Conservatives sure do love to tout local government control — until they don’t control the local government. Not coincidentally, the newly empowered Kentucky GOP has decided now is the time Louisville’s mayor should be reevaluated and, well, reined in.
Apparently there are some problems with the balance of powers surrounding the Louisville mayor that need fixing.
Last week, Kentucky Republicans introduced House Bill 202 — the Republican answer to… a problem that does not exist — which would, among other things: empower the governor to appoint a new mayor in event of death, resignation or removal from office, limit any one person to two terms as mayor, and allow the city council to remove administration appointees.
The bill’s sponsor, Republican state Rep. Ken Fleming, a former council member, told The Courier-Journal that Fischer should stop complaining. “Why is the mayor whining about this? Every other county has the governor step in,” Fleming said. “It’s not a power grab, and I think the mayor needs to think twice about what he says and do his job, instead of being a derelict.”
Of course, some issues should be handled by the state, and others by the federal government. But what we’ve seen from the modern GOP is hypocrisy at every turn: It is in favor of local control, but not when Democrats control local government.
Louisville has already seen state Republican obstruction of an optional local sales tax, which would give you — the city’s residents — the chance to vote on a tax for specific projects. And that appears to be the fate awaiting a bill that would allow Louisville to regulate gun and ammo sales.
A New York Times article from 2015 covered various, similar examples of Republican governors blocking efforts put forth by Democratic-led-city governments. They included proposals to:
— Raise the minimum wage.
— Provide paid sick leave for workers.
— Eliminate plastic bags from groceries.
Oh, and creating more legal protections for LGBTQ citizens.
In some scenarios, these efforts have been successful, while not in others. However, the larger point is this: Everyone in the state agrees Louisville is… different… than the rest of the state, so it only makes sense that we control our city without Frankfort obstruction.
For instance, the cost of living in Louisville is 7.7 percent higher than in the rest of the state, and housing costs are 35 percent higher (according to Sperling’s Best Places). It is just more expensive to live here, so working for minimum wage means even less here.
I ask Republicans: Isn’t that how it works? Don’t you want a marketplace economy? Then, businesses can chooses to operate here or move… just as individuals can?
Back to the gun bill — guns led to Louisville’s deadliest year on record last year. Because we have the largest, densest, most-diverse population, our problems are different than those in rural Kentucky, and so to are our solutions. Hypothetically, if the police response time in rural Kentucky could be as long as a half hour, guns for self-protection might make more sense than in downtown Louisville. While guns can cross county lines, that doesn’t mean cities shouldn’t be able to make their own laws.
And, then, there is the optional local sales tax — the mayor, Metro Council and voters should be allowed to decide on one. For instance, Louisville may conclude we need 100 more police officers and want to pay for it with a sales tax. Why can’t we do that?
All of this reeks of partisan hypocrisy, when state Republicans — whose mantra is local control — have the audacity to come after our Democratic mayor. And a big, red flag goes up when Gov. Matt Bevin starts taking an interest in Jefferson County’s schools. He did just that last week, calling them an “unmitigated disaster,” despite having no children there, never visiting one as governor and being late on his property taxes, which fund the schools.
All signs point to a hostile takeover of local schools by the governor, given his goal of legalizing charter schools, and now a management audit announced Tuesday by the state.
For Republicans, these moves are all about controlling the power when they have it, and undermining others when they don’t.