Metro Louisville
Craig GreenbergStephanie Wolf | wfpl.org

Craig Greenberg is one of eight candidates in the Democratic primary for Louisville mayor. He is a businessman, attorney and developer. 

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 recently released an all-in plan, which is a comprehensive plan to address our violent crime and public safety crisis that has several components: First, we have to stop the violence. These are immediate things that we can do. Things like you just mentioned, Group Violence Intervention, which is a proven program that has worked in other cities. Here, we need the mayor to take a leading role to bring law enforcement, federal, state, local law enforcement, clergy, neighborhood leaders and others together to help make that program the same success that it’s been in other cities. 

Second, we need to fully staff and fund a community-oriented police force. For too long in Louisville, we’ve had far too few police officers so they can’t focus on preventing crime. Instead, they’re just responding to crime. I want to really support the police department to recruit a diverse group of individuals who are trained in community policing, that are working with people in every neighborhood, that know the neighborhood leaders, that know leaders of the clergy, that know those who have been formerly incarcerated, that can work with people in the neighborhood to really help prevent crime. We should aspire to have the best trained, trusted and transparent police department in America.

But we can’t police our way to safety alone, we must have other strategies as well. So the third pillar of my plan is to address the root causes of crime to instill hope and create opportunity. By that, I mean we need to invest in programs like community centers, after-school jobs, mentorship programs. I want to expand our SummerWorks Program for teens to a year-round program so that youth and young adults have more opportunities to succeed in this world than just thinking they have to go down a path of a life of crime.

Finally, the fourth pillar is to build cleaner, safer and healthier community spaces. We need to start doing the little things right in Louisville to make our neighborhoods feel safe.

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?

We need to be honest with ourselves that it is very likely we will be operating our police department and our approach to public safety under a consent decree from the U.S. Department of Justice. We should see that as an opportunity to seek more funding from the federal government, so that they can support some of these innovative programs that we need to address our violent crime crisis urgently and immediately. 

I think it’s incumbent on the mayor to be regularly transparent with the public, whether it’s briefings, feedback or conversations about what’s going on in all parts of the city with respect to public safety. And then things like the civilian review board, things like the chief of police being accessible, all of those are also critically important things.

When mistakes are made, we need to address that and acknowledge it promptly, with the full facts that we know at the time. We also need to talk about what we’ve learned from those mistakes that were made, and how we’re going to do things differently as a city moving forward.

One of the things that I proposed in my plan for public safety was a new LMPD community service academy. It would be a paid part of officer training. Officers would be working with local nonprofit organizations that either serve a particular neighborhood or type of individual that is often impacted by violent crime to get to understand the issues, so they can be a more effective community police organization. I think part of the transparency is not just the mayor or the chief of police speaking from behind the podium. But it’s the day-to-day work that the police officers do in getting to know people in the neighborhoods that they serve. And that day-to-day transparency is what I think is going to build the trust.

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?

I think, again, we need to address this with a sense of urgency for those who are homeless, as well as for a community who is not homeless but is dealing with the impact of our homeless population. 

I met recently with about 20 people who were active, supporting the homeless community over at the Salvation Army. That group said we need approximately three or four buildings around the city that can house approximately 50 or 60 individuals at a time. Bring them inside, and then support them with the wraparound services that they need. For many people who are homeless, they’re struggling with a mental health issue or an addiction issue, or oftentimes both. And we need to provide those wraparound services to those individuals to help them have a new, more productive path in life. We can do that with great nonprofit organizations in our city that provide the services, and the federal government can fund the services through Medicaid.

At the same time, I think that it’s very fair for the city to then say there are certain places in our city that you cannot pitch a tent and live under the overpasses or in our central business district, some of those places where I don’t think it’s appropriate for us to have a homeless camps at this time. I’m going to be focused on providing the services and shelter that our homeless population needs, and at the same time ensuring that our central business district and other areas are safe and clean, so that people can live safely, that visitors can enjoy the downtown and that our entire city can thrive for everybody.

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?

I think that the most successful neighborhoods are walkable neighborhoods, and are neighborhoods in which you can live through a wide variety of segments of your life, whether you’re just starting out, you’re married with children, or you’re single and older and you’re looking to downsize. What a great neighborhood that is where you have people of all ages that can interact with each other that can learn from each other. And so helping build neighborhoods like that would be my goal. 

And part of this does take new development, whether it’s renovation or new development. One thing that I think’s important is community input. I think that community input needs to be on the front end, so whether it’s a nonprofit organization or a developer that’s doing a project, they have predictability for the particular projects that they’re getting ready to embark on. I’m all about communication. I’m all about reaching out. But I also think it’s important that we make progress in our city, that we do invest in our neighborhoods, and that we give every neighborhood the opportunity to thrive.

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?

We need to do the little things right in Louisville. When we do the little things right, big progress will follow. 

Some of those little things are keeping our streets clean, fixing broken streetlights and removing abandoned cars from the roads, whether you’re on the highway or in neighborhoods. If you’re like me, you see abandoned cars all over the place that stay there for days, weeks, sometimes even months. Those are dangerous eyesores that send the wrong signal to our city. And so I’m going to create an abandoned vehicle response team that within 48 hours of any abandoned vehicle being reported on the street will be cleared by the city. At the same time, we need to fix our streetlights, we need to remove graffiti, we need to pick up the trash, whether it’s in the alley or the roadway. Those are the things that keep neighborhoods safe, that keep property values up, that keep people living in their homes where they’ve grown up and don’t want to move out. 

I also want to ask members of the neighborhood to help with this. The city has a large responsibility to do this, but also let’s work together with neighborhood organizations and groups to be a part of the effort to keep our neighborhoods clean.

This is also an area where the mayor has accountability and responsibility. And so I think it’s critically important that the mayor is willing to be held accountable for issues like keeping the city clean.

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?

Louisville needs to be a clean city. We’re here because of the river. That’s how Louisville started and we should really embrace the river. We should have a goal that the Ohio River is a river in which we all want to swim, where we can eat the fish, where we can drink the water. We should be seeking goals like that for our city. 

Now, flooding is a real risk. One of the fun things I’ve been doing as I’ve been running for mayor is literally running across the entire city. I’ll be running through neighborhoods where you see houses, houses, houses, and then all of a sudden, vacant lots, and then houses again. And when you ask about why that is, neighbors will tell you, “Oh, because that area floods.” Working with the Metropolitan Sewer District is going to be critically important to make sure that we’re developing in the areas where we should be developing, and not in areas that are prone to flooding. 

In terms of our industry and our business, I think we should be focused on clean businesses for the future. It’s wonderful news to have this new Ford plant that’s going to be building new batteries. I think we should be embracing renewable energies, whether it’s solar or wind, to power our businesses, to power our city government. That’s low-hanging fruit that Louisville can really embrace for the public sector, but also for the private sector as well and encourage that. We should be supporting our clean businesses, whether they’re in the clean energy business or they’re just businesses that interact with the environment in a clean way. Those are the types of jobs that I want to create. Those are the types of businesses that I want to support. Because ultimately, our future is dependent on having a clean environment here in Louisville.

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