Politics

Mayor Greg Fischer and Councilwoman Angela Leet said they respect each others’ decision to become public servants.

It was one of the few points they agreed on during a debate Monday evening, the first of two leading up to the Nov. 6 mayoral election. The incumbent Democrat and Republican challenger went back and forth on topics including the Louisville Metro Police Department, infrastructure, and business incentives.

Below, read how the candidates addressed key points during the debate in their own words. Responses have been condensed and edited for clarity. You can watch the full debate online here.

On LMPD Chief Steve Conrad

Background: In 2017, Leet and fellow Metro Council members expressed a no confidence vote of the police chief. Conrad has come under fire for his handling of the scandal-plagued Explorer program. Fischer has maintained his support of Conrad. The River City FOP Lodge 614 endorsed Leet earlier this month.

Fischer: I have full confidence in Chief Conrad. It’s not at all unusual for a police chief to have a no confidence vote. So, the question is: Do you have a plan and is the plan working? We can’t get distracted by a simple notion that removing one person is going to make the city a safer place.

Leet: I want to remind people that in this mayor’s first year in office there were 50 homicides. They have more than doubled. So I do not celebrate success or tell a story of crime reduction when there are still numerous shootings. I’ve said on day one that I’ll fire this police chief because leadership matters.

On infrastructure

Background: As the Metropolitan Sewer District’s repeated requests for a rate hike have failed, aging infrastructure around the city continues to crumble. Sewer cave-ins and flooding are among the issues director Tony Parrott has cited as justification for raising rates.

Fischer: The Council is giving me indications that after this election there will be a vote on MSD. It’s gotten caught up in some politics going back and forth. We cannot build our city out in a way that is attractive to business if we don’t have infrastructure that works here in our city. So I support MSD’s desire to raise the fee.

Leet: What we don’t talk about in our community is the fact that there’s $2 billion of MSD debt already on the books. And what they’re talking about is $4.3 billion additional. The man who’s running the show happens to be somebody who’s under investigation. I’m not confident that they’ve been truthful about the whole story and we need to have an audit of MSD before we increase taxpayers’ rates.

On their party affiliations

Background: Fischer, a Democrat, is running for his third term as mayor. Leet, a Republican, is serving her first term as a member of Metro Council.

Leet: My parents taught me this value of hard work. That value of hard work and parents in the household that were shaping me, those are the values of the conservative body that I think are important. That we only live within our means, that we achieve what we have because we’ve worked hard to attain it. I think that many behind me believe the same principle of strong family values, limited government and controlling our expenditures.

Fischer:  I’m a proud member of the Democratic party. I stand up for women and families, I stand up for working people, I stand up for the principle that every child deserves a great public education. The gap we have between wealth and income in our country is unsustainable, from a moral standpoint, from an economic development standpoint and from a public safety standpoint.

On keeping Amazon HQ2 bid secret

Background: Louisville did not make the shortlist of the cities Amazon is considering for its second headquarters. The Fischer administration has refused to release the incentive package or application it offered the tech giant, though it has said it spent $170,000 on the effort.

Leet: People deserve to know where their taxpayer dollars are going and how those incentives are being spent and what they’re doing to attract businesses to our community. There is some legitimacy to the idea of economic advantage, but it should not be done behind the veil. We should be able to be clear about what we’re giving away in our community.

Fischer: I spent 35 years as a businessperson and entrepreneur. I would just say, I would ask anybody that’s been involved with business: do you think you should give your playbook to a competitor? That would be business malpractice.

On direct air travel

Background: Local groups and leaders have called for more direct flights from Louisville to larger cities including Boston and Los Angeles. Fischer has said companies considering relocating to Louisville mention the lack of direct flights as an issue.

Fischer: We’re part of something called the Louisville Regional Air Force Development group that is working directly with airlines right now — Delta, Southwest, etc. — so that we can work with them to provide direct flights. The number one market is Los Angeles, number two is Boston, number three is San Francisco, number four is Seattle. We have economic data that indicates direct flights to those markets would help us both from a business standpoint and also from a tourism standpoint.

Leet: We have to be able to attract new people, we have to grow our population. When you look at our population growth, we fall below the national average in population growth. So we need to create density in order to create more programs, in order to support those direct flights. We must support direct air flights to grow our community.

Fischer, Leet and Jackie Green will meet during a debate at Louisville Public Media on Tuesday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m., sponsored by WAVE-3, League of Women Voters and Louisville Public Media.

This story has been updated. 

Amina Elahi is WFPL's City Reporter.