Council Demands Fischer Release Documents Related To Gentrification Plan, Taylor Killing Thursday, Jul 9 2020 

This story has been updated.

Metro Council members are pushing Mayor Greg Fischer to show through documentation whether his policies for revitalizing the Russell neighborhood led to the killing of Breonna Taylor.

They demanded the immediate release of all documents related to the case and to Elliott Ave. Early this week, attorney Sam Aguiar alleged in a court filing that Louisville Metro Police aggressively pursued actions on Elliott Ave. because of Fischer’s desire to make way for development there. The warrant for Taylor’s apartment, miles away, was one in a batch that included three addresses on Elliott Ave., all related to a narcotics investigation.

Aguiar is one of the lawyers representing Taylor’s family in a wrongful death lawsuit currently pending in court.

Council members addressed their demands to Fischer in a letter delivered Wednesday, in which they criticized a lack of transparency by his administration.

“The accusation that your administration may have directed LMPD to act in a manner that would help clear the area for new development, if true, would destroy any notion of compassion and would serve as a modern twisted update to the policy of redlining that you have campaigned against,” the letter said.

Last month, council members announced their plan to investigate Fischer’s actions and decisions leading up to and following the killing of Taylor by police in her apartment during a middle-of-the night raid. Officers shot into her apartment after receiving a warning shot from her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, which struck Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly in the leg. Walker has said he did not know who was entering and thought he was shooting at intruders.

In the letter, council members demand that the administration turn over an array of documents by July 23—which is when the body, currently on summer break, is next scheduled to meet.

Council president David James (D-6), who signed the letter along with several others, said if the administration does not provide the documents, the body will attempt to acquire them through subpoenas.

For years, Fischer has hailed a new era of investment in west Louisville and particularly the Russell neighborhood, which has a high Black and low-income population. The area has suffered under policies including redlining and urban renewal, which limited homeownership, destroyed businesses and contributed to significant racial segregation.

It was within that context that his administration pursued public and private financing to support the Vision Russell plan to make change in the neighborhood, which some celebrate as revitalization and others deride as gentrification.

James and minority caucus chair Kevin Kramer (R-11) said during a news conference on Thursday, they had been shocked by Aguiar’s allegations. They were critical of the fact that much of the new information in the Taylor case has come through lawyers and the media, rather than from the administration.

“It was a document that I read and I thought, ‘I really hope that is not true,'” James said of Aguiar’s recent court filing. “It also made me think that we needed to do an investigation and find out what is true and what’s not.”

He said council members knew little about many details laid out in the amended complaint, including regarding the Place Based Investigations police unit that Aguiar alleged was behind the actions on Elliott Ave.

Kramer said the inquiry isn’t about whether Vision Russell is a good economic development project.

“The question is did we in fact allow a department other than the Mayor’s office to give direction to the police department about where to do an investigation, not based on where the crimes seem to be, but based on this particular location?” Kramer said.

Fischer denied the allegations presented by Aguiar, but said he could not release all the documents requested by the council.

“I was dumbfounded to see the linkage of this initiative here of trying to rebuild this block with safe and affordable housing was somehow tied into a nefarious objective with Breonna Taylor’s tragedy,” Fischer said in a news conference Thursday afternoon. He said police targeted the properties on Elliott Ave. because of evidence of criminal activity there.

He cited requests from Kentucky’s Attorney General Daniel Cameron and the FBI—each of which are investigating the Taylor killing for potential criminal charges against the officers—that such information not be released. They sent letters to interim police chief Robert Schroeder last month, which Fischer’s office provided to media on Thursday. He said whatever Metro isn’t precluded from being released would be released.

This week, parties in the civil case Taylor’s mother Tamika Palmer is bringing against the officers who shot at her daughter agreed not to release certain documents pertaining to the criminal investigations. That includes the defendants as well as Louisville Metro Government.

The mayor also responded to council members who criticized a lack of transparency, including regarding the Place Based Investigations unit. He said he was surprised by that because the council is regularly briefed on police activity.

 

Fischer Would ‘Absolutely’ Consider Louisville Mask Mandate Thursday, Jul 9 2020 

With coronavirus cases rising again in Louisville, Mayor Greg Fischer said he wants face masks to be required in public.

Fischer said during a Thursday morning briefing that he would “absolutely” considering implementing a mask mandate in Louisville if the state doesn’t, and if cases continue to rise.

Gov. Andy Beshear is expected to introduce “mandatory” requirements, which could include masks, for Kentucky this afternoon.

“It sends an unequivocal message that, you know, please, wear your mask,” he said. “And more will wear masks as a result of that. And eventually social pressure, I hope, will get to a point where more people will wear a mask, it’s the right thing to do.”

States including Texas and California, which in recent weeks have seen a major spike in cases now require masks in public. But such rules are not always enforced.

Fischer said he would love to see a federal mandate for mask wearing, but he doesn’t expect one. If there were a Louisville ordinance, he said it could be enforced through citations, but that the goal is to encourage people to wear masks.

“As time has gone on, it seems like there is less resistance to mask,” he said. “I mean, there’s always going to be a hardcore group against, but people seem to be understanding why we want people to wear a mask.”

Sarah Moyer, the city’s chief health strategist, agreed with that assessment.

“There’s more and more evidence about how it works to help the spread as well, too. And I think, it’s much like anything new: Once you start doing it and get used to it, the easier it is,” Moyer said.

Louisville officials reported an increase of almost 500 cases and eight deaths in the past week, for a total of nearly 4,400 cases and 219 deaths.

Those deaths account for more than a third of all coronavirus-related fatalities in Kentucky.

The state has reported several high single-day increases in case numbers this week, as figures continue to rise in much of the U.S.

Fischer said about 73% of Louisvillians confirmed to have COVID-19 have recovered.

In Louisville, cases are increasing fastest among white people and among 20 to 44-year-olds.

“In many ways it feels like March again,” Moyer said. “Cases are rising, we’re hearing about corona parties, people are traveling again, and I am telling everyone to wash their hands again.”

The officials cautioned that Louisville residents should limit contacts, wear masks in public and wash their hands frequently.

Fischer said there has been a slight increase in hospitalizations in recent weeks. At the moment, there are 69 people hospitalized, and 14 in the ICU. Moyer said there is plenty of capacity in Louisville ICUs.

They also said that while testing capacity has increased locally, so has demand. Moyer said tests are being prioritized for individuals with symptoms again.

“Just because you’ve traveled or decided to go to a bar or a crowded place, and now worried that you might have COVID doesn’t mean you need a test,” Moyer said.

Fischer said he has seen some bars that are too crowded. He said citizens and business owners are responsible for adhering to guidelines, and that the city is stepping up enforcement by citing businesses.

Search Warrants Under Scrutiny As Police Killings Spark Reforms Wednesday, Jul 8 2020 

Police park outside Occupy ICE Protest SiteThe police officers who killed Breonna Taylor came with a search warrant that allowed detectives to raid the 26-year-old’s home without first knocking.

Such warrants — called no-knocks — instantly proved controversial once Taylor’s death was thrust into the national spotlight. The Louisville Metro Council was swift to ban the use of no-knock warrants last month in a unanimous vote.

In practice, no-knock warrants like those solicited for the Taylor search are rare: of more than 6,000 search warrants served by LMPD since 2018, fewer than 1% were no-knocks, according to LMPD data. 

And now, the call to reform the process by which police seek and obtain search warrants from Louisville judges is broadening, sparking introspection and infighting at the courthouse.

Some attorneys, civil liberty advocates and criminal justice experts say the search warrant process lacks transparency, oversight and fairness. But many Louisville judges defend the system, saying a judge’s oath alone binds them to act with integrity and the push for reform is little more than window dressing.

Ted Shouse, a Louisville-based defense attorney, pushed for reform to the broader system of search warrants in an op-ed in the Courier Journal last month. Shouse argued the current system is unnecessarily secret, and gives police an upper hand not afforded to criminal defendants.

Police can call, email or meet-in person with a judge to get a warrant. Officers can take their pick between 30 judges with jurisdiction in the county to present their case for a search warrant. And anecdotally, judges, lawyers and researchers have concluded that officer’s warrant requests are rarely refused — for those that are, there’s no record to show for it and no system to track how or if a request is modified or just presented to another judge for approval.

“All I’m advocating is transparency,” Shouse said in an interview with KyCIR last week. “Why would a judge not want transparency?”

Chief Jefferson Circuit Judge Angela McCormick Bisig said judges are “gatekeepers” and “neutral listeners.” They may be cordial with officers, but they’re not casual and they don’t play favorites, she said.

“We take this responsibility very seriously,” she said. “We try to be transparent.” 

Police Generally Pick Judge

In the aftermath of Taylor’s death, the Louisville Metro Police Department amended its search warrant policy to require officers get approval from their commander before applying for a search warrant. Local court rules and police policy advise police officers to contact court clerks during business hours and be assigned a judge, but that doesn’t always happen, said Chief Jefferson District Court Judge Anne Haynie.

Local District Court rules.

Occasionally, officers will catch a judge in the courtroom or in their office and present their case for a search warrant, she said. Some search warrant requests are processed electronically, via email, said Haynie. After hours, an on-call District Court judge is available 24 hours a day to respond to requests, Haynie said. But officers are not required to contact the on-call judge.

“It’s really just whoever is available,” she said. 

Once a judge receives the affidavit, the review can be quick, said Leland Hulbert, a defense attorney and former prosecutor.

“Typically, what I see is judges are asked in the middle of the day or middle of the night to approve a warrant and they don’t have a lot of time to digest,” Hulbert said. “They are usually signed the day they are presented.”

But now, amid the fallout and outrage from Taylor’s death and the circumstances that led to it, Hulbert believes judges will be more scrupulous in their review of search warrant applications.  More requirements like the creation of an independent warrant review panel or mandating that judges explain, in writing, why they are approving a warrant could further strengthen the process, Hulbert said.

“Just stating that in writing could bring more transparency,” he said.

Bisig said judges can only consider the information included in the affidavit when making their decision to approve or reject an officer’s request and the conversation between judge and officer has no basis in the ultimate decision.

The affidavits are included in court files, and can be subject to review by judges and defense attorneys once a case begins crawling through the criminal justice system.

“We’re not trying to hide anything here,” Bisig said. 

Still, Shouse, and others, say documenting that interaction is a critical step towards transparency.

“These conversations, however brief they may be, are critical to the criminal justice system,” he said. “Why not have that brief exchange between a police officer or a judge available? What’s the argument against it?

“The system, as it exists now, affords zero transparency,” Shouse said.

Getting details about search warrant requests can be cumbersome, if not impossible. The courts don’t maintain a database of search warrant requests, and in turn, there’s no record of search warrants requests that are rejected by a judge.

Shouse thinks judges should be randomly assigned to officers who come seeking a search warrant. Judges are randomly assigned in criminal and civil cases, which are heavily documented from beginning to end. But when it comes to search warrants — which can be an intrusive tipping off point for allegations that pull people into the criminal justice system — no such requirements exist.

Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Charles L. Cunningham penned a rebuke of Shouse’s call for reform in his own op-ed in the Courier Journal last week. In it, Cunningham dismissed the notion that police “cherry pick” judges when they need a search warrant approved.

“Judges are not anyone’s rubber stamp,” he said.

He said assigning a judge at random to approve a warrant would be cumbersome, and clog the schedules of both police and judges.

“Judges don’t just sit around waiting for the police to show up,” Cunningham said. “We often can’t drop what we are doing to hear a warrant application. The police have to hunt for a judge who will make the time to hear them. Some judges dodge this task; some make the time.”

But Cunningham is open to some reform. In an interview with KyCIR last week, he said a welcome improvement in the search warrant process would be to develop a tracking system to monitor which warrant requests are denied, and what becomes of them.

Cunningham said it’s impossible to know if an officer who failed to get approval goes on to gather more evidence, or simply walks down the hall to another judge. Keeping a record of when a judge rejects a warrant could quell any concern that law enforcement effectively go judge shopping when they need a warrant, he said.

“Would it stop them from shopping around? It would definitely stop it,” he said.  “Would that somehow fix a problem? That’s a much tougher question.”

A spokesperson for LMPD did not respond to a request for comment for this report.

Judges Say New Process Would Be Prohibitive

Haynie says a randomized process that only allows one judge at a time to issue warrants could be a barrier for law enforcement and a burden to the criminal justice system.

Chief Jefferson District Judge Anne Haynie

The 17 judges presiding over district court deal with crowded dockets of misdemeanor crimes and traffic offenses, as well as weddings, arrest warrants, emergency protective orders and more, she said.

“You just don’t know how busy people are during the day and you don’t want warrants just sitting there,” Haynie said. “I could not fathom being on a heavy docket and having to break that docket and spend time on a warrant.”

Limiting the pool of judges available would be “just window dressing,” according to Jefferson Circuit Court Judge McKay Chauvin. He said each judge took an oath to uphold the rule of law, and that requires scrutinizing warrants equally and fairly, without consideration to their own beliefs or bias.

“Constitutionally, every judge is the same,” he said. “If there is a problem with a judge, this is not how you solve it.”

Not Everyone Agrees

Jefferson District Court Judge Julie Kaelin doesn’t think the oath alone is not enough to ensure public trust or accountability.

“I don’t think that we are so special that we are infallible,” she said.

Kaelin supports documenting interactions between judges and the police that come seeking a warrant. The mere perception of judge shopping is concern enough to welcome reforms to boost transparency and oversight, she said.

“There is no reason to not make it a more transparent process,” Kaelin said. “I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t want to.”

Police can execute a search warrant at any time of day. They can bust down doors, seize property, and make arrests. The raw intrusiveness of government prying into the private lives of people is so great the U.S. Constitution provides protections against it — and yet, police searches are key elements of evidence gathering, said Kate Miller, advocacy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky. But obtaining and executing search warrants shouldn’t come at the cost of people’s civil rights.

“It’s such an important right to be able to be secure in your own home,” Miller said.

Even as calls to ban no-knock warrants echo nationwide, experts say wider reform would be a struggle. Search warrants are an ingrained aspect of policing, and their immediacy can be crucial to securing evidence and catching suspects.

Getting buy-in for change on how police obtain warrants would be difficult, says Damon Preston, the chief public defender for Kentucky’s Department of Public Advocacy. But he thinks some reform is necessary, and one way to hold police and judges accountable would be to require more transparency.

“At the least they should provide data, reports,” he said.

Nationally, little data exists detailing the scope or use of search warrants, said Trevor Burns, a research fellow at The Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank based in Washington D.C. This is partly by design, he said: Prosecutors and police are not always keen on disclosing the strategies of their crime fighting.

But the process to get a warrant in Louisville is not unusual, Burns said. Since police are only required to prove probable cause, a low evidentiary bar, they typically present true, simple facts to a judge, Burns said. The question lies with how much scrutiny a judge is willing to give to a warrant request, he said. 

Oftentimes, it’s not much, Burns said.

“Judges just trust police,” he said. “It’s hard to think of a situation where the judge will give hard scrutiny to a warrant.”

Louisville Democrats Read Declaration Of Independence Against Backdrop Of Protests Saturday, Jul 4 2020 

As protests for police accountability and racial justice continue in Louisville, Democratic officials who represent the city took a few minutes Saturday morning to read and remember the Declaration of Independence.

Metro Councilwoman Paula McCraney (D-7), a Black woman, said we are celebrating Independence Day against the backdrop of crisis.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues its assault on our nation and our world, we have embarked on a national reckoning of racial equity following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and all of the Blacks who have lost their lives to unjustly causes in this country” she said. “We believe that reckoning could benefit from the nuanced principles laid out in the founding document we call the Declaration of Independence.”

Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officers in May. Taylor was killed by Louisville police officers in March. Both were Black, and news of their deaths inspired nationwide protests as well as some reforms.

The Declaration held that all Americans are equal, and all are entitled to the right to liberty, McCraney noted.

But when the colonies sought to break free of British rule, those values were not applied to all.

The Emancipation Proclamation that decreed freedom for some enslaved people came 87 years after Americans declared independence. And it was 57 years later in 1920 that women gained the right to vote.

To some, including Black Councilman-elect Jecorey Arthur (D-4), that history is inextricable from the Fourth of July holiday.

“By a show of hands, how many of you have gone to a birthday party? By a show of hands, how many of you have gone to a birthday party that you were never invited to?” he said before reading a section of the Declaration. “‘Cause as an American descendant of slavery, that’s what the Fourth of July feels like every single year.”

Virginia Woodward, who chairs the Louisville Democratic Party, said the country must continue to strive for equality and justice for all.

“We are not a perfect union, but I think rereading the words, listening to them and knowing how they echo through time, it is important,” she said.

Listen to the reading in the player below.

 

Louisville Protesters Raise Concerns About Arrests Of Livestreamers Friday, Jul 3 2020 

Protesters who have been livestreaming protests over racism and police violence in Louisville say they are being targeted by law enforcement after recent arrests of prominent livestreamers.

In separate incidents this week, Louisville Metro Police Department arrested Steph Townsell, known as MilkyMessTV, and Jason Downey, both of whom have been frequently livestreaming the events surrounding protests in Louisville over recent weeks. Both were released after a night in jail.

Antonio Taylor, the owner of WaveFM Online, says that livestreamers are being targeted while “mainstream” journalists aren’t.

“They know who we are, they do. They’re just targeting us because they don’t want the real truth to be out there. Because they have to re-track and recant all the lies that they tell,” Taylor said.

Livestreams by independent citizens have drawn thousands of viewers since they began in late May when people began taking to the street to protest the death of Breonna Taylor, an emergency room worker who was killed by police serving a no-knock warrant at her apartment in March.

LMPD officials held a meeting with a group of livestreamers on Friday, according to a video posted by Maxwell Mitchell.

During the meeting, Interim Louisville Police Chief Robert Schroeder denied that police are targeting livestreamers.

“We don’t know who the livestreamers are. You know, a lot of folks out there have their cameras up or their phones up and it’s hard for us to tell who is who,” Schroeder said.

Jason Downey said in a Facebook post on Thursday that “LMPD knows they are being live-streamed all over.”

“Officers point at me and call me out by name, they wave, hell when I was getting booked into Metro Corrections they said they knew I was coming because they saw me getting tackled while on live,” Downey wrote.

Now the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky is raising concerns about the arrests.

Kate Miller, advocacy director for the ACLU of Kentucky, says that citizen journalists are necessary to document police activity.

“LMPD recently having engaged in some pretty serious misconduct and certainly allegations of misconduct and did not have on their body cameras,” Miller said.

“So the fact that citizens are livestreaming the actions of law enforcement and they’re being removed or taken into custody is particularly alarming.”

Law enforcement did not have body cameras on when they raided Breonna Taylor’s apartment in March.

Nor did they have body cameras on early in the morning of June 1, when members of Louisville Metro Police Department and the Kentucky National Guard opened fire on a barbecue stand owned by David McAtee, ultimately killing him. State and local officials say McAtee fired at them first; the incident is still under investigation.

Mayor Greg Fischer fired Police Chief Steve Conrad after finding out that body cameras were not on.

Taylor, with WaveFM online, says independent livestreamers need to be “treated with the same respect that mainstream media is treated.”

“Let us do our job,” Taylor said.

More than 330 Arrested Amid Ongoing Louisville Protests Thursday, Jul 2 2020 

Kentucky police officers have made more than 330 arrests amid ongoing protests for racial justice in Louisville, according to Louisville Metro Police Department records.

Police arrested many of the protesters on charges of unlawful assembly and curfew. Other charges include disorderly conduct, rioting, inciting a riot, fleeing, burglary, obstructing a highway and open containers.

About 49 percent of those police arrested are Black and 48 percent are white.

In total, between May 28 and July 1, police arrested 338 for people on charges related to protests in Louisville, according to a spreadsheet of arrests provided by Louisville Metro Police Department.

LMPD conducted most of the arrests, though Kentucky State Police have made a few as well. WFPL News found some inconsistencies in police data including duplicates and misspellings.

While Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has said he supports peaceful protests and the movement for racial justice, protesters say that many of the arrests have been arbitrary and involved peaceful protesters.

Abe Roque, whose name was misspelled “rogue”, was arrested on charges of unlawful assembly and disorderly conduct in the early hours of Friday, June 19, along with 56 other people. That night police accused protesters of setting off fireworks and breaking windows.

Roque’s arrest report describes him as being part of a group of about 40 people who “failed to disperse.”

“Subject was a part of a group of approx. 40 subjects who failed to disperse and were walking on Liberty causing inconvenience annoyance and alarm to citizens of Louisville. Officers have been dealing with protesting and rioting in the city of Louisville since May 28, 2020.”

Roque, however, describes a different version of events. He said campers peacefully left the park and police chased them down the street. He said the arrests felt like entrapment because the group was “trying to disperse,” walking down the street holding up their hands saying, “hands up don’t shoot.”

“And out of nowhere all these police cars are right at the corner and we’re like, ‘you know we’re trying to disperse’ we’re doing exactly what you told us to do. What the hell?” Roque said.

Ryan Van Velzer | wfpl.org

Carmen Jones

Carmen Jones was arrested on June 15 on charges of unlawful assembly and second degree rioting. The police report states:

“Listed subject was told by LMPD to disperse from the area and out of the intersection at 8th street and Jefferson Street, but she continued blocking the roadway. At the time of the incident, there was about 50 people rioting in the street and (illegible) subject was one of them.”

Ryan Van Velzer | wfpl.org

Carmen Jones shows an injury she said is from being struck by a pepper ball round prior to her arrest.

Jones said, yes, she was in the street protesting as an act of civil disobedience, but has never once engaged in acts she would consider “rioting.”

“I didn’t break anything; how am I rioting?” she said, “I’ve never broken a window, I’ve never spray painted, I’ve never been the cause of boards being put up in this city.”

Ryan Van Velzer | wfpl.org

Carmen Jones shows an injury she said happened during her arrest.

Criminal defense attorney Ted Shouse has been in contact with about 100 people arrested amid the protests. He claims the vast majority of the arrests are peaceful protesters who are asking for justice. It appears that police may have initially arrested and charged some of the protesters haphazardly, according to Shouse.

“Particularly in those first couple of days it was a chaotic situation and it appears to me that officers were arresting who they could get their hands on,” Shouse said.

Shouse says he is now working with about 75 other attorneys who are volunteering to represent protesters.

“I believe in the underlying message that Black Lives Matter. I believe in the underlying message of police accountability in our city. This is the way that I can contribute to that effort,” Shouse said.

Whether or not an arrest is merited, getting arrested is a harrowing experience. This is the sound from a police interaction that WFPL News had on the third night of protests. It gives some idea of what it can be like to engage with riot police during a protest. Warning: This audio contains graphic language. 

Kansas City, Dallas and Salem, Ore. are among the cities where prosecutors have moved to dismiss charges against protesters including curfew violations and rioting.

The decision to dismiss charges is now in the hands of County Attorney Mike O’Connell.

In an emailed statement, O’Connell reiterated the fundamental right to peacefully protest. He said his office would review each case and decide whether to dismiss charges. Cases involving violence, weapons, property damage or issues of public safety would be viewed “in a different light,” O’Connell said.

“Peaceful protest is a fundamental right in our nation. The outcry over the effects of our country’s history of structural racism is widespread and deserved. Racial justice has been a focus of mine as County Attorney. This includes my decision last year to no longer prosecute low-level marijuana cases due to clear racial disparities in charges and when I personally argued in court for the removal of Louisville’s Confederate memorial in 2016,” O’Connell said.

Updated.

Here’s Who Won The Competitive Louisville Metro Council Primaries Tuesday, Jun 30 2020 

Primary results are in for the six competitive Metro Council races, with at least two new faces confirmed to join the body in January and two incumbents holding on to their seats.

In the District 4, 8, 10 and 20 races, there were no opposing-party candidates, meaning the primary winner will go on to take office in January 2021.

Louisville Metro Government

District 2: Incumbent Barbara Shanklin won the Democratic primary with 2,715 votes, with challenger RaeShanda Lias-Lockhart earning 1,469 votes. Two other candidates received fewer than 800 votes each.

Shanklin will face Republican Folly Abbousa, who did not have a primary challenger, in November’s general election. If she wins, Shanklin would be serving a fifth consecutive term.

Jessiebeth Photography

District 4: Jecorey Arthur came out on top in the Democratic primary, over five challengers. He won 1,495 votes. Robert LeVertis Bell came in second with 1,236 votes. The remaining candidates, including one who withdrew prior to the election, each received fewer than 700 votes each. There was no Republican candidate for this seat; Arthur will take office in January.

Arthur, who previously worked at Louisville Public Media station WUOL, said his priorities include improving life for Louisville’s poorest citizens and creating a Black agenda for the city. He also identifies as part of the American Descendents of Slavery (ADOS) movement.

Courtesy Cassie Chambers Armstrong

District 8: Cassie Chambers Armstrong won a decisive victory over two opponents in the Democratic primary, with 6,791 votes versus 2,839 for Shawn Reilly and 1,282 for Dan Borsch. There were no Republican candidates for this seat; Armstrong will take office in January.

Armstrong’s priorities include include improving walkability and sustainability in the Highlands.

Courtesy Pat Mulvihill

District 10: Incumbent Pat Mulvihill survived a close challenge by Ryan Fenwick in this Democratic primary, with 3,747 votes to 3,650. There was no Republican candidate for this seat, Mulvilhill will serve his second full term beginning in January.

Mulvihill said his priorities include “Improving the quality of life and maintaining a strong sense of place through resident-centered economic development.”

Courtesy Mera Corlett

District 18: Mera Kathryn Corlett won the Democratic primary over Noah Grimes and Susan Jarl with 2,657 votes versus 1,623 and 1,085, respectively.

Corlett will face incumbent Republican Marilyn Parker, who was unchallenged, in the November general election.

 

Louisville Metro Government

District 20: Incumbent Stuart Benson easily held onto his seat against opponent Wyatt Allison with 3,363 votes to 781 in the Republican primary. There were no Democratic candidates for this seat, so Benson will serve a fifth term beginning in January.

Benson has said his priorities include infrastructure improvement in his district.

All unofficial Jefferson County primary results are available online here.

‘Where Does The Buck Stop?’ Council To Investigate Fischer Administration Tuesday, Jun 30 2020 

The Fischer administration’s decision-making around the Breonna Taylor case could soon be the subject of a Metro Council investigation.

The leaders of the council’s Government Oversight and Audit Committee announced plans Monday to file a resolution that would allow them to initiate such an investigation. The council is on summer break, and could take up the issue on July 23.

Committee chair Brent Ackerson (D-26) said he is hoping for a broad investigation, calling it a “massive” issue.

“The biggest thing is to focus on getting the entire truth out there,” he said at a news conference. “And then from there you, the media, and the community can start asking more questions. And from there, we can try to get you more answers.”

Ackerson said the committee could use its powers which include issuing subpoenas and requiring people to testify under oath to construct a clear timeline of what happened leading up to the police killing of Taylor in her home on March 13.

Her name has been chanted by racial justice protesters across the country over the past month, including in Louisville.

But in Ackerson’s opinion, the investigation doesn’t have to stop there.

There are also questions about the choices that led to the killing of David McAtee by a National Guard member while the city was under curfew, during an action in which Louisville Metro Police participated, as well as the use of force by police against protesters, he said. Plus, there was the recent decision to throw away protesters’ belongings after officials cleared Jefferson Square Park following the killing of protester Tyler Gerth over the weekend.

“Where does the buck stop with a lot of these decisions?” Ackerson said. “Why were we at the corner where Mr. McAtee was shot, in such force? What was the cause, or justification?”

The investigation comes at a time when public opinion of Mayor Greg Fischer appears relatively low. Racial justice protesters criticize him for a lack of action, while supporters of the police criticize him for not supporting officers.

Ackerson told reporters the goal of the investigation is to get the truth. Despite calls for Fischer to resign, he said it’s not to build a case to remove Fischer from office.

Committee vice chair Anthony Piagentini (R-19) agreed. He said the council could call Fischer to testify.

“If that’s one of the people that we need to call to get to the truth, then certainly we’ll call him,” he said.

Piagentini said the investigation would include “anybody and everybody” in the executive branch involved in making decisions pertaining to these issues.

Dewey Clayton, a political science professor at the University of Louisville, said members of the public and council may be getting impatient for answers regarding the Taylor case.

Protesters continue to engage in civil disobedience downtown, while also contacting city and state officials to demand charges against the police officers in the Taylor case. Piagentini said one of the answers the investigation would seek is to the question of why the investigations into the Taylor killing are taking so long.

Fischer’s initial public response to the killing included comments that even if people want investigations to move quickly, that’s not always possible.

Clayton said it’s now been long enough that people are beginning to wonder why all the information isn’t public yet.

While the council is trying to respond to Taylor’s killing, an investigation is another potential tool available to it.

“I think the council feels like, you know, since they’re duly elected officials as well, that they have a right to investigate to find out what’s holding things up,” Clayton said.

Although Ackerson and Piagentini promoted this action’s bipartisan nature, at least one Black activist has taken issue with the latter council member’s participation.

Hannah Drake, who is also a poet and spoken-word artist, tweeted her disapproval during Monday’s press conference.

Earlier this month, Piagentini criticized the mayor for not taking action against protesters who blocked the intersection at Sixth Street and Jefferson Street downtown.

Piagentini has since exchanged tweets with Drake over his use of the term “invaders.”

Mayor Fischer’s office did not respond to WFPL News’ multiple requests for comment on the investigation.

In a statement to the Courier-Journal,  Mayor Fischer’s spokeswoman Jean Porter cited reviews of LMPD and separately, the Breonna Taylor case ordered by Fischer.

“And to be clear, he is not waiting on any of those reviews to make changes, as evidenced by his decision to ban no-knock warrants, to require broader use of body cameras and replace prior leadership at LMPD,” Porter told the newspaper.

Louisville Budget Maintaining Police Funding Passes With Broad Support Thursday, Jun 25 2020 

The Louisville Metro Council passed a budget for the upcoming fiscal year that avoids previously anticipated cuts, in part due to federal reimbursements for coronavirus response.

In April, Mayor Greg Fischer proposed a continuation budget, citing economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic. More recently, city officials said tax revenue came in higher than expected. The budget passed by the council assumes a general fund of $613 million.

Both the capital and operating budgets passed 24 to 1, with Barbara Shanklin (D-2) voting against each because she said they failed to fairly allocate funds to low-income areas. The new budget goes into effect on July 1. Earlier this week, the budget committee unanimously passed its amendments to the mayor’s budget, which remained largely unchanged Thursday.

Police operations made up the largest expenditure in the operations budget, as is typical. The council appropriated $190.6 million for the Louisville Metro Police Department, up slightly from the $189.9 million the body appropriated last year.

Allocations for police and other departments come from the general fund as well as other sources.

This is despite recent calls to defund the police and redirect dollars to other agencies, which have increased amid demands for racial justice in Louisville and across the country. Neither council members nor Fischer support such a move.

As Metro Council gaveled into session, WFPL News spoke with protesters advocating for racial justice across the street in Jefferson Square Park.

Gracie Lewis with the Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression said she would like to see funds divested from law enforcement into education, housing, transportation and health care.

“I believe in re-imagining what the police department should really be about,” Lewis said. “I do not believe $190 million needs to be allocated toward the police department.”

Social worker Shawntee West addressed the council ahead of the vote, and criticized its decision to maintain LMPD’s budget. She described council members’ previous arguments that Louisville police are already underpaid compared to neighboring municipalities’ departments as an “excuse” not to cut funding.

“But we have no problem each year defunding the services that help families and children that I serve and that I work with,” she said. “We see fit to defund substance abuse treatment programs, housing assistance, medical care, childcare and a host of other things that keep people in a vicious cycle that keeps them engaged with the very police department that you are giving millions of dollars to each year.”

Last year, the council cut more than $25 million from the budget due to rising employee pension and health care costs. Those cuts significantly affected services for vulnerable Louisvillians.

Allocations for other public safety agencies also stayed nearly flat or increased. The council voted to boost Louisville Fire’s budget nearly 9% to $64.8 million; to increase emergency services’ budget nearly 4% to $51.5 million; and to maintain corrections’ budget at about $56.6 million.

Budget chair Bill Hollander (D-9) said during a Democratic Caucus meeting earlier in the day that he had received complaints about the $775,900 to the Louisville Free Public Library’s operations budget. The council allocated about $22.3 million to the library, which Hollander said was based on library officials’ assurances that they could operate fully on the lower budget.

“The reason it’s less is because they didn’t spend that money last year, even though they were able to operate all of our libraries,” he said. “The money that’s appropriated for the library is adequate to operate all of our libraries in the same way they were operated this year and return all of the furloughed workers to their jobs.”

The budget for Youth Transitional Services, formerly Youth Detention Services, also decreased. Last year, city officials turned over control of the juvenile detention facility to the state as they grasped for savings. The budget went from $8.5 million to $2.9 million.

Federal CARES Act reimbursements contributed to increased budgets for certain departments, such as public health and wellness, whose operations allocations swelled to nearly twice its current level. But $42.3 million of the $78.1 million appropriated by the council will come from federal funds “for COVID-19 testing, tracing, monitoring and response.”

The budget for the Office of Resilience & Community Services grew more than 22% to $37.2 million, including $2.7 million which would be reimbursed through the CARES Act. In March, the body voted to shift that amount away from pension payments to COVID-19 relief.

Budgets for the economic development department and Develop Louisville, which oversees land development activities, are also up significantly compared to last year’s allocation.

Economic development’s budget increased nearly 44%, to $35.6 million, of which $21.2 million is from the CARES Act for a small business loan program. The same amount from the CARES Act was allocated to Develop Louisville for a two-part eviction prevention program; the department’s budget nearly doubled to $41.7 million.

Federal funding also contributed to a large increase in the budget for the Office of Management and Budget. The council said a combined $25.6 million of CARES Act funding would be used for direct coronavirus response and to cover 10% of costs for city workers involved in that response.

The council’s version of the operating budget can be viewed here, while the capital budget can be viewed here.

In a statement after the vote, Fischer thanked the council for their work on the budget. He praised the budget for including funding for services that support low-income families, and said he is still hoping for additional federal relief due to the pandemic. He has called for that sort of aid for months.

“Additional funding would allow us to make more investments to move us closer to the goal we share for the future – a compassionate city where every person from every neighborhood has the opportunity to reach their full potential,” he said in the statement.

Reporter Ryan Van Velzer contributed to this story.

Protesters At State Capitol Rally Say Investigation Into Breonna Taylor’s Killing Taking Too Long Thursday, Jun 25 2020 

The grounds of the Kentucky State Capitol shook with song, chants and passionate speeches at a rally held for Breonna Taylor on Thursday.

Taylor was shot and killed at her home on March 13, by Louisville Metro Police officers who were serving a no-knock warrant. Since then, none of the officers involved in the incident has been arrested.

Protesters, many of whom drove from Louisville to attend the rally, prominently noted the fact that it had been more than three months – or 100 days — since Taylor lost her life. The length of the investigation has angered and frustrated people like Rhonne Green.

Green said that if it were a Black civilian involved in a shooting, such a gap in justice would not exist.

“If it was one of us, a Black man or a Black woman, [arrests would’ve happened] instantly,” he said. “Them, y’all prolonging it. For what? Lock they a** up, prosecute them and handle business. Or like we said – no justice, no peace.”

Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, attended the rally. Joining her were figures from the political, music and acting worlds.

Among those at the State Capitol were Common and Jada Pinkett Smith, along with Kentucky legislators Attica Scott and Charles Booker. During his time at the podium, Common led a chant of Taylor’s name, following it with a poem he wrote in her honor.

“The date Breonna took her last breath was the date I took my first breath,” he said. “March 13 is my birthday, and I will always honor Breonna on that day. And to the spirit of Breonna, I want to say, ‘I’m sorry we had to meet this way.’”

Cherrie Vaughn, who brought her three children from Louisville to attend the rally, called the day “historic.”

She said the environment brought to mind the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

“To me, this is like being alive when Martin was alive and when Malcolm was alive, and when they would go to certain cities because there were lynchings and things that were happening,” she said. “They would go into those cities and rally and team up together to make more of an impact, to make those voices louder.”

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