In a unanimous vote, Louisville Metro Councilman Jim King has been re-elected to a third consecutive term as council president.
The council held its organizational meeting Monday, and elected King to the one-year term. He has been council president since 2011, and also served in the position in 2008.
No other member has been council president as long or as often
Among the accomplishments that King’s supporters point to is his leadership in helping the council close a $20 million budget shortfall and overriding a mayoral veto for the first time in council history.
King says the body faces a number of challenges in 2013, and lawmakers need to be united in order to accomplish their goals and remain relevant in city government.
“And don’t we want our council to be respected and seen as relevant? I know one thing. We can’t be relevant if we are divided or if we are seen as parochial. I happen to know that we are much more relevant when we function in a unified way,” he says.
Council Republicans said they were disappointed in King’s leaders in terms of committee assignments last year. And other GOP observers have voiced frustration with chamber rule changes pushed by Democrats to limit floor debates.
But Republican Caucus Chairman Ken Fleming, who was critical of King’s leadership, says the council president has room to improve and has made the effort to be fair to all council members.
“I think Jim knows there has been partisanship, divisiveness in the past year and I know he’s put forth some effort to try and pull things together,” he says. “I know there’s some sincerity and some humility with Jim King to make sure this comes together. I can’t say nothing won’t come up again, but I know he’ll try to find some common solution.”
Among the issues King wants the council to address this year are reopening Kentucky Kingdom and reducing the number of vacant properties in west Louisville.
But King says lawmakers will have to prioritize spending, particularly paving the city’s streets in this year’s budget hearings.
“I was asked (about) some of our priorities, and I talked about paving our streets. And I talked about the fact that in lean budget times sometimes paving your streets isn’t essential. But I believe we have come to the point where paving our streets in this city is now essential,” he says.
Leaders in both parties have complained the city’s roads funding has diminished and the poor condition of many of Louisville’s streets has become a top issue for city lawmakers.
“Over a period of years we have built many things without putting aside the money to maintain those many things,” says Democratic Caucus Chairman David James. “We have parks, roads, buildings, bridges and sidewalks that are not maintained. Are we going to have to set aside bond money to take care of our infrastructure? We may have to, and I think we should do that.”
The council also elected Stephen Ott as its new clerk. He will be the first male council clerk in Metro Government history, and replaces longtime Metro Council Clerk Kathy Herron, who is retiring.