Issue August 31, 2007

City Strobe

Shawnee wet-dry vote set for Tuesday
Community members opposed to the proliferation of liquor stores in a neighborhood already disproportionately full of them may get their wish Tuesday, when a special vote to decide whether a West Louisville neighborhood stays wet or turns dry takes place.

Voters will choose whether four precincts of the Shawnee neighborhood — part of the 5th Metro Council district, which has the fourth-highest percentage of issued liquor store licenses in the city — will have an outright ban on alcohol sales.

“We just said we’re tired of the ones we have,” Metro Councilwoman Cheri Bryant Hamilton, D-5, said in an interview Tuesday. “There was a lot of crime in the immediate vicinities of these liquor stores. We have other things we’d like to see in our community besides liquor stores.”

The initiative began earlier this year, when a group of residents lobbied the Frankfort Office of Alcoholic Beverage Control to deny two new liquor licenses. The licenses were for package liquor stores at 39th and Market streets, in a building that until recently was a KFC, and at 41st and Market, which would make it a neighbor to Shawnee High School.

The ABC would not deny the licenses based on community outrage, Hamilton said, so residents — led by area religious leaders — took it a step further: In March, they began gathering signatures to petition for a special ballot initiative. On June 15, the group delivered the signatures, and the Sept. 11 date was set.

Since then, several other liquor stores have applied for licenses in the four precincts, which were selected for their preponderance of violent and drug-related crime, Hamilton said. She also said violent crime has been down in the area since the campaign to go dry began — there are yard signs, the Shawnee Neighborhood Association has reactivated, and word has spread quickly.
“People know they’re being watched,” Hamilton said.

The Rev. Geoffrey Ellis, a resident of West Louisville for more than two decades, said Tuesday that despite misinformation being spread from the other side — you can still drink in your house, people — he thinks the dry vote will prevail.

“We’re saying you can sell what we want to buy,” he said. “This is not to keep people from drinking alcohol.”
Hamilton said one liquor store is planning to sell food, and another ice cream. If the precincts become dry, liquor stores currently open would have 60 days to close up shop. Currently, 15 of the 26 council districts have regulations on when alcohol can be sold — between midnight and 6 a.m. every day but Sunday, for instance, you can’t buy booze at the store. Hamilton said other council members are waiting to see how the Shawnee wet/dry vote turns out before initiating similar movements in other neighborhoods.

For his part, Ellis remains optimistic that this is a chance to make a big, quick change to the community’s DNA.

“We’re looking at this as a broad stroke to improve our communities,” Ellis said. “We think this will do it.”
The Rev. Clay Calloway, president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Coalition, has also been involved since the beginning of the movement.

“I’m encouraged by the demonstration of neighborhood self-determination,” he said. “That’s one of the most significant examples of community self-determination I’ve seen in decades.”
Only residents of the four precincts are allowed to vote. —Stephen George

Newsflash: Fletcher still a partisan hack
Leave it to Kentucky’s first Republican governor in 30 years to doom the party for another 30: Though he strode into Frankfort on the steed of accountability, it seems Gov. Ernie Fletcher remains only accountable to himself — and fellow Republicans.

A pair of stories this week by The Courier-Journal revealed that Fletcher’s administration has offered road contracts disproportionately to districts represented by Republicans, and that Fletcher has appointed more Republicans to university boards than is legal.

Last Monday, Attorney General Greg Stumbo notified Fletcher that his appointments to the boards of trustees at the University of Louisville and University of Kentucky contravene state law, which guarantees proportional representation of the top two political parties on university boards. Because Kentucky voters are 57 percent Democrat and 37 percent Republican (with “other” covering the remaining 6 percent), university boards should be majority Democrat.

A subsequent look by The C-J found that only one of the state’s regional universities has a majority-Democrat board, and two others have an equal balance. The others are majority-Republican. In fact, of the 19 appointees Fletcher has made since 2004, 15 have been from his own political party.
If Fletcher doesn’t act to correct the problem, Stumbo may file suit.

That’s ugly for an already struggling re-election campaign, especially on top of this: Republicans got way more of the $311 million doled out in state road contracts in 2005 than Democrats, according to another C-J investigation. The elephants in the Senate got 75 percent, while those in the House got 55 percent. That also gives credence to campaign-trail complaints that Fletcher is handing out checks for votes across the commonwealth, and that he’s using way-early policy rollouts — most notably a sorta new, mostly more-of-the-same healthcare plan — to campaign, essentially using taxpayer funds and his current office to run for governor, which is also not legal.

That brings Fletcher’s scandal count to three, and his moral transgressions count to … oh hell, the meter’s broken.
Democratic lawmakers told the paper they weren’t surprised, while Republicans — led by the ever-audacious Senate president David Williams — blamed it on prior neglect by Democratic administrations.
Meanwhile, Fletcher continues to trail to Democrat Steve Beshear by double digits in most polls of the gubernatorial race. —SG

Jewish Hospital to host fundraiser for controversial lobbying group AIPAC
Jewish Hospital is scheduled to play host to a fundraiser Monday for one of the country’s most powerful — and most controversial — lobbying groups.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, will be in town, bringing as its featured speaker Dan Senor, a FOX News “analyst” and former senior adviser to L. Paul Bremer, director of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. Senor has also been the public mouthpiece for Vets for Freedom, a 527 group running attacks against those calling for an end to the Iraq war.

For its part, AIPAC has been extremely controversial for its unflinching support of Israel and its nosiness in American foreign policy. The group, whose members gave political candidates an estimated $20 million between 1990 and 2004, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, targets politicians who do not offer unwavering support for Israel.

Barbara Mackovich, spokeswoman for Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s Healthcare, said the nonprofit hospital has no political agenda, has never hosted a political event, and is renting the group space to conduct its fundraiser. She said the conference center is used for a variety of gatherings. —SG

Contact the writer at
citystrobe@leoweekly.com