September 15, 2010

Jerry's kids

Facts, rumors and political innuendo

The announcement that former mayoral candidate Tyler Allen crossed party lines to endorse Republican Hal Heiner has split progressives and could have serious ramifications in the race for mayor of Louisville.

For those following the lead of Allen, co-founder of 8664, there’s a general dissatisfaction with Democrat Greg Fischer’s vague positions, particularly when it comes to the Ohio River Bridges Project. At last week’s press conference, Allen, who came in fourth in the Democratic primary, said Heiner would provide a fresh start for Metro government.

“This is in many ways our first real Metro mayor campaign, a real open playing field,” Allen said. “It’s a chance for new ideas and new voices to be at the table.”

If the popular Democrat actively campaigns for the east Louisville Republican with a message that the city is now open to a new generation of leaders, political observers expect that could appeal to a base of younger progressives ready
for change.

“I think that young professionals today are not loyal to the party like people have been or were in the past,” says Geoff White, president of the Young Professionals Association of Louisville. “They’re looking to find the candidate that excites them the most.”

The latest WHAS-11/Courier-Journal poll showed 52 percent of voters between the ages 18-34 are supporting Heiner. It’s unclear if Allen can persuade young urbanites who tend to vote Democratic to vote for a Republican, even in a politically muted mayoral race.

Recently, Fischer has ratcheted up his stump speech criticism about Heiner’s socially conservative views, highlighting his opponent’s votes against the Fairness ordinance, smoking ban and environmentally conscious STAR program.

But Allen’s endorsement sends a signal that the GOP nominee isn’t that extreme after all.

“I think Allen’s endorsement does show that party lines are a little bit hazier than they used to be,” White says. “It’s worth noting that Allen … is not necessarily a ‘check the box’ Democrat. And he’s a little bit of a one-issue politician due to the bridges project, and I think that endorsement has more to do with Heiner and Fischer’s perspectives on the bridges more than anything else.”

When asked how much Heiner’s position on the $4.1 billion Ohio River Bridges Project played a role in his endorsement, Allen said the massive public works plan is just one example of the way decisions are made in the community.

Since June, Heiner has said he favors scaling the project back if it isn’t financially feasible.

And even though Allen is not in total agreement with Heiner, who supports the entire project if an appropriate funding plan can be reached, the anti-ORBP activist says the Republican has been forthright in a way very few have during the campaign.

 

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A year after the city prohibited local artists from selling their wares on the outskirts of the St. James Art Show, the Metro Council has amended a controversial city bill that now allows them to showcase their work.

Last year, the council unanimously passed a peddlers ordinance intended to eliminate illegal “squatter” vendors selling art and various goods without the permission of St. James organizers or a special city permit. The law stopped vendors from setting up temporary stands within 400 feet of a permitted vending operation like the annual St. James festival, a large-scale event in Old Louisville that costs artists a minimum of $450 to enter.

The council’s good intentions inflamed already palpable tension between St. James organizers and artists who participated in the annual Unfair, an alternative art festival that doesn’t charge artists to set up and is held 100 feet away.

In October 2009, Metro officials shut down the Unfair, telling artists they could face up to a $500 fine or three days in jail if they proceeded with the rogue event. And while many rushed downtown to obtain the proper permits, a handful packed up their wares and left after police threatened to confiscate their work.

“It just stunned all of us because they allowed us to set up all of our wares and start opening up for the day before they came over,” says Mark Winningham, a local painter. “It was almost like a set-up or something. Nobody really knew what to do at the time, but some of us decided to get the word out about us being curtailed and continue to petition the council.”

The amendment to change the ordinance was co-sponsored by Councilwoman Madonna Flood, D-24, and Councilman Deonte Hollowell, Ind.-6. The ordinance lifts restrictions put on “community fairs” and vendors who get a proper permit, allowing them to set up without permission from St. James organizers.

“The people in that neighborhood deal with the congestion and other problems for those three days, and they should be able to make a little money too,” Winningham says. “I think St. James has had a monopoly over there for far too long, anyway. But we have all our permits and ducks in a row already. This year, we’re ready to go.”