In response to Joe Sonka’s May 21 article on city workers and the mayor, I would like to share my experience as a union employee during Mayor Fischer’s tenure. From 2010-12, I was a horticulture worker at the Louisville Zoo. I can say without reservation that from a labor-management relations standpoint, my experience with Louisville Metro government was by far the most humiliating and demoralizing of my career.
My own personal humiliation came when I offended a group of inmates who worked as replacements for union employees in violation of our contract, who repeatedly smoked next to and tossed their cigarette butts into a shed containing straw and fertilizer. In disciplining me for this, my horticulture manager decided to write me up for previously disclosing to him that I had a VA service-connected disability. He disciplined me for taking time off for a VA doctor’s appointment, and he directly quoted the VA doctor’s note I had shared with him and had asked to keep confidential.
Since this unauthorized disclosure became public record, I appealed this violation of my personal health information up to zoo director John Walczak. His solution was to excise the offending passages from the write-up and pretend it never happened. I never received an apology, and the manager was never disciplined. Speaking for most veterans, we get extremely offended when our service is treated with disrespect, so instead of fighting against the circled wagons, I chose to resign at the first opportunity rather than continue to work in a toxic environment.
Mayor Fischer chooses to portray public unions as greedy, overcompensated and as a significant cause of his inability to manage a budget. However, since 2009, despite a horrific train wreck, severely declining zoo revenues, budget cuts and a significant reduction in union employment, Walczak’s salary has increased from $113,000 to almost $125,000. Hiring practices at the zoo have resulted in exactly zero minorities in supervisory or management positions. I suggest Mayor Fischer address the bloated, spoiled and abusive management structure in place at Louisville Metro government instead of attacking the unions that supported his election in the first place.
Brian Smith, Germantown
Catherine Irwin’s June 11 column was one of the most thoughtful I’ve seen on the topic discussed — guns. Our “people” must be roused from our stupor on these issues — until more substantial progress is made in understanding and acknowledging the violence that pervades our society and press.
Roger Dutschke, St. Matthews
Regarding David Hawpe’s Guest Commentary in the May 20 LEO: The outrage, Mr. Hawpe, was the failure of the Metro Louisville Democratic Party to organize a meaningful, community-level political dialogue in which two or three serious candidates could have emerged. In part, some blame needs to go to outgoing Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh for delaying her decision not to run for reelection. Her decision not to run again was, however, due to her correct assumption that one or two intelligent and ethical council members would have little impact on public policy.
Being faced with no less than 13 — yes, 13 — personalities vying to join Metro Council, the voters had to be confused, demoralized and disinterested.
The fact that Mayor Fischer supported the winning candidate, Bill Hollander, a wealthy establishment attorney, also suggests that in the future, Metro Council District 9 voters will be even more reluctant to get engaged in future primaries. Blame, in part, must adhere to Mayor Fischer.
David Eugene Blank, Highlands
It is nice to read a balanced inquiry into the codependent relationship our politicians have with big coal. Their turning a blind eye to chronic issues is characteristic of the definition between a politician and a leader. Simply, a leader would recognize the physically and culturally toxic implications of a greedy coal industry and do something to change it. Perhaps those employed in coal could have first dibs on jobs and training in renewable energy, an industry that has nowhere to go but up.
It is my hope that the artists, writers, speakers and citizens of our society are able to clearly and creatively state the truth about coal, and to think of solutions. Obviously the politicians are unable to do so, possibly because money is stuffed into their mouths.
Eric Moore, Crescent Hill