City Strobe

Unleashed 8.1: Another day, another dog ordinance draft
Virtually everyone but Metro Council member Cheri Bryant Hamilton is now miffed by the so-called dangerous dog ordinance, a wide-ranging, 96-page behemoth now in its eighth draft, that would pose new license fees and requirements for owning, breeding, selling, training and walking an animal in Louisville. Hamilton, who sponsored the legislation and reportedly wrote the most recent draft without input from the task force convened to assist the process, didn’t get her wish Monday night: the Government Administration committee tabled the thing in anticipation of further discussion.

Meanwhile, the people of Louisville are left to cower in fear as rogue dogs that may resemble pit bulls roam the streets in search of fresh human sacrifice.

Her voice quivering slightly, Hamilton addressed a near-full Council Chambers Monday, citing the “rash of pit bull attacks sweeping this country” and the deaths of two Louisvillians last year at the teeth of vicious dogs. Hamilton, whose newest draft ordinance is breed-specific to seven types of dogs commonly thought of as pit bulls, characterized the dogs as inordinately powerful animals with huge damage capabilities and a sense of determination that knows no reasonable boundaries. They’re most commonly bred in the George W. Bush line.

Hamilton and Dr. Gilles Meloche, the director of Metro Animal Services who has helped draft the draft and who would gain more authority because of it, told the committee the ordinance would help raise Louisville’s abysmal license compliance rate — a mere 15 percent of the city’s dogs are licensed. When several committee members asked the pair how, in fact, raising fees would lead more people to register their animals with MAS, they gave no meaningful answer. Councilman Stuart Benson brought the house down when he advised that MAS — notoriously understaffed and underfunded until this year’s budget gave them an extra 100 grand — should target with new fees and penalties the non-compliant dog owners, not the law-abiding ones.

Committee co-chair James Peden poked holes in the ordinance, playing to the mostly anti-ordinance crowd with questions about unintended consequences if it were passed into law, such as residual effects on breeders and owners of animals other than vicious, flesh-chewing dogs. His point, he ultimately said, was to show that another meeting is needed to hammer out just such details, to ensure law-abiding animal owners don’t get smacked (bitten?) by any overzealous enforcers.

Pam Schweiss, a member of the Louisville Kennel Club and proud owner of five (one award-winning) American Staffordshire Terriers, which are targeted by the ordinance, acknowledged there is a problem with dangerous dogs. However, a far-reaching ordinance is not the answer, she said.

As for banning specific breeds, none are, as Hamilton noted. But under the proposed ordinance, if your dog is not “fixed” and is one of the seven named breeds, you’ll pay a $100 a year license fee. You also must have $100,000 in liability insurance, and every time you walk it, it must wear a muzzle.

“I feel like I’m one of the responsible owners who is going to be punished,” Schweiss said. Under this draft ordinance, she could only have two dogs, which would cost her $200 a year to license, as well as the cost of new insurance. She said her dogs are well trained, and that this breed has been cultivated for 65 years, in some ways to distance those dogs from traditional pit bulls.

The idea of an outright ban has enraged people since last November, when Hamilton began pushing the new ordinance. Making it unaffordable to possess certain kinds of dogs, while not a direct ban, would effectively serve the same function. —Stephen George

Here, there and everywhere

Everyone should have three addresses — like Stuart Chafetz, who lives in Honolulu, Chautauqua, N.Y., and will now call Louisville home, too.

Last week the Louisville Orchestra named Chafetz as its associate conductor for the 2006-07 season — a 19-week tour of duty that he’ll blend with work as principal timpanist of the Honolulu Symphony, conductor of the Maui Pops Orchestra and timpanist at the famed Chautauqua Institute in western New York. Sounds like a ton of travel, but Oahu to Maui to New York to Louisville isn’t that different than the Marco Polo wanderings of new Louisville Orchestra maestro Jorge Mester, who is music director now of symphonies in Pasadena, Calif., Naples, Fla., and Louisville.
Kind of like circuit riders.

“Or musical troubadours,” said Deborah Moore, the LO education director who will work closely with Chafetz as he conducts the orchestra’s Making Music programs for school-age listeners.

“In the musical world, musicians — and especially conductors — are just so used to it,” Moore explained. “They make work for themselves. Even when they’re a music director somewhere, that may be for only a handful of concerts. Like in Maui, he wouldn’t conduct one week of a month, then not do anything for the next three weeks.”

(That doesn’t seem so bad, actually: work a week, then rest for three in Maui?)
Chafetz replaces former associate conductor Robert Franz, who is now resident conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic. He is slated for several conducting appearances in addition to the Making Music concerts. Plus, he will make appearances in classrooms to prepare students for what they will experience at the Making Music concerts. —Bill Doolittle

JCPS: Good defense = offense

Jefferson County Public Schools might have the perfect answer to the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind law: fighting nonsense with nonsense. When schools opened last week, a new “virtual school” opened along with them. The virtual school — actually two schools, neither of which is virtual — is a desperate attempt by the district to provide alternatives to schools deemed “failing” by the federal law. Under NCLB, districts must allow students at failing schools to transfer to another school, even though there’s no room or money to do so.

Many have criticized NCLB for its all-or-nothing approach to school “failure.” If a school doesn’t meet benchmarks in math or reading, for example, the entire school is deemed a failure, regardless of funding and no matter how well the school is doing in other areas. (Imagine if we held other facets of the government to such a standard. For instance, if the administration waged a preemptive war on false pretenses, failed to respond to a natural disaster and left the economy in shambles, you wouldn’t call the whole presidency a failure, right? Right?) The NCLB transfer rule is an impossible standard to meet and widely believed to be a veiled attempt to get public money in the hands of private (read: Christian) schools.

But the law is the law, and JCPS’ dash to comply resulted in the so-called virtual schools — one at Valley and one at Fairdale. The schools are really schools (you can walk into them and touch desks and stuff) and have a lot of computers and students take online tutorials and parents can check grades online, which is pretty much like all schools everywhere these days. So what’s virtual? Hard to say, but what is most real about them might be superintendent Stephen Daeschner’s chutzpah in hoping that a federal bureaucracy that can’t tell a failing school from a successful one also can’t tell a real school from a virtual one. And his hands never even left his wrists. —Jim Welp

If there’s one thing Americans don’t do enough, it’s shoot guns. For instance, there are only 70 or so homicides in Louisville Metro every year and only 16,000 nationally. Clearly, we’re not shooting enough. And with gas at $3 per gallon, guns now represent a much more cost-effective way to compensate for smaller-than-average you-know-whats than a super-duty pickup truck or Hummer.

Following the lead of such failed actors as John Wilkes Booth and Robert Blake, a has-been thespian named Barry Laws is trying to make his mark on the history of kerblammy by helping to fill in that shooting void. After an inspirational visit to Thunder Over Louisville, Laws moved from Hollywood to Crestwood to start OpenRange, a 50,000-square-foot indoor shooting gallery, paintball range and shrine to the art of pow-pow-pow. Oh, yeah! At OpenRange, rootin’ tootin’ rat-a-tat enthusiasts can practice their semiautomatic craft at five rifle stations, 12 pistol stations or a giant paintball field, which Laws converted from a roller rink. OpenRange also sells specialty knives and women’s firearm accessories and all kinds of crap you can’t take on a plane, maybe even snakes! They also specialize in teaching kids to blam! blam! blam! because, you know, it’s never too soon to start shooting! There’s also a festive party room, suitable for birthday parties and wedding receptions. So pack up your Uzi and conceal your .45 and head on out to Oldham County for some rootin’ tootin’ shootin’ today! And God bless America. —Jim Welp

Photo by Cary Stemle

Photo by Cary Stemle

MoveOn’s ‘caught red-handed’ campaign targets Northup
Charles Brestel and Bill Mattingly joined a couple dozen volunteers from who gathered near the entrance to the Louisville VA Medical Center on Monday. MoveOn contends that Rep. Anne Northup voted to cut veterans’ benefits by nearly $800 million by 2011. The event was MoveOn’s third “Caught Red-Handed” event in Louisville; other events have criticized her for taking campaign contributions from defense contactors, drug companies and oil company PACs. Another action is planned Thursday at 5:30 near the intersection of Brownsboro Road and Hubbards Lane; the target is iGate, a Louisville company that is tied up in a corruption scandal involving Rep. William Jefferson, a Louisiana Democrat.

In response to Monday’s protest, Patrick Neely, Northup’s campaign manager, said: “Anne Northup’s commitment to our veterans is unquestioned, and is evidenced by her relentless, successful efforts to bring a new state-of-the art VA Hospital to Louisville. Once again the local MoveOn protesters were misinformed, as Anne Northup voted to increase funding for veterans by $2.8 billion in the 2006 Appropriations bill.”

Neely noted that the vote MoveOn cited was the non-binding budget resolution passed by the House, which he said renders the group’s statement wrong because non-binding budget resolutions don’t cut (or add) spending.

See above for a list of links that MoveOn cites to support its claims about Rep. Northup.
-Cary Stemle

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