Election 2020

Metro Council’s District 6 is just south of downtown, containing the neighborhoods of Park Hill and Old Louisville.

Council president David James, a Democrat, is running for re-election against Republican Kristi “Kristina” Smith, who is making their first bid for office.

Courtesy David James

James, 58, is a retired Louisville Metro Police Department detective, former head of the police union and a resident of Old Louisville. He is serving his third consecutive one-year term as president of the council. James was first elected to represent District 6 in 2010.

He faced one opponent in this year’s primary election, but successfully sued to have Courtney Phelps disqualified over allegations he had falsified signatures and his address on his filing papers.

In 2014, James faced scrutiny over questions about whether it was constitutional for him to serve as a University of Louisville police officer while holding a council seat. He resigned from the position the following year and took a job with the U of L Foundation as director of operations for construction projects. James lost that job in 2017 when, he said, the foundation got out of the construction business.

Courtesy Kristi Smith

Smith, 48, lives in Old Louisville and is an EMT-B certified first responder. They are also a member of the Office of the Attorney General’s Survivors Council and a human trafficking advocate who co-chairs the group Louisville Metro Human Trafficking Task Force. They said they are also a member of a state human trafficking victim services working group.

In August, Smith was arrested on misdemeanor charges of obstructing governmental operations and disorderly conduct while participating in downtown protests for racial justice.

Screenshot via Louisville Metro Council

WFPL News asked James and Smith to respond to the following questions. Below are their responses, some of which have been lightly edited for clarity and length:

  • What are your ideas for helping residents in your district weather the continued challenges posed by coronavirus, both in terms of health and finances?
  • What, if any, Louisville Metro Police Department budget and policy reforms would you advocate for as a Metro Council member?
  • What is the No. 1 issue facing your district, and how do you plan to address it?

James: The council voted to spend $21.2 million in CARES funding to help residents pay their rent and an equal amount for small-business grants for those affected by COVID-19. I’m currently lobbying Congress for another round of funding.

A ban on no-knock warrants was passed in June, along with a resolution urging transparency. We passed an ordinance for use-of-force restrictions, and have on the table a resolution to urge drug and alcohol testing when officers are involved in critical incidents; a civilian review ordinance and inspector general ordinance also were introduced this month.

The No. 1 issue is the safety of our citizens. We are searching for a new police chief and looking at ways to reimagine policing. Safety isn’t limited to crime, it also includes clean and safe housing. We must address housing and poverty through the Affordable Housing Trust Fund and home ownership programs.

Smith: Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, District 6 was facing challenges in terms of rising business closures, high eviction rates, and ultimately a huge increase in the houseless population. Since these issues are intersectional and interdependent, it is hard to narrow down an issue to a “No. 1 issue.” A resident cannot afford affordable housing without a livable-wage job. A resident cannot get to and perform at work in a district that is a food desert. However, I think a starting point is to be more mindful of spending and allocation of funds into the community. Thus, I would advocate for defunding the police. Allocating resources to the community with better training in de-escalation techniques is one point I would advocate. Defunding the police does not mean completely cutting a budget; it means allocating support and resources within a community to decrease run volume for police.

As far as helping residents in District 6 to weather COVID-19, I would propose we continue utilizing federal and state funds that may be available. I also propose we come together as neighbors on a more intensive mutual-aid level.

Amina Elahi is WFPL's City Editor.