Media Coverage

Cooperation helped Louisville clean up air.

Story originally posted at USAToday

By James Bruggers, USA TODAY

LOUISVILLE — For years, Louisville has been known for fast horses, fine bourbon, a love of college basketball — and lousy air.

People who lived near a complex of chemical plants, called Rubbertown, put up with odors, burning eyes and fears that their every breath might contribute to asthma, cancer or other illnesses.

But that began to change about a decade ago, after a minister from the predominantly African-American neighborhoods around Rubbertown organized protests, demanding aggressive government action to clean up the toxic air and reduce the chemical emissions from factories.  Read Full Story Here

Walmart Coming to Louisville

This article appeared at WFPL

Joined by Louisville Metro Council members, community leaders and neighborhood residents, Mayor Greg Fischer announced Monday that Walmart will build a supercenter at the old Philip Morris site.  The $25 million project is the largest investment in the city’s West End in over a decade and is being heralded by supporters as a sign that its neighborhoods are “open for business.”

Walmart plans to build a 155,000 square foot store that will be the size of nearly three football fields, which is expected to bring in over 300 jobs to the area.

The supercenter is expected to open in 2015, and will have an optometrist and pharmacy. As WFPL first reported last November, it will also include a jobs and career center in the California neighborhood to accept applications.

Thanking Walmart for taking a risk, Fischer said after years of negotiations and an economic downturn, the old Philip Morris site will be open for new business.

“Folks we are here to announce the worst kept secret in the history of Louisville,” he said.

Metro Government has already invested $1.8 million for six lots of land that were purchased to help finalize the deal. Of that, $1.1 million was spent in 2013 and the remaining amount will be spent at the beginning of the next fiscal year July 1.

The city is also providing a $500,000 grant to Walmart paid in $100,000 installments over five years, if the retailer meets a threshold of at least 225 new jobs.

Fischer and others praised the work of the developers, Teresa and Frank Bridgewaters, owners of New Bridge Crossings, who initially bought the old Philip Morris lot in 2007.

The Bridgewaters have worked mightily to bring a major retailer to the location and will retain two lots for other potential development projects as it is expected Walmart will attract other businesses.

A YMCA is already scheduled for construction on the adjacent 18th & Broadway corner.

Jobs v. Walmart’s record

Since November, the Walmart deal has sparked a fiercely worded neighborhood debate with at least one council member—Democrat Attica Scott—and labor advocates criticized Walmart’s low wages and worker’s rights record.

Many religious and civil rights leaders, however, argued the need for jobs and development should trump those concerns.

“This area has been so deprived and so for Walmart to take this type of risk and come into this neighborhood is a good thing,” says the Rev. Milton Seymour, chairman of the Justice Resource Center. “We don’t have any jobs worth anything.”

The mayor said Walmart is committed to hiring “local citizens” and pointed out the those jobs will carry a $6 million annual payroll. But there are no requirements in the deal for Walmart to hire neighborhood residents as many labor activists had called for months ago.

Asked if Walmart made any concessions in regards to employee wages or allowing workers to unionize, a spokesman for the retailer said flatly there were none.

Councilman David Tandy, D-4, who represents the area, says bringing a major retailer to the location is good news for West End job seekers and consumers.

“I’m a resident of the Russell neighborhood, I and my family will no longer have to go across the river over into Indiana taking our tax dollars over there to spend if we’re looking for retail opportunities. We can investment our money right here at home,” he says.

Supporters also argue that Walmart is part of a larger mission to revitalize West End neighborhoods, and note the company has done charity work in the area previously.

“There is an extremely robust economy here in west Louisville and what this opportunity does for us is it allows for people for the first time to look at west Louisville in a new light Recognize there are opportunities to work, to do business, and to locate your families here,” says Tandy.

The Walmart project still requires approval by Louisville Metro Planning and Design Services, and many expect this debate to continue in that venue. But city lawmakers who have called for more worker protections in the past tell WFPL they see this as a positive sign.

“There is going to be some concern about the rate of pay these employees will be paid, but first we need to make sure we have some economic development as Councilman Tandy said west of Ninth Street,” says Councilwoman Mary Woolridge, D-3.  “Nothing will change for me. I still will be hoping and monitoring how much these employees are going to be paid and their benefits. That is who I am, but we need economic development in west Louisville.”


Violence In Downtown Louisville?

This article appeared at WFPL on Mon March 24, 2014

Louisville Metro Police are increasing their visibility downtown after a string of violent incidents Saturday night, but community activists say there are underlying issues that should also be addressed.

The series of events, via police, plays out like this:

A group of young people, perhaps 200, were gathered at Waterfront Park on Saturday evening. Some began assaulting and robbing a 13-year-old near the Big Four Bridge; when a bystander intervened, they assaulted and robbed him. Officers responded and broke up the gathering—and that’s when the real mayhem began.

The large group splintered into several smaller groups. From about 7:45 p.m. to 9:45 p.m., police responded to “numerous” incidents in downtown Louisville, including assaults, robberies and acts of vandalism, Chief Steve Conrad said.

They included a woman who was punched inside her car while stopped in traffic a block from the White Castle restaurant on First and Market streets. A group that vandalized the Bader’s Food Mart on First Street, injuring a clerk in the process. An assault as far south as Sixth Street and Broadway.

At least three people were sent to hospitals Saturday, and one teenager was arrested, Conrad said.

Many of the people involved were minors, he added.

Saturday night raises many questions. Many, many questions—about safety, about the city’s response to crime, and what is going on with the kids.

We’ll address them in order:

Safety

On the safety aspect, Conrad characterizes what happened Saturday as uncommon for anywhere in the city. He noted that violent crime has decreased in Louisville the past two years.

He vouched for the safety of Waterfront Park, but he added that LMPD was out of position to prevent the mayhem from starting in the first place. (More on that later.)

No violent crime has been reported in Waterfront Park over the past three months, according to LMPD’s online crime map. But it’s important to remember that much of the last three months were cold/snowy/icy—and weather affects crime.

We’ve asked for much more crime data in an open records request and will share what we find in the very near future.

Conrad described Saturday’s assaults, robberies and vandalism as “truly mob-like behavior.”

“I am convinced that there were young people who were caught up doing things that they would not have otherwise done,” Conrad said.

He’s calling on youth leaders and community organizations to take steps during spring break (that’s next week) to keep young people busy.

And though Conrad says what happened Saturday is not common, in the sense that it doesn’t happen every day, similar situations have happened before.

Response

Louisville Metro Police is taking steps to be more visible downtown, particularly in Waterfront Park and other areas with high foot traffic. That means more police on ATVs, bike and horseback.

Conrad said LMPD had enough officers downtown Saturday to respond to the “numerous” incidents that happened that night. In addition to the normal patrol shift from LMPD’s First Division, the VIPER Unit was also assigned to downtown. But they were mostly in patrol cars.

Did LMPD have enough visibility at Waterfront Park and surrounding areas on Saturday night?

“I think if there had been we wouldn’t have had this issue,” Conrad told me Sunday. “I think we had plenty of people working, I don’t know that we had the level of visibility there that would have prevented this.”

(Note: Part of the VIPER Unit’s mission is to target areas where data and information indicates crimes will happen. But Conrad said the increase VIPER anticipated was something else from what actually happened. They weren’t expecting it, in other words.)

The Kids

Mayor Greg Fischer is scheduled to have a meeting with community and city leaders Tuesday morning to discuss what happened Saturday, a spokesman said.

Eddie Woods is a respected youth mentor and activist in West Louisville.

Waterfront Park is a popular gathering point for young people all over the city, naturally. Wood said that includes groups that could be characterized as gangs, and they often end up that single place.

“The mindset and being hyped up and all of that is geared toward some level of mayhem,” Woods said. “You’ve got some folks that haven’t been taught peace at all. For the most part, they are around a lot of violence, they talk a lot of violent talk, a lot of threats are given in both directions.”

More police will help address the crime issues at Waterfront Park—but it will do nothing to address the underlying issues that lead to situations like Saturday, he said.

“Any time you have some level of a show of force, you’re pretty much going to have as a safe area,” Woods said. “But the problem with that is, you’ve got to do more than have a safe area. You’ve got to have a change in mindset, a change in attitude, a change in what people are willing to protect.”

The city and others have tried to focus on the issues of wayward youths. It’s one of the things discussed in the city since the May 2012 Parkland shootings that left three dead, which led to the creation of a work group to issue recommendations for addressing violence in the city.

Woods said he doesn’t think efforts to dissuade young people from violence have been coordinated enough.

“Most of our initiatives at this point have been totally from adult thinking, organized and the discussions have been from adult thinking,” Woods said, adding, “They’ve got a whole other network that doesn’t have anything to do with adults.”

He said more outreach needs to happen, but it has to be done in a coordinated fashion and in a way young people can embrace.


 

Justice Resource Fights for Jobs in West Louisville.

http://www.whas11.com/news/local/Residents-rally-to-bring-Wal-Mart-to-West-Louisville-245808961.html

Story written by WHAS11 news louisville

by Amy Stallings

WHAS11.com

Posted on February 17, 2014 at 6:26 AM

Updated today at 6:40 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) — A rally is scheduled Monday but instead of protesting development, residents are expected to ask Wal-Mart to set up shop where they live.

However, not everyone is excited about the possibility of the “big box” store which would take over the old Philip Morris plant site in West Louisville.

Some business owners said they believe it may force smaller firms out of business.

Members of the King Solomon Missionary Baptist Church and the Justice Resource Center are hosting the march and rally set to begin at 10 a.m. at Dixie Hwy. and Broadway St.

WHAS11’s Johnny Archer has more from residents and business owners in the video above.

http://www.whas11.com/news/local/Residents-rally-to-bring-Wal-Mart-to-West-Louisville-245808961.html

http://www.whas11.com/news/local/Residents-rally-to-bring-Wal-Mart-to-West-Louisville-245808961.html

_________________________________________________________________________

Hal Heiner Launches Second Charter School Organization Ahead of Louisville Panel

Leaders of a defunct organization supporting charter schools in Kentucky have launched a new group that will host a panel of charter supporters including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul tomorrow in Louisville.

Hal Heiner is chairman of the Kentucky Charter Schools Association.

“We’ve had a loose coalition for a couple years now and I wanted to sharpen the focus, pull the coalition together and sharpen the focus on public charter schools for Kentucky,” says Hal Heiner, chairman of the Kentucky Charter Schools Association.

Heiner is a former Louisville Metro councilman and Republican mayoral candidate. He also chaired Kentuckians Advocating Reforms in Education (KARE), which ran aggressive TV ads in support of charter schools last year.

When asked how much funding KCSA has in its reserves, Heiner said:

“The new organization just came into being around two weeks ago. So I would say as of today pretty close to zero. But I suspect we will have sufficient funds to education Kentuckians on the benefits [of charter schools].”

The new KCSA organization includes support from the Black Alliance for Educational Options, National Alliance of Public Charter Schools, the Democrats for Education Reform and Students for Education Reform, Heiner says.

KCSA has three board members including Heiner, University of Kentucky’s Dr. Wayne Lewis, and Milton Seymour with the Justice Resource Center in Louisville.

On Thursday morning, KCSA will host a nine-member panel to speak in support of charters, including McConnell and Paul. Group officials say Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Donna Hargens will be in attendance, but will not participate on the panel.

JCPS has been opposed to charter schools along with the Jefferson County Teachers Association, which charter supporters have attacked for creating barriers to getting legislation passed.

Kentucky is one of eight states that don’t have some form of charter school legislation and the issue of whether charters result in better student outcomes has been debated for years.

Supporters say charters give students more choice and allows non-public school officials to manage the school. This often leads schools to try innovative programs or to work outside the rules and regulations that public schools are tied to.

Opponents says charters take money out of the public school system and are not proven to be more successful than the traditional school system.

Heiner says Kentucky doesn’t have to “reinvent the wheel” with regards to charter school legislation and says several states have models for how charter schools could work in the commonwealth.

There’s currently an uphill battle for supporters of charter schools, namely the Kentucky House Education Committee, which hasn’t come close to passing legislation in years. Heiner says the committee and state House remain “rigidly opposed” to charters which is “very disappointed.”

The state Senate has been successful at passing charter school legislation.

Heiner hasn’t ruled out a potential run for governor in 2015, and he says the next administration should make education and school choice part of its platform. He adds Kentucky’s education system is adequately funded and the real question is whether the money is being adequately spent.

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