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December 12, 2006

City Strobe

Dog ordinance pushed to a vote before full CouncilIt wasn’t until the bitter end of a two-hour special meeting of the Metro Council’s Government Administration committee Monday that Robin Engel, R-22, tried to ask questions of Metro Animal Services about the proposed dangerous dog ordinance, which will be up for a vote before the full Council at its next meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 19. But MAS, the agency that would enforce the ordinance, wasn’t at Monday’s meeting. It wouldn’t have mattered: Democrats on the committee, who enjoy a 4-3 majority, plunged forward on the 100-plus-page ordinance, hashed out for more than a year now, for what appeared to be the sake of expediency — this was the last meeting of the year for the committee, which may have a new chairman and members come January. The ordinance, which some Council members say is still incomplete, would increase license fees and requirements for housing seven specific dog breeds, as well as other dogs resembling pit bulls. It would widen the parameters of a “nuisance,” and dramatically increase the authority of MAS in enforcing it. Donna Herzig, vice president of the Louisville Kennel Club, said the group is among several considering lawsuits if the ordinance passes. LKC, which brings millions to the city in revenue from its annual dog show, has been granted approval by its national parent organization, the American Kennel Club, to move to Lexington if the ordinance passes. She said Lexington has already made LKC an attractive offer.Herzig called the committee’s actions Monday “irresponsible.” Aside from the breed-specific part of the ordinance, she said the nuisance portion — anyone can report your pet as a nuisance to MAS, and the new guidelines defining what that is are quite strict — and making veterinarians turn over confidential information about their clients are both problematic and dangerous. Doug Moutardier, who represents the League of Kentucky Sportsmen, said it’s a “pretty good possibility” his group will also file suit if the ordinance passes. Tony Hyatt, communications director for the majority Democratic Caucus, said it was time — after more than a year of debate and multitudinous instances to ask questions — to move forward. “There has not been what I would call the rush to get the questions answered, if they are that serious of questions,” he said. Hyatt went on to say that the debate had essentially become repetitive. “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with any councilperson picking up the phone and asking Metro Animal Services any question they might have outside a Council meeting.” Any Council member can propose a floor amendment at Tuesday’s meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. It’s safe to expect some. —Stephen GeorgeBig Rock Candy MountainLike all weeks, last week was tough for poor people. Three new reports came out, showing it’s not all Double Mocha Cappuccinos and Chicken O’Tenders for everybody in George Bush’s America.If you’re a kid in Kentucky, there’s a one-in-five chance your life is hard. The new “Kentucky Kids Count” report shows that 22 percent of Kentucky children live in poverty. Our state consistently ranks among the poorest and came in 42nd this year (in your face, Mississippi!) out of 50 states in overall quality of life for children.The county-by-county report, available at www.kyyouth.org, shows that while kids in Boone, Oldham, Spencer, Calloway and Rowan counties are livin’ large, their counterparts in Clay, Leslie, Martin, Wayne and Cumberland counties are scraping by. Nearly half of all kids in those counties live in poverty. And lest you think the main culprit is the state’s consistent lack of adequate education funding, you’d only be partially right. The report calls out parental smoking as enemy No. 1 for kids, because it leads to everything from low birth weight to poor health to having to constantly traipse down to Tobacco Road to get mama a pack of Luckies. It’s a woeful, self-perpetuating cycle for far too many Kentucky children.At least the American Dream still beckons from the ’burbs, right? Wrong. Across America, poverty is no longer a problem just for inner city and rural areas. According to a new Brookings Institution report (www.brookings.edu/metro), the suburbs have more people living in poverty than inner cities, for the first time ever — at least one million of them. Suburban Louisville’s poverty rate rose from 8.8 to 9.1 from 1999 to 2005; some cities have rates as high as 40 percent.If you find the sight of those guys holding up “Will Work For Food” signs in the shadow of Holiday Manor Shopping Center unsettling, consider this warning: Experts predict that increasing crime, crumbling infrastructure and other socioeconomic problems that have been the traditional domain of cities will start afflicting the suburbs.So where did all the money go? To the rich! According to a new report from the UN’s World Institute for Development Economics Research (www.wider.unu.edu), the richest 2 percent of people own more than half of the world’s wealth, and the richest 1 percent own more than 40 percent. Guess where most of them live: America! If you think times are tough in Middletown, try living in India, where average wealth (assets minus debts) is $1,100 US. So, where’s the good news in all of this? Maybe this: If you own $61,000 in personal assets, you’re among the top 10 percent of the world’s richest people. Give yourself a pat on the back. And next time you pass that homeless dude in Hikes Point, slip him a fiver. —Jim WelpOur immigrants are smarter than yoursAs the national debate over immigration continues to simmer on the low heat of a political off-season, a new report by the Urban Institute catalogues further evidence of the economic and social gravity of immigrants living in Louisville. Commissioned by the Metro Office of International Affairs to serve as a tool for business and other service industries, the report by the Washington, D.C.-based agency also revealed that the city’s immigrant population has grown more diverse than the national population over the last 15 years (with the exception of Latin American residents, which comprise more than half the national immigrant population but only 38 percent of Louisville’s).Also, immigrants here are more educated than natives. Thirty-three percent of foreign-born Louisville residents have a four-year college degree, as opposed to 19 percent of natives. Omar Ayyash, director of OIA, called the report “the platform for the future.” And Mayor Jerry Abramson said immigrants’ educational attainment in particular is evidence of a new, different kind of workforce. “Because of these opportunities, I strongly believe that the American cities that reach out and embrace international and cultural diversity are the cities that are going to succeed in the future,” he said. —Stephen GeorgeFollow City Strobe daily at The Lip: LEO’s News Blog. Contact us at citystrobe@leoweekly.com