Issue January 26, 2011

Sixth & Jefferson

Facts, rumors and political innuendo

On Monday, Jefferson County Clerk Bobbie Holsclaw entered the race for governor of Kentucky, giving local Republicans a moderate alternative to support in the upcoming primary.

After mulling over the field of candidates, Holsclaw, who has been elected clerk four times, jumped in the race with retired Navy master chief Bill Vermillion of Grayson County as her running mate.

That makes the GOP gubernatorial primary a three-way race, with Holsclaw going up against state Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, a political veteran with deep connections, and Louisville businessman Phil Moffett, a Tea Party-backed candidate who has never held public office.

“In the primary, Moffett and Williams are two very different candidates, but can be seen as polarizing,” says University of Louisville political science professor Laurie Rhodebeck. “Holsclaw might be a candidate someone can turn to as a compromise. Whether she can raise money and appeal to people outside Metro Louisville is hard to know.”

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At a recent caucus meeting, Metro Council Democrats vented their frustration with the local media.

The discussion began when Councilman Tom Owen, D-8, cited LEO Weekly’s recent coverage of the continued dysfunction at Louisville Metro Animal Services, calling allegations surrounding the embattled department “endless.”

The former council president suggested Democrats should be more aggressive when it comes to improving government, specifically calling attention to an internal audit last year that recommends fundamental changes to the council’s financial operations.

“I’m just hoping we don’t end up in the defensive posture,” Owen said.

In recent weeks, however, a handful of stories have raised questions about the ethical judgment of some council Democrats, who are regularly called out by Republicans despite having a 17-9 majority.

Recently, The Courier-Journal called attention to the fact that Insight Communications offered several council members free tickets and access to a luxury suite during the UK vs. U of L men’s basketball game.

The story revealed two council Democrats — Dan Johnson and Bob Henderson — were considering taking the tickets, despite the ethics commission chairman’s opinion that accepting them could violate the city’s ethics law, as well as the fact that the cable/Internet company was in the process of renegotiating its franchise agreement with the city.

Then there is the continued fallout involving Councilwoman Judy Green, D-1, who was the subject of a scathing internal audit and police investigation due to a $55,000 grant she procured to fund the “Green Clean Team,” a summer program for at-risk youth in her district. The examination found that 12 of Green’s relatives worked in the program and collected $3,580. In addition, the city auditor was unable to locate $28,270 due to poor bookkeeping within the program.

In response to unflattering news coverage about the aforementioned issues, Councilman Rick Blackwell, D-12, called for more accountability from the local press, particularly from the C-J’s Metro reporter, Dan Klepal, whom he referred to as “the Republican writer” during the meeting, before launching into a missive about Councilman Ken Fleming, R-7, who co-sponsored the amended ethics ordinance and is often quoted in news stories as a result.

“We need to do some PR work. It frustrates me that Ken Fleming … is now the guru of ethics. Every article about anything ethical goes back to Fleming,” Blackwell said. “We got to do something to balance that a little bit as a caucus. I don’t think Fleming should have the reins on that.”

LEO contacted Klepal, who declined to comment, as well as Bennie Ivory, executive editor at The Courier-Journal, who was unavailable.

During the caucus meeting, Democrats did not mention any plans to push a transparency or ethics agenda to match that of their GOP counterparts. Instead, the conversation centered on bad messaging, “negative” media outlets, and an irritation with reporters who call them directly instead of going through their communications director.

At one point, Councilman Brent Ackerson, D-26, said that when controversial stories are published, he’d like Democratic caucus spokesman Tony Hyatt to alert caucus members.

Ackerson said he was blindsided when confronted about a recent LEO Weekly story, which reported that Jefferson Circuit Court Judge James M. Shake ordered the sale of Green’s home as a result of a civil lawsuit brought against her by a local businessman over a $140,000 loan.

Regarding the story, Green said, “You don’t vote on anything that’s in my personal life,” calling the airing of her financial troubles “silly season.”

“But I do vote on what’s going on with the Green Team and other things,” Ackerson responded. “And to not acknowledge it is kind of saying maybe it will go away. It’s not going away, and if it’s just empowering us with the knowledge, why not? If it’s out there, it’s out there.”

•••

The band of citizens trying save the Hogan’s Fountain pavilion in Cherokee Park has kicked off a fundraising effort to salvage the structure.

After learning about a master plan developed by Metro Parks and the Louisville Olmsted Parks Conservancy to demolish the shelter, concerned citizens founded Save the Hogan’s Fountain Pavilion, a group trying to save what they believe is a historic landmark.

The group is urging the community to take part in an online Reader’s Digest contest that includes a first place prize of $40,000 for community projects.

“I hope this has given people inspiration. It certainly has given me hope,” says Tammy Madigan, the group’s co-chair, adding that they’ve raised $5,600 thus far. “Everybody we’ve contacted has been excited about it, and we’ve been working with a lot of preservation groups throughout the country to bring national attention to the pavilion, too. ”

In recent years, the shelter has fallen into disrepair, with crumbling stonework, decaying shingles and graffiti.

City officials have said it would cost $150,000 to replace the roof alone, however, Madigan told LEO that amount is based on one estimate, and members of her group have contacted a local company that is willing to charge $82,000 for a new roof and repainting.