Mayoral Candidate Craig Greenberg Has Momentum, But Is He Right For Louisville?

Jul 21, 2021 at 10:36 am
LEO Editor Scott Recker.
LEO Editor Scott Recker.

Back at the beginning of the year, in the earliest stages of the 2022 mayoral race to see who follows Greg Fischer, it seemed the Democratic primary had an interesting and locked-in battle: Metro Council President David James, an experienced city politician and ex-cop who has been hard on the LMPD, versus Shameka Parrish-Wright, a well-known community organizer and bail fund manager who was active in the protests last year. It was easy to imagine the sort of debates between the two that would produce a thoughtful and influential track for the city’s future — the rare and valuable fight that makes both candidates better, instead of the vague and pointless, buzzword-fueled nonsense that we’ve become so accustomed to from every level of government. 

But, then came the reminder of how volatile these races can be, especially early on, as James pulled out of the race for health reasons, and has since backed Craig Greenberg, a businessman and developer who is now leading the field in fundraising.

But, after a pandemic and a civil rights movement, and years of the city government seeming to care more about accelerating tourism than its own people — putting Band-Aids on mortal wounds while begging more hotels to sign on the dotted line — is a businessman like Greenberg right for the job? Greenberg, who helped start 21c Museum Hotels and lead the revitalization of Whiskey Row, has a background of flashy projects. He’s obviously well-connected, and, with this influx of cash, it looks like the Louisville oligarchy has made its choice. But, when that happens, it always feels like that candidate is essentially around to protect the interests of a certain class while being a little more loose and less dependable on progressive issues.  

Of course, Greenberg is his own person, with his own ideas and ideals, so it’s not completely fair to instantly categorize him, but Louisville has gone similar routes before. At this point, we can’t call him Fischer 2.0 — a good-times, public relations politician who liked to build shiny things and talk a big game, yet couldn’t handle the city’s hardest days — but it’s on him to prove to us that he’s not. We have to end the trend of slapping a bag of money on the table, coasting through a safe campaign and running away with the race. But that’s on us, the voters, and us, the journalists, to make sure that doesn’t happen. And we certainly can’t use the current economic boom to slide back into a level of comfort where we go back to ignoring our problems, especially inequity and systemic poverty. 

So, what does Greenberg stand for, and what should he be pressed harder on? Under the issues section of his campaign website, Greenberg has seven topics, each with a drop-down full of bullet points. They do cover the most pressing concerns of the city, but, so far, there’s a lack of substance. For instance, under “A Safer, Stronger Louisville” it says that he wants to “Increase transparency and accountability for LMPD, including strengthening the newly created Civilian Review Board and improving the internal investigation process.” A little further down, it reads, “Improve LMPD recruitment and morale, in part, by paying officers commensurate with our city’s high expectations for their service.” But, other than the old ‘give more money to the LMPD and figure out later on what we mean by transparency,’ there’s not a whole lot of hard stances surrounding one of Louisville’s most dominant issues. So, we need clarity. We need vision. It’s not the best political strategy to put risky, clear-cut policy ideas on the table right away, but that’s what Louisville needs.  

As the hypothetical frontrunner, Greenberg should be put under the microscope, because anyone in that position should — this is an incredibly important contest for the future of Louisville. He should tell us exactly how he plans to make the tough decisions. 

It’s not the time to play safe. It’s time to inform us and inspire us.