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August 26, 2009

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Facts, rumors and political innuendo

During the course of a recent interview at LEO Weekly, Metro Council President David Tandy, D-4, took a call from his wife, Carolyn, which lasted a few minutes. This detail might seem insignificant, but it sheds light on an issue Tandy seriously considered before announcing his mayoral candidacy — the challenge of balancing family and a political career.

“I think this is a unique opportunity for us here in the city to elect a leader for the first time in the mayor’s position that can bring the community together and focus us around a common vision and direction,” says Tandy, a candidate known more for being conciliatory than confrontational, but who is showing signs of a newfound swagger.

The campaign message is that nice guys finish first, and it’s one of several topics Tandy talked with LEO about, in addition to Obama, Cordish, public housing and the upcoming primary. Here’s an excerpt: 

LEO: Long before Barack Obama there were black mayors in U.S. cities going back to the 1960s. What’s the historical significance of your campaign?

DT: I haven’t really stopped to think about it in that context … I do think, however, from a historic standpoint it will definitely have some significance. For some it will be a sense of pride to say for the first time they have the opportunity to elect an African-American who lives in the West End, but works downtown and has the ability to connect with people across this community.

LEO: Critics say one problem is that you’re too nice and unwilling to rock the boat. Your legislative record bears this out. How do you respond to that assessment?

DT: I respond appropriately to the situations that present themselves. You don’t rock the boat for rocking the boat’s sake. In my opinion there’s a time and a place for everything, and there’s an appropriate way to act. And I believe that my record reflects I’ve acted in a manner that tries to be very deliberate, but allows for a path to be set to where we can see progress is being made.

LEO: Recently you sent a letter to The Cordish Cos. requesting all financial documentation on how it spent a $950,000 loan in tax money. Were you satisfied with your recent trip to their Baltimore offices and what you found?

DT: We went through the receipts from that project and matched up the invoices that were spent on the project with actual checks demonstrating the money was paid. It showed that all of the $950,000 that was lent to the project was spent on it per the agreement.

LEO: Why then did the auditor mention as a caveat that they weren’t able to verify these records?

DT: I would have to let the auditor answer that because there are certain procedures that a certified auditor has to go through in order to give an audit. What I do know about is the procedure I was privy to. I know that the audit wasn’t something where folks went up there, took 30 minutes and just looked at a stack and didn’t go through it and said, “Yep, I think that’s there.” We thoroughly went through each of the documents and asked questions like, “What is this and what does that invoice mean?” We got clarification.

LEO: For the past several years, Metro government has supported replacing public housing with mixed-income neighborhoods. It has largely been a mayoral initiative. What is your view?

DT: I’m supportive of it. The barrack-style housing that we see in Louisville, it was state of the art at the time it was built and it was meant to be temporary. You had a number of people who lived in those homes for a couple years and moved on and into home ownership.

LEO: People who are left there are stuck?

DT: Some people. So you now have pockets of poverty … If you’re able to break those pockets up and able to mix it … you’re having good role models living there for others to see. I live in the Russell neighborhood. What you hope to see is young people going up and down the street and saying, “That’s Mr. Tandy’s house, he’s an attorney, city councilman and running for mayor. I can do that.”

LEO: Things could get ugly in a crowded Democratic primary field. Do you anticipate an ugly campaign?

DT: I don’t think so. You’ve seen it with regard to Democrats that we’re like family. We can fight things out tooth and nail, as in 2008 with the presidential primary. At the end of the day, though, once we had a Democratic nominee we all rallied around that individual. I think that’ll happen in this race.

Check out leoweekly.com to read the full interview