Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer touted citywide economic growth during his ninth annual State of the City Address on Thursday, but also warned the city will have to come up with additional revenue to combat rising pension obligations.
The address, held at the Muhammad Ali Center the day after Fischer renamed the airport for Ali, also coincided with Ali’s birthday.
“We’ve made our city strong through smart investments and strong partnerships and like Ali, by capitalizing on our unique assets,” Fischer said.
Fischer pointed to the successes the city has had over the last eight years under his leadership. Among them are 80,000 new private sector jobs, 2,700 new businesses and $13 billion in capital investment since 2014, he said.
He reiterated that his administration will focus on workforce development, education, globalization and the built economy.
But Fischer also warned that additional revenues are needed to prevent serious cuts to the city’s budget. Within five years, the city’s pension obligations are projected to reach $50 million more per year than they are right now, he said.
“Without additional revenue, we now face the prospect of serious cuts in services that will impact every connection between Louisvillians and their city government,” he said.
Cuts could affect law enforcement, the fire department and public libraries, he said.
Fischer said his office has a half-dozen options for generating more revenue including new special districts and raising property taxes. He said he will work with Louisville Metro Council to find a solution.
Looking forward, Fischer said the city has several projects on the horizon: a new soccer stadium in Butchertown, the restoration of Colonial Gardens, a new performance venue for the Kentucky Center and the opening of the city’s third regional library in the last five years.
Fischer discussed new programs to encourage success for disenfranchised youth, elevate Louisville’s status on the national stage and raise citywide consciousness about discrimination in the wake of the Kroger shooting last October.
That last program, called Lean into Louisville, will include conversations, presentations, activities and art to confront racism and inequality in the city and in the country.
“We must lean into these subjects to understand the historical roots of discrimination and to understand that classism, bigotry, hate and violence have no place in any city that expects a growing and prosperous future,” he said.
On the subject of West Louisville, Fischer brought up the expansion of Waterfront Park, the Louisville Urban League’s Sports and Learning Complex, the new YMCA as well as revitalization efforts in Beecher Terrace and Russell.
“And Russell is the kind of investment and intentional work we are doing to ensure our city’s prosperity is a shared prosperity,” he said.
On homelessness, Fischer noted the efforts the city has taken to introduce low-barrier shelters that allow access to a broader range of the city’s homeless population.
Fischer also mentioned the environment only in passing, saying environmentalism is part of the city’s goals to attract Millennials to live in Louisville.
Fischer closed his address, remembering Ali’s death in 2016.
“Like Muhammad Ali, we have the vision on how to take our city to the next level. So it’s time again for us to come together as we have so many times, none more memorably than during that first week June 2016. We gathered then to celebrate the life of Muhammad Ali,” Fischer said.
“That same spirit of community and connection, pride and purpose, is what we need right now.”