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July 7, 2010

Jerry's kids

Facts, rumors and political innuendo

The backroom brokering that propelled Deonte Hollowell to replace the late George Unseld ended the Metro Council’s stalemate, but the Jefferson County Democratic Party isn’t pleased with the tradeoff that elected the council’s first independent member.

“It certainly wasn’t something I enjoyed watching as it played out,” says Tim Longmeyer, chairman of the Jefferson County Democratic Party, reiterating his displeasure with the chaotic process.

Last week, the council voted 33 times during a five-hour special meeting before filling the 6th District vacancy. For most of that time, council members were divided between two applicants — former council candidate Ken Herndon, who narrowly lost a primary race to Unseld in 2008, and attorney Neeka Parks-Thompson, a former state government employee.

After being deadlocked for hours, council members worried the appointment might be fumbled into the hands of Mayor Jerry Abramson if they couldn’t agree. Throughout the night, several applicants were touted as compromises until a majority settled on Hollowell, a 31-year-old Pan-African Studies professor at the University of Louisville and a registered independent.

“If we had not picked an alternative, then we’d still be voting and sitting in the council chambers right now,” says Democratic caucus spokesman Tony Hyatt. “It is the council’s responsibility to make that decision. And failing to do so would have been kind of like the (state) legislature not coming up with the budget.”

The appointment, however, did not please Democratic officials, who believe the council should have fulfilled its promise to keep the seat in the party fold after Unseld’s sudden death.

“There were strong Democratic applicants from which to choose, and the party is disappointed that one was not selected,” says Longmeyer. “So we will fulfill our duty and choose a very strong Democratic candidate who will go on to best represent the 6th District.”

Although Hollowell plans to run in the Nov. 2 general election in an effort to retain the seat, a nine-member nominating committee will meet July 10 to discuss potential Democratic challengers.

Longmeyer didn’t indicate who would be at the top of the list, but many speculate it could be Herndon, who was considered the favorite to receive the council’s approval.

Through most of the ballots, Herndon was only one vote shy of being selected, but when the needed 13th vote was finally cast, Councilman Glen Stuckel, R-17, switched his vote back to Parks-Thompson.

“Councilman Stuckel was concerned with the lack of consensus amongst the council for both candidates,” says Republican caucus director Steve Haag. “The thought was could we get somebody that can get 16 votes or more? And Hollowell did that with a majority in both caucuses. And at least the guy doesn’t come in with a chip on his shoulder.”

Though disappointed he was once again unable to nab the seat, Herndon is jockeying for the party’s nomination. However, it is worth noting the party is not required to select from the pool of applicants who submitted their résumés to the council.

“I would think that after 33 consecutive ballots where I got two-thirds of the Democratic caucus vote the entire night would mean something,” says Herndon. “The rest of the Democrats partnered with council Republicans to support an Ernie Fletcher staffer. And as a Democrat, I think that it’s important to know. However, the seat doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to the people of the 6th District.”

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The fact that the Home Builders Association of Louisville barred independent mayoral candidate Jackie Green from participating in the first general election debate angered his supporters, as well as other lovers of democracy.

It turns out Republican mayoral candidate and Councilman Hal Heiner, R-19, also thinks Green’s treatment was unjust.

“When the Heiner Campaign accepted the Home Builders invitation, we were unaware Mr. Green would be excluded from the forum,” Joe Burgan, Heiner’s campaign manager, tells LEO Weekly. “Moving forward, this campaign will urge those planning debates and forums to be as inclusive as possible. Louisvillians deserve an open and honest debate on the issues, and that debate should include
all candidates.”

The campaign of Democrat Greg Fischer did not respond to requests for comment on the matter.

To that, Green says, “I find Fischer to be unresponsive, period. And we should all be troubled by that considering he’s running for mayor. But I think the debates will change, and I think Greg (Fischer) will have agree to it eventually, if we hold his feet to the fire.”

•••

Hoping to shame property owners into fixing up neighborhood eyesores and paying fines, Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin, D-2, has proposed the city begin publishing the names of delinquent property owners in the newspaper.

“It is time to let the community know who is really responsible for the tall grass and blighted buildings you see in a neighborhood,” she says. “From this day forward, we will make every effort to publish names and make everyone aware of just how much money is owed Metro Government, because these people just do not care.”

There are nearly 2,000 vacant buildings with outstanding citations, and Metro government has shelled out hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to maintain abandoned properties throughout the city.

The highest unpaid fine is $104,854.91, says Shanklin.

Several council members have agreed to pool some of their discretionary funds to cover the cost of publishing the names in an effort to embarrass the property owners, much like the successful delinquent child support payments that run in The Courier-Journal.

It’s worth noting that LEO Weekly previously highlighted abandoned buildings — without getting paid — via its “Eyesore” picture that ran each week.