Goodbye 2016, hello 2017: 12 LEO contributors look into the future

The year 2016 has taken enough of a beating, so we at LEO decided it is time to look forward — into a future promising unlimited possibilities and opportunities embraced. In addition to asking LEO’s columnists to gaze into their crystal balls for 2017, we assembled a group of people from across the city to tell us either what they predict will happen in the new year, or what should happen. The ideally possible vs. the pragmatically preferred. Our soothsayers had three chances to get it right:

Sarah Lynn Cunningham
1. Now fully in charge of Washington, D.C. and Frankfort, I predict the Republicans, and the corporations that own them, will spend 2017 dismantling progressive laws and programs that will harm Louisvillians on numerous fronts:  healthcare, reproductive rights, labor unions, gun safety, climate and other environmental protections, net neutrality, tax laws and even government transparency and accountability. Progressives will be left to chase them in court, costing us time, money and effort we otherwise could put to better uses.

2. I predict that grassroots solutions will be our best hope for progress. Many more of us who didn’t vote for this regressive agenda will pull together — indeed some folks already are — and roll up their sleeves and get involved in the hard work of making a better world for everyone.

3. In that spirit, this year we are working to open the Louisville Climate Action Network’s storefront, to be called, EcoDepot: The Center for Cutting Carbon & Cost. Through specialized programs and hands-on learning, we will show renters, homeowners, builders and small businesspeople how to cut utility and fuel costs, improve their health and cool the planet. Please join us by visiting

Cunningham is an environmental engineer, educator and activist.

Lisa Frye
If I could have three wishes for 2017, they would be:

1. That Art Sanctuary, after finally prevailing over the many obstacles of 2016, will truly flourish as the sanctuary for artists that it is meant to be. We now have over 30 visual artists renting studio space at our facility, as well as a new, huge stage and performance area. There is still much to do in order to make it into the venue that we all dream of, but, we hope to have events that include all forms of performing, visual and literary arts in our space in the coming year.

2. We also hope to strengthen bonds in our community, and achieve new relationships, in order to bring more art and great events to Germantown that benefit artists and performers. It would also be great to see more collaboration with different local groups.

3. I also wish for more patience and kindness from one another. 2016 was a very trying and heartbreaking year for so many, and on multiple levels. We need to do more to decrease the divide that we are facing. Empathy and an open mind can help us every single day. We will need to hold on tight to one another to help weather the storm. I’m hearing a lot of fear coming from artists and friends. Having a place to create art and be yourself is more important than ever.

Frye is cofounder/president of local nonprofit arts organization Art Sanctuary, producer/manager of the performing arts group Va Va Vixens and an artist.

Robin Garr
A Modest Proposal:

There’s no use living in denial: Donald Trump will soon be our president. Spare us your #NotMyPresident hashtags. We’re up the creek without a paddle, and we don’t know where we’re going. It’s not likely to be good, though. We’re going to have to stand strong to protect the things we love. We love Louisville’s restaurant community, and we need to fight to protect it.

So, in the spirit of Dean Swift, let’s consider three ways to change our restaurant scene in order to save it:

1.  Convert all local eateries to the model that works for The Table in Portland: “Eat what you need, pay what you can, pay it forward, or work it off.” The hungry get fed, the more fortunate share and a few lucky folks get experience that leads to paying work.

2. Abolish tipping. This is long overdue, anyway. Include a living wage for servers in the price of the meal, with additional tipping neither necessary nor encouraged.

3. And, since some owners lacking our breadth of foresight are going to shriek about this, convert all our restaurants to employee ownership. Everyone is in for profit or loss.

What could possibly go wrong?

Garr is LEO’s food critic.

Jackie Green
Three of my many new year wishes for the Louisville area concern transportation. I hope we will commit to:

1. Calming traffic within a loop formed roughly by I-264 in Louisville and I-265 in Indiana. Calming traffic will benefit drivers, pedestrians, wheelchair users, joggers, cyclists, babies in perambulators, kids on skateboards, neighborhoods, and private and public property owners. Calming can be achieved by enforcing a 20-mph speed limit within the loop.

2. Developing public transit, both local and regional. This can be achieved by a several-fold increase in TARC service within the loop, establishing dedicated bus lanes within the loop and partnering with Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Nashville and St. Louis to establish Amtrak service.

3. Reforming our land-use practices. This includes redeveloping surface parking lots into parks, gardens, housing, commercial and community facilities, parking garages with green roofs, and protecting our last undeveloped green spaces. Central to these transportation wishes is the fact that the area beyond the above described loop is hopelessly car dependent, and the area within the loop can invite car-free living. Those three wishful commitments complement each other. The calm streets eliminate the need for bike lanes. The eliminated bike lanes make more room for dedicated bus lanes. The increased TARC service makes living car free possible. The smarter land use creates the density for the increased TARC service.

Green is a bicycling advocate and former mayoral candidate.

Chris Hartman
2017 is going to be a grim year for our Commonwealth. Many of the predictions I might make will already be a reality by the time this LEO is printed.

1. The new Republican supermajority in the Kentucky General Assembly will sprint to roll back abortion rights, bust up unions with “Right to Work for Less” legislation, and may make Kentucky the next North Carolina by considering anti-LGBT “License to Discriminate” and “Bathroom Bill” laws.

2. Perhaps my predictions can instead be my fantastical dreams for the Commonwealth. Many people read recently that Ken Ham, the visionary Kentuckian who built a life-size replica of Noah’s Ark, lit his creation in rainbow lights for the holidays — an attempt to “take back” the rainbow from LGBT people. I predict the famous gay penguin couple, drawn by the lights, will leave their zoo to take up residence in the Ark, turning it into the next, hottest gay nightclub. I predict Kim Davis, shunned by the people of Morehead, will seek refuge in the Ark, where she will unwittingly become their featured Christian cabaret drag queen, performing old Tammy Faye Bakker gospel hymns.

3. And finally, I predict the transgender bathroom debate becomes a thing of the past, as everyone takes the penguins’ lead and begins going wherever they damn well please.

Hartman is director of the Fairness Campaign, which advocates for LGBTQ rights.

Scott Jennings
I have three wishes for 2017:

1. We become safer. The spike in homicides is worrisome for Louisville residents, as 2016 was Jefferson County’s bloodiest on record (113 homicides). Not only do we feel unsafe on our own streets, but every homicide makes it less likely that Kentucky’s rural citizens will ever visit the most important city in the Commonwealth.

2. We remember and appreciate the value of work. Over the last eight years, despite falling unemployment, a worker shortage has plagued highly skilled careers (i.e. software developers), but now also threatens other professions. Let us resolve not to look down upon those who wish to make a career of doing less glamorous jobs that form the backbone of America’s economy. Kentucky’s truck drivers, farmers and laborers deserve as much respect as any other worker in the “new” economy.

3. We bridge Kentucky’s urban-rural divide. Just like the rest of America, the 2016 election laid bare our true political divisions. No longer are we liberals versus conservatives; rather, we are urbanites versus everyone else. Kentuckians of all geographic stripes should resolve to understand one another better and how our desire for the next generation to inherit better opportunities bind us no matter our roots.

Jennings was special assistant to President George W. Bush, and a senior advisor to U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell. He is a partner at RunSwitch Public Relations. @ScottJenningsKY on Twitter.

Ricky L. Jones
I have three very reasonable hopes for 2017. Let me build from the local to the national levels:

1. I think the University of Louisville should give up and, like the University of Miami of the 1980s, embrace our outlaw image. Going forward, all our athletic teams, professors and administrators should always wear black. Our new motto on mailings, T-shirts, and buildings should echo Lil Walter from the Cadillac Records movie and read, “We Is the bad guy. Embrace It or Be Crushed.”

2. Gov. Matt Bevin and Kentucky’s GOP state legislators should be forced into counseling. My theory is they suffer from some maddening combination of the Dunning-Kruger effect and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (look them up). The therapists’ goals should be to help them get out of the alternate reality in which they live and be at least as reasonable as their leader Donald Trump. Very low bar.

3. Speaking of Trump. Do you remember that movie “Dave,” where the president is replaced by a much more humane doppelganger? Well, I think Donald Trump should be kidnapped (not killed!) and replaced by Alec Baldwin’s “Saturday Night Live” Trump character for the entirety of his presidency! That will make the country great!

Dr. Jones is professor and chair of Pan-African Studies at UofL. On Twitter @DrRickyLJones.

Marc Murphy
1. In March, 2017, we learn that the reason so many new hotels are being built downtown is that existing and additional road closings will turn work commutes into two-day trips requiring overnight stays in one of said downtown hotels. In turn, the Chamber of Commerce will misinterpret the increased occupancy rate as cause for demolishing the new downtown convention center a week before its grand opening to build a larger one. More traffic jams ensue. A Future Farmers of America spokesman was in his car on Third Street and unavailable for comment.

2. Midsummer, in response to Gov. Bevin’s declaration that 2017 is the “Year of the Bible,” Mayor Greg Fisher declares that, in Louisville, 2017 is the “Year of Why Doesn’t Everyone Please Just Act Like They Actually Read The Bible For Once.” Bevin tweets a sad-face selfie in front of the enormous hole in downtown Lexington in response.

3. Jefferson County Public Schools announce in September that, as a result of additional tweaking to the student bus plan, for the first time several students are actually scheduled to arrive at school just in time to report to the cafeteria to catch a bus back home.

3.1 Finally, during a thunderstorm in December as a result of Global Warming the Ark is lifted from its moorings in Northern Kentucky and floats down the Ohio River until Ken Ham’s wife looks at Louisville and turns into a pillar of salt.

Murphy has drawn The Courier-Journal’s political cartoons for some 10 years and is a trial lawyer.

Marty Rosen
Theater: A wish, a strategy and an exhortation:

1. National recognition — Louisville has become the Asheville of Indie Theater. The quality, scope and diversity of the area theater troupes is extraordinary and extends beyond the flagship organizations like Actors Theatre of Louisville and Kentucky Shakespeare. Over the last few years, we’ve seen an explosion of new play development spurred by organizations like (to name just a few) Derby City Playwrights, Looking for Lilith, The Bard Theatre, Kentucky Black Repertory Theatre, Teatro Tercera Llamada and others. Unlike food and dining, it’s difficult for visiting journalists to grasp the scene on a 48-hour visit. But theater has become the city’s defining art form. Artists and city leaders need to develop strategies to boost awareness that Louisville is a theater destination.

2. A theater district — Many fine local companies operate like hermit crabs, moving from venue to venue, based on production needs, budget and availability. But a geographically fragmented scene is an impediment to audience building. We need new venues (or a theater multiplex that includes a proscenium theater, an in-the-round facility, a black box and a rehearsal space) in a convenient area. My personal preference would be somewhere on East Broadway, where it could spur a revitalization of that important corridor. But there are attractive appropriate spaces in NuLu. Prerequisites: collaboration among the indie companies and significant philanthropic support.

3. Audience Building — Live theater is to the cinema multiplex as homegrown tomatoes are to the zombie tomatoes that show up in supermarkets in January. And yet, there are plenty of people committed to the buy-local ethos who spend their entertainment dollars on formulaic Hollywood schlock, while excellent theater companies are telling bold, moving, innovative stories on local stages. I am amazed at the number of smart, engaged people I talk to who never set foot inside a live theater. Don’t be one of those people. Buy a ticket. And take someone with you.

Rosen is LEO’s theater critic.

Attica Scott
1. I believe that one day Louisville will reach its quota of hotels — today is not that day. You’ve thought the same things as me: Who’s staying in these hotels, Willis? What’s really going on in Louisville that’s being kept from the rest of us?

2. I believe that the University of Louisville will one day be able to get back to focusing on teaching students — a day that will only come when we have a new governor. Come on 2019! I voted in support of UofL because our students, staff and faculty deserve an institution of higher education that is not mired in the personal grievances of your governor. If he will come for UofL, he will come for any college or university across our state — places where diversity of thought are welcome, unless you think differently than Gov. Matt Bevin.

3. I believe that we can make West Louisville great again — if only we believed in its greatness like we do the greatest. What if, every day, we put just as much energy into the life of  West Louisville as we put into the passing of Muhammad Ali? What greater way to honor his legacy than to be authentic and intentional about healthy, sustainable development in West Louisville?

State Rep. Scott, a Louisville Democrat, is the first African-American woman elected to the state legislature in some 20 years.

Jo Anne Triplett
Creatives, we’re in for a heck of a year. Aldy Milliken,

executive director of the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, has declared 2017 “The Year of the Artist.” Now that’s a prediction mic-drop.

1. We’re off to a strong start. I look for diversity in art, not just by sex or skin color, but by media as well (all reasons I am out of alignment with disenfranchised white male politics). The Speed Art Museum is currently featuring exhibitions of African-American art and American Indian culture. This trend continues with a local conference in support of black artists as well as the Carnegie Center’s upcoming “#BlackArtMatters.” “Sisters of the Moon” has just closed at KMAC while 21c Museum Hotel’s “The Future is Female” is up through May.

2. I predict — no, I know — that we will have an upswing in politically-themed exhibitions. They’ll be the way Democratic artists survive the Trump presidency, while Republican artists will have the chance to state their case. Shows at garner narrative fine contemporary art are leading this trend.

3. I would like more artist talks in 2017. Local artists are excellent at this, but I’m greedy. I want big names, like past speakers, feminist artist Judy Chicago and sculptor/architect Maya Lin. More, please.

Triplett is LEO’s contributing arts editor.

Kelsey Westbrook
1. Hangover therapy — in 2017, one of my great wishes for Louisville is that some fabulous medical professional will open a center for intravenous hangover therapy. A service offered in other larger cities all over the U.S., registered nurses administer fluids filled with electrolytes, vitamins and certain medications sure to solve the woes of a night of drinking. Louisville, can we, please?!

2. Mayor Greg Fischer adopts a sidekick — So many Louisvillians love and admire Fischer, so I’d wish to implore him to adopt a pit bull terrier dog (the breed of dog that makes up 80 percent of our local shelter) from Metro Animal Services to appear with him at public events. Lexington one-upped us when Jim Grey adopted a pit bull from its Humane Society. What a fabulous way to show compassion in action in our city. What do you say, Greg?

3. Political trades — A lofty dream, but can’t we pretend states are like the NFL and let Louisville have the first-round draft pick? Can Kentucky please trade Matt Bevin? Our team clearly did poorly last season, so we should pick first from the lottery. I’d choose Attica Scott, because “who run the world? Girls.” Or, we should, anyway.

Westbrook is LEO’s bar and spirits critic.