Phillip M. Bailey

Political Editor

Phillip M. Bailey became WFPL's political editor in 2011, covering city, state and regional campaigns and elected officials. He also covers Metro Government, including the mayor's office and Metro Council. Before coming to WFPL, Phillip worked for three years as a staff writer at LEO Weekly and was a fellow at the Academy of Alternative Journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

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Politics
7:51 pm
Tue June 4, 2013

Senator Joe Donnelly Pushes U.S. Military Leaders to Better Address Sexual Assaults

U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly, D-In., joined a chorus of lawmakers on the Armed Services Committee who berated top military leaders over the rise of sexual assault in the armed forces.

In recent months, a series of reports have uncovered a spike in rape and other sexual assault cases against men and women that have been called "terrifying" and a "cancer" despite efforts to curb the problem.

Last month, a study conducted by The Pentagon showed a 35 percent increase in estimated sexual abuse incidents in 2012 compared to 2010.

Speaking at the committee hearing on Tuesday, Donnelly told military commanders they have an obligation to address stop sexual assault and to provide for the psychological needs of survivors.

"I was at the Indy 500 a week before the race, and we inducted a couple hundred men and women into the service. And I want to be able to know when I look them in the eyes, that I can keep my obligation to tell them that you can serve our country, serve with dignity, have your dignity respected, and that’s what we’re trying to do," Donnelly said.

Watch:

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Politics
4:49 pm
Tue June 4, 2013

Mayor Greg Fischer's Proposed Cuts to Arts, Homeless Grants Criticized

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer
Credit File photo

Leaders from non-profit homeless and arts agencies are criticizing Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s decision to reduce the funding levels for their external agencies.

When the Fischer administration first unveiled its $528 million spending proposal last month, the mayor's office highlighted a 21 percent increase to funding for community ministries.

It also outlined how external agencies would receive more than $1 million in grants at continued levels from last year.

Fischer's decision to fund external agencies comes from three panels made up of Metro Council members and mayoral appointees who recommend expenditures for community ministries and social service agencies.

Those recommendations are in Fischer’s budget proposal without any changes, and citizens who sit on the panels sign agreements to keep the deliberations confidential.

Natalie Harris, executive director of the Coalition of the Homeless, says the decision-making process is troubling because groups like hers cannot conference with Fischer's panels to make answer important questions.

"I definitely don’t think the process is transparent. There isn’t any way for that committee to ask questions of the groups or for them to answer any issues that might come up during the committee meetings. And there’s also not a process to go back to that committee before the announcements are made," she says.

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Politics
10:41 am
Tue June 4, 2013

Poll: Mitch McConnell Holds Edge in 2014

Mitch McConnell
Credit U.S. Senate

A new poll of Kentucky voters shows Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell with a slight edge over two potential Democratic challengers in a 2014 match-up.

The Ohio-based firm Wenzel Strategies conducted the survey and released the results on Tuesday. It gives McConnell a 7-point lead over Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is considered the top contender.

Those are very different results when compared to a Public Policy Polling survey that had McConnell and Grimes tied last week. McConnell's re-election campaign raked the PPP survey for what it called "laughable poll questions," saying it should be dismissed.

In a head-to-head contest with Grimes, Wenzel found McConnell receives 46 percent of the vote compared to 39 percent for the secretary of state, who has still not indicated whether she is running for U.S. Senate in 2014.

The same survey finds McConnell leading former Miss America Heather French Henry by just a 5-point margin, however. In that mock race, Henry, who is also mulling a possible candidacy, fairs slightly better than Grimes at 40 percent of the vote compared to 45 percent for McConnell.

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Politics
8:21 pm
Mon June 3, 2013

Louisville Metro Council Prods Mayor’s Office Over Urban Services

Several Louisville Metro Council members aren't happy with Mayor Greg Fischer for failing to restore previously cut urban services in his new budget proposal.

City chief financial officer Steve Rowland testified at a budget hearing Monday that the city is investing in key areas such as infrastructure and strategic planning.

Fischer had been praised for putting additional funds towards fixing the city's roads, for instance.

But city lawmakers grilled Rowland over why the administration is not using  a projected $3.3 million surplus to bring back two rounds of street cleaning and junk pick-up in the Urban Services District that were cut during the recession.

"It's really hard for me to understand how we continue to implement new programs and spend the taxpayer's dollars when we can't restore services that were in place before merger," says Councilwoman Mary Woolridge, D-3. "It mind boggling to think we can spend $6.4 million to upgrade side walks, roadways and especially bike lanes when we have reduced services in this city. Are we ever going to get money in this budget to restore at least one of these?"

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Politics
10:25 pm
Sat June 1, 2013

Noise and Notes: John-Mark Hack's Fight Against Frankfort's Party System

Independent John-Mark Hack

Independent John-Mark Hack is running for the state House in an uphill battle against two well-funded opponents.

The special election for the 56th District seat in central Kentucky is a contest that could be a sign if Republicans overtake the Democratic majority in next years elections.

But for Hack, this race is about constituents rejecting the special interests of both political parties.

A former Democrat, Hack worked as an aide in former Gov. Paul Patton's administration and has passion for food issues. He's also a well-known anti-gaming activist, which is one of the reasons he left the party.

Hack says he isn't a spoiler for the Democrats as GOP candidate Lyen Crews has suggested, and is honestly seeking to change Frankfort's culture.

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Politics
2:00 pm
Thu May 30, 2013

Political Ads Supporting and Against Immigration Reform Hit Kentucky

Credit Shutterstock

Dueling political advertisements regarding the Senate bill to reform the U.S. immigration system are airing across Kentucky this week.

The Democratic-controlled Senate will begin debating legislation that offers a pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally. Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the measure, which also creates new work Visa programs and seeks to tighten border security.

Louisville pastor Russell Moore is featured in the radio spot running across the state, and he is joining a bipartisan group of evangelical ministers who are calling on lawmakers to pass those comprehensive reforms.

Listen:

Moore is part of the Evangelical Immigration Table, which is launching a radio ad campaign in states such as Ohio, North Carolina and Kentucky to reach a wide audience of evangelicals. It is part of the larger “Pray for Reform” movement made up of conservative and liberal religious groups.

Moore, who is a dean at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is considered a rising voice in the Southern Baptist world. He says the broad coalition includes Sojourners, and is representative of how people of faith are being moved by the immigration debate.

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Politics
5:22 pm
Wed May 29, 2013

Neighborhood Leader Troubled by Councilman David James' Crime Crackdown in Victory Park

LMPD Major Bill Kristofeck and California neighborhood leader Michael Ballard argue about policing in Victory Park
Credit Phillip M. Bailey/WFPL

Louisville Metro Councilman David James, D-6, joined police officers on a safety walk in the Victory Park area to alert residents about increased enforcement this summer, but neighborhood leaders worry the heavier presence will result in harassment and profiling.

Metro Police knocked on doors throughout the California neighborhood on Tuesday passing out fliers about cracking down on gambling, firearms and alcohol consumption in the park.  The officers will also put a particular focus on drug sales in Victory Park, which has synonymous with a well-known street gang over the years.

Since the late 1990s, members of a group dubbed the Victory Park Crips have been involved in several high-profiled shootings and homicides in the city (here, here, and here) and are known to operate in and around the area.

James says residents are committed to taking back the park from gang members, however.

"Families that live in this area want to be able to be in the park without bad things going on in the park," he says. "They want to be in the park without people drinking in the park; they want to be in the park without people shooting dice in the park; and they want to be in the park without people selling drugs in the park. They want to be able to live in their neighborhood and in safe environment just like everybody else in this community."

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Politics
10:44 am
Wed May 29, 2013

Heather French Henry Calls for Political 'Time Out' After GOP Attack

Heather French Henry
Credit Wikipedia Commons

In a scolding blog post, former Miss America Heather French Henry calls out the Republican Party of Kentucky for calling her the latest "bottom-of-the-barrel pick" for the U.S. Senate race.

Henry is the latest rumored opponent for Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, and she recently confirmed that Democrats have approached her about running.

Others include environmental activist Tom FitzGerald, music promoter Bennie J. Smith and Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.

The news of Henry's possible candidacy has been mocked by national and state GOP leaders for the most part, but a comment from RPK spokeswoman Kelsey Cooper has upset Henry personally.

From the Lexington Herald-Leader:

"Heather French Henry is just the latest bottom-of-the-barrel pick for Kentucky Democrats in their desperate search for a 2014 Senate race savior to replace their noncommittal star, Alison Lundergan Grimes," Kelsey Cooper, a spokeswoman for the state GOP, said via email.

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Politics
12:39 pm
Tue May 28, 2013

'Kids First' Launches Radio Ad Targeting Louisville Teacher's Union Contract Deal

Credit Shutterstock.com

A new radio ad is taking aim at the Jefferson County Teachers Association ahead of its contract negotiations with the school district.

As WFPL's Devin Katayama reported earlier this week, Kids First Louisville is trying to raise awareness about the upcoming talks while criticizing the union's contract. Leaders with Kids First argue the JCTA bargain is one of the more restrictive agreements in the country and blocks needed reforms at low-performing schools.

The 60-second spot will begin airing Tuesday and run for about two weeks.

It says the city's public schools are failing children and slams "union bosses" for putting their needs ahead of students. It also focuses on comments made by Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday, who said the worst performing schools in Jefferson County were committing "academic genocide" against students.

Listen:

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Politics
8:00 am
Tue May 28, 2013

Congressman John Yarmuth: Alison Lundergan Grimes Must ‘Immediately Decide’ on Senate Bid

Ky. Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky.

Kentucky's lone Democratic congressman says he is confident the party will find an opponent to defeat Senate Republican Mitch McConnell, but adds Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes needs to make a decision.

The GOP is beginning to gloat that Democrats cannot find a suitable challenger willing to take on McConnell next year.

Grimes is considered the top contender in the field and she met with Governor Steve Beshear last week to discuss the race. But Grimes was still "wrestling" with the idea of running for Senate after sitting down with the governor.

Observers are beginning to question if the race is beyond Democrat's reach despite McConnell's unpopularity. The GOP leader has a $13.5 million head start and the political rumor mill is beginning to move on to former Miss America Heather French Henry, who is now reportedly being encouraged to run.

In an exclusive WFPL interview, Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth says Grimes needs to let whatever those plans are known before the summer or risk hurting the party.

"I do think that it is important that Alison Grimes immediately decide whether she’s running or not because there are a number of people sitting on the sidelines who would be interested I think in making a race who are waiting to find out what she does. And for her to keep prolonging this as she said possibly until the late summer I think is a disservice to the party," he says.

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