Greenberg vs. Dieruf: Where The Top Mayoral Candidates Stand On 7 Major Louisville Issues

On Nov. 8, Louisville will choose a new mayor.

Of the leading candidates, one option is Craig Greenberg, the Democratic nominee and former 21c Museum Hotels CEO, who survived an assassination attempt in his Butchertown campaign office in February.

The other is Republican Bill Dieruf, the current mayor of Jeffersontown, who says he will be a non-partisan “Mayor for Everybody” while bringing needed change to Louisville.

Both candidates say public safety is their number one priority and both candidates have promised to bolster the ranks of the Louisville Metro Police Department.

Dieruf has sought to paint Greenberg as an extension of outgoing Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s administration, calling his opponent Fischer’s “hand-picked successor.” Meanwhile, Greenberg has pushed Kentucky’s abortion ban to the forefront, running a campaign ad that warns that Dieruf is “backed by extremists” and could use Louisville police to arrest women and doctors under Kentucky’s abortion ban.

Ahead of the Nov. 8 election, LEO Weekly took a look at where both candidates stand on critical issues facing Louisville residents.

Enforcement of Kentucky’s Abortion Ban

The day the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Greenberg pledged that LMPD would “not be the enforcement arm” of Kentucky’s near-total ban on abortions that went into place following the landmark decision.

Under Kentucky’s abortion ban, healthcare providers who perform abortions or provide abortion medications can be charged with a Class D felony, which is punishable by up to five years in prison. Abortions are only allowed to prevent the death or serious, permanent injury to a life-sustaining organ of a pregnant person. There are no exceptions for rape, incest or age.

Greenberg reaffirmed his position during an Oct. 12 debate hosted by the Louisville Forum, saying, “I will tell LMPD not to arrest women or doctors if they are charged with violating Kentucky’s extreme abortion ban. That is the one area where I will be very clear to LMPD.”

According to Kentucky’s abortion ban law, people who perform abortions or provide abortion medication — not the person who gets an abortion — are subject to criminal penalties.

Dieruf has maintained that abortion is not a local issue and that police cannot be told which laws to enforce by the mayor.

“This is where we disagree: the mayor has no power over abortion bill, whether it’s on a federal level or on a state level. And a mayor should never, ever tell his police to stand down,” he said at the Oct. 12 debate. “Telling your police to stand down, that’s scary. That means he’s going to tell one person to arrest this guy, but not arrest this person. That’s scary.”

During the debate, Greenberg pointed out that despite state laws making marijuana illegal, Louisville police do not prioritize marijuana possession charges as a result of a Metro Council ordinance, giving some leeway for cities to make decisions on the enforcement of controversial state laws.

A New Jail

Since the end of last November, 12 people in the custody of the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections have died — a steep increase in deaths for a facility that had previously seen an average of three deaths per year over the previous decade and a half, according to city officials.

The spate of in-custody deaths has lead to calls for reform, but it has also lead to calls for a new jail, with proponents like LMDC Director Jerry Collins saying that the current facility is outdated and has design flaws that create safety issues that cannot be completely overcome.

At an Oct. 7 forum in Newburg hosted by the organization VOCAL-KY, candidates were asked if they would support the building of a new jail.

“I don’t think that [a new jail] should be a priority of Metro Government right now, we have a lot of other, more pressing issues to deal with,” said Greenberg.

Dieruf said while a new jail might not be the answer, the current jail needs to be improved as it is unsafe for the people incarcerated there.

“It may not be a matter of a new jail, but we need to reformulate what the jail looks like. Because right now it’s unsafe, it’s unkept and it’s not humane, the way we’re having people go into jail and sit there all the time,” he said.

Both candidates have said more steps need to be taken to prevent in-custody deaths at LMDC, including reducing the jail’s population and by focusing on programs for people who are incarcerated.

“The very first thing we need to do is stop putting people in jail who have a drug addiction or behavior problems,” said Dieruf at the VOCAL-KY forum. “And put the people in jail that are the hardened criminals and get them off the streets. But help the people that have a drug and behavior problem before they go into jail.”

At that forum, Greenberg blamed people being held on low-level charges for how overcrowded the jail is.

“When you look at our overcrowded jail, over half the individuals in jail today are there on charges with bail of less than $1,000, yet over half of our murders in this community are not even solved. Something is not right there,” said Greenberg, adding that incarcerated people needed to remain connected with assistance services once they were out of jail.

Revitalizing Downtown

More than three years after the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered downtown, the area has still not fully recovered. Businesses have closed. Offices are empty. That big city, bustling feeling on the sidewalks is gone. It’s always easy to park.

Both candidates say they will work to revitalize downtown and adapt it for post-COVID realities.

In the Oct. 12 Louisville Forum debate, Dieruf said downtown Louisville’s emptiness was in part caused by people being too afraid to go there.

“People don’t want to be here [downtown] if they don’t feel safe. There’s a reality of safety and there’s a perception of safety, and the next mayor has to have both of them to where people feel safe coming downtown,” he said.

In a WLKY debate, Dieruf added that he wanted a more visible police presence downtown to make people feel safer.

During the Oct. 12 Louisville Forum debate he also said Louisville needed to “reimagine what downtowns are like” by creating spaces where people can work and live in the same place.

Greenberg, who has leaned on his developer roots and experience in revitalizing urban areas, has said downtown needs to be kept safe and clean while improvements are made to bring in more residents.

“Downtown Louisville should be the most vibrant, safe, energetic, authentic, clean and green neighborhood in all of Louisville,” he said during the WLKY debate. “That’s key that we have the heart of our city thriving. So as mayor, we must achieve all of those goals.”

Speaking to LEO ahead of May’s mayoral primary, Greenberg said downtown needed thousands more people living there and that the city needed to “address the realities of the post-pandemic world, which might have fewer people working on office buildings.” He also took aim at the prevalence of surface parking lots downtown, saying that they can be repurposed for residential units, green spaces and amenities that serve people living downtown.

Reducing Violence

At the Oct. 12 Louisville Forum debate, the candidates also sparred over how to stop violence in Louisville, which saw a record-breaking number of homicides in back-to-back years in 2020 and 2021.

Greenberg has said the number of firearms on the streets of Louisville has driven violence — and that he in part blames Louisville’s compliance with a state law for those guns.

Under Kentucky law, firearms confiscated by police cannot be destroyed and must instead be auctioned off by the Kentucky State Police.

According to reporting by the Courier Journal last year, over the span of six years, there were 31 incidents in Louisville where a gun auctioned off by Kentucky State Police was later tied to a criminal case. The paper also reported it found 12 examples where the same firearm was auctioned off more than once.

Starting on the first day of his administration, Greenberg said, guns would be rendered inoperable before being turned over to the state police to comply with state law.

Greenberg also says the city needs to address the root causes of poverty and invest in mental health resources to reduce violence while also pursuing law enforcement strategies like Group Violence Intervention and community policing.

Dieruf views drugs as the cause of Louisville’s violence and says that by getting “cartel leaders” and “gang leaders” off the street, Louisville will be safer.

“When we start talking about guns, the problem is guns aren’t the solution. It’s the person committing the crime that we have to go after,” he said. “He wants to go after the gun, I want to arrest the cartel leaders and the gang leaders and get them off the street. So the difference is, I want to get the drugs and the cartel leaders and the gang leaders who are affecting our kids off the street. He wants to drill holes in guns and send them to Frankfort.”

West End TIF

The candidates are also divided over the controversial West End tax increment financing district, or TIF. The program, which was included in legislation passed by lawmakers in Frankfort in 2021, directs 80% of new tax revenue in the West End above current tax revenue to the West End Opportunity Partnership for reinvestment in the area.

Proponents say it will funnel money, development and opportunities into a poverty-stricken part of the city; Opponents say it will result in gentrification and price out people living in the Black-majority West End.

Dieruf has been critical of the TIF, portraying it as a program that could allow outsiders to determine the future of the West End.

“I would say I would go back to Frankfort and adjust it to where the people in the community have a true voice, not a token voice, to where they actually should be the ones to decide how the funding should be spent in the future in their community,” Dieruf said at the Louisville Forum’s mayoral debate in October, adding that the TIF had been “pushed in” by Greenberg and that “people don’t like it.”

Earlier this year, Greenberg told LEO that he was consulted by legislators drafting the TIF legislation but did not write the legislation, as some of his critics have alleged.

In a September mayoral forum in the West End, Dieruf warned that left unfixed, the TIF could see out-of-towners “coming in, taking your property, taking advantage of you, raising rents to where you can’t afford to stay in the areas that you love so much.”

Greenberg maintains that the TIF has the potential to be transformative for the West End, but needs changes.

At the Louisville Forum debate in October, he said the TIF has the “potential to really invest hundreds of millions of dollars in a part of our community that has been overlooked for our entire lifetime.”

However, he said he wanted to ensure that control of the West End Opportunity Partnership board be in the hands of residents, that property tax refunds be turned into a credit for low-income residents who can’t afford tax increases and that the city crack down on negligent landlords.

Affordable Housing

According to the a 2019 housing needs assessment, Louisville was lacking 30,000 housing units for low-income residents. Both Dieruf and Greenberg have said they would increase affordable housing.

At the VOCAL-KY forum in October, Dieruf said the city needed to look towards long-term solutions for affordable housing that ultimately lead to home ownership and increasing generational wealth. He said he is in favor of using $100 million in federal American Rescue Plan COVID relief funds to build more affordable housing and that the city could look to rent-to-own models to help low-income tenants afford down payments on homes.

On top of that, Dieruf said there should be a safety net for low-income people who may be able to afford housing payments, but not necessarily a costly repair emergency in their home.

“Once you have the person in the house, we have to make it to where they can stay in the house for the future. And many times people don’t think about that. But what happens if the person is having a hard time making the payments, they’re getting government assistance and the water heater goes out?” he said. “We have to include a warranty so that the people who get the affordable housing don’t get the bump in the road where they lose the house in the future because of the sharks out there.”

Greenberg has made affordable housing a cornerstone of his campaign, saying he plans on building 15,000 affordable housing units if elected. He also wants to prioritize the redevelopment of vacant lots and abandoned buildings and focus increasing home ownership in communities that were historically redlined.

At the VOCAL-KY forum in October, he said on top of adding more housing units, there must be accountability that affordable housing is good quality housing.

“In addition to just being affordable, we also need to make sure it’s quality,” Greenberg said. “So whether homes are being rented to people in lower income brackets from negligent, out-of-state landlords or whether that’s the city ourself that owns these housing units, they must be maintained to high qualities.”

Trust in LMPD

While both Dieruf and Greenberg have promised to strengthen LMPD as part of their plan to make public safety their top priority, the next mayor will also inherit a police force that continues to have a strained relationship with the community following the 2020 police killing of Breonna Taylor and repeated high-profile incidents of police misconduct. The winner will also inherit a police force that will, under their administration, likely be facing a federal consent decree.

In his public safety plan, Greenberg calls for LMPD to be turned into the “best trained, trusted and transparent police force in America.”

A significant part of rebuilding trust with the community, he says, is transparency, which he has viewed as lacking in the Fischer administration. When incidents involving police occur, he has said his administration would respond quickly.

“I think part of improving trust between the community and the police, the community and the government is transparency, accountability and acting in as close to real time as possible. Being prompt,” he told LEO in an interview in August. He added that includes releasing body camera footage and facts about incidents involving police “with a sense of urgency.”

Likewise, Dieruf says his administration would be transparent about incidents involving LMPD officers. And while LMPD investigations into potential officer misconduct can sometimes drag on for well over a year, Dieruf says such issues are handled right away in J-Town and will not be delayed if he becomes Louisville’s mayor.

“As a mayor that has a police force right now, when situations occur, they’re rectified right away,” he told LEO in August. “They’re also very transparent when we talk to the press. When we have a situation here, we not only are transparent to the press, but we bring in whoever [was affected], we sit down and talk to them.” •

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