Democrats took Republicans’ bait

Louisville Metro Council, the Democratic majority in particular, needs to shore up its own leadership and credibility before it is in any position to criticize — or express “no confidence” in — Mayor Greg Fischer.

Last week, the Metro Council voted 22 to 4 on a resolution expressing no confidence in Fischer and outlining recommendations that would, in the members’ view, help restore public trust in local government.

The final resolution may seem to be a reasonable action for the council to take. But, considering how the council reached this resolution, it’s apparent that it lacks the leadership, credibility and public confidence to make such a judgment of Mayor Fischer.

“We are really kidding ourselves if we think the public is pleased with the way Metro Council is behaving,” said Councilman Bill Hollander, who voted no with fellow Democrats Brandon Coan and Nicole George.

From the start, the concept of a no-confidence resolution was purely a partisan political move, launched by the Republican minority of the council in mid-August.

For a group largely without legislative power (holding only seven of 26 seats), months of social and political unrest presented an opportunity to be relevant. They would exploit the protests; amplify tensions and backlash against Fischer; and, suddenly, they are the populist voice of dissent!

Their efforts are, likewise, tangible evidence of the nationwide-Republican campaign strategy: Scare voters into believing Democrats are for chaos, burning buildings and destroying their suburban way of life.

Make no mistake, these council Republicans are merely using this situation to their own political advantage. They were not and are not advocating for the reforms to policing or the solutions to racial and economic inequalities that protesters are demanding.

Not that anyone should expect something different from the Republican Party (See: U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell hypocrisy and Justice RBG), but Democrats on the council took the bait!

Because Democrats abdicated their leadership, we end up with a confusing resolution that doesn’t advance – or even establish a plan to advance – the very reforms stated in the resolution, while it effectively blames Mayor Fischer for not having solved all of these problems retroactively.

“I do think when we put out resolutions like this it is confusing,” said Councilman Pat Mulvihill, a Democrat who voted in favor of the resolution, despite recognizing the council’s past mistakes that may have contributed to the problems illustrated in the resolution. “This is a symbolic gesture. And as far as actions and items – they’re just words on paper. This is a resolution.”

But that was always the Republicans’ intention — further smear the mayor and further divide the council and reap the electoral advantages from a divided city.

Now, I can hear the voices of many frustrated with Fischer and who are echoing the calls for change listed in the resolution: “The city needs change. The council needed to speak up and hold Fischer accountable!”

I agree, the council has a role to play in holding the mayor accountable. Even Fischer agreed  that he made mistakes, which he explained in a video posted subsequent to the resolution passing. “With the benefit of hindsight, I see that given the choice of two difficult paths, I’ve sometimes taken the wrong one,” he said.

His apology and acknowledgment don’t exonerate council Democrats for failed leadership. Any resolution should have come from their leadership. Democrats should have been the ones leading the Metro Council to a formal resolution, declaring their concerns with Louisville Metro Police Department and the mayor’s administration, their policy recommendations and their desire to work with the mayor.

It’s the Democrats, after all, who represent many of the districts that are most impacted by racial and economic inequalities and injustices, which underlie the calls for reform. Democrats, holding 19 of 26 seats on the council, have the clear mandate and power to lead on these efforts and not just by resolution, but by action.

And it all should have come from them weeks, if not months ago. Instead, Democrats followed Republicans in the back door on the way to this resolution.

They, along with the city, would have been better off letting Republicans scream at the wind, rather than expose the Democratic caucus’ own ineptitude.