Politics

Louisville Metro Councilman Dan Johnson was spared any punches by his political opponent over his recent controversies at a debate Wednesday evening.

Johnson, D-21, and independent candidate John Witt disagreed on little at a 30-minute forum organized by the League of Women Voters.

The discussion was held in the basement of the Iroquois Library, but few District 21 residents attended a debate that touched on public safety concerns, affordable housing, skepticism over bike lanes and other issues.

Johnson and Witt did differ on the LG&E fee approved by lawmakers earlier this year as a way to boost police funding in the wake of downtown violence.

“I voted for it because it is providing new police protection downtown and everywhere else our community,” said Johnson.

The fee will be attached to LG&E gas prices and will show up on customers’ household utility bills at less than $20 annually.

“And I don’t think you’ll ever notice it,” said Johnson.

A retired U.S. Postal worker, Witt said he objected to the fee being passed on to customers.

“I wish it didn’t happen because the reaction was after the fact and it all could have been prevented,” he said. “I’m against any kind of new money for the city. It seems like that’s all they do is want more money all the time.”

It has been a rough summer for Johnson politically.

The Democratic incumbent has been besieged by reports of lawsuits over writing bad checks, including two bounced checks written to the city for his Metro-issued cell phone.

Johnson’s new legislative aide, Bryan Mathews, has also been the source of headaches. Mathews was slapped with disciplinary action in July for making disparaging remarks about one of Johnson’s fellow council member.

Other reports focusing on Johnson’s campaign expenditures have raised serious questions as well. State finance records show Johnson paid Matthews nearly $5,000 in the summer of 2013 for campaign consulting a full year before he had an opponent.

Witt bypassed taking any shots at Johnson over those topics during the debate, however.

When asked by the moderator if the city’s code of ethics needed additional reforms, for instance, Witt said he wasn’t sure if any changes were necessary.

Johnson said: “I believe it’s fine like it is.”

Afterward, Witt told WFPL Johnson’s behavior shows he has lost respect for the constituents and his leadership has faltered.

“The people are very concerned about the respectability and his representation and leadership as far as our district,” said Witt. 

Witt said the League of Women Voters’ forum was not the place to confront the councilman’s troubles.

“This debate had outlined questions and I didn’t know how to get into that, but later on I will,” he said.

Johnson left before taking questions and later declined reporters’ request for comment.

The next League of Women Voters council candidate debate is the District 11 race between Republican incumbent Kevin Kramer and Democratic challenger Larry Hujo.

That forum is scheduled for Sept. 15 at 6:30 p.m. at the Jeffersontown Community Center.