Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Council Members Defend, React to Parker’s Surprise Victory

Louisville Metro Council members are having mixed reactions to Tea Party candidate Marilyn Parker defeating Republican incumbent Jon Ackerson in the District 18 primary race.

Earlier this year, a majority of GOP council members backed Parker over Ackerson after claiming the one-term city lawmaker too often sided with Democrats in key debates. On the council, Ackerson was considered a bipartisan member willing to work with both parties and was favored to win the contests.

But Parker worked the neighborhoods diligently and was able to oust Ackerson from office by a razor-thin margin of 37 votes in the east Louisville district.

Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh, D-9, says she doesn’t want to dismiss Parker and wants to welcome more women to the council, but that Parker’s controversial remarks over the years and Tea Party affiliation raise questions.

“Her cohorts around this town and around the country haven’t in my opinion shown their willingness to work across the aisle and not work in absolutism, in my way or no way,” she says. “So unfortunately she probably has that baggage coming in with her.”

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Scott Questions Fischer’s Camping Ban Ordinance

Metro Councilwoman Attica Woodson Scott, D-1, is concerned about an ordinance being proposed by Mayor Greg Fischer that would ban overnight camping in response to the Occupy Louisville protest.

Last month, the city ousted protestors from Founder’s Square in downtown without incident. But because the space is not considered an official Metro Park, there is no law prohibiting overnight camping that created a legal tug-of-ware between the Fischer administration and activists.

The mayor says demonstrators exposed a loophole in city law, and he wants to change that citing public safety, health concerns and property damage caused by activists. It would ban camping in green and open areas smaller than three acres.

Scott says Metro Government is trying to shut down voices that make it uncomfortable, adding city leaders should be trying to understand the message of Occupy Louisville instead of building up walls of division.

“I’m not interested in taking away the opportunity for our constituents to publicly demonstrate, whether it’s in a large or small park. I believe it’s one of the few means that they have of really bringing to light and to attention some of the issues that we often overlook such as poverty, homelessness, housing and education inequity,” she says.

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Ackerson Rips Council GOP for ‘Litmus Tests’

Calling them “juvenile” and “petty”, Louisville Metro Councilman Jon Ackerson, R-18, is lashing out at his Republican colleagues for endorsing a Tea Party challenger in the upcoming GOP primary.

Six of the eight remaining Republican councilmen publicly support Marilyn Parker over Ackerson and have alleged he sided with Democrats on several issues after receiving preferential treatment during redistricting. Both Ackerson and Democratic leaders deny the allegation, but Republican Caucus Chairman Ken Fleming, R-7 told WFPL Ackerson can’t be trusted with fulfilling the party’s agenda.

Ackerson says he has been a lifelong Republican, but the partisanship that has created gridlock in Washington and Frankfort is now in the council.

“Ken Fleming, our leader here in Jefferson County wants a radical right Tea Party person to serve rather than someone that’s willing to work with not only Republicans but with Democrats on issues of common concern,” he says.

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Council GOP Divided Over Parker Endorsement

Louisville Metro Council members’ endorsement of candidate Marilyn Parker over incumbent Jon Ackerson, R-18, in this year’s primary has created a rift in the caucus, but GOP staffers are downplaying the division.

Six of the eight remaining Republican members have publicly supported Parker, a former congressional candidate and Tea Party activist who has flirted with controversial issues in the past.

Several GOP members have alleged Ackerson has undermined their agenda over the past four years. Only councilmen James Peden, R-23, and Stuart Benson, R-20, are not backing Parker.

Minority Caucus Director Stephen Haag says council Republicans will remain professional and focused on serving their constituents, despite the endorsement.

“The Metro Council is used to having people on both political sides and divisions and discussions with people who have differences in opinion on political issues. I’m hopeful that we will not have any problems within the caucus or on the council related to the upcoming election, whether it’s primary or general,” he says.

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Council Members Question Whether Donor Pulls Strings in Fischer Administration

The caucus leaders of the Louisville Metro Council have asked Mayor Greg Fischer to clarify the role of high-profile contributor Tommy Elliott in making mayoral appointments. And some city lawmakers could also request Elliott testify before the government accountability committee next year.

Elliott donated $2,000 to Fischer’s election campaign last year and also served as co-chair of his inauguration committee. And though the Old National Bank Senior Vice President and Kentucky Retirement Systems board member is not part of the Fischer administration, a Metro employee or a city consultant, the mayor calls Elliott an adviser on matters such as re-opening the Kentucky Kingdom amusement park.

In a May 19 memo, council members Kelly Downard, R-16, and Ken Fleming, R-7, inquired about appointments to local fire boards. The initial message was also sent to Elliott because potential appointees said he was the administration’s contact person for appointments and was deciding who would receive nominations.

A June 8 memo sent to the mayor’s office signed by Fleming and Councilwoman Madonna Flood, D-24, requested a comprehensive list of all mayoral appointees made since Fischer took office. The message also addressed Elliott’s role in the decision-making process and asked that he testify before the appropriate committee.

“While we appreciate the work that Rhonda Williams has done in presenting mayoral appointees to the Metro Council, it is our understanding that Tommy Elliott is actually leading the appoint process on your behalf,” Fleming and Flood wrote. “If that is accurate, we believe Mr. Elliott is the individual who should be present at the Contracts and Appointments Committee meetings to discuss appointments and answer any questions from the committee members.”

Fleming says council members have taken a renewed interest in Elliot’s role in the administration, particularly after it was revealed that the Louisville banker helped funnel funds meant for Fischer’s inauguration to help repay the mayor’s personal debt to the campaign.

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

City Lawmakers React to U of L Study Criticizing Merger

The Louisville Metro Council is reacting to a University of Louisville report on merger that found key promises of city and county government consolidation failed.

The study says merger did not result in job growth and cost efficient government services as proponents assured the consolidation would bring. It also draws attention to a number of other issues, such as paying more for fewer Metro employees, poor road maintenance and the lack of adequate accounting in the old city limits.

The study’s author says merger wasn’t worth the cost, but among the recommendations the city can take into account to improve services are decentralizing and operating more on a bottom-up model.

“We had a compact and we had a selective unification of services where they were needed. We also had tax sharing between the central city and county,” says UofL professor Hank Savitch, who conducted the study. “What merger did was to homogenize every service and rigidify the bureaucracy. It’s over 35 miles from one end of the county to the other. That’s the distance between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., and to assume that you can have one service for each function covering that area and operating efficiently is unrealistic.”

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Woolridge Proposes Special Elections to Fill Council Vacancies

Louisville Metro Councilwoman Mary Woolridge, D-3, has introduced a resolution that would allow direct elections to fill council vacancies.

Under current state law, the council selects replacements by a majority vote if a city lawmaker dies, resigns or is removed from office. The appointee must then run in the next election in order to finish out the remainder of the term.

Councilman Ken Fleming, R-7, has also introduced a package of resolutions asking state lawmakers to change merger law.

He says the voters have a better understanding of the district and that council members are uncomfortable with the idea of appointing a fellow member.

“And even though the council goes through its due diligence in terms of interviewing the candidates and doing some general questions for qualifications, I think it’s more of a prudent process to have the citizens within that district to elect that individual,” he says.

Local News

Rubbertown Company Fined for Pollution Violations, Secretary of State Announces Breast Cancer Diagnosis, Ken Fleming Calls for Term Limits, $37 Million Retirement Pay for Gannett CEO Criticized: Afternoon Review

  • An aluminum company in Louisville’s Rubbertown neighborhood has agreed to a settlement with Metro Government in response to several alleged record-keeping and pollution violations. The proposed agreement fines Eckart America $668,250, and sets up a plan to help the company come into compliance with its permit.
  • Kentucky Secretary of State Elaine Walker announced she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Walker was diagnosed during a routine mammogram last week, where she learned after follow-up tests that the tumor was cancerous.
  • Louisville Metro Councilman Ken Fleming, R-7, has drafted a resolution asking the General Assembly to reduce the number of consecutive terms the mayor can serve from three to two, and limit city lawmakers to three terms.
  • Critics say Gannett CEO Craig Dubow‘s $37.1 million in retirement and disability pay is excessive, since Dubow oversaw roughly 20,000 layoffs at Gannett media outlets, including the Courier-Journal. Dubow is stepping down due to medical issues.
Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Fleming Proposes Resolution Seeking Term Limits, Nonpartisan Races

Louisville Metro Councilman Ken Fleming, R-7, has drafted a resolution asking the General Assembly to amend several parts of the merger law that created Metro Government.

The non-binding measure calls for terms limits for the mayor and council members, as well as nonpartisan elections. The change would reduce the number of consecutive terms the mayor can serve from three to two, and limit city lawmakers to three terms.

The resolution also asks the legislature to clarify the mayoral line of succession, give the council an additional two weeks to review the budget and require the mayor to include alternative plans during shortfalls.

Fleming says it’s important council members have this debate now before state lawmakers convene in January.

“I’m really looking forward to a good, healthy discussion from a higher level perspective because there is really pros and cons to having term limits or not having term limits in terms of holding on to institutional knowledge or trying to find new, fresh blood to come in,” he says.

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Lawmakers Question Mayoral Fund

Leaders of the Louisville Metro Council are voicing concern about purchases made from a discretionary fund by Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Jerry Abramson during his tenure as mayor.

Council members have suggested a number of possible actions regarding the mayoral fund, from tighter restrictions on the current administration, calling Abramson to testify before the Government Accountability and Ethics committee and contacting state Auditor Crit Luallen to examine the account.

Each year council members approved a $41,000 account that the mayor could access, but city records show many expenditures made by the Abramson administration lacked any invoices or receipts.

Several procurements went to innocuous charitable organizations, however, other purchases include: $3,400 at an upscale steakhouse in Washington, D.C. for “Louisville business leaders”; $7,500 to Insight Media for “census outreach”; and another $2,378 to the Baltimore-based Cordish Cos., developer of Fourth Street Live, for a football game celebration.

The funds were spent without any internal review or approval from lawmakers, and no receipts were turned in for several purchases, though that is not required. Council President Jim King, D-10, says the city auditor needs to examine the fund and report back to the council.

“The council is responsible for appropriating taxpayer dollars and if we give a fund to the executive branch to spend we do expect it to be spent wisely and to be documented,”  he says. “I certainly think the council would have appreciated a report from internal audit to the extent documentation was not there.”