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Peden Says Issues Other Than Tornado Siren Silence Prompted Call for MetroSafe Audit

Louisville Metro Councilman James Peden says it was more than a botched tornado warning that led him to ask for an audit of MetroSafe.

Peden and his vice chair on the council’s Public Safety committee, Councilman David James, sent a letter to Mayor Greg Fischer’s office requesting the audit Tuesday. Peden says he and James have a number of issues with MetroSafe, many of them stemming from redundancies and inefficiencies in how the agency operates.

Peden says he decided to formally request the audit, though, after seeing MetroSafe’s response to civil defense sirens that failed to sound during a tornado warning. After first blaming faulty equipment, MetroSafe officials said two employees could have turned on the sirens manually.

“Falling on the sword or pushed on the sword, I don’t know,” he says. “If we had been a little more forthcoming, if MetroSafe had been a little more forthcoming at the beginning of that issue, the letter may not have been written.”

The mayor’s office says MetroSafe will be audited, along with every other city agency, as part of Mayor Greg Fischer’s plans for his first term. Peden says the MetroSafe audit should be made a priority.

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Mayor’s Office Says MetroSafe Audit Was Planned, Will Be Conducted

Two members of the Louisville Metro Council have asked for an audit of MetroSafe, following the recent failure of the civil defense sirens during a tornado warning. The mayor’s office will conduct the audit, but not necessarily because of the request.

Even though MetroSafe officials say they’ve fixed any issues with the sirens, the heads of the council’s Public Safety committee requested the audit. In a statement, councilmen James Peden and David James say there have been numerous concerns with MetroSafe, and an audit is long-overdue.

Mayor Greg Fischer’s spokesperson Chris Poynter says the audit has been planned since day one of Fischer’s time in office, since the mayor plans to review every department.

“We have audits going on for the Planning and Design department we announced recently, for Animal Services and also for the Public Works department. We already have three ongoing and we will be announcing more in the coming months,” he says.

Poynter says he’s not sure when the MetroSafe audit will begin, but adds that the council members’ request will not likely change the timeline.

“We appreciate the council’s concerns and we will be auditing MetroSafe. The concerns over the sirens—we had a problem, we did an investigation and we corrected the action. So we’re pretty confident that the sirens being silent will never happen again.”

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Council Committee Approves Old Louisville Live Performance Resolution

by Sheila Ash

A measure to lift restrictions on live entertainment in restaurants and other businesses in Old Louisville is moving forward.

The Metro Council’s Planning and Zoning Committee unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday sponsored by Councilman David James. James says legalizing live performances would bring new businesses to Old Louisville and help existing establishments.

“This is really about the neighborhood and about economic opportunities and growth for the neighborhood where the businesses and the residents can co-exist in a peaceful way and enjoy each other and give each other support,” he says.

James says he’s received little opposition to the change. The resolution will go before the full council next week. If it passes, the Metro Planning Commission will hold a public hearing and draft a change to zoning laws. That change would again need to be approved by the council.

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James Will Likely Assume Council Office This Year

Newly-elected Metro Government officials will be sworn in in January. But one incoming Metro Councilman will likely assume office in the coming weeks.

David James won the special election to serve the remaining two years of the late George Unseld’s term. Instead of waiting until inauguration day, James only needs confirmation from the Board of Elections to be sworn in.

“I don’t believe that even if it were certified before [this week’s] meeting that I’ll be able to,” he says. “There’s still some procedural things that have to take place first.”

James says he attended the last Democratic caucus meeting and has talked with some of his future colleagues. He says he’s already working on some of his predecessors’ projects.

“We’ve got some issues in creating the 6th District neighborhood advisory committee,” he says. “We’re going to be working on that right away. We’re going to start working on the 4th and Oak issues. We’re going to be working on some of our sidewalk issues, some of our safety issues and our abandoned and dilapidated property issues.”

James will replace independent Deonte Hollowell, who was appointed after Unseld’s death, but lost to James in a four-way race for the seat.

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Yates Unseats Hawkins

For the first time ever, an elected incumbent member of Louisville’s Metro Council has been unseated.

Democrat David Yates defeated Republican Doug Hawkins in the 25th District, which covers a portion of southwest Louisville. Yates says residents of the district were tired of Hawkins’s partisan politics.

“There’s so much potential,” he says. “They’re tired of the division, the politics and it really is our time to shine and they’re excited about that.”

Also not returning to the council is independent Deonte Hollowell. Hollowell was appointed after Councilman George Unseld’s death, but lost Tuesday to Democratic candidate David James. The other sitting council members retained their seats. Republican Jerry Mills won the contest to replace Hal Heiner, who sought the mayor’s office rather than re-election to the Metro Council.

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In Depth: Four Vying For Sixth District Council Seat

When Louisville Metro Councilman George Unseld died in June, a special election was ordered to elect someone to fill the remaining two years of his term.

Four candidates are actively campaigning for the seat, and they all face a tough fight for what may be the busiest job on the Metro Council.

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The first sign that the 6th District seat be would hotly contested came in June, when the Metro Council took several contentious hours to appoint independent Deonte Hollowell to serve until the special election. Hollowell, like Unseld, is African-American. At that meeting, NAACP President Raoul Cunningham and others implored the council to preserve its racial makeup.

“It was very important to us, because, if you’ll recall, the proponents of merger assured the African-American community there would be six districts of the 26,” he says.

While Cunningham did not want the council to change its racial balance, he says voters could do just that. After all, the person they elect will represent one of the most racially and economically diverse districts in the city.

“You have diversity in neighborhoods there, going through probably one of the high-end districts in Old Louisville to California to Park Hill,” says Cunningham.

There are four candidates vying to represent that collection of neighborhoods. The first to declare his candidacy was Unseld’s council-appointed successor Deonte Hollowell. Because he’s an independent, Holowell will face two major party candidates.

The Democratic Party has nominated another African-American, former Fraternal Order of Police president David James. Advertising professional Candace Jaworksi is the Republican nominee. But Democrat Ken Herndon is running a write-in campaign. He narrowly lost to Unseld in the 2008 primary, which was marred by an anti-gay flier that took aim at Herndon, who’s openly gay. Herndon also narrowly lost the council’s appointment and was overlooked for his party’s nomination weeks later.

Herdon’s yard signs are already lining streets in Old Louisville. That’s where I met real estate agent Deborah Stewart.

“George lived down here,” says Stewart. “He lived right over on Park Avenue, just across from the tennis courts.”

As we sit in St. James Court, Stewart outlines the issues that resonate most with her and her neighbors. She says preservation, cracking down on absentee landlords and bringing in the right businesses are all key. And the next councilmember will need to be ready to listen to those concerns from Old Louisville residents.

“They don’t want someone who is passive. They want someone who they can call and say, ‘This is going on in my neck of the woods, it concerns me, what can you do about it?'” says Stewart. “They want their concerns addressed.”

Stuart says she thinks the race will come down to Hollowell and Herndon. Hollowell has a brief voting record to run on, but he doesn’t have a major party machine behind him. Neither does Herndon, who has won endorsements from four council members, but must remind voters to write his name onto the ballot.

Haven Harrington writes a blog about the Russell neighborhood, part of which is in the district. Harrington lives north of the district himself, but has been involved in local politics. He says Democratic nominee David James shouldn’t be underestimated, given the high number of registered Democrats in the district, and James’s law enforcement experience.

Harrington agrees with Deborah Stewart’s comments that the new council member will have unique issues to address. But the issues in the western half of the district are different than those in Old Louisville.

“How are you going to address predatory lending and these other factors that tend to affect poorer neighborhoods versus your wealthy neighborhoods,” says Harrington.

Harrington says solutions to the issues are nuanced, and the diversity will have to be addressed through footwork. That means listening to the outspoken residents and neighborhood groups, and reaching out to everyone else.

“More work. [Laughs]. It’s just going to be more work,” says Harrington. “They’re going to have to have several different meetings.”

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Herndon Launches Write-In Campaign For 6th District Seat

Another candidate has entered the 6th District Metro Council race in Louisville. Democrat Ken Herndon has launched a write-in campaign for the seat formerly held by the late George Unseld.

Herndon has long sought election to the seat. He narrowly lost the Democratic primary to Unseld in 2008. He sought appointment to the council after Unseld’s death, but the council chose independent Deonte Hollowell instead. Herndon then applied for his party’s nomination in the special election for the rest of Unseld’s term, but lost to David James.

Hollowell, James and GOP nominee Candace Jaworski will all appear on the ballot in November. Herndon’s will not. But he says he can run a strong write-in campaign.

“We have three people who are virtual unknowns who were placed in those positions by people who did not live in the district and I have a recent history where I nearly won the seat two years ago.”

Herndon says the Democratic Party’s nomination process was secretive and unfair. Party chair Tim Longmeyer says the party chose the right candidate.

“The members of the executive committee who all represent that district took into account, really, the long history of the district, the feelings of their constituents in the district, their own opinions as people who live in and around the district,” he says.

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County GOP To Select 6th District Candidate Tuesday

The Jefferson County Republican Party will meet Tuesday evening to choose a candidate for the special election in the 6th Metro Council District.

The seat is currently held by independent Deonte Hollowell, who was appointed in June to fill the vacancy left by Councilman George Unseld’s death. Hollowell is seeking election to the seat, and so is Democratic nominee David James.

GOP vice-chair Cordell Lawrence says there are about eight candidates to choose from, and it will be challenging for his party’s nominee to take on an incumbent and a Democrat in a heavily-Democratic district.

“It just means there’s a lot more ways that vote can be split,” he says. “It’s always tough in any kind of local, state or national race when you have an additional independent or third-party candidate. It just makes it that much more competitive.”

Lawrence says the candidate will likely run on a platform of fiscal conservancy and not focus on social issues. The 6th District includes Old Louisville and parts of the California and Russell neighborhoods, among other areas.

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James Discusses 6th District Nomination

Former Fraternal Order of Police president David James has been nominated to run for the 6th Metro Council District seat.

The county Democratic Party selected James as its nominee Thursday night, after several hours of voting and deliberation. If elected, James would be the second police officer to serve on the council. He says he thinks the body lacks such experience currently.

“Sometimes there’s a disconnect between the council and the police officers and the police department sometimes because they don’t always speak the same language,” he says.

James moved to the district last year, and the party will verify that he’s eligible to run before his candidacy becomes official.

“I’m very familiar with this district,” he says. “I’ve worked in it and been around it my entire career. So I’m intimately knowledgeable of the district. I’ve lived here for a period prior to this period, too.”

As FOP president, James was sometimes critical of Police Chief Robert White.  He says he doesn’t hold a grudge, and would try to be the voice of public safety experience on the council.

“Just because we had disagreements about different labor issues doesn’t mean that we don’t get along. So I plan on working with Chief White to make sure the community is safe,” he says.

The winner of the 6th District special election this November will serve the remaining two years of Councilman George Unseld’s term. Unseld died last month and independent Deonte Hollowell was appointed to fill the vacancy. Hollowell is also seeking election to the seat. The county GOP will select its candidate next week.

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Democrats Select James for Sixth District Metro Council Election

The Jefferson County Democratic Party has selected its candidate for the special election in the 6th Metro Council District.

The election will determine who will serve the remaining two years of Councilman George Unseld’s term. Unseld died last month and the council appointed independent Deonte Hollowell to fill the seat.

Hollowell is seeking election to the seat, and both major parties are allowed to select candidates as well. Last night, the Democratic Party chose former Fraternal Order of Police president David James as their nominee.

James’s nomination came after two rounds of voting in which no candidate won the necessary support. The nomination was determined by a nine-member panel, with each member representing a piece of the 6th District. Members’ votes were weighted, depending on the number of voters they represented.

James was previously an advisor to Councilman Jim King’s campaign for mayor. He will be vetted before his candidacy is made official. Candidates must file with the County Clerk by August 11th.

The county Republican Party will meet to choose a candidate next Tuesday.