Local News

District Court System Announces Changes

The Jefferson County District Court has reorganized itself in order to cut down wait times and overcrowding.

Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Lisabeth  Hughes Abramson hailed the changes as necessary and innovative.

“Change is never easy,” says Abramson “but sometimes change is necessary and I am pleased to note that those who have been involved in the change have a approached it with a spirit of cooperation, innovation and commitment.”

The new model will assign 10 district judges to a general criminal docket, while the other seven will handle the civil dockets.  The criminal dockets are divided into complex cases, involving attorneys, witnesses and police officers and less complex cases, which would require only one court appearance. The complex cases will be heard in the morning while the less complex cases will be held in the afternoon.

Local News

Plaque Honoring Abramson Placed Outside Arena

A plaque honoring outgoing Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson has been erected downtown.

A display commemorating Abramson’s work on the waterfront and the new arena was unveiled Friday at the corner of 2nd and Main streets. Abramson says the developments at that corner are an important part of his legacy.

“It will continue to be an exciting point for development and energy and excitement and events. I’m so touched. I’m so surprised,” he says.

The plaque was sponsored by the Waterfront Development Corporation and the Arena Authority. It was paid for personally by members of the authority.

“What we wanted to do was create something that talked about Jerry, connectivity and accessibility,” says WDC director David Karem.

Earlier this week, the Louisville International Airport Terminal was renamed to honor Abramson.

Local News

Arena Traffic Plan Released

Louisville Metro Government has released a traffic plan for this weekend’s Eagles concert.

The concert is the first event at the new KFC Yum! Center. The traffic plan is designed to get arena visitors from parking garages to the interstates or out of downtown on surface streets as quickly as possible. Mayor Jerry Abramson says, like the first Thunder Over Louisville, Saturday’s event will be a learning experience for the city and citizens.

“We’re going to try the plan as best we can right out of the box. We’ll learn, we’ll watch, we’ll listen, we’ll learn, we’ll tweak. And the next one will be a little better, and the next one will be a little better, and then, ultimately, people—as they have with Thunder—will figure out how they like to handle it, how early to come down, how to have dinner before the event,” he says.

About 75 police officers will work overtime to direct traffic. The Kentucky Fair Board will help pay for some of the costs. To see a map of the street plan for Saturday, visit the arena homepage. The TARC homepage has more information  on how to ride public transit to the arena.

State of Affairs

Ask the Mayor

The last time Mayor Abramson joined us in studio, the state didn’t have a budget and neither did the city. Well, the money’s been allocated for both, so what stayed and what got cut? Join us on Tuesday when we talk to Mayor Abramson about how Louisville is faring in the down economy and we’ll find out what’s going on around the Metro. Join us with your questions for Mayor Abramson.

Audio MP3

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Local News Next Louisville

City Undecided On Appeal In Take-Home Car Case

Louisville Metro Government has been handed another legal defeat in its attempts to collect fees on take-home police cars.

In 2008, the city imposed a fee on police officers who used their city-provided cars off duty. The fees were increased over the years to help fill budget gaps. The Fraternal Order of Police challenged the fees, saying they violated union contracts.

On Wednesday, a Jefferson Circuit judge upheld a state Labor Cabinet decision in favor of the police officers, and blocking the city from collecting the fees. Mayor’s spokesperson Lindsay English says the city may still appeal the decision, but a decision has not yet been made.

“We are reviewing the judge’s order and we’re consulting with the county attorney’s office to decide what the next step will be,” she says.

The Labor Cabinet and the judge both said the fees are part of police officers’ compensation, and not the job perks the city claims they are. The judge said fees could be negotiated into officers’ union contracts. The judge did not rule that the city should repay fees that have been collected, though the city was encouraged to negotiate reimbursement.

English says the fees were not part of the current budget, so while the city may still appeal the decision, the budget will not have to be revised.

Most recently, officers paid $100 per month for their cars.

Local News Next Louisville

White Could Be Topic In Mayor's Race

by Gabe Bullard

Louisville Police Chief Robert White’s job status could soon become an issue in the mayor’s race.

Mayor Jerry Abramson hired White in 2003, and the mayor sees White as part of his legacy. But with Abramson leaving office at the end of the year, White has applied for jobs in other cities. He was passed over this week for a job in Atlanta, and now he says he will stay in Louisville at least through the fall election.

Democratic candidate Greg Fischer says, if elected, he will keep White on staff. Abramson supports Fischer in the mayor’s race, and Friday said White could be an asset in the campaign.

“I think he’s very well respected in the community as chief, I think he’s done an outstanding job and I think it’s part of the confidence this community can have in electing Fischer as the next mayor that they’ll also get Chief White as a part of that team,” he says.

Republican candidate Hal Heiner says it’s irresponsible to make personnel decisions during the campaign, and if elected, he will review White’s performance before making any choices.

Local News

Ground Broken On 2nd Street Plaza

by Gabe Bullard

A $3 million renovation project for the area underneath the Clark Memorial Bridge is underway.

2nd Street underneath the bridge will be turned into a two-way street, with pedestrian amenities on both sides. Lights will be installed on the underside of the bridge to make the area more inviting.

Mayor Jerry Abramson says the renovations are part of the ongoing efforts to make the area around the KFC Yum Center more accessible for drivers and pedestrians before the arena opens in October.

“We’re enhancing the sidewalks and streetscapes on the Main Street side going toward the west with folks coming that park on the west and also on the south. So we’ll have ease of access no matter which way you’re coming to the arena,” he says.

Governor Steve Beshear says the area under the bridge needs to be made more attractive.

“Right now the three blocks of roadway in the shadow of the Clark Memorial Bridge, here, is a dark and uninviting place,” he says. “There’s not much to bring and keep you here, and once you’re here, it’s not easy to get around, no matter if you are driving or walking.”

The project will be funded with a $2.4 million grant from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and $600 thousand from the Louisville city budget.

Local News Next Louisville

Next City Budget Predicts Slight Revenue Increase

by Gabe Bullard

Revenues for Metro Government have risen slightly this year, but as WFPL’s Gabe Bullard reports, the increase isn’t enough to significantly bolster the city’s budget.

For the last two years, the city has faced declining revenue, and city jobs and services have been cut. An uptick in tax receipts the first four months of this year led analysts to predict a less than 1% increase in revenue for Louisville over the next fiscal year.

Mayor Jerry Abramson says that’s a positive sign, but the growth isn’t enough to prevent shortfalls or offset unavoidable increases in employment and operating costs.

“So we’re still in a situation where we have to be very, very frugal,” he says. “We have to be very tight in terms of our commitment to anything new and different. We have to continue to be more efficient in how we develop and deliver services.”

Abramson will unveil his new budget proposal Thursday afternoon, but he says it will be another in a string of lean spending plans.

“The hope is that the next mayor and the next council, when they prepare their 2011-2012 budget will see a significant change in the national economy that’ll be positive for us in the future,” he says.

Abramson says the budget will not be as bleak as last year’s, which predicted a sharp drop in revenue, but he adds that it’s unlikely any of the services that had to be cut as a result will be restored in the near future.

Local News

Hike And Bike Details Released

by Gabe Bullard

Mayor Jerry Abramson on Wednesday announced the details of the annual Memorial Day Hike and Bike.

This year’s event will begin 10 am on May 31st at Waterfront Park. The track goes from the park, through Old Louisville, to Iroquois Park and back.

The Memorial Day and Labor Day Hike and Bikes started six years ago. Abramson says the events have grown over the years as corporate sponsors have pledged their support.

“I think the biggest thing that’s happened is the Subway commitment and the Norton Healthcare commitment to join us, which gives us the opportunity to cover more of our costs, expand the opportunity to have more police officers at intersections, give out t-shirts and create a festive activity on the waterfront,” he says.

The events are part of the Healthy Hometown initiative and are funded entirely by sponsors. Before the ride, there will be a bicycle rodeo to teach children proper bike safety.

Local News

Abramson Responds To Auditor's Report

by Gabe Bullard

Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson says changes to metro government are underway following a report from the State Auditor.

The report found dozens of weaknesses in fund management, contract awarding and in several departments, including Metro Corrections and Animal Services. Abramson says changes have already been made in those areas.

The audit also cited a lack of training and experience among business managers and directors. Abramson again says those issues are being resolved by the government’s financial staff.

“They’ve been meeting weekly with the business managers. They’ve been meeting monthly with the directors and managers to ensure that all folks understand the rules and procedures they have to follow.”

Abramson says the audit is unlikely to change the city’s hiring and promoting practices.

To hear the mayor’s full response click here (MP3)

For more coverage of the audit, click here.

To read the audit, click here (PDF)

To read the summary of the audit, click here (DOC)