If there’s any good argument that can be conjured up to support Metro Councilman Jim King, D-10, for mayor of Louisville, it’s that he’s the best policymaker in the race — period.
During a recent mayoral forum at the University of Louisville, for instance, a student asked how the candidates would address alleged racial discrimination stemming from the dress code at Fourth Street Live.
Most candidates offered vague slogans, such as having “zero tolerance” for discrimination. In contrast, King said that under his administration, public works would simply prohibit Fourth Street Live from closing the street to traffic if there was any discrimination.
Unfortunately, King has a continued perception problem due to a string of controversies that plagued his campaign early on. It’s a fact he’s willing to acknowledge now, but it could be too late.
The King campaign is airing a second television ad to highlight the state auditor’s recent examination of the city’s financial reporting practices and touting the councilman’s transparency record.
In the open government debate, King distinguishes himself among opponents, particularly his colleague, Councilman David Tandy, D-4, who carried Mayor Jerry Abramson’s water during the controversial $950,000 loan agreement with The Cordish Cos. to refurbish a nightclub at Fourth Street Live.
Last year, Tandy, then-council president, traveled with members of the Abramson administration to the company’s headquarters and signed a confidentiality agreement with the Baltimore-based developer that barred him from discussing the loan in detail.
Meanwhile, King, who served as council president prior to Tandy, stayed behind and co-sponsored a bill requiring that any recipient using public financing be subject to an audit.
“I would not have gone to Baltimore on the same conditions that the team went. I don’t think it was appropriate to sign a confidentiality agreement, and I would never have done that,” says King, adding that the transaction was unacceptable.
“It effectively pulled our teeth and put us in a position where we could not do anything but look forward,” he says. “And that’s why I authored the transparency ordinance.”
It’s up to primary voters to decide if they’ll reward a man with a record of results, despite past controversies.
Last week, the Metropolitan Louisville Women’s Political Caucus announced it was endorsing Democrat Greg Fischer for mayor. At least one opponent took exception to the fact that a man received the nod from a group that works to increase women’s participation in the political process.
In a message to supporters, Democratic mayoral candidate Shannon White outlines her accomplishments with women and launched an attack on Fischer and the group, saying she was disgusted and furious with the decision.
“Shame on MLWPC, who instead of choosing a champion for women in Louisville, they choose a businessman who is popular in the polls and a longtime member of the deeply entrenched old boys network,” White wrote to supporters.
Interestingly, White — founder of Dress for Success Louisville — didn’t have such a fiery response earlier this year when members of the local media asked if she had time to run a campaign considering she’s a mother of three boys.
In January, we scolded the press for asking such an audaciously sexist question and pointed out that one of her male opponents has three children who are far younger than White’s sons. At the time, the Louisville businesswoman took the polite approach and told LEO she “wasn’t offended by the question.”
Now she’s being heavily criticized, in need of campaign cash and volunteers, and polling low with only 2 percent. The cool demeanor has since been discarded.
In the message to supporters, it seems White believes she is entitled to the endorsement simply because she’s a woman. It’s a notion with which the women’s advocacy group disagrees.
“While we respect Shannon White’s position and the great work she has done throughout her career, the caucus’ policy is to endorse a candidate based on her or his experience, viability and support of women’s issues — not simply on gender,” MLWPC President Angela Wallace said in a statement released to LEO.
When the council hears testimony from Kentucky Auditor Crit Luallen about her office’s annual audit of the city’s financial practices, expect the lack of qualifications among business managers in city departments to be a topic of discussion.
Luallen’s 212-page report scolds the Abramson administration for permitting individuals to qualify for a position by substituting certain work experience for minimum education requirements.
In response to the audit, LEO Weekly discovered that among the 42 business managers who work in various agencies, only eight had accounting degrees, according to a list provided to council members in August of 2009.
Critics of the mayor say Metro employees are hard-working public servants. Maybe so, but the perpetual mismanagement of city funds across different agencies suggests they don’t have proper oversight, training or qualifications.
“You have certified public accountants for a reason. And it’s a continued concern that we have,” says Steve Haag, director of the Republican caucus.
The administration maintains it has already made many of the necessary changes, adding that the findings shouldn’t be used as political fodder to bash the mayor.
“Some people have different thoughts about what an audit is,” says Chad Carlton, a mayoral spokesman. “An audit is not an investigation. The purpose is to assist (the city) in how to do better with its finances.”
The explanation coming out of the Mayor’s Office is that business managers do more than bookkeeping and must have qualifications beyond accounting.
There is a growing belief among the mayoral candidates and political observers that the next administration will have to continue working to remedy problems pointed out by the state auditor.
“At the end of the day, the mayor has had a long time to make a number of these corrections,” Haag says. “And even if this mayor takes the task that the auditor gave wholeheartedly, it’s still hard to complete it within his term.”