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In Depth: Tea Party And Outside Forces Will Likely Have Little Effect On Mayor’s Race

For months, pundits and political observers have offered various insights into the 2010 elections. This could be a big year for the Tea Party, for mainstream Republicans, for moderates or for challengers to incumbents. But those are national predictions.

WFPL’s Gabe Bullard has more on how the Louisville mayor’s race may or may not conform to broad political narratives.

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The lunch hour is winding down on a recent visit to Wick’s Pizza on Dixie Highway, where I met with Jason Perkey. Perkey works for two Democratic candidates who are challenging incumbent Republicans in southwest Louisville. The first is Marty Meyer, who is running against state Senator Dan Seum. The other is David Yates, who is facing Metro Councilman Doug Hawkins.

Seum and Hawkins have both spoken at Tea Party rallies, but Perkey doesn’t think that gives them an edge in their districts, despite the attention the party has received this election year. He says having two viable local candidates talking about local issues has energized southwestern Democrats.

“David has hit over 10,000 doors in the last few months…10,000 doors. Marty’s campaign, I think we’ve just hit over the 15,000 door mark,” says Perkey. “That means we have a ground game and we have been reaching people in their homes to share a level of urgency that we believe they need in order to turn out.”

If Meyer and Yates can close the enthusiasm gap in their party, Perkey says that will benefit Democratic mayoral candidate Greg Fischer. But former Jefferson County Republican Party chair Brad Cummings doesn’t believe that will necessarily be the case.

“I wouldn’t be shocked to hear people aren’t pulling the straight D or straight R,” says Cummings.

Cummings says conservative voters are energized, and this is a good year for the GOP, but in Louisville, convincing Republicans to vote for Republicans isn’t the key to victory…it’s getting Democrats to either stay home or cross over, and he thinks voters are willing to do that in the mayor’s race.

“When you get to a position like the mayor, that’s more about leadership than it is about whether you’ve got the R or the D behind your name,” he says. “It’s more about what’s your vision for the future of the city.”

Polls have shown a close mayoral race, with many Democrats supporting Republican candidate Hal Heiner, though Fischer maintains a slight lead.

University of Louisville political science professor Dewey Clayton says crossover voters on both sides are drawn by individual issues, not any national movement or statewide campaigns.

“Of the races that we’re looking at, I would say probably the mayor’s race is one where people are looking more at the candidates and the issues because they seem to have come out and made a lot of statements on a lot of issues,” says Clayton. “I would think there would be less party line voting.”

The party faithful tend to dominate midterm election turnout. And Democrats far outnumber Republicans in Louisville. But Clayton expects the mayor’s race to be close to the finish. He says other elections—from the state Senate to the U.S. Senate—won’t likely sway voters any more than the mayoral candidates’ positions on issues like the student assignment plan, which has been at the center of recent television ads and candidates debates.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if that sort of will give people more information, and some people may make a decision based on the candidates’ stance on that issue in particular,” he says.

And the student assignment plan, just like local job attraction, government transparency and most of the other issues that have dominated the mayor’s race, doesn’t break along national party lines.

Arts and Humanities In-Depth News Local News

Uncertain Future for Iroquois Amphitheater

Since 1938, the Iroquois Amphitheater’s history has included periods of neglect and success. The latter includes a nearly $9 million renovation eight years ago. Now, the economy has driven its major user — Music Theater Louisville — to perform at the Kentucky Center. That and other factors make an uncertain future for the amphitheater. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer reports.

Music Theatre Louisville’s production of Singin’ in the Rain nearly filled the 600 seats in the Kentucky Center’s Bomhard Theater during every performance of its recent nine-day run.

But this wasn’t the idea State Senator Dan Seum had in mind years ago when he got $4.2 million in the state budget to help renovate the South End’s Iroquois Amphitheater. Seum says as a South End resident he knew many people in the community wanted to see the structure renovated and used. He says the city had promised to help pay for it with one condition.

“The challenge came back down from city hall, specifically from Mayor Abramson, that if you want this amphitheater are you prepared to come up with half the money,” Seum recalls. “And I shocked them; I did.”

The city did match the state funding and in 2003 the amphitheater opened with its primary user, Music Theatre Louisville, returning to the stage.

Meanwhile, the city’s parks department wanted to boost activity at the 2,400-seat venue that was built by the Works Progress Administration and has featured the talents of Louisville citizens for decades. They also wanted to generate revenue to support it. Clay Campbell had worked with the department before taking a job with Triangle Talent, an entertainment agency known for booking shows at state fairs and other events nationwide.

Campbell says he knew the place.

“It’s a great facility. It has all of the potential in the world,” Campbell says.”And we could see that people were struggling with it and thought that maybe we could help.”

So, in 2006, the city signed a three-year contract with Triangle Talent and paid the agency nearly $385,000 to manage and book the facility. During that time the agency did book two nationally known acts — the band Wilco and “Weird Al” Yankovic. But by 2008 that arrangement wasn’t bringing in much revenue, says Metro Parks director Mike Heitz.

“We thought that relationship with promoters is one that would help us,” Heitz says, “but it just didn’t develop that way.”

What did develop was a recession producing declining public revenues. It caused Metro Parks not to renew its contract with Triangle Talent and raise rental fees to unaffordable rates for Music Theatre Louisville.

Now, with half the summer season over, Metro Parks still does not have a plan for programming at the amphitheater next year. MTL leaders have encouraged the city to create programming that includes other city arts organizations and rally the public and private business to make it happen. It’s almost as if the amphitheater is starting all over again.

Such a project is something managers of the country’s few small municipally owned amphitheaters understand. Susanna Nierman O’Neil of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, is one of them. For more than 20 years, she has overseen the management of the city’s amphitheater in Cain Park.

O’Neil remembers when it got a roof and reopened after a $5 million overhaul.

“We needed to have a vision for where we were going,” O’Neil says. “So, we started this plan: if we a roof on the amphitheater and then we mix and match with jazz, dance, local talent, and also at least four big-named acts, we figured we would be able to make it.”

She says the amphitheatre is operating this year with a $650,000 budget that includes $200,000 from the city and the rest from revenues.

Meanwhile in Louisville, the current city budget has $200,000 for Metro Parks to use for Iroquois Amphitheater. The city’s been giving tours to representatives from local arts groups.

Metro Park’s Mike Heitz.

“The ballet’s been there recently and looked at it,” Heitz says. “They really liked it. I think they’re going to booking some dates with us.”

Still, those dates might not include Music Theatre Louisville. Its executive director, Peter Holloway, says the company is working to keep its costs down as the recession has lowered its revenues. But he, like so many others, wants to see action on the amphitheater’s stage next summer.

“I just want to see the thing utilized and do well,” Holloway says. “And if that ends up having us be a part of it, that’s great. And if it doesn’t and it still works out well at the amphitheater, that’d be fine, too.”

Local News

Cardinal Hill Storage Facility Fight Goes To General Assembly

Councilman Doug HawkinsLouisville Metro Councilman Doug Hawkins is taking his fight against a police storage facility to the General Assembly.

Last year, Hawkins tried to block funding for the storage unit near the Cardinal Hill Reservoir in south Louisville. The attempt failed in October.

A bill pre-filed by State Senator Dan Seum would make such a facility illegal. Hawkins says the bill was filed on his behalf, and he expects it to be given full consideration in the General Assembly.

“That’ll be left up to the senate and their prerogative and their ability,” he says. “I think they’ll give it the best effort, best try and do a good a job at it. I know Senator Seum’s as tenacious as they come.”

The Louisville Metro Police Bomb Squad says the facility would pose no danger to the homes or reservoir near Cardinal Hill. It would be used to store ammunition and confiscated fireworks. Construction of the facility has not begun.