Local News Politics

Incumbent Owen Wins Democratic Nod for Eighth District Council Seat

Louisville Metro Councilman Tom Owen has won the Democratic party’s nomination for re-election.

Owen has served on the council since its inception and was an alderman before that. In many races, he faced little or no opposition. He had two primary challengers this year, including Jefferson County Judge-Executive Bryan Mathews.

The Judge-Executive’s office has been ceremonial since the city-county merger, but Mathews says he will now focus on ideas for reforming the office. He’s also prepared to work with Owen going forward.

“We’re going to get together soon and see what we can’t do together for the future of the district,” Mathews said. “I’ve got Tom’s back going into the fall and thereafter.”

Local News

Landmarks Debate Continues, Council Hears Alternative Proposal

The debate continues over who should have the power to designate landmarks in the city.

Louisville Metro’s Planning and Zoning Committee heard a new proposal Tuesday that could act as a substitute to the current proposed changes that would require over half of the 200 petition signatures necessary to request a landmarks hearing to come from residents living within one mile of the site under consideration. It also would give the council final say over what becomes a landmark.

Councilman Tom Owen discussed a new idea in committee that would have at least 50 of those signatures coming from residents in the two nearest council districts.

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Jefferson County Judge-Executive Files for District 8 Race

Jefferson County Judge-Executive Bryan Matthews is running for the Louisville Metro Council District 8 seat.

The 28-year-old Democrat will face incumbent Tom Owen and Louisville Grows founder Mason Roberts in a three-way primary. Community activist Curtis Morrison was the first to challenge Owen, but he dropped out of the race Tuesday afternoon to run against state Sen. Denise Harper Angel, D-Louisville, in the May primary.

Matthews has been critical of Owen’s leadership and say his recent disapproval of Mayor Greg Fischer over garbage collection isn’t genuine. Last month, Owen criticized the mayor’s decision to changes pickup schedules and routes as a cost-saving measure.

“Like a lot of politicians Tom has come out on some issues now that he’s drawn some opponents,” says Matthews. “I think that it’s strange that thousands of us in the district had been notified one way or the other, but the councilman didn’t know until after it was a problem and people were taking to the streets on the issue.”

Owen says he came out against the idea immediately after he saw the route and collection date changes in December, because they have negative effects in District 8.

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Owen Alarmed by City Changes to Garbage Collection

Questioning if suburban residents are being forced to sacrifice, Louisville Metro Councilman Tom Owen, D-8, criticized Mayor Greg Fischer’s decision to change garbage, recycling and yard waste collection schedules in the last two weeks.

Residents living in the Urban Services District began seeing alterations to their scheduled garbage collection days on Monday for cost-saving measures. The public works department eliminated the January 2 collection instead of following the traditional practice of bumping collections one day forward after holidays to save an estimated $25,000 in overtime expenses.

The result is some citizens in the old city limits haven’t had their garbage collected since December 26.

Owen says he is concerned residents can’t follow all the cancellations and changes quickly enough to prevent garbage from piling up.

“The whole plan with double-barrel cancellations and route changes was ill-conceived. I understand the need for cost savings but this is just too much. Mayor Fischer should have consulted council members who represent residents who pay those extra taxes for urban services including garbage, recycling and yard waste collection,” he says.

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Council Candidates Feature Notable Activists

Candidates for the Louisville Metro Council in next year’s election include a Tea Party activist, real estate agent and unemployed trucker driver.

In Metro Government history, voters have unseated only three incumbents. In 2006, Judy Green beat Leonard Watkins in District 1 in the Democratic primary. Last year, Democrat David Yates beat Republican Doug Hawkins in a close race and Democratic David James unseated independent Deonte Hollowell.

Community activist Curtis Morrison is running against incumbent Councilman Tom Owen, D-8, in the 2012 Democratic primary. He says challengers need to highlight their vision and the council backing down to the mayor’s office.

“We need a Metro Council with some courage that will stand up to and be a check and balance on the mayor and not just go along with whatever he wants. And I’ve seen vote after vote where they just go along with the mayor no matter who the mayor is. Seems like they just go along and I don’t think that’s the way this is supposed to work,” he says.

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Lady Justice Scales Missing Outside Mayor’s Office

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer is asking citizens to help the city recover the scales that belong to Lady Justice, which were apparently stolen outside Metro Hall a year ago.

The artwork is part of the Thomas Jefferson memorial in front of the mayor’s office on Jefferson Street. City officials don’t know how long the scales have been missing, but an archive photo from 2008 shows them intact while a photo from 2010 does not.

Fischer says anyone with information about the scales should contact MetroCall 311 as the city tries to locate the piece.

“Our fear is that someone has sold the scales for scrap. I’m asking local antique stores and scrap metal shops to check their inventory for the artwork. Perhaps an unknowing citizen has purchased the scales from a dealer or another person, not knowing their historic value to the city,” he says.

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

City Lawmakers React to U of L Study Criticizing Merger

The Louisville Metro Council is reacting to a University of Louisville report on merger that found key promises of city and county government consolidation failed.

The study says merger did not result in job growth and cost efficient government services as proponents assured the consolidation would bring. It also draws attention to a number of other issues, such as paying more for fewer Metro employees, poor road maintenance and the lack of adequate accounting in the old city limits.

The study’s author says merger wasn’t worth the cost, but among the recommendations the city can take into account to improve services are decentralizing and operating more on a bottom-up model.

“We had a compact and we had a selective unification of services where they were needed. We also had tax sharing between the central city and county,” says UofL professor Hank Savitch, who conducted the study. “What merger did was to homogenize every service and rigidify the bureaucracy. It’s over 35 miles from one end of the county to the other. That’s the distance between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., and to assume that you can have one service for each function covering that area and operating efficiently is unrealistic.”

Local News Politics

UPDATED: Ethics Commission Recommends Green Be Removed From Office

In a unanimous decision, the Louisville Metro Ethics Commission has ruled that Councilwoman Judy Green, D-1, deliberately violated the city’s ethics ordinance and should be removed from office.

Green was charged with nepotism and using a city-funded summer jobs program to benefit members of her family. In 2009, Green approached Dr. Eddie Woods, founder of the LIFE Institute, to run the “Green Clean Team” in her district, but the beautification project was quickly embroiled in controversy.

After certain participants were unpaid, a police  internal audit last December revealed 12 of Green’s family members worked in the program and were enriched as a result. The audit also found Green, her staff and her husband ran the program and were making payroll decisions.

It was revealed during an ethics hearing last month that the average youth participant related to Green received $310 average pay compared to $195 paid to non-relatives in the program.

After an hour and a half of deliberation the panel returned the verdict, which includes a letter of censure and a letter of reprimand over her handling of the program she sponsored.

From the ethics commission ruling:

“The commission finds Dr. (Judith) Green intended to and did in fact use LIFE Institute’s legitimate status to receive Metro funds in obtaining public funds. Further, the commission finds Dr. Green intended to use the funds and run the program in accordance with her standards and directives. Dr. Green did not intend to turn control of the program over to the LIFE Institute after funds were received. The commission finds by clear and convincing evidence that the described actions of Dr. Judith Green constitute intentional and deliberate violations of the Louisville Metro Code of Ethics.”

Neither Green nor her attorneys were present at the deliberation, and the councilwoman could not be reached for comment. The ruling is the harshest penalty the panel could deliver and sets the stage for Green to be the first city lawmaker removed from a office.