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July 22, 2009

Jerry's Kids

Facts, rumors and political innuendo

And he’s out: Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson is hitting the campaign trail with Gov. Steve Beshear as his Number Two, which leaves behind a ton of possibilities in Metro government.

Most mayoral candidates are going to wait to officially announce, but Louisville businessman Greg Fischer isn’t one of them. The day Abramson made it official, Fischer, 51, a former candidate for U.S. Senate, said he would file his letter of intent before the end of the week.

“I was waiting to see if we were going to have a new direction, and it’s my belief that I’m ready to be involved,” he says. “The city is looking for an outside perspective from a community leader. I don’t have any legacy with City Hall. People want a fresh start.”

Expect official announcements from Metro Council President David Tandy, D-4, and Councilman Jim King, D-10, in the next week or so. It should be interesting to watch them jockey in the Metro Council over the next 10 months.

Already, both shops have kicked up the rhetoric preparing for a collision in the Democratic primary, which could hamper the majority caucus agenda.

Though no one will confirm it with LEO Weekly, we’re hearing Republicans want to get behind former Lt. Gov. Steve Pence for mayor, whom our sources say has the name recognition, fundraising capabilities and independent streak to win.

Regardless of next year’s outcome, council Republicans believe things are going to change for the better. The Abramson weight has been lifted from City Hall’s shoulders.

“Instead of having a council overly concerned with the mayor, any new mayor will have to come to City Hall more than Abramson did,” says Steve Haag, director of the minority caucus. “It might even lead to more cooperation, it might lead to a new perspective and new respect — maybe.”

Our biggest concern in all the excitement and speculation is what to rename the column — any suggestions?

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Councilman Dan Johnson, D-21, didn’t appreciate that we reported he’s “considered vulnerable and wildly ineffective” by GOP officials. Upon reading last week’s Jerry’s Kids, he called colleagues and politicos demanding answers about a possible challenger in 2010. Then the south Louisville Democrat, who was elected chairman of the Democratic caucus this year, called LEO Weekly’s offices asking for our sources. Of course we did not divulge.

“How can you print something like that?” he asked, saying he’s not vulnerable and he’ll prove LEO, Louisville Republicans and everyone else wrong. “I’m one of the most popular, more well-known council members. I’ve won seven elections in a row. It’s pretty ridiculous.”

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Two resolutions introduced by Councilwoman Judy Green, D-1, haven’t gone over that well, despite her good intentions. The first seeks to honor the late Rev. Louis Coleman by renaming 34th Street after the civil rights leader who died last summer.

There’s already a small problem about the proposed Louis Coleman Boulevard — namely, why the measure only asks the Louisville Metro Planning Commission that a portion of the thoroughfare be changed. Green says it had nothing to do with the Portland neighborhood, which heavily opposed a similar attempt led by Coleman to rename 22nd Street after Martin Luther King Jr. back in 2007. Supporters aren’t buying it. They want all or nothing.

“We’ve got to learn to stay in the kitchen and take the heat and fight for what is right,” says Mattie Jones, who marched with Coleman and is executive director of the Justice Resource Center for Social and Economic Change. “I don’t think it will justify Louis Coleman’s legacy by splitting it up. Let’s do it all. The street is too large and too long and the history lies all the way through it.”

Green’s other measure is the sagging pants resolution, which is a big waste of time — although no one will say that on record. Behind the scenes other council members say they have little interest in drafting dress etiquette for Louisville’s youth, but the west Louisville Democrat has pushed for this declaration since January, when she jumped on the “Pull Up Your Pants” campaign.

It’s a worthless movement being encouraged by a handful of squares and supported by curmudgeons who desperately want an official stigma for bad taste approved by city council. Other activists aren’t sure if sagging pants is even worth the debate, given west Louisville’s myriad problems.

“I think we have got way more important stuff to be dealing with than whether or not a kid has got his pants down on his butt,” says Eddie Woods, executive director of the L.I.F.E. Institute, which works with at-risk youth in west Louisville and also closely with Green’s office. “I’m dealing with murder and mayhem everyday. Sagging is the last thing I’m thinking about.”

Initially Green had flirted with drafting an ordinance against sagging, but she may have noticed that similar legislation has been consistently backhanded by the courts on constitutional grounds. The councilwoman was unavailable for comment.