build half the project, it doesn’t work,” he says.

Reagan says there have been enough delays in the project and he’s confident a two bridges solution will move forward once the authority begins meeting. He’s not yet sure what will be discussed initially, but finding a financing mechanism will be among the top agenda items.

While the authority was formed to transcend political pressure and speed up the bridges’ construction, it’s clear that every decision will face challenges, as Ward-Pugh, 8664 and River Fields remain dedicated to their own visions for the bridges project.

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Local News Next Louisville

Tyler Allen Files Paperwork For Mayoral Bid

Another Democrat has filed paperwork in Frankfort to run for the office of Louisville mayor next year.

Tyler Allen has submitted a letter of intent to the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance that allows him to begin raising and spending money for a mayoral bid.

Allen is president of USA Image, a Louisville printing company, but may be better known by many as co-founder of the 86-64 campaign, which proposes an alternative to the Ohio River Bridges Project.

Allen says he’s not ready to comment publicly on his candidacy, but a formal announcement will be forthcoming.

Three other Democrats have announced they’ll seek the mayor’s office:  Metro Councilmen David Tandy and Jim King, businessman Greg Fischer and west Louisville resident Connie Marshall.

Republican Chris Thieneman said this week he’ll run for mayor.

Louisville coffeee shop owner Nimbus Couzin is running as an independent.

Current Mayor Jerry Abramson won’t seek a final term in order to run for Lt. Governor in 2011.

 

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Democrats Prepare For Mayoral Bids

Louisville’s Mayor Jerry Abramson’s announcement last week that he will seek Lieutenant Governor’s post in 2011 rather than re-election in 2010 came after weeks of speculation that he was plotting just such a move. In those weeks, talk of possible successors to Abramson also picked up. Even though only one candidate has started campaigning, the fight for the Democratic nomination could be a 3-, 4- or 5-way race.

Abramson

So far, only Democrat Greg Fischer has declared his candidacy for Metro Mayor. Fischer is a local businessman who voters may remember from his recent bid for Mitch McConnell’s U.S. Senate seat. Fischer lost the Democratic primary to Bruce Lunsford, but says he’s ready re-enter politics. And one of his top issues is resolving some frustrations in the old county that have developed after merger.

“Before merger the urban core was looked at as the center. Now post merger we need to look at the entire Jefferson County being the core of a greater region.”

Fischer says many residents in the old county may feel as if they haven’t yet benefited from the merger, and it will be up to the next mayor to fulfill the promises made six years ago.

“The Abramson administration is certainly making progress in that area. It did a lot of heavy lifting in terms of merging government. Now the next step is to continue that outreach, so that no matter where you go in the county people feel like they are feeling the benefits of a merged government.”

“How do we collectively make some of the promises a merged government real for people all across

President David Tandy

Jefferson County in all of its quarters? Regardless of what your socioeconomic background may be, regardless of what neighborhood you may live in.”

Metro Council President David Tandy is seriously considering a run for mayor. His 4th District includes downtown and parts of several adjacent neighborhoods. Some insiders see him as the heir apparent to Abramson, though he may have difficulty keeping up financially with Fischer. Tandy says his decision will depend on solid political and financial support and the backing of his family, which twelve weeks ago grew by one when his wife Carolyn had a son.

“We have a very busy household in the Tandy family but nonetheless, we’re a family that believes in public service. Carol and I met in public service, so this is something we’re committed to.”

Family matters could be a detriment to another possible candidate, 10th District Metro Councilman Jim King. King, a former council president, faced some criticism over his fundraising role in daughter Katie’s 2008 campaign for a district judgeship.

King, however, has built up political capital as co-chair of the council’s budget committee during. He helped shape a lean budget that earned unprecedented bipartisan support. Calls to his office for comment on the mayor’s race were not returned.

Rounding out the rumored ballot is Tyler Allen, who co-founded the local transportation group 8664 that’s proposing an alternative to the Ohio River Bridges Project.

“The values that are represented in the 8664 movement clearly would be instructive and informative for me”

But Allen says his involvement with the group doesn’t make him a single-issue candidate, even though he says transportation is crucial to a successful city.

“It would clearly play a role in whatever I did. The reclamation of the city and continuing on an effort to make it a vibrant, energetic place that’s attractive to new people as well as pleasant to those who live here.”

Joe Gerth is the Courier-Journal’s political writer. He says Tandy, King and Allen are all strong candidates, but the race is still wide open for someone who isn’t a well-known council member or businessman.

“There is no female candidate at this point and also there are no candidates in the Democratic primary who come from outside the Watterson.”

Gerth says voters could embrace such an outsider.

“If they are a legitimate candidate otherwise they could make a pretty good push for getting some of those suburban votes and yeah, they could pull it off. If you’ve got five candidates in the race, all you need is 21% if everyone else splits up the vote evenly.”

One Republican side, Metro Councilman Kelly Downard, who lost to Abramson in 2006, has announced that he won’t make another run for mayor next year, but the GOP isn’t without potential candidates. Former Lieutenant Governor Steve Pence is being encouraged to run. He benefits from his time in state government and his decision to part ways with Gov. Ernie Fletcher after the 2007 hiring scandal. Meanwhile in South Louisville, where anti-Abramson sentiments run high, supporters of state Senator Dan Seum recently held a rally encouraging him to run for mayor.

County GOP Chairman Brad Cummings says Pence and Seum are both strong prospects for the party, and would likely run on a platform of fiscal responsibility.

Though the election is more than a year away, both Cummings and Gerth says the next month will likely hold a flurry of expected…and surprise…announcements.

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Local News

8664 Group Awaits Cost Analysis

Leaders of the Louisville group 8664 say the growing cost of materials underscores the need for more serious consideration of their proposed alternative to a new downtown bridge.

The private group proposes replacing the downtown section of Interstate-64 with a parkway.

“With construction costs up, 8664’s costs, we assume, would rise as well,” says 8664 spokesperson Joe Burgan. “But since we do not build the downtown bridge and we do not expand Spaghetti Junction to the capacity the current project does, we probably would not grow in cost.”

The Ohio River Bridges Project would build two new bridges and reconfigure downtown Louisville’s Spaghetti Junction. 86-64 members support an east end bridge but say their plan would eliminate the need for a downtown span and much of the other work. Opponents of 86-64 say it would cause more traffic problems than it would solve.

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KYTC To Complete Alternative Bridge Plan Study

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet will continue its study of an alternative to the Ohio River Bridges Project that incorporates an element of the traffic plan known as 86-64.

An information request filed by the 86-64 creators indicates the cabinet had commissioned the study, but cancelled the work before it was complete.

86-64 spokesperson Joe Burgan says the group decided to look into the state’s action on the plan when lawmakers began mentioning a change to the existing Ohio River Bridges Project.

“At the end of June during the special session in Frankfort, several legislators began calling for a ‘Plan B,’ saying this Ohio River Bridges project had grown too large and couldn’t be finished as it was on the books,” he says. “So we decided to see if they’d studied any plan B’s.”

Burgan says the group found no reason why the study was cancelled.

Transportation Cabinet officials say they will complete their exploration of the alternative, which includes two new bridges, the reconfiguration of Spaghetti Junction and a downtown parkway that’s the center point of the 86-64 proposal.