Skylar Graudick is one of eight candidates in the Democratic primary for Louisville mayor. He is a construction and maintenance worker, and was formerly a Louisville Metro police officer.
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?
The criminal justice system is a system. Police are one important part of that. You have the courts, you have drug treatment centers and mental health centers. I think we could triple the size of the police department right now, and I don’t think it would make a difference necessarily. Police are constantly arresting the same people over and over again. It’s not like everyone out there who comes from a bad situation is doing crime every day. It’s the same, very small piece of our community who constantly gets in trouble.
A lot of the problem has to do with juvenile violence. A lot of people don’t understand that a lot of the crimes here, the shootings, the carjackings, they’re being done by like 13-, 14-, 15-, 16-year-old, literal children. For me, it’s sad that a person would lose their wife or be physically assaulted, but I think it’s a whole deeper level of sadness that this is being perpetrated by children. The juvenile justice system is notoriously weak. If you break the law, you hurt someone as a kid, you get a slap on the wrist or nothing happens to you. And then you do it again. What kind of message does that send to you about your accountability? We don’t need more laws, we need the laws that we have now to be enforced properly.
We also have a lot of drug addiction problems. As an officer, I saw that on Dixie Highway. There’s a lot of minor crimes that clog up the system. We devote a lot of resources in the jail and in the court system to people who are shoplifting or breaking into cars, because of their heroin addiction. I know The Healing Place is a very good program. I wish Metro Council and the city would invest in them more. And that’s kind of a pattern. There’s a lack of communication at the very most basic levels, a lack of coordination. I think we have a lot of good programs here that can be built upon to really help with these crime issues.
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 think this is the simplest, the fastest, the single most effective thing that we can do: Pass an ordinance at Metro Council that says that if an officer discusses things with members of the public in a civic group, or goes to the media, or goes to their council member, or wants to just get on Facebook and criticize the department, that they can’t be fired for that. You can’t have trust when there’s no conversations, and the conversation is literally just not happening.It’s not really people’s fault for not understanding, because there’s nothing there for them to learn from. When you have a use of force incident, let’s say, and you have to hit someone. The average person would be like, “Why did you do that?” They don’t have a good background to understand what is actually good and bad, without the context of what it’s actually like, what the actual threats are.
I don’t think people even understand the logical link between traffic stops and homicides being reduced. These are what’s called pretextual stops. I know that’s an issue of contention right now, but a lot of officers would tell you that’s doing good police work. A lot of times you stop people for no registration. I’m looking for guns. I’m looking for people with warrants. A lot of times we get those things, people who have weapons who are obviously on their way to do bad things, and their record indicates that they’ve done bad things in the past. We might have prevented a murder that day, but what people see is, you’re pulling me over for no reason. That’s why homicides are through the roof. Ordinarily, when people would be stopped and have their weapons taken, for that night, probably someone’s life was saved.
Let cops talk to people. Let cops write opinion pieces in the Courier-Journal, like I’ve done. You trust them with a badge and a gun and to arrest people, but you won’t trust them to talk about what it’s like?
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?
My recent experience at The Healing Place was very impactful. One woman who was leading me around raises money now for The Healing Place, and she used to be in that same situation of addiction. They have people who were in bad situations, who have gone through the program, they wound up giving back and being very productive members of society. So expanding The Healing Place, and having homeless outreach programs for people.
One of my proposals is to start a pilot program for kids. For people to not be homeless, they need to have homes. Period. That’s the definition of the issue. So, let’s have a pilot program for kids who are homeless that go to Jefferson County Public Schools. That’s unconscionable. Let’s start there and see what that looks like.
The problem is that Louisville, despite what we might think from being in our bubble, is very friendly to the homeless in terms of our police response, in terms of what we allow them to do. So, a lot of people are coming from other cities. I think that if we build it, people are going to come. So we also need to work with federal partners to get more money if we did do a full homeless housing program, because people are going to be attracted here. And I don’t think it’s necessarily responsible or right for us to pay our tax dollars to have people from other cities come here. But the simple answer is: We need to give them homes, and we need to give them the skills that it takes to be productive members of society, which a lot of them don’t have.
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?
A lot of times, especially in our current society, people want a quick answer. You’re going to frame the issue in a way that says someone is to blame or something needs to be fixed. So, is the fact that people can’t afford their homes on the landlords? Or is it that we don’t have good jobs that pay well? Or is it the fact that we don’t have pensions and insurance benefits for most people anymore? Is it the fact that most corporations are making record profits on goods?
I’m a big supporter of unions and union labor. I think we should change state law to make the union stronger in this state, because that allows you to band together and to get the wages, benefits and working conditions that you want. No one knows that better than the workers themselves, what they need to be happy and to be productive.
I will be a mayor that will stand for unions. I will help unions organize. For instance, at the state level, we don’t have binding arbitration. So if you have an agreement with Metro Government and the city says, “No, we don’t like that deal,” then that’s the end of it. You get screwed. I’d like a law that says once you can’t agree, we have an arbitrator come in. We’re seeing fast food organizers and Starbucks organizing now. That needs to be done. But the issue is really at the state level and the federal level. You can’t solve everything at the local level. It’s coming from the top. My perspective as a former lobbyist (for the statewide Fraternal Order of Police) is that we need our actual interest represented in their halls of power. That is not happening with Louisville, and I think looking around, you see a lot of problems that are the direct result of that.
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?
I think if you look around, as an average person, and you see where investments are, it’s not been in the city. We need to re-invest in those things. Why are we trying to capture future tax dollars and put them to these private projects that only benefit private developers? And I’m not hating on developers. You need someone to provide the means to better the areas. That’s 100% necessary. But we don’t have to let the people who just want to make money be the main controllers of the public policy debate.
To clean up the city, let’s start by having a mayor that actually wants to invest in our people here. Let’s pay our workers better. I haven’t talked to them yet, but if the sanitation department is having issues keeping or retaining people, like everything in the city now, what do they need to attract more people and make the job worth it? Let’s not treat our human resources as another business cost to be minimized. Let’s invest in people and give them what they need to want to do the jobs that we need them to do.
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?
The energy resolution that Louisville Metro passed is way too vague. It says we need to be on 100% clean energy by 2040, but there’s nothing on the websites that show progress up to this point. The resolution is two years old. You want some wiggle room for people to be able to work through it without feeling constrained, but this is way too vague.
I know climate change is a huge issue, and it’s a pressing issue. But I think we need to be a little more patient for technology to develop, because I don’t think it’s there. This is a federal, nationwide issue. We have a research university here at the University of Louisville, let’s see if we can get some federal partnerships to try to develop better technology. Let’s work with LG&E, let’s work with the big corporations.
As a former lobbyist, I know the lobbying room was kind of an interesting realm where things you think aren’t possible can actually be possible. It’s just how can everyone win without everyone losing? So let’s get everyone at the table and let’s see if we can work out a deal that works for everyone. Let’s invest in more technology. Let’s work with federal partners to see what we can do.