Top ranking members of the Louisville Metro Council remember the past year as one marred by shootings and death.
The city’s homicide tally is at a record high and police are reporting some 500 shootings, the highest count since at least 2011, city data show. The grim statistics dominated headlines and led to some lengthy and, at times, contentious council discussions about policing best practices and how to allocate city funds.
Tamping down crime will likely remain at the top of the council’s agenda in the year ahead, as well, said council president David Yates.
“I want to make sure that we’ve done everything we can to see that we’ve reduced violent crime in this city,” he said in a phone interview this week.
Gauging this effort, Yates said, will come early in 2017 when leaders in the city’s office of safe and healthy neighborhoods are due to report back to the council on headway made by programs and initiatives funded through the city’s budget surplus spending plan.
Police officials will also be reporting on the impacts of a recent reorganization that disbanded division level flex platoons and led to criticism from some council members in neighborhoods beset by crime.
Addressing crime may also come from more indirect avenues, Yates said.
One priority for the council in 2017 will be to address deferred maintenance on city owned buildings and, for some, police headquarters is at the top of the list.
“We need to make sure that (police) are in a place they can do the job well,” Yates said.
Councilman Bill Hollander, chair of the council’s majority Democratic caucus, said the year’s “public safety crisis” led to funds being directed away from some deferred maintenance projects, including the police department headquarters.
“That’s something that’s going to have to be faced,” he said.
Meanwhile, councilman Kevin Kramer, chair of the council’s minority Republican caucus, questioned if the police headquarters should be chief concern among the council.
He recognized the murder count is unquestionably the year’s biggest story and he praised the council’s effort to support the police department during the year’s budget adjustment. But he’s not sold just yet on the need to pour funding into a new or revamped department headquarters.
“When we looked at the deferred maintenance over the summer that wasn’t very high on the list,” he said. “I thought it was interesting it hopped up to the top of the list.”
Kramer said local government is responsible for taking care of city owned property and there are needs across Louisville.
Unkempt grass along roads and in parks and buildings riddled with graffiti set “a bad example” to residents about acceptable property upkeep, he said.
“We need to do a better job,” said Kramer.
Property Maintenance and Public Safety
Hollander said the coming year will bring a renewed focus on property maintenance in Louisville.
“Neighbors are being forced to put up with properties that are not being properly maintained,” he said. “Which can really cause a neighborhood to decline.”
He pointed to a recently enacted rental registry and a reworked code enforcement board as elements which will lead to issues being remedied more quickly.
“Many council members think it just takes too long to get things fixed,” he said. “There will be a continuing effort on that.”
Yates, the council president, said property maintenance is tied to public safety.
In early 2016, he reinstated an ad hoc committee on vacant properties as a way to re-energize efforts to quell the city’s struggle with vacant and abandoned properties.
But by the end of the year, the five-member committee had convened for two of it’s 11 scheduled meetings. Committee chair Brent Ackerson, a District 26 Democrat, said in July after being asked about the pattern of cancelled meetings that there was little interest in vacant properties.
Yates said this week he’s unsure if the ad hoc committee will continue or perhaps have its tasks folded in to another committee. He stressed the need to reduce vacant or abandoned properties is great.
He said if people are forced to live in deplorable conditions, it’s tough to find optimism.
“Everything is inter-related,” he said.