Earlier this month, Curious Louisville, in collaboration with Al Día en América, asked listeners: “If you were moderating a debate with all the candidates for the mayoral primary, what would you ask them?”
From your responses, we chose a list of 15 questions that covered a variety of topics — ranging from the future of mass transit in Louisville, to gun violence, to solutions for racial and economic segregation — and posed them to the candidates.
Here are Democrat Dave Biggers’ responses:
A listener wants to know: “What is your management style and philosophy when it comes to working with various agencies, departments and the public?”
Listen, wait and see. I like to get all my information before I make a decision, speak to all parties involved, and then go from there. Usually, I try to put myself in their position and see from another viewpoint. You always put yourself in another viewpoint to see if you’re making the right action — like if I was in their shoes, would this still fly?
And if the answer is ‘no,’ then it’s ‘no.’ Just like with the methane plant; if you wouldn’t put that in your own neighborhood, why would you put that in someone else’s neighborhood. Same thing goes with leading. You have to lead from the front, not the back.
Brennan wants to know: “What should be the future of mass transit in Louisville?”
I would say buses. I don’t think Louisville is ready for light rail, but we could improve our bus system — more buses, more routes. Like I said yesterday on Twitter, and TARC liked it, we need to put hybrid and electric down in the city and move the diesel out to the county lines. That’s what I would do. Increase funding for more buses, more lines, so they’re running every 30 minutes and every hour in the county, so people can get back and forth to work.
A listener wants to know: “What will you do to keep Louisville from being unduly controlled/regulated by Frankfort rather than the local elected officials?”
Well, we’re the economic engine, so we can call the shots really. And if we have to, you just have to start taking less money from Frankfort to get out from underneath their control; we just have to raise our own taxes or figure out how to make up a shortfall when Frankfort takes their funding away. That’s the only way to get out from underneath somebody is to be your own person.
A listener wants to know: “What are the essential elements for a successful JCPS?”
Local control, first. Putting kids first. Instead of looking out for what the parents want, you got to really look out for the best interests of the child. You know, the parents might want you to go to the local school or some other private school with vouchers, but does the child really need that? Can the local school service the child’s needs? Most of the time the answer is yes, but the parents have to get involved. I mean, all the money being spent to get vouchers for charter schools could be spent at PTA meetings or just volunteering. I went to schools and that makes a difference, when parents volunteer — it really does.
Gary Mudd says: “The streets of downtown Louisville are so torn up, I avoid driving there. What is your plan for making downtown an inviting place to visit?”
Well, when it comes to the streets, it’s just so busy down here, it’s not like the country where you can block the street off and do it. Like coming in today, I was almost late trying to get in through construction — we have to balance paving. You just can’t do a whole block at a time. You have to talk to the experts, but I’m against paving year and spending $10 million on paving. We had a $10 million surplus and we spent it on paving. I’d rather just spend it on better shocks and tires or something; we could use $10 million on the homeless situation or the opiate situation. Just bumpy roads is not really a main concern for me — other things concern me.
A listener asks: “What will you do to put the Citizens and residents that live here year round first and foremost before tourist, conventioneers, etc. We pay the bills through taxes, but we have to deal with the bad roads.”
I agree. I’m here, been here 34 years. Born and raised from Berrytown and I see every major improvement around here has been made for tourists. But the people, local people, get left out. Only time we benefit from the new buildings is two weeks out of the year, during Derby. Other than that, we just looking at the Omni Hotel, the new convention center. We are never going to use it. We could use that money to start some programs for the kids; it’s just, I don’t know, free TARC rides, so much we could do instead.
Like we [were] going to give Walmart $500,000 to come here and build, and then they didn’t want to build it our way, and then Mayor Fischer wanted to hold on to them, saying ‘We’re doing a bad job.’ Unless Walmart is going to guarantee $15 an hour with jobs, why are we going to give $500,000 to one of the most rich corporations in the world? It doesn’t make sense to me.
You gotta stop doing that. We could’ve given that $500,000 to local grocers, start five local groceries for $500,000 seed money, or ten $50,000 — but $500,000 to Walmart, that doesn’t make sense. Then they say we don’t have money for things, so you gotta stop that.
Dakota Neff asks: “Louisville is one of the country’s most segregated urban areas, racially and economically. How would you bring our communities together and increase economic development, specifically in West Louisville?”
I’d like to put a freeze on residential building until 90 percent to 95 percent of vacant lots and abandoned houses are repurposed — no more building out to the country, no more sprawl. I mean, commercial could build where they want, but no more residential. That’s the problem, people don’t want to live next to each other. People in West Louisville right now, when they get a little money, they want to move out of West Louisville. Then if you move out, you got to build out, and it just creates more sprawl and leaves all these abandoned houses down here.
So, if you put a cap on it, people are forced to build down here — either there or you’re going to have skyscrapers out in the East End. Either way is fine with me. Just, people need to learn to live together. People always want to spread apart, they are scared of one another, a way to bring them together is to kind of force them.
People’s property values are going to rise, so that’s a plus, and people will have to build here, because developers want money. So they are going to have to build somewhere, so you have to force their hand.
Susan Means wants to know: “What are your plans to stop the gun violence in our city?”
That’s a threefold question, because the gun violence is not just limited to one section of town or one group of people. Like a guy on Westport killed his grandmother with a pistol — had nothing to do with gangs, nothing to do with violence. So how do you prevent that? Some things you can prevent just by providing better opportunities. A lot of these people wouldn’t be doing what they do if they could make a decent amount of money.
You know, they look, ‘Why would I go make $8.75 for one hour’s work, when I could make $875 for one hour’s worth of work?’
You got to give somebody better options — a lot of people out here wouldn’t be doing what they’re doing if they options. Some people do it just because, it’s just the life. But about 60 percent of them, if you give them a better option, then you won’t have it.
Griffin Paulin says: “To your understanding, what is the root cause of homelessness, and as a follow up, how do you intend to curtail it?”
I have to ask someone who is homeless. I can’t say what makes someone homeless because I’ve never been homeless. I have a family support structure, a big family. They might not be able to give me money, but I would never be homeless. If I ever fall on hard times, I could always move in with them, so I don’t know. I don’t know what to tell people who don’t have that. You just lose your job, or you’re late because of road construction — you get fired — you get locked up. You either have to do something legal or you’ll get evicted and live on the streets, and I don’t know.
I was reading an article the other day and it said a lot of LGBT are homeless because their parents kick them out. That’s not right, but can you force somebody not to kick their kids out? Especially if they are of-age? We just got to create a safety net for them — a program where you can stay here, nothing fancy, but it keeps rain off your head and we give you a job to allow you to build yourself up.
That’s the only thing I can offer them, but I am eager to listen to any help. I’m all ears.
Rebecca Pattillo asks: “What is your stance on racist or Confederate statues in public spaces throughout Louisville?”
We should get rid of them, because even the generals back in the day said, ‘If we keep these memorials up, they will keep the wounds open.’ So just listen to them. They were there, they lived it. If they said, the people they make the statues of — Robert E. Lee said we can’t have statues up, erect memorials of this war because it will keep the wound open, got to take them down.
Especially if the citizens, I’m all about the people — even if some things I don’t agree with the people, but if popular opinion says ‘we want this,’ I won’t stand in the way of the people. If a majority of Louisville want the statues gone, they’re gone. Simple as that.
A listener wants to know: “What local news sources do you consume on a regular basis?”
All of them. I follow this radio station on Twitter. Anything news and local, I’m following it. The LEO, Insider Louisville, Courier-Journal, even the national — CNN, I follow them.
Daniel Sherrill asks: “What do you plan on doing about neglected property and graffiti vandals? Those are the two things that seem to drag down our city aesthetically.”
Graffiti is not an issue for me. A lot of times, it’s art, you know? People just expressing themselves, it’s not about a crime, so that’s low on the list of things for me. Abandoned houses and all that, that’s pretty high because that’s a safety risk — it creates infestations and it goes it to the next people’s yard, and they have infestation.
So, to address it, I already said, I would put a ban, a hold, on residential building which will force people to redevelop the abandoned housing and abandoned lots. So that would be the first step. Any other steps, I have to just wait and see, see how that step works and if it works, we just keep building on that, if not, we go in a different direction.
Thorne and Sally Vale want to know: “It has become very obvious that the Louisville tree ordinance is ineffective. Our tree canopy must be protected. It is past time to establish an ordinance to stop developers and builders from taking down any tree that is in their way. What are you going to do about protecting Louisville’s tree canopy?”
I think it’s for every one tree that comes down, five needs to be planted — is that the law?
I don’t know if it’s the law or just reading about, somebody down in Butchertown cut the trees and they said it was topped [motions above head, like trimming the top of trees] , but it did the same thing with the Courier-Journal parking lot and we have to have some kind of standard.
We can’t have one guy saying, ‘This is good and this is not.’ We have to have a set standard, so everybody knows what we’re going on. But to protect the canopy, like I said, for every tree cut down, we need four planted. If a tree really needs to come down, it’ll come down. But if it really doesn’t, they’re not going to want to go out and buy five new trees just to cut this tree down. You only need to cut the trees down that you need to come down — not just cutting them down just because.
Just like over by the billboard; that was city property, but they let OUTFRONT Media cut the trees down so they could see their billboard. How does that benefit the citizens of Louisville? Sounds like it benefits OUTFRONT to me.
A listener wants to know: “What role do you believe local law enforcement should play in enforcing immigration laws?”
It really shouldn’t. City police doesn’t have to enforce federal laws, so if that’s the truth, they don’t have to do it. That has to go for all federal laws. If you aren’t going to enforce immigration federal law, why we enforcing federal drug law? Probably because you get money for one and money for the other. I bet if we got money for enforcing immigration law, Fischer would start enforcing it — but since we get $50 million for drug enforcement, they’re all about drug enforcement, so what’s the difference?
If you’re not going to enforce one federal law, don’t enforce the other.
“Do you support the ordinance in place that prevents police officers from assisting ICE in most situations?”
Yes, I do. Our officers have other things to be doing instead of helping federal officers do their job. We have our own problems, let them handle their own problems. Unless we have an immigrant here who broke the law, you know, they’re in the jail, we shouldn’t have to try to stop them. But ICE comes and is like, ‘This guy is a federal criminal’ we should let him go. We shouldn’t be calling them up though, only if they come looking for him. We shouldn’t try to keep ICE from taking them, but we shouldn’t help them either.
A listener wants to know: “What is your vision for Louisville during and after your term in office if you are elected Mayor?”
I’m not trying to be a career politician, I just came to right this ship. Hopefully I can get it done in four years, if it takes eight years, fine — but when I leave here, I want the ship to be going straight. When I leave, if it goes left or right, they will know it was going straight back them and what they need to do to right it again; just got to get someone in to listen to the people.
You can’t have someone who just tells the people, ‘This is good for you, you’re going to take this and love it.’ You need someone who will say, ‘What do you want?” I work for you. You know, the police department and the health department, they work for me — but you’re the customer, so I have to serve the customer. Tell me what you want, and that’s how we’ll make a better Louisville. You got to listen to the citizens paying taxes on the ground. You just can’t listen to somebody who comes into town every two weeks and cater to them — can’t do that, unless you’re going to have them carry the burden of the taxes.
So when I leave here, I want people to be more involved. Local government is the most important government. More important than the federal government. If you want a change in your life, you got to be involved. That’s what I really want, more people involved.
89.3 WFPL is partnering with Al Día en América to provide Spanish-language versions of stories. To read this story in Spanish, click here.