Impound lot cognitive dissonance

David Wicks and I met with the Deputy Mayor, Chief of Staff, LMPD, department heads,… a total of twelve Metro employees in the conference room off the Mayor’s office in December of 2017 to discuss the impound lot. Fifty minutes into the meeting Mary Ellen Wiederwohl said, “Jackie we haven’t heard anything from you.”

The essence of my response:
1 – Do not move the impound lot to any neighborhood if the lot is not aesthetically and environmentally well managed.
2 –  Build a tightly controlled, vertical, impound garage paid for by a number of car related measures.
3 – A large impound facility is unnecessary if traffic were reduced and calmed.

Neighborhoods and council members have legitimately taken my first statement farther. None of them understandably want the impound facility in their back yard. On the other hand, none of them have insisted their neighborhoods be car free.

And the city’s response to my second statement? It was rejected as politically unpalatable and requiring that Louisville’s challenge state law (as well as change metro law).

The third statement? Instead of reducing and calming urban traffic; instead of transforming our urban transportation model from car based to public transit based,  Fischer is looking for a bigger impound lot.

The Green economic/transportation/land use/neighborhood revitalization plan will make a large impound lot unnecessary, will calm and reduce traffic, and protect neighborhoods and the environment.
LG&E impoundment lot

Vacant property failure


Under Mayor Fischer, ” …a third of former land bank houses sold since the 2010 fiscal year” are vacant. “Of the 316 properties the land bank has sold, code inspectors have deemed 92 to be vacant and in violation of the city’s property maintenance codes.”
“Some buyers have racked up thousands in property maintenance fines as they failed to pick up trash, cut the grass, and let their properties return to disrepair. Others appear to have never completed exterior renovations as required in the first place.”
“The Landbank Authority has the power to take back possession of a property if the initial terms aren’t met, but it’s never done it.”  Source (WFPL – Jacob Ryan)

Giving property away for $1 and a commitment will not solve the vacant property problem. A more comprehensive approach is required addressing litter, reducing violence, engaging the idle, building community around local schools, creating reliable public transit, and attracting investment in property and businesses.

Relating to blacks

I have been asked if I can relate to, and what are my contacts with, the black community?
Let me first call to mind that there is no monolithic black community.  That community, like others, is tremendously varied, with many perspectives and subsets.
On relating to …. Being white, I have never had to worry about “driving while black”, never had to prove my identity before using a credit card issued in my name, never been frightened by the presence of a police officer, never been conscious of white people fearing my presence, never had to add an additional and unnecessary layer of respect when talking with white people, never tasted the bitterness of being insulted by intentional or unintentional bigotry, never feared that bullets would penetrate the walls of my home or hit my children as they played outdoors, never been hungry, never been at risk of loosing housing, never been exposed to much much more that much of the black community has had to endure. Can I relate? Existentially, not really. Having lived overseas as a child, I was a minority on the outside of the mainstream. But that alien mainstream I was exposed to was not one that had enslaved my ancestors for hundreds of years, lynched them upon freeing them from slavery, greeted them with dogs, billy clubs and water cannons as they marched for equal rights, red lined them out of the housing market, and destroyed their neighborhoods with polluting industries and interstate highways. Can I relate? Not really.
What are my contacts with the black community? For the past fifteen years I have been working, six days per week, at our bicycle shop. Our front door is always unlocked, and often wide open, during business hours. As a downtown bike shop, our customers reflect every walk of life and every culture. Half our customers are black, many of whom I count as friends. Most are not riding bicycles as a hobby, but as transportation, just like me. I do not hang out with the leadership of the black community, though I do count as friends some black elected leadership and black activists. Knowing how important an institution the church is for many blacks, I must admit that I attend church very infrequently, and then it is within walking distance of home. I’d guess most of my contacts with the black community are an outgrowth of my work in the bike shop. There, and on TARC buses. My transportation is primarily TARC, cycling and walking (when I moved back to Louisville in 1999 I made a conscious decision to live car-free). A very high percentage of TARC ridership is black. Riding TARC opens many opportunities, at bus stops and on the bus, to talk with people outside my other circles. TARC is part of ‘the commons’, like sidewalks, streets, parks, libraries, etc., but TARC is the component of ‘the commons’ that puts us closest, physically, to others. I treasure those day to day, unplanned encounters (and subject my family members to more dinner table stories than they would like). Managing property downtown and near Churchill also give me opportunity to work with the black community, some of whom are new immigrants to the U.S..

Economic Plan

Attracting investment supportive of recreating Louisville as the most sustainable city in North America is central to the Green administration’s economic plan. Beyond more conventional approaches, we will achieve this objective by installing solar panels on many metro-owned properties (creating a metro owned power company) and by the widespread re-development of many under-performing urban properties into viable commercial space, urban housing and green space. This construction boom will not be patterned after the OMNI model – giving away public treasure, public land and permission to destroy our architectural heritage.  This construction boom will be driven by public demand and market forces. The plan depends on taking action that will increase two elements. The first is increasing the desire of people and business for urban housing and commercial space. The second is increasing the desire of surface parking lot owners to redevelop their property as commercial and residential space. Spin-off benefits of the plan will be safer urban streets, less flooding and urban heat, a stronger public transit system with greater ridership, greater walkability in urban Louisville, the creation of  Louisville as a city where one can live comfortably without a car, a reduction in the destruction of farms, fields, forests and flood plains, a reduction in the 33,000,000 miles driven daily in the region, cleaner air and water, more equitable transportation, more smaller-scale (less disruptive) urban construction projects (jobs), and greater demand for intercity passenger rail.

One of the beauties of the plan is in how quickly and inexpensively the plan can be initiated. So how do we accomplish this major transformation? We do so by:
… reducing the length of TARC bus routes to within a ring radiating six (+/-) miles from downtown Louisville
… establishing dedicated bus (and emergency vehicles) lanes within that six mile radius/ring
… giving buses (and emergency vehicles) the right of way at urban intersections
… changing one way streets to two way streets
… programming urban traffic signals to blink yellow or red but never green, resulting in much more cautious drivers
… establishing a downtown bus depot (one city block surrounded by bus stops of every route), creating easy transfer from any route to any other route in a central location (TARC’s Union Station is too far from the central business district)

The immediate result of this plan will be:
… an increase by several fold in the frequency and speed of TARC service where it counts (the suburbs are hopelessly car dependent, focus on improving the urban service)
 the elimination of the long, time and resource consuming TARC trips to the exurbs
… much greater TARC ridership, cycling and walking
… safer urban traffic

As the owners of urban surface parking lots realize that their customers are now parked six miles away and riding TARC from there into town, they will redevelopment the surface parking lots as mixed use – residential and commercial. Urban Louisville will experience an investment boom and take on a new life as people move in closer to work.

What are the expenses of implementing this plan?
… no extra expenditures on TARC
… staff time resetting some manual traffic signals
… re-stripping of major streets within the six mile ring
… working closely with KY Transportation Cabinet to convert KY controlled one way streets to two way

And what about the remote businesses who depend on TARC to deliver their workforce?
Those remote employers are over-stretching TARC service, weakening the overall public transit service, and burdening their low income employees who have to ride for hours daily on the bus. Those employers may need to provide their own better/quicker transportation for their employees.

With these changes the stage is soon set for the successful expansion of TARC service into the next ring of neighborhoods. The demand for intercity passenger rail grows.  Regional land use and transportation is transformed. And the attention of investment committed to creating a sustainable Louisville is captured.


Fischer/Leet Debate – WLKY

Hear Fischer lull listeners to sleep with mind numbing numbers and data as he competes with Leet for the ‘law and order’ title. His numbers are not supported by the report that Louisville is loosing ground (see September 24th blog). Neither of these candidates have a larger vision. Fischer claims compassion and jobs, jobs, jobs. And Leet preaches safety. Jackie Green’s vision is ambitious, but not out of the question given the record of most North American cities. That vision is to recreate Louisville as the most sustainable city in North America. By doing so we will lead in economic development, compassion and safety, as well as air and water quality, housing, transportation, justice, land use, and so much more (see the blog, Attributes of a Sustainable City). That vision is backed by commitment and a plan.

For the unheard voices of Louisville

The Louisville Women’s Coalition, after women fought for generations for the vote and a voice, locked the only alternative voice out of the mayoral debate. Jackie Green, having been refused even an un-mic’ed chair in the corner, showed up and was shown the door.  Outside the doors of the University Club he spoke with the Courier-Journal’s Phillip Bailey and WAVE’s Andreina Centlivre


Louisville economy’s growth lagged behind

The Courier Journal report, ‘Louisville economy’s growth lagged behind’, defies Fischer’s propaganda about his economic development achievements.
“The nation’s economy overall is on the upswing, but by one measure, Louisville lost ground to its peers last year.  Gross domestic product in the Louisville area grew 1.5 percent, according to data released Monday by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. That’s below the average 2.1 percent growth seen in the 383 other metropolitan areas around the country.  The relatively sluggish growth caused Louisville to fall to 47th in the national rankings, behind Jacksonville, Florida.”


Attributes of a Sustainable City

The question repeatedly surfaces:
“What are the attributes of a sustainable city?”
The following answer is organized, in part, by priority.

A sustainable city has:
Clean air & water
A strong local/regional food partnership
A peaceful commons (streets, sidewalks, parks, etc.)
Affordable housing

A sustainable city is:
Public transit rich
Surface parking lot poor
Pedestrian and cyclist friendly
Powered by renewable energy
Populated by educated, healthy citizens
Clean / unlittered
Driven by a strong economy in which all can participate
Lush with greenery, verdant
Nurturing of nature (does not destroy farms, fields, forests and flood plains)

? Healthy Louisville ?

Fischer refused to join other mayors in calling on the EPA to set stricter smog standards. He did not join other mayors in opposing the relaxation of Ohio River pollution standards as proposed by ORSANCO (Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission). He has done nothing significant to reduce the 33 million miles we drive daily. He has done nothing significant to increase walking as a major form of transportation.

Yet he asks for input on how to make Louisville healthier. His ‘Healthy Louisville 2025’ kickoff is as vacuous as his ‘Bike Kick-Off’. A mayor that welcomes bicycling reduces and calms urban traffic. A mayor that supports health nurtures cleaner air, purer water and a lifestyle of walking.

As long as Fisher ignores the basics, his ‘Healthy Louisville 2025’ kickoff is another in a long list of empty PR events.