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August 8, 2006

City Strobe

Downard unfurls plan for the futureMayor Abramson is only good for pep rallies and press conferences. His administration is paralyzed by bureaucracy and focused too heavily on the Watterson-bound pre-merger City of Louisville. His administration is glad to take post-merger revenue from the old county but has yet to provide basic services like trash pickup and street cleaning currently available within the Urban Service District (the old city) to the old county constituency.These are a few of the criticisms Kelly Downard — Republican, 16th District Metro Council representative and candidate for mayor — is laying on Mayor Jerry Abramson.Downard spent yesterday morning, with reporters gathered in his St. Matthews campaign office, rattling off details of “A New Vision for a New Louisville,” an $81 million capital improvement program he would pursue if elected mayor.Some details: $24 million for three new libraries to be built by 2010; $10.5 million for three firehouses in the same timeframe; $10 million in matching funds for an endowment to the Big Four arts programs — Actors Theatre, Kentucky Opera, Louisville Orchestra and Louisville Ballet; and $5 million to add turning lanes and synchronize traffic lights citywide.So how will we pay for it? Other than bonds, Downard would eliminate $1 million from the budget of the mayor’s office by reducing the number of deputy mayors from the current four to one and getting rid of their support staffs. He said those would be the only layoffs. That’s part of the $5.6 million he said he could save with budget cuts that also include $1 million from the Council’s operating expenses and $3 million from canceling a city contract with Technology Park.He also said he wants to provide trash pickup and street cleaning services to the outlying areas of the city, but do so without raising taxes. Currently, residents who live within the Urban Service District pay additional taxes for these services. Asked how he could justify old city residents paying for old county residents’ services, Downard said we need a more inclusive attitude about the city post-merger. —Stephen GeorgeRacism and the 4SL dress codeAbout 20 people gathered at the Urban League headquarters on West Broadway Monday night to commiserate about the recent lawsuit filed by two young African-American men against a pair of Fourth Street Live businesses for alleged racial discrimination. The suit contends that the men were denied entry to two clubs, Red Cheetah and Parrot Beach, based on a dress code that discriminates against African Americans.Imagine that.The dress code at Fourth Street Live is about as transparently preferential as this window next to my desk is clear, but it’s not the methodology of old, as Phillip Bailey — a U of L student and community activist — said Monday night. It’s a more subtle form of institutionalized thinking that targets cultural markers like clothing. As Bailey and others at the forum noted, there are tiers of hip-hop culture, one of which is quite lucrative and another that is not. A dress code barring team apparel, hats, brand-name gear or shorts deemed by some to be too long is an easy way to target one tier of the culture without barring the more lucrative one. As with all things arbitrary, it can be applied on the spot, situationally, which is what Barry Snadon and Maury Gantt, who filed the suit, said happened.Keith B. Hunter, the attorney representing the men, said his office has received several dozen additional complaints about discrimination at Fourth Street Live. He called the dress code policy “a discriminatory device.”Mike Leonard was there representing Fourth Street Live LLC, which manages the venue and maintains a lease with the company that owns both Red Cheetah and Parrot Beach. He said the company would reconsider its lease with the two if a court rules them guilty of discrimination.Last Thursday, Judge Ann O’Malley Shake issued a temporary restraining order requiring the businesses to publicly post dress code requirements, which Hunter said they have done. The next hearing is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 25.It seems the city is listening, too: Representatives from the mayor’s office and the Metro Human Relations Commission were also taking notes. —Stephen GeorgeSorry Kansas: We’re No. 1!When Kansas voters made their anti-evolution school board members part of the fossil record last week, the entire nation (especially late-night TV comedy writers) struggled to endure the uneasy calm that descends whenever religious fanatics are silenced.With such a huge and sudden void in the country’s religio-conservative crackpottery, the nation turned its hopeful gaze to an always-reliable source of idiotic Bible-related blather, and we’re not talking about eminent anti-Semite Mel Gibson. We’re talking Kentucky! National media outlets lined up to cover the announcement of The Creation Museum, a $25-million Northern Kentucky tribute to ignorance that is slated to begin dumbifying patrons next spring. The “museum” will present the history of a 6,000-year-old world based upon a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis, and will feature exhibits showing Adam and Eve cohabitating with dinosaurs, Noah and his ark-zoo leaving a world of sinners behind to perish in the flood, and the legislatures of Sodom and Gomorrah debating a same-sex marriage bill. (OK, just kidding about that last one.)How comically ridiculous is this “museum”? Even Fox News rolled its eyes at the endeavor. Under the headline “‘Creation Museum’ Seeks to Disprove Evolution, Paleontology, Geology,” the network got the curator of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History to make the shocking statement for the record that “Genesis is not science,” which surely came as a shock to Fox News viewers. For a sneak peek at The Creation Museum, see the virtual tour at www.answersingenesis.com. —Jim WelpMaking Mel connectionsMy desk is around the corner from a guy who knows the woman, Kimberly Lesak, who was in the same restaurant as Mel Gibson the night he was stopped for driving drunk and then gave the Malibu police a history lesson on the great Jewish War Effort. Members of the media: I am available for interviews. E-mail me if you’d like to be notified of my forthcoming press conference to announce my book deal. My publicist will be in touch. —Stephen GeorgeWidespread stupidityWidespread Panic played two sold-out shows at the Palace last week, with thousands of fans hitting Louisville about the same time as a massive heat wave. As that nomadic crowd is wont to do, many had their dogs in tow, and when it was showtime, many dogs were left inside hot vehicles or chained to cars or whatever was handy.    WFPK DJ Mark Bacon mentioned it on the air and got 10-15 outraged calls. On Wednesday, the station personnel put out a bowl of water for the Widespread dogs.    “Widespread Panic fans feel the need to bring their dogs no matter how incredibly hot it is,” WFPK DJ Laura Shine told LEO. “It was really kind of incongruous to what you think they'd be about.”(Photo by Cary Stemle)If you care to engage yourself in the city’s newsworthy happenings, write here: citystrobe@leoweekly.com