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December 11, 2007

City Strobe

Panhandling ordinance advancesThere was, as it turned out Monday night, much ado for nothing with the so-called aggressive panhandling ordinance. The public safety committee of the Metro Council voted 3-2 to move the ordinance for a full council vote — tagging it with a recommendation to vote against. After weeks of debate, both in chambers and among the public, the ordinance — co-sponsored by David Tandy, D-4, and George Unseld, D-6 — advanced without any changes. If the full council votes next Thursday to pass the measure, it would mean panhandlers couldn’t ask for money within 20 feet of an ATM or bank, outdoor dining area, parking garage, bus stop, school or public restroom. It would also make illegal persistent begging or panhandling within six feet of the entrance to any public building. Penalties under the ordinance top out at a $250 fine or 90 days in jail — at a cost of $5,220 to taxpayers. Council members Mary Woolridge, D-3, Judy Green, D-1, and Kevin Kramer, R-11, voted against the ordinance. Kramer proposed several amendments that were voted down. The two Democrats oppose the ordinance on moral grounds, and both have argued that the law unfairly targets and criminalizes a relatively innocent behavior. “I will not be a part of a program to sterilize downtown from poor people,” Green told the committee Monday. Opponents holding signs that read, among other things, “Keep Louisville Kind,” were also on hand Monday, quietly making their opposition known and nodding at opportune times. Tandy and Unseld have said the ordinance would not unfairly target the poor — for instance, it imposes no limits on ordinary panhandling. Proponents, including representatives of the police department, have said the ordinance would give police another tool to directly combat more incendiary forms of begging. —Stephen GeorgeDangerous dog ordinance gets its teeth cleanedThe council’s public safety committee also wrapped up a months-long process meant to revise parts of the so-called dangerous dog ordinance that some council members found lacking. By unanimous vote at its Monday meeting, the committee endorsed changes recommended by a subcommittee that has met regularly over the past several months. That five-person subcommittee, co-chaired by Kelly Downard, R-16, and Judy Green, D-1, included members of the public safety committee; they have conducted regular hearings this year and received testimony from a wide range of people who work with domestic pets. The revised ordinance now goes to the full council for a vote next Thursday, a year after it was passed amid substantial controversy. Major revisions include no longer equating unaltered dogs with dangerous dogs; giving the Metro Animal Services director discretion on assessing fines based on income; not mandating spaying or neutering as a condition for getting back an impounded dog; and requiring animal services officers to warn owners of unlicensed pets before issuing a citation.In an interview yesterday, Downard said he is happy with the subcommittee’s efforts. He noted that Councilwoman Cheri Bryant Hamilton, D-5, who sponsored the original ordinance after a spate of dog maulings occurred in her district, is supportive of the changes. —Cary StemleNeighbor to buy Old Louisville lot where troubled house burnedWhen the historic Victorian house at 1246 S. First St. burned to the ground in October, it ended a two-year battle among neighbors, a delinquent landowner, the company foreclosing on the house, the company that actually owns the house, and the Metro department of Inspections, Permits and Licenses — all to get the place looking respectable. (see LEO, Nov. 14)Neighbors tried to buy it, along with two contiguous properties owned by the same person, but to no avail. Finally something will happen with the lot where 1246 once stood. Ken Herndon, whose house on Ormsby backs up to the lot, will buy it for $4,900. He said he and his two neighbors want to divide it up to extend their currently cramped backyards. The deal and neighbors’ plans aren’t final, however: Herndon would have to get permission from the city to change the use of the lot. He said he expects a lengthy process. —SGBaby’s got a new gubner! Democrat Steve Beshear was sworn in as governor early Tuesday morning, and former state Sen. Dan Mongiardo was officially crowned lieutenant governor. Beshear, a moderate, is the state’s 61st governor. —SGHousing relief coming for a fewPresident Bush and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson announced earlier this month that some subprime mortgage holders would get temporary relief from the federal government just as their adjustable interest rates are set to jump considerably. However, according to the Center for Responsible Lending, the so-called relief would only apply to about 7 percent of subprime borrowers. It would cover only those who are up-to-date on their payments and can continue making timely payments at the current rates. Also, people who borrowed at a subprime rate in 2005 would miss the relief, as the plan would take effect after their rates had reset. Cathy Hinko, executive director of the Metropolitan Housing Coalition, said Monday that 21 percent of Louisville foreclosures in the first half of this year were on loans that date to 2005. —SGContact the writers at citystrobe@leoweekly.com