Tue June 3, 2014
Louisville Residents Slam Mayor’s LG&E Fee
A review of the city’s information hotline and e-mails to the Metro Council found an overwhelming majority of Louisville residents are in opposition the Mayor Greg Fischer’s proposed LG&E fee hike.
City lawmakers are scheduled to vote Thursday on an ordinance that would attach to Metro Government's deal with the utility company a 3 percent increase on natural gas. This would trickle down to residents in Metro Louisville, but not incorporated cities.
Fischer said the increase is needed in order strengthen public safety coffers in the wake of a rash of downtown teen violence in March.
Records of calls to the city's information hotline show dozens of citizens oppose the idea, according to a review of documents obtained by WFPL.
Many who called Metro 311 complained of being disabled or elderly, adding they're unable to afford their utility costs. Others said the mayor needs to make cuts elsewhere. One person suggested the mayor "stop slapping people on the wrist and start enforcing the law."
Anthony Sullivan, of the Kenwood Hill neighborhood, contacted Councilman Dan Johnson to voice his opposition to the gas fee. Sullivan said the general sentiment in his area is "overwhelmingly negative."
"There are better ways we could raise funds to boost security downtown without putting a burden on the citizens and businesses in Louisville," Sullivan said. "We don't need an additional burden when this money could be raised elsewhere. I haven't had a single person speak positively on it."
Chris Poynter, a Fischer spokesman, said the feedback from the community was mixed. He declined to provide responses favoring the measure.
Council members reported being inundated with calls and e-mails from residents who said they are fed up with higher household costs.
Some lawmakers received well over 500 messages, with only a handful in support of the LG&E fee, said Councilwoman Marilyn Parker, R-18, who sits on the budget committee.
"They want government to live within in a budget just like they’ve had to do," she said. "And their budgets have been diminished. They want their government to be representative of the people and that’s why we’re getting so many e-mails."
Parker told WFPL she is considering an amendment to the ordinance for a 1 percent cut across to the city budget in order to pay for the mayor's new public safety plans.
The Fischer administration said the fee would result in just a $20 per year increase for the average customer and part of the additional revenue will go towards low-income heating assistance.
One resident, a retiree who said he subsists on a fixed income, said any fee hike decreases his bottom line.
"I think by the time it's got to this point it's a done deal and unfortunately Fischer holds sway in the council," Paul Brown, a High View resident, told WFPL.
Louisville artist Brook White owns Flame Run, a hot glass studio that relies heavily on natural gas. Using two high-powered furnaces, White's business—which makes everything from Christmas adornments to chandeliers—has an average $3,000 gas bill each month.
He estimated that the mayor's proposal will cost his business an additional $1,000 per year.
"It's going to be an added expense on a downtown tourist attraction and something that's very unique for the city," White said. "I hope that it's not going to put us out of business, but a thousand dollars a year hat pays for my staff and half a utility bill for me per month."
It isn't clear if public sentiment will sway Thursday's vote. White noted that he contacted staffers for several council Democrats, including President Jim King and David Tandy, who represents his business' area.
"I have not received any calls back," he said.
The city's chamber of commerce, Greater Louisville Inc., also came out against Fischer's plan.
Among the Republican caucus' nine members, eight have said they will vote against the proposal. Several of the council Democrats did not respond to a request for comment.
To date, one member of the majority, Councilman Brent Ackerson, has voiced opposition to the mayor's ordinance.
An Ackerson aide said that of the 300 e-mails the office has received, fewer than five support the fee increase. The councilman plans to vote against the measure this Thursday.