Google Fiber Is Coming To Louisville, City Says Wednesday, Apr 26 2017 

Residents in Louisville Metro may soon have access to Google Fiber.

City officials issued a news release Wednesday assuring the company “will soon begin construction in Louisville” of an ultra high speed internet network.

The announcement comes after years of city officials courting the tech giant to bring its sought-after service to Louisville. It’s considered to be a boon for economic development and affords a certain status city officials contend is critical for attracting businesses and young professionals.

The news release offers few details of Google Fiber’s expected roll out in Louisville and is a stark contrast to the initial announcement some two years ago that the company was interested in expanding to the city. At that time, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer joined a handful of city officials for a public press event downtown that drew fanfare and applause.

A reason for the change in tune could stem from a switch in strategy from Google Fiber, itself, said Jason Hiner, global editor-in-chief for TechRepublic, an online tech publication.

In October 2016, Google Fiber made some big changes to its plan for expanding fiber connectivity in cities across the country. Expansion plans in some cities were put on hold while Google Fiber reassessed the infrastructure needed to make the expansions a reality, Hiner said.

During this time, Google Fiber acquired Webpass, a company focused on wireless internet connectivity. Hiner said it’s likely Google Fiber will utilize this technology for its expansion in Louisville.

“It’s a lot faster and less expensive,” he said.

But with the time and cost savings comes a potential for hesitation, Hiner added.

And that hesitation could be evident in the announcement Wednesday. By downplaying this announcement, Google Fiber and city officials, alike, keep expectations low.

“That way, if this doesn’t work out, it’s not that embarrassing,” Hiner said.

Still, the announcement is a big deal for the tech world, he said.

‘It will change everything’

If Google Fiber holds to the plan to utilize a largely wireless connection model in their deployment of service in Louisville, it could be the first time such infrastructure is used on a city-wide scale, Hiner said.

“It will change everything,” he said.

The essence of the scope would be that residents could forgo the need to have fiber cables strung from utility poles to their homes. Instead, it’s perhaps more likely they’d simply affix an antenna to their home, which would pick up an internet signal beamed from a nearby station, Hiner said.

What’s unknown is how the breadth of this connectivity plan would compare with the initial plan to construct a series of “huts” across the city to which homes would have been connected to. Those “huts” were expected to be able to connect up to 40,000 homes, each, Hiner said.

And another challenge for Google Fiber may be competing with AT&T, the company that’s already racing to establish a foothold of fiber availability in Louisville.

Joe Burgan, a spokesman for the company, said AT&T is “marketing” fiber internet connectivity to some 50,000 locations in Louisville. It’s unclear just how many locations are actually hooked up to fiber, however.

If Google Fiber is successful in Louisville it will certainly be something city officials will celebrate, Hiner said.

They’ve been long pushing for faster internet service in Louisville.

Ted Smith, the city’s former head of civic innovation, said that effort began in earnest in 2012 after Louisville was initially passed over by Google Fiber.

“We went on the offensive,” he said.

Smith said officials pledged to do “everything in our power” to make Louisville a place internet service providers wanted to expand fiber connectivity.

One Touch Make Ready

One of those measures included a controversial city ordinance widely known as “one touch make ready.” The ordinance allows contractors to rearrange existing equipment on utility poles and is considered an essential element in reducing the time and work needed to fit new cabling onto existing poles.

That ordinance, however, led AT&T to file suit against the city, arguing the Metro Council lacks the authority needed to regulate utility pole attachments. Such an ordinance, the company argues, would cause “irreparable harm” by allowing competitor companies to move existing cabling affixed to utility poles.

WDRB reported Louisville Metro government has spent nearly $160,000 in defense of the suit.

When asked if the effort to defend the suit is for naught, considering Google Fiber is leaning towards a wireless-centric expansion in Louisville, Smith said “one touch make ready” is bigger than Google Fiber.

The broader issue, he said, is how local governments can pave the way for telecommunication companies to install infrastructure in a safe, modern, efficient way.

“There’s going to be a lot more construction of things in public spaces as we continue to have more and more microcells in the next generation of technology,” he said. “I see it as part of a bigger story, a bigger journey.”

Hiner, from TechRepublic, said utility poles will continue to be a critical piece of infrastructure for internet expansion for years to come. And, if nothing else, the commitment Louisville Metro government has shown in defending the ordinance garnered the city commitment from Google Fiber to not abandon their plans for local expansion, he said.

“That really is an interesting feather in Louisville’s cap,” he said. “It shows other cities that if they make that priority they can potentially get this type of thing in their community as well.”

Louisville Files Claim Against Ex-Officers Accused Of Abuse Wednesday, Apr 26 2017 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The city of Louisville has filed a claim against ex-Louisville Metro Police Officers Kenneth Betts and Brandon Wood, who are accused of sexually abusing a member of the department’s Youth Explorers program.

The Courier-Journal reports that Monday’s filing demands Betts and Wood pay damages awarded to the plaintiff, identified as N.C. The city is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

The pleading denies the lawsuit’s allegations that the police department failed to train and monitor the officers and concealed the subsequent allegations.

Attorneys for Betts and Wood couldn’t be reached for comment on the claim.

Separately, Betts asked a judge Monday to dismiss the lawsuit saying plaintiff attorney David Yates violated a court order by discussing the case with the press before the lawsuit was unsealed.

Robert Siegel Stepping Down As ‘All Things Considered’ Host In 2018 Tuesday, Apr 25 2017 

Robert Siegel, whose career with NPR has spanned more than four decades, will be stepping down as co-host of NPR’s All Things Considered next year.

One of the most distinctive voices on NPR’s airwaves, Siegel will be leaving the host’s chair in January 2018. He’s hosted the show for 30 years.

“This is a decision long in the making and not an easy one,” Siegel said. “I’ve had the greatest job I can think of, working with the finest colleagues anyone could ask for, for as long a stretch as I could imagine. But, looking ahead to my 70s (which start all too soon) I feel that it is time for me to begin a new phase of life. Over the next few months, I hope to figure out what that will be.”

Siegel started at NPR as a newscaster in 1976. He was a senior editor in NPR’s London bureau and the director of the news and information department before he became host of All Things Considered in 1987.

Siegel “reported from every corner of the country and around the world,” NPR executives said in a statement.

He even reported from Springfield … on The Simpsons.

“He is the consummate student, a person whose quest for the answers has benefitted millions upon millions of listeners over the years,” NPR’s statement says. “He is for all of us, a model of how to be fully engaged in the world, our work, and with his colleagues.”

NPR will be conducting a national search for the next host of All Things Considered.

In addition to Siegel, the show is co-hosted by Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish and Kelly McEvers.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Expect A Lower, Faster Thunder Air Show, Thanks To Clouds Friday, Apr 21 2017 

Thunder Over Louisville organizers spend all year planning the event down to the smallest detail, but Derby Festival spokeswoman Aimee Boyd says the contents of the air show depend on something that’s entirely out of their control: the clouds.

“For any air show, they have a high show, a low show, or a flat show, depending on the cloud ceiling,” Boyd says.

Saturday’s ceiling is not looking high, but that doesn’t mean the show will be less entertaining.

“With a flat show you actually get a little bit closer to the aircraft,” she says. “They’re gonna be flying through the venue a little bit lower, so it’ll be lower and faster.”

The forecast is getting better for Thunder, and rain is predicted to stop before the show starts in the afternoon. But organizers say there’s a plan in place just in case the weather doesn’t cooperate with the Derby Festival kickoff event. 

Boyd says in case of dangerous weather or torrential rain, the air show or fireworks display would be delayed in increments of 30 minutes to wait for the skies to clear up.

If severe conditions developed, spectators would be instructed to take cover under the freeway overpass or if possible, go back to their cars. So if you go, keep an ear open for warnings.

“We have sound systems to let people know,” she says, “and messaging that we would get out to everybody if they needed to exit the venue.”

Thunder-goers should be prepared for the ground to be wet and for possible rain showers. Tarps are allowed in Waterfront Park in case you want to insulate your picnic blanket from the damp grass.

But despite mud, sprinkles, and chilly weather, the show will go on. Boyd says Thunder Over Louisville has never been canceled since it began in 1990.

Thunder Bound? Here Are Some Tips To Help You Along Your Way Friday, Apr 21 2017 

Mother Nature is not likely to be kind to Derby City on Saturday, as forecasters are predicting evening showers with temperatures in the 40s or so.  But soggy weather isn’t likely to deter too many of the hundreds of thousands of people expected for this year’s Thunder Over Louisville.

You know the drill: Thunder Over Louisville is the one of the largest annual fireworks events in the country. It’s the official kick-off to Derby season and will likely be the busiest and most crowded day of the year for downtown Louisville.

In keeping with tradition, if you’re planning to take in some of what Thunder has to offer on Saturday, here are a few tips to help you along:

Familiarize yourself with the Thunder venue map

(click map to enlarge)

Thunder Over Louisville

Thunder 2017 Map

Not only does the map include road closure information, you’ll also find locations for bike parking, food and drink, baby changing stations, etc.

Know What You Can Bring And What To Leave Home

The last thing you want to happen after parking and making your way to the venue is to be turned away because you brought your drone with you. Or your tent. Or your grill. Or your pet raccoon. None of those items are allowed. You’ll find the complete list of what not to bring to Thunder here.

Street Closures

This is a big one. Some downtown streets close Friday morning through Sunday afternoon.

Closed 10 a.m. Friday through 2 p.m. Sunday:

  • River Road from Bingham Way to Sixth Street
  • Bingham Way west from Witherspoon Street (Joe’s Crab Shack) to River Road

Closed 1 p.m. Friday through 9 a.m. Sunday:

  • Witherspoon Street from Preston Street to Brook Street
  • Floyd and Washington North closed — only open to residents
  • River Road from Preston Street to Witherspoon Street

Clark Memorial Bridge (Second Street Bridge) closures:

  • Friday, April 21: All day
  • Saturday, April 22: All day
  • Sunday, April 23: Midnight – 2 p.m.

The complete list of Thunder Over Louisville street closures is here.

Patience, My Friend

This probably goes without saying but Thunder is likely not for you if you don’t like crowds. Last year, 725,000 attended the event. Even if you don’t mind large crowds, bring your patience with you.

For even more information on Thunder Over Louisville 2017, click here.

Sign, Sign, Everywhere A Sign — But What Do They Say About Louisville’s Culture? Friday, Apr 21 2017 

I’m standing on the corner of Lucia Avenue and Bardstown Road with Bryan Patrick Todd — a corner most people in Louisville probably know pretty well, thanks to him. He points to a black brick wall in front of us that’s covered in three big orange words.

“Weird, independent and proud,” Todd says, slicing the air with his hand to punctuate each word.

To the side of those is a slim line of letters that runs down the bricks to spell out the word, “Highlands.” The mural was commissioned in 2012 by the Highlands Commerce Guild, and has since become something of a fixture in the neighborhood.

“I think it really ended up complimenting the building,” Todd says. “And I think when people are driving up and down the road, it’s made for kind of like, sort of a landmark in the Highlands neighborhood.”

Ashlie Stevens | wfpl.org

Bryan Patrick Todd in front of his mural.

And these signs — the ones unique to an area, made by locals — are something that Nikki Villagomez says can tell us a lot about a city.

Villagomez is a designer and the author of the book “How Culture Affects Typography,” a topic she’ll be speaking about next week at an event hosted by AIGA Louisville, the local chapter of the Professional Association for Design.

She first became curious about the topic when she was serving as the president of the South Carolina AIGA chapter. During that time, she suggested doing a “design exchange” with the chapter from Honolulu.

“We boxed anything and everything that had to do with South Carolina, shipped it to Honolulu,” Villagomez says. “They did the same for us. It was literally South Carolina in a box.”

Included in the box were some fun things like a bag of grits and some tea from Charleston, but they also sent examples of pieces designed by South Carolina designers for South Carolina clients.

“On the day of our event, we opened up the box from Honolulu, and it really felt like Honolulu exploded,” Villagomez says.

She continues: “Everyone got leis, they sent sand from Waikiki. But the pieces designed by Hawaiian designers for Hawaiian clients, really you could tell how their culture affected the typography and design choices they were making.”

According to Villagomez, there was lot of sans serif typefaces — the kinds without feet or wings on the letter — and a lot of blues and green. The next year, they did an exchange with Las Vegas.

“Vegas clients by Vegas designers were such a stark contrast from the year before,” she says. “A lot of slab serif, thick typography, a lot of sharp angular, bright colors. Again, their culture plays a part in their design and typography choices.”

Since then, Villagomez — now based in North Carolina — has studied font and typeface all over the world, and takes a look at how local culture and history shape what we see on our signs.

AIGA

Welcome to Schnitzelburg

In preparation for her discussion in Louisville, design professionals from all over the city have sent her images of their favorite local signs. She won’t give away all her findings until the presentation, but one thing stood out to her:

“I got a lot of pictures that have to do with neighborhoods — it seems like the city is very much separated by what neighborhood you’re in,” Villagomez says. “Whereas, for example in comparison, or I guess in contrast, my presentation in Orlando was all about the city of Orlando.”

On that note, Bryan Patrick Todd says he’s painted about seven neighborhood-specific murals across the city.

“Each neighborhood has a uniqueness to it and they’re proud of the differences,” Todd says. “You go to Crescent Hill and the vibe is totally different than the Highlands, and I think that as small as the city is compared to Chicago or New York, we love how different these blocks are.”

Ashlie Stevens | wfpl.org

When Pigs Fly — another of Todd’s neighborhood-specific murals

Villagomez wants to stress that none of these things — whether it’s something small like font choice or something bigger like how we use signage to designate our surroundings — is an accident. It’s all very much rooted in and reinforced by a city’s history and culture.

And she hopes through discussing these distinctions, it will cause people to really notice the constructed world around them.

“Especially for people who are born and raised in the same city where they currently live, it’s very easy to not see the signs around you,” she says.

“How Culture Affects Typography” by Nikki Villagomez will take place on April 27 at the Tim Faulkner Gallery. More information is available here.

Mayor Fischer: Councilwoman’s Call For Police Chief To Resign Is An ‘Insult’ Thursday, Apr 20 2017 

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer on Thursday refused to endorse councilwoman Angela Leet’s call for the police chief’s resignation.

Leet, a Republican, told The Courier-Journal earlier in the day that she’d lost confidence in Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad’s “ability to right the ship.”

“I believe the time has come for a change in leadership,” she told the newspaper.

Conrad has faced a great deal of scrutiny in recent months. Reports of violence have increased and the police department is currently under investigation for reports of sexual abuse within a youth program.

Fischer released a statement Thursday evening, in which he said “laying all of crime and societal problems at the feet of one man is an unrealistic and simple solution to a complex problem.”

“It’s also an insult to the hard working men and women of LMPD that the Chief leads,” he added.

Conrad was hired to lead LMPD in March 2012 after serving as chief of police in Glendale, Arizona. Before that, he spent 25 years working through the ranks in Louisville’s police force, according to his bio on the city’s website.

He works at the discretion of Fischer and his employment hinges not on the Metro Council. Conrad is the city’s highest salaried employee.

The head of the local police union, Dave Mutchler, has also been critical of Conrad, of late.

In November of last year, Mutchler penned a letter to Fischer, in which he said confidence in department leadership was “at an all time low.”

Mutcher wrote that his members have been “disappointed over and over again” by Conrad for his lack of transparency regarding administrative decisions.

“We cannot continue down the current path,” he wrote, citing specific concerns with a lack of officers, and Conrad’s decision to dismantle the department’s flex platoons despite heavy criticism from city legislators.

The police department is the focus of a civil lawsuit that alleges officers working with the youth Explorers Program sexually abused and raped some of the young people involved.

The lawsuit and the police department’s pending criminal investigation into the allegations led Fischer to push the council to hire a private attorney to conduct a parallel inquiry at the cost of $50,000 to taxpayers.

Police data show criminal homicide reports are outpacing last year, which ended with the highest tally in history. Of the reported homicides this year, more than half remain unsolved.

And a vote by police union members late last year showed less than two percent had confidence in Conrad. Experts in policing said such votes are, largely, meaningless and Fischer called the vote “a distraction.”

Fischer’s Dedication To Public Health Questioned During Smoking Ban Debate Thursday, Apr 20 2017 

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s dedication to improving health standards in the city is being questioned as he pushes to add electronic cigarettes and hookah to the city’s smoking ban.

A Metro Council committee called a special meeting Thursday to discuss a proposal that would amend the city’s smoking ordinance to include electronic cigarettes and hookah.

Fischer has called the surge in electronic cigarette and hookah use “a dangerous shift” from traditional cigarettes.

Local health department officials have said adding electronic cigarettes and hookah to the city’s smoking ordinance “will act to protect Louisville Metro’s clean air standards, protect against secondhand exposure to harmful chemicals, and improve enforcement efforts.”

But councilwoman Cindi Fowler, a Democrat from southwest Louisville, questioned why Fischer’s administration is pushing to amend the city’s smoking ban while some factories in Louisville “continue to spew large amounts of dangerous carcinogens on families.”

Fowler said the Air Pollution Control Board, which is under Fischer’s direction, will likely soon approve exemptions to American Synthetic Rubber to loosen requirements related to the release of toxic chemicals into the air.

“That plant has been there a long time, killing people,” Fowler said. “And we are just going to ignore it?”

Late Thursday afternoon, Fischer spokesman Chris Poynter said, “The mayor and his team are deeply committed to improving the city’s health — that’s why we are pursuing adding e-cigs to the smoking ban.”

Matt Rhodes, deputy director for the city’s health department, responded to Fowler during Thursday’s meeting, saying her comment wasn’t “relevant to this discussion.”

“We came here today prepared to talk about the ill-effects of e-cigs and hookah,” he said.

Rhodes added that health officials “haven’t had time” to study issues related to the proposed exemptions for American Synthetic Rubber.

Other council members have also called attention to the APCD’s proposal to approve the request to modify the requirements related to the release of toxic chemicals from the plant in southwest Louisville.

Councilwoman Jessica Green said it’d be a “slap in the face” to residents who live near the plant to approve the modification, according to a recent report from The Courier-Journal.

And on Thursday, Green criticized the disproportionate reaction by city officials to the smoking ban compared with the exemption requested by American Synthetic Rubber.

“Much time and effort has been spent attempting to legislate morality and telling grown consenting adults why they should not smoke e-cigarettes or hookah in establishments that they choose to be in,” Green said on her Facebook page.

“The dog and pony shows and publicity stunts have to stop,” she added. “Stand up for the people who really need protection.”

Public input is being accepted until mid-may on the Air Pollution Control District’s proposal to approve the requested modification.

No Action Taken

As for the proposal to amend the city’s smoking ban, the council committee took no action during their Thursday meeting. Instead, they heard nearly 50 minutes of testimony from supporters of the ban and smoking advocates against the push.

Paul Kiser, associate professor at Bellarmine University, presented the findings of a recent report he conducted on electronic cigarettes and hookah in which he supported Fischer’s push to amend the smoking ordinance.

“What we’re doing is working to denormalize these products,” he said. “That’s been one of the most effective tools we’ve been able to use in the war on tobacco in this country.”

Denormalization, he said, makes the act of smoking “not cool” and therefore leads to less people wanting to smoke tobacco or nicotine products.

Keith Hadley, co-founder of the Kentucky Smoke Free Association, said the proposed amendment needs an exemption for certain businesses that specialize in selling electronic cigarettes and hookah products.

He said the ordinance, as written, would hurt local businesses and such an exemption would allow customers to test products before they buy and reduce the prohibitive nature of the original proposal.

“It’s a good industry with the right intentions,” he said.

The city’s current smoke-free ordinance took effect in January 2008 and banned smoking in buildings open to the public and establishments in which people work. The ordinance defines smoking as “the act of inhaling or exhaling the smoke from any lighted cigarette, cigar or pipe or other combustible tobacco product.”

Committee members will continue considering the proposal and reconvene next month.

Liberian Students Aim For Victory At Robotics Competition In Louisville Thursday, Apr 20 2017 

The 2017 VEX Robotics Worlds Championship is happening this week at the Kentucky Exposition Center. About 1,400 students from around the world will compete.

I went to a rented house in the Beechmont neighborhood in South Louisville earlier this week, where a small team from Liberia was preparing for the competition. Listen to their story in the player above.

Babygirl Jacobs is in the United States for the first time And she’s not into the food here.

“So when I came and they brought the pizza, I lost my appetite because I don’t like it at all,” Jacobs said.

The 12-year-old prefers food from where she’s from in Liberia — food like cassava, bread plantains, and baked fish. But her first trip to the U.S. isn’t about cuisine. She’s here to win at the VEX Robotics competition.

“Yes, I’m gonna win the competition because there are many strategies that we put together from Liberia and we have come to prove ourselves,” she said.

Roxanne Scott | wfpl.org

Liberian students practice in Louisville for this week’s robotics competition.

Jacobs and four other students are a part of Wayjah-STEM, a pilot program in Liberia that teaches science, technology, engineering and math education. Since learning about robots, the students have been able to do practical things in their homes. They fix things for their families, like radios or power generators.

Getting the students to compete in a worldwide robotics competition was no small feat. One of the biggest obstacles to teaching these kids 21st century tech skills was Liberia’s past.

The country was engrossed in a 14-year civil war that ended in the early 2000s. That left Liberia’s infrastructure — including its education system — in shambles. According to UNICEF, 80 percent of schools in the country were damaged.

The Wahjay-STEM program started in 2016, and has served 25 students so far. That’s a small dent. But it’s also a step toward training the country’s future engineers — who could maybe rebuild Liberia’s roads and bridges one day.

But first, there’s this week’s competition.

Amazon Surprises West End School Students With Updated Library Wednesday, Apr 19 2017 

Sunender Mann, general manager of Amazon Fulfillment in Jeffersonville, Indiana, stands in front of a group of students who are sitting cross-legged on swaths of stubby seafoam green carpet. They are all wearing bright purple “West End School” t-shirts, which are decorated with their school mascot, a soaring eagle.

“Kids, are you excited today,” Mann asks, holding out a microphone which amplifies an explosion of applause from students, parents and teachers.

Ashlie Stevens | wfpl.org

West End School students

He then makes the announcement that the Amazon Fulfillment Center would be donating over 1,000 books, 16 tablets and new furnishings to the West End School’s library.

Deidre Baliban is the head librarian at the school. She says the library has needed an upgrade for a long time.

“A week ago we had nothing that matched, no furniture that was new,” She says. “Now we can actually have the kids sit at a table, do a lesson there and they don’t have to be on the floor where we had no rugs.”

Baliban says Amazon also provided software that will enable the librarians to check out books electronically, and a searchable database for students that allows them to see all of the available books with the click of a mouse.

Ashlie Stevens | wfpl.org

Some of the new library furniture, tablets and books provided by Amazon Fulfillment.

Mayor Greg Fischer also attended the remodel unveiling, and addressed the students.

“West End School stands for so many things, but one of the things that you guys stand for is compassion,” Fischer says. “This is our ‘Give-A-Day Week of Service,’ and look at these guys from Amazon over here.”

Fischer: “They want to help people and you know what they are asking for? Nothing. They just want you guys to pay it forward.”

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