Politics
1:01 pm
Wed May 30, 2012

Louisville Innovative Delivery Team to Tackle Urban Problems

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has put together a special team that will take on five urban challenges.

The projects range from to expanding recycling and reducing the number of low-severity 911 calls to implementing a more efficient rezoning process. Fischer announced a six-member "Innovation Delivery Team" will deal with the five goals, which will be funded by a $4.8 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies that the city received last year.

Fischer says the hope is to bring breakthrough ideas to Metro Government, such as new ways to reduce the number of vacant and abandoned properties.

"We’re soon going to take legal action to foreclose on 100 of the most market desirable properties. Once the city acquires these properties, they’re going to be converted to productive use by putting them into the hands of people who will improve and restore them," he says. "So the goal with this project is to reduce the number of abandoned properties by 40 percent within three years and 67 percent in five years."

About 100 U.S. cities applied for the philanthropic funding, and Louisville was among the five cities selected along with Chicago, Atlanta, New Orleans and Memphis. The Bloomberg grant is being doled out to the city over three years and Metro Government has to match the funding with $1.6 million.

Fischer had dedicated much of his 2012-13 budget plan to the Bloomberg programs, such as $90,000 to hire a nurse to reduce the number of non-emergency ambulance runs by 30 percent and $400,000 to increasing recycling by 25 percent over the next three years.

The five projects were identified and shaped over the last few weeks and started with city department directors, who proposed ideas for the team to focus on. The mayor was presented with more than 40 ideas, which were prioritized based on their effect on the community.

"There was a lot of competition for those," says Fischer. "Imagine if you’re a chief or a director in the city and you have an opportunity for a group of experts to come and study what your challenge is, a challenge that you’ve identified and you’ve been trying to make progress on for the last several years and they’re going to help you take care of business."

The Innovation Delivery Team projects are:

  • Make Louisville more “green” by increasing recycling and diverting solid waste from the city landfill – Through expanded city recycling services, new ordinances and increased public awareness this project will target a long-term increase in both residential and commercial recycling while also reducing the amount of bulk waste going into the landfill. One of the first action steps will be to distribute larger, 95-gallon recycling carts on two selected routes in the Urban Services District. Selling material to recyclers is better financially than paying to dump it at the landfill, with the added benefit of a more sustainable future. Goal: increase recycling 25 percent within three years and divert 90 percent of solid waste from the landfill in 30 years.
  • Reducing the number of low severity medical 911 calls and related EMS runs – Thousands of calls yearly to 911 and resulting EMS runs involve situations that are not medically severe. This has the potential to divert resources away from medical emergencies and is a costly burden to the city’s emergency response system. Louisville is already a leader in the nation by being the first U.S. city to adopt PSIAM – a system that triages low-severity 911 calls to more appropriate forms of care than emergency rooms. The project calls for expanding PSIAM triage capacity, providing an alternative phone number to 911 for low-severity patients, helping match recidivist low-severity 911 callers with more sustainable sources of patient care, and providing a means of alternate transport to decrease non-emergency ambulance usage. Goal: eliminate or redirect 30 percent of low-severity medical 911 calls within three years.
  • Reducing the number of vacant/abandoned properties – The more than 1,200 vacant and abandoned properties in Louisville negatively impact property values and create public safety and health issues. To quickly impact the problem, legal action will be taken to foreclose on 100 of the most market-desirable properties, followed by 200 additional properties within the next two years. Once the city acquires the properties, they will be converted to productive use by putting the properties into the hands of persons who will improve and restore them, creating urban gardens or urban forests, etc. Other action steps will include helping connect at-risk property owners with existing resources. Goal: reduce the number of abandoned properties by 40 percent within three years, 67 percent in five years.
  • Increasing Metro Animal Services live release rate of healthy, adoptable animals – The rising homeless pet population creates a huge challenge for Animal Services, which receives more than 12,000 animals yearly. Through greater use of technology and stronger partnerships with vets and advocacy and rescue groups, the number of pets coming into Animal Services will be reduced while pets being returned to owners and adopted by new owners will increase. Goal: increase the live placement rate to the national “best practices” standard of 90 percent within five years.
  • Implementing a friendlier, faster, more efficient rezoning process – The current process takes too long and is not customer friendly, hampering new businesses from starting up and making it difficult for residents to fully participate in neighborhood and community development. Action steps will include creating a “fast track” system to speed simple rezoning cases, improving public notice of rezoning cases and increased use of technology – such as allowing citizens to submit and pay for zoning applications online. Goal: reduce the average time to complete rezoning while also raising customer satisfaction.

The team will be led by Director Margaret Handmaker.