Louisville Magazine

OCT 2018

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 10.18 47 At a moment when the far right and the far left seem to dominate the political landscape, Louisville's mayoral candidates don't lean too far in either direction. Mayor Greg Fischer, up for re-election Nov. 6 for what would be his third term, is a development-happy Democrat who will mention numerous times, in case you haven't heard him, that the city is undergoing $13 billion in investment — a billion of which is in west Louisville — an "unprecedented" period of growth. He has turned the word compassion into a concrete expression, with efforts like the Give A Day week of service and the Compassionate Schools Project, infusing things like meditation and mindfulness into the curriculum. At the same time, the opioid epidemic has kept successes in check. e city has seen violent years, with homicides climbing from 48 in 2011 to 107 in 2017. ough Fischer is quick to point out an apparent downturn: is year has seen 60, a 24 percent decrease compared with this time last year. Having entered office during the bleak bottom of the recession, Fischer promised "jobs, jobs, jobs" — and the city has added 72,000 of them since 2011. Tourism — er, Bourbonism — is exploding. Forbes has repeatedly recognized the city for its rate of business growth. "We're going through a real renaissance in Louisville right now," the 60-year-old said when I met with him for the following interview, which has been edited and condensed from two separate conversations. "at's the result of years of planning and great progress in the city." You mention a renaissance, but there's also a lot of homelessness. You see it as you drive down Jefferson Street. ere's a lot that needs to happen, for instance, in the West End, for those residents to feel that their needs have been addressed. How much credit and blame do you think a mayor deserves? "is job is a combination of being proactive — you know, having a great strategy and plan and executing that and monitoring that and improving it, so that's one aspect of the job. e other aspect of it is like reacting to things that happen in a community that oftentimes can seem to be out of your control, but you have to react. So let's say the opioid crisis, for instance, that's going on around this part of the country. We didn't cause that, but it's here in our city and we have to react to it. So I think what people should expect is for any mayor to have a great plan, great team, great execution, and then improve it, and when things aren't working to be upfront about that whether they're historical reasons or real-life reasons. "e homelessness issue, especially in the last three months, something different has happened in this community and other communities around here. e First Amendment rulings on panhandling (in the Kentucky Supreme Court last year, which struck down local ordinances banning panhandling) have really affected the number of panhandlers on the streets. e homelessness task force on encampments — we are pleased with the results of that (since it formed late last year). But now we seem to have an appearance of more folks with severe mental illness on the streets that we have to adjust to in some way in terms of treatment and care. at's an issue we're working on now. It comes on the heels of, we were one of the first cities to eliminate veterans' homelessness, we exceeded our youth homelessness challenge that we got $3.4 million in grants (from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) just two months ago to further attack youth homelessness. Homelessness is a challenging problem. "Now, West End, let me talk about that. We got $13 billion of investment taking place in the city. A billion of that is in west Louisville right now, so that's an unprecedented amount in west Louisville. And major projects there: the Beecher Terrace public housing re-do that's the result of a four-year process, 18th and Broadway (where a new YMCA and Passport Health Plan headquarters are underway) is five years. Many of these things just take time, and now fortunately construction is taking place. In my view, that type of investment is overdue, but the good news is it's happening now." Do you feel like you could have paid more attention to that part of town when you first entered office? "Well, what we did was start with what we could control, so we started with investments in libraries in west Louisville, so we can control that with city-specific money. ese other investments require other partners. For instance, the Beecher Terrace project requires a partner from the federal government. Eighteenth and Broadway, someone with the YMCA has been working on that for years and years. at was where the Walmart was gonna go and fell through, and then Passport came in, so we've been working on it from day one, but there has to be certain market forces in line. e things that we could do we got right into it. Some of the work we've done on entrepreneurship there at the Chef Space (kitchen incubator in Russell), for instance, we initiate things like that, so those were smaller things that we could directly control." ere are a lot of unregulated halfway, or sober- living, houses that people are concerned about having in their neighborhoods. Metro Council is working to get an ordinance to address that right now, but a lot of west Louisville residents feel like they've been forgotten and that even with all this development, their everyday situation isn't great. ey look to the By Mary Chellis Nelson Photos by Jessica Ebelhar A conversation with Democratic Mayor Greg Fischer, who's seeking a third term.

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