Saying neighborhood concerns come before partisan politics, Democratic Louisville Metro Councilwoman Attica Scott says she had a chance to discuss the problem of vacant and abandoned properties with Republican U.S. Senator Rand Paul recently.
Paul and Scott met at the Louisville Forum last week, where the senator was the featured speaker and addressed a number of issues.
Among the topics Paul talked about were voting rights for minorities where he said there is no evidence that African-Americans are being barred from U.S. elections more than whites.
But Scott—who is vice chair of the council’s vacant properties committee—says despite their political differences Paul is committed to keeping the lines of communication open dilapidated housing.
“I am more concerned about finding solutions to some of our most pressing infrastructure and neighborhood needs than about partisan politics,” she says. “Senator Paul and I have ideological differences on some issues, but we agree that we must be more aggressive in addressing abandoned and vacant properties which is a mutual area of concern.”
A report shows swaths of empty homes are concentrated in parts of Scott’s district, where up to 30 percent of properties are vacant. In a statement, Paul said he is interested in Scott’s perspective on how to remove those abandoned properties in west Louisville.
Since March, Paul has been making an effort to reach out to black voters in order to expand the GOP’s electoral map.
Kentucky’s junior senator was praised for making an earnest attempt to talk about the gulf between black voters and the Republican Party at Howard University, but critics argued the speech was more condescending than helpful.
Paul has been ripped on racial issues before being elected to office such as questioning the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Most recently Paul was slammed for comments made by a now former aide who once wore a Confederate flag mask and criticized America’s growing non-white majority.
Black elected leaders in Kentucky did not spare Paul any criticism over this.
Democratic State Sen. Gerald Neal told WFPL hiring the “Southern Avenger” aide revealed Paul’s views on racial matters.
Others prefer to focus on practical legislative issues, however. And they point out that Paul is a leading voice on changing federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws, which disproportionately effect blacks.
It appears partnerships with local black leaders are being formed at the grassroots level despite national controversies.
“One of the things I liked about what Senator Paul said is we cannot agree on everything, but if we can focus on those things we can agree on we would get a lot more leverage,” says Markham French, executive director of the Plymouth Community Renewal Center who has met with Paul. “I take the Voting Rights Act very seriously and I don’t agree with the Confederate flag, but all I know is he’s being holding mobile office hours at Plymouth and that’s been helpful.”