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March 24, 2010

Inbox — March 24, 2010

Letters to the Editor

Correction

Our March 10 feature on South by Southwest should have listed Austin’s population at 656,562. LEO regrets the error.

Madness in March

I realize there is something going on with basketball, the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky, and that as a Kentuckian, I am supposed to be excited, overwhelmed and find it all wildly maddening. However, having said that, I can think of nothing more maddening than having several Kentucky members of Congress and two U.S. senators refuse to do the morally correct thing and support health care reform for all Kentuckians and U.S. citizens.

Cindy L. Happel, Highlands

Foot the Bill

In response to Jonathan Meador’s profile of Robert Smith in the “Mr. Smith forgoes Washington” in the March 10 LEO Weekly: If Mr. Smith is so broke, why is he sitting in his home watching cable TV? The photo showed Mr. Smith sitting on his couch with an Insight cable remote in his hand. A typical cable bill is $60/month. Is he whining for more government handouts so he can cover his cable bill?

I think LEO could have found someone to profile who didn’t come across as disingenuous as Mr. Smith. Expecting better,

Todd Yates, St. Matthews

Old House, New House

Regarding Jonathan Meador’s “Mixed bag” article on affordable housing (LEO Weekly, March 3): Mr. Meador, you are dead on. This city is well behind the times in both thinking and attitude. As a specialist in the green renovation of older structures, I would like to offer a few observations.

1) Louisville has the largest collection of shotgun-style housing in the country.

2) The shotgun is the easiest and least expensive to renovate and at a cost substantially lower than new construction. However, Louisville is demolishing these houses at an alarming rate.

3) Renovation requires 40 percent more labor than new construction. That labor is local and continuously generates jobs, as the wages are spent in the community.

4) Renovation requires 40 percent less material than new construction. Those materials generally come from out of the city or the country, generate fewer jobs and have a negative impact on the environment.

5) Renovation is as green or greener than new construction.

6) Renovation does not contribute to urban sprawl, the necessity for new roadways, the extension of utility services or traffic congestion.

7) Renovation does not contribute to the heat island effect.

8) Renovation does not waste the embodied energy existing in our older structures and their components.

9) Many of the components of older structures are superior to those available to us today, with a greater life expectancy and fewer carcinogenic components than new materials.

10) Older structures are generally close to the city center, making mass transit more affordable.

11) The mixed-use environments of older urban areas lead to a more walkable community and access to goods, services and entertainment without the use of a car.

12) Demolition of a house merely changes a blighted building into a weed-filled lot full of junk. A renovated house improves the neighborhood, typically inspiring neighbors to begin improvements on their house.

13) The demolition of a house adds to our landfill problems.

At a time when we cannot afford to build 3,250 to 4,350 new houses each year, how can we justify throwing away this valuable resource?

Gary Kleier, American Institute of Architects, Historic Old Louisville

Those Who Are Unheard

In response to Jonathan Meador’s piece on Louisville and its lack of options for dealing with the housing crisis (LEO Weekly, March 3), we are once again reminded that only “officials” have a voice. Housing is in fact a human right as laid out by the United Nations in its 1948 Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25. It is an error in logic to presuppose government grants rights; they are only recognized or not, leading us to the conclusion that those countries that do not recognize them are at best criminally negligent and at worst tyrannical.

Tim Barry argues that the Louisville Metro Housing Authority will once again be providing 1-to-1 replacement on public housing units. This is an obfuscation of the real issue. While Barry did agree to provide 1-to-1 replacement on “units” during the Liberty Green development project, the agreement, made in conjunction between LMHA, Metro Housing Coalition, Legal Aid and CLOUT, was not honored in spirit, and the “units” did not meet the spatial requirements of those torn down, even after Barry agreed publicly that he could make that promise.

Second, Meador is incorrect in his interpretation that “for each family displaced by demolition, the authority has guaranteed them a new unit waiting at the end of the tunnel.” According to the HOPE VI grant written by LMHA, they are projecting that out of 327 households available at Sheppard Square, 303 were occupied at the time of submission of the HOPE VI grant, and 53 are estimated to return (17 percent resettlement on site). According to The Courier-Journal, the Clarksdale/Liberty Green resettlement was around 6 percent. A further HUD requirement states that each displaced family be given a choice between two housing units. That means 656 units (two per each of the 328 units at Sheppard Square) will be tied up for the foreseeable future.

It is also important to recognize that residents not accepted due to stringent reentry requirements (including the mysterious “housekeeping” requirement) must go somewhere, and Barry has been less than clear as to where that might be.

Drew Tucker, Louisville

Message to Whom?

Attn: Ricky L. Jones: I feel as though I just read an article by a writer who turned in his academic robe for a bikini. Your Feb. 24 column in LEO Weekly is beyond the pale. Your use of vulgar for effect is neither shocking nor effective. If your point was to demonstrate how racism stands in the way of people lesser than you, regarding sexual choice and openness, you probably have succeeded. Arguably, though, this would be an extraordinarily small amount of the population.

Please note that I generally enjoy reading your work, but this seems to have come from a psych with which I have not found in your previous columns.

John Little Sr., Highlands

Don’t Sweat It

To U of L President James Ramsey,

In 2008, Norma Mejia was working at a textile factory in Honduras. In this factory, she was forced to work unpaid overtime without access to clean drinking water. She worked, in other words, in a sweatshop, and yet she endured these hardships to send her children to school, hoping that one day her struggle would be rewarded. As discontent grew, Norma and other workers decided the solution was to unionize, causing widespread outrage within their parent company, Russell Athletics. Russell then shut down the factory and ensured none of its 1,800 workers could find jobs anywhere else in their community.

U of L has a role in stopping atrocities like this one. We believe the solution to ending U of L’s support of sweatshops is affiliating with the Worker Rights Consortium, a nonprofit monitoring organization that directly inspects factories to make sure the workers are being treated fairly. Part of the WRC is the Designated Supplier’s Program, a free program that makes sure companies like Nike can’t cut their contracts if workers decide to unionize or ask for living wages.

On Feb. 5, we met with members of your administration to bring these issues to light. Some have been eager to help us, and we appreciate their support. However, words mean nothing without action. After extensive research, we know that signing onto the WRC and the DSP are the actions the university needs to take if they want to effectively end their support of workers’ rights abuses worldwide.

Today, Norma’s factory has reopened, allowing for unionization and fair labor standards. This could not have occurred without the aid of the WRC and student groups throughout the nation. With your cooperation, we truly believe progress can be made regarding the atrocities mentioned above, so people like Norma will never have to experience the injustices embodied by U of L’s continued support of sweatshops.

We want to be able to wear our cardinal logo with pride.

Emily Nordling, Amnesty International, U of L