Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Why I support 8664 and No Tolls

As a resident of west Louisville, the real question should be how could I not support 8664 and No Tolls? The ORBP (Ohio River Bridges Project), is one of the biggest decisions that this community faces and one that will have a tremendous impact on the residents of west Louisville.

Many of us who live in West Louisville have to shop in southern Indiana. I could drive all the way to St. Matthews to go to Target, but the one in Southern Indiana is closer. I could drive all the way down Dixie Highway to go to Walmart, but the one in Southern Indiana is closer. I don't want to nor should I have to pay a toll to get basic goods and services. I also shouldn't have to pay a toll on I-64 to get from one side of town to other.  Most of the citizens of west Louisville are barely hanging on as it is. Another toll/tax for basic goods and services would be too much. Yes we could shop in Eastern Jefferson Co, but then we would spend more in gas to go back and forth. It doesn't make sense.

I could possibly support tolls if we needed the entire ORBP(even the new trimmed down plan), but we don't. According to the state's own studies the East End bridge by itself would handle over 99% of the traffic congestion, and Louisvillians are driving less. Why do we need two bridges when one bridge will handle the traffic just fine? Why do we need tolls for the two bridges and a rebuilt Spaghetti Junction when all we need is one bridge AND the ORBP ALREADY HAS ENOUGH MONEY TO BUILD THE EAST END BRIDGE? Let me repeat that last little known fact. They already have enough money to start and finish construction of the East End bridge. Why wait?

The reason we are waiting for all of the money and/or funding sources for the project is because a small group of wealthy, well connected East End residents don't want a bridge in their back yard. The ORBP was originally 2 projects. East End bridge first, then downtown and Spaghetti Junction re-design next. The monied elite knew that if we built one bridge at a time the downtown part would have likely never been built because it would be obvious we didn't need it. They also wanted to kill the east end bridge. The best way to do that would be to make the project to big to succeed. So through their friends in high places the projects were fused to together. Hence the ORBP as we know it today. It is the 2nd most expensive project in the country. There was no way they would get enough money to pay for a $4.1 Billion project. Even the scaled down version is to big.

This leads me to the reason why I support 8664 (If you're not familiar with what 8664 is read about it on their website). 8664 wants to build the East End bridge remove 1-64 as it crosses downtown. This would not only connect Louisville to it's river front, but more importantly open up Western Louisville for more development. We could expand Waterfront Park west, and without the the 9th street flyover Western Louisville can finally be physically and visually re-connected to the rest of Louisville. It would also be a lot cheaper than the ORBP and makes a 1000% more sense. Just look at the pictures and videos.   This is the type of project that moves Louisville forward. Not just the East End, but all of Louisville.

Pics of 8664. This Waterfront Park West looking                This the new Waterfront Parkway

I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture. I just hope we can change their minds before Louisville makes another BIG mistake.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

You're Not a Mother and a Father, You're One or the Other....

When Mother's Day rolls around I don't say to a father "Happy Mother's Day," why because he's not a mother. I don't care if he's had custody of his child since the child was born, no financial, or emotional support from the mother, doesn't make him a mother. Same with Father's Day, no I wont say Happy Father's Day to a single mother, why, because she's not a father. For some reason this has folks in an uproar, but it shouldn't you have Mother's Day/Father's Day for a reason to celebrate each in their respective rights. 

Had a discussion with someone recently, and like every May/ June, I’m sure I’ll have some more about this issue, and this person made some good points. In the back and forth I asked the question how does it benefit the child saying Happy Mother’s Day to a father and vice-versa, the response, what day does either provide.  I realized I asked the wrong question, I should’ve asked is there any harm done through this gesture.

The reality is I understand why someone chooses to say I’m the father and the mother, but the truth is this is not reality.  Some say, Shawn it’s just semantics a play on words, but it’s more than that.  Absent fatherhood is an issue I deal with in my efforts to promote responsible fatherhood, and while fatherhood is an issue everywhere, in the US the biggest impact is felt in the low-income black community.  With over 70’s of children growing up in single family homes something needs to change.

I think the change begins with the parents, so back to the benefits/ harm question.  No it serves no benefit to the child rather or not they wish their father a Happy Mother’s Day or wish their mother a Happy Father’s Day, but here’s the reality. We know in the low income community fatherhood seems, at time, non-existent.  Like so many other disparities in the low income black community such as heart disease, poverty, high dropout rates, and so on it’s a problem that needs to be addressed and resolved. I say addressed because we don’t do it, we talk about it as a problem but we don’t address the issue itself (I’ll cover that next time).

Ok, here’s my scenario based on my personal experience as a father, my professional experience working with father’s and responsible fatherhood practitioners, my role as a confidant to many single mothers raising sons, and my civic involvement in schools working with youth.  Let’s say we have a single mother raising a son, this son grows up with no positive male involvement.

This child hears all the time from the mother “I’m your mother and your father,” or “I’m the only father you know,” while I can understand that perspective based on the parents frustration and struggle what about the psychological development of the child.  It’s bad enough the father isn’t around, it’s equally devastating no positive males around, but now on top of that, he’s hearing a woman say essentially “I’m not only a woman, but a man.”

When this young black male grows up dealing with all the peer pressures, struggles, and obstacles life has to throw at him, he’s going to wrestle with his identity, when he has a child if it doesn’t work with the mother (bad relationships), struggles with the family court (difficult time navigating child welfare system), and isn’t involved in the life of his child like he wants or should be, what’s he going to fall back on, are the voices in his head.  The voices in his head that recall a woman saying “I’m the mother and the father,” at this point if that male says, they don’t need me, meaning his family, which is the sad reality a lot of times (now we deal with mental wellness), that’s how this terminology, this play on words, can have a negative effect on the child.  Also, you can flip the roles, let’s say it’s a female in this situation, it could make her have a difficult time working with the father, when they struggle, because if her mom is both why can’t she be, and thus, her kids don’t NEED a father, because she is mama, and daddy.

                                                                                                Shawn Gardner

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sheppard Square Redevelopment

This was taken from local blog Brokensidewalk. We will have more on this later, but this is a good introduction.

Officials from Metro Louisville, the Metro Housing Authority (LMHA), and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) gathered in May to announce funding for Louisville’s third HOPE VI development on the site of the current Sheppard Square housing project in the Smoketown-Jackson neighborhood. After a failed attempt last year, LMHA was awarded a $22 million federal grant that will jump start the estimated $167 million redevelopment, with additional funding expected to come from public and private sources.
Long in planning, the future of Sheppard Square will resemble the Park DuValle neighborhood or the nearby Liberty Green, with traditional-styled, market-rate and subsidized residential buildings built under the guidelines of New Urbanism.
Officials from Metro Louisville, the Metro Housing Authority (LMHA), and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) gathered in May to announce funding for Louisville’s third HOPE VI development on the site of the current Sheppard Square housing project in the Smoketown-Jackson neighborhood. After a failed attempt last year, LMHA was awarded a $22 million federal grant that will jump start the estimated $167 million redevelopment, with additional funding expected to come from public and private sources.
Long in planning, the future of Sheppard Square will resemble the Park DuValle neighborhood or the nearby Liberty Green, with traditional-styled, market-rate and subsidized residential buildings built under the guidelines of New Urbanism.

In an agreement with the Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS), a recreational area adjacent to Meyzeek Middle School will be located at the southwest corner of the site with one block on Lampton Street closed to auto-traffic. Barry declined to say what the new pedestrian walkway would look like as it’s still underdevelopment with JCPS. The recreational fields would be available for public use.
At Hancock and Roseland streets, the old Presbyterian Community Center (PCC), a grand historic building, will be restored and converted into offices and apartments for the elderly and disabled veterans. “We’re going to do a bang-up job on the old community center,” said Barry. “It’s of great importance to the community.” An addition will be built to the south of the existing structure, which is unfortunately set back from the corner (a result of maintaining sight-lines for motorists Pincus explained).
Between 25 and 30 market-rate, single-family houses will surround the old PCC and Hancock Green, each with its own private garage. Higher density units will be located nearest to East Broadway.
Barry said LMHA is exploring out-parcels as well including the two-story former Duvall Liquor store at the southwest corner of Hancock and Breckinridge streets. The historic building could be converted into apartments, possibly with a retail space on the first floor. Another option is a vacant block to the northwest of Sheppard Square that was once home to the original Hillerich & Bradsby “Louisville Slugger” factory and is still owned by the Hillerich family. Barry said LMHA “would certainly pay homage to the site as the original bat factory.” For now, the main focus remains on the original Sheppard Square footprint.
Among the unique features of the redevelopment are the sustainable components, including green rainwater management systems to help reduce combined sewer overflow, a major problem in Louisville. Sheppard Square represents an increase from measures taken at Liberty Green, said Barry. Pervious pavers will definitely be part of the mix, but he assured us that’s just a start. (We’re hoping for curb-side rain gardens.) Like Liberty Green, every building will be Energy Star rated, but the new development will also be an Enterprise Green Community which takes sustainability to the neighborhood level.
The new Sheppard Square will be a residential development with no planned commercial space, but Barry said the project is intended to spur additional private redevelopment in the surrounding Smoketown-Jackson neighborhood, which has ample potential to bring in a mix of additional uses.
Courtesy of Brokensidewalk 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Why aren't more African-Americans engaged in local civic debates?

This is a question that I have often contemplated. I have had the pleasure of being a part of the bridges debate, the failed attempt to save the Brinkley-Hardy buildings on East Main, and several other worthy civic causes. I have been to several hundred meetings and many more gatherings of like minded individuals around these  and other various causes.  The one constant about all of these meetings and organizations is that I am usually just 1 of a handful of black folks in the room. Why is that?

I think part of the problem is the segregated city in which we live. Usually when you start an organization around a cause or topic the first people you invite are the people you know. Once that group has been exhausted you start to expand. The problem with Louisville is that there isn't a lot of mixing  between groups of people. That's why an organization started in the Highlands tends to attract people around the Highlands. Very rarely would you find somebody from either West or South Louisville represented. The same can be said of an organization started in West Louisville. Segregation also makes it hard for these groups to expand outside of their comfort zones and build coalitions. Often times they don't know the mover or shakers in another part of town to connect with or how to connect with them. However, segregation leads to another problem.

The segregation that I am referring to is economic segregation. In order to start or be apart of an organization you have to have your basic needs meet. If you don't have a constant source of food, shelter, and clothing the odds of you staying up late and donating your time to a cause is pretty slim.  Unless of course that cause is about getting those needs met. Even then it's tough.

Most importantly I think middle class black folks (those who have the economic means to donate time and treasure) are in general worried that being active may hurt their already slim job prospects. Let's be honest. If you're young, black and in the middle class in Louisville you don't have a ton of well paying jobs that you can jump to. If your employer doesn't approve of your "activities" and your job may be in peril because of said activities, you are pretty much stuck. The flip side of the coin is that, we as a people, are 100% dependent on the current power structure for our economic well-being. The ones that could/should rock the boat can't. There are just a handful of well paying that jobs that are set aside for us. If we are considered "unsafe" then  we will never be considered for those few positions. This is a city that you have to go along to get along.

Lastly I think a lot of us have just given up hope and no longer see our futures intertwined with those of a different economic class. We feel that we have come about as far as we can and now its time to see how far I can go." I'm not the same as those folks who live in the West End." "I'm just trying to do me." We have lost our sense of community and unity. Therefore when we are engaged or try to build movements it's hard to get any sort of consensus.

There is hope. There are a bunch of young, progressive black folks who are tired and want to see change, but it's going to be an uphill struggle, and like Frederick Douglass said "If there is no struggle, there is no progress."

Friday, June 10, 2011

Rubbertown Lawsuit Terms Insulting

Rubbertown Lawsuit Terms Insulting

A couple of days ago REACT began receiving calls and inquiries about letters residents had received concerning a lawsuit in Rubbertown.  The letters they received were notice of a proposed settlement with Zeon Chemicals, one the chemical facilities in Rubbertown that has been spewing toxic chemicals into our neighborhoods for decades.  My first thought was “Here we go again.”  
In 2009, many in the community came very close to losing their right to sue Zeon while receiving little to literally nothing in return.  Luckily REACT and its allies were able to get the word out about the unfair settlement terms.  Community members packed out the courtroom and when the judge asked by a show of hands, who was in favor of the settlement, no one raised a hand.  Ultimately the judge denied the class settlement and residents were spared.
Fast forward to 2011.  This modified version of the settlement rejected in 2009 is just as bad.  First let’s deal with the money issues.  According to the Short Form Notice:
  • If you live within a mile of the facility, you will receive between $300 and $750
  • If you live within one to two miles you will receive $30 to $100
Okay, let’s stop there.  You mean to tell me that people will receive what amounts to enough money to pay an LG&E electric bill in the first scenario and what amounts to a tank of gas in the second scenario (rolling my eyes)?  Oh and I forgot to tell you.  You might even have to split what you receive with others who lived in your home within a certain time frame.  It just keeps getting better huh?
Let us continue...  The Short Notice Form also informs residents that for all of that money they will receive (insert sarcasm here), they will release all future claims for damages against Zeon.
Would you like to hear more ridiculousness?  People within a certain mile radius of the facility are automatically bound by the terms of the settlement unless that TAKE ACTION by opting out.  So this means people who do nothing will lose their rights.
It may sound to you like I am making light of the situation because of the way I presented it but “hear” me now...  This is SERIOUS.  We must muster up the strength to get the word out about this lawsuit.  People will lose their rights and gain minimal in return.  People in these neighborhoods are ill because of toxic chemicals coming from Rubbertown.  We cannot  allow them to pay us of with chump change and not even reduce our exposure to their toxic chemicals. 
REACT will hold it’s 3rd quarter meeting Saturday, July 16th at 1:00PM.  We will provide analysis of the terms so that you clearly understand and we will have opt out forms available for those who want no part of this ludicrous settlement.
If you would like to keep up with what is going on with the proposed settlement or issues related to Rubbertown, please send an email to

Eboni Neal Cochran is a resident of the Chickasaw area, one of several neighborhoods adjacent to a cluster of chemical facilities commonly referred to as Rubbertown. She is a member of REACT (Rubbertown Emergency ACTion) an all volunteer grassroots organization of residents living at or near the fenceline of Rubbertown.
REACT is fighting for:
1. Strong laws to stop toxic air pollution from chemical plants
2. The protection of residents in the event of a leak, fire or explosion in a chemical plant or railcar
3. Full disclosure and easy access to information concerning the impact of Rubbertown on residents living nearby

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Friday, June 3, 2011

Love and Marriage: This is Why I'm SIngle

After reading an article about why women might be single I thought it appropriate to put together a list of why men are single.  Then it dawned on me, it’s not the same, it’s not the same because as one friend told me as I was putting together this blog, men are not pressured to be in a relationship, there’s not the same stigma attached with a single man as it is with a single woman.    With that being said, the original article “Love and Marriage: This is why you’re Single,” that prompted my thoughts has become “Love and Marriage: Why I Choose to be Single.”
*Caution, of course this doesn’t represent the thoughts of all men, but if you read this and can relate you know the adage “if the shoe fits wear it.” To all women this may be hard to swallow, but there’s an old saying for you as well, “the truth hurts.”  Here are my 10+ reasons why men choose to be single.  +note 10, 11, and 12 can be lumped together.
  1. Unlimited Booty Calls no need to be in a relationship/ get married; I can get all the sex I want without the hassle of commitment.  Generally it just takes a drink at the bar, a dinner and movie, and in some cases the infamous 3 A.M. call.
  2. I got keys Why be in a relationship/ get married if I can just shack up. You can cook for me, clean for me, wash my clothes, and tell all your little girlfriends “girl I got a man.” Sure you do you gave me a set of keys to the crib.
  3. “Dime” Piece I want the “dime,” I haven’t found a woman who meets every criteria on my list. She has to be shapely, cute, smart, have a job, no kids, hair, and is a freak in the bed.
  4. Stingy with the Benjis I don’t have a lot of money, but if I get married the little money I got a woman will take some when we divorce.  I’m not getting married because I want to keep my money, same thing with relationships.  If I have a girlfriend, if something happens and she needs some money she’ll think I’m obligated to give her some.
  5. Divorced been there done that not doing it again.
  6. I’m too FlyI look to good to get married, I get so much attention from women why would I settle with one when I’ve loved, adored, and wanted by many, not only that I’m too young, I got things to do a woman would just cramp my style.
  7. Heartbroken contrary to popular believe you’ve had your heart broken before, don’t like the feeling and so now, no woman, gets the benefit of doubt. As far as you’re concerned they’re all hoes and sluts, and would just as soon dog you as soon as they could.
  8. Hoes and Sluts I see the way you dress, and the way you look, you a hoe.  You told me“I don’t normally do this,” so I guess I’m special.  I’m supposed to believe all those Trojans in the pickle jar are just in case.  Meeting me on the first time showing me your skills is something you don’t do all the time either, huh?  Why would even think about marrying someone like you.
  9. Zero Pressure Nobody is telling me I need to get married, none of my boys are married, my mama ain’t asking me when I’m going to get married.  Now that I think about it I really don’t see myself getting married… don’t even ask me to go to a wedding, not going to happen.
  10. Baby Daddy Drama always seems to follow a woman with kids, you try to hang with them every once and while and soon as you do here comes, Tyrone causing problems.
  11. Bebe’s kids you don’t want to marry because women who have children seem to have some little demons, and since men and women parent different, you don’t think it would ever work.  She let’s them run around turning up stuff, you’re quick to put a stop to it, which causes problems.  Another problem kids get all attached to you like you’re their dad, so much so the kids start calling you dad.
  12. Replacement Dad you see every woman with kids as a woman looking to get a daddy for their bad ass kids.
  13. I ain’t Changing relationships mean I have to change who I am, have to be in at a decent time, got to hear drama if I want to watch the game.  I go from being able to relax kick my shoes off in the middle of the floor to having to be responsible.
  14. Badge of Honor I like being a bachelor; I wear my title bachelor, like a badge of honor.
Men and women are different and we see life different, one aspect is relationships.  Traditionally women want them and men don’t.  Of course, if women really wanted that to change it could, but women would have to be on a common front… Til Next – The Intellectual1, Shawn Gardner)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Let's Talk it Over...Dealing with the conflict of lIfe

I talk about race, because we don’t like to, I talk about men/ women relationships and the role each of us play in the good and bad of them, because we don’t like to, I talk about bad parenting, because we don’t like to… nowadays, I’m taking a lot of heat, which is cool because the heat is toughening my skin like leather, the only way we grow as a society, as a people is to really communicate with each other, not only about the things we like and have in common (which we do all the time), but about the issues we don’t like. The stuff we shy away from, the stuff we call conflict.

The first thing we need to understand is that conflict, in itself, is not bad. The good thing about conflict is it brings issues to the table. For example, I facilitate something called Conversation CafĂ© (to learn more about it go to their website: As a skilled facilitator, I modified the process just a tidbit. As opposed to not having a say, I have a say, but I also play devil’s advocate. The purpose of doing so, is that over the years I’ve learned people are reluctant to share their true deepest views. What people generally do is share a, somewhat neutral view, in hopes they can slide their perspective in without having to support/ defend it. However, by playing devil’s advocate, it pushes that button, and thus comes the real. Which is good, that’s how healthy debate evolves, really sharing your views.

Look at the issue of race, it is probably one of the most hot button topics in the US, and what do we do as a country? Shy away from it. An example, the US finally has a black President, and during his campaign, instead of his position on politics, instead of something he said, instead of something he actually did, there was a huge uproar over something the preacher of his church said. What the preacher said really isn’t as important as what I noticed. I walk in diverse circles and the conversation sounded similar dependent the circle I was in. When I found myself amongst my white friends it was more of a, we need to move on/ hatred for his country/ he’s a racist type discussion, but something was different amongst my black friends. There was a sense we could relate to what was said and there’s a sense also, having this discussion with black friends there was validity to what he was saying. The problem is we never took the time to really make a “teachable moment,” as President Obama addressed it. He left the church, the preacher was demonized, and society went back to our divided segregated views.

In conflict there is something called “intractable conflict,” which essentially means if a conflict takes place for so long and not resolved it takes a life of its own, the outcome is negative for everyone involved. When we don’t discuss issues and allow them linger, in my mind, they become an intractable conflict. One ingredient to intractable conflict is they seem like they can never be resolved… need I say more?

There’s an attorney in the city I’m from, Louisville, named Brandon Lawrence, and he has a radio show where he talks about important social issues, but more importantly, and the reason I bring him up is the name of his show “Let’s Talk it Over.” Nothing gets resolved til we do so… til next time –The Intellectual1