Local News
11:30 pm
Thu January 3, 2013

Mayor Greg Fischer Talks NBA, Violence Prevention, Charter Schools and More

Greg Fischer
Credit Gabe Bullard/WFPL

In an interview broadcast live Thursday on WFPL, Mayor Greg Fischer covered a broad array of topics —violence prevention, charter schools, the NBA and more.

You can listen to a podcast of the interview below, and we'll have more stories Wednesday morning on a couple of specific topics. Here are some of the other highlights.

On merger:

It' been 10 years since Louisville and Jefferson County merged governments, and Fischer noted that merging continues, using suburban fire districts as an example.

"I would expect we would continue to see things like that in the coming years and decades," he said.

Fischer said other nearby cities that merged with county governments before Louisville saw years of evolution, though he added that small cities, for instance, would have to make up their own minds about joining into the metro government. Revenues would be one reason why some may ever choose to.

(Listen: 7:45)

On violent crime:

Fischer said the planned job of director of violence prevention — as recommended by the mayor's violence prevention work group — would analyze everything from infants' health to education. Reducing violent crime can't be done only with law enforcement, he said.

He added this: ""If somebody goes astray, when they come back in the community, how do we help those folks find a job?"

Fischer said he'd want to change a culture in the city where people with criminal backgrounds wouldn't be automatically disqualified by employers for jobs — because employment would help keep people with criminal backgrounds from committing future crimes. Yet Fischer said he'd prefer to approach this with "education" instead of legislation.

(Listen: 11:45)

On the local option sales tax:

Fischer reiterated his push for a local option sales tax.

His proposal would allow cities to issue a local sales tax that we go toward capital projects, such as roads. The local option sales tax requires an amendment to the Kentucky constitution.

"People like that, when it's dedicated solely to capital projects — people knows there's a start date and when there's a finish date," Fischer said.

(Listen: 22:56)

On the NBA:

The city will likely have to contribute more than its minimum $6.5 million annual payment for the KFC Yum! Center debt because the tax increment financing district isn't pulling in enough funds. Booking more nights at the arena is a solution, and Fischer said an NBA team could help.

He listed the obstacles: the city would need an ownership group in place, a team that wants to move to Louisville and the primary tenant  — the University of Louisville basketball teams — would need to renegotiate the lease. Fischer said he discussed pro basketball with UofL athletics director Tom Jurich over the summer and has corresponded with Jurich and UofL President James Ramsey.

(Talking to WDRB a few days ago, Ramsey said: "Well, number one, we have not been consulted, and that's what is most disappointing." 

Fischer used Wednesday night's Sugar Bowl — which the Louisville football team won — as an example of why Louisville may benefit from an NBA team.

"What was happening for four hours last night on national TV?" Fischer said. "The brand of the city of Louisville was going over and over again. It's great for UofL, it's great for the city. Professional sports also provides that kind of exposure."

(Listen: 30:55)

On education:

Fischer wouldn't explicitly state his position on charter schools.

"I don't care what we call it as long as more kids can achieve more quickly," he said. "That's not up to me to make that decision. When people say charter schools are the answer. charter are not the answer. What the is answer is making sure we can customize the best education and the best family support mechanism for each kid."

In June, the U.S. Conference of Mayors — to which Fischer belongs — unanimously endorsed "trigger laws" that allow parents to take over poorly performing schools.

When asked about it, Fischer said he supports "continuous intervention" in low-performing schools.

"The message there, basically, was we have got to keep improving our schools," Fischer said. "Any sacred cow has to be taken off the table. It is about achievement for our kids and nothing should get in that way."

(Listen: 49:15)

We'll have separate stories on Fischer's plans for future elections and the posibility of a downtown casino on WFPL.org on Friday morning