Politics
2:00 pm
Tue August 20, 2013

Councilman Brent Ackerson Promises to Introduce 'Major Reforms' to Discretionary Spending

Councilman Brent Ackerson, D-26
Credit Louisville Metro Council

A Louisville Metro Council committee is set to review a series of so-called "sweeping changes" covering discretionary spending introduced by city Republicans, but one Democrat argues they don't go far enough.

The council GOP outlined a number of amendments to the neighborhood and capital accounts last week to funds that lawmakers receive annually.

Among the more drastic changes are putting a $15,000 cap on the $75,000 neighborhood funds that go towards non-profit groups.

Republicans argue those taxpayer funds would be better spent towards infrastructure needs, but Democrats say their poorer district rely on social service and other groups programming.

Other proposed changes would  tighten the definition of family members prohibited from benefiting from taxpayer-funded programs and bar the use of discretionary funds for constituent meals, cash incentives and employee bonuses.

But Democratic Councilman Brent Ackerson compared those reforms to "putting lipstick on a pig," in an effort to grab headlines in the wake of the Barbara Shanklin expulsion trial.

"Everyone’s talking about the need for sweeping reforms and if we’re going to do sweeping reforms then let’s do some real ones not just some little feel good, rah-rah put the (public) back at ease when we’re really not doing anything," he says. "If this were a car engine we’re talking about a complete tune-up and overhaul. And what I’ve heard from a number of other folks, I call it an oil change and a kick in the tires."

Ackerson was one of seven members who voted to keep Shanklin on the council, but he says he plans to unveil changes that will upset council members on both sides of the aisle.

"I will be looking for a number of major reforms to bring about, and some of those aren't going to make my colleagues happy," says Ackerson. "But at the end of the day we've got to recognize business has to change. We've got to start doing a better job of monitoring funds and choices of what we spend on."

The District 26 councilman declined to share those changes with WFPL, but he could release them at the Government Accountability and Ethics Committee meeting Tuesday afternoon, which is where lawmakers will discuss the GOP proposals.

Asked about Ackerson's possible reforms, Republican Councilman Jerry Miller says he would like tighter controls but is skeptical given that Democrats—namely Ackerson—have often sought to water down those efforts in years past.

"I heard that he called this 'lipstick on a pig.' Well, it’s your pig so we’re just trying to make it look as good as possible," he says. "But if indeed Councilman Ackerson thinks that this doesn’t go far enough I welcome his proposals. We have seen none of his proposals at this point."

Miller says he met with Democratic Councilman David Yates on Monday, and that the two agree on many aspects of discretionary spending reforms.

The government accountability panel is set to begin 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.

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