Yarmuth got it wrong.
In a recent editorial, LEO Executive Editor Aaron Yarmuth suggested that Mayor Greg Fischer’s policy and political acumen and debate performance were so much better than Metro Councilwoman Angela Leet’s that she should not debate him again.
It sounds like Yarmuth is telling Louisville voters, particularly Democrats, to shut up and just vote for Democrats on Nov. 6 in order to get the change we seek.
Certainly, Leet, Vickie Yates Brown Glisson and Andy Barr are not good candidates. I hope and pray their Democratic challengers beat them. But being a Democrat by name only isn’t what qualifies them to legislate and govern well. They must listen to us— the electorate and informed, active citizens — and act accordingly as we share our vision for a healthy democracy.
A healthy and effective democracy requires voters (and citizens who can’t vote) to speak up and out all of the time and to be unbothered by electoral calendars, outdated political parties and rich, white media heads who want to keep us marching around boxes that we are breaking down.
Yarmuth has called himself “a fortunate, blessed white male.” Like Fischer, he was handed wealth and access from his father. His privilege alone disqualifies him from scolding engaged citizens who seek to challenge the status quo. Those of us who seek alternatives to partisan discussions about the very essence of our democracy want to rid our politics of racist conservatives and faux liberals alike. These two groups monopolized political debates in 2016. It was these folks, not nonvoters, who handed Donald Trump the presidency.
For Yarmuth to say that “Fischer has frustrated the progressive liberal side of his base” is an understatement. I am a 39-year-old, unmarried black mother with a graduate degree. Based on identity politics, I should be in Fischer’s base box. But I am ardent critic of the mayor, and for good reasons.
Despite being able to masterfully articulate the essence of redlining and the absence of “high-quality, full-service” grocery stores in the city’s urban core, Mayor Fischer has done nothing to solve these problems or reverse the damage done. He has taken a business approach that, thus far, has yielded no new grocery stores.
What has occurred under Fischer’s leadership is the accumulation of more white, male wealth — even west of Ninth Street. Of all the projects he touts as part of a billion-dollar investment in West Louisville, the Louisville Urban League’s plan to build a track and community center is the only project led by people of color. The LUL has this opportunity only after the failed attempt of… wait for it — a wealthy white man who tried to redevelop a $1.8-million, publicly purchased brownfield as the West Louisville Food Port
Contrary to what Yarmuth suggests, I want Leet and all of the mayoral candidates to debate Fischer every day leading to the election. How else is he held accountable?
We can’t rely upon our friends in the Metro Council, who overwhelmingly approve development deal after deal wrought with conflicts and windfalls that make the rich richer, leaving the public with $10-an-hour jobs and entertainment options too costly for many to enjoy.
We can’t rely on nonprofit and civic leaders working for change, because they are silenced by the fear of losing funding if they challenge government leaders.
The electorate has to speak up.
Admittedly, I have little faith that Leet could run our city any better than Fischer, but I appreciate her campaign. Leet has called for justice in the cases of alleged police abuse of women and children, and has joined her Democratic colleagues in calling for transparency in local economic development activity, such as the city’s bid for the Amazon headquarters and the mayor’s private Derby party. Despite a court ruling, Fischer has not yet shared details of the Amazon bid — in which public benefits were promised. He relentlessly supports the police chief whose watch has included the Explorer Scout sex abuse scandal, and Fischer claims he did not know it until October 2016 – even though the chief said he told a deputy mayor in 2013 (she said she cannot remember that).
In the May primaries, only 17 percent of registered voters in Jefferson County cast a ballot. In 2016, more than 40 percent of eligible voters nationally chose not to vote.
This will not change if we remain quiet and keep letting lackluster candidates on the ballot.
Fischer will likely win in November, yet, still, voters should have the chance to hear him debate with Leet and the independent mayoral candidates.
Debate is healthy, Mr. Yarmuth. Perhaps you will create an opportunity for that to happen? In the interim, keep debating, Councilwoman Leet. Do it for our democracy. •
Cassia Herron is a social justice advocate and freelance writer with a master’s degree in urban planning from the University of Michigan.