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Local News Next Louisville

Fischer Unveils Neighborhoods Plan

Louisville mayoral candidate Greg Fischer today unveiled his plan for modernizing the city’s neighborhoods.

The Democrat’s ten-point plan includes the creation of the Neighborhood Development Corporation. The government organization would oversee issues related to neighborhood development such as planning and design, housing and parks. The body would be similar to the Downtown Development Corporation, but Fischer said it would not require additional staff. Rather, current Metro employees would be given new duties.

“We have approximately 7,500 employees in Metro Government, so we have plenty of resources already.” he says. “So it’s just saying ‘What’s the problem, what are the cross-functional people that are required to get it done?’ Put them together so they can actually go take care of problems.”

Among the other points in Fischer’s plan is a proposal to address vacant property. He says the city should be more aggressive and seize abandoned homes, then help Louisvillians rehabilitate the property. Fischer acknowledges that state law makes it difficult for cities to take control of those properties.

“People in Frankfort understand that,” he says. “This isn’t just a Louisville problem. The mayor of Louisville needs to be in Frankfort talking about those issues. We all know that Louisville is the economic engine of Kentucky and it’s important that the mayor’s advocating in Frankfort for laws that are good for our cities as well.”

Republican candidate Hal Heiner’s campaign criticized Fischer for proposing a new agency, and called his plans “light on substance.” Independent Jackie Green says Fischer still supports unsustainable development.

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Local News Next Louisville

Candidates Debate, Trade Jabs At GLI Forum

Some familiar campaign themes re-emerged Monday at a mayoral debate sponsored by Greater Louisville Inc.

The debate focused on business issues, but the candidates discussed other topics as well, and frequently criticized each other’s positions. Democrat Greg Fischer said he represents a newer way of leading the city than Republican Hal Heiner

“My opponent’s been an insider on the Metro Council now for nearly eight years, and he’s been the voice of ‘No’ time and time again,” he said. “Hal has said ‘No’ to the STAR clean air program that now many people see as a model throughout the country. He said ‘No’ to Fairness, our anti-discrimination ordinance.”

Heiner said Fischer doesn’t offer many new ideas, and defended his council experience.

“I’ve said no to new taxes on the people in Louisville. We’re already the 5th highest taxed city in the country. If we increase taxes any more how will we ever grow jobs in this community?” he said. He later added, “Does having been through eight budgets and seeing the city up-close, from the police department to the parks department to the fire department to the ambulance department and seeing what needs improvement now, does that matter in the next mayor?”

Independent Jackie Green stood in between the candidates on stage, and said neither of his opponents has an environmentally sustainable economic platform.

“The new economy does not ignore energy,” he said. “Energy will rule economies in the future and both of you will need to start addressing our energy weaknesses.”

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Local News Next Louisville

Candidates Discuss Kids Count Report

To mark the release of its Kids Count data book, Kentucky Youth Advocates hosted a mayoral forum in Louisville Thursday. The candidates discussed how they would improve education and child well-being in Louisville.

The Kids Count report looks at education, crime, homelessness and other issues that affect children. Compared to other counties, Jefferson County was ranked particularly low in reading and math proficiency and graduation rates.

When asked how he would remedy this, independent candidate Jackie Green said he would distribute affordable ousing across the city and make the JCPS student assignment plan obsolete.

“That makes every community diverse. That makes every school diverse,” he said. “Kids can go to their local school, parents can be involved in that school, the neighborhood can be involved with that school and the school with the neighborhood.”

Republican Hal Heiner acknowledged that Metro Government has no authority over schools, but he said that doesn’t mean the mayor is powerless.

“That position has the ability to pull people together,” he said. “To focus on issues like this and help support this superintendent and this school board and encourage from them, demand from them, that our school system move ahead faster.”

To reduce dropout rates, Democrat Greg Fischer said he would try to improve parental involvement in education.

“We can talk to the parents and grandparents in the schools; let them know what’s available and how they can engage with their child,” he said. “Most parents are engaged in the elementary level, then they tend to fade off as they get to middle school and high school. We’ve got to stop this.”

Democrat Greg Fischer said he would give parents a larger role in their children’s education.

The full discussion:

Audio MP3

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Local News Next Louisville

Fischer And Heiner To Debate Wednesday

Mayoral candidates Greg Fischer and Hal Heiner will face each other in a debate this week.

On Wednesday, the two candidates will address a meeting of the Louisville Forum. They will take questions from the audience, and each other. Forum President Dot Ridings says most previous debates have been sponsored by single-issue organizations, and she’s anticipating a less narrow discussion.

“We do expect a broad range of issues from schools—even though the mayor, frankly has precious little to do with school policy, we’ll get some—it’ll be I think more about jobs, economic development, tolls, perhaps the arena. ‘What are you going to do about this?’ ‘What are you going to do about that?'” she says.

Fischer, a Democrat, and Heiner, the Republican nominee, were the only candidates invited to the debate. Ridings says it’s Forum policy not to invite candidates who poll at under 15% to a general election debate. That excludes independent candidate Jackie Green, who says he is disappointed with the exclusion.

“If it had been any closer than that, if any other candidate had made more than 15% of voter support in a recent, bona fide poll, we would have invited that person to participate,” says Ridings.

The debate is at noon and will be taped for broadcast on WFPL at 8 pm

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Local News Next Louisville

Fischer Receives Union Nods

Democratic mayoral candidate Greg Fischer accepted endorsements from 29 labor unions Monday. But Fischer’s Republican opponent Hal Heiner says the candidate is not being completely honest with those groups.

Among the unions endorsing Fischer are the United Auto Workers, Boilermakers and Teamsters. Local Teamsters vice president John Stovall says he supports Fischer because the Democrat opposes privatizing city services.

“[The] City of Louisville, right now, and the school board has criteria for people being hired—criminal background checks and all that,” he says. “When you go to privatization, you take all that away. You have to take the company or the management firm that’s running that, that they hire good people—you don’t know.”

In a debate in July, Fischer said he could not categorically rule out privatization if it would save the city money. But, he also said he opposes it and would try to cut costs in other ways first. In the same debate, Heiner said privatizing some services can save money. His campaign spokesperson says Fischer is being duplicitous with unions.

Fischer also again stated his support for two bridges over the Ohio River while accepting the union endorsements. Fischer said two bridges and other construction projects will put union members to work.

“Imagine a future here in the short term, where we go from the arena to Museum Plaza, the bridges, the new VA hospital…that’s a good picture,” he said. “We can do that as we move forward. It’s about jobs.”

On Tuesday, Fischer said he supports building an east-end bridge first, then a downtown bridge years later. Heiner has said the east-end bridge must be built first, but he supports delaying or modifying the downtown bridge and reworked Spaghetti Junction to save money. Independent Jackie Green favors shelving the project while public transportation is improved.

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Local News Next Louisville

Bridges Project A Growing Issue In Mayor's Race

As the Ohio River Bridges Project moves forward, it’s becoming a larger issue in the Louisville mayor’s race.

The Bridges Authority is now figuring out how to pay for the project. Three candidates for mayor have spoken against high tolls on new bridges and any tolls on Spaghetti Junction. And, a recent poll showed the majority of Louisvillians opposed to two new bridges.

Republican Hal Heiner says that means the downtown bridge and Spaghetti Junction may need to be delayed or reconfigured to keep costs down and satisfy the public.

“It’s important to know how the citizens feel about projects and also to understand how that project would affect our economy and economic development,” he says. “Our bridges are important for economic development, but on the other hand, if tolls are two high, we effectively cut our economic region in half.”

Democratic candidate Greg Fischer says any discussion of changing the project should come after a financing plan is proposed.

“We’ll know a lot more when they come out with their funding plans here in November, December,” says Fischer. “They’re exploring all options, but some of the options are not acceptable to the community, and I think that’s what you’re hearing, including from me.”

Independent candidate Jackie Green says the poll is proof the plan should be scrapped.

“That project is on the ropes,” he says. “We need to acknowledge that the project is on the ropes and turn our vision away from the bridges project and toward public transit.”

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In-Depth News Local News Next Louisville WFPL News Department Podcast

Heiner And Fischer Trying To Lure Undecided, Crossover Voters

Two polls have been conducted in the Louisville mayor’s race. The first, a WHAS-11/Courier-Journal Bluegrass poll shows Democrat Greg Fischer and Republican Hal Heiner tied with 45% of the vote. The second, a CN-2 poll conducted ten days later, gives Fischer a seven point lead, at 40%, with about a fifth of voters undecided. The next three months will likely be a hard political fight as the candidates grapple for those undecided voters and try to pull supporters from each other. As WFPL’s Gabe Bullard reports, they’re drawing the battle lines now.

Audio MP3

Democrats outnumber Republicans in Louisville, so a Heiner victory relies on voter crossover. Both polls show a substantial number of Democrats–more than 20 percent in one survey–supporting Heiner, and the candidate seems solely focused on attracting more. Heiner frequently campaigns on issues that Fischer’s primary rivals championed. At a press conference this week, he clarified his policy on revising the Ohio River Bridges Project, which Fischer says he wants completed as soon as possible. Heiner favors building an east-end bridge first, and waiting on or revising plans for a downtown bridge and reworked Spaghetti Junction until they’re more economically feasible.

“Half the cost of the project is Spaghetti Junction, and I think that’s the first place—if someone was taking a serious engineering look at streamlining this project to re-look at,” he said. “Can we use pieces of Spaghetti Junction to significantly reduce the cost of this project?”

But Fischer isn’t content to have his own party members defect. His campaign spokesperson predicts the number of Democrats who say they will cross party lines will decrease in future surveys. To encourage them, Fischer has been reminding voters that Heiner is, in fact, a Republican–a social conservative who voted against renewing Louisville’s Fairness Ordinance after merger. He said this to Heiner at a debate in July.

“I’m concerned whether you represent that center, Hal,” he said. “You appeared a Tea Party rally alongside Rand Paul.”

“Sometimes I think those guilt by associations don’t necessarily work. Sometimes those can actually backfire. Sometimes voters can see through that,” says Dr. Dewey Clayton, a Professor of American Politics at the University of Louisville.

Clayton says such tactics may not work with voters who are more focused on local issues than state or national concerns. But he says Heiner’s attempts to make Fischer seem like a rubber stamp of longtime Mayor Jerry Abramson may not be a winning strategy, either. Clayton doesn’t attribute either candidates’ poll numbers to any particular strategy. Rather, he says Heiner’s Democratic support could come from incumbent fatigue among voters and the fact that he’s run a more active campaign than Fischer up to this point. Clayton expects the poll numbers to continue to change as both candidates distinguish themselves on certain issues. To make those distinctions clear, Clayton says they may turn to their mutual opponent…independent Jackie Green.

“Often, independents, that’s soft support, so they will try to woo supporters so on election day, they break one way or the other,” he says.

Green only garnered three percent of support in both polls, but he’s been a constant presence at forums and debates, often skewing the discussion toward his signature issues, such as transportation and the environment. Green says one his goals in the race is to influence the discourse between candidates. In that regard, Clayton says Green may be successful.

“Often times when there is a third party candidate, one of the other candidates or often both candidates will co-opt their message to pull voters.”

So while victory for Green or the other independents in the race may be a long shot, it’s possible they’ll have a key role in deciding the race come November.

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Local News Next Louisville

Heiner Unveils "Five Ideas," Discusses Bridges Project Timeline

Republican mayoral candidate Hal Heiner Tuesday unveiled what he calls “Five ideas for Louisville’s future.”

Among them is a plan to revise the city budget process. Budgets are typically built around revenue projections for the next fiscal year. Heiner says he would reduce the city’s dependency on those predictions.

“We are not going to estimate future revenues—we’re going to take current revenues and have a real-life budget just like businesses and homeowners how you put your budget together, and not try estimate what those revenues might be in the future. That budget will be capped based on current revenues,” he says.

Other ideas include: bringing new technology into Metro Government; establishing an energy research center at U of L; building a regional library in southwest Louisville; and beginning construction on an east-end bridge in the next four years.

But while the east-end bridge would ease traffic on existing bridges, Heiner says he still wants a downtown bridge to be built.

“We need a downtown bridge,” he says. “It has 130,000 vehicles a day—it was built for 80 thousand. It’s unsafe—no safety lanes. It’s a choke point. We need to figure out a way to build that through some kind of streamlining process.”

To cut the cost of the entire bridges plan, Heiner says a downtown bridge could be delayed and a planned rework of Spaghetti Junction could be adjusted. Democratic candidate Greg Fischer says he supports both bridges and wants construction to start as soon as possible. Independent Jackie Green has frequently said the entire project should be postponed while public transit is improved.

For more on the “five ideas,” visit The Edit.

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Local News Next Louisville

New Mayor's Power Over Bridges Project Will Likely Be Limited

Candidates for mayor of Louisville have expressed interest in controlling part of the Ohio River Bridges Project. But that may not be possible, as decisions about the project are made by the bi-state bridges authority.

Authority co-chair Kerry Stemler says the body will work with the new mayor to put together a timeline for construction that will affect tolls and the overall cost of the project. So calls for low tolls from Democrat Greg Fischer and Republican Hal Heiner can be heard.

Independent Jackie Green favors shelving the project to build better public transit. Stemler says that, or any other redesign, likely can’t happen at the mayor’s behest.

“This project is too big and too important for any one individual to stand in his way,” he says. “If an elected official in either state changes tomorrow or after the elections, then we’ll try our best to work with that particular individual.”

Green has proposed denying permits or services to hinder the project. Stemler says two new bridges and a reworked Spaghetti Junction will happen, and both major party candidates support the plan.

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Local News Next Louisville

Poll: Dead Heat In Mayor's Race

A new Courier-Journal/WHAS11 Bluegrass Poll has been conducted in the race for Louisville mayor.

The survey finds a statistical dead heat between Republican Hal Heiner and Democrat Greg   Fischer.

The Bluegrass Poll of 538 likely voters was conducted last Thursday through Sunday. It shows Heiner and Fischer each receiving 45 percent support. The poll has a margin of error of 4.3 percentage points.                

Three percent of the voters say they support independent candidate Jackie Green, with two percent behind fellow independent Nimbus Couzin. A third independent candidate, Jerry Mills got on the ballot Monday.

Both the Heiner and Fischer camps say they’re not surprised by the results. Heiner told the Courier-Journal it reflects his campaign’s recent polling. Fischer says his campaign has been braced for a “very competitive” race.

This is the first poll to be conducted since the May primary election.