Louisville Metro Council

Politics
6:35 pm
Mon March 4, 2013

Bill Granting Ethics Commission Subpoena Powers Passes House Panel

A bill giving the Louisville Metro Ethics Commission subpoena powers sailed through a state House committee on Monday.

In 2011, a report by the commission complained to the Metro Council about its inability to compel witnesses to testify. Last November, Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin, D-2, put that lack of power on display when she twice walked out of her ethics hearing at the instruction of her attorney.

From The Lexington Herald-Leader:

Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, said the bill was in response to alleged ethics violations of council members in Louisville.

SB 117 would give ethics committees administrative subpoena power to gather documents and compel witnesses to testify.

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Politics
2:55 pm
Fri February 22, 2013

Council Democrats, Republicans Launch Social Media Pages

The caucus staff for the Louisville Metro Council Democrats and Republicans have created social media pages to better reach constituents.

Currently, a handful of city lawmakers have official Facebook and Twitter accounts where they update their ordinances and district events.

Others use their personal website to update on their council work, but most have not signed on to social networking to reach out to constituents.

Democratic Caucus spokesman Tony Hyatt says the technology is a good way to let residents know what’s on their agenda, and that more lawmakers will be logging on soon.

"I think the goal is to eventually bring everybody along. You know as well as I do there are some folks who were a little late to the game in understanding how social media operates. Our goal is to get the information out of what’s going on with the caucus, meeting notifications, letting them know about progress reports on certain things," he says.

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Politics
6:23 pm
Wed February 20, 2013

Resolution Honoring Late Councilwoman Judy Green Faces Opposition

A resolution in the Louisville Metro Council honoring the late Judy Green is facing opposition, according to its sponsor.

Councilwoman Attica Scott, D-1, introduced the non-binding measure in the Community Affairs committee this week.

Green died last month from a heart attack and the resolution praises her for adopting nearly a dozen children and being a foster mother to over 50. The resolution says Green "loved all people” and had an "unyielding generosity" towards District 1 constituents.

In 2011, Green became the first council member booted from office for violating the city’s code of ethics, specifically the mismanagement of taxpayer funds.

Scott says residents were looking for a way to honor Green’s memory and move beyond the controversy, but a handful of city lawmakers raised concerns.

"I explained to my colleagues on council that (Councilwoman Green) being removed from office occurred before I got here," says Scott. "My tenure should not be tainted by what happened previously."

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Politics
10:25 pm
Thu February 14, 2013

Insurance Tax for Affordable Housing Loses Ground as Advocates Urge Support

Affordable housing supporters fill City Hall
Credit Phillip M. Bailey

Dozens of residents and community activists filled City Hall on Thursday to urge the Louisville Metro Council to boost funding for affordable housing, but an ordinance seeking to pay for the initiative is losing support.

Several people spoke in favor of legislation that seeks to put nearly $10 million into the fund by increasing the city's tax on insurance premiums by one percentage point.

Affordable housing advocates who testified before the council spoke of skyrocketing rent and mortgage costs, the high number of homeless public school children and the need for new units.

"We can’t let school kids continue to be homeless, and let this problem go unsolved. So there are people who are in agreement that we need to do something and figure out how to fund the trust fund, and work together to figure out how to do that," Rachel Hurst, executive director of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund told WFPL.

But the prospects are grim now that a majority on the council have said they do not support the proposal.

Council President Jim King, D-10, and Councilman David Yates, D-24, have both said they will not vote for the ordinance. And after two of the original seven co-sponsors withdrew their support this week, another supporter—Councilman Brent Ackerson, D-26—announced he is also backing off the bill.

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Politics
3:44 pm
Thu February 14, 2013

Councilwoman Madonna Flood Withdraws Support from Insurance Tax Hike Ordinance

Councilwoman Madonna Flood
Credit Louisville Metro Council

A second Democratic Louisville Metro Council member is pulling their sponsorship of a proposal to raise the city’s tax on insurance premiums to give affordable housing initiatives a consistent revenue stream.

Councilwoman Madonna Flood, D-24, was listed as one of original seven lawmakers backing the legislation, which seeks to increase the tax by one percentage point and raise an estimated $9.7 million for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

But Flood now opposes the idea and says supporters put her name on the ordinance without her consent.

"No one called to discuss with me an ordinance being filed at that particular time. We talked in generalities," says Flood. "They were gathering support, but I had a ton of questions that I asked folks about that and for some reason my name appeared on the ordinance."

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Politics
5:00 pm
Wed February 13, 2013

Councilman Rick Blackwell Pulls Support for Insurance Premium Tax Hike

Democratic Councilman Rick Blackwell
Credit Louisville Metro Council

Louisville Metro Councilman Rick Blackwell, D-12, is pulling his support of an ordinance to help pay for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund by raising the city’s tax on insurance premiums.

The proposal was introduced by Democratic lawmakers this week, and seeks to increase the tax by one percentage point to raise an estimated $9.7 million.

Supporters argue going from a 5 to 6 percent rate represents a small increase per month for average residents.

In an e-mail message sent Feb. 11 to Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh, D-9—the bill's chief sponsor—the Jefferson County attorney’s office said it is "unconstitutional" to designate public funding exclusively for affordable housing

Any new revenue would have to go through the general fund first, and that is unraveling the bill's support.

"I think it’s problematic if it’s not a dedicated source. That’s what people had signed on for," says Blackwell. "It was supposed to be a way to take care of some of the issues in our neighborhoods with the abandoned and foreclosed on homes. And if it’s not dedicated to that I think you’ll have a hard time keeping sponsors and keeping people on board to vote for it."

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Developing
1:30 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

Council Democrats Propose Tax Increase to Pay for Housing Trust Fund

A handful of Louisville Metro Council Democrats are proposing to raise the insurance premium tax by 1 percentage point to pay for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

The ordinance would increase the premiums on policies such as life, casualty, home and automobile insurance from 5 percent to 6 percent.

It is estimated raising the tax will generate an additional $9.7 million in revenue towards the city's general fund. Supporters of the ordinance admit other council members may want to use new funds to fill the project $13 million budget shortfall or shore up the city's depleted road fund.

Besides housing issues, the legislation specifically speaks to the "acute need of road and sidewalk repair" and to improve transportation.

Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh, D-9, is one of the seven sponsors of the bill. She says if the increase passes it will last only five years, and that she and others will work to make sure it is used for housing.

"The seven of us are going to do our best to convince a total of 14 of us on the Metro Council when we come to budget negotiations that this new $10 million revenue over the course of the next year should be dedicated specifically to affordable housing issues," she says.

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Politics
6:56 pm
Tue February 5, 2013

Democrats Halt Resolution Requesting Ethics Commission Be Given Subpoena Powers

After a 30-minute debate, the Louisville Metro Council’s government accountability committee put off a vote asking state lawmakers to give the city’s ethics commission subpoena power.

The non-binding measure had bipartisan support initially with leaders on both sides of the aisle saying it made common sense. But during discussion, Democrats raised concerns that state lawmakers could give the commission too much power and that the council should deliver a more specific proposal.

Councilman Jerry Miller, R-19, is chairman of the committee and filed the resolution. He says he was surprised by the decision to table to measure because no council members objected to the matter beforehand, adding Democrats have sent a troubling message.

"The non-partisan metro council of Lexington is supporting passage of a resolution, which urges passage of this. Our partisan council in Louisville seem to have issues and it’s troubling, but we are where we are," he says.

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Politics
2:53 pm
Tue February 5, 2013

Vacant Properties Committee Goes Mobile, Seeks Input in West Louisville

The Metro Council ad hoc Vacant Properties Committee is holding a special meeting in west Louisville to hear from community groups and neighborhood leaders.

Committee members are specifically looking to spotlight organizations with small budgets, and are urging groups to make 2 to 3 minute presentations.

Vacant Properties Vice-Chair Attica Scott, D-1, says she wants to introduce the community to city initiatives related to abandoned and vacant properties, and give non-profits a chance to showcase their own ideas to lawmakers.

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Politics
5:29 pm
Mon February 4, 2013

Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin Sues Mayor Greg Fischer Over Upholstery Program Records

Barbara Shanklin
Credit Louisville Metro Council

Louisville Metro Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin has filed suit against Mayor Greg Fischer's office.

Shanklin, D-2, is seeking public records regarding an upholstery program for ex-offenders that her office funded, which is part of a recent ethics investigation against her.

In September 2012, Shanklin requested records related to Fischer's "involvement in the investigation," and what authority the mayor's office had to close the program.

The councilwoman alleges the mayor is violating the state's open records law and depriving her of evidence needed for her defense in the ethics case.

"Basically we asked for what authority or rule or policy the mayor relied on to terminate the upholstery program," says attorney Aubrey Williams, who is representing Shanklin.

Williams is requesting the ethics commission delay its ruling until this matter is settled.

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