A Real Compassionate City

The Failures of Greg Fischer

There is no true executive leadership for the city of Louisville, but instead a power vacuum that encourages career politicians of all stripes to imagine themselves filling the role. Greg Fischer’s dramatic inability to lead in the twin crises of the pandemic and community outrage in response to the death of Breonna Taylor was no surprise to any serious observer--but a disappointment nonetheless. Empty platitudes were followed by a new police union contract negotiated behind closed doors, a contract long on raises and incentives and short on accountability and reform. Fischer has always been less than a placeholder. He is an obstacle in the way of true leadership, propped up by the interests of the wealthy and the limited, politics-as-team-sport mindset of Louisville Democrats. Fischer is the very embodiment of the failed, tired obsession with the “Business Democrat” as a candidate and officeholder. We will not be sorry to see his third term end; we are ruefully bitter that it will consume years we cannot afford to waste.

The Failures of the Metro Council

The legislative body of the city of Louisville is its own moribund failure. Years of giveaways to developers and deference to corporate interests have led to a budget crisis with no end in sight. The Metro Council chose austerity budgets over the health and welfare of the working class. Reductions in city services contribute to the degradation of public health at a time when it could not be more egregious. Public libraries remain on the chopping block in the budget, while the police budget continues to grow unchecked. The council, controlled by an overwhelming majority of Democrats, successfully removed some of the final teeth from an already defanged civilian review board of the police department and has failed to pass the Safety Zone ordinance.

The Failures of LMPD

The Louisville Metro Police Department exists to serve the needs of capital and to protect property over human life. This is reflected in many ways, most visibly violent in the enforcement of white supremacy as both a tool of and foundational structure inherent to capitalism. The killing of Breonna Taylor; years of unlawful stops and assaults documented now by the ubiquity of personal cameras; the Explorer program officer’s sexual abuse that LMPD and Metro Government attempted to stonewall; federal investigation into the abuse of overtime; the documented perjury and extraction of false confessions and guilty pleas leading to years of reexamination of cases by the courts; the assault of the public and even members of the media during civil unrest; the smirking charges for protestors of felony wanton endangerment to mirror those of Brett Hankinson; and on and on. The list of embarrassment and harm to the community is seemingly without end.

Developers Hold the Real Power

Millionaire developers remain the unchallenged true masters of the city of Louisville. The root of their control lies in their checkbooks opened every four years for the candidacies of both Democrats and Republicans, mayoral and Metro Council alike. We are years past the time when cities across the country were exploring infrastructure and land-use changes; Louisville instead lags severely behind, a relative dinosaur to our peers. The effects on our community, including gentrification and an ever-growing housing crisis; environmental damage from the expansion of the urban heat island, contamination of waterways, and other forms of pollution; the exemption of tax base at the behest of business interests and primarily driven by private development often accompanied by additional large expenditures by the city; all this and more are bills we will continue to pay for generations of politicians beholden to developers.

Working-Class Vision for the Future of Louisville

We believe a central piece of a transformed Louisville would be the resignation or removal of Mayor Fischer. The Metro Council must begin to operate as a coequal branch to the Mayor’s office; the council must begin to consider first the needs of the city rather than the political affiliation of the Mayor.

We support the Safety Zone ordinance and its adoption must be a priority for the Metro Council. A repeat of the failure to pass the harassment-free buffer zone to protect abortion access must have serious consequences not only for members voting against it but for the leadership of the Democratic caucus that allows such an embarrassment.

We demand an end to austerity budgets and the crushing blows they deal to the working class of our city. Sanitation services and important public trusts such as our libraries and parks must be protected now and in the future. We support increases in taxes, by special taxing district referendums if we must, to ensure Louisville has adequately funded public services. Austerity budgets are a moral failure and an assault on the working class.

Defund the Police

We support the movement to defund police and to redirect the irresponsibly bloated police budget into other forms of public safety such as social services, intervention/interruptor programs, job training, youth enrichment, and a plethora of other strategies that address root causes of a public health issue. It is beyond time that we recognize the city’s out of control spending on LMPD as the municipal version of the Defense Department budget.

There are concrete, cautious ways to begin the process of defunding the police, starting with limiting overtime, allowing retirement and resignation to reduce the force naturally, and ending the acquisition of military-grade equipment which reinforces the hostile occupation mindset of policing. Mandating that any settlements stemming from police misconduct come from the police budget is another. The next contract with the FOP must put the community first.

We must also immediately explore enforcing real public oversight and control of LMPD. The new civilian review board must be expanded, strengthened, and made wholly independent. The Metro Council and the Mayor’s office must also end their wholesale aiding and abetting of the abuses and scandals of LMPD for their own political expediency.

Working-Class Solidarity

We call for a united political will across the left in Louisville to withhold support and endorsement of candidates and officeholders who accept political donations from multimillionaire land barons and construction magnates. Louisville cannot begin to address the needs of the working class while the political vision of the city is constrained by the money of developers; this will remain true while we accept the current state of affairs of politicians who speak to voters every four years from January to November, but spend the rest of their terms cozied up to these donors. We need political leaders oriented towards tenants and existing homeowners. We need political leaders in favor of rent control policies and increased investment in public housing, who see housing as a human right and not a commodity. We need political leaders who aren’t bought with eviction blood money.