Local News Politics

Downard Denies Request to Remove Green Immediately, Gives Her Five Days to Turn Over Subpoenaed Documents

The chair of the Louisville Metro Council Court that will preside over Councilwoman Judy Green’s removal trial has denied an attempt to oust Green immediately.

Green and her assistant have not yet turned over documents requested in a subpoena in July. Earlier this week, the five councilmembers who moved to impeach her filed a motion asking court chair Kelly Downard to find Green in default and remove her immediately. Downard has denied that request, but has given Green until the 6th to turn in the relevant information. If she doesn’t, any evidence she hopes to use in her defense that are related to the subpoenaed documents will not be allowed in court.

“I do believe that we are verging on a witch hunt right here,” says Green’s Attorney Derwin Webb, who contends that the subpoenaed information isn’t relevant to the charges against Green. “I will say the words witch hunt because it’s not within the elements we are looking for as far as she’s being charged with. I don’t know what we have to do to show that. I thought we showed it in our motion to deny this information, but apparently that wasn’t enough.”

Webb says he wasn’t planning to introduce any evidence that could be banned under Downard’s order.

“My case has always been about what is at hand—fighting the case with Dr. Green on the charges that have been levied against her. We don’t plan on going outside the scope with that,” he says.

The subpoenas requested documents related to the Green Clean Team and 100 Black Men organizations. Both of which were at the center of cases that Green misappropriated city money. The Metro Ethics Commission ruled that Green had intentionally violated the city’s ethics ordinance in each case and recommended she be removed from office.

Her removal trial is scheduled for the 12th.

Local News

Drafts of Redistricting Maps Raise Concerns in Metro District 1

Drafts of redistricting Louisville Metro Council seats are making their way through some districts, but because the maps change frequently, the council clerk’s office said they aren’t available online.

Around 100 citizens from west Louisville were in attendance at a redistricting meeting in Metro Council District 1, said James Green, who helped organize Monday’s meeting. Green is husband to Councilwoman Judy Green, who faces expulsion from the Metro Council due to ethics violations. James Green told the crowd the African-American population in District 1 may shrink from 71 to 52 percent, he said. But it’s unclear whether the information presented to the public is accurate.

“There were a number of people calling for an injunction to the redistricting process until there can be something else worked out with District 1,” said community activist Attica Scott with Kentucky Jobs with Justice.

But the map that was presented could not be confirmed officially by Metro Government. That’s because it is Judy Green’s staff’s interpretation of what a draft might look like and was drawn after Green had conversations with staff members and unidentified University of Louisville personnel, Scott said.

But Councilman Rick Blackwell, D-12, who chairs the redistricting committee, was in attendance for about an hour and did not contest the information, said Scott. Blackwell did answer certain redistricting questions and said all districts will have to adjust new boundaries, she said.

“He was very open and it seems that he wants to maintain an open and transparent process. I think at this point people want to see the draft maps before Metro Council votes on them,” she said.

Blackwell was sensitive to what people were saying, said James Green.

Calls to Metro Council could not confirm accuracy of the map. The map handed to community members cuts Chickasaw Park, Shawnee Park Library and the Kroger at 28th and Broadway from the district.

As of Tuesday, draft maps have only been revealed at two public meetings: Blackwell’s District 12, and Green’s District 1.

Blackwell encouraged those in attendance to attend the next redistricting meeting, scheduled for Sept. 19, said Scott.

Blackwell was unavailable for comment.

Local News

Future of Insight Franchise Agreement Uncertain as Time Warner Acquisition Looms

There are still a number of details to work out in Time Warner Cable’s pending acquisition of Insight Communications.

The sale was announced last week and a Time Warner spokesman says it’s too early to discuss possible changes to service. Many services can be regulated through franchise agreements, which cable operators sign with governments. Louisville’s agreement with Insight has lapsed, and the city has spent the last seven months negotiating a new deal.

“I am a little bit surprised that we’re at this stage of the deal and we don’t have a franchise agreement yet,” says Metro Councilman Kevin Kramer. “I am hopeful that we can get the franchise agreement taken care of so that when Time Warner actually purchases Insight, we’ll have a franchise agreement in place that at least protects the city.”

Time Warner won’t say whether it would seek to renew the current agreement or ink a new deal, but Kramer says the city should try to sign an agreement with Insight before the company is sold.

“Time Warner is a very large company with fairly vast resources,” he says. “Many of the folks who are engaged with the day to day work of Insight are local—they live here in Louisville. So I think there’s a different level of understanding of the services they provide and the agreement they would reach with the city.”

Kramer sits on the National League of Cities’ Information Technology Steering Committee. The panel advocates franchise agreements that ensure local channels are part of basic cable packages. The County Attorney’s office, which is leading the talks with Insight, says negotiations will likely continue, though that hasn’t yet been determined.

A spokesman for the mayor’s office says Time Warner will have to “assume the contractual obligations that Insight currently has with the city.”

Environment Local News

LG&E Outlines Potential Rate Increases to Metro Council

Electricity rates will be going up, but no one yet is sure exactly how much. Power company officials testified before a Metro Council committee today about the effect environmental regulations will have on ratepayers.

There are a host of federal air regulations that have been issued this year or are expected soon. Combined with a rule from the Environmental Protection Agency governing the handling of coal ash, compliance will cost Louisville Gas & Electric, and by extension, their ratepayers.

LG&E filed for a 19 percent increase over the next four years with the Kentucky Public Service Commission in June. But this increase just covers environmental upgrades at Mill Creek and Trimble County power plants.

As far as the plant at Cane Run, or Kentucky Utility’s plants at Green River or Tyrone are concerned, they could add more to the cost. LG&E’s John Voyles says the company sent out requests for proposal to weigh its options for replacing those units.

“We’re comparing our build costs to buying power to buying already-built plants and trying to assemble the least cost way to replace that energy,” he said.

Voyles told committee members that LG&E has a double mandate: to generate electricity, and to provide it as cheaply as possible. Councilman Brent Ackerson raised concerns that switching to natural gas may hurt Kentucky’s economy.

“My concern is, when we sit here and we talk today about natural gas and shipping it in from out of state, my concern is when you balance the two mandates, is there a collateral mandate in there that essentially we think about Kentucky’s future?” Ackerson asked.

He was told the decision is ultimately up to the PSC, but very few coal fired power plants have been permitted recently.

Depending on LG&E’s course of action, ratepayers could see their electricity bills increase by an additional five percent.

Local News Politics

Officials Defend GLI After Lackluster Review From Brookings

Tomorrow, the mayors of Louisville and Lexington will announce the details of a study from the Brookings Institution on the potential for a super region between the two cities. The last Brookings study of Louisville was critical of several economic development efforts, including the city/county merger, the Bucks for Brains program and the creation of the modern chamber of commerce, Greater Louisville Inc.

The study came out in June. It looked at how various cities fared from 1980 to 2005, and found that Louisville’s growth was driven almost entirely by package carrier UPS. The report also concludes that job growth wasn’t accompanied by a corresponding increase in wages, meaning high-paying jobs left and low-paying jobs took their place.

It also found that GLI’s claims that it’s turning Louisville into an economic hotspot aren’t yet proven and may be “largely rhetorical.”

“It doesn’t grow our city. It doesn’t help our city. People don’t come here. Companies don’t come here,” says activist Curtis Morrison, who has campaigned to cut GLI off from city funding. He says the Brookings study and reports that show Louisville lost 35,000 jobs in the last decade should be enough to make the city pull its $1 million allocation to GLI, which formed in 1998.

“What we need to do is take care of our streets, animal services, fixing our potholes, taking care of our parks. That’s the stuff that lures 21st Century businesses into our communities,” says Morrison.

“Well I think anyone who says that is oversimplifying things,” says Mayor’s spokesman Chris Poynter.

Poynter adds that the Brookings study brings some interesting facts to light, but the study doesn’t reflect the last six years. During that time, he said, GLI brought jobs to Louisville, despite being hampered by the national economy.

“There’s always room for improvement and the mayor wants them to improve, but we think they’re doing a great job,” he says. “If you look solely at what has happened in the last few months that GLI has been a partner in the table at. One, the Ford jobs. Two, the GE jobs.”

“There may have been some time in the very beginning that it took to get the momentum going, but I’ve been at GLI for nine years and I disagree with the assertion that there was nothing but rhetoric that happened from 2000 to 2005,” says GLI spokeswoman Carmen Hickerson.

Hickerson says any lackluster economic development performance was likely driven by the national economy and poor education. She particularly points to the Bucks for Brains program. It provides fundign to bring experts and research to universities. The Brookings report showed that it did achieve that goal, though the economic benefit of doing so was unclear.

“Bucks for Brains has been a very, very successful program. I think every way you’re able to look at it, the investment has paid off multiple times over,” says Hickerson.

The city is currently reviewing its economic development strategy and exploring possible changes. That’s something the next Brookings study may recommend as well. And not all of the city’s allocation for GLI has been given out. The Metro Council will review the agency’s progress in January before awarding the remaining $500,000.

Local News Politics

Green Appeals Ethics Commission Ruling

Louisville Metro Councilwoman Judy Green is appealing a recent ruling against her from the Metro Ethics Commission.

Last month, the commission ruled that Green knowingly violated the city’s ethics ordinance when she ran a city-funded summer jobs program and hired members of her family. The commission recommended that Green be removed from office, and the council has begun impeachment proceedings.

Green’s appeal states that the commission did not have the proper evidence and made procedural and legal errors in its trial. She’s asking Jefferson District Court to overturn the commission’s ruling.

Local News Politics

Councilwoman Judy Green Addresses Metro Council

Embattled Louisville Metro Councilwoman Judy Green addressed the council last night. Earlier this month, the Metro Ethics Commission ruled that Green committed violations in her handling of funds for a summer jobs program.

Since then, five council members brought charges to begin the process of removing her from office.

Last night, the Metro Council held a joint caucus to read that position into the official record. Green was also allowed to address the council; she said though she may have made mistakes, they weren’t intentional.

“You all in here know Judy Green. You all know me. I’ve not asked you all for anything. Y’all know me. Now why would I wait five years to be on the council to become unethical? To become a criminal?” she said.

Reading the charges into the record starts the official clock for Green’s removal hearing. The five council members brought the charges against Green have thirty days to sign a statement saying they’re ready to proceed with the hearing.

Local News Politics

Insider Louisville Takes Issue With C-J’s Focus

Over the weekend, the Louisville Courier-Journal published a story detailing how members of the Louisville Metro Council spent $110,000 on food over the last four years. The story raises a number of questions about the use of discretionary funds, but the staff at Insider Louisville says the story is misguided.

We have a question – why is it when rich people get huge amounts of money under questionable circumstances, it’s an investment of taxpayer money?

But when poor people get a little local-government largess, it’s a front-page scandal?

The post goes on to question why the newspaper is scrutinizing spending on food for constituents, rather than other topics, such as the Cordish Company, JCTA president Brent McKim and Metro Government’s deal with developer Todd Blue over Whiskey Row.

The CJ seems happy to let just let it go when money goes to the rich and influential; to the Todd Blues and Cordishes.

But when the money goes to the West End or South End in the form of hamburgers from Kroger, it is time for a complete investigation!

Local News Next Louisville Politics

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.

Local News Politics

Live Updates From the Judy Green Hearing

The second hearing on ethics charges against Louisville Metro Councilwoman Judy Green is underway. WFPL’s Phillip M. Bailey is there and he’s posting live updates to our Twitter feed. He’ll also appear on Here and Now at 1:30 to discuss the hearing.