Issue November 6, 2007

City Strobe

Two dollars on Smoking Ban across the board, please
Barring anything unforeseen, next month might be every ’bacca-suckin’ amateur horse racing fan’s last chance to fire up at Churchill Downs. That’s because a Jefferson Circuit Court judge ruled last week that the exemption of entities operated by the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority in Louisville’s recently approved smoking ban violates the equal protection clause of the state Constitution.

In an Oct. 31 opinion, Judge Denise Clayton wrote, “While it is true that horse racing is an important industry in this state, so is the hospitality industry. To hold one out as important above the other, is simply not a rational basis for exemption.”

The ruling is a major victory for the Metro Louisville Hospitality Coalition, a group of Louisville bar and restaurant owners that formed in opposition to the ban in 2005 and sued a year ago, after the Metro Council passed the almost-comprehensive ban.

“It’s what we expected,” John Dant, president of the coalition, said Monday. “Where that leaves us, we’re not sure. But it’s a step in the right direction.”

Dant said the goal of the suit was to have the entire law nullified, not just the part exempting Churchill Downs. However, in her opinion Clayton wrote that local governments have the authority to enact smoking bans.
Mayor Jerry Abramson held a press conference Monday afternoon to answer questions about the decision. He said he’s always supported a comprehensive ban, and that after speaking with Churchill Downs officials earlier that day, he was confident the track would abide by the ruling.

“We are going to comprehensively enforce the law,” Abramson said.

There is a 10-day grace period before the ruling goes into effect, and a 30-day window for appeal. Abramson said Metro Government would not appeal. The Metro Council, which was also named in the suit, may appeal the ruling, but two council members who attended the press conference said afterward they didn’t expect that to happen.

The case will be back in court in December, when the court is expected to address a concomitant issue in the suit: whether the terms laid out by the ordinance violate search and seizure
protections in the Constitution.
—Stephen George


Former AFSCME president indicted on 22 counts

Sheila Wade, former president of the Louisville chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the nation’s largest public service union, was indicted by a Grand Jury on 20 felony and two misdemeanor counts, including forgery and theft. The Oct. 25 indictments stem from an investigation this summer that revealed, among other things, that Wade — who was relieved of duty June 8 — forged 94 checks and stole money from the union, which boasts almost 700 Metro members.

The investigation, conducted by AFSCME International and first reported in LEO, called into question some $150,000 in missing and misused funds near the end of Wade’s tenure.
“We turned it over to the police, told them to do what they needed to do,” said David Warrick, executive director of Council 62, the Indianapolis-based arm of the union that covers Louisville and Southern Indiana. The Louisville chapter, Local 2629, has been under the control of AFSCME International since Wade’s duties were suspended.

“We don’t tolerate anybody misappropriating or stealing union members’ money,” Warrick added.
Union members pay just under $30 a month in dues, while “fair share” members — whose jobs fall under collective bargaining agreements but who aren’t full union members — pay about $20 a month. At the time of the investigation, Local 2629 — governed by a 10-member executive board — had been without a treasurer for more than a year and without a vice president, whose signature is required along with the president’s on any union checks, for nearly that long.

Wade is expected to face a jury trial in March of next year. She did not respond to a request for comment. —SG

The outsourcing Gap

Planning to head out to The Summit to hit up Baby Gap for a pair of faux-shearling booties or a tartan aviator hat for the darling newborn in your life? Nah, me neither. But if we were planning such an adventure, it might be worth noting that Baby Gap has been caught using child slave labor — and we’re not talking about Internet rumors that Suri Cruise has inked a million-dollar Baby Gap modeling contract.

Last week, an Observer (UK) journalist described appalling conditions endured by children forced into labor by a Gap vendor in India. The Gap is now in full-blown damage-control mode. The retail giant — 3,000 stores and $16 billion annual revenue — has recalled all merchandise from the vendor and pledged to tighten up its supply chain to ensure children aren’t involved in the manufacture of its clothing. The incident comes in the midst of a campaign to support U2 star Bono’s “Red” products, which fight AIDS in Africa, and other high-profile efforts to improve The Gap’s ’90s-era image as a company that exploits children.

If you’re not convinced of The Gap’s good intentions, you could take your fashion dollars to Old Navy or Banana Republic. Er, um, but guess who owns them: The Gap. In fact, next time you buy a handmade anything for under $50 from outsourcing corporate America, you have to wonder if a third-world child’s sweat touched it before you did. —Jim Welp

Maybe that’s why they’re called ‘pacifier’

OK, class, today’s new vocabulary word is “phthalate.” Phthalate is not what the boss with the speech impediment asked her overworked employees to do. It is a chemical compound that conveniently turns hard plastic crap into soft plastic crap, so it can be shaped into a variety of handy items, such as shampoo bottles, car interiors, iPhones, sex toys, nail polish, fishing lures and children’s toys. Phthalates have been shown to reduce testosterone — the stuff that makes men (and some women) men — and to disrupt the sexual development of boys. Recent studies also link phthalates to endocrine-system problems and sexual dysfunction.

The fact that phthalates are used to make so many children’s toys is a growing concern, so much so that most industrial countries have banned them from teethers, pacifiers and rattles. But not America, where we can take our dangerous chemicals like men, even those that threaten to turn us into, well, not men. On the bright side, perhaps if phthalates turn us into a species of women, maybe we’ll finally quit starting so many pesky wars. To learn how to protect your family’s testosterone, visit www.ewg.org/node/21843. —JW