Mayor Jerry Abramson made a two-day trip to Charleston, W. Va. and caught a rare case of foot in mouth disease. During an interview with The Charleston Gazette’s editorial board, the mayor explained why the city of Louisville needed to merge in 2003:
“You have the chance to be, to have growth — significant growth in your suburban areas. And the question becomes, as it was in the old city of Louisville, we were a city that was, we were getting poorer, we were getting more minority — we were getting poorer, blacker and older.”
The old city of Louisville had a population that was roughly one-third black, but merger knocked that demographic down to just under 20 percent. It’s no secret reviving Louisville back in 2003 meant whitewashing its minority population.
Louisville NAACP President Raoul Cunningham opposed merger and said he wasn’t surprised by the mayor’s comments.
“Our opposition at the time was based on several factors, one of which included the dilution of the African-American vote,” he says. “The city becoming blacker shouldn’t have been a reason for merger, and I’m sure there are people in the white community who would disagree with that.”
The ugly truth that slipped from Abramson’s lips may have little consequence. It’s a sloppy gaffe that’s another sign he’s ready to retire, which leads us to our next bit of intel: Good sources say the mayor is preparing to announce his candidacy for lieutenant governor, overseeing economic development in a state he might best describe as poorer, whiter and older. The announcement could come Tuesday.
It’s a touchy topic at City Hall, but whispers are getting louder about the possible retirement of Councilman George Unseld, D-6, whose health has remained an issue since he was hospitalized in 2003. The series of health problems have included knee surgery, as well as regular dialysis for diabetes, which at one point caused him to miss six months of council business.
Recently, however, it appears he’s been back to business: Council records reveal he has made no request for an extended leave of absence since being re-elected last year, and he’s missed only a handful of meetings thus far, which is on par with most of his colleagues.
Sources close to City Hall, however, say former Councilwoman Denise Bentley, an Unseld adviser, was shopping attorney Keith Hunter as a replacement. But Bentley denies having had any such conversation.
When asked about those conversations, Hunter says he is friends with Unseld and is mainly concerned about the councilman’s health. “I don’t think it’s appropriate at this time to discuss anything about his replacement because I think he’s still doing a good job and I continue to support him,” he says. “If you look at the record you can see he’s been there. George hasn’t missed a step.”
Unseld tells LEO Weekly he intends to finish his term, and although he feels healthy, he will not run again.
“I don’t know who is putting the word out, but if they need to know or I want to tell them they can come talk to me,” he says. “But by the end of this term I’ll be roughly 70 years old. I’m not sure I want to do it anymore.”
Believing the conversation has to move forward, Councilman Kevin Kramer, R-11, filed a resolution asking the mayor to appoint a delegation for the purpose of financing, constructing and operating the proposed $4.1 billion Ohio River Bridges Project.
Though he’ll have the majority of the council’s support, Tina Ward-Pugh, D-9, and Tom Owen, D-8, have drafted a competing resolution, which contends more public hearings are necessary before giving the mayor a rubber stamp.
Ward-Pugh says she’s more convinced than ever that building two new bridges in Louisville is not the best solution.
“I’m calling on just the opposite. I think [Kramer’s] resolution is too hasty,” she says. “There’s never been a series of public hearings other than what is minimally mandated. We cannot build our way out of congestion.”
Over the weekend, Metro Council candidate David Yates showed off his party pedigree by hosting big-name Democrats from city and state government at his campaign kick-off. It’s still early, but the would-be challenger to Councilman Doug Hawkins, R-25, appears legit. He’ll put pressure on Republicans who are already unhappy with their 10-member militia on the council. But local GOP officials are confident they’ll pick up a seat or two in 2010, and the party is lining up challengers to make serious bids in south and southwest districts.
Jefferson County Republican Party Chairman Brad Cummings would not confirm which districts the party is eyeing, but the seat held by Councilman Dan Johnson, D-21, could be up for grabs. The south Louisville Democrat is considered vulnerable and wildly ineffective, and if the GOP can find a district brand name that can raise money it’s worth a shot.