Louisville Metro Council

Politics
8:24 pm
Thu June 6, 2013

Louisville Metro Council Approves City Purchasing Colonial Gardens

Colonial Gardens
Credit preservationlouisville.org

The Louisville Metro Council approved an ordinance that will allow the city to purchase the Colonial Gardens property by a 16-3 vote.

Mayor Greg Fischer asked lawmakers in April to allocate $430,000 to buy the historic South End property, which was the site of Louisville's first zoo and is now owned by an out-of-state trust.

For over a decade the structure has been idle and vacant, due in part to its out-of-state owners and historic preservation status.

City lawmakers were initially hesitant about the idea, and sought more information about the viability for private development. But its easy passage means the mayor can now move forward and sell Colonial Gardens to a developer.

"When running for office I promised my constituents I would work to develop the property. I am appreciative of the mayor and his economic development team for being such great partners as we continue to improve south Louisville together," says Councilman David Yates, D-25, who supported the ordinance. "While it has been a bumpy road we are very excited about the commitment to this shared goal."

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Politics
4:49 pm
Tue June 4, 2013

Mayor Greg Fischer's Proposed Cuts to Arts, Homeless Grants Criticized

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer
Credit File photo

Leaders from non-profit homeless and arts agencies are criticizing Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s decision to reduce the funding levels for their external agencies.

When the Fischer administration first unveiled its $528 million spending proposal last month, the mayor's office highlighted a 21 percent increase to funding for community ministries.

It also outlined how external agencies would receive more than $1 million in grants at continued levels from last year.

Fischer's decision to fund external agencies comes from three panels made up of Metro Council members and mayoral appointees who recommend expenditures for community ministries and social service agencies.

Those recommendations are in Fischer’s budget proposal without any changes, and citizens who sit on the panels sign agreements to keep the deliberations confidential.

Natalie Harris, executive director of the Coalition of the Homeless, says the decision-making process is troubling because groups like hers cannot conference with Fischer's panels to make answer important questions.

"I definitely don’t think the process is transparent. There isn’t any way for that committee to ask questions of the groups or for them to answer any issues that might come up during the committee meetings. And there’s also not a process to go back to that committee before the announcements are made," she says.

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Politics
8:21 pm
Mon June 3, 2013

Louisville Metro Council Prods Mayor’s Office Over Urban Services

Several Louisville Metro Council members aren't happy with Mayor Greg Fischer for failing to restore previously cut urban services in his new budget proposal.

City chief financial officer Steve Rowland testified at a budget hearing Monday that the city is investing in key areas such as infrastructure and strategic planning.

Fischer had been praised for putting additional funds towards fixing the city's roads, for instance.

But city lawmakers grilled Rowland over why the administration is not using  a projected $3.3 million surplus to bring back two rounds of street cleaning and junk pick-up in the Urban Services District that were cut during the recession.

"It's really hard for me to understand how we continue to implement new programs and spend the taxpayer's dollars when we can't restore services that were in place before merger," says Councilwoman Mary Woolridge, D-3. "It mind boggling to think we can spend $6.4 million to upgrade side walks, roadways and especially bike lanes when we have reduced services in this city. Are we ever going to get money in this budget to restore at least one of these?"

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Politics
2:27 pm
Wed May 22, 2013

Ethics Watchdog Group Requests Councilman Dan Johnson Step Down from Shanklin Removal Trial

Councilman Dan Johnson, D-21

The chairman of an ethics watchdog group is questioning whether Louisville Metro Councilman Dan Johnson, D-21, should serve as a juror on fellow council member Barbara Shanklin’s removal trial.

The 20-member council court convened earlier this week to schedule a hearing after the Ethics Commission ruled Shanklin violated five provisions of the city’s code of ethics.

City lawmakers will sit as a jury to decide whether to oust Shanklin in a trial beginning July 23.

Last September, however, Shanklin’s attorney Aubrey Williams entered an affidavit alleging Johnson told him the commission was prejudiced against his client, and mishandled the proceedings.

"Johnson called ... and informed me that his wife’s sister’s husband was a friend of a certain Commission   member, who had told the friend that the commissioners were out to get Barbara Shanklin," Williams wrote. "That is to say that they had made up their minds to rule against her. He stated that he did not think they were going to be fair to her when the hearing got underway."

Common Cause of Kentucky Chairman Richard Beliles filed the initial ethics complaint against Shanklin. He  says Johnson’s prior interference in the case raises concerns if the south Louisville Democrat can adequately serve on the jury.

"It’s really important that the public has confidence in whatever jury. So from that standpoint, reading about and hearing about the questions about Metro Councilman Dan Johnson, it would seem to me that perhaps he should consider recusing himself from that jury," he says.

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Politics
10:27 am
Wed May 22, 2013

Louisville Metro Budget Hearings to Begin May 29

The Louisville Metro Council Budget Committee will begin its review of Mayor Greg Fischer's spending plan next Wednesday.

The committee has scheduled several hearings over the coming weeks and will review the health department's funding first with the goal of approving the entire budget by June 18.

Fischer's office will give an overview of revenue, planned projects and operations at a hearing on June 3. The council will also hear from public safety agencies such as the fire, EMS and Metro Police departments.

"This is the first budget where our revenue picture looks much brighter than in years past," Budget Committee Chairwoman Marianne Butler, D-15, said in a news release.  "We have a good working relationship with the mayor and his staff and I do not expect any major surprises as we begin our review."

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Politics
3:55 pm
Mon May 20, 2013

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s Budget Emphasizes Higher Growth, Road Funding

Presenting the Louisville Metro Council and residents with his third budget, Mayor Greg Fischer unveiled a new spending plan which includes additional funding for the city’s roads and infrastructure.

The 2013-14 budget avoids any tax increases, employee layoffs or service cuts due in large part to higher than anticipated revenue and curbs to spending.

Metro Government has a $528 million general fund and has seen significant budget shortfalls in recent years.

In the coming fiscal year officials expect a $3.3 million surplus due to the city's occupational tax rising by about 3 percent, a 2.5 percent increase in the insurance premium tax and business profit taxes are expected to increase by 6 percent. The Fischer administration was also able to cut expenditures by not replacing retiring employees, reducing overtime pay by $1.5 million and lowering the structural imbalance by $15 million.

But one of the chief items the mayor's office is bragging about is putting $6.4 million towards paving roads and creating biking lanes. The city has spent on average $2.5 annually on infrastructure since city-county merger, which is well below the needed $8 to 10 million council members request and others argue the Public Works department requires.

Fischer says the city still has a financial imbalance and pension obligations, adding officials will have to watch every dollar. But the mayor believes an improved economy has allowed for his administration to make needed infrastructure improvements.

"There's been a little bit of relief and we have good control on our expenses with cost reductions as well. And that's going to allow us to make some investments that we haven't been able to make in the last couple of years, in particular with some road improvements and more bike lanes," he says.

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Politics
7:54 pm
Thu April 25, 2013

Louisville Metro Council Expands Sunday Liquor Sales for Restaurants

Credit File photo

In a bipartisan 16-7 vote, the Louisville Metro Council approved an ordinance expanding liquor sales on Sundays to 10 a.m. for local restaurants.

There are around 300 restaurants licensed to sell alcohol in the city on Sunday by the drink. Businesses are required to wait until 1 p.m. before serving customers, however. 

State law allows for local governments to amend those restrictions, and a sharp debate ensued on the council.

Councilman David Tandy, D-4, who represents parts of downtown where many sit-down restaurants are located, is the chief sponsor of the bill.

Some city lawmakers and many religious leaders expressed concerns about increased crime and incremental steps to allow Sunday liquor sales at other types businesses.

But Tandy says the legislation was aimed at helping restaurants that wanted to serve brunch ahead of the Kentucky Derby.

"With the passage of this legislation we have taken steps toward furthering economic growth in Louisville through our hospitality industry. This helps our economy keep dollars circulating in our community by allowing Louisville restaurants to compete with their Southern Indiana counterparts," he says.

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Politics
12:30 pm
Thu April 25, 2013

City Won't Pay Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin's Attorney for Ethics Appeal Work

Louisville Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin
Credit Louisville Metro Council

The lawyer representing embattled Louisville Metro Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin, D-2, will not be paid with taxpayer money during the appeal of her Ethics Commission case.

The panel ruled last month that Shanklin violated five sections of the city’s code of ethics and recommended her removal from office.

Attorney Aubrey Williams is appealing that decision in circuit court, but in a letter the Jefferson County Attorney’s office advises it will not pay for continued representation of the councilwoman.

Williams did not return WFPL's request for comment on Wednesday, but he told The Courier-Journal's Andrew Wolfson the city is trying to "squirm out of its obligations" and force him to drop Shanklin as a client.

Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell says the decision was based on the Metro Council amending the ethics ordinance to forbid tax dollars going toward any appeal process.

"The amendment provides that counsel will be provided to council members during an appearance before the ethics commission only. Any appeals of that or any removal hearings counsel is not provided to the council member," he says.

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Politics
8:25 am
Fri March 15, 2013

Council Members Laud Metro Police for Impounding Roofing Company Truck Over Illegal Dumping

Louisville Metro Council members are praising Metro Police for impounding a dump truck allegedly involved in illegal dumping in the Fairdale neighborhood.

According to council staff, police received a complaint on Wednesday of shingles and roofing materials being illegally dropped off on Manslick Road.

Officers arrived at the scene and found a truck belonging to Elkins & Sons of Louisville that was later impounded.

"I applaud the quick work of the officer who answered this call about illegal dumping," Councilwoman Marianne Butler, D-15, said in a news release. "I am also glad to see the public is getting involved in stopping people who believe they can use our streets, alleys, vacant fields and roadways as their own personal dumping ground."

Last year, city lawmakers strengthened an ordinance to empower law enforcement to seize vehicles caught illegally dumping.

The council also added funding to the budget for 19 new cameras targeting problem areas where there have been repeated cases of trash and other junk items being dropped off improperly

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Politics
4:19 pm
Wed March 13, 2013

Special Prosecutor Named in Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin's Public Integrity Case

Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin
Credit Louisville Metro Council

The Louisville Metro Ethics Commission will make a ruling on its case involving Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin, D-2, this week while the criminal investigation against the embattled lawmaker is moving forward.

Shanklin is facing five charges of violating the city's code of ethics, including accusations that she misused taxpayer money in relation to an upholstery training program her office championed.

The commission has a range of options in the case, from declining any punishment to recommending Shanklin be booted from office.

It cannot bring criminal charges against the councilwoman, but a separate investigation conducted by the Louisville Metro Police's Public Integrity Unit could.

The police have finished their probe and forwarded the case to a special prosecutor, First Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Robert Schaefer.

Schaefer tells WFPL he hasn’t had a change to review the extensive caseload, including a large number of binders, an internal audit and hundreds of pages of documents, but his office is taking the case seriously.

"Obviously this case has attracted a lot of interest, and we take all the cases that we do seriously. So I’m not going to rush and put something out there before I’ve had a chance to go through it," he says.

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