Louisville Metro Council

Politics
4:46 pm
Mon July 30, 2012

Council Committee to Discuss Discretionary Fund Audit Report

The Louisville Metro Council’s Government Accountability Committee will meet Tuesday to discuss recommendations from a troubling audit report that found a lack of oversight in discretionary grant spending.

Last month, a review of Neighborhood Development Fund grants from the past two fiscal years showed half of the $1.9 million grants awarded during that period lacked proper documentation. It also found inconsistencies and a vague criteria for non-profit groups receiving city funds, including over $6,500 in funds that were spent out of compliance with Metro Government rules.

The audit specifically mentioned Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin, D-2, who faces an ethics complaint after a series of controversies were reported about her office’s discretionary spending.

Councilman Jerry Miller, R-19, is chairman of the government accountability committee. He says the panel will address the community’s growing concerns about how those grants are approved and monitored, but told WFPL the committee will avoid any mention of the Shanklin case specifically.

"I think it will be good for the public to hear the recommendations and the findings, and how we are going to begin making the changes in the process to hopefully restore the public’s confidence," he says.

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Politics
2:01 pm
Mon July 30, 2012

Preservationist Group Requests Fischer Veto Landmarks Ordinance

A preservationist group is requesting Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer veto a controversial ordinance that allows the Metro Council to overturn a decision made by the Landmarks Commission.

After months of debate, the council passed the bill by a 16-7 vote last Thursday that changes the city’s longstanding process to declare historic sites. Introduced by Councilman David Yates, D-25, who said the commission lacked oversight, lawmakers made a number of changes including a provision that allows a majority of council members to challenge a Landmarks Commission decision and begin a review process.

Attorney Steve Porter is representing the preservationist group OPEN Louisville, which drafted a letter to Fischer asking him to reject the ordinance.

He says the council is violating the state constitution and encroaching upon the mayor’s authority.

"If this passes and goes into affect without a veto, landmarks is the only local agency that can be overruled by the Metro Council. And I think this is in violation of the Kentucky revised statuette, which set up a separation executive and legislative power," he says.

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Politics
12:01 pm
Fri July 27, 2012

Appropriations Chairman Seeks Ethics Opinion on Council Distributing Gifts

Councilman Robin Engel, R-22

The chairman of the Louisville Metro Council’s Appropriations Committee is asking the Ethics Commission to weigh-in on whether city lawmakers can pass out gifts to constituents.

Earlier this week, the appropriations committee discussed a pair of Neighborhood Development Fund requests made by council members Rick Blackwell, D-12, and Vicki Welch, D-13. The two were seeking to give Metro Parks $3,000 in return for 400 tickets to performances at the Iroquois Amphitheater, which Blackwell and Welch would give out to residents.

The county attorney warned that tickets can have a "monetary value and political value" and lawmakers should discuss the matter further. After a fierce debate, the committee voted down the proposal by a 3-to-3 vote.

Councilman Robin Engel, R-22, who chairs the appropriations panel, sent a letter to the commission Friday asking if it is a violation of the city's code of ethics for council members to control the distribution of tickets. He says there has been a fierce debate on passing out tickets, but lawmakers need non-partisan guidance.

"The question is the temptation and the possibility of impropriety of being able to distribute tickets as a council member. That is in play here and that’ the question of the day,” he says.

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Politics
5:00 pm
Wed July 25, 2012

LMPD Launching Criminal Probe Into Shanklin

Louisville Metro Council

The Louisville Metro Police Department is launching a criminal investigation regarding Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin, D-2, and the financial management of her office.

The Public Integrity Unit has been working closely with the internal auditor’s office to determine if a formal probe was necessary. The auditor is examining an upholstery program for ex-offenders that served several of Shanklin's relatives instead.

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Politics
6:44 pm
Tue July 24, 2012

Scott Wants to Make Vacant Properties Safer

Louisville Metro Councilwoman Attica Scott, D-1, is concerned about lead poisoning at the dozens of vacant properties in her district.

Those abandoned homes have lead dust from deteriorated paint, renovation and demolition that is toxic and has been linked to a number of health problems such as lower child I.Q. and attention span, and increased aggressive behavior.

Scott's office is partnering with the Network Center for Community Change and the group Lock Up Lead to detoxify the 50 worst vacant properties in the district. She says besides creating blight and economic hardships in many neighborhoods, abandoned homes also pose an environmental risk.

"I’m definitely concerned about the safety of some of these properties that are in District 1 that are deteriorating and literally leaning to the side and falling apart. And also the issue of lead, the toxic lead levels in some of these properties," she says.

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Politics
9:36 pm
Sat July 21, 2012

Noise and Notes: The Racial Achievement Gap in JCPS and The Contentious Landmarks Ordinance

Louisville Public Media

A report by the Bluegrass Institute showed the achievement gaps in Jefferson County Public Schools along lines of race are actually wider in the East End of Louisville.

The conservative think tank unveiled some troubling numbers last month and organizations supportive of charter schools, such as the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), argue the report underscores the student-assignment plan has failed African-American students.

JCPS officials have said they are aware of the problem and are committed to changing the numbers, but impatience is growing as three seats open on the school board this year.

I spoke with WFPL’s education reporter Devin Katayama and former Louisville Metro Councilman Dr. Deonte Hollowell, who is a BAEO member, about the report’s ramifications on the education debate.

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Politics
12:50 pm
Tue July 17, 2012

King, Welch Propose Nutrition Ordinance

An ordinance before the Louisville Metro Council would require restaurants to post nutrition information on their menus.

Council President Jim King, D-10, and Councilwoman Vicki Aubrey Welch, D-13, are sponsoring the bill.

It requires businesses that have caloric and other nutrition information available to post that information on their menus or on a menu board located in the restaurant. The ordinance would only apply to businesses that have the information available.

Welch is chairwoman of the health, education and housing committee. She says the law will give residents the needed information to make better choices.

"I want consumers to be able to choose what they’re eating and putting into their bodies. I think they deserve to know what they’re purchasing. So many people are health conscious now about what they’re eating," she says.

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Politics
4:27 pm
Mon July 9, 2012

Shanklin Furious With Fischer Administration Over C-J Comments

Louisville Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin, D-2, has spurned an invitation from Mayor Greg Fischer, citing his administration's comments regarding the use of city grants for an upholstery job training program.

Last Friday, a Fischer spokesman told The Courier-Journal  the program for ex-offenders should have ended on November 14 as ordered by the city and that it appears "city tax dollars are not spent as they’re intended to be." It was discovered that Shanklin continued to fund the program and personally signed an $836 check despite Metro Corrections ending it due to a lack of former inmate referrals.

"The published reports raise concerns with Dr. Shanklin over how the mayor's office has responded," says Democratic Caucus spokesman Tony Hyatt, confirming that Shanklin called Fischer's office to reject an invitation to celebrate renovations at Petersburg Park in District 2 later this week.

According to Hyatt, Shanklin says corrections tried to kill the upholstery training while two people were still going through the course, and that the neighborhood association decided to finish out the last month of training.

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Politics
7:00 am
Mon July 2, 2012

Scott Launches "Clean It Up" Program

Louisville Metro Councilwoman Attica Scott, D-1, is partnering with Metro Corrections and Solid Waste Management to launch a new program aimed at clearing out trash in alleyways.

The "Clean it up" initiative begins Tuesday and will use inmates in a work release crew from the city jail to clean up blight in District 1 neighborhoods. The first area that the program will target will be the Parkland neighborhood where a shooting spree broke out on May 17.

Scott says the program is a chance for inmates to earn back the community’s trust and volunteer in their former neighborhoods.

"To my knowledge what the inmates get is giving back to the community. This is their community service. This is there way of helping to take care of  the neighborhoods where some of them come from,"she says.

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Politics
12:23 pm
Fri June 29, 2012

Scott Applauds "Cut it Out" Program

A vacant property with overgrown grass. (photo provided by Metro Government)

Louisville Metro Councilwoman Attica Scott, D-1, is praising several local lawn service companies who voluntarily mowed grass at the worst abandoned properties in her district. But the outspoken lawmaker wants the city to do a better job addressing blight.

The “Cut it Out” program was launched by Scott’s office last month to address blight in west and southwest Louisville neighborhoods due to the rise of vacant properties. According to city records, one-third of the 155 worst properties with overgrown grass have been mowed by local businesses and their crews for free.

Scott says residents are fed up with the eyesores, but that community leaders and business owners have stepped up to tackle the problem.

"We were able to do because we had someone in the community who lives in District 1 who said, ‘you know what I’ve got some connections, I see you’re out here trying to do the work so let’s make this happen.’ And then every single week we started getting another lawn care company that said they wanted to get involved with this. We had a company all the way out in Prospect that said, 'I want to do something and this is what I can do,'" she says.

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