TARC Will Use $17 Million Federal Grant To Replace Buses From The Late 90s Sunday, Dec 1 2019 

Louisville’s public transit system could soon replace some of its oldest and least efficient buses with the award of a $17.3 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration.

The Transit Authority of River City is one of seven local transit systems across the country to receive a grant of that size, the largest awarded, in this round of the FTA’s Bus and Bus Facilities Projects.

LaPrecious Brewer, TARC’s communications coordinator, said the agency will use the funding to take more than three dozen 1998 model buses off the road.

“Some of them have over 800,000 miles,” she said. “It’ll help us to improve our efficiency.”

Brewer said TARC is still determining what types of buses it will purchase. Its 227-bus fleet is made up of mostly diesel buses. It has 35 hybrid and 15 electric buses, the latter of which are used for free downtown circulator routes. She said that program, called LouLift, probably would not be expanded.

Electric buses are the most expensive, while diesel are the least, she said. The range is about $500,000 to close to $1 million per bus.

The older buses require more maintenance, are less fuel-efficient and produce more emissions, so replacing them could provide a cost savings for TARC, Brewer said.

TARC’s budget is under pressure as it strives to maintain service levels amid declining revenue and ridership.

According to its budget for the fiscal year 2019, TARC budgeted nearly $30 million of federal funding for its fiscal year 2019 capital budgets. Its total capital budget was more than $37 million.

Brewer said federal funding makes up about 15 percent of TARC’s overall revenue.

“Any funding opportunity that we get makes a huge difference,” she said. “Federal funding is is very important.”

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, whose husband Mitch McConnell represents Kentucky in the Senate, said in a press release that buses are how millions of Americans access work, healthcare and other vital services.

Another TARC spokesman, Jeremy Priddy, said the agency received slightly less than it asked for it its grant application. He said TARC does not have a relationship with Chao.

In Louisville, commuting by bus can add hours of travel time compared to driving a car. TARC says it has more than 41,000 daily riders.

Tracing Water, Memory And Change Through Black Experiences Along And Near Route 65 Saturday, Nov 30 2019 

I live right above the Ohio River, off of a thoroughfare called the Ohio River Boulevard. It is one section of Route 65 – a 51-mile stretch of highway that travels from downtown Pittsburgh, northwest to the city of New Castle. The route spans three counties, three major rivers and several neighborhoods, boroughs, towns and tributaries as it makes its way through Western Pennsylvania’s industrial belt.

For me, living so close to the Ohio River evokes mixed feelings. The river trail that I like to walk along near my apartment is scenic, yet long stretches of it are flanked by the railroad, warehouses and industrial sites on either side. At home, I drink water from a filtered pitcher because of years of elevated lead levels in Pittsburgh’s water, and I regularly learn about new water threats in the region. I feel a constant push and pull between the things that are good for me and the things that can harm me, but I know my perspective is just one of many.

Njaimeh Njie

View of Route 65 from Ambridge, Pa.

My work focuses on how history shapes the contemporary experiences of Black people in the industrial Midwest, and I’ve been thinking about water as a gateway to explore the deeper forces that shape the lives (and livelihoods) of Black people in this region. Black residents have traditionally lived close to the waterways — sometimes by choice, but often because of racist housing and land-use policies. Over the years, the proximity to water allowed access to transit, jobs, bathing, washing, fishing and leisure, but it also placed these communities at a disproportionate risk for flooding, pollution, disease and other issues caused by water.

This history is encapsulated in the area that Route 65 spans. Like the rivers, it is a sort of connective tissue, linking people and places across the region. I set out to talk to Black residents living in communities along and near Route 65 about where they live and their experiences in these places, in the context of their connections to water. What you’ll read and see isn’t a definitive account of Black life in this area. Instead, it will present the stories of a few people, in a few places, and uses water as an entry point to the complex social, political and economic context of the region.

Olivia Bennett – Northview Heights, Pittsburgh

Njaimeh Njie

Olivia Bennett on Mt. Pleasant Road in Pittsburgh’s Northview Heights neighborhood. Bennett won the Nov. 5 election for the District 13 seat on the Allegheny County Council.

“I describe [environmental justice] as being very mindful of what our actions each day, in our livelihoods, how that impacts our environment… But, I also look at it as how it impacts different communities in different ways. A lot of these pollut[ing] plants … they typically go into areas that are predominantly poor and predominantly communities of color. They try to build pipelines on sacred land. If you want the benefits from these plants to benefit the whole, then why are we not putting these plants in other places? Why are they specifically targeted to go to places that can’t typically advocate for themselves?

“One of the things I’ve been fighting [in Northview Heights] is slow repairs. I mean, my courtyard always floods every time it rains. They’re supposed to be redoing it. They were supposed to be doing it for the last five years. So that type of thing, those types of fights. Just because we are living in public housing does not make us any less human. …How can we make sure that everybody’s coming along at the same rate to be able to fight against this? What creativity can we come along with to allow people to take ownership and be given the tools?”

Njaimeh Njie

Beaver Avenue in the Woods Run area of Pittsburgh, located in Allegheny County District 13. The State Correctional Institution–Pittsburgh (pictured left) was closed in 2017, but it operated in this location as the Western Penitentiary from 1882-2005. The Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN) complex (pictured center) was opened adjacent to the prison in 1959, as the largest water sewage treatment center in the United States to that date. The aging city infrastructure contributes to ongoing water quality issues.

Jamie Younger – Woods Run/Brighton Heights, Pittsburgh

Njaimeh Njie

Jamie Younger owns and operates Young Brothers Bar, pictured on the corner of Woods Run and McClure avenues, on the border of the Woods Run and Brighton Heights neighborhoods of Pittsburgh. Young Brothers sits about a mile from the county’s ALCOSAN water treatment facility.

“Historically, Black people didn’t cross over Woods Run Avenue in my father’s time. At the time I went to [high school], when we came out of school at the end of the day, it seemed like the Black people walked right, and the white people walked left down this way. I never made that left, even to explore or venture. I bought a house up here after getting outta college and been here ever since.

“When I first moved up here, when the wind blew, the smell was vicious. It would stop you in your tracks, and you’d be like, ‘Oh that ALCOSAN stinks.’ I don’t know what they’ve done over the years to mitigate that because it’s not as bad … except maybe after a lot of rain and then the wind blows. But I haven’t said that in a while.

“…It definitely keeps evolving geographically where Black folks are at. Black folks are finding it hard to live in the city. They’re finding it hard to find affordable housing within the city, and they’re going out to places like McKees Rocks … out into Beaver County, Ambridge. So it’s like, I don’t know — unless you own a home, I don’t know where you’re gonna go soon in the city, especially within the North Side of the city. It’s definitely becoming a challenge to find affordable, quality spaces to live within the city boundaries. It’s forever changing.”

Njaimeh Njie

Jamie Younger working inside Young Brothers Bar.

Terry Stenhouse – Ambridge, Pa.

Njaimeh Njie

Terry Stenhouse (left) works with Lethera Harrison behind the counter of Annie Lee’s Southern Kitchen.

“I’ve always been kinda leery about the quality of the drinking water. I went to school, I took my apprenticeship. I’ve been doing plumbing off and on since I was like 19. You know, working on the pipes and seeing cross sections of different pipes, and even when I was in the military and I purified water, I’ve always been kinda skeptical about the testing and the quality of the water. I really don’t have too much faith in the purification process, but once the water is purified and they run it through the piping system, in my eyes, it’s re-contaminated.

“You know, we all need water. It’s essential for life, so everyone’s connected to it … but at the same time, lately [for] something that’s supposed to be essential to life, [it] has been causing a lot of health problems. I mean we deal with water every day here at the restaurant. We cook with water, we have a filter on it. I just think we need to get better with the water all around. I don’t really think that it’s anyone’s fault to blame, because when these systems were put in, the information we have now wasn’t available. I don’t think it was done on purpose … it’s just being swept under the rug in terms of correcting the problem. So that’s what I think.”

Njaimeh Njie

Annie Lee’s Southern Kitchen, owned by Terry Stenhouse, is pictured on the left side of Duss Avenue facing 16th Street in Ambridge, Pa.

Elizabeth “Betty” Asche Douglas – Rochester/Beaver Falls, Pa.

Njaimeh Njie

View of Route 65 and the Ohio River from Rochester, Pa.

I was born in Rochester, Pa., not too far from where we’re sitting right now. I was born in 1930. Rochester, in the 19th century, was one of the most important towns around because it’s at the point where the Ohio River turns to go southwest. It gets to Rochester and the Beaver River runs into the Ohio at that point. And that’s why today Rochester has five major highways that go through it because of that juncture. It was also because the trains.”

Njaimeh Njie

Elizabeth “Betty” Asche Douglas is an art-culture historian, retired professor, artist and jazz performer. Here she is pictured in her studio in Rochester, Pa.

“My father was an electronic technician. He started out as a radio man, repairing and making radios and so forth. How we got to Beaver Falls, I don’t know, but my first memories of life were in the first house we lived in in Beaver Falls, because it was on First Avenue. Across the street from First Avenue were the railroad tracks, and across from the railroad tracks was the river. So one of my earliest memories is of my father taking me by the hand and walking me down First Avenue, towards the train station there, and it was during the spring of the year of the great floods in Western Pennsylvania — ’37, I think. He said, ‘When the water gets up to there [she indicated the high-water level with her hand] we will have to leave.’ So my first childhood memory is watching the river in the springtime to see how high the water was getting because the houses on First Avenue would be the first ones to go over.

“The river was very important to Black boys especially because there were no swimming pools in Beaver Valley that would allow Black boys to swim in them. So every year there would be a Black kid that drowned in the river because they went down to the river to swim. I don’t think the people thought about pollution in those days. And I don’t know how garbage or waste or sewage was treated. When you’re a kid, you don’t think about that. The only thing you knew is you flushed the toilet and it goes away. Where it goes, you don’t think about.”

Njaimeh Njie

The present-day view of Elizabeth “Betty” Asche Douglas’ childhood street — First Avenue at 11th Street — in Beaver Falls, Pa.

Tyrone Zeigler – Beaver Falls, Pa.

Njaimeh Njie

The grounds of the shuttered elementary school in Tyrone Zeigler’s childhood home of Koppel, Pa. The basketball court and playground that were once on the property no longer exist.

“[I’m] originally from New York, but I grew up about a mile down the road from the pool, a place called Koppel. Small town. [Growing up in] Koppel, Beaver Falls, New Brighton — there was always something to do. You could always find a pickup game when it came to basketball or baseball, Wiffle ball … I used to pass here all the time, drive past, ride my back past, because I used to ride my bike all the way from Koppel to New Brighton, just to go play basketball. So I used to ride by and see tons of people outside. The city had owned the property. Trying to maintain the city and the property became too much for them, so they turned the pool over to the YMCA. That just became too much, so they just decided to shut it down.

“I just turned my life around six years ago. So before all that it’s been my dream to re-open all of this, but I didn’t know how — and I knew people wasn’t gonna take a drug dealer serious. As I kept growing and maturing, I saw that people started respecting me a lot more. I seen that I was getting my reputation back. So I was riding by one day and … I just took a glance at it and a light bulb went off, and I said, ‘I believe that I can pull this off.’ And three years later, [we’re] super close.

“My vision is to get these kids off the street. My vision is to give them some type of structure. What about the kids that don’t play football, that don’t play baseball, that don’t play basketball? What about the kids that the parents don’t have the funds at all? So all they got is these drug dealers that’s their influences and the streets that’s their influences. Nobody’s really thinking about that. That was my biggest problem, being a follower. Now I’m a leader, and I’m trying to give them a blueprint so they don’t have to take that same path that I took. This is a start right here. I’m here. I’m not going anywhere either.”

Njaimeh Njie

Tyrone Zeigler outside of the Beaver Falls wave pool. Zeigler is project manager of the Tigerland Wave Pool initiative, through the Beaver County Community Development Corporation. Zeigler is spearheading fundraising efforts to repair and re-open the pool.

 

Rev. William Hogans – New Castle, Pa.

Njaimeh Njie

Rev. William Hogans is the pastor of St. Luke A.M.E. Zion Church. The entrance to St. Luke is pictured, overlooking the West Side of New Castle with a view of the Resco Products New Castle plant in the background.

“My father worked in the steel mills. So did my grandfather and so did my uncle. …[The Shenango] is the river that goes down through the middle of New Castle. So, because of the way that the [mills] would use the water, the river was extremely polluted. It was something you ignored. We just know that oftentimes we did not use the water. We never drank from the water. There was a place that we could swim. It was called El Rio Beach, which is funny, ’cause it’s … still considered to be in the middle of New Castle.

“People — Black people especially — would go in the summertime, and we would run across and splash across. If the water was high enough, we’d ride the rapids down across the rocks in the creek. When the rain would come, the sewers would wash out and we’d play in the open sewers they were developing ’cause the water was clean, and it was flowing. Very dangerous. We didn’t realize it, but that’s what we did to keep cool in the summer.

“When I was 17, 18 years old, I left here because the economic plight was so bad. It was so hard to get a job. You know the steel mills, they fluctuated like the tide. Some days you could not not get a job. And then there were other times where they would do layoffs and shutdowns and cut back on production. By the time 1975 came around, when I was getting ready to graduate, there was nothing for me to do as a Black person that I knew of except for work in the grocery store or flip burgers.

“[Now] I’m assigned here, by our Bishop and my vision of God. I wanna do things that make health happen. I want to create a garden — two of them. There are natural springs in New Castle. I want to create a water treatment plant where we create our own bottled water. My hope for the role of the church is that we awaken people to the need for economic and spiritual and social empowerment. New Castle has declined. It’s shrunk in population base. The population is much older. That’s the challenge for the church: how to be a relevant agent of change for the better, where harmony and a healthy existence can occur. And my vision and hope is to create that.”

Njaimeh Njie

Rev. William Hogans is pictured addressing the congregation at St. Luke during the kickoff gospel event for the church’s 175th anniversary weekend celebration in September 2019.

Payne-Booker-Burley families – New Castle, Pa.

Njaimeh Njie

The Neshannock Creek from Jefferson Avenue in New Castle. This location is a popular fishing destination that particularly draws activity during trout season in the spring.

Octavia Payne: “I’m from North Carolina and I met my husband at Knoxville College. We were married and we came here to New Castle in 1970. New Castle was my husband’s home. I had my baby with me, and that was Ursula. And we came here, we taught school here for 35 years. We had an uncle, Big Jim, who, when we first moved here, we stayed with him. And I remember how rusty the water was because he had well water. We drank it; it was good water! He had big picnics out there, a garden — he had a green thumb. He had a lot of property out there, he liked to cook, and his water was good.”

Paulette Booker: “Back then, all our family outings was at his house. I came from Pensacola, Fla. I came up here in January of 1963. This is my father’s home, and I’ve been here ever since. When we were in Florida, we were always surrounded by family and having family get-togethers and family fun, and then when we came here, it was the same thing, so the transition wasn’t as bad. And we grew up fishing, too.”

Ursula Payne: “My stories about water are kind of folkloric tales. I don’t want to say folklore because [my stories] are true, but I always remember the story of my grandfather’s brother … who drowned in the Shenango River. I remember family telling stories about that. It was always, ‘That’s why you don’t go by the river or go swimming in the Shenango River because you can get caught up in the currents.’ So I remember some of those tragic stories. And the other thing about water I remember is my father, he used to fish all the time. My father and my Uncle Lenny.”

Njaimeh Njie

Pictured left to right: Paulette Booker, Octavia Payne, Ursula Payne, Carl Booker and James Burley, Jr., in Ursula Payne’s New Castle home. Octavia Payne is a retired educator and co-founder of the Diamond Girls youth program in New Castle. Her daughter Ursula is the chairperson of the Department of Dance and director of the Frederick Douglass Institute at Slippery Rock University. Paulette and Carl Booker are close relatives of the Paynes, and James Burley Jr. is a friend and former classmate of Ursula Payne.

James Burley Jr.: “[I was] born and raised in New Castle, my whole life. I started going fishing, and that’s the main thing I do with water. I’d walk the whole Neshannock Creek. …We were pulling in all kinds of fish at the time and then all of a sudden they made some regulations and they blocked it off, so we weren’t allowed to go for a while. So then we started going to the Shenango River and started doing really good in the Shenango River, then all of a sudden they started blocking, fencing that off, so we couldn’t go. There were warnings: Don’t eat the fish because of all the mercury. We did it for the fun anyway; we didn’t really care about eating them.”

Carl Booker: “The water wasn’t safe. Most of [the pollution] came from [the factories] up in the Sharon area, but they never update nothing. They put [the warnings] out what, four years ago? They haven’t updated it. They say it’s still not good, though. I was born and raised here. I don’t do nothing ’round the water ’round here [now], but when I was younger we used to swim in it. I lived on the tracks. The West Side, that’s what we called it … where the bypass is now.”

Octavia Payne: “There was a whole development down there. Not one house down there now. It’s highway. They wiped out a whole community down there — but the river’s still there.”

Njaimeh Njie

West State Street as it becomes West Falls Street on the West Side of New Castle. The Shenango River (unpictured) flows through this section of the community, where many were displaced as a result of city redevelopment plans.

Njaimeh Njie, the author and photographer, is a multimedia producer and founder of the nonfiction storytelling company Eleven Stanley Productions. Njie was named the 2018 Emerging Artist of the Year by the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, and her work has been featured in outlets including CityLab, HuffPost Black Voices, and the Carnegie Museum of Art Storyboard blog. More information can be found at njaimehnjie.com.

Good River: Stories of the Ohio is a series about the environment, economy and culture of the Ohio River watershed, produced by seven nonprofit newsrooms. To see more, please visit ohiowatershed.org.

Don’t forget about Small Business Saturday Friday, Nov 29 2019 

It's the 10th annual Small Business Saturday. It encourages customers through the doors of small businesses.

        

Officials Consider Some Changes To Ease Westport Road Traffic Friday, Nov 29 2019 

It’s 3:30 on a Monday afternoon and traffic on Westport Road isn’t heavy yet. But it is fast. And loud.

Standing in a shopping center whose parking lot has four different entrances, District 7 councilwoman Paula McCraney said the road isn’t as big as it seems. It’s the site of many crashes, especially rear-endings.

“The street is not that wide,” she said. “It’s two lanes on each side and there is a center aisle on most of Westport Road and it’s challenging at best.”

That’s why local officials hope the busy corridor could be getting a few updates to address traffic and safety concerns. They’re soliciting public feedback through meetings and an online survey, where they’re proposing improvements to six areas of concern. Those are based on a study of the road from Hubbards Lane to Chamberlain Lane.

McCraney says work could begin within two years, but first she needs to find funding. She hopes to get it from the state.

“We’ve been working with the state Transportation Cabinet, so they are aware of the needs” she said. “They helped with the study. So it’s just a matter of getting in line for the funding.”

Amina Elahi | wfpl.org

District 7 councilwoman Paula McCraney said this shopping center parking lot would be safer with fewer driveways.

One of the problem areas is the shopping center near Goose Creek Road. The proposal includes reducing the driveways, which McCraney said could streamline traffic.

Andrew Harp, who works at Cox’s Spirit Shoppe and Smoker’s Outlet in the shopping center, said that change could lead to mixed results.

“There’s been a car accident right here,” he said, pointing to a driveway next to the shop, “between this little white car pulling in and another car trying to exit our entrance.”

He said people try to pull in through the exit often. But being right up against the busy road sometimes benefits the business, too: Sometimes people stuck in traffic spot the liquor store and decide to wait out the congestion there.

What Harp said that section of Westport Road really needs is a traffic signal. And one of the city’s proposals is to add one at the nearby intersection with Langdon Drive.

McCraney acknowledged the limited proposal isn’t enough to address all of the road’s traffic and safety issues. She said her constituents have been asking for changes here for years. Coming up, city officials will provide a summary of a public meeting earlier this month incorporating feedback along with the original plan.

The six proposals are:

  • Eliminating left turns from Dove Creek Boulevard and Bayberry Place onto Westport Road;
    Adding a traffic and crosswalks at Langdon Drive, along with decreasing the number of driveways to the nearby shopping center;
    Lengthening the eastbound turn lanes onto Hurstbourne Parkway;
    Pedestrian improvements such as new sidewalk and crosswalks through the I‐265 interchange area;
    Installing vertical posts to prevent illegal turns from Westport Road onto an off-ramp from I‐265 to Chamberlain Lane;
    Creating an eastbound right turn lane onto Chamberlain Lane.

What Does Thanksgiving Mean To You? We Asked Some Louisvillians Wednesday, Nov 27 2019 

Thanksgiving is a time for travel, family, sharing stories, arguing about politics and eating. Lots of eating. WFPL spoke with Louisville residents downtown at in the Highlands about their Thanksgiving plans, and why the holiday is important to them. Here’s what they said.

Patrick Burke answering questions about ThanksgivingKyeland Jackson | wfpl.org

Patrick Burke

Patrick Burke’s favorite thing about Thanksgiving is seeing family.

“[My favorite thing is] seeing family you might not have seen for a while. And, definitely, you’ve got to have that good food,” Burke said.

Jaime Rakestrow answering questions about ThanksgivingKyeland Jackson | wfpl.org

Jaime Rakestrow.

For Jaime Rakestrow, it is a certain type of food.

“Mashed potatoes — it’s my favorite food,” Rakestrow said. “I just love mashed potatoes.”

Some residents expect Thanksgiving will be spent on conversations around the dinner table.

Brittany Douglas said her family’s conversations will center around their lives and remembering this year.

Brittany Douglas answering questions about ThanksgivingKyeland Jackson | wfpl.org

Brittany Douglas

“We’ve had a lot of birthdays, a lot of celebrations we’ve just had,” Douglas said. “Probably just life in general.”

Marvin Lewis Jr. said his family will talk about anything and everything.

“It could be a love life that you’re going through. It could be God. It could be whatever, but we’re going to make the best out of it,” Lewis said. “That’s really what’s important. I don’ think you have to take a day out of your life to recognize it — it’s something you should do all the time.”

Marvin Lewis Jr. answering questions about ThanksgivingKyeland Jackson | wfpl.org

Marvin Lewis Jr.

Asked what Thanksgiving means to them, all five residents’ answers involved family. Michel Atlas said that value became especially important after one Thanksgiving when Atlas was young. Her mother’s cousin died that day.

Michel Atlas answering questions about ThanksgivingKyeland Jackson | wfpl.org

Michel Atlas

“She flew to Boston to be there, and my father was working and I was all alone that day. I vowed, ‘never again,'” Atlas said. “So it’s always very important that I’m with people — the people that are important to me.”

West End YMCA To Open In December Monday, Nov 25 2019 

17th and Broadway YMCA Front EntranceLouisville’s newest YMCA, at 18th Street and Broadway, will open on Dec. 14, officials said Friday.

The YMCA missed its planned October opening due to construction delays, officials said at the time. It is one of several major developments taking place in west Louisville, and the first to be completed.

The facility sits across the street from the stalled development of a new corporate headquarters for Passport Health Plan. And about 12 blocks west of there, construction on the Louisville Urban League’s track and field complex is underway.

These projects plus the renovation of Beecher Terrace are the largest in a planned mass investment that could total hundreds of millions of dollars. The neighborhoods of west Louisville have not seen that kind of development in decades, due to government policies that were designed to block investment.

The new facility cost $28 million and spans more than 77,000 square feet.

Along with exercise facilities such as a fitness center and pool, the YMCA will offer health and job training resources, including a center to train teens for jobs that require technology skills

Cherokee Park Going Car Free Once A Month Sunday, Nov 24 2019 

The scenic loop through Cherokee Park will be closed to vehicle traffic on the last Sunday of each month, starting on Sunday, November 24.

Stephanie George with the Olmsted Parks Conservancy says she hopes people come out, experience the park and share their thoughts on social media.

“What we’re hearing from people around the area, on Instagram and social media, everyone has been sharing the content and is really excited about it,” she said.

Earlier this fall more than 3,000 visitors gathered in Cherokee park for the second annual Hayride on the Hill. George said several people commented on the car-free experience.

“We heard a lot of great feedback from both neighbors and park visitors that they enjoyed being able to walk the loop and have a serene experience without cars driving by,” she said.

So the conservancy got together with Louisville Parks and Recreation and began speaking with people who live near the park.

“The biggest concern we originally had was parking and park access and that’s why we really worked with neighbors to make sure they were comfortable,” George said.

But after reaching out, they learned neighbors are excited to enjoy the scenic path without that added worries of vehicle traffic, she said.

The scenic loop is set to be car-free the last Sunday of each month from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Parking lots will still be available at Cochran Hill and near Ledge Road, George said.

Angels outfielder, Louisville native Jo Adell partners with LMPD for turkey drive to help families Sunday, Nov 24 2019 

The Jo Adell Foundation along with the Louisville Metro Police Foundation teamed up to give away turkey dinners to needy families.

        

Louisville Metro Could Soon Be More Friendly To LGBT Business Owners Friday, Nov 22 2019 

When Louisville Metro requests bids for government contracts, it already makes an effort with women-, minority- and disabled-owned businesses. And soon lawmakers could consider expanding that opportunity to businesses owned and run by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The Metro Council could soon consider a change to its ordinance that codifies how it solicits bids from minority groups. The proposal, entered this week, seeks to include certified LGBT businesses in its efforts.

Cyndi Masters, the CEO and founder of digital agency DBS Interactive and a member of Louisville’s gay and lesbian chamber of commerce, said the change in language is validating. And she said it will be good for the city.

“It’s really smart, it’s really smart,” Masters said. “There’s a lot of loyalty from these marginalized communities, so when you include me, I’m pretty loyal to you. Especially if you included me before it was popular.”

Right now Louisville dedicates a small percentage of its business spending, which is known as procurement, to companies owned by women, minorities and disabled people. The new ordinance would specifically encourage proposals from LGBT-owned businesses, and would include dedicated outreach to those owners.

Jonathan Lovitz of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, which is the body that certifies LGBT businesses, said they add about $1.7 trillion to the U.S. economy each year. So he said inviting them to the table makes good business sense.

“One of the problems and the reason that supplier diversity programs like this were established was because of the historic biases and discriminatory practices that so many communities felt… too often, the contract went to the golfing buddy of the procurement officer,” he said.

Lovitz said more and more cities are codifying efforts to contract with LGBT business owners. Just this year, Los Angeles, Chicago and Tampa have taken this kind of step. He said Louisville doing the same could send a message to the rest of Kentucky.

Although the city is known for its LGBTQ-friendliness, the same is not necessarily true of the state. Case in point: In 2017, the California attorney general banned state-funded travel to Kentucky over a law he said could lead to anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

Lovitz said that if Louisville adopts this ordinance change, it would signal an embrace of America’s diverse economic future. And with Democrat Andy Beshear taking office as governor next month, Lovitz sees more opportunities.

“We are very excited at the NGLCC to work with the new governor, as we have with governors across the country in adding not just LGBT- but disability- and veteran-owned businesses, who are usually the three categories left out of state procurement,” he said.

Louisville’s ordinance already covers businesses owned by disabled people, including a goal of spending half a percent of its procurement budget with them. But the ordinance still refers to that group as “handicapped.” The proposal filed this week seeks to update that language to say “disabled,” instead.

For business owner Cyndi Masters, who is also disabled, it’s an overdue change.

“Thank God. Thank God,” she said. “What an archaic word.”

She previously registered her business with the gay and lesbian chamber, as well as Disability:IN, which certifies disabled-owned businesses.

“Handicapped, it just has a negative connotation. It’s a belittling word,” she said.

Louisville Metro Councilwoman Jessica Green (D-1) introduced the ordinance this week. She said it’s common sense, and good for Louisville.

“We want to send a message that not only is it the right thing to do, but it is good business practice to be welcome to all businesses, no matter who they’re owned by,” she said.

The Community Affairs Committee will most likely consider the ordinance in December, following the Thanksgiving break.

Report Finds Record Rate of Kentucky Youth In Foster Care Tuesday, Nov 19 2019 

Kentucky Youth AdvocatesThe rate of Kentucky youth in foster care has hit a record high according to a new report released Tuesday. The 2019 Kentucky KIDS COUNT County Data Book found that about 47 of every 1,000 Kentucky youth under seventeen were in foster care between 2016 and 2018. Officials said the data, which reviews 17 measures of children’s well-being, highlights ongoing needs for Kentucky youth that legislators can help to address.

The report released Tuesday by the nonprofit Kentucky Youth Advocates analyzes health, economic security and other measures for youth to spotlight what Kentucky and its counties can improve on. In addition to Kentucky’s dismal rate of youth in foster care, the percentage of youth exiting foster care to be reunified with their parent or guardian decreased.

Kentucky Youth Advocates Executive Director Terry Brooks said African American youth make up an “unethical racial disproportionality within the child welfare system;” black children comprise 9 percent of Kentucky’s child population yet make up 18 percent of the state’s foster care population. The report said socioeconomic status, family structure, bias and structural inequities factor into that imbalance. 

Another factor is the state’s opioid crisis and Kentucky’s response, according to Republican Senator Julie Raque Adams.

“We thought that the best course of action was to remove children from their homes,” Raque Adams said. “What the data has shown us is: Let’s focus on keeping that family intact and helping them survive as a unit.”

Republican Senator Julie Raque AdamsKyeland Jackson | wfpl.org

Republican Senator Julie Raque Adams

Jefferson County mirrored the state’s foster youth trends. The rate of Jefferson County youth under 17 in foster care increased from 25 per 1,000 in 2011-2013 to 33.6 per 1,000 in 2016-2018. The percentage of youth exiting foster care into reunification decreased from 36 percent in 2011-2013 to 32 percent in 2016-2018. 

Though foster care trends were bleak, some other trends were positive:

  • Kentucky and Jefferson County both decreased the number of children living below 100 percent of the federal poverty line; 
  • A higher percentage of high school students are graduating on time;
  • The state and county reported lower rates of teen births to females between the ages of 15 and 19;
  • The rate of youth incarcerated in the juvenile justice system decreased.

Jefferson County differed from the commonwealth in some cases; reporting a slight decrease in the percentage of eight grade students who are proficient in math as Kentucky’s percentage increased. The county also saw a decrease in the percentage of children living in deep poverty (below 50 percent of the poverty level) as Kentucky’s rate went unchanged.

Raque Adams said she will lobby for funding to address child welfare when the General Assembly meets in January. She expects the legislature will have the appetite to address the topic because it could create stronger families while using state dollars more efficiently.

“Tearing [families] apart and putting children in various places and incarcerating parents — the dollars are better spent trying to keep that unit intact,” Raque Adams said. “It’s a better use of taxpayer dollars, it’s a better outcome for the family and I think that’s the path that we need to go down so that we can have stronger families.”

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