REPRESENTIN” (A COLUMN ABOUT THE METRO COUNCIL): Catching up with you, dear reader

May 20, 2008 at 8:30 pm

It has been a few weeks since I’ve written this column, so let me first apologize to my four readers for the absence. In case you haven’t noticed, politics has taken hold in our fair city, and I’ve been running around madly trying to document as much of it as is possible.

And so, with the primary season officially over as of Tuesday, and deep exhales commencing everywhere, I return to the business of covering the business of this city’s Metro Council, which has also been busy lately.

Won’t hear that train a-comin’
About two months ago, a fury erupted in District 9 over what at the time appeared to be an imminent plan to reinstitute train whistles through the Frankfort Avenue corridor in Crescent Hill. The horns were to begin blowing 33 times a day, the people were told, and a well-attended emergency neighborhood meeting bore out the notion that nobody — nobody! — would allow this to happen.

Problem was, it seemed in the immediate, Metro government and Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh had failed to work out a plan with the Federal Railroad Administration to meet new guidelines that required upgrades in safety measures and the result, ta-da!, was to be blaring, startling horns all day.

Tonight, Wednesday, is expected to be the first major follow-up on this issue. After the uproar, Ward-Pugh and Metro were able to finagle a deal for a little extra time to meet the federal safety requirements for two major crossings. Ward-Pugh told me Monday they have a plan, nearly complete, that would fit into Metro’s tight budget and fulfill the new requirements.

The only major additions would be new gates blocking a couple of side streets, as well as 6-inch-high medians on Frankfort near the New Main Street crossing. Ward-Pugh said she’s gotten an overwhelmingly positive response from the people she’s talked to in the neighborhood about this.
The meeting is tonight from 6-9 p.m. at the Clifton Center, 2117 Payne St.

Council passes housing fund

At the start of last Thursday’s meeting, Tiffiny Smith told the council her story: a childhood spent in public housing, a Habitat for Humanity house when she was 19, and finally, redemption. Smith owns her own business, a beauty salon, and she has rental property. Once maxed out paying $263 a month for a mortgage, she now affords $1,200.

The point, she said, was that the availability of affordable housing allowed her to steadily build equity and get a leg into, not up on, a middle-class economic existence. It’s a story not often told in these discussions, which tend to hinge on whether helping low-income citizens afford housing is a handout or an investment.

Council members decided overwhelmingly (a 25-1 vote, with Doug Hawkins, R-25, the exception) that it’s worth it: After a years-long genesis, the city now has an Affordable Housing Trust Fund, an official vehicle by which money — grants, donations, so forth — can be channeled to agencies making housing available to more people than the city is currently able to. At the moment, some 15,000 families are on Louisville’s waiting list for Section 8.

Seeded with $1 million in taxpayer money, the fund will be used, among other ways, to assist those who qualify with down payments or temporary rental help; emergency repairs; impending foreclosure; and some financing for new construction. Half the money will go toward people making 80 percent of the area median income, and the other will assist those making 50 percent.

Gay baiting in the 6th District?
After months of a competitive but mostly clean race between Democratic incumbent George Unseld and challenger Ken Herndon, things finally got brutal the weekend before Tuesday’s vote.

A front group calling itself “Citizens for Family and Moral Values” — the group is not registered with the state and does not appear to be legit — distributed a glossy, expensive color flier last Saturday with a photograph purportedly showing Herndon, who is openly gay, at a pride parade with his arm around two men who are kissing.

Unseld held a press conference Monday denying any involvement in the making or distribution of the flier.
Herndon’s campaign distributed a flier Monday in response. On the front, in large block letters, it said: “I apologize for my opponent George Unseld.” On the back, the flier insinuated that Unseld was behind the gay-baiting flier.

“It’s just disgraceful,” Herndon said.
As of LEO’s press deadline, it was
unclear who would prevail in Tuesday’s primary.

Read more about the Metro Council at LEO’s news blog, Contact the writer at [email protected]