Metro Louisville
Courtesy of Timothy Findley

Timothy Findley Jr. is one of eight candidates in the Democratic primary for Louisville mayor. He is a pastor and activist.

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?

My perspective on the Fischer administration as it relates to public safety, is similar to the way that I see the national approach to public safety. Do I think that it’s worked? Absolutely not.

We continue to approach public safety and approach gun violence in a way that is very reactionary. Every conversation is pointed to police: How do we get more police? How do we fund more police? And it seems as though we continue trying to put a Band-Aid on a broken bone. Nobody wants to talk about the quality of life or the fact that we are living in the consequence of defunding neighborhoods, divesting from people, divesting from youth. That’s what we’re reaping now, and this is not something new to 2022 or 2021. My approach has always been to deal with the root causes. That’s not to say that it will eradicate violence, but at some point someone’s got to stand up and say, ‘Hey, these repeated solutions aren’t working.’

I want to talk about the fact that we can bring a better quality of life. We can deal with what people are dealing with. We can re-fund neighborhoods. Where they were defunded, we can bring resources and allocate these funds that are coming through the American Rescue Plan. If we can do that, I believe we will see a dramatic change in terms of gun violence. 

Why not talk about universal basic income as part of public safety? Why not talk about reorganizing Metro Government? Codes and regulations ought to be putting the hammer down on out-of-state property owners who are allowing vacant properties or dilapidated housing to remain in certain neighborhoods. We see these homes, these areas that are breeding grounds for bad activity. Why not talk about infrastructure, turning on the streetlights? We can do what we did when Muhammad Ali passed away. You cut the grass, you cleaned up garbage, you paved streets, you plugged the potholes, believe it or not. This does play a part in the psyche of individuals as they talk about the hope and their view of their neighborhood.

We have to start there. I think we ought to have 24-hour community centers. I think we ought to deal with bringing arts programs and lifting the work of people like anti-gun violence activist Christopher 2X, and so many other grassroot organizations that are doing the work right now, but are just getting by for pennies. 

I know people want the murder rate to come down. We all do. As a pastor, I’m tired. The amount of funerals that I’ve had to preach over the last two or three years of young people, nobody wants that more than I do. But if we look at everything it took to get us here in terms of not allocating resources, and all these different things, we are not going to solve this overnight.

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 the move for reform has been incremental. The civilian review board, first and foremost, I think that they need to have subpoena power. That is a state-level thing, but I think if there’s going to be accountability and there’s going to be the transformation of policing, that initiative must have the power to conduct investigations and do more than just make recommendations. 

I think that the entire culture of the Louisville Metro Police Department has to change. One of the things that we’re seeing is that there is an absolute lack of transparency from all parts of Metro Government, but especially the LMPD and Metro Corrections. There is just this lip service, window dressing to everything. So I can’t get super excited about what I’m seeing on television, when this is the same administration who brought in the embattled police chief from an already embattled situation

We should have an alternative to a police response. We should be taking more off the plate of LMPD so that they’re not having to be social workers as well. We ought to be advocating for mental health, therapists, building strategies to make sure that people who are dealing with mental health issues are not being put in danger. These are things that we all want to see. And to be completely fair, these are things that we’ve heard from this administration. The question is, how come it hasn’t been operationalized? What are we waiting for? And I think this is where it’s hard for us to give a pat on the back about these reforms that have been suggested when we very rarely see them really operationalize. 

You know, I commend Gov. Andy Beshear. I commend him during this pandemic, because, if he hasn’t done anything else, he’s kept all of us informed every single day. We’re glued to the television, because we want to know what’s next. What’s the status of our state? The next mayor of Louisville has to move in that same way. People want to know what’s going on within LMPD, what’s going on within Metro Government. And that is extremely important if we’re going to heal the city.

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 office is located off East Broadway, and I am right in the middle of a huge community of houseless folks that come to our church every day for our food pantry. I’ve come to know many by name. We’ve helped as many as we could.

I commend people like District 4 Councilman Jecorey Arthur, who have really been pushing for my sister, Stachelle Bussey, who received the contract for the outdoor facility. (Note: Findley’s comments preceded the news that The Hope Village’s opening is delayed.)

I think all those things are very, very important, but I think what we can do as a community, as a city, as leaders in the city, is really deal with the wraparound services. The truth of the matter is, yes, the current houseless need help. But we also need to understand that in these economic conditions that we’re living under right now, if we’re not careful, there’s going to be many more people that find themselves houseless. We’ve been evicting people in a pandemic. 

In terms of the next mayor, I think the budget has to be equitable, and it has to be targeted with the types of services that give people the options. We got to deal with protections as it relates to eviction and help to keep our houseless community from doubling and tripling over the next several years. I want to make the commitment that says, while we’re going to help the current houseless community, we also want to keep another family from being put on the street.

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’d say gentrification is an issue, but to me, displacement is a more accurate word to describe what’s going on here in Louisville. According to a 2019 analysis, Louisville was the fourth most segregated city for its size in America. That did not simply happen overnight. That is something that has been purposefully maintained for a very long time. I think that there are certain initiatives you will see that seem to be good on its face, but are simply creative ways to continue to push this displacement in our city. 

People should feel free to live where they want to live. We don’t simply need mixed-use housing, we need mixed-income housing. We need to deal with the areas in our city that continue to put up barriers, that don’t want to see affordable housing in their neighborhood, that don’t want to see diversity in their neighborhood. I grew up in the Newburg area. I’ve lived in the West End. I have family in the West End and Newburg still. But people want to live where they want to live. And trying to herd people to one of those two areas, especially to Black and brown people, is a shame. It’s shameful. 

We’ve got to have the political figures that can call it out publicly, can work with Metro Council to tear down those barriers and get people to understand that if we’re going to be the city of tomorrow, we’re going to be a progressive city, that we can’t we can’t continue to be as segregated as we are. Unfortunately, right now, we haven’t really had or seen the kinds of leaders that are willing to speak to that and put the political will behind tearing down those dividing walls.

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 have found that my entire mood shifts or changes depending on the cleanliness of my room, or the or the space that I’m in. Imagine walking outside and seeing a street or a housing facility that just seems extremely junky. It doesn’t have the kind of cleanliness that leads to pride in where I live. I don’t know if people even consider that that does play a part in how a person feels about their neighborhood and how they treat their neighborhood. 

One of the priorities, day one, for the next mayor of Louisville needs to be addressing cleaning up neighborhoods that we have historically ignored. There’s no reason for us not to treat the West End, Newburg, the Dixie Highway area, Valley Station and so forth the same way we address Norton Commons. There is no reason why we can’t make sure that our parks are neat and tidy and well taken care of. Whether it’s public safety or economic development or infrastructure, all of those things, to me, find some sort of common ground with the cleanliness of neighborhoods. 

And that’s low-hanging fruit. That’s something that we can absolutely do, and do it immediately. That’s the pledge and the guarantee that I’m making. I’m going to be the kind of mayor that doesn’t try to skip into all of these super ideal things that are going to take years to get to. I want to check the boxes. I want to dot the I’s and cross the Ts of the things we can do right now. Cleaning up our neighborhoods is something that we can absolutely do, we must 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 first thing that I’ll do is listen to the professionals, listen to the people who have dedicated their lives to that. I was able to sit with a group and they talked to me about everything from heat islands to so many things around the city. And they had phenomenal, phenomenal advice as it relates to the way that we could become a greener city, deal with climate change head on and become a leading city, from the way that we build our buildings to our solar capacities. 

I want to have the most diverse administration in the history of our city. Within that, I want to bring in the people who have given their life to fighting climate change and allow them to steer my administration. That’s the answer that I want to give right there. I’m gonna listen to the professionals.

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