LISTEN: Inside Phoenix Hill Tavern’s ‘Museum’ Of Memorabilia Monday, May 23 2016 

On a rainy Friday afternoon, about a half-dozen people stay dry inside the storied Phoenix Hill Tavern on Baxter Avenue.

The venue ended a 40-year run when it closed last year. And as anyone who ever visited knows, the 25,000-square-foot event space was also known for its memorabilia and antiques, which are being sold at auction.

All hands were on deck as auctioneers fixed, labeled and organized some of the legendary pieces, such as a $50,000 chandelier, a bullet-riddled Phoenix Brewing Co. sign and a gigantic stuffed moose head.

Bullet holes in an Phoenix Hill Brewing Co. sign up for auctionRoxanne Scott | wfpl.org

Bullet holes in a Phoenix Hill Brewing Co. sign up for auction.

“The owner grew up going to auctions and flea markets,” said auctioneer Caitlin Wardlow Herrell of Ben Rogers, who owned Phoenix Hill Tavern and Jim Porter’s Good Time Emporium. “There’s not a store that you go to to buy this stuff. He just kinda comes across it, and the whole time it was open, he was constantly adding to it. It’s like a museum.”

An astonishing chandelier owner Ken Rogers had made in Germany Roxanne Scott | wfpl.org

An astonishing chandelier owner Ben Rogers had made in Germany.

Allee Harmon, another of the auctioneers, looked fondly at a metal toy train up for sale. He spoke affectionately about a railroad lantern from the days of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad. His mother was a secretary for L&N.

Collectors can have a piece of the L&N RailroadRoxanne Scott | wfpl.org

Collectors can have a piece of the L&N Railroad.

“She mentioned that she still gets a pension at 93, when she worked there close to 65-70 years ago,” Harmon said.

Interest in the items here has been high. Everyone, it can seem, wants to hold onto a piece of the Phoenix Hill Tavern.

“We have people who want to buy a small lamp to have a piece of Phoenix Hill,” Herrell said. “We have people who want to buy a specific set of tables and chairs because that’s where they first met.”

Other items of interest to collectors include a Steepleton pool table, a jumbo Big Boy fiberglass mascot and signed stars from various celebrities who’ve visited the venue. Those include Dave Matthews, Blues Traveler, Jessica Simpson, Reese Witherspoon, Tricia Yearwood and Miley Cyrus, among others.

One of the many signed stars auctioned at the Phoenix Hill TavernRoxanne Scott | wfpl.org

One of the many signed stars auctioned at the Phoenix Hill Tavern.

“It’s bittersweet, you know, that it’s gone,” Herrell said. “But there’s a new way to keep a piece of Phoenix Hill.”

The NRA’s Economic Impact In Louisville Is Expected To Be Huge Friday, May 20 2016 

Neal Robertson sits in The New T&B Classic Cuts Barbershop on 18th and Muhammad Ali in Louisville. He’s in a exuberant mood — singing and joking with passersby, customers and the barbers there.

But his mood quickly shifts when he starts talking about the National Rifle Association.

Robertson, 53, is president of the West Louisville Urban Coalition, a group of organizations working to improve the neighborhoods west of Ninth Street. He says he’s concerned about the NRA’s annual meeting in Louisville.

“My thoughts on the NRA coming to town — who has a problem with gun violence — is it’s very bad for our community,” he says, referring to a historic spike in homicides and shootings in Louisville this year.

In the first quarter of 2016, homicides are up 44 percent over the same period last year, according to data from Louisville Metro Police. Shootings are up 39 percent over last year.

The West Louisville barbershop is about six miles from the Kentucky Exposition Center, where the NRA convention is being held. And that proximity is important for economic reasons, too.

The NRA is controversial, but along with controversy comes money — big money.  And their stop in Louisville is no exception. More than 70,000 people are expected to attend this weekend’s convention.

According to the Louisville Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, the estimated economic impact of the NRA conference is $53 million. Cleo Battle, executive vice president of the CVB, says economic impact is a major factor in considering what events they try to lure to Louisville. 

Economic impact includes the direct spending visitors make when they’re here. That might include hotels, taxis and souvenirs. Impact also includes business-to-business goods and services, such as more labor or merchandise for a major event like the NRA. And it includes workers who will see a boost in wages from working during the event, who then might turn around and spend that money locally.

But even an educated estimate is hard to pin down, according to Janet Kelly, executive director of the Urban Studies Institute at the University of Louisville. Still, Kelly says, economic boosts can apply to the city at-large — across classes and businesses.

“I know that it’s awfully hard to judge economic impact,” Kelly says. “And there’s a tendency to overstate them because many times we count all economic transactions as having an economic impact.”

Robertson, the West Louisville resident, doesn’t buy that the wealth will spread, so to speak, from the NRA conference citywide.

“Ma’am, I’m guaranteeing you that not one red cent will make it to West Louisville,” he says.

Here’s What The Obama Administration’s New Overtime Rule Means Wednesday, May 18 2016 

The U.S. Department of Labor on Wednesday began finalizing a rule that would make millions more Americans eligible for overtime pay.

The order states that any person earning less than $47,476 per year ($913 per week) who works more than 40 hours per week must receive overtime pay.

OT Rule mapDept. of Labor

The Labor Department says the new rule will put more money into the hands of the middle class, or give them more free time:

“By increasing the number of workers who are eligible for overtime when they work more than 40 hours in a week, employers will have a choice. They can either increase their employees’ salaries to at least the new salary threshold, pay workers the overtime premium for extra hours, or limit their work to 40 hours in a week.”

In an interview with NPR, Labor Secretary Tom Perez said middle-class jobs must pay middle-class wages.

“The angst that people feel across this country is so frequently the product of the fact that they’re working hard and falling further behind,” Perez said. “They feel like they lost leverage. And the reason they feel that is because in the case of the Fair Labor Standards Act, they indeed lost a lot of leverage.”

Kentucky U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell released a statement criticizing the rule. He called it “another job-killing regulation” by the Obama administration:

“Our economy continues to be stuck in the worst recovery since World War II and the only solution the Obama Administration can come up with is more red tape that will hurt our nation’s working middle class. Just like Obamacare’s 30-hour work week, this regulation will once again incentivize employers to cut worker hours, provide fewer benefits, and hinder flexible work arrangements for hardworking Americans. That doesn’t help anyone get ahead. I’ve already heard from many concerned constituents in Kentucky on how this misguided regulation will hurt them.”

McConnell said he is co-sponsoring legislation introduced by Senators Scott and Alexander that will require the Department of Labor to study the overtime rule and its effects on small businesses.

GLI, Louisville’s chamber of commerce, also responded to the announcement of the new rule on Wednesday. In a statement, COO Sarah Davasher-Wisdom called the rule inflexible:

“While GLI is pleased to see a compromise on the wage level on the overtime rule unveiled today,  the measure still makes the critical errors of limiting flexibility, ignoring regional distinctions in compensation, and demanding full implementation by December 1st rather than a phased approach. GLI continues to support Congressional efforts to reverse the rule or offset its negative effects on business, specifically, Majority Leader McConnell’s proposal to allow workers to opt for paid time off as opposed to overtime pay.”

Employers have a little more than six months to prepare, as the rule will take effect on Dec. 1, 2016. A copy of the final rule can be found here.

Hillary Clinton And Jim Gray Win In Kentucky Wednesday, May 18 2016 

Kentucky Democratic senatorial candidate Jim Gray wins big and Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton squeaks by Bernie Sanders, in Kentucky’s Democratic primary. So what can Kentuckians expect from the Democratic victors? Will Jim Gray deny that he voted for Barack … Continue reading →

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Lawmakers Inch Toward Decision On Airbnb, Other Short-Term Rentals Tuesday, May 10 2016 

Louisville legislators are getting closer to regulating short-term rentals, such as those found via Airbnb, VRBO and FlipKey.

The Metro Council has been working to establish regulations for the growing industry since last year. In December, local lawmakers approved a set of ordinances to impose basic requirements like registration fees, capacity limits and the need for emergency evacuation plans.

But like many U.S. cities, Louisville is still struggling to strike a balance between the sharing industry and a regulatory apparatus that has been slow to respond to a fast-changing, tech-driven economy. And with little actual data to go on, council members are essentially trying to regulate the unknown.

On Monday, the council’s committee on the land development code sifted through the details of another, more controversial ordinance that would govern where short-term rentals can be located, how many parking spaces they’ll be required to provide, and which units will have to operate under conditional use permits, which require a separate approval process.

They drew no conclusions, but they did cover ground on key points.

The city’s planning commission is recommending short-term rental units be allowed in nearly all zoning districts in the city, with the exception of many industrial districts. Conditional use permits will have to be obtained for certain rental units in some residential districts.

Councilman Glen Stuckel, a Republican who represents District 17, said he’s concerned that requiring a conditional use permit could create a backlog of requests in the city’s board of zoning adjustment — which must approve them — and lead to some hosts waiting months for a decision.

Joe Haberman, the city’s planning manager, said that could be an issue.

“We can only get so many items on the agenda,” he said.

Committee Chair James Peden, a Republican from District 23, said there may be special meetings of the board called specifically for short-term rental permit applications to allow people to obtain a conditional use permit before they fall out of compliance with city policy.

Haberman said the city’s planning commission is also recommending an exemption for owners renting properties during the Kentucky Derby and PGA Championship. Council President David Yates, a Democrat who represents District 25, is proposing an amendment to allow a similar exemption.

Prices surged on Airbnb last week, the city’s most tourist-heavy of the year.

But Councilman Bill Hollander, a Democrat from District 9, said exemptions shouldn’t be allowed. He said if people aren’t required to register their properties, they’ll be less likely to pay the required transient occupancy tax — which is a major point of the regulations.

“Everybody who has a short-term rental, for any period of time, including one day of the year at Derby, needs to pay the transient occupancy taxes,” he said. “It’s logical, frankly, that people are more likely to pay their transient occupancy taxes if we have some record of who they are.”

Peden said while he initially supported such an exemption, he’s not so sure now. “I have come to realize what a huge business this is,” he said.

For that, he said the industry needs stringent regulation to ensure neighbors to rental properties are protected.

The council doesn’t have an estimate for how much revenue the new regulations would generate, according to Democratic Caucus spokesman Tony Hyatt.

In Nashville, where tourism is booming, the Metro Council last year approved new taxes and regulations on short-term rentals. The Tennessee Hospitality & Tourism Association projects $1.2 million in revenues from the lodging tax — which also applies to hotels and motels — alone in 2016.

Parking Woes

Parking requirements at short-term rentals also continues to be a contentious topic.

The proposed ordinance calls for an “appropriate” amount of parking per rental unit. But Peden said he’s unsure what will be considered appropriate, pointing to some areas of the city — like the Highlands — that already struggle with a lack of parking.

Haberman said the city’s board of zoning adjustment will consider what is appropriate on a case-by-case basis, depending on neighborhood demands. Owners of short-term rental units could also apply for parking waivers, which Peden said concerns him.

He said it’s likely the closer you get to downtown, in neighborhoods like the Highlands and Old Louisville, the more waivers will be sought. Those areas need to have “the most stringent standards,” he said.

Still, Peden said he understands that waivers may be acceptable for people looking to rent their apartments on Bardstown Road.

The current ordinance does not allow short-term rentals in multi-family residences or condominiums. And while Peden said he doesn’t want to exclude all short-term rentals in apartments, it’s necessary to protect more suburban complexes.

The short-term rental ordinance will go before the council committee at least one more time before heading to the full council for a vote.

Pack a union card? Beware the Trump con job Wednesday, May 4 2016 

By BERRY CRAIG AFT Local 1360 1. Who of the following presidential candidates supports “right to work?” A. presidential candidate Donald Trump B. newly ex-presidential candidate Ted Cruz C. both 2. Who said, We hear terrible things about outsourcing jobs—how … Continue reading →

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Talks To Resume Between UPS, Pilots Sunday, May 1 2016 

Negotiators for United Parcel Service and the Independent Pilots Association will resume talks later this month in hopes reaching a contract agreement.

The latest round of federally mediated negotiations ended last week in Washington.

UPS pilots have been working under the terms of their previous contract for five years. The IPA, which represents some 2,500 pilots, has been preparing for the possibility of a strike.

Earlier this month, the union set up a strike operation center at its Louisville headquarters, a move dismissed by UPS as a publicity stunt.

For a strike to be called, the mediator would have to declare an impasse and release the two sides from talks. That would be followed by a 30-day cooling off period.

Union president Bob Travis said the IPA and UPS have been called back to Washington by the National Mediation Board for what he called “two consecutive weeks of intensive negotiations” starting the week of May 16.

Union officials said some of the remaining sticking points involve flight schedules and crew fatigue. Both sides say there was some progress made in the most recent round of talks.

How A Map Of Internet Speeds Could Boost Equity In Louisville Thursday, Apr 28 2016 

Understanding and ensuring internet access equity depends on data.

It’s easy to speculate about where connection speeds may struggle, but without the data, it’s nearly impossible to know who is getting good, reliable service and where opportunities exist for improvement, said Ted Smith, chief of innovation for Louisville Metro.

Private entities aren’t required to release much data related to broadband connectivity. And what data is available isn’t very useful for cities looking to breach digital divides and boost competition among internet service providers.

For this reason, Smith and a team of entrepreneurs and civic innovation experts are launching a free mapping tool called Speed Up Louisville this week. It’s designed to enable internet users here to record their connection speeds and compare them with others nearby and across the city.

“It makes for a great citizen science project where we can all donate some data about our experiences and, collectively, we can all benefit,” he said.

Its launch comes in the midst of a number of developments relating to fiber connectivity in the city.

Google Fiber announced last year it would examine the feasibility of providing ultra high-speed internet service to Louisville consumers. The news sparked a frenzy of interest from other providers: Time Warner and AT&T followed Google with news that they’d also begin offering gigabit service to residents in Louisville.

A handful of other companies are also seeking franchise status to begin laying fiber lines and hooking residents up to internet expected to be up to 100 times faster than what’s currently available.

Speed Up Louisville’s concept stems from a similar project in Seattle, where civic leaders partnered with tech-centric volunteers to create a map showing internet speeds across the city. In Louisville, entrepreneurs and city innovation teams collaborated with officials in Seattle to get the project off the ground.

A screenshot of Speed Up Louisville. Screenshot

A screenshot of Speed Up Louisville.

Ed Blayney, an innovation project manager for Louisville Metro, said officials in Seattle provided the necessary coding, tips and inspiration needed to see the project to fruition. The partnership, he said, is an example of two cities working together to push boundaries in an effort to improve residents’ quality of life.

“There’s always competition between cities, but people are always sharing,” he said.

The finished product is targeted to anyone who uses the internet — whether it be in a home, in an office or on a phone.

Eric Littleton is the co-founder of PowerUp Labs and helped design Louisville’s internet speed map. He caught wind of Seattle’s project in a Code for America event hosted by Louisville’s Civic Data Alliance earlier this year and decided to tailor a similar tool for Louisville.

“[The tool is designed] to help consumers understand what they’re actually getting, and are they getting the value their neighbor is getting or some other zip code is getting,” he said.

Littleton said the tool’s success depends on the depth of user participation. Since the idea is to record what internet speeds are across the city, it’s important users provide location data.

Users are asked a series of additional questions, like what type of internet they’re using (work or home), who provides their service, what type of service are they paying for and how much they pay, Littleton said. Answering any question is voluntary, and the process takes a few minutes.

All data provided via the tool will be available for public export, he said. Location data will be limited to zip-code level information. Blayney said city officials have no way of accessing user data beyond the public export, which is available to anyone.

Smith is touting the tool as a game-changer in Louisville’s quest for better internet connectivity. He said beyond allowing consumers to see whether they’re getting the service they’re paying for, the mapping program will provide a more accurate view into areas where speeds may be bogging down.

“We only have anecdotes, but we keep hearing them over and over again,” he said. “I really do want to see the data, and we all do, to get some validation for that.”

The hope is providers will be quick to move into struggling areas and meet consumers’ needs, Smith said.

“We win when they compete to provide service,” he said. “We’re losing when no one is trying to close gaps in the market.”

Charter’s Merger With Time Warner Cable Nears Regulatory Approval Tuesday, Apr 26 2016 

Charter Communications has bid more than $88 billion to buy its larger rival, Time Warner Cable, and a smaller competitor called Bright House Networks — and it’s closing in on the required regulatory approval from federal authorities.

The deal would be yet another major shakeup in the telecom industry: It would form the second-largest Internet provider, behind Comcast, and the third-largest video provider, behind Comcast and the newly merged AT&T/DirecTV.

According to telecom analytics from MoffettNathanson, the so-called “New Charter” would have about 21 million broadband subscribers and 17.4 million video subscribers.

Telecom mergers require approval of the antitrust regulators at the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission, which decides whether a deal is in the public interest.

The DOJ has now approved Charter’s merger with Time Warner Cable and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has also recommended approval — both with conditions. As the New York Times reports, the conditions include protections for the online video streaming industry:

“The Federal Communications Commission and Justice Department imposed strong restrictions on the deals, including an order from the Justice Department that strictly prohibits the combined company from entering anticompetive deals with programmers that would keep shows and movies off streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.

The F.C.C. also imposed conditions to its approval to protect the nascent video streaming industry. The agency said Charter agreed that for seven years it will not impose data caps on users and will abide by so-called net neutrality rules, even if the rules are overturned in a separate federal appeals court case.”

Charter swept in last year with an offer to buy its larger rival after a similar bid from Comcast was rejected in Washington over concerns that a bigger Comcast would exert too much control over the broadband market. Comcast had previously outbid Charter as the two companies vied for a tie-up with Time Warner Cable.

To close the deal, Charter now needs a formal vote from the five-member FCC as well as approval of the California Public Utilities Commission.

The company issued a statement welcoming the moves by the DOJ and the FCC chairman, adding:

“The conditions that will be imposed ensure Charter’s current consumer-friendly and pro-broadband businesses practices will be maintained by New Charter. We are confident New Charter will be a leading competitor in the broadband and video markets and are optimistic that we will soon receive final approval from federal regulators as well as the California PUC.”

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

UPS Pilot Union Prepares For Possible Strike Tuesday, Apr 19 2016 

The second floor room at the Independent Pilots Association is outfitted with desktop computers and flat-screen TVs, and equipped with technology to track the whereabouts of its pilots in the event of a work stoppage.

The union that represents some 2,500 UPS pilots has taken another step to prepare for a possible strike, establishing a “strike operation center” at its Louisville-based headquarters. The facility was opened for media tours Tuesday.

UPS pilots have been working under the terms of their previous contract, which expired in 2011. The two sides continue to take part in federally mediated negotiations, but IPA president Bob Travis says he believes the talks are close to an impasse.

“The National Mediation Board is fully aware that our pilot group is prepared,” says Travis. “We don’t want to go on strike, should they determine there’s an impasse and release us. And they have to make that determination.”

If the mediation board declares an impasse, there would be a 30-day cooling off period before pilots could strike.

UPS spokesman Mike Mangeot dismisses the IPA action as a publicity stunt, calling it “typical of the kind of past tactics the union has used to try to pressure negotiations.”

Mangeot says UPS doesn’t publicly discuss the specifics of contract talks, but is still confident that an agreement can be reached.

“What I can tell you is we do a great job of taking care of our pilots and they in turn do a great job of flying for us,” he says.

Among the sticking points in the talks are flight schedules and crew fatigue.

Travis says the union has put its final proposals on the table and UPS is expected to do the same next week.

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