Metro Council District 15 encompasses parts of south, central and west Louisville, including neighborhoods such as Taylor-Berry, Schnitzelburg, Wilder Park and parts of Germantown-Paristown.
There are five candidates registered for the May 17 primary election, all of whom are Democrats.
Alena Balakos, 25, is a real estate agent living in the St. Joseph neighborhood.
Jennifer Chappell, 35, is a marketing agent and account manager who lives in Schnitzelburg. Chappell is chair of the Board of Supervisors for the Jefferson County Soil & Water Conservation District. Her term is slated to last through 2024.
Cassandra Colo’n, 65, is retired. She lives in the Taylor-Berry neighborhood. Her residential address, which was provided by the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, is just outside the district boundary, putting her in District 3. Some Metro Council districts, including 15, were redrawn late last year as part of the once-a-decade redistricting process. Council candidates are required to live in a district for at least one year in order to be eligible to represent it.
Tyler Lamon, 30, lives in the St. Joseph neighborhood and is a martial arts instructor. He is a democratic socialist and community organizer.
Daniel Luckett is also running in the District 15 primary race. Luckett did not respond to a request to participate.
Candidates responded to a questionnaire from WFPL News. Their responses were edited for clarity and length.
What are your ideas for helping residents in your district navigate the next phases of COVID-19, which could include intermittent surges, in terms of their health, finances and social needs?
Balakos: Besides what is already available to us, such as county-wide testing, residents of District 15 need to know their social needs are met. Louisville’s budget needs to include a pool of money for eviction outreach and rental assistance. If we build a society with the infrastructure and policy for equitable housing, accessible transportation options, affordable healthcare, etc., then we have already built in resilience, not only for this pandemic but also for whatever disruptive event may come next.
Chappell: People should be able to work a standard workweek in any position and be able to afford shelter, food, health care and other necessities. Even prior to the pandemic, we have been dealing with a minimum wage that is not a living wage, so we can start by raising our city-wide minimum wage and then expand that effort to include mandatory mental health and sick leave, as well as public maternity and paternity leave.
Colo’n: I would focus on directing residents in our communities to follow our guidelines regarding safety measures. I would use whatever funding available to retrain our community and those without jobs in digital technology to increase jobs and help our economy on that road to recovery. I would hold job fairs, and I would continue to find ways to get people back into their homes and apartments so that they can satisfy their personal needs and that of their families.
Lamon: Louisville needs to fund our public health agency so that we can increase education and bring resources to people who are under-served. I support Medicare for All at the federal level and would support any measure locally to provide more free health services to everybody. COVID also revealed serious workplace safety failures; all workers need strongly enforced workplace protections and a labor union to fight for them.
What investments, reforms or new initiatives would you pursue to decrease violent crime and homicides in Louisville?
Balakos: The work of the Office of Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods (OSHN) is unmatched in its holistic approach to crime. Centering youth in the conversation surrounding public safety is key. I support the continuation of the Youth Implementation Team, where our city’s youth are given agency and a voice to create policy suggestions. Louisville needs to focus on investing in social infrastructure instead of policing As a Metro Councilperson, I will support an increase to Louisville Metro’s budget for the funding of OSHN’s programs, and advocate for a permanent 911 deflection program that would send a social worker in place of a police officer, in appropriate circumstances.
Chappell: We need to restructure our police budget to disinvest in militaristic policing and invest in community policing. We have failed to prioritize community policing, despite our efforts to become a model city for 21st Century Policing, which has only widened the gap between officers and the community, tarnishing trust and decreasing perceived police legitimacy. We can also curb potential public safety issues by providing better youth programming and development resources and lifting people out of poverty. We need to invest in creating more mental health professionals and we need to make mental health care accessible and affordable.
Colo’n: I would increase and strengthen our police departments by making sure they receive the necessary funding to hire and properly train police officers, to deal with the sudden rise in crimes in our communities. I would initiate stronger gun laws and better background checks for gun owners. I would get more police officers on foot patrol so that they may get to know their neighborhoods. Our communities are becoming more diverse, so I would also provide them with translators, and mental health workers to help when mental health issues arise. We must provide more economic opportunities in our city and improve the education of our youth and provide them with a better way of life.
Lamon: Louisville spends more on policing every year, but this has not led to a decrease in crime. We need social services and public goods that materially better the lives of people in our city. I would like to see us fund mental health treatment programs, addiction recovery programs, violence interruption programs. We need more community spaces like parks and libraries. Jobs should pay a living wage, and Louisville should be a place where nobody has to worry about having food on the table or a roof over their head.
In your view, what are the city’s greatest needs in terms of housing, and how would you address them through legislation?
Balakos: With rent increases and a lack of affordable options, many individuals are at a major disadvantage. Louisville needs 30,000 additional units of affordable housing. We must amend our zoning codes to support increased density, encourage multi-family options and allow for non-traditional housing types such as accessory dwelling units and tiny homes. The Land Development Code needs to be updated to allow for reduced parking lot requirements and smaller lot sizes. However, until this change is made, rezoning requests pass through Metro Council. I will stand up to developers to ensure that affordable housing is a priority not just in District 15, but throughout our county.
Chappell: We need to increase homeownership so that people can build equity and asset-based wealth and we can stop padding the wallets of landlords. The city’s pandemic eviction prevention efforts, while helping to keep people in place, mostly helped get landlords paid. I support legislation that assists with mortgage and down payment assistance, as well as provides home repair programs and home upkeep incentives. We need to fully fund and possibly increase the Affordable Housing Trust Fund and make sure that we’re maximizing American Rescue Plan funding devoted to housing. We also need to hold negligent property owners accountable, especially those who own multiple properties and fail to upkeep them.
Colo’n: I want our housing to be affordable and to reflect the needs of the community in which it is located. Designs should complement the existing overall theme and design of the neighborhood. The proper mix of commercial and residential development is important, and I would seek public/private partnerships to help move Louisville and Jefferson County ahead with reasonable and rational development based on considerable public input.
Lamon: There are more vacant homes than there are houseless people, and I believe that our solution to houselessness is to remove housing from the hands of private corporations and developers, and place it in the hands of those currently without housing. We need greater housing density, and we especially need more affordable housing. Louisville has eliminated thousands of low-income public housing units in recent decades. We should build more public housing, and it should be beautiful, it should be a place where anybody would want to live. We also need to more strongly protect tenants in Louisville from huge rent increases, poor conditions and unscrupulous landlords.
What do you see as the No. 1 issue facing your district in the next five years?
Balakos: Displacement of residents is the number one issue that our district faces in the next five years. Renters and first-time homebuyers have historically been able to rent and purchase in our South End neighborhoods because it was affordable to do so. However, with rent increases, investors purchasing in our neighborhoods and the frenzy in the housing market, individuals and families are forced to spend far greater than 30% of their income on housing. Renters and new homebuyers will very soon be priced out of District 15. Unless our zoning codes become more inclusive, and affordable housing units are built quickly, residents of District 15 will suffer.
Chappell: Adequately supporting working-class families. Our workers need and deserve a livable wage, sick and mental health leave, maternity and paternity leave, childcare support, access to affordable healthcare and connection to resources that will help them live a more fulfilling life. This also extends to investing in our built and natural environments because good urban design and access to green space should be a right and not a privilege.
Colo’n: Poverty, and how to address it would be our No. 1 issue in this district in the next five years.
Lamon: Louisville faces a tremendous threat from climate change, as does the whole world. We are going to see more floods, tornadoes, wildfires, air pollution and pandemics as a result of environmental destruction. Working people will bear the brunt of these impacts. A top priority for me is a Green New Deal for Louisville. We can bring LG&E into municipal ownership, controlling costs and converting it to renewable energy. We can expand our public transportation system and make it free at the point of use. We can expand our tree canopy, redevelop dirty buildings and remake transportation infrastructure into a city that is sustainable and habitable far into the future.