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September 16, 2009

Jerry's kids

Facts, rumors and political innuendo

The last time we interviewed Metro Councilman Jim King, D-10, he was vying for a second term as council president, which would have made him the first council member to serve consecutive terms in the leadership role.

Back then he argued it was a “CEO position,” and that he was the best man for the job, but he eventually bowed out. King is making similar statements in the mayoral race, but it’s unlikely the hard-knocks Democrat will forfeit his candidacy until the last primary vote is counted.

The former council president and CEO of King Southern Bank recently sat down with LEO to talk about downtown development, budget shortfalls and the upcoming primary. Here’s an excerpt from that interview:

LEO: What are your thoughts on the deals the mayor has made with The Cordish Cos., particularly the forgivable loan (to redevelop a club at Fourth Street Live) and Center City?

Jim King: One of the things I did on the council was work with my colleagues on placing timelines on the Cordish deal to limit their control of the property, and to create benchmarks that have to occur over the next 10 years. Whoever the mayor is will have to live up to those benchmarks and work with Cordish to see that they’re achieved. It would be a good thing if they were achieved. It would be good for Louisville if Cordish lived up to all of the promises and expectations that have come from these transactions and agreements. 

LEO: What should the council’s role be in those deals, if any?

JK: Whoever the contractor is needs to understand that they are operating at their own peril until such time the council has approved the transaction. My approach on similar transactions as mayor would be to involve at least council leadership — the president, possibly the budget chair or caucus chairs — in discussions about the concepts that we’re dealing with without necessarily disclosing proprietary information, because that seems to be the hot button. Bring them in as more of a partner … I would want them involved at least talking about visions without disclosing specifics of a transaction that is pending.

LEO: How would you handle the budgetary shortfalls the city has faced over the past few years?

JK: I think I am uniquely situated to deal with budget issues … I have a deep understanding of how the city budget is compiled. In this particular year as budget chair I led the committee through the process of the most difficult one we’ve ever had. We were able to restore some jobs and ultimately balance the budget without any unnecessary cuts in services. I don’t believe that the budget should be balanced on the backs of our employees by layoffs and furlough days … As budget chair what was most effective was for the first time ever establishing a set of priorities on where dollars should be spent. The way I did that was creating a questionnaire for the council members that listed the 44 functional areas and asking them to rank them in terms of whether they were mission-critical to city government.

LEO: The administration has made deep cuts, but is raising taxes a possibility?

JK: I have no plans to raise taxes … I think the best way to deal with budget deficits is to grow our local economy. People are concerned about jobs, economic development and quality-of-life issues. If addressed those will improve our economy here locally and will raise our tax base without raising taxes.

LEO: Critics say behind the scenes you’re a little rough with opponents. How do you respond to that?

JK: I’m rough with opponents? … If you look at my record on the Metro Council in terms of my accomplishments and the support I’ve received from my peers, whether being elected caucus chair or president of the council, and then the positive comments I’ve received from both sides at the conclusion of the budget process this year, all those are indicators of how well I work with people. The fact that someone may disagree with me doesn’t keep me from sitting down and listening to them to find a middle ground. I do that very well. Anyone who would say I’m being rough on opponents — I think, I ultimately bring people together.

LEO: One of your opponents in the race is Councilman David Tandy (D-4), who is a colleague of yours. Will the race affect council business at all?

JK: David and I have a wonderful legislative relationship … and frankly, I consider him a friend. We actually sat down and talked about this. And I’ve committed to him and he’s committed to me that courtesy will be the order of the day. We understand our jobs on the council come before our positions as candidates.

Read the full interview at leoweekly.com/news.