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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

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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Local News Next Louisville Politics

Metro Council to Hire Contractor for Redistricting

The Louisville Metro Council is seeking a contract employee who can operate a computer program that draws new legislative districts based on census data.

The council will still have a say in where district lines are drawn, but the application will make the necessary calculations to ensure the proper number of residents live in each district.

Democratic Councilman Rick Blackwell says once the person is hired and the final data is released by the Census Bureau, the council can begin adjusting the district map. The council’s redistricting committee is split, though, on where to begin. Some members would like to start by expanding districts in west Louisville, where the population has shrunk.

“Some people want to start on that side and start adding people to that district and move east. Others think it might be better to start it on the East End where you have a growth in the population and shave those districts down and move west,” he says.

The council briefly considered bringing in an outside expert to help redraw the districts and make sure neighborhoods were not split by the new lines. Blackwell says a council workgroup since decided against that step, though the contractor may have expertise in redistricting as well.

“I think most of the council members feel like we’ve got a pretty good knowledge of the districts, we’ve got a good knowledge of the neighborhoods and the interest groups in our areas,” he says.

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Local News Next Louisville Politics

Blackwell Discusses Budget And Plans For Southwest Regional Library

A public meeting on the proposed Southwest Regional Library will be held Tuesday.

The event is one of Metro Councilman Rick Blackwell’s regular meetings with his constituents. Blackwell says library officials will consider comments from the meeting as they put together the final plan for the new facility.

That plan will help determine how much money the mayor sets aside for the library in the next city budget, even though all the funds necessary for the project may not be available.

“[It] works both ways,” he says. “The planning affects what it costs and the amount of money you can set aside for it affects how you may have to scale down your plans. There’s still a lot of work to be done between now and budget time in how you move forward with it.”

Blackwell says he’s asked Mayor Greg Fischer to follow up on his campaign promise and make the library a priority in the next budget, which will be introduced in the spring.

“My hope is that we keep moving it along in the process so hopefully this year we’ll have the decisions made about what we’re going to do and break the ground and get it moving,” says Blackwell.

The Councilman says the project has taken years to come together, mostly because it’s larger and more expensive than other libraries.

“The Newburg library and the Fairdale library were just new branches, where this is the first of the projected three regional libraries. So it’s a whole different ballgame,” he says.

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In-Depth News Local News Next Louisville

Next Louisville: What the South End Wants

As Louisville prepares to elect a new mayor, WFPL has been looking at what different parts of the city want from a new mayoral administration in our series, “The Next Louisville.”  This time, we’re asking residents of the Southwest about their hopes and concerns.  One word crops up a lot when you ask them what they most want from a new mayor:

Attention.

Audio MP3

So, at a recent forum for mayoral candidates, resident Joyce Willer showed up to hear what kind of attention they might pay an area she says gets forgotten.

“A lot of times in the South, are left out of a lot of things, that other people aren’t in the east end,” she said.

Willer uses a wheelchair, and she says accessibility is one example of the kind of service found downtown and in the East end, but badly neglected where she calls home: Pleasure Ridge Park.  Still, she says it’s worth staying put for the people of the south end.

“It’s like in the old times, people help each other out, neighbor helps neighbor, and especially in this economy, that’s made a big difference,” Willer said.

District 12 Councilman Rick  Blackwell also attended the forum.  He was anxious to hear from the candidates how they might address his constituents’ top concerns.

“We sent out a questionnaire to our constituents and got questions returned back, and the vast majority have to do with, really, development issues, and basically it just boils down to attention,” said Blackwell.

He says people in his district want more places to shop and eat – to spend their money closer to home.

“There’s a cry for retail.  We really don’t have much retail in the area, restaurants, still a big deal. And then amenities as well.  We’ve got the first stages of Riverview Park, but it’s the first stage, so how would the next mayor push that,” said Blackwell.

But some members of the community aren’t waiting for the next mayor to promote the South end as a great place to locate a new business.  Insurance agent Vince Jarboe is also president of a nonprofit business and neighborhood association called the Southwest Dream Team.  They’re trying to draw attention to the area, of course, but also to draw new businesses.  And the group’s Web site encourages residents and business owners to contribute to an ongoing “wish list” for the place, which so far includes a Barnes & Noble bookstore and more sidewalks.  Jarboe says it’s time for the city to redirect some of its development dollars to help grant some of these wishes.

“I believe that we have done enough funding for downtown projects,” he said.

Jarboe says he wants to partner with the city’s economic development office to try to attract some basic retailers – like bookstores and restaurants.  And he says the additional tax revenue from those businesses could help fund another wish on the list: amenities like better trash service, and parks.  But Jarboe says the priority is the retail.

“There’s a lot of people that live out in what we call the Southwest ‘dream team’ area.  Over 150,000 people live out there.  And I would challenge anybody to pick any other area of the metro area where there’s 150,000 people as underserved as we are in retail and in other ways,” Jarboe said.

That could take some attention from a new mayor.  And there may be renewed vigor to attract it.  There’s the formation of the Southwest Dream Team, and only a year and a half ago, a small business owner started a new newspaper called The Local Weekly, which covers only the Southwest.  Keith Salyer is one of its reporters.  He senses residents’ frustrations with the current mayor.

“There have been times where things have happened, like when Otter Creek closed down.  And it was just done.  It’s closed, that’s it.  There were no meetings about it, the mayor didn’t come out there and talk to anybody, no nothing,” said Salyer.

The city closed the park in nearby Meade County in January 2009 to help close a giant budget deficit.  The Mayor has paid some attention to the region – including green-lighting plans for a new, state-of-the-art library. But Salyer doesn’t see it.

“I think the new mayor needs to make his presence known more, not just hang out in the East end and on Fourth Street Live, and kind of act like Dixie Highway doesn’t exist.”

Exist it does, of course, announcing its presence with a brand new “Southwest Louisville Welcomes You” sign, hoping not to be forgotten.

-by Kristin Espeland Gourlay

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Local News

Council Members Petition For Retail In Southwest Louisville

A group of government and business leaders from southwest Louisville is mounting a campaign to lure new businesses to the area.

Five Metro Council members are working with a group called the Southwest Louisville Dream Team on a petition drive to bring better dining and shopping options to the area. The petitions will be sent to a retail convention in Las Vegas in hopes that industry leaders will see the demand and set up shop in southwest Louisville.

Councilman Rick Blackwell says it’s important that the group present a united front for the entire southwest.

“We don’t want it to be Dixie versus New Cut versus Third Street. We want us all together on it. If we get a good restaurant on Third Street, let’s support it. If we get something on Dixie, let’s support it as well,” he says. “Dixie is an area that we need some help on but there are some areas on New Cut that can get some development, over by Iroquois Park and so on.”

The group also hopes to attract businesses with the results of a 2008 retail study that suggested the area’s buying power has been greatly underestimated.