March 24, 2010

Jerry's kids

Facts, rumors and political innuendo

Kentucky Auditor Crit Luallen’s review of Metro government’s handling of funds paints an ugly picture of Mayor Jerry Abramson’s administration. The findings have already resulted in the resignation of two veteran officials, even though Abramson says many of the necessary changes to last year’s discoveries have been made.

The 212-page report released this week outlines a number of serious problems with the city’s financial reporting practices. The worst violations are in the Department of Corrections, Finance Department and former Department of Neighborhoods. Some critics say this perpetual mismanagement of funds sheds light on how employees (read: loyalists) make it up the ladder in Metro government, even if they aren’t necessarily qualified.

The state audit revealed there’s a serious gap in the qualifications of business managers in city departments due to a lack of mandatory training. It went on to scold the administration for permitting individuals to qualify for a position by substituting certain work experience for minimum education requirements.

“It disturbs me, but it doesn’t surprise me,” says Councilman Kelly Downard, R-16. “I’ve been saying for years that quality of accounting in all the departments is woefully lacking … you get promoted for being there long enough, and that’s inappropriate.”

While the administration maintains most of the problems outlined in the report have been addressed, Metro Council members want to hear more. And while the public unpacks the audit’s findings, the council’s Government Accountability and Budget committees plan to hold a joint meeting on the audit with testimony from Luallen on April 26.

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Poll numbers show Democratic mayoral candidate and Metro Councilman David Tandy, D-4, with 44 percent of the black vote. Early in the campaign, however, a community activist in the city’s predominately black West End charged that residents didn’t know Tandy that well, much to the chagrin of supporters.

In fact, a recent fumble suggests the former council president might not be all that familiar with the community in which he lives and serves.

During a recent mayoral forum focusing on African-American issues, the usually even-tempered Tandy showed some fury when listing the problems facing the city’s black community, including the lack of services in west Louisville.

“I’m tired of having to drive all the way across town to find a dry cleaner west of 9th Street,” he yelled.

Apparently Tandy was unaware that at least eight different dry cleaning services operate west of 9th Street and north of Algonquin Parkway, even though he’s lived in the Russell neighborhood for at least a decade.

There are certainly neighborhoods in the area that are socially isolated and in desperate need of economic redevelopment. The Tandy campaign has a neighborhoods plan that addresses a broad array of issues, including crime reduction, quality housing and public health, but for small-business owners, the gaffe comes off as out of touch.

“There are dry cleaners in west Louisville. I’ve never heard anyone say they couldn’t find one,” says James Stith, co-manager of Stith Tailors & Dry Cleaners, located just a few blocks from Tandy’s home. “That’s just totally inaccurate. It would be interesting to know where he actually patronizes.”

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The interviews with the mayoral candidates conducted by The Courier-Journal’s editorial board revealed as much about the paper of record as it did about those vying for Metro Hall.

For starters, the newspaper didn’t initially schedule a sit-down with Democratic candidate Lisa Moxley, an odd decision considering Moxley fared slightly better in the C-J’s mayoral poll than Shannon White, one of her primary opponents.

“We made the decision about who to invite before we had a look at the poll,” editorial page editor Keith Runyon tells LEO Weekly. “We’ve issued another invitation since then because (Moxley) fared better than we anticipated.”

Media insiders speculate the board will give Councilmen Tandy and Hal Heiner, R-19, the paper’s official seal of approval in their respective primary contests.

It’s unlikely they will endorse Councilman Jim King, D-10, whom they demanded drop out of the race amid a series of controversies back in December. And the inside chatter says there are still too many unanswered questions about businessman Greg Fischer’s record to risk a thumbs up.

Based on the tone of last week’s interview, it’s also clear Democratic candidate Tyler Allen won’t get the C-J’s nod either.

The Allen campaign knew coming in that it would be a combative discussion with the editorial staff. In February, Allen slammed the board for telling the mayoral candidates to “get with the plan” and support the Ohio River Bridges Project.

For a number of years, Allen — as co-founder of 8664 — has been at odds with the C-J over the bloated, bi-state bridges project. The editorial board’s interview was a continuation of that debate, which frequently took on an argumentative tone.

Most of the hour-long conversation — streamed live online — was eaten up discussing the bridges project, which some observers believe has perpetuated Allen as a one-issue candidate. In response, however, members of Allen’s camp accused the C-J of being the one-issue newspaper.

“Given the different types of questions that Tyler has been asked during the course of the campaign, I was shocked,” says Jason Perkey, Allen’s campaign manager. “We want (the bridges project) to be part of the conversation, but economic development, education and quality-of-life issues, including public safety, weren’t brought up.”

For 40 minutes, the C-J hammered Allen, but Perkey wouldn’t comment on whether he thought the line of questioning was intentional.

“Tyler has shown that he’s more than a one-issue candidate and that he has the capability of talking directly to critics and listening,” Perkey says. “And he demonstrated that he was more than willing to sit at the table with people he disagrees with.”