Election 2018

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer is again the Democratic candidate for the seat. This year, he’s running for his third term in office. He faces a number of challengers, including Republican Angela Leet, who currently serves as the Councilwoman for District 7.

Read more about the independent candidates running for office here.

Fischer and Leet disagree on a number of topics, starting with their view of the city’s performance and continuing with their stances on the police chief and the level of crime. They both come from professional backgrounds, he as a businessman and she as an engineer and business owner.

The two participated in a debate on Oct. 16, hosted by the League of Women Voters, WFPL and WAVE 3 News. Listen to or read their responses to a few of our questions regarding the present and future of Louisville below.

Louisville is a growing city with a significant immigrant population. Last year, we learned through reporting by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting that police were helping immigration agents in more significant ways than people realized. Police policies changed as a result. So what do you see as a proper role for police in enforcing civil immigration laws?

Leet:

“The police must be able to work with all law enforcement agencies to ensure that we follow all laws of our country. I believe in a safe city for every single citizen in every corner. We have to stop the things that we know are happening in our community right now. We see that with all the new hotel rooms, there’s higher human trafficking, and we’re not addressing that concern. And we have to be focused on the issues that we’re faced with. A community that is safe for all that will provide opportunities to succeed and the future of America.”

Fischer:

“LMPD has 500,000 citizen interactions every year. But the bigger issue is, what kind of city do we want to be? It’s important that we’re a global city. Our kids need to be comfortable operating in Louisville, in Cape Town in Hong Kong. So our immigrant population is extremely important to our city. It’s the source of most of our population growth as well. As it relates to the law, what we’ve demonstrated as a welcoming city, as a compassionate city is that you can follow federal laws, you can follow state laws and still be an immigrant-friendly city. The world is looking for a global city, I can tell you our employers are looking for a global city as well. And that’s what we’re in the process of making.”

Self-initiated police activity is being credited with reductions in crime. But recently a self-initiated a traffic stop resulted in the LMPD pulling over a prominent minister and president of the city’s only historically black college. Some citizens argued this would not have happened in a white neighborhood. Was this how self-initiated policing is supposed to work? And was this a case of racial profiling?

Leet:

“We have to put quality over quantity. And I think we have begun to focus on an issue of trying to have quantity instead of quality. And as a result, we may unintentionally create profiling that is unintended. The mistake [was] 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 it 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. People get stopped all across our community, but we have to be diligent and be fair and equitable across the board.”

Fischer:

“Our nation has a history of African-Americans being stopped at a disproportionate rate and this particular instance — Reverend Cosby — we did not know why he was stopped. Some simple training, I hope, can take care of that. What we’ve done with our police department to ensure transparency and accountability are a couple things. Number one, we’re one of the first police departments in the country to issue body cameras so we can see what’s taking place between police and our constituents every day. We also conduct an annual study of traffic stops, so we can understand if disproportionality is taking place and why it’s taking place. We also are one of the leading police forces with the White House’s 21st Century Policing techniques. So we lean into these issues each and every day. It’s hard to be perfect every time but what’s important is — and I believe our city has the capacity to do that — is lean into these issues around race, lean into these issues around police-community legitimacy, so we can be stronger together.”

Louisville has an eviction rate that’s twice the national average. What do you see as the role of the mayor and the mayor’s office in ensuring that landlords respect tenants rights? And what steps would you take to improve housing stability in the city?

Fischer:

“Eviction rates are problem all over the country. And it contributes to our homeless challenge that we have in our community. Many of our landlords are finding that it’s far easier to work with somebody that’s late on rent than it is to kick them out. Also, the city is funding easing of evictions through our community ministries that we give to help people with late rent through our Office of Community Services and Resiliency as well. So the city can help in these particular instances. And we have services within the city. If somebody calls and says, ‘I’m in trouble, and I need help.’ Now we have to ask what’s at the root of a lot of these problems. Our minimum wage as a country has not changed over a decade. It is ridiculous to think somebody can live on $7.25 an hour. We tried to increase our minimum wage in the state. We were rebuffed by state courts on doing that. We need to raise our minimum wage at a federal level so everybody can earn a decent living.”

Leet:

“As I talk to women in particular, single mothers who are working hard to protect their family, provide jobs and shelter for their family, they’ve run into that bump in the road where they had an unexpected medical bill or missed work because of a medical situation, and they lost their job and they got evicted. And it’s amazing to me — an eviction stays on your record for forever, it’s impossible to get that off. And so we have to be diligent, we have to be intentionally focused to ensure that we’re addressing those issues and that we’re providing those working moms, those working dads, the opportunity to keep their household, to ensure that they stay in affordable and decent homes throughout our community.”

Earlier this year, the Metro Council passed an ordinance banning Metro government agencies for asking for salary histories from job applicants. Mayor Fischer signed that into law. It was a move designed to decrease the gender wage gap since women are historically paid less than men for the same work. What other policy changes or measures would you take as mayor to improve gender equity among Metro government employees?

Leet:

“One thing that Louisville has working against us is the fact that our national average of wages is 12 percent behind everyone else. I’ve had people say, ‘Oh, well, then we have a low cost of living.’ But I can assure you if you want to be attracted from a place like L.A. or Chicago or New York to get a job here, when you’re already working one of those markets with a wage that’s 12 percent less is nearly impossible, because they don’t understand the difference. We have to address that wage concern. I know that we’ve done studies to address that. And we just in fact, did a Neighborhood Development Fund request to address that within Metro Council just last week. We have to be diligent about paying for this and and studying that issue. And we have to get equal pay for equal work.”

Fischer:

“My administration has a long history of supporting women in the workplace. In 2014, as Mayor I was a signatory to the convention to eliminate discrimination, all types of discrimination against women. And that’s opportunities for education, for business advancement. It guarantees that will be paying women equal pay for equal work as well. So this ultimately is a family issue. You talk about it as a woman’s issue. But women run most of our households and do a good job at that, so at the end of the day, we need to do everything we can to support families and my administration has been leading in that area.”

The number of homicides in Louisville is declining from the record this city set in 2016. How much credit does the police chief Steve Conrad deserve for this change?

Leet:

“Well, I’ve been very clear that we cannot celebrate the fact that we’ve gone down just a little bit on homicides, when in fact the number of shootings in our community have not decreased but by a few victims. The reality is when we look at the total number of victims in our community, it continues to rise. Whether its victims of homicide, victims of rape, victims of human trafficking, victims of drug overdose, victims of gangs, we have not decreased our crime. And we are telling a story that’s simply not the truth for many in our community. We have people who get things stolen out of their garage, stolen out of their cars to support their drug habit. And it takes two people to change the crime statistic in this city: the mayor and the chief. And we need new leadership. 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.”

Fischer:

“Let’s think about the nature of crime and how it’s taken place unfortunately, in this part of the country. In the last several years, there’s been a massive opioid outbreak. When you saw that, you also then saw the increase in homicide numbers from our surrounding cities. So you have to take a look at crime like it’s an epidemic. This unfortunately is not just happening in our city. Yes, our numbers are improving. Our plan is working, they’re working better than our surrounding cities. But that’s not who we want to measure ourselves with. But it’s important that you do recognize that this is taking place in other cities and we’re outperforming them right now. Our numbers are working. Our plan is working. As I mentioned before, overall crime is down 5 percent, violent crime is down 9 percent, homicides are [down] 22 percent. What’s important is when issues like this happen, you have a plan, you put a good team in place, and then you get results. A simplistic notion of removing one person and all sudden crime is going to get better in our city, it’s just not reality.”

Please explain how your administration plans to use incentives to promote healthy economic development in areas of the city that need it the most? How would you ensure that enticing more businesses and projects to move into areas such as west Louisville won’t have the effect of pricing out the people who already live there?

Leet:

“I think we have to be very aware of the effects of gentrification. I think people are concerned. The way we involve people in our community to solve that problem. I’ve been to so many different neighborhood association meetings, whether it’s Smoketown or Shelby Park, or out in Fern Creek or Fairdale, they’re engaged in their neighborhood. And what we need to do is find folks to be homeowners to be engaged in their community to ensure that opportunity to to be in their neighborhood and ensure the economic activity they want. I know we have parcels of land where we have a neighborhood plan — yet then plans come along that don’t fit and yet we still try to ram them through and I think what we have to do is have that smart growth sustainable growth and it can be done while supporting suburban cities and our urban core.”

Fischer:

“The development taking place in west Louisville right now is a real community success story that everybody should feel very good about. Of the $13 billion going on in the city right now, about a billion dollars is taking place in west Louisville. There’s four catalytic projects right now. One is the Beecher Terrace re-do being redeveloped into a mixed income, mixed-use community, much like Park DuValle was. Waterfront Park phase four will be built from 9th to 15th Street right along the river. At 30th and Market, the Track on Ali, which will be a fabulous new indoor track and field facility and I predict will produce future Olympians out of that. And then at 18th and Broadway, which is one of our historic great corridors, you’re seeing Passport and their national headquarters being built on the west side, 500 people will be working there. And then on the east side, the new YMCA complex. That’s also the location where the first bus rapid transit line will be going up and down Dixie Highway. So that’s an example of how you have a long-term plan. You work to get the funding together, both public and private, you put it to use and fortunately, now construction is started.”

When a company approaches the city as a potential place to put down roots and move employees here with their families. What do you tell them about the quality of our public schools? And what do you most want to see improved?

Leet:

“We clearly have a gap there, we have a concern, we’ve been talking about it as a community in the last year, we should have been talking about this issue for decades. But we haven’t, we’ve been doing the same thing. We haven’t gotten out of our status quo. We have expected and allowed us to ignore the importance of education to provide that next stepping stone. So what we have to do to be able to attract businesses is to ensure that we’re collaborating with the school district, that we’re collaborating to improve schools, we’re collaborating to provide equity for people who are looking to move here. And they need to be able to have a neighborhood elementary school for them to be able to say, ‘I know I’m going to move to this neighborhood. I’m going to move to this area and this is where my child will be able to go to school.’”

Fischer:

“You can have choice on where your child’s gonna attend school. Fifty percent of families decide not to send their child to the school closest to them, so that choice is an important part of it. Also, Jefferson County Public Schools has some of the best schools in the country. We all know about Manual High School and what they do. Most importantly, JCPS is working to be the best large public urban school in the country. I think that’s a goal that we all can agree on. Then when they take a look at what the city is doing, with our cradle to career and out of school time supports, and a promise scholarship, I can tell you businesses would say ‘That’s the kind of community I want to move to’ when they see that type of support in the community. So we all need to get behind JCPS. It’s easy to use them as a punching bag. Hundred and one thousand students. Spend some time in a school and see if you think it’s easy. What they really need is the entire community support and that’s what businesses respond to.”

Closing statements:

Fischer:

“Being your mayor is an incredible honor. And more than ever, the future of our city fills me with hope. Walk around, and you can see why. More people are getting the degrees and the skills they need to succeed. Wages are up, crime is down. Our city is truly in a renaissance and we’re going through a period like none of us have ever seen before. But our work is far from done. Your enthusiasm, your desire to live in a great city, along with your motivation to make a better life for yourself and for your family is what inspires me every day. Like Tina, a working mom. She had two jobs then went through our Code Louisville program and now has one $50,000-a-year job as a software coder. Or Michael, a formerly homeless Marine Corps vet. He now has a place to live, thanks to our initiative to end veterans homelessness, a job and he serves as a youth mentor. There are thousands of stories like this in our city, showing us that we can do anything when we take care of business today, and focus on the future, a future where we will keep an unrelenting focus on public safety and continue to create pathways for all residents to join that economic success our city is experiencing. That’s what motivates me to get up each and every day, every single day, energized and ready to work on your behalf. So we together as a city, we’ve accomplished a lot. My team has demonstrated that we can get big things done. And we can also take care of the details. Our city is on a roll. And people all over the country see us as a breakout medium-sized city full of opportunity. But we still have much to do and we will maximize those possibilities. It’s a privilege to take part in this campaign and this democratic process and to ask you again for your continued confidence, your support, your trust and your vote.”

Leet:

“I appreciate my opponent’s eight years of service. You have a choice in this race. I am running for those who have been forgotten by this mayor: the victims of violence and sexual assault, people who have suffered due to inside deals and cover ups, and most of all, I am running for you: the hard working men and women of Louisville who are still trying to succeed. I am running for every Louisvillian. Don’t be fooled by what four more years will look like. More crime, drugs and gangs, more blighted neighborhoods and homelessness, more MSD fees and lawsuits. All of this means more money out of your pocket. I believe we all want a Louisville where audits of agencies like MSD are prioritized over a guaranteed tax increase, where transparency is prioritized over the Mayor’s private parties that are funded by you, where accountability is prioritized over lawsuit payouts that have exposed abuse, misuse and cover-ups. I will partner with many of our strong frontline organizations to talk to tackle the tough issues, I will find new ways to boost local businesses and their growth, to incentivize workforce training. So we have a workforce ready to move at the pace of a tech economy. We can’t afford to let anyone else fall further behind. I see a future where our suburban neighborhoods and urban core work together for a connected safer Louisville, a future where we bring smart, sustainable growth for a stronger level, a future where there is respect for all. This is the Louisville I see. And with your vote, we can do this together, we can make the change. Please head to the polls on November 6, and vote for change. Vote Angela Leet for mayor.

These responses have been edited for clarity.

 

Amina Elahi is WFPL's City Reporter.