Friday, March 06, 2009

Proposed Labor Ordinance Finds Enemies

Mayoral Mouthpiece and Greater Louisville Inc. President Joe Reagan has written a letter blasting a proposed labor standards ordinance that would give local construction jobs to local workers. Reagan is quoted in today's Courier-Journal as saying the ordinance "would drive potential growth away from the city", as if bringing in out-of-state workers at a lower wage is somehow counted as "growth".

The ordinance would mandate that at least 75% of the jobs on a government-subsidized project go to Kentucky or Indiana residents, and that those employees be paid the prevailing wage and be covered by a health plan. Deals like this are already negotiated and adhered to on such projects, but they are negotiated on a project-by-project basis. This ordinance would eliminate the need to negotiate a separate agreement on each project by standardizing requirements.

There are more local skilled tradesmen laid off in Louisville than ever before, yet Reagan and his cohorts at GLI and the mayor's office seem to prefer the practice of bringing workers in from out of town. This is troubling on many levels. Employing out of town workers does nothing for the city or the citizens. Local workers are the local community. They are your neighbors and your friends. You may sit next to them at church. When local residents are gainfully employed, they are paying taxes and spending money locally to support the standard of living that we all enjoy. That is good for Louisville.

I spoke with Joe Wise via email today. Wise is the Business Manager for the Greater Louisville Building & Construction Trades Council. Here's his take:

This is an ordinance that is a long time in coming and for many reasons. Let me start by saying that when community finances are used in the construction of a project the community should benefit from that project. The citizens of this community work to pay taxes that go to provide for the common good in the community in which they live. Therefore, the community wage (prevailing wage) should be a standard that is followed. We do not want citizens from our community to be displaced by workers coming from other localities to do jobs that people in our community are willing to do. This also reinforces the idea that that 60% of the workers on a project should be from the Louisville SMSA and 75% from Kentucky or Indiana. We have minority contractor goals and minority worker goals that mirror that community population.

GLI tries to argue that this would be a disincentive for developers and cause them the go elsewhere and make us non-competitive with other benchmark cities. That depends on what cities one wishes to use as a benchmark. They use cities from the right-to-work south where most of those states do not even have state minimum wage laws. I do not want this for our community. However, there are other cities and states that have adopted the idea of requiring prevailing wage and other requirements to use public financing; the states of Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and Pennsylvania. The many progressive cities that require this same arrangement; St. Louis, Denver, Portland (OR), Madison (WI), Milwaukee and many others.
Let me add to the observations of Mr. Wise by saying when local workers construct a building or a bridge, it contributes to something more than the city's skyline, waterfront or economy. It adds a sense of pride and accomplishment and helps secure the legacy of one's trade. It is a special feeling when a dad can show his children a skyscraper or a sports arena he helped build. Dwell on that for a moment. Then get behind this ordinance.

The mayor's office did not respond to my request for comment on this story.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

From Lexington to Louisville - Tragedy and Failure

- There are new developments in the Stinson case, which has become the story that will not go away. JCPS Superintendent Sheldon Berman stated yesterday that PRP High School is looking to replace Stinson as head football coach. The Courier-Journal has more HERE. There is a sentence in the CJ story that troubles me:
Berman said yesterday that he remains "very concerned" about the situation, but does not believe that Stinson's admission that he denied players water warrants immediate disciplinary action.
The denial of water is a violation of district policy and should require "immediate disciplinary action". It is now clear that Berman is not the man for the job at JCPS. His short time with the school district has been a disaster, marked by tragedy and tainted by inaction and incompetence. It is time to clean house and send Berman back to the Bush League.

- And as long as we are on the subject of tragedy and failure, we may as well move on to the once-proud University of Kentucky basketball program. A Georgia team that owned last place in the SEC walked in to Rupp Arena and beat the Cats like a gong on Senior Night. It was terrible. Fans are wild with the desire for vengeance. It is now clear that Coach Billy Clyde is not the man for the job at UK. His short time with the school has been a disaster, marked by tragedy and tainted by inaction and incompetence. It is time to clean house and send Gillispie back to the Bush League.

It is an interesting contrast, really. It looks like the UK coach will get fired for non-performance before the JCPS Superintendent, and mostly because of citizens raising their voices in displeasure. Maybe it is time we realigned our priorities.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Transparency Bill Shot Down in Flames

The much-discussed transparency bill met a painful death in a House committee today, effectively killing the attempt to force Mayor Abramson's administration to "show us the money". I supported this bill, as did many other pro-labor Democrats in Louisville. We have simply grown tired of Abramson's cagey answers on the city budget. The Ville Voice is reporting the vote was along party lines, with only Rep. Reggie Meeks voting with us.

The House Democrats that killed this bill should be ashamed.

"Novelty Lighters" to be Banned

I quit smoking quite a while ago, but I still maintain a collection of novelty lighters. Some of them I just could not bear to part with. The classic Zippo lighter is a great piece, for instance, but it is only good for lighting cigarettes, rendering it useless. I have one that looks like a pig. I have a Larry the Cable Guy lighter that talks. None of the lighters are practical, and they are all stored safely away.

These lighters will soon become illegal to sell because of an ordinance passed by the Louisville Metro Council's Public Safety Committee. The ordinance bans lighters that "are not readily identifiable as lighters", or those that have "entertaining audio or visual effects". The ordinance will go before the full Metro Council next week.

I am forced to admit that some of these items could be appealing to small children. But all lighters should be kept out of a child's reach. This ordinance has some people squawking about their "rights" and others lecturing on the ills of smoking. I am interested in your thoughts on this matter. Let's hear it.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

More on Stinson Evidence

UPDATE: You can now read the court documents HERE, courtesy of the C-J.

The Courier-Journal has filed another story on the prosecution's evidence in the Max Gilpin case, and it is pretty damning stuff. The paper reports witnesses hearing Coach Stinson calling players "cowards" when asking for water. The evidence made available seems to confirm the suspicion that the coach was utterly negligent. Judging by what I have read, Commonwealth Attorney Dave Stengel presided over a thorough investigation that, I believe, shall ultimately convict Jason Stinson. No mention was made of JCPS's pathetic attempt at an investigation.

In related news, the Kentucky House passed HB383 yesterday, the so-called "athlete safety bill", after eliminating the requirement that pools of ice be on site during games or practices during hot weather. The bill only requires the Kentucky Board of Education review and look at revising it's "hot weather" policies.

Tuesday Morning Blues

- David Grider, the teacher accused of threatening the principal at Wilt Elementary, has left the school and will serve as a substitute at various schools around the county for the rest of the school year. Grider will be permanently assigned next fall. [Courier-Journal]

- WHAS11 has the first bits of evidence filed by the prosecution in the Max Gilpin case. Interesting read. [WHAS11]

- There was a pretty large fire at an apartment complex in South Louisville yesterday and a few firefighters were injured. But the real question is, why does FOX41 label the area as Fairdale? I've received several emails of folks complaining about the distinction. [FOX41]

Monday, March 02, 2009

Big Election, Soon Come

It is only March, and already there are rumblings about the next round of elections. The Rumor Mill is cranked up to full speed around here, and it looks as though we in Southwest Louisville will be treated to two (2) high-profile, high energy races as Metro Councilman Doug Hawkins and State Senator Dan Seum are up for re-election. I'm hearing some names, and they are serious challengers. The rumored candidates are well equipped and would be well financed, and would represent a total change in the way Southwest Louisville is represented at the Metro and State level.

It should be a spirited campaign season, to say the least.

More information soon.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

We Need Your Photos!!

This Saturday, March 7, the History Committee of the Southwest Dream Team will be welcoming residents for a "Scanning Extravaganza" to aid in the production of a history book on Southwest Louisville. The event will run from 9am to 2pm. You may bring your old pictures of people, places or buildings in Southwest Louisville to the Farnsley-Moreman Landing for consideration. We will carefully scan your pictures and return them immediately. There will be light refreshments and discounted tours of the House if you wish to partake. I will also be conducting light interviews with residents that wish to share stories.

This is a great opportunity for us to share our history and educate others, while helping a good cause. The committee hopes to have the history book completed by the end of the year. It is a massive undertaking, and your help is needed and greatly appreciated.

Thank you, and I hope to see you there on Saturday. If you need any additional information, please contact me.