Local News Noise & Notes Politics

More Council Members Volunteer for Week-Long Furlough

More members of the Louisville Metro Council are answering a call to participate in Mayor Greg Fischer’s week-long furlough program to help fill the city’s budget shortfall.

Last week, Council President Jim King, D-10, asked fellow members and their staffs to join the voluntary program for all Metro employees making less than $70,000 annually. The cost-saving measure is mandatory for non-union employees above that threshold.

Councilman David James, D-6, was the first to step forward publicly, saying the city’s deficit is a chance for elected officials to make sacrifices in order to avoid layoffs and cuts to city services. Since then council members Barbara Shanklin, D-2, Tina Ward-Pugh, D-9, Vicki Aubrey Welch, D-13, Rick Blackwell, D-12, and David Yates, D-25, have said they will participate as well.

However, those council members differ on whether their legislative aides will also take part in the week-long furlough.

The program would save the city $816 per council member if they reimburse Metro Government for the unpaid days.

Thus far, no council Republicans have publicly said they will volunteer for the mayor’s furlough program, but their caucus spokesman has said GOP members support the plan.

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Whiskey Row Ordinance Deemed Emergency

Members of the Louisville Metro Council have introduced an emergency ordinance to spend $1.5 million to salvage the historic Whiskey Row buildings and are considering suspending council rules to allow a vote Thursday.

The sponsors of the bill say Mayor Greg Fischer has promised a memorandum of understanding to explain the deal before voting, but some city lawmakers worry the council is rushing to pass a bill before seeing any details of the development agreement first.

Minutes before Fischer announced a plan to save the 19th Century buildings, the mayor’s office sought bipartisan support for the legislation, but balked when asked to show specifics of the contract.

Councilman Glen Stuckel, R-17, says the Fischer administration would not share any contents of the deal made between Metro Government, businessman Todd Blue and a group of local investors, who have agreed to purchase four of the seven buildings for $4.8 million.

“The details are pretty important,” says Stuckel. “The word I got from the mayor’s office was that I would probably be able to see the ordinance on Thursday morning. They’d have it ready by then. And I asked if it would contain the details and they said, ‘well, pretty much the details are what’s printed in the paper’ and I said I’d like to read it first.”

Local News Next Louisville

$4.8 Million Deal Will Save Whiskey Row Buildings

A deal has been made to save the Whiskey Row buildings in downtown Louisville.

Through a previous agreement between Mayor Greg Fischer and owner Todd Blue, the seven buildings were slated to be demolished to make room for a parking lot, then a new development. Preservationists fought to salvage the buildings, and Metro Government then sought investors to buy them from Blue.

Those investors have been found in a team organized by the Downtown Development Corporation. Developers of the 21C Museum-Hotel Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown, along with several anonymous investors will purchase four of the buildings for $4.8 million. Blue will donate an additional building and retain two for himself.

Wilson says he’s not sure what the buildings will be used for, but five will remain standing.

“We have 60 days to close and we’ll begin studying right away,” he says. “The first task at hand is stabilizing the building and once we feel comfortable about that, we’ll turn our attention to the purposes and uses of the buildings.”

The facades of the two buildings Blue will keep will remain standing, and Blue plans to build a new development behind them. He will also receive an adjoining parking lot for one dollar.

Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Council Members Call LG&E Franchise Agreement Unfair

Across party lines, members of the Louisville Metro Council say a plan championed by Mayor Greg Fischer that proposes an increased fee for Louisville Gas & Electric Co. customers is unfair.

The plan is part of the city’s new franchise agreement with the utility company, which hasn’t been renewed since 2003. If approved, the fee would cost natural gas users about $1.50 each month, but would generate $5.4 million in new revenue for the city.

Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh, D-9, who sits on the budget committee, says the city needs to raise more revenue to pay for urban services and fill the city’s $22 million shortfall. However, the plan proposed by the mayor is unfair to the majority of residents, she says.

“It only affects people in the urban services district and the formerly unincorporated areas of Jefferson County,” Ward-Pugh says. “And until the administration can bring me a proposal that effects us all equally, I can’t support it and the majority of the Metro Council can’t support it either.”

Local News Next Louisville Politics

Ward-Pugh Wants More Women in Public Office

Reacting to the death of former U.S. Vice Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, a Louisville lawmaker says more should be done to bridge the gender gap locally.

Only 15 percent of the Kentucky General Assembly is female. The national average is 24 percent. And the commonwealth is among 19 states without a single female member of Congress.

Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh is dissatisfied with the lack of women in Metro government, which is falling behind other cities, she says.

“There’s no question though that there needs to be a more reflective representation of our community and that would include a great deal more number of women in service,” says Ward-Pugh. “I think that just as we focus on ensuring there’s racial equality, perhaps we should look at gender equality.”

There are eight women in the Democratic caucus on the council. Since former council members Julie Raque Adams and Ellen Call left in 2009, the GOP caucus has been uniformly white and male.

Since merger, only one woman has served as Metro Council President. There has never been a female mayor in the city’s history. But overcoming those barriers will require women to find their voice and see running for office as a necessity, says Ward-Pugh.

“Some of the barriers have to do with women growing up–whether they’re Girl Scouts or Girl’s Club or debate team or athletes–girls and women need to grow up believing that they should be and they have a responsibility to be engaged in the political debate in this country,” she says.

Local News

Program Will Distribute Vitamins To KY Guard

Louisville Metro Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh is leading an effort to distribute vitamins to all 8,000 members of the Kentucky National Guard.

It’s called “Operation Vital Nutrients.”

Ward-Pugh says the program is being launched in conjunction with the National Foundation for Women Legislators, which wants to extend the effort to all 50 states.

The vitamins come from a non-profit organization called Nourish America, headed by Michael Morton.

“The guard is deployed into harm’s way in the service of our nation to protect us and our priveliges and our freedom, but they don’t always have the same degree of training that other troops in the other armed services do. Yet they show up, they make a volunatary choice to step up and serve,” Morton said.

Morton says each Guard soldier will receive a year’s supply of multi-vitamins.