Politics

In his sixth State of the City address since taking office, Mayor Greg Fischer says he is optimistic about the city’s direction.

Fischer told about 1,000 members of the Louisville Rotary Club on Thursday afternoon that the work of his administration  is setting up the city for success in years to come.

Reaching back to when he first took office in 2011, Fischer said more than 47,000 jobs have been created and nearly 1,900 businesses have opened in Louisville. The job creation, he said, has been  vital in pushing the city’s unemployment rate down to just under 5 percent.

Fischer also praised efforts from local corporate businesses,  such as UPS and Ford, to add to the city’s job stock.

Looking to the future, Fischer noted that challenges are mounting.

He said Louisville must work to address low rates of kindergarten readiness, high levels of obesity and diabetes and a recent spike in the city’s homicide rates. Last year, the city saw a homicide levels climb to a near 30-year high.

“For Louisville to reach its full potential, we must be a city where the path to prosperity and opportunity is open to every single one of our citizens,” he said.

To fulfill that goal, Fischer said the city will partner with Brookings Global Cities Initiative to “study opportunities to further tap into the global economy and grow jobs.”

Fischer continued to plea for local employers to take part in the city’s SummerWorks program, which aims to get school-aged students employed during summer months.

He also said the city’s Code Louisville program will expand efforts to get more residents educated in the basics of computer coding, which could help fill an estimated 2,000 open jobs in the city’s tech industry.

Fischer praised the work the city is doing to bring high speed internet connectivity to residents and businesses in Louisville.

“That’s a win for our entrepreneurs, businesses, workforce, students and families, and a huge signal to the world,” he said.

Fischer announced plans to invest $1 million in city funds towards a $4.5 million renovation project of the St. Matthews Library. He said the St. Matthews Library has the highest circulation among Louisville’s public library system.

“It is just good business to take advantage of opportunities like this,” he said.

Fischer continued to tout a program he unveiled at last year’s State of the City address called “Cradle To Career.”

“This system is based on our city’s core value of lifelong learning, and it addresses a crucial finding of our data – that the path to a successful career starts long before somebody in their 20s walks into their first job interview,” he said. “It starts before children take their first steps.”

He also said the city must do more to ensure residents don’t fall victim to a life of crime.

“We have too many citizens, particularly young men of color, who don’t believe in their own futures,” he said. “For both moral and economic reasons, that’s not acceptable; it can’t ever be acceptable. Otherwise, our claims of compassion and shared prosperity are hollow.”

He said the city’s Office of Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods in recent years has secured $10 million in funding from private and federal sources to help propel programs like Pivot to Peace, My Brother’s Keeper and One Love Louisville — all of which have a focus on reducing crime in the city.

Fischer also praised the near $300 million Omni Hotel & Residences development that’s set to break ground later this week.

And keeping to his political priority, Fischer for the third year in a row pushed the idea of a local option sales tax to the members of the Rotary Club. He said such a tax could help the city add to a sparse tree canopy.

“If you agree that Louisville needs this valuable tool to be able to compete with cities around the country, please contact your legislators and tell them to support LIFT,” he said. “And, if you don’t agree, don’t call them.”

Louisville Metro Councilman Bill Hollander, D-9, said he believed Fischer “touched on all the issues and all the progress.”

Louisville Metro Councilwoman Angela Leet, R-7, said Fischer failed to mention the city’s struggles with heroin. She said it’s one of the issues that falls within the mayor’s push to ensure better health outcomes for residents.

“I don’t know why he wouldn’t,” she said.

Jacob Ryan is a reporter for the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.