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Brightside, GOP Leaders Clear Air Over Budget Memo

Leaders with Louisville Metro Government’s Brightside and Metro Council Republicans have made peace after disagreeing over a WFPL news story that had the quasi-government agency reeling over possible funding cuts.

A memorandum drafted by GOP members outlined their spending priorities for the city budget. The minority caucus recommended making cuts to any area which they listed as “non-mission critical” to city services. It lists Brightside as one of those areas that is “not mission critical” if cuts are necessary.

Rather than making equal cuts across the board, Republican Caucus Director Steve Haag says GOP members advocate for heavier cuts in areas that do not relate to public safety.

“We need to look at programs and functions that essentially if their funding is reduced or diminished, it will not be detrimental to our main goal of Metro Government which is the safety and protection of our citizens,” he says.

In a response to concerns from Brightside Director Michael Seebert, however, Republican caucus leaders said the memo does not advocate for any cuts to the beautification initiative.

“Partnering with successful entities like Waterfront Development and Brightside will move us forward faster than we can alone,” the letter reads.

Republican Caucus Chair Ken Fleming, R-7, was reached by telephone, but declined to comment because he was on vacation and Vice Chair Kevin Kramer, R-11, could not be reached for comment.

Haag says the purpose of the memo was to qualify the minority caucus’s approach to budget cuts and that Brightside misunderstood the information reported by WFPL.

“It was a perception, it wasn’t a correct perception, so basically we went and corrected that, quickly,” he says. “I don’t think there was any fault with the way it was reported, some people read it one way…and it was written correctly, it just wasn’t understood the way it was written, I guess.”

“We sent a letter to Brightside and I think everybody’s okay now and understands where everybody stands.”

You can read the GOP spending priorities and correspondence here:
MinorityCaucus_Letters_FY12Priorities

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Ethics Workgroup Begins Regular Meetings This Week

A member of the Louisville Metro Council says a revised ethics ordinance could come up for a vote before the end of the year.

To reconcile two partisan proposals to revise Metro Government’s ethics code, the council has established a bipartisan ethics workgroup. The group will meet every Monday starting this week to consult with experts and discuss the differences in the two pieces of legislation.

Republican member Kevin Kramer says he expects the group to complete its work in about a month.

“My sincerest hope is that we will be able to present something to the Accountability Committee in time for them to vote it out to get it on the agenda for the last council meeting of the year,” he says.

Kramer says he’d like to see the legislation pass this year, as council committees will be re-arranged in January.

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Metro Tip Line Opens Thursday

An ethics tip line for reporting alleged wrongdoing in Metro Government goes online tomorrow Thursday.

The toll-free line is operated by a third party, which maintains anonymity and files regular reports to Metro Government.

The tip line cost about 25 thousand dollars to set up and will cost about 20 thousand dollars each year to maintain. It’s the result of one of the two reform ordinances passed by the Metro Council in April. The other was e-transparency legislation to put city documents and spending reports online.

Metro Councilman Kevin Kramer sponsored the tip line legislation. He says Mayor Jerry Abramson’s office fought him on the ordinance at first.

“We were told by the administration that this really wasn’t necessary,” says Kramer. “We insisted on moving forward with it, pointed out the problems with the opportunities that supposedly people could’ve called in the information and pointed to times when the tip line would’ve been effective.”

Kramer says his next goal is to pass a revised ethics code for government employees.

“We still need to do some work, truthfully, on the ethics ordinance itself so that the public is more aware of what the expectation is of those who are elected and those who work for city government,” he says.

Republican Metro Councilman Ken Fleming is currently working on an ethics ordinance.

The tip line’s number is 1-888-226-2264.

Previously on WFPL: Group starts alternative tip line

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Tip Line Ordinance In Committee

The Louisville Metro Council’s Oversight Committee will review legislation next week that would create a government employee tip line.

The ordinance calls for the creation of a phone line to report malfeasance.

A similar effort faced criticism from the Mayor’s office because of the potential for frivolous calls and concerns over the protection of callers’ anonymity. Ordinance sponsor Kevin Kramer says hiring a third party to manage the line eliminates those problems.

“We’ve talked to 20-plus cities who have tip lines. Many of them, or most of them, with third party tip lines. And that’s one of the first questions we ask them is, ‘Do you get a lot of bogus phone calls, people complaining about some violation that’s not legitimate?’ And overwhelmingly the answers come back that no, that’s not been a big deal.”

A spokesperson for the mayor’s office says the administration supports the establishment of a tip line. It’s expected to cost about $10,000 per year.

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Councilman Kramer To Organize Block Watch

The Louisville Metro Police Department and Metro Councilman Kevin Kramer are organizing a citizen’s crime prevention program in the Hikes Point area.

On Tuesday night, Kramer and LMPD officials will hold a public meeting to ask for volunteers to join a Hikes Point block watch.

Kramer says the meeting is a response to complaints about crime and other disruptions in the area.

“It was coming from loitering, littering, loud music, those kinds of things. Although, in terms of crime, that doesn’t sound like ‘Oh my gosh this is a huge problem,’ but the loitering was actually literally in the middle of the street,” he says.

Kramer says block watch programs have been successful in preventing crimes in other neighborhoods.