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Local News Next Louisville Politics

Fischer Discusses Regionalism, Globalization at One Southern Indiana Meeting

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer stressed the importance of regionalism Friday at the annual meeting of One Southern Indiana—the chamber of commerce for Clark and Floyd counties.

Fischer presented his ideas on how community leaders on both sides of the river can work together to bring jobs to the area. The mayor said communities need to make it easier and more appealing for companies to invest in the area.

“You’ve got to also understand what our friends in the development community need so we can provide that because their capital is portable. And if your community, our community, our region doesn’t make it as easy to invest here, responsibly invest, that money goes elsewhere which means jobs go elsewhere,” he said.

Fischer also said businesses should look toward global markets.

“We must internationalize all of us.  If your business has the capacity to export and your not exporting I would say your days are probably numbered because the world is rapidly shrinking and rapidly changing and your foreign competitors are exporting right away.”

Fischer also pledged his continued commitment to begin construction on the $4.1 billion dollar Ohio River bridges project during his first term.

“I’m here today to pledge to all 500 of you in this room that I fully intend to get the bridges under the construction during my first term during the next four years in office,” he said.

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Local News Next Louisville Politics

First Foreclosed Home Renovated By HUD Sold

State and federal housing officials Wednesday unveiled the first previously-foreclosed home renovated with federal stimulus funds.

The stimulus money came through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Neighborhood Stabilization program. Mayor Greg Fischer says the house is one of several abandoned or foreclosed homes in the city to receive a makeover using federal dollars.

“Louisville has received a little bit over ten million dollars of Neighborhood Stabilization Program funding and we’ve partnered with a handful of non-profit developers in several neighborhoods. Such as this one here in Newburg, also in Portland, Shawnee, Smoketown, Shelby Park and a few others,” he says.

Fischer says more than 50 additional properties are also being rehabilitated.

The house is also the first in the HUD program to be sold in Louisville. Stephanie Miller, a single mother of three, is the new owner.

“I’m glad to be a part of the NSP program it was perfect timing for me,” she says. “I’ve been working on this for a long time, but I was glad to see that there and made available to me and my family to get this going. I always lived in this area so it wasn’t hard for me to decide to pick a home here.”

Miller says she and her family will be moving in within a week or so.

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Local News Politics

Non-Profits Make Case for City Grants

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer held the third in a series of citizen budget hearings Tuesday. This time, Fischer heard from various non-profit and social service organizations seeking grants from the upcoming budget.

Traditionally about five percent of the budget goes to outside agencies. As the city budget has tightened over the last few years, the grants have been reduced. Fischer told the crowd that once again it’s not possible to give every agency the amount it requests.

“We have approximately a general fund of about $500 million dollars,” he said. “We have an identified gap of about 22 million dollars right now. Which is not unusual at the beginning of a budget process.”

About two dozen organizations made their case for funding. Louisville Orchestra CEO Rob Birman told the mayor city funding is essential to the orchestra’s 120 full-time employees.

“Musicians, administrators, stage hands, etc. It’s a vital part of providing jobs and helping the local economy here in Kentucky,” he said.

The orchestra has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and has sought to cut the number of musicians to save money.

One of the largest requests came from the Center for Women and Families. The agency is asking for $400,000 to fund two programs.

“One of the key pillars of my administration is going to be not only prevention, but prevention to the children’s services,” said Executive Director Marta Miranda. “Our children pretty much just know violence through either being a victim or a perpetrator and we need to teach them something different.”

Fischer will draft the budget in the coming weeks and send it to the Metro Council in late May. The council will then have a month to revise and make any improvements to the budget.

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Local News Next Louisville Politics

Fischer Re-Opens Office of International Affairs as Office for Globalization

by Dalton Main

Mayor Greg Fischer is reopening the Louisville Office of International Affairs with a new name: the Office for Globalization.

Local businessman Suhas Kulkarni will operate the office as an interim volunteer while he works to create a plan for funding it in the long term, likely through public and private dollars.

Kulkarni says the office will focus on human needs, cultural development, economic growth and global outreach.

“Their companies, their employees they would look for a place where education is good where people can have fun, raise families and yet grow economically; and that’s what we intend that Louisville should become,” he says.

The Office of International Affairs was previously closed due to budget cuts. Fischer advocated for its reopening throughout his campaign and says he’s optimistic about the economic and cultural possibilities of reopening the office.

“And while we may not be the biggest city in the country when it comes to the number of internationals we have here, I believe we can be the best city,” he says.

The Mayor also announced the addition of a third day to the popular World Fest held over Labor Day weekend.

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Politics

Fischer Launches Planning and Design Services Review

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has launched a review of the city’s Planning and Design Services department.

Fischer previously announced audits of Public Works and Animal Services, and he’s planning a review of the economic development department. The mayor says he wants each department to be a model for other cities.

The Planning and Design Services department works on zoning and landmarks, among other issues. The review will look at how the department can better serve developers and neighborhoods. It will be led by an eight person panel that includes representatives from the mayor’s office, the state resource council, home builders and preservation groups.

The panel:

  • Bill Bardenwerper, Attorney
  • Tommy Clark, Office of the Mayor
  • Tom Fitzgerald, Kentucky Resource Council
  • Gabe Fritz, The Housing Partnership
  • Chuck Kavanaugh, Home Builders Association
  • Gale Lively, Louisville Apartment Association
  • Jim Mims, Director, Inspections, Metro Codes and Regulations
  • Steve Porter, Attorney
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Local News Next Louisville Politics

Nonprofits Asked To Attend One Specific City Budget Hearing

Public hearings on the city budget for the next fiscal year begin Tuesday in Louisville.

The budget isn’t yet complete, and it won’t be until May—when revenue predictions are compiled. But in the meantime, the mayor is seeking comments from residents and the Metro Council. Those comments will be used to set the budget priorities.

Every year, social service and arts groups that receive grants in the budget send representatives to speak at the Metro Council’s budget hearings. These representatives often dominate the hearings, as the allocations are typically the most talked-about part of any city budget.

Mayor’s spokesperson Chris Poynter says those groups are welcome to speak at the upcoming mayoral budget hearings, but he would prefer if they attended only the March 1st hearing at Metro Hall.

“What we’re really hoping for these hearings that are out in the community—the ones that are not in Metro Hall—is to hear from the citizen’s themselves. Certainly non profit groups are welcome to come at any time, but we encourage them to come to the one that’s being held at Metro Hall,” he says.

The budget hearings will be held at the following locations and times:

  • Feb. 22, 7:30 pm Southwest Government Center, 7219 Dixie Highway
  • Feb. 28, 1 pm Shawnee Golf Course community room, 460 Northwestern Parkway
  • March 1, 1 pm Metro Hall, Mayor’s Gallery, 527 W. Jefferson St.
  • March 8, 7 pm East Government Center, 200 Juneau Dr. in Middletown
  • March 12, 1 pm Central Government Center, 7201 Outer Loop
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Local News Next Louisville Politics

Councilman Miller Says Noncompetitive Contract Renewals May Hurt Minority-Owned Businesses

A new member of the Louisville Metro Council says he’d like to examine some aspects of day-to-day city operations.

Jerry Miller—who was elected last year to represent the 19th District—spoke up at a recent council meeting to comment on an action the council frequently takes. The body must approve contracts negotiated by the mayor’s office and other city departments. Miller took issue with the number of contracts that were renewed by departments then approved by the council without being re-opened for bids from other possible contractors.

Such renewals, however, are not illegal.

“There are a number of things where I believe they do not rebid because the law does not require them to rebid. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t rebid, it just means it’s more convenient for the department,” says Miller. “It doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do for either the minority-owned businesses, the women-owned businesses or the taxpayers.”

Miller says he was frustrated by noncompetitive contracts when he worked in state government. The bidding process can be time consuming, however, but Miller says perhaps officials should consider it whenever possible. Overall, Miller says he’s been pleased with the council and his early meetings with the mayor.

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Local News Next Louisville

Fischer To Discuss 4th Street Borders Closure With Cordish

Two of the four Borders bookstores in Louisville will close as part of the company’s Chapter 11 filing.

Borders is closing about 200 stores, among them the 4th Street and Hurstbourne Parkway locations.

Mayor’s spokesperson Chris Poynter says the city must now work on filling the soon-to-be empty retail spaces, particularly the one on 4th Street, which anchors 4th Street Live.

“It’s unfortunate that we’re losing an anchor tenant, but businesses have come and gone all the time at 4th Street Live, so we’re pretty confident the Cordish Company with their national experience and their retail experience can find a viable use for that space if indeed the Borders closes,” he says. “The mayor will be meeting with the Cordish Company next week—a meeting he’d had planned for a while—and the Borders closing will be among the things they discuss.”

The Cordish Company handles the 4th Street lease for Borders. Poynter says he’s confident the company will find a new retailer to fill the space, though it’s too early to say when that may happen.

The other two Borders stores in Louisville—on Bardstown Road and Shelbyville Road—will tentatively remain open.

To see the full list of stores that will be closed, click here.

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Local News Next Louisville Politics

States To Finance Big Four Bridge Renovations

David Karem (photo by Dalton Main)The Kentucky and Indiana state governments have agreed to put a total of $20 million toward renovating a rusting railroad bridge between Louisville and Jeffersonville.

The Big Four Bridge has long been slated to be converted to a pedestrian span, but money to put a walkable surface on the bridge has not been available. Waterfront Development Corporation president David Karem says a portion of the funds will be available soon to start preparing the bridge for resurfacing.

“We’ve been working with the transportation cabinet and they will help us access part of this money this spring. The first thing we’ll be doing is removing all the railroad ties off the bridge. We’ll be doing repair work that needs to be done on the bridge,” he says. “We’re working right now on the bid documents, and they should be out. Literally, within a week or so we’ll actually start bidding the work on the demolition and the repair work on the bridge.”

The rest of the money will be released this summer, and the entire project is slated to be complete by 2013. The City of Jeffersonville will put $2 million toward building a ramp on the Indiana side of the span. Louisville’s ramp has already been built using donated money.

If proposed changes to the Ohio River Bridges Project go through, the Big Four Bridge will take the place of previously planned pedestrian lanes on a new downtown bridge.

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Local News Politics

Allen To Discuss 8664 With Fischer

8664 cofounder Tyler Allen will be among five people presenting ideas for Louisville’s future to Mayor Greg Fischer later this month.

The 8664 alternative to the Ohio River Bridges Project (8664 calls for an east-end bridge only and a parkway through downtown instead of Interstate 64) won the Create Louisville Big Idea contest, which was organized by Louisville Public Media (WFPL’s parent organization), DRIVE young professionals group and the Greater Louisville Project. Louisvillians were invited to submit their “big ideas” for the city. The ideas were then put to a vote, and the thinkers behind the five highest vote earners were invited to present their proposals to the mayor on February 22nd.

Neither Allen nor fellow 8664 cofounder J.C. Stites submitted the idea to the contest, but the original submitter has opted to let Allen act as his proxy and pitch 8664 to Mayor Fischer. Fischer currently supports a two-bridge project.

“We’re excited because we have long known people have responded to this big idea,” Allen told the Courier-Journal. “To have it validated through this effort is very gratifying.”

Allen ran as a Democrat in the mayor’s race last year. He came in 4th in the crowded primary, which Fischer won. Allen later endorsed Republican candidate Hal Heiner in the general election.

Here is the release on the Big Idea from Louisville Public Media:

Create Louisville: Your Big Idea, a project designed to elicit fresh thinking and new ideas for moving Louisville forward, garnered more than 2,300 votes over several weeks last fall with voters choosing among more than a hundred Big Ideas submitted by community members.

When the voting ended, the Big Ideas that garnered the most votes were:

1. The “8664” campaign to remove the interstate highway along the Ohio River downtown rather than reworking Spaghetti Junction and building a new bridge.

2. A “Big Tree Planting Campaign” to dramatically increase the tree canopy throughout Louisville.

3. “Louisville City Text 311” to make Louisville a mobile-ready city with multiple text/app services.

4. Establishment of a “Creativity Fund” that will provide stipends each year to ten individuals to support their work pursuing an idea, project, or new product they have devised.

5. Development of the “Southern Strut,” a destination shopping and entertainment district along the Third Street corridor near Churchill Downs.

The authors of the five top Big Ideas will meet later this month with Mayor Greg Fischer to brief him on their ideas. The Mayor and his staff have reviewed all of the Big Ideas submitted.

“The Big Ideas project certainly engaged a lot of people in thinking about how to move our region forward – dreaming up creative, new approaches to making Louisville a more distinctive place to live and work,” said Carolyn Gatz, director of The Greater Louisville Project, which sponsored the Big Idea project along with Louisville Public Media and DRIVE, a young professionals group.

“Our thanks go to everyone who participated either by submitting an idea or by casting a vote – or even many votes — to choose among them,” Gatz said. “This project demonstrated that we can have fun thinking, together as a community, about how to improve Louisville and the quality of life all of us who live here share.”

Heather Howell from the young professionals group DRIVE said, “We were amazed by the interest and participation in what was a small project driven mostly by volunteers. That speaks strongly to how much people care about Louisville and how they want to create an exciting future for our city.”

A full list of the Big Ideas submitted can be seen at www.greaterlouisvilleproject.org.