Metro Louisville

Metro Council District 21 encompasses parts of south Louisville, including Beechmont and Preston Park.

Mindy Fulner

There are three candidates running in the May 17 primary elections, two Republicans and a Democrat.

Irina Baptiste, 55, is a Republican candidate who lives in Okolona. Baptiste is self-employed but previously worked as a teacher.

Betsy Ruhe, 60, is a retired teacher living in the Beechmont neighborhood. The Democrat has served as a member of the Beechmont neighborhood association since 2011.

Stephen Dattilo Jr. is the other Republican in the race. Dattilo did not respond in time to be included in the voter guide.

Candidates responded to a questionnaire from WFPL News. Below are their responses, which 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?

Baptiste (R): The best way to help our citizens with the ongoing ups and downs of COVID-19 is to be transparent with the data, be protective of the most vulnerable part of the population and allow people to resume their lives.

Ruhe (D): We need to make sure we still have access to free and convenient COVID tests and we need to continue educating citizens about the proper procedure for taking them. We also need to make sure we have plenty of resources for those who may not be able to work Food pantries need to be well stocked to meet these unexpected surges. People are still behind on rent or house payments because of the disruptions two years ago. They also need access to affordable and convenient mental health care.

What investments, reforms or new initiatives would you pursue to decrease violent crime and homicides in Louisville?

Baptiste (R): Violence is not an isolated incident, it’s a chain reaction stemming from poor education which results in social displacement. We have to address the root of the problem, while we keep those who are already involved in the downward spiral of violence out of the streets for the good of society. Redirect and optimize the use of the current funds.

Ruhe (D): We must ensure we have enough officers on the force to be available when someone calls for them. We must also use social work professionals to respond to mental health crises and other situations that don’t require a police response. This is already being piloted in the 4th Division and should be expanded to other parts of Metro Louisville. I will also advocate for increased funding for the Office of Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods to support Violence Interrupter initiatives. Longer term, we must ensure that our residents are able to have their basic needs met: food, shelter, mental and physical health care, and a sense of community. We must also bring good jobs to all parts of the city.

In your view, what are the city’s greatest needs in terms of housing, and how would you address them through legislation?

Baptiste (R): Zoning and planning will help the current housing situation on one side. On the other, to foster legislation to make the city attractive to developers and builders, without overregulation, will help in that regard.

Ruhe (D): The lack of affordable housing is a serious problem in Louisville. Developers don’t want to be forced to rent property at less than market rates and many housing vouchers go unspent because they can’t find housing at the price funded. I will work to allocate additional funds to close the gap between what funds are available and what are needed. In addition, I will advocate for the construction of new housing using American Rescue Plan funding and other funding that may become available. As a city, we can also make use of underutilized buildings and encourage developers to renovate outdated office buildings into housing.

What do you see as the No. 1 issue facing your district in the next five years?

Baptiste (R): Homelessness.

Ruhe (D): The biggest issue facing District 21 right now is finding housing for those currently without a stable, safe place to live, with the services they may need to become productive and independent citizens.

Breya Jones is the Breaking News Reporter for WFPL.