Metro Louisville
Courtesy of Colin Hardin

Colin Hardin is one of eight candidates in the Democratic primary for Louisville mayor. He works in the hospitality and food service industry.

Learn about the rest of the candidates here.

This interview was edited for clarity and length.

Over the last two years, Louisville has seen a record-breaking spike in homicides and gun violence. What do you think of the Fischer administration’s programs to combat violent crime, like the Group Violence Intervention initiative, and what would you bring to the table?

I think Mayor Greg Fischer has done nothing about any of it. It’s just a testament to how these so-called leaders are all so detached. They’re not one of us. It really is, you know, the ruling class and then the working class. Honestly, why should we keep electing them? 

All the gun violence that we’ve seen, it all stems from the same thing nationwide as it does here. It stems from the rabid hate amongst one another. It’s like, it is miserable to live in this country if you’re not filthy rich. And that’s it, that’s the real issue. You’ve pushed people to desperation. So, one of the things we immediately need to do is give people a floor so they don’t fall forever. Not a floor of prison or the street. There’s this program called Advance Peace. They’ve tried it out in San Diego and it’s showing people what a life outside the streets is like, because if that’s all you know, it’s all you know. That’s something we should look into.

And then the biggest sub-problem of all this is the war on drugs. The war on drugs is what causes drugs to be diverted into the drug trade in the first place. It’s what has cops perennially harassing and stalking Black neighborhoods. We’re still heavily prosecuting these people and locking them up there with vicious criminals. That’s only perpetuating the cycle violence. You take an 18-year-old kid who has some weed on him or even heroin, and you put him in there with vicious people and he has to do what you have to do to survive in there. Then it’s like you get put out on the street. You learn your environment and our environment is desperation and violence and hopelessness. And it is clear that the ones at the top don’t care. They’re still getting paid.

In 2020, Louisville Metro Council approved a new civilian review board and inspector general to provide more police oversight. What do you think of the police accountability reforms that are already in the works, and what would you propose to increase accountability and community trust?

I haven’t seen any type of accountability. So, to me, it’s just feckless what they do. 

I heard someone say that the cops are just the instrument, and the laws are to blame. And on some level, I agree with that, because, like with Breonna Taylor, if drugs weren’t illegal that wouldn’t have happened. (Note: Breonna Taylor was killed by police during a middle-of-the-night raid on her apartment. The raid was part of a broader narcotics investigation focused on her ex-boyfriend.)

So, police need to be instructed and aimed in a different direction. We have violent crime and we have human trafficking issues here in Louisville. All the time and effort on drugs needs to be diverted and pushed towards where it can do some good. Under my administration, the police will not enforce any more drug offenses. Period. I’ll make the paperwork for that just ridiculous to fill out, because clearly the General Assembly is not going to do anything here. The police need, just as I think all Americans do, guidance. Like, “Look, stop this. This is all silly. This is where your attention needs to go.” If we do that, I think in a couple of years we will have a conversation here about how things have gotten a lot better, the violent crime has been brought down, community trust with the police now has been rebuilt. 

Many Louisvillians have taken note of the rapid increase in the number of residents living on the streets or in encampments throughout the city. What is your plan ensuring these folks have access to housing?

There’s entire neighborhoods in this city that are just abandoned, like a zombie apocalypse. There’s also a hotel and a bunch of properties held hostage, basically, by banks and they just let him sit there and rot. Take those dilapidated buildings turn them into these renewal centers that I have in mind. Create renewal centers where people can come, they can have a harm reduction center so that if you want to do drugs, do drugs here. They will supervise you. If people want to use them as an address, shower, just to clean themselves up, that place could be a safe haven.

Any of the abandoned houses that can be saved, we will save, even if we have to buy them from the banks. The others will be torn down. Then the properties in these neighborhoods could be restored. There’s no reason to keep building new, affordable housing when we can restore and renovate houses. There’s enough houses in Louisville, I guarantee you, that are empty, just sitting there dilapidated, to house the people who are living under the bridge or downtown. We passed like a billion dollar budget last year should already be done.

In that same vein, working residents across the city, and particularly in the West End, are concerned about gentrification. As mayor, how would you balance new development and redevelopment with the needs of residents who want to stay in their homes and not be priced out of their neighborhoods?

Really, the answer to this is co-op businesses. The new businesses that my administration will seek out will be co-op businesses. We’ve had such a low union turnout. In this country, there’s no way we ever get back there. So we have to change the idea. I’ve worked for a co-op before that was employee-owned and it’s a far more fair shake for both the community and the employee than the traditional businesses. 

Any businesses that will be promoted will be those types of businesses, so that it won’t be the business using people to make money. It will be the people in the business together making money. You can’t bring in the traditional corporate-style, doesn’t care about its workers type of business, because they just are a parasite. They suck all of the resources out of things, and then just move on. I don’t think co-ops are championed enough, or even brought up enough.

In response to our audience survey, many people voiced concerns about Louisville’s dirty streets. They wrote about litter in public parks, in bike lanes and in neighborhoods. How would you address the need to literally clean up the streets?

You have people do community service for petty crimes, like petty theft, instead of us locking them up and leaving them in there because they can’t pay cash bail. There was this place called the Lord’s Kitchen. It was a service place I had been to for a possession of marijuana thing years ago. And that place is good. I would restore places like that.

I will reach out to churches, the religious community. They’ll be more than happy to help. In the places where litter is a real issue, I’m sure we could create more than a few community services. And I’ll be out there with them. If that’s what people need, is to see me out there first, then let’s clean up the streets. Everything is just falling apart and nobody’s doing anything about it. It’s all just a symptom of decay, and I’ll be damned if I let it happen on my watch.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently released a report saying it is “now or never” to avoid a climate catastrophe. What will you do to protect Louisville and its residents from the impacts of climate change, including the threat of increased flooding from severe weather events?

We’re going to have to mitigate what kind of damage is already done. There is more than enough ways to power this entire world with renewable energy. That won’t be a quick fix. 

I’m pretty sure we can get LG&E or companies to like it, to realize that renewable energy is your next step. Like tidal energy, which is where you would put turbines in the water, and the currents in the Ohio River are pretty strong. Build it on the coasts. It would be a massive project, clearly, but there we go. It would take thinking outside the box. Windmills, we got plenty of open space.

Even nuclear is far less of an issue than our natural gas service. We can replace plastic with hemp. Not only does that save us money on the oil side, it saves the planet. So, I’m going to convince or regulate LG&E and other power companies to turn their resources into renewable energy. 

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