Metro Louisville

After more than a decade at the helm of Louisville Metro Government, Mayor Greg Fischer gave his final State of the City address Thursday afternoon.

The annual speech typically highlights the city’s challenges and is a way for the mayor to discuss priorities for the coming year. 

Fischer took office in 2011. Since then he’s steered Louisville through its recovery from the Great Recession and, more recently, through the police killing of Breonna Taylor and the resulting racial justice protests. After serving three terms as mayor, Fischer is now barred from running again under state law. A large field of candidates is vying to replace him in the upcoming November election.

Fischer began the address by looking back at Louisville’s successes during his tenure. Since 2014, Fischer said, the city has seen more than $20 billion in economic development projects, including the expansion of professional soccer. The Lynn Family Stadium and nearby soccer facilities opened two years ago in the Butchertown neighborhood.

“Remember that hideous view along I-64 of the brownfield filled with rusting storage tanks and junked cars?” Fischer said. “We resolved to transform that embarrassing space into something spectacular.”

Louisville has also seen the creation of more than 20 parks, three regional libraries and a renovated convention center. 

And Fischer highlighted city programs that he said have been successes: the Evolve502 scholarship program for JCPS students, SummerWorks and initiatives to expand bourbon tourism. By the end of 2022, the city’s down payment assistance program will have helped more than 500 low-income residents become homeowners, he said.

“As Nigerien architect Mariam Kamara said, ‘Architecture is the stage on which we live our lives,’” Fischer said. “Investing in the stage is important, but investing in the people on the stage is even more critical.”

Promising to end his term “running through the finish line,” Fischer also spoke to the current challenges facing the city. Top among them, he said, is public safety. 

Officials and community leaders across the political spectrum criticized Fischer for the way he handled the response to Taylor’s death in 2020. Activists confronted Fischer over why he waited so long to speak out about the killing, and Metro Council approved a vote of no confidence for, among other reasons, Fischer’s refusal to hold police leadership accountable.

“I felt immense grief over the loss of life, and frustration that my lifelong commitment to compassion and racial equity had come up short,” Fischer said Thursday of the months of racial justice protests sparked by Taylor’s killing.

But Fischer touted other steps the city has taken since then. His administration commissioned a comprehensive review of the Louisville Metro Police Department. Metro Council also created a new Civilian Review and Accountability board to review allegations of police misconduct. 

More reforms are likely on the way for LMPD with the U.S. Department of Justice conducting an investigation into the department’s alleged violations of civil rights

Despite attempts at improvement, some public safety issues have only worsened in recent years. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, Louisville has seen two years of record-breaking homicide numbers, mainly due to increasing gun violence. 

Fischer said the city is increasing pay for law enforcement in order to address a shortage of more than 200 officers within LMPD. Officials are also rolling out non-police responses to curb crime, such as the 911 deflection program and the Group Violence Intervention initiative.

“The level of gun violence is unacceptable here and across the nation,” Fischer said.

In the next few months, Fischer said, the city will also attempt to tackle inequities in Louisville by launching a universal basic income pilot program and opening a safe outdoor space for homeless residents. 

Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL.