Community Metro Louisville

Nearly nine months after the police killing of Breonna Taylor, an event that sparked protests for racial justice and provoked an examination of inequity in Louisville, Mayor Greg Fischer announced a plan to address race-based disparities.

The plan, called Advancing Racial Equity, includes a number of previously-announced proposals and ideas. Fischer paired its announcement with an executive order that declared racism a public health crisis in Louisville and commits “efforts and unwavering support to improving the quality of life and health of our minority residents.”

Last month, the American Medical Association said racism is a public health threat. By late summer, states including Minnesota, California and Nevada had made the same declaration.

Fischer said the death of Breonna Taylor and demonstrations demanding racial justice, along with spiraling gun violence, the coronavirus pandemic and an economic downturn have made 2020, “a year like no other.”

But he said these challenges create an opportunity for the city to transform itself.

“For too many Louisvillians, racism is a fact of daily life, a fact that was created and documented in our country’s laws and institutional policies like segregation, redlining and urban renewal,” he said.

He acknowledged that while Louisville Metro has made some efforts to address these issues, it hasn’t gone far enough. Black Louisville residents still fare far worse than White Louisville residents on many metrics ranging from health outcomes to wealth.

“We can channel the energy from the pain we’ve experienced to take ourselves from tragedy to transformation,” he said. “But we’ve got to do more than say just the words.”

His plan focuses on seven areas: public safety, children and families, Black employment, Black wealth, affordable housing and investment in distressed neighborhoods, the health impacts of racism, and voting access and participation.

Fischer acknowledged that enacting these reforms will not happen quickly. Some reforms will require work for the remainder of his term while others will last into the next administration. He cited the creation of a civilian review board earlier this fall, as one of the opening steps to addressing racism and equity problems in the city.

Sadiqa Reynolds, the president and CEO of the Louisville Urban League, said she supports the ideas in Fischer’s formal plan. But she said Louisville residents need more details about how those plans will be carried out and funded.

She said there also need to be ways for citizens to measure the success of these efforts.

“What we want to make sure of is that all of the things that are outlined, that there is some line of accountability,” she said. “And that these are not just things that are being repackaged.”

Asked about how Louisville residents can measure the success of these commitments, Fischer said during the news conference that they can look to next year’s city budget. Louisville has faced budget pressure for consecutive years due to pressure from a rising pension obligation and, more recently, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reynolds was part of a group that this summer publicly proposed an ambitious and wide-ranging plan to decrease racial inequity in Louisville. Fischer referenced that proposal, called A Path Forward, in his announcement, but Reynolds said his office did not consult her when developing its plan.

She agreed with city officials including Fischer who said Tuesday that closing gaps created by racial inequities will require effort from “all of us.”

“But I guess that sometimes means adopt the plans that we give you, instead of creating new things,” Reynolds said.

Some of the ideas in the Advancing Racial Equity plan line up with A Path Forward, such as the action step that promises to assist “small Black-owned businesses with access to capital and support pathways to entrepreneurship through training, assistance and access to opportunities.”

What Reynolds hopes to learn is how much Louisville Metro is already doing that, and if this commitment means the city will support organizations already doing this work or if they should expect the government to take this on. She said understanding that will help them all work better together.

Fischer said he will provide more details in the coming weeks. On Wednesday, he plans to discuss training opportunities for technology jobs in the West End, where there is a high concentration of Black residents.

This story has been updated.

Amina Elahi is WFPL's City Editor.