Democrat incumbent Mayor Greg Fischer and Republican Angela Leet faced off in the second of two planned candidate forums Tuesday evening, discussing issues including Louisville policing, climate change and economic development. You can listen to the full forum above, or read some highlights below:
On new leadership in the police department:
“It takes two people, you’re right, to change the crime statistic in this city: the mayor and the chief and we need new leadership,” Leet said. “And it begins at the mayor’s office with the hiring of a new police chief who has the relationships to deal with drugs and gangs and stop poisoning our children with those drugs and recruiting them into those gangs. If we want to change our future, it begins with new leadership.”
“Let’s think about the nature of crime and how has taken place, unfortunately, in this part of the country and the last several years has been a massive opioid outbreak when you saw that that also then saw the increase in homicide numbers from our surrounding cities,” Fischer said. “So you have to take a look at crime like it’s an epidemic.”
On self-initiated policing, which has been credited with reductions in crime but recently resulted in a prominent African-American minister, Kevin Cosby, being stopped:
“I saw what I what I saw in that stop, and I am no police expert, I will admit that,” Leet said. “But what I saw was that one mistake: the mistake that there should have been a clear definition of why the pastor was stopped at the very beginning. There shouldn’t have had to be an inquiry about why he was stopped. The reality is, is that he was respectful. We have to be diligent on racial profiling. It is never acceptable in our community to allow for racial profiling.”
“Our nation has a history of African-Americans being stopped at a disproportionate rate and this particular instance, Reverend Cosby did not know why he was stopped. Some simple training, I hope, can take care of that,” Fischer said.
On the future of mass transit in Louisville:
“Yeah, for a city it’s important that you have what we call ‘multimodal transportation’ options,” Fischer said. “So obviously, it’s a car, it’s a bus, it’s sidewalks, it’s bike lanes — which are now scooter lanes as well —so people can get around any way that they want to. The majority of funding for TARC comes from the federal government. Obviously the federal government is not funding things at a higher rate at the city level. So we have to make do with what we can and we are innovating at the same time. We’re going to have our first bus rapid transit line going down 18th Street and Dixie Highway that will improve transit time up and down Dixie Highway. So we hope more people move the bus that way.”
“We all agree that mass transit is absolutely an important component of a successful city,” Leet said. “We must match that mass transit with where the jobs centers exist so that we can provide easy access to jobs to and from their home that simply doesn’t exist in the present time. We’ve been doing much of the same thing with our mass transit system in this community for decades now. And as I’ve said on many other things, we need to take that opportunity to look for efficiency to utilize technology to find smart solutions for those problems so that we don’t wait.”
On the role of the mayor in letting women exercise their legal right to an abortion:
“The mayor should do everything possible to empower women to have reproductive health care,” Fischer said. “That’s one of the most basic rights that people should have. Everybody first should have health care available and then a woman should be able to choose her health care.”
“[Keeping your baby isn’t] the right choice for everyone,” Leet said, noting that she was adopted because her birth mother wasn’t ready to be a mother. “But what I choose personally is to be pro-life. I choose that choice for myself. But there are in my mind exceptions to that and we need to protect and provide a safe place for women where they can walk through their neighborhood and not be accosted because somebody thinks they’re out prostituting trying to get the next drug fix.”
On Louisville’s Metropolitan Sewer District, and the agency’s failing infrastructure and repeated entreaties for a rate increase:
“The reality is that this has been an issue we’ve been discussing for decades,” Leet said. “We know that this Mayor hired an MSD official to run its agency that is under investigation by the Ohio Attorney General. And the fact is, is that our money has not been managed properly by that agency. We know that the mayor committed during the last debate that he was going to increase your rates after the election I think we need to audit MSD and find out where our dollars are going so that we can ensure it is truly addressing the flood concerns.”
“Yes, climate change is real. There’s no question about that,” Fischer said. “I did perform an audit on MSD when I became mayor; there were 82 findings in that and they’ve all been implemented. The critical repair plan is a $4 billion plan. It’s important that as a community and as business people, that businesses know that we have operating infrastructure. It’s like the veins and arteries in your body: if they’re not working, you’re in trouble. Our citizens deserve to have basements that are not flooded. That’s also part of the flood repair plan. We’ve had over 60 community meetings on this plan. So there’s been lots of opportunity for input. I wish we didn’t have to raise rates to have new sewer systems to improve our viaducts. But that’s the reality of what’s taking place because of climate change. So we have to face that responsibility as adults. What we’re talking about is a $5 a month increase.
Throughout the forum, Leet was on the offensive, routinely attacking Fischer’s track record in his eight years as Louisville Mayor. Fischer refused to engage. When asked about his opponent’s weaknesses he refused.
“I am not going to say anything about my opponent’s shortcoming,” he said. “I think people are sick and tired of negative campaigns, of exaggerations about what has taken place. Our city is going through a tremendous renaissance, a tremendous growth period right now, and you can see that all over the community.”
The forum was in the Louisville Public Media performance studio and sponsored by WFPL, WAVE 3 News and the League of Women Voters. Five candidates running as independents — Jackie Green, Chris Thieneman, Isaac Thacker, Billy Ralls and Sean Vandevander — participated in a second forum after Fischer and Leet. Strong themes included the legalization of cannabis and the importance of addressing climate change. We’ll have more on that debate in the coming days on wfpl.org.