Eastern High’s marching band gets into the holiday spirit with fundraiser Saturday, Nov 16 2019 

Crowds gathered to show their support while also getting a jump start on holiday shopping.

        

In West Louisville, Nonprofit’s Small Developer Loans Target Vacant Properties Thursday, Nov 14 2019 

The mostly African American neighborhoods of west Louisville were intentionally cut off from investment and homeownership due to decades of discriminatory policies. But these days, there’s a lot of capital going into that area, especially in Russell. Part of that neighborhood has a median income of just slightly more than $9,000.

LHOME, a local nonprofit lender, says it wants to put more capital in the hands of west Louisville residents, many of whom have some of the lowest incomes in the county and suffer from a lack of affordable housing. Its new small developer loans product aims to help people who live in those neighborhoods renovate vacant and abandoned properties for their own use or to rent out affordably.

At an annual meeting on Tuesday, CEO Amy Shir said organizations like LHOME — a Community Development Financial Institution, which is a private lender that lends money to low-income people — weren’t created to fix historic problems like redlining, but they are part of the solution.

“CDFIs were created to provide access to capital for people who were purposefully, intentionally and wrongfully excluded from the economic mainstream,” she said. “Providing access to capital does not solve all of society’s problems. But it is a critical tool for social, racial and economic justice.”

Last month, LHOME launched its business loan product aimed at small developers, with half a million dollars set aside to give loans of up to $30,000. Shir said the loans are aimed at people with a “certain level of sophistication,” perhaps those who have renovated houses before.

One early recipient is Marcus Harris, who runs a nonprofit organization called Pride Leadership Academy where he teaches kids different skills in areas like construction, agriculture and sustainability. He said at the event a loan from LHOME will help him work on a house he bought this year. Previously, he struggled to get loans because he didn’t have a proven track record.

“Having somebody that trusted in us just gave us the opportunity and the resources … to actually get out and do what we needed to create our own sustainability to kind of fund some of the programs that will help us change the community for real,” he said.

Shir said the nonprofit’s preference is to have neighborhood residents invested in these types of properties, rather than outsiders.

“It keeps the culture of the neighborhood for the people who have lived there for generations. If we allow outside speculators to buy up all the properties and own all the stuff, and then drive up the property taxes then the people who have lived in those neighborhoods, who built those neighborhoods, the churches, all the fabric is undermined because people are displaced,” she said.

But can LHOME’s small developer loan product keep people in their neighborhoods? Urban development researcher James Fraser, who has studied gentrification in Nashville, thinks there’s a chance.

“This is a type of program that sounds like it has the potential to create some positive neighborhood change in terms of decreasing for example, abandoned buildings or vacant buildings,” he said.

He said there probably aren’t any direct downsides to LHOME’s small developer loans program, and abandoned buildings clearly have a negative impact on many residents in low-income neighborhoods. But he warned that if lots of these types of efforts happen at once, neighborhoods can change before residents realize it.

“And all of a sudden the neighborhood is viewed by capital investors as a place where they can place their money to make a profit,” he said, “then there have to be additional resources put in play for folks that live there.”

Fixing up vacant buildings can contribute to rising property values, property taxes and rent. And that can make it more difficult for people to continue affording to live in their neighborhoods.

Shir said she is working on an advocacy campaign to encourage state legislators to cap property values for west Louisville residents. State law currently prohibits Louisville from making that kind of change, though it’s something Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has said he has asked for, too. Rent control, another measure some say protects low-earners from rising housing costs, is also illegal in Kentucky.

Regardless, changing the law can take years. And current west Louisville residents say they’re already seeing their neighborhoods change and become less affordable.

Fraser said intervention is needed.

“There needs to be a suite of having related policies that respond to the challenges that low income families face in the area,” he said. “So it’s not only about say, property tax increases, it’s not only about rent price increases, possibly, but it’s really also about making sure that multifamily apartment buildings remain affordable for people.”

Louisville’s eviction rate is nearly double the national average, and without protective policies in place, Fraser said the cumulative effect of developer loans like LHOME’s could have an unintended consequence: forcing people out of their homes.

New Murals In Louisville’s Russell Neighborhood Aim To Empower Residents Through Art Thursday, Nov 14 2019 

Artist Kacy Jackson in front of his mural at 800 S Preston StreetA project underway in Louisville’s Russell neighborhood will add four murals to local railroad overpasses to help beautify the area. The artwork is part of Vision Russell, an initiative funded by city and federal dollars to revitalize Russell. 

Russell resident Victor Sweatt is one of the participating artists; he said his passion for art has sometimes, unwittingly, led him to work through the night. Amid dozens of his art pieces in his studio, with sky-blue paint caked onto his fingernails, Sweatt said his mural will focus on the neighborhood’s history. He said many young people do not see themselves in art or television, and he wants to change that through his art. 

“For me, it’s just really about empowering our kids — our people,” Sweatt said. “I’m just giving them a taste like, ‘Here, you can do it too. It’s right here in front of you. It’s right here in front of you. These people grew up in your city. You have access to this.’”

Visual Artist Victor Sweatt next to one of his art piecesKyeland Jackson | wfpl.org

Visual Artist Victor Sweatt next to one of his art pieces

Sweatt’s mural will be on the railroad overpass at 14th and Magazine Street. Artists from VIA Studio and Often Seen Rarely Spoken will paint two others, and Kacy Jackson will paint a mural at 14th and Muhammad Ali Blvd. Jackson’s mural will focus on local figures like retired Louisville Central Community Center CEO Sam Watkins and neighborhood matriarch Lucille Leggett. 

“My goal is basically to uplift the community, [to] put a little more light into that tunnel,” Jackson said. “I want to make sure the kids see it, I want the neighborhood to see it and I want people to actually engage into it.”

Officials expect the murals will be completed in December. There’s a clean-up of the murals’ railroad overpasses planned for this Saturday morning from 9 to 11. The cleanup is open to the public.

Jimmy Carter To Have Surgery To Relieve Pressure On His Brain Tuesday, Nov 12 2019 

Former President Jimmy Carter is to undergo surgery in Atlanta Tuesday morning to relieve pressure on his brain that was caused by bleeding from two recent falls, the Carter Center says.

Carter, 95, was admitted to Emory University Hospital Monday evening for the procedure, accompanied by his wife, Rosalynn.

Carter has had three bad falls this year. On Oct. 21, he suffered a “minor pelvic fracture” after a fall in his Plains, Ga., home. In early October, he was left with a pronounced black eye after another fall. And in May, he broke his hip as he prepared to go turkey hunting, resulting in hip replacement surgery.

Despite his injuries, Carter has maintained a busy schedule, building houses with his Habitat for Humanity charity and making public appearances. He also regularly teaches Sunday school at the Maranatha Baptist Church in his hometown in southwest Georgia.

Carter is the longest-lived U.S. president, and he is also a cancer survivor, having been successfully treated for brain cancer that was diagnosed in 2015.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

At Louisville’s Parade, Veterans Define ‘Patriotism’ Monday, Nov 11 2019 

Louisville 2019 Veteran's Day ParadeHundreds of people gathered to recognize current military members and veterans Monday as part of Louisville’s annual Veterans Day parade.

More than 70 organizations participated in the parade, marching and driving down Main Street to promote awareness for military members and their service. Johnny White, who has  served in the army for more than 18 years, said it was nice seeing recognition for veterans. Asked to define patriotism, White said anyone who has served in the military is patriotic and that patriotism is allegiance to the country rather than the Commander-in Chief. 

“I think more people are more glued to the heritage of the country and not the people in office, so that makes it a little bit more important,” White said. “If people jump off the bandwagon of the United States just because of somebody who’s in office, they’re not a true patriot.”

Army Servicemember Johnny White at the Louisville 2019 Veteran's Day ParadeKyeland Jackson | wfpl.org

Army Servicemember Johnny White at the Louisville 2019 Veteran’s Day Parade

Erwin Roberts is in the Army Reserves, and he said patriotism means honoring the country and people who have served it.

“[Patriotism] means a lot. I believe that our country is the greatest country in the world and those who have served and made the ultimate sacrifices for the country – it’s very important that we honor them,” Roberts said.”Whether you served or if you haven’t served, just recognizing that’s being patriotic and being proud to be Americans.”

Army Reservist Erwin Roberts at the Louisville 2019 Veteran's Day ParadeKyeland Jackson | wfpl.org

Army Reservist Erwin Roberts at the Louisville 2019 Veteran’s Day Parade

Louisville 2019 Veteran's Day Parade
Louisville 2019 Veteran's Day Parade
Louisville 2019 Veteran's Day Parade
Louisville 2019 Veteran's Day Parade
Louisville 2019 Veteran's Day Parade
Louisville 2019 Veteran's Day Parade
Louisville 2019 Veteran's Day Parade
School kids wave flags at Louisville's 2019 Veteran's Day Parade
Officers line up prepared for a ceremony at the Louisville 2019 Veteran's Day Parade
Louisville 2019 Veteran's Day Parade
Mayor Greg Fischer speaking at the Louisville 2019 Veteran's Day Parade
Louisville 2019 Veteran's Day Parade
Louisville 2019 Veteran's Day Parade, America, American flags

Louisville Proceeds With Golf Course Management Bids Following Greens Fee Hike Friday, Nov 8 2019 

The Louisville Metro Council passed a measure last month to raise greens fees in an attempt to sustain all of the city’s 10 struggling public golf courses. But Mayor Greg Fischer’s administration is planning to move ahead with a request for proposals for outside golf course management.

The city received 13 responses to its request. Officials expect evaluation of the proposals to be done by the middle of November, with any successful contracts in place by the end of the year. No council members will serve on the evaluation committee, city officials said in a recent letter to Council President David James.

If the city does not decide to award contracts for any golf courses based on the RFP, Metro Parks and Recreation will run those courses until the administration selects a management company.

The council’s fee hike measure last month won 22 of 26 votes, and made it a requirement to employ a golf pro at each city-owned course. The pros are also allowed to submit proposals to manage public golf courses.

Councilwoman Cindi Fowler, of District 14, led the effort to increase greens fees with the legislation passed in October. Most of the city’s 10 courses have failed to break even or make a profit in recent years.

She is skeptical that outside management companies would help the courses.

“It’s just important that we don’t block ourselves in with a management company that is going to come from another state and take the revenue from our courses,” she said.

One organization that submitted a proposal is straying from the script: the nonprofit Olmsted Parks Conservancy said it wants to convert Cherokee Golf Course into park land and merge it into the adjacent Cherokee Park.

Fowler is critical of Olmsted’s decision to publicly share its proposal, and to run a survey asking about during the RFP period. She called the moves “reckless,” and suggested the nonprofit is trying to sway decisions.

Olmsted president and CEO Layla George declined to respond directly to that criticism. She said the proposal and survey are meant to give people an alternative to the binary choice of either closing a course or keeping it open.

“There’s nothing on the other side,” she said. “So this is a way for us to sort of gauge public opinion and say, ‘OK, if you want something else on these golf course properties, then make your voice heard.'”

So far, more than 1,200 people have responded to the survey, including current and former golfers, as well as those who don’t golf. The vast majority of them are in favor of turning Cherokee Golf Course back into a park, an Olmsted representative said.

 

Louisville Police Chief: Gunman At Portland Kroger Shot, Killed Friday, Nov 8 2019 

Louisville Metro Police officers responding to an active shooter at a Louisville supermarket shot and killed a man with a gun, their police chief said.

Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad said officers arriving at a Kroger Thursday evening found “a man firing a gun and firing shots outside the entrance of the store.”

Conrad says the man shot at the officers, who returned fire, killing him. His name hasn’t been released. No other injuries were reported.

The chief said officers were near the store and “able to respond very very quickly.” He said it apparently began with “an altercation in the store between two men.”

Customers and workers scrambled for safety, he said: “Some were able to flee, others sheltered in place.”

Police brought in buses to keep witnesses out of the weather while they could be interviewed, Conrad said. He planned another press conference Friday and said body camera video would be released.

Kroger said it was “deeply saddened” in a statement obtained by WHAS-TV. The store in Louisville’s Portland neighborhood will remain closed until the investigation concludes.

Business Leader Hopes Regulatory Sweep Will Help Clean Up Bardstown Road Monday, Nov 4 2019 

The first of two codes and zoning enforcement sweeps of Louisville’s popular Bardstown Road commercial corridor is set to take place this week.

Proponents of the plan say it will help bring owners who fail to take care of their properties into compliance with city regulations. About a dozen enforcement officials will visit every property on Bardstown Road and Baxter Avenue in the Highlands to examine the exteriors for violations and encourage property owners to fix them.

Some will be cited and given a period to rectify issues before receiving fines.

Councilman Brandon Coan (D-8), who represents the district, said the sweep isn’t intended to punish property owners. He wants them to realize their health and safety violations and fix them.

“We’re really hopeful that we’ll be able to take care of any problem properties and incentivize some other people to make improvements to theirs,” he said.

There isn’t a single type of problem property, said Aaron Givhan, the president of the Highland Commerce Guild. He said vacant properties as well as those owned by non-local entities can rack up issues, ranging from gathering trash to overgrown grass.

“I wish I could say, ‘All vacant properties, if we just took care of that our problems are solved,'” Givhan said. “That’s not true.”

Givhan said he and others in the business community support the sweep because it will create a baseline assessment of issues on the popular stretch known for restaurants, retail and small businesses.

“This is a logical, methodical way of going at a baseline to where you can say, ‘All right, this person was made aware that there is an issue and then, has it been fixed? Yes or no?'” he said.

Recently, some including Coan, have said the area is in decline. Online records from the city show that code enforcement visits and violations are up for this area compared to the first 10 months of last year.

“The road has become more hostile to pedestrians and bicyclists, more littered. The historic fabric has been disturbed by strip malls and big boxes,” Coan wrote in a September newsletter.

Givhan said he has been around Bardstown Road for more than 30 years, often as a volunteer cleaning up the stretch. That kind of maintenance has been an issue stretching back to the 1970s, he said.

“This is the first time I can remember that they took the whole strip, and they’re going to find out, you know, visually find out where the trouble spots are,” he said.

The sweep will also help identify which properties are vacant, which are owner-occupied and which are owned or leased. And Givhan said that can give leaders a way to figure out which programs can help property owners address the issues. Other efforts, such as plans to improve traffic on the busy road, could also help.

Coan said he is working with Louisville Forward, the city’s economic development agency, to educate business and property owners about local loan programs that can help them pay for improvements.

Robert Kirchdorfer, the director of Metro Codes and Regulations, said in a statement that the department conducts these types of sweeps across the city in response to concerns raised by neighborhood residents, business owners and elected officials. He said those groups raised health and safety concerns, which inspectors will attempt to address through the sweep.

Inspectors are slated to complete another sweep in the same area next spring.

Shawnee students collect, pass out supplies to homeless Sunday, Nov 3 2019 

Students spent part of their weekend giving back to those who need it the most.

        

Comment Period Ends For Proposal That Would Cut SNAP Benefits For Millions Friday, Nov 1 2019 

Friday is the last day for the public to comment on a proposed rule change by the Trump administration that would eliminate Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, or food stamps, for more than 3 million people.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture also recently admitted that the plan would mean that almost a million children would no longer automatically qualify for free school lunches.

In a new analysis released two weeks ago, the USDA says that almost half of those children would likely get free lunches, but only if they reapply to the school lunch program. The agency estimates that another half would likely qualify for reduced-price meals, instead of free ones, and that about 40,000 children would lose free lunches altogether because their family incomes exceed eligibility limits.

Opposition to the proposal has been strong, with almost 170,000 comments from the public so far, most of them negative.

“There is no excuse that in our first world country we have children who are malnourished,” Eric Failing, executive director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, wrote in a typical comment. “Yet this proposed rule, rather than helping to address these issues, will make them far worse.”

Failing says an estimated 200,000 Pennsylvanians would lose food stamps if the proposed rule goes into effect.

The Trump administration says that it’s trying to close a loophole in current law, which gives states the flexibility to waive certain asset and income limits for individuals who are receiving both SNAP and other welfare benefits. Most states take advantage of these waivers, in part because it makes it easier to administer safety-net programs, which often have different eligibility requirements.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said when announcing the proposed rule change this summer that food stamps should be a “temporary safety net” for low-income families. He said the administration wants to move people off of government aid and into the workforce so they can become more self reliant.

Perdue also noted that the change – which involves something called “broad-based categorical eligibility” — would save an estimated $2.5 billion a year from the SNAP program. Currently, the federal government spends about $4 billion every month to provide food stamps to more than 36 million people.

The SNAP eligibility proposal is one of several the administration has made over the past year to cut assistance for low-income families. Among other things, the administration has proposed imposing tougher work requirements on able-bodied childless adults who receive SNAP benefits. It also wants to change the way a family’s utility costs are calculated in determining the size of their monthly food stamp benefit. The latter change alone would save the government an estimated $4.5 billion over five years.

None of these proposals has gone into effect yet, and all have been fiercely opposed by a broad coalition of anti-poverty advocates, social service providers and state and local government officials.

Congressional Democrats were especially annoyed when USDA released its new estimates last month on how many children might lose their free school lunches under the proposed SNAP changes. The numbers were twice as large as earlier estimates and came out after an initial public comment period on the rule change had ended. The administration agreed to reopen the comment period for an additional 14 days as a result.

But opponents of the change were not appeased. “After waiting months for this analysis, we now have learned that the rule will be even worse for students and families than we originally understood, and the Department still has not fully accounted for the ripple effects of its proposal,” Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., chairperson of the House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services, told an administration witness at a hearing Oct. 16.

Bonamici also said that in addition to eliminating automatic enrollment of close to a million children in the school lunch program, the proposed change could affect schools that take advantage of a program that allows them to provide free lunches to all of their students — regardless of income — because so many are poor. The purpose is to simplify administering the program and to avoid the stigma for those getting free lunches.

A new study by the Urban Institute this week backs Bonamici up. It finds that, if the proposed rule goes into effect, schools attended by 142,000 students would no longer be eligible for the school-wide free lunch program. The study concludes that many more schools would see a drop in the funding they get from the federal government as reimbursement for providing the free meals.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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