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March 25, 2008

Credit where credit’s due: Is Doug Hawkins basking in the glory of his colleagues’ hard work?

Doug Hawkins, R-25: Photo courtesy of Louisville metro councilIt wasn’t the first time District 25 Metro Councilman Doug Hawkins did something that angered Vicki Aubrey Welch, a Democrat who represents District 13. But last week, when Hawkins issued a public e-mail taking credit for one of her major accomplishments, Welch decided she wouldn’t let it pass without remark.“It’s embarrassing to the entire Metro Council that he would do this,” said Welch, a nurse known for her passion on medical issues. “It’s unethical. He’s using us and our accomplishments to self-promote in his district because he’s running for Senate.” Hawkins, a Republican, is running for state Senate in southwest Jefferson County’s 37th district. Hawkins stirring up conflict is nothing new. He’s doesn’t play well with others, and is frequently the lone “no” vote on council initiatives (most recently: the smoking ban).Hawkins’ e-mail included three items:• Hawkins won support for a $50,000 appropriation to Southwest Hospital to purchase digital mammography and bone mineral density screening equipment.• A pancake breakfast where citizens can “Meet Your Police and Councilman Doug Hawkins.”• A Farmer’s Market that will start June 1 at Valley High, which Hawkins claims to have been working on for more than a year.When Welch saw the e-mail last Wednesday, it was a final step over the line. She said she’s had enough of Hawkins’ tactics, of antics she says only draw attention to him and stir up bad blood within the council. During a March 13 Council meeting, Welch made an emotional plea to fund the medical equipment, citing high rates of cancer in the southwest and a dire need. At the time, she’d committed $10,000 of her district’s discretionary funds, as did Rick Blackwell, D-12. Hawkins committed $7,200 and other members anted up smaller amounts to reach the goal.Welch said she had planned an April press conference with hospital personnel until Hawkins released the story his way. She said she plans to file a complaint against Hawkins with the Metro Ethics Commission.Hawkins is accustomed to criticism and seems to relish it, and certainly he was happy when camera crews came calling last week. But he said he’s not interested in who gets credit for good work, just that it gets done.Vickie Aubrey Welch, D-13: Photo courtesy of Louisville metro council“It’s ridiculously petty,” Hawkins said of Welch’s accusation. “It doesn’t matter who gets credit. It’s a silly little argument. They’re upset because I’m running for state Senate and I’ve got a good chance to win. So the Democrats are taking swipes at me. If I wasn’t running it wouldn’t matter. You’d think they’d have better things to do. I wish I had that much time. I’m not running to the media.”Perhaps Hawkins’ most vocal adversary is Bob Henderson, whose District 14 sits across Dixie Highway from District 25. They’ve battled over the cleanup of sites on Dixie, and Henderson has been the target of Hawkins’ well-known robo-call attacks.The e-mail reference to the Farmer’s Market infuriated Henderson, who said he’s been working with U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth’s office since November to make the market a reality.Henderson said Hawkins hasn’t attended a single one of 11 organizational meetings for the market. But Hawkins wrote that he’d been meeting with the city’s economic development chief, Bruce Traughber, since last June. Traughber said in a phone interview that neither he nor his staff has met with Hawkins.“I call him ‘Headline Hawkins’ because he runs right to the TV stations and they play along with him,” said Henderson.Hawkins does attract conflict. That seems to be the point. When he complained that the Mayor’s office was wasting money by installing expensive granite curbing on downtown streets, it topped the local news cycle for days. When he appeared before the council’s Health and Human Needs committee to talk about his immigration ordinance, which would require local agencies to check citizenship before providing services, he parlayed it into a media event. He later appeared on the Francene show on WHAS-AM radio, saying that chair Mary Woolridge, D-3, didn’t care about immigration, prompting the radio host to urge listeners to call City Hall. Hawkins based his comment on a question Woolridge asked him — whether it was an issue citizens truly cared about — and mischaracterized her answer, which was that she hadn’t gotten calls from her constituents about it. City Hall was flooded with calls for two days. While none of the committee members could say the issue had prompted calls, Hawkins claimed his office had received more than 500 immigration-related calls.  Contact the writer at rick@thevillevoice.com