Friday, November 21, 2008

The Valley Report's First Month: An Overview

The Valley Report has made it through it's first month, and the level of support I have received has been stunning and made this effort very satisfying. It is hard to believe I have only been at this for one month. I hope this blog has contributed some good to the neighborhood and informed residents of important issues facing Southwest Louisville. I want to thank all of you for your comments, emails and calls. Your participation is greatly appreciated, and definitely needed.

Please be assured that all your emails are CONFIDENTIAL, so do not worry about your privacy. I consider your tips to be essential and I take your right to remain anonymous seriously. I need your input!

As I go forward with this blog, I want people to understand the power of their collective action. It is indeed the only thing that has ever changed the world. Together we can change Southwest Louisville in a positive, thoughtful way without resorting to knee-jerk politics or reactionary hyperbole. This is about getting real results, and we can do it. Tell your friends, tell your neighbors and help spread the word about this site! We are on the verge of great things for Southwest Louisville!

Thanks for reading, and thanks for making The Valley Report part of your day.

Metro Council Meetings Go Online

You can now view Metro Council meetings online through the Louisville Metro Government website via streaming video. The meetings are still being broadcast on Metro TV as well. Click HERE to go there.

Restore Colonial Gardens

The South-End's Colonial Gardens has been designated as an "Individual Local Landmark" by the Louisville Metro Landmarks Commission, essentially saving it from demolition by developers.

Yesterday's Courier-Journal reported:

"Developers who originally wanted to demolish the building to build a commercial development now are unsure about the future of their plans. The building sits on land that was formerly called Senning’s Park, which featured the city’s first zoo.

“It’s certainly not an outcome we were looking for,” said Tim McDonogh, one of the investors with the South End Investment Group.

McDonogh said the group would meet soon to discuss whether it would take its plans through the city’s Architectural Review Committee, which would require extenuating circumstances, such as financial hardship, for demolition of any part of the building.

In August, the commission delayed a decision on designating the building at 818 W. Kenwood Drive as a local landmark following an Aug. 19 public hearing at Iroquois High School attended by several hundred impassioned residents.

The agreement gave the South End Investment Group 90 days to develop a plan to define and preserve the “character-defining features of the street-facing facades” of the building. In turn, the developers agreed not to demolish the building during that period."
You can read about the history of Colonial Gardens and the fight for the landmark designation by visiting

Abramson Takes Pay Cut

The following is a letter sent to Metro employees today from Mayor Abramson:

Dear Metro Employees:

Earlier this week, I updated you on the unprecedented budget shortfall Metro Government is facing, and the restrictions we put immediately into place on hiring, travel and other discretionary spending.

I want to give you advanced notice of additional steps we are taking today to help manage the projected $20 million hole in our budget.

On three designated days, we will close government offices and place all non-essential employees on unpaid furlough. This will save about $2 million – or 10 percent of the projected shortfall.

City offices will be closed on December 26, the Friday after the Christmas holiday; January 2, the Friday after the New Year’s Day holiday; and May 1, Oaks Day. City offices are closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, which are paid city holidays for employees.

Public safety agencies – including essential personnel in police, fire, EMS, corrections and MetroSafe – and garbage collection crews will be staffed. All other departments will be closed.

We believe these three designated layoff days are ones that will have the least impact on both employees and citizens.

Many employees who have sent me cost-saving suggestions have recommended unpaid furloughs as a way to spread the sacrifice across city government. The $2 million savings leaves about $18 million in spending reductions needed to balance our budget.

As I said earlier this week, to achieve the cuts in spending that we must make will require a united effort and shared sacrifice across all our government agencies.

In that spirit, I and my leadership team – including senior advisors and department directors – will take a 10-percent pay cut effective Jan. 1, 2009 in addition to the three furlough days. This will save about $200,000.

Below you will find additional information, designed to answer questions you may have about these three layoff days.

By continuing to work together, we will get through these tough times. If you have additional suggestions on steps we could take to reduce spending, please contact me at

Thank you more than ever for your very hard work and dedication.

Mayor Abramson

I think to really save the city some money, the option to eliminate the city's "deputy" mayors should be on the table. What do you think?

The Courier-Journal has a story up HERE.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Kenwood Warning Siren UPDATE

It has been eight days and counting since I last spoke with Scott Harrington, Legislative Assistant to Doug Hawkins (R-25) on the issue of the warning siren at Kenwood Elementary, and there has been no response to the public safety concerns expressed by the citizens. The last I heard, Harrington was going into a meeting with city emergency management over the siren. I have not been contacted by the office since last Wednesday.

Please contact Councilman Hawkins and remind him of the importance of having warning sirens in working order, and tell him it needs to be repaired. You may reach him at 502-574-1125 or by clicking HERE.

UPDATE 11/21/2008, 3:45pm: I received the following information today. Please see below.

Kenwood Outdoor Siren will be Relocated To Increase Coverage Area

The winds from Hurricane Ike in mid September knocked down the Outdoor Emergency Siren located at Kenwood Elementary School. The outdoor siren was damaged and removed.

Doug Hamilton, Director of Emergency Management, has been diligently working on replacing the old outdoor siren with a new outdoor siren that will cover a larger area.

The Kenwood outdoor siren was a 1950’s era type known as a Thunderbolt.
It did not have battery backup so if the electricity went out, the outdoor siren would be inoperable.

Jim McKinney, Emergency Management Siren Coordinator, said the new outdoor warning sirens have battery backup and have the ability to communicate with a central control office. The newer outdoor warning sirens use four 12-volt marina batteries and are activated by radio signals. “This is a far superior outdoor siren,” said McKinney. He added “…not only does it have battery back-up but it encompasses a greater coverage area.”

There are three outdoor sirens that overlap the same areas that the Kenwood outdoor siren once covered. The other outdoor sirens are located at Auburndale Elementary School, Guthermuth Elementary School, and Fairdale Fire House located on Third Street Road. Consequently, a new outdoor siren was installed at Medora Elementary School last year to cover a large area that previously had no warning sirens.

There are 120 outdoor sirens in Jefferson County which provides coverage to 97% of the population and 67% of the total metro acreage.
However, there is a avoid in outdoor siren coverage in the area just north of Iroquois Park. Emergency Management will install a new outdoor siren just south of Iroquois Park. “The Kenwood outdoor siren will be relocated just north of the existing location. The new location will not compromise existing coverage but will expand coverage to the North,” said McKinney.

Councilman Doug Hawkins has ensured that Emergency Management is working closely with Jefferson County Public Schools and the students attending Kenwood Elementary will continue to be alerted in case of an emergency.
“The public school system has approved relocating the outdoor siren and they will continue to have a full proof system to alert the school,”
said McKinney. The new location of the outdoor siren will be able to reach Iroquois Park to alert people outside to go indoors.

There are a couple of locations that are being considered for installing the new outdoor siren. Last week, Emergency Management was approved under the State’s Declaration of Emergency to receive funding for a new outdoor siren and expect to have it installed as soon as possible.

It is important to note that Outdoor Warning Sirens are designed to alert people who are outdoors to seek shelter indoors. Emergency Management says that the best way to be alerted of severe weather is by having a battery powered weather radio.

Scott W. Harrington

Legislative Assistant to

25th District Councilman Doug Hawkins

601 West Jefferson Street

Louisville, Kentucky 40202-2741

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ford Cuts & How They Affect YOU

Even if you do not work for Ford Motor Company, you should be concerned about that state of the domestic auto industry, Ford in particular. The shortfall in the local tax collections and the money problems at the city level are primarily caused by layoffs and furloughs at the two Ford plants in Louisville.

I was an employee at Ford's Louisville Assembly Plant for nearly nine years, and I can tell you there is no better workforce in the city or the state than the UAW members inside that plant. Ford employees do not have it as easy as people think. I often wished the public could come inside and witness what goes on there day after day as life is lived on the assembly line. It is not glamorous work. It is not easy work. One essentially trades his/her physical well being for the pay and benefits. After 30+ years, you are considered the exception to the rule if you do not have some type of chronic degenerative or musculoskeletal disorder.

There are people in this city that are jealous and full of hatred toward the Ford employee because of what he/she makes per hour. This hatred has been in full display recently, because of the automakers weakened financial position. People think the employees are greedy, overpaid and overcompensated in benefits. This type of thinking is misguided and dangerous to our city's economic health.

On March 3, 1999, each UAW-represented Ford worker in Louisville received a record average of $8000 in a lump-sum profit sharing bonus check. In that one day the city of Louisville collected over $1,000,000 in occupational taxes. I did not hear anyone bitching about the wages then. Ford employed around 10,000 workers at that time, all working 10+ hours a day and some mandatory Saturdays. They paid a lot of taxes, and they spent a lot of money. And that is not counting the retirees in the community that rely on Ford-sponsored pensions.

Today, those same plants employ less than 6000 employees, most of which are frequently laid off and collecting state unemployment benefits. Employees are cutting back on expenses, leading to losses in the local restaurant and retail business. People have pulled their kids out of private schools and stopped taking vacations. Our local economy is in tatters.

It was during the slow-down period between 2003 and today that Mayor Abramson tried to slap additional environmental restrictions on Louisville's two Ford plants through the STAR program, ignoring the pleas of the company and the union. He did nothing to help slow the job losses. His well-publicized trips to Detroit have been ineffective. He and his economic team, along with then-Governor Fletcher met with an executive that had announced she was leaving the company the day before the visit. They were given the "bum's rush" out the door.

The thinking seems to be that Ford and other domestic automakers are asking for a "bailout". Not true. They are asking for a LOAN. 4 out of 10 people that try to buy are turned away because the customer cannot secure a loan for the car. The people that whine "bailout" also say the employees should be forced to take pay cuts. The fact is, employees have come through and sacrificed for the company every time they were asked through contract giveaways and concessions. New employees hired will only make around $14.00 an hour, with no pension or health care benefits. Those types of wages do not put enough money into city coffers.

People also allege that the price of Ford vehicles is too high because the company pays high wages. Again, not true. Through UAW concessions at the national and local level, labor costs for a Ford vehicle have fallen 4% in 2 years. A significant savings for the company.

The city is going broke because of Mayor Abramson's inability to secure a good financial incentive for Ford, thus leading to layoffs, slowdowns and no new investment in the Louisville Assembly Plant. The Mayor has now proposed spending cuts for vital services and a hiring freeze for the city. These cuts in human services will affect the residents of Southwest Louisville more acutely than in other areas.

If we are to reverse this situation, a shrewd, evasive move by the Mayor is in order. We need to keep these high-wage jobs in Louisville and do whatever possible to put these people back to work, building the products that are the pride of Louisville. Giving money to the Cordish Co. to develop corporate franchises that pay minimum wage is not going to do it.

Instead of being jealous of the Ford employees in Louisville, we must insist that these high paying jobs remain and prosper. Replacing a $30.00 an hour manufacturing job with a $7.00 an hour job at an Applebees downtown is not an economic policy. It is a recipe for continued and prolonged disaster, and the shortfall has to come from somewhere. Property taxes are on the rise sharply in Louisville, in a desperate attempt to keep the boat afloat due to the loss of manufacturing in the city. How far will the Mayor go in using the Gestapo-like tactics of IPL and Metro Animal Services to raise revenue? We shall soon see. The way to keep your taxes low is to keep high-paying jobs in Louisville.

For more information on the myths of the Big 3 automakers, please click HERE, and stay informed. We need these Ford employees as much as they need Louisville's government to step up to the plate. Imagine a Louisville without Ford Motor Company. That should scare the hell out of you.

Southwest Dream Team Meeting, 11/18/2008

Early this afternoon, I attended a meeting of the Southwest Dream Team, a group of people that "seek to impact the things we can truly change such as negative perceptions of this wonderful area of town". It was a rewarding experience to spend some time with fellow citizens that share so many common goals with respect to our community.

There was discussion on the plans to expand and market Jefferson Memorial Forest and installation of park benches, bus shelters and trash receptacles along Dixie Highway. There was a mention of a new post office for Valley Station, which is badly needed. Also present were representatives of the developers responsible for the new Kroger and surrounding shopping center in Valley Station. They were very open and forthcoming about their plans, and encouraged input from the residents. If you ever have the time, a short while with this group will give you hope for this end of town. They have shown themselves to be very bright and ambitious, and willing to put forth the effort to get things done. All Metro Council representatives from Southwest Louisville were on hand, with the exception of Doug Hawkins, who sent his Legislative Assistant.

Also revealed were the plans to install a huge banner on Dixie Highway off I-264 in Shively proclaiming "Welcome to Southwest Louisville". All in all, a good meeting with good, solid ideas.

The Group is divided into committees like History, Economy, Education and Infrastructure, to name a few. The historical committee is gathering materials for a coffee table book to be sold this time next year. Sounds like a winner.

Do your community a favor. Skip "Dancing With the Starts" and get involved. If you are interested in the group, or wish to contact the individuals that run the organization, please visit the website at You will be glad you did.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Metro Animal Services Out Of Control!!

Authorities with Metro Animal Services are using Gestapo-like techniques against Louisville residents in the name of "controlling the pet population". You won't believe this story that aired on WHAS-11. Click HERE to see it.

These guys are setting up STING OPERATIONS to catch people selling puppies without kennel licenses.

If the mayor is looking for ways to cut spending because of a massive budget deficit, I suggest laying off the entire contingent of "undercover authorities" for Metro Animal Services. I can't believe they even have those.

I am at a loss for words on this one.

UPDATE 11/18/08, 10:05pm: I have added a link to all Louisville Metro Ordinances on the left side of the page under "Links". Protect yourself, and watch these closely.

Mayor's Community Conversation 11/17/2008

A large group of concerned citizens turned out tonight at Pleasure Ridge Park High School for the year's last "Community Conversation". It was a well-behaved group, unlike the mob that showed up for the MSD meeting last week at the Southwest Government Center. Although it lacked the carnival-like atmosphere, I managed to get some good feedback from residents, and it was a pretty good time. Photos below:

Notice the picture of the guy in the gray jacket,looking at the camera. His name is Tom Yonders, He is a property owner near the area of Sun Valley park that has been turned into a dump for windstorm debris by the city. Mr. Yonders has owned the property for 3 years, and has never had a rodent problem. Since the dumping began, the residents along the area have reported a rat problem. Metro Parks and the Public Works Departments say it is the fault of the residents. Never mind the massive piles of branches and garbage. Mr. Yonders is very upset with the notion residents are somehow responsible for the rat invasion. He has taken several photos to back up his assertion. From the pictures I saw, the city has some explaining to do.

I attempted to take some video of the conversation between Mr. Yonders and the mayor, but the audio is awful. (Feel free to kick in the "tip jar" to help me get a real video camera) You can, however, hear the mayor's pre-planned answer that "Limbs don't attract rodents."

No, Mr. Mayor limbs alone do not attract rodents. But the rotting garbage that was dumped with the limbs do.

The answer is, obviously, to stop dumping trash-strewn storm debris in the park, and begin the cleanup process. But, as Mr. Yonders was told by Public Works tonight, dumping will continue until "at least until the end of this week" and cleanup will might be finished "probably around Christmas." Happy Holidays.

Update 11/18/2009, 10:30pm: Rick @ The 'Ville Voice, who was not at the Community Conversation, whacks hard on "whining" Southwest Louisville Residents based on one interview by one resident on one TV station (WLKY). Read his account here:

Statement on Water Company Rate Increases

The Majority Caucus of the Louisville Metro Council has released a statement on the Water Company's rate hike:

Transportation and Public Works Committee to review Louisville Water Company rate increase
Officials to explain 5.5 per cent rate increase on Monday, Dec. 1st
Louisville – Officials of the Louisville Water Company have been invited to appear before the Metro Council’s Transportation and Public Works Committee to review a recently approved 5.5 per cent rate increase for its customers.
“There are many members of the committee who would like background information on the need for this increase at this time, “says Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh (D-9) who chairs the committee. “Any time citizens are expected to incur an increase in cost for basic services, and especially given the current economic situation, the Metro Council needs to be diligent in questioning and understanding the need for such an increase in cost.”
Vince Guenthner, manager of Governmental Affairs for the Louisville Water Company will come before the committee at its meeting on Monday, December 1st.
The Board of Water Works approved the increase as a way to fund improvements in the waste treatment and delivery systems of the Company.
“The committee will also be asking how far along these projects are with regard to a need for the increase,” says Ward-Pugh. “I also would like a better understanding of how and when the Water Company decides to raise rates.”
The meeting will begin at 5:00pm in Council Chambers and will be broadcast live on Metro TV.

Groups are now lining up to question this unfair rate increase. Rick @ The 'Ville Voice is working hard on the story.

Mayor Slaps Hiring Freeze on City

From the Courier-Journal:

Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson today announced a hiring freeze and restrictions on discretionary spending as a way to deal with a projected $20 million shortfall in the city’s budget this fiscal year.

Abramson said in a statement that more spending restrictions, including layoffs and unpaid furloughs, are being considered.

Meanwhile, the city continues to dump money on the Cordish Co. and Light Up Louisville.

Stay tuned for updates...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Southwest Beautification - Project #4

This small, triangular piece of land sits next to an abandoned service center/gas station on Third Street Road at the Pages Lane intersection. A real opportunity, and a perfect area for some attention.

Notice the for-profit organization that dumped a donation box in this spot. It must be removed. The Bobby Nichols Golf Course is a few miles away, and this little spot of land should be used to welcome visitors as well as residents. The affluent Bridgegate and Stoneridge Landing subdivisions are nearby. It is across the street from a hair salon housed in a beautiful "A-Frame". Unfortunately, there's a check-cashing joint on the corner. Comments? Suggestions?