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Local News Politics

Blackwell Says Southwest Regional Library Bond Makes Sense in Latest Budget

City lawmakers from southwest Louisville are praising Mayor Greg Fischer’s decision to fund construction of the Southwest Regional Library in his latest city budget proposal.

The $9.5 million bond for the library is the largest expenditure in the mayor’s capital budget and the only proposed bond. It follow’s up a $500,000 allocation the mayor made last year to begin the design phase of the long-planned project.

The library foundation will also give the city $3.5 million for the facility.

“Some other mayors that weren’t quite as committed to what’s going on in the Southwest may have made the decision to cut this for this year, push it off to next year, put it off a couple years,” says Councilman Rick Blackwell, D-25, after noting that Fischer has long talked about a need to cut city spending and bring expenditures in line with revenues. “I think it’s a bold move for the mayor and it’s one the residents in Southwest Louisville certainly appreciate.”

The bond will take 20 years to pay off, but with the city currently renting space, Blackwell says it makes sense to bond the project.

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Local News Next Louisville

Southwest Regional Library Funding Relies On Design

Public hearings on the next Louisville city budget begin this week, and the first will be held in the Southwest Government Center. And it’s likely the discussion will cover plans for the new southwest regional library.

The southwest regional library is a long-planned project. The city owns land for the facility, and Metro Council members who represent southwest neighborhoods are confident the project will be partially funded in the next budget.

Councilman David Yates says the cost of the project will largely be determined by the design for the library, which is being put together now.

“From one degree to the other, it could be very, very different depending on what design we go with. We’ve also looked at some other funding revenues and ways to be able to get it together. So a lot of that will depend on what our final blueprint will be for the library,” he says.

But, Yates says the library’s design will also depend in part on how much money is available to build it. He says the library will likely be built in phases. He expects Mayor Greg Fischer to allocate some money to begin work on the project this year, with plans for further allocations in the future.

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Local News Next Louisville Politics

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 News Local News Next Louisville Politics WFPL News Department Podcast

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.

Audio MP3

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.

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Local News Next Louisville

Hawkins Faces Challengers From Both Parties For Council Seat

Of the ten contested primaries for seats in Louisville’s Metro Council, one of the most watched races in the 25th District.

Republican Doug Hawkins has represented the southwestern district for two terms. His challenger, Dr. Robert Thrasher, says Hawkins is too prone to political posturing and has not spent his tenure serving constituents.

“I think Mr. Hawkins has outlived his welcome,” he says. “I think it’s time for a change. I think his whole reasons for being on the council have not been helpful to the southwest part of the county.”

Hawkins says constituents appreciate his work and opposition to the mayor, and he thinks he’ll benefit in the primary from Republican Chris Thieneman’s mayoral bid. Thieneman is also outspoken in opposition to the mayor.

“I think a lot of people out here in the south end have a lot of respect for Chris, or are certainly very supportive of him,” says Hawkins. “I don’t know if that necessarily equates to them voting for me, but I would think a lot of those people would vote along those same lines.”

Hawkins says a number of Republican mayoral candidate Hal Heiner’s supporters likely support him as well. Thrasher says if he loses to Hawkins in Tuesday’s primary, he’ll support Democratic candidate David Yates.

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Local News Next Louisville

Hawkins Faces Challengers For Council Seat

By Gabe Bullard

Louisville Metro Councilman Doug Hawkins has earned a reputation with some of his colleagues that does him few favors. He’s sometimes seen as a contrarian on certain issues, especially those championed by the mayor, and the two-term Republican is often outspoken on matters beyond the council’s control.  Hawkins is up for re-election this year, and with two opponents, he could be in for the toughest race in his career.

Over coffee at Mr. Lou’s Country Cottage on Valley Station Road in the 25th District, Brian Tucker reflects on his councilman.

“I think he’s a polarizing figure,” he says. “I think the people that like him really love him and I think the people that don’t have really any opinion of him whatsoever, once they start to look at his record will dislike him and vote for anybody else besides him.”

Tucker runs a blog about issues in southwest Louisville. He says Hawkins’ has given the 25th District a bad reputation with his seemingly quixotic attempts to end illegal immigration in Louisville and to halt construction of an apparently benign police storage facility, among other actions.

Tucker says the councilman does little to help his constituents, and instead has his sights on winning a seat in the state Senate, or another office beyond the Metro Council.

“When we think of Doug Hawkins, we think of a guy who’s out to help himself,” he says.

But Hawkins says all of his actions on the council have been in his district’s best interest and he doesn’t consider his council seat a stepping stone to higher office.

“I have an open line of communication with my constituents,” says Hawkins. “And they know I’m concerned about the same issues they’re concerned about.”

“It’s nothing against Doug, but I think Doug always fights the wrong fight,” says Dr. Robert Thrasher.

Thrasher is challenging Hawkins in the Republican primary. He says he hasn’t seen the councilman do enough to help his district in the last 7 years. And with many southwestern Louisville residents questioning the benefits of the city-county merger, Tucker and Thrasher say the 25th needs a representative who will focus on bringing business and jobs to the area, instead of waging political battles.

Thrasher says naysaying and politicking have made Hawkins a weak candidate, and he doesn’t expect the councilman to keep his seat.

“If I don’t beat Doug, then David Yates will beat him in the fall,” he says.

David Yates is the sole Democrat seeking his party’s nomination to Hawkins’ seat. A former assistant under then-Attorney General and now Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo, he’s earned Stumbo’s support as well as endorsements from other big-name local Democrats. He hopes to parlay that support into votes.

“I think people in my district are tired of being put on the front page as what’s wrong with the south end,” he says. “I think I can be more effective as a leader serving the district, instead of using the district to serve myself.”

Back at Mr. Lou’s, blogger Brian Tucker is concerned that Hawkins will fight fundraising and political support with negative campaigning. Hawkins often uses e-mail blasts and robo-calls to tell constituents about district events and issues. He says voters appreciate this interaction and all the other work he does for them.

“I’ve got some 75 thousand e-mails that I communicate with my constituents on a regular basis with. I’ve got a phone-calling machine; I can put out 10,000 phone calls a day,” says Hawkins.

He says he plans to win the race the same way he won his first two council elections…by being himself, outspoken and conservative on any issue he thinks is important.

“I’m pro-life, pro-family, pro-God, pro-gun, pro-American,” he says. “I believe in less government, lower taxes and more freedom.”

Yates and Thrasher say Hawkins and his autodialer have worn out their welcome. They hope voters will agree with them as they go door-to-door to discuss local issues in 25th district.