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BEAM Board Will Be Named Today

The partnership between Louisville and Lexington known as BEAM—the Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement—will begin to take shape soon. This afternoon, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Lexington Mayor Jim Gray will announce the BEAM board and lead the first board meeting.

BEAM has a goal—to attract businesses and jobs to Kentucky, mostly in the manufacturing sector.

BEAM also has money and support. Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Brookings Institution are both helping, and the Louisville Metro Council has passed a resolution endorsing the idea.

BEAM doesn’t yet have a definitive plan. That will be for the board to determine.

The Louisville Metro Council has approved a resolution supporting BEAM. President Jim King says he doesn’t think it’s premature to endorse a plan before the details are worked out.

“I’d like to see this become the template for future partnerships between Louisville and Lexington so that we can have a true regional economy. When businesses are looking to locate in Kentucky, they don’t care about what county you’re in or what city you’re in,” he says. “If we don’t have it, Lexington does and vice versa. I think it would be smart for us to try to collaborate with them in those situations,” he says.

Every member of the council was a co-sponsor of the legislation. A similar measure has been introduced in the Lexington council.

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Louisville Begins Redistricting

The Louisville Metro Council’s ad hoc committee on redistricting met on Monday.

Committee members agreed there’s a lot of work to be done on redistricting if they want to meet their Sept. 8 goal. But so far no drafts have been made.

“We’re all just doing this for the first time,” said Councilman Jim King (D-10). “But I think communication is important and I think that getting that out there is going to be good. And I just feel like we just need to try move this forward at this point.”

The committee should begin by redrawing a few of Louisville’s districts and then taking them to the community for public comment, he said. Drafts of district maps are expected to be released for public comment in late August.

“That’s going to be a challenge,” said Councilman Rick Blackwell (D-12).

“Because anytime you put something out there, then people get a perception of this is the way it’s going to be. And so we’re going to have to be very careful and very clear that when we’re putting out these maps that they are drafts and that they are proposals and there is still some flexibility,” he said.

The committee is expected to have drafts of some districts at the next meeting on Aug. 8. Before then, district leaders will meet independently of the full committee.

State law says any redistricting must be completed by the end of the year.

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King Hopes Council Members Will Volunteer for Furloughs

Louisville Metro Council President Jim King is asking his colleagues if they plan to participate in Mayor Greg Fischer’s recommended furloughs for city employees.

As part of his plan to fill a $22.5 million shortfall, Fischer ordered a one week unpaid furlough for all nonunion city employees who make more than $70,000 a year. All other employees were asked to volunteer for at least a one-day furlough.

In a statement, King says he wants all 26 council members, who earn about $42,000 per year, to volunteer, and Majority caucus spokesperson Tony Hyatt thinks they will.

“There’s still a feeling that if it helps avoid layoffs of city employees it’s practical, and again I think everybody likes the aspect that for people under $75,000 it is voluntary and it can be stretched out for over a year within the budget year,” he says.

A spokesperson for the minority caucus says Council Republicans also support the voluntary furloughs.

King is also asking council members if their aides or staff will take the furloughs.

“Well I don’t know if you’re going to have too much of a problem with legislative aides or staff people, but if you’re talking about the receptionist and the people who work for the Metro Council who may not be high up in the salary end, I think there may be some talk as to whether or not they can afford to do it,” says Hyatt.

For elected officials, a furlough may not be possible. Instead, council members will have to reimburse the city for any furlough days taken.

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Council Committee to Review Grant Process Wednesday

As planned, a Louisville Metro Council panel will soon consider changing the way money allocated by the council is tracked.

The Government Accountability and Ethics committee will review the allocation process at its meeting Wednesday. Committee chair Tina Ward-Pugh has asked the city’s internal auditor and chief financial officer to attend and discuss any potential changes to how the money is accounted for.

The review comes after Councilwoman Judy Green was accused of using a grant-funded summer jobs program to benefit members of her family. Ward-Pugh and Council President Jim King both told WFPL last week that there needs to be more oversight of the grants. King has ordered an audit of all grants over $5,000 from the last two years.

The Metro Ethics Commission will hold a hearing on a ethics complaint about Green’s summer jobs program Thursday.

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Case Against Green Will Likely Change Council Grant Oversight, Amounts

On Thursday, the Louisville Metro Ethics Commission will hold a hearing on a complaint against Metro Councilwoman Judy Green. Green is accused of using a city-funded summer jobs program to benefit members of her family. The commission could also take up other charges related to the misuse of Neighborhood Development Funds.

The accusations have led the council and the mayor’s office to take a new look at how those funds are monitored.

The city’s Chief Financial Officer says he plans to increase the oversight of NDF grants. That could lead to more staff to his office, or the in offices of the departments that oversee the grants.

Metro Council President Jim King says the council will also explore ways to improve oversight.

“Frankly, that’s for the Committee on Government Accountability to decide. They’re going to be meeting with the internal auditor hopefully in the next couple weeks to discuss the scope of the work that needs to be done and then to what extent we would need to increase funding for managing these grants going forward,” he says.

Accountability Committee Chair Tina Ward-Pugh says an oversight measure will likely be introduced and discussed soon. Other council members have asked the mayor to reduce the Neighborhood Development Funds in the next budget. A spokesperson for the mayor says it will be considered.

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King Requests Audit of Discretionary Funds, Asks for Amended Ethics Complaint Against Green

Louisville Metro Council President Jim King is calling on the Ethics Commission to add the latest allegations against Councilwoman Judy Green to the existing ethics complaint against her.

Green allegedly asked the 100 Black Men organization to request more city funds than necessary, then allocate the surplus at her discretion. King has sent Government Accountability Committee Chair Tina Ward-Pugh a letter about the issue. He’s also calling for an audit of all discretionary spending over $5,000 in the past two years. LEO reports that council Republicans will ask Mayor Greg Fischer to reduce the amount of  discretionary funds in the next city budget. Fischer’s spokesperson Chris Poynter said today the mayor will consider it.

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King Appoints Members To Merger 2.0 Task Force

Four members have been appointed to the panel that will recommend changes to Louisville’s merged government.

When he created the so-called Merger 2.0 panel, Mayor Greg Fischer said he would ask Metro Council President Jim King to appoint four council members: two from the old city and two from the old county. Further, Fischer asked for at least one Republican to be appointed.

Council President Jim King did just that yesterday (Tuesday), appointing Dan Johnson and Cheri Bryant Hamilton from the old city, and James Peden and Rick Blackwell from the suburbs. Peden is the only Republican.

One of the task force’s main jobs will be to decide whether urban services such as garbage collection should be extended to the suburbs. Residents of the old city currently pay higher taxes for the government-provided service. All others pay small cities or private contractors. The split has long been a contentious point in merged government.

The panel will have several more members from various organizations and parts of government. The task force has until October to present its findings to Fischer.

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King Says Budget Process May Be Smoother Under New Mayor

One of the first challenges for new Mayor Greg Fischer will be to put together a city budget for the next fiscal year. But Fischer appears to be open to asking for assistance from the city’s legislative branch.

The budget will likely come up in the council in May or early June. In previous years, Mayor Abramson drafted the budget, then presented it to the council for revisions. Council President Jim King says Mayor Fischer has expressed an interest in working with the council even in the early stages of the budget. King says a more open process will make the council’s task of amending and approving the budget go much smoother.

“We could maybe focus a little bit more on the actual running of the city and not trying to figure out where the debits and credits are,” says King.

King says he’s also looking forward to working with the mayor on proposed improvements to merged government. Aside from the budget, one of the council’s main tasks this year will be to redraw its districts to reflect population shifts shown in the 2010 Census.

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King Elected Council President

At Thursday’s meeting, the Louisville Metro Council elected Jim King to be its president.

King will serve opposite Mayor Greg Fischer. The two were rivals in last year’s Democratic primary for the mayor’s office, but King doesn’t see that as a problem. When he’s asked about working with Fischer, King is quick to point out that he endorsed the now-mayor in the general election. He also donated to his campaign and worked with the transition team over the last month.

“He won, I lost. I get that. I moved on and stayed in my job in the council and I’m going to try to do the best job I can here,” says King.

Fischer addressed the council during last night’s meeting and expressed his interest in working with the body on issues where there wasn’t previous collaboration between the branches. King says that may make the annual process of crafting and approving the city budget easier.

King will serve a one-year term. He previously held the presidency in 2008, and is the first council member elected to the office twice. He says his second term will likely be more productive than his first.

“I certainly understand the nature of the beast here much more than I did the first time,” says King. “I have a strong working relationship with virtually every member of the council, which I did not have the first time.”

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Ward-Pugh Drops Bid For Council Presidency

Louisville Metro Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh will not seek the council presidency next year. That means Councilman and former mayoral candidate Jim King will likely win the office.

Ward-Pugh and King had both been discussing their potential bids for the leadership post with their colleagues. Ward-Pugh says King was able to secure more support first.

“It hasn’t been a contentious thing at all,” she says. “It’s just a matter of he’s got the votes. And it’s not about him not being capable; I just really didn’t anticipate that he’d want to run again this quickly. But I am fully behind him 100%.”

The council president serves a one year term. King was previously president in 2008, and if he wins next year, he will be the first president to win a second term. King reportedly has the support of 17 council members. 14 votes are needed to win the presidency.

King and Ward-Pugh are both in the council’s Democratic majority. The party’s caucus will unofficially decide Thursday on who to support when the presidency comes up for a vote on January 6th. No Republican council members have yet announced their intentions to run for the presidency. Councilman Kevin Kramer was the last Republican president. He served in 2006. Councilman Tom Owen is the current president.

King did not return a request for comment.