It might not always seem like it, but we’re really quite fond of where we live. We love Louisville — the food, the music, the culture — and the beautiful bluegrass in which our fair city is situated. And that’s exactly why we take the time to point out the most egregious foibles, failures and flops that unfold here each year. I mean, if this were Detroit, or Newark, or Cleveland, or some other sad pocket of America, we probably wouldn’t even bother. So remember, we criticize because we care. And to those on this year’s list of hack-jobs and screw-ups, the message to take away is simple: Do better.
Kentucky’s newest senator had a busy first year making the commonwealth proud. He 1) blamed his plugged toilet on government bureaucrats, 2) compared universal health care to slavery for doctors, saying the government would conscript doctors at gunpoint, 3) said the United Nations might confiscate all guns in America, based on a treaty that doesn’t exist, 4) said the nonviolent Occupy movement would throw bricks through windows to steal iPads due to their envy of the successful, 5) blocked legislation to feed elderly refugee immigrants and prevent pipeline explosions, 6) suggested air pollution from coal plants is good for asthmatics, and 7) appeared on Fox News approximately 3,694 times. Can we trade with Texas for his Dad?
Penance: Bongo detail at Occupy Louisville for two weeks
This disgraced Metro Council member’s conduct was so unbecoming that her colleagues refused to let her quit — they wanted her fired. In September, the council voted unanimously to give Green the boot, making her the first Louisville lawmaker ousted from office since the end of the Civil War (seriously). A handful of misguided activists cried racism, when in reality the reason behind her expulsion was simple: Green’s actions — misuse of grant funds, nepotism, general crookedness — were “extremely unethical,” and there was the “appearance that criminal activity could have been taking place,” investigators concluded. Making matters worse, she disparaged reporters for writing about her misdeeds — she even called former LEO staffer Phillip M. Bailey “scum-of-the-earth” — and compared her treatment to a crucifixion.
Penance: Exclusive interview with LEO Weekly, during which she tells the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth
Kentucky’s senior senator is a goal-oriented individual, and more often than not, he gets what he wants. Unfortunately for America, little details like getting us out of the recession, lowering unemployment, and bipartisan compromise take a backseat to his admitted No. 1 goal: making Barack Obama a one-term president.
After the debt ceiling fiasco this summer — during which Republicans threatened to throw America into default in order to protect millionaires from any tax increase — McConnell said their strategy showed that our economy is “a hostage that’s worth ransoming.” Two days later, S&P downgraded the U.S. debt rating, citing individuals in Congress willing to, you know, hold the economy hostage.
The stock market plummeted, but hey, a bad economy is music to the ears of someone with such an admirable goal, right?
Penance: Trust falls with Nancy Pelosi
The details of the proposed merger of University of Louisville Hospital, Jewish Hospital, Saint Mary’s Health Care and Catholic Health Initiatives is the only thing more secret than who does Mitch McConnell’s Botox injections. Will University Hospital continue to serve the indigent? Will women still be able to receive basic reproductive health care services without being shipped across town? Good luck finding out for sure, because U of L is fighting tooth and nail to keep the specifics from the light of day. It’s almost as if they think that selling off a public asset and their autonomy is something to hide, no?
Penance: New party to the merger — Planned Parenthood
Many folks would be lucky to have a job like running the Zeppelin Café. The Germantown neighborhood pub seemed to be constantly busy, despite painfully slow (albeit friendly) service. Their beer cheese and pretzels alone could have sustained a successful business, yet owner Tim Cain announced via a xenophobic email that he was closing: “I greatly appreciate my customers but lets (sic) face it I’m the wrong nationality to make it here — I’m AMERICAN … Get with your polititions (sic) and support America, no one else will.” Despite a decade of growth and progress in Germantown-Schnitzelburg, it’s hardly a bastion of immigrant success stories — and, clearly, some old prejudices still exist, no matter how many hipster bars and artisanal coffee shops open up.
Penance: Give your beer cheese recipe to the immigrant-owned Flabby’s
Sherman Minton Bridge
In September, a new reality packed with portmanteaus hit — Shermaggedon crippled Kentuckiana. A 2.5-inch crack in a steel support beam prompted the closure of the Sherman Minton, forcing the 80,000 drivers who use it onto the Kennedy and Clark Memorial bridges. Twenty-minute commutes swelled to two hours. Seething drivers fancied themselves citizen journalists, tweeting live updates to hungry media. The Courier-Journal recently reported the cracks have been around for 30 years and that inspectors just never classified them correctly — as in critical. Speaking of bumbling bureaucrats, Shermaggedon’s life as a political football thrives. Proponents for the Ohio River Bridges Project have adopted it as propaganda. It’s a bit player in Obama’s futile fight to pass the American Jobs Act. So as it stands, Sherman Minton is slated to re-open this winter, the worn out Kennedy is taking on a junked-out Nick Nolte mug shot look, and the consequences of our nation’s crumbling infrastructure are just beginning to surface.
Penance: Fix it! Fix. It. Fix it!
Kentucky State Fair
Are Escalades allowed on greenways? Are Harleys allowed on roller-rinks? Hell no. Then why should skinny-ass tires be allowed in the concrete, carny jungle that is the Kentucky State Fair? Imagine it: You’re balancing a Krispy-Kreme burger in one hand, a weeping basket of deep-fried Kool-Aid in the other and — ring! ring! — a bicycle screams around you. It’s just not safe. This is a land reserved for vomit-inducing rides and sweaty promenades between heifers and hot dogs. Furthermore, for $8, the state fair can keep an eye on your vehicle, but parking lot attendants can’t be responsible for used Schwinns trying to free-load off of a well-established, structured parking system.
Penance: An all-organic Midway
2011 started off good for the leader of the Answers in Genesis ministry and Creation Museum — institutions that make Ham rich off of stunting the intellectual growth of children — as his giant boat with dinosaurs was approved for up to $43 million in tax breaks. But groundbreaking for the Ark Park was pushed back from spring, to summer, to fall, and then to next year, as contributions began to dry up. Ham was also banned from a large Christian home-schoolers convention, as they found his rhetoric “intolerant,” “hateful,” “sinful” and “un-Christian.” And speaking of those adjectives, his Creation Museum also refused entry to two men (whom they assumed were gay) for their “Date Night” buffet, as the image of two men eating dinner together might cause a panic, or make the Baby Jesus cry. Last Supper, anyone?
Penance: Audit an Earth Science class
A recent rash of bar closings has left Louisville bar dwellers sad and thirsty. Zeppelin Café, Derby City Espresso, The Recovery Room, Tink’s and Starbase Q all announced in early December that they were closing tabs and shutting their doors for good. The latter two made up 40 percent of our gay bars, and 100 percent of our lesbian bars — not a good sign for a city with its sights set on being more culturally diverse. Others lost this year include 732 Social, Brendan’s and Longshot Tavern. The flipside is we’ve had a few new establishments open, including Meat, Garage Bar and the Silver Dollar. Raise a glass to an optimistic future for Louisville’s bar scene.
Penance: Jagerbombs on the house
If this year’s gubernatorial election taught us anything, it is that voters in Kentucky despise the Republican president of the state Senate. After four years of McConnell-style obstructionism and a decade full of mean-spirited bullying of anyone in his path, Williams only managed to pick up 35 percent of the vote and a routing by Steve Beshear.
Williams put the cherry on top of his embarrassing year in the last week of the campaign, making a bizarre attack against Beshear for taking part in a Hindu groundbreaking ceremony for a new factory, accusing the governor of idolatry and worshiping “false Gods,” and hoping the folks creating new jobs in Kentucky would someday accept Jesus Christ as their savior. Now Williams faces a Republican caucus carefully hiding their knives until next year, when they might choose to replace him in leadership with someone more popular than Coach K.
Penance: Must spend an evening with his cloned self (the real Williams identified by a new red dot tattooed to his forehead)
Terry Stephens (David Williams’ father-in-law)
If you’re a multi-millionaire who wants to help your daughter social climb in Kentucky, you’ve got to make sure she picks a better husband than David Williams. Stephens poured $4 million of his own money into his son-in-law’s doomed campaign, airing dishonest attack ads and some that even attempted to portray Williams as a kind and gentle humanoid. They obviously didn’t work, and to make matters worse, the family now has to sit through the most awkward Christmas gathering ever.
Penance: David Williams is your son-in-law … already serving it
The Tea Party secretary of state candidate had an urgent message for voters: George Soros, Bill Clinton and local Democrats hatched a secret plot to enlist ACORN (which doesn’t exist anymore) to illegally register homeless people to vote so that Kentucky would re-elect Barack Obama in 2012. He also told voters that it was vital to elect him, as he would somehow “protect the unborn,” though not the voting rights of ex-felons. Kentucky voters had an urgent message for Johnson after his 22-point drubbing by Alison Lundergan Grimes in November: Stop running for office and take your paranoid fear-mongering elsewhere.
Penance: Volunteer with Kentuckians for the Commonwealth to register voters in the West End
The Louisville comedian and Democratic nominee for commissioner of agriculture succeeded in making people laugh this year, but they were laughing at him, not with him. Oddly enough, farmers didn’t take kindly to his stand-up routine calling rural Kentuckians a bunch of toothless, inbred imbeciles. And in a year where a Democratic potted plant could have beaten a Republican, Farmer was unmercifully stomped by the widest margin of any candidate.
Penance: Two front teeth removed and first name legally changed to “Dirt”
Farmer is perhaps the only politico to have a worse year than Judy Green and his running mate, David Williams. His wife divorced him right before the primary, saying he was withholding money that she needed to raise their children. Farmer did not, however, withhold money from his new girlfriend, whom he hired as a “special assistant” in the Department of Agriculture, a job that entailed traveling with him on the campaign trail and … we really don’t want to think about what else.
Farmer also managed to have a different spending scandal surrounding him every week and made a gratuitous Kentucky basketball reference every five seconds. Though 2011 likely ended his political career, there are plenty of career options for someone who was — as he bragged in a debate — valedictorian of his elementary school class.
Penance: Shave that ’stache
Former Gannett CEO Craig Dubow
Here’s a snapshot of what transpired during Dubow’s six-year tenure overseeing the country’s largest chain of newspapers: workforce dropped by 20,000, stocks plummeted from $75 to $10 a share, annual revenue plunged from $5.2 billion to $2.7 billion. Given his tenure coincided with a sharp decline in print advertising, one might be inclined to cut him a little slack. But don’t — while the company was hemorrhaging money, Dubow was raking in obscene amounts of cash in between announcing massive newsroom layoffs and unpaid furloughs. Upon retiring in October, Dubow received more than $37 million in benefits, in addition to $16 million in salary and bonuses accrued over the previous two years.
Penance: Destitution (aka, living on an entry-level reporter’s salary)
Decades of blowing coal ash all over the homes on Cane Run Road was going great for LG&E until those snooping neighbors started asking questions and seeking to have the soot on their houses tested. LG&E faced fines by the Air Pollution Control District for being the worst neighbors imaginable, though their management insists coal ash is perfectly harmless, and they’d put it in their kids’ sandbox. They’re hoping that everyone who doesn’t live next to their filth orders that little green conservation box and forgets about such bummer thoughts. If you do make that call, prepare to be on hold for a while.
Penance: LG&E management swaps houses with Cane Run residents
Troubleshooter Eric Flack
Next time you see an arsonist or a wall-eyed pimp with a tire iron, do not call police. Call Eric Flack, WAVE 3’s Troubleshooter. This pit-bull in a pompadour is casting out ne’er-do-wells at pee-wee football games, cancer benefit concerts and KT’s Bar. He will shame them on camera as they proceed with their nefarious deeds. Take, for instance, Metro Parks Director Mike Heitz, who apparently plunges into the evening cocktail hour and then drives a city-issued car home. Poor and potentially dangerous decision-making? Absolutely. But rather than alert police or Metro government directly, the Troubleshooter camped out with hidden cameras and clung to the footage until the first day of November sweeps. The only thing slimier is the buttery sheen dribbling down fingers gripping those delicious, signature KT’s croissants. Anyway, if you’re involved in mid to low-level evil-ry, check yourself when you smell the pomade.
Penance: Around-the-clock hidden camera surveillance of the Troubleshooter
In 2010, the Tea Party could do no wrong, leading the Republicans to a takeover of the House and putting anti-government zealots like Rand Paul in the Senate. But after getting a glimpse of them in power, many Americans are having a case of buyer’s remorse. The Tea Party’s approval rating plunged after their members appeared to cheer on default during the debt-ceiling crisis, and in Kentucky their candidates were easily routed, with polls showing only 15 percent identifying with the movement. Now they’re struggling with even the simplest of tasks — preventing milquetoast Mitt Romney from getting the GOP nomination — as the likes of Bachmann, Perry and Cain imploded with gaffes, seemingly hallucinogenic meltdowns, and women who have been offered the 69-69-69 plan.
Penance: Four more years of a black president
If you’re looking to go for a nice long bike ride, but not necessarily improve your health, the west end of the Louisville Loop is the ultimate “toxic trail” you’re after. We suggest starting your journey in the Rubbertown neighborhood, where you’ll notice the sweet aroma of vinyl chloride, acrylonitrile, butadiene and chloroprene drafting out of the chemical plants. Further south, you’ll pass directly in front of the coal ash landfill of LG&E on Cane Run Road, where you’ll breathe in the fly ash spewing out of the sludge processing plant. Your journey ends a few miles away at the gargantuan smokestacks of LG&E’s Mill Creek power plant, where you take in the beauty of the sulfur dioxide and mercury filling the sky … and your lungs.
Penance: Al Gore in bike shorts
Now that the grand plans for Museum Plaza have crumbled, the Main Street museum corridor must count on the Louisville Slugger bat as the street’s hottest phallic symbol. The sky-shocker (check out the rendering) was originally scheduled to wave his nasty $465 million fingers into the air by next year. A down economy put the kibosh on 62 stories of Tetris-inspired architecture that was to be built, in part, with public dollars. Will our skyline continue to procreate without this potent winner leading the way? Without an innovative condo/retail/office-space/parking garage, we’ll never become the Midwest’s Dubai!
Penance: Museum Plaza masterminds help fund a realistic project
Dr. Jacob Payne
The factually challenged gossip/vendetta blogger behind Page One Kentucky and The Ville Voice was exposed as a fraud this year, claiming to have a PhD in political science from one of the country’s best universities, when the National Student Clearinghouse suggests he doesn’t even hold a bachelor’s degree. After years of mocking politicians who complained about anonymous criticism on the Internet, Payne turned hypocrite and whiny-ass titty baby by suing the blogger(s) who exposed his inventive résumé and skewered his website as an unethical pay-for-play and personal grudge settling platform. Payne also failed to cheerlead Republicans David Williams and Todd P’Pool on to victory, but at least he was able to stay afloat with his, uh, “creative” business model.
Penance: Websites hacked by “Anonymous”
Metro Council Spendthrifts
In an era when the city has faced monumental revenue shortfalls, several Metro Council members shopped away their budget blues at local Kroger stores, apparently with zero oversight. Using city-issued Kroger cards, council members spent nearly $50,000 at the grocery stores, stocking up on Cheetos, sodas, bacon, eggs, donuts … and even gift cards, which were in turn given directly to constituents. Although more than half of the 26-member council went Krogering on the taxpayers’ dime, the top four big-spenders were — wait for it — Judy Green, ringing up more than $11,000 in charges, followed by David Tandy, Cheri Bryant Hamilton, and Jim King, who it turns out is coo-coo for Diet Coke.
Penance: Pure Tap and saltines
Republicans had high hopes for their “rising star” attorney general nominee, who would finish up what Rand Paul started last year and bring Jack Conway’s political career to a screeching halt. His TV ads resembled buddy cop flicks and “CSI” episodes, showing off his impressive acting skills as he limbo’d under the caution tape of fake crime scenes with a steely resolve. P’Pool also built his entire campaign on name-dropping Obama as many times as humanly possible, with an ad claiming in blood-soaked lettering that the president is “destroying America.” Unfortunately for him, voters were less interested in villainizing the president than the actual duties of the attorney general, as he suffered a 10-point defeat.
Penance: Must watch “CSI: Miami” marathon while sitting in a pee pool (yes, we are children)
Constable David Whitlock
You know where I wouldn’t shoplift? Walmart. In the South End. Where sticky fingers get shot the fuck off. Meet Constable David Whitlock: a trigger-happy Barney Fife type who was elected (really?) to an antiquated justice post that shouldn’t elevate beyond crowd control at the Christmas tree lighting. Constables receive little law-enforcement training. But Whitlock has watched “Point Break” one too many times and seems to have honed his inner Keanu. According to a WHAS story, he’s arrested dozens of people and issued hundreds of citations. A suspected shoplifter learned this the hard way and got shot in the arm and face. Perhaps it’s time to retire this law-enforcement relic. If not, I like to imagine an offshoot of the show “Cops” called “Constables.” Rather than high-speed chases and ripped-off clothing, I think there would be a lot of confused questions and eye-rolls.
Penance: Reassigned to Mayberry (yeah, we know it’s a fictional town … what of it?)
We love Perry Clark, we really do. The guy truly cares about the struggles of the working class and isn’t afraid to take on anyone or say exactly what is on his mind. Unfortunately, this last part is where he sometimes goes off the rails. Clark promoted crackpot conspiracy theorist Lyndon LaRouche’s call for President Obama to be impeached (describing LaRouche as an “American statesman”), even making a gratuitous comparison between Obama and Hitler. He also marked the 10th anniversary of 9/11 by suggesting it was an inside job, with controlled demolitions destroying buildings in Manhattan and cruise missiles hitting the Pentagon, all easily debunked theories. While claiming to be provocative in order to attract attention to his worthy cause — restoring Glass-Steagal to rein in Wall Street banks — all he managed to do was exude an aura of craziness.
Penance: Parental controls on computer to block conspiratorial websites
How is someone who won re-election by 20 percent during a recession and deprived Kentucky of being ruled by King David Williams a “loser”? For one, by governing and campaigning like a shameless shill for the coal industry. He set the tone for the year in his state of the commonwealth address, screaming a demand for Obama and the EPA to “get off our backs!” — with those backs being King Coal and its ability to blow up mountains and burn coal however they damn well please. Beshear continued to trash Obama and the federal government, despite the fact that the balanced budgets he bragged about couldn’t have happened without the federal stimulus. Also, a log could have defeated Williams this year, which is what Beshear campaigned like, avoiding debates and providing almost zero agenda for his second term.
Penance: Governor’s drinking water shipped in from Eastern Kentucky
Let’s talk about regrets. Regretting things you have done. Regretting things you haven’t done. Regretting things you may have said while regrettably getting a little too jivey with Sterling Riggs. In October, innocuous, perky morning banter stumbled into suspicious slip-ups when Allen mangled words, swallowed syllables, but still let out what could’ve been the first half of a most racist term — the N-word — during a story on Tiger Woods. She denied she said it but then released a vague apology saying, “The comments I made were misunderstood.” Then why apologize? Nervous management who just wanted to will this brouhaha away likely had something to do with that decision. No one can prove what was said, but perhaps there’s a lesson here: In those hollow moments where news anchors go off script, comedy and ethnic accents aren’t territories one should venture into.
Penance: Silence, woman!
In an ideal world, the most devious dealing at the dog pound is that every stray is up-bred to some sort of Labrador mix. Not at Louisville Metro Animal Services. Case in point: Jackie Gulbe, former assistant director who on a 95-degree day stuffed a stray dog into a suitcase for a trip to the often disease-ridden kill zone that is the Manslick Road shelter. When the beagle arrived, it was in severe medical distress. Who was this knuckle-ravaging, fang-ball from hell? An elderly beagle. Say it ain’t so, Snoopy!! In a poorly executed WHAS interview, Gulbe simultaneously denies and explains step-by-step in blunderous detail how it happened. The wandering beagle bit her hand and, without any other means of transporting the snappy Cerberus, she packed it into the suitcase for transport. Might we suggest this justification next time the TV cameras come around: If Reese Witherspoon can cram her little perfumed rats into a Dolce and Gabbana handbag, what’s wrong with storing our pets in, say, a suitcase? At least that’s not gaudy!
Penance: Shock collar
Stu Pollard, 44, is a native Louisvillian who now lives in L.A., where he teaches and pursues his filmmaking career. This fall, Pollard released his over-the-top debut album, New Tricks, which revealed a composer influenced by Phil Collins and Bryan Adams, at best. And don’t YouTube his video for the song “By Design” unless you want to be really depressed (it’s like “American Psycho,” minus the irony). Bob Dylan makes some powerful music, yet has struggled to make a coherent movie when left to his own devices. So perhaps it’s not too surprising that even Louisville’s most successful filmmaker can’t match his achievements in the musical arts.
Penance: No Bruce Hornsby, Huey Lewis, Billy Joel, Sting, Don Henley or Richard Marx for a year
Our landlord is Todd Blue. He reminded LEO of that when we asked him about his decision to tear down a historic building across the street from LEO’s offices on East Main Street. Few here have actually seen him. But pictures online give off an Alec Baldwin/Tony Soprano vibe. There’s a smoky destruction to his gaze. Earlier this year, Blue was given the green light to raze Whiskey Row. When outrage ensued, Mayor Fischer turned around and secured a deal to save most of the cast-iron buildings. But in the multi-page agreement, the city committed to providing Blue with permits and an approval to demolish what was known as the Elmo’s Building, a 120-year-old beige, brick structure. The property is now yet another parking lot (where we currently get to park — at least for now).
Penance: Valet parking attendant for LEO staff
Tired of the boring rhetoric surrounding the Ohio River Bridges Project, this Southern Indiana investment banker bankrolled a bizarre pro-bridges media campaign — including a short film — that offended African-American community leaders. The film’s main character, Benny Breeze, is a foul-mouthed, chain-smoking, jive-talking proponent of the bridges project. Oh, and he’s black. Though Scott claims he funded the pro-bridges film for the sake of his children’s future, we suspect it might also have something to do with the fact that he sits on the board of the pro-bridges chamber of commerce One Southern Indiana. In the film, the diminutive Mr. Breeze says, “This shit’s gettin’ ridiculous.” We couldn’t agree more.
Penance: Having to watch your own crap video on repeat, eyes pried open “Clockwork Orange” style
Local Music Lovers
After 26 years and 26,000 memories, ear X-tacy finally lost the war that Napster started at the turn of the century. Despite efforts to stay vital, including increasing their already notable series of unique in-store concerts, little could be done to overcome the towering mountain of ongoing debt facing the business. Droves of customers turned out for the store’s final liquidation sale, but the support was too little, too late. While other local, independent record stores remain active, nothing can truly replace the experiences that John Timmons’ child gave so many.
Penance: Go see more great bands while you can. Shop at more local stores. Support local music!
Greg Fischer’s Facebook/Twitter accounts
Boring. Occasionally inaccurate.
Penance: Substance. Comedy. Or just pull the plug …
This seems like the kind of T-shirt campaign WHY Louisville’s Will Russell might dream up — a sprawling Super Region, Lexington on one end, Louisville on the other, with Waddy Peytona posed to become the central hub. The coming-out party for this initiative at the Galt House was heavy on camp. The comic book-themed event showed a video of Mayors Greg Fischer and Jim Gray as superheroes. And we think Jim Host was supposed to be the Green Lantern. The powers that be say this initiative will lure advanced auto manufacturing jobs, which will somehow save the middle class. But until the Super Region (ahem, now called BEAM: Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement) can prove it’s not just a rhetorical reinvention of past economic campaigns, we’re just not all that hopeful that vying for urban monstrosity status like Dallas-Fort Worth or Raleigh-Durham is good for Louisville.
Penance: Substance. Comedy. Or just pull the plug …
732 Social ?
For two years, the scent of cured meats billowed out of NuLu’s headquarters — The Green Building. Cocktail glasses clinked. Fancy people said fancy things. Those were the days of 732 Social, a trendy, innovative restaurant that earned raves. But this year, the beef between chef Jason Lewellyn and his landlord, Gill Holland, over a lease dispute led to the eatery’s closure. Lewellyn also was tangled in a nasty court battle with his former partners, Steven and Michael Ton (of Basa and Doc Crow’s), whom he blamed for not coming through on promised investment dollars and other wrongdoings. The saga even included Lewellyn pleading guilty to harassment charges for throwing a beer in the face of one of the Tons. We can only hope something as delicious but less volatile takes its place.
Penance: Gordon Ramsay’s “Hell’s Kitchen”
Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church
This Pike County church banned interracial couples from attending its services at the behest of churchgoer Melvin Thompson (who maintains he’s not racist, but has failed to provide any evidence supporting said claim). Thompson sponsored a resolution barring mixed-race couples after a young woman brought her African boyfriend to the all-white house of worship. The measure has since been overturned, but not before sparking a national media frenzy that made Kentuckians look like a bunch of hood-wearing hillbillies.
Penance: Integrate, you dicks