Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Right to Work. What Does It All Mean?

What's the big deal about Michigan's RIght to Work bill that passed yesterday?

For those of you that don't know Right to Work means that you can work in a union shop and not have to pay union dues or join the union. Granted, in most cases you get all of the benefits of union membership,  like higher wages, and better benefits all without having to pay a dime in union dues if you choose not too.

Why is this important? States that aren't Right to Work states tend to have higher wages and better benefits for workers in similar jobs. But that's not the only reason why it's important. The reason many states, most of which are republican controlled, have pushed Right to Work legislation is for political reasons. Most unions contribute heavily to Democratic candidates. Right to work legislation weakens the union thus weakens their support for Democratic candidates.

How do you? It could be for economic development reasons?  It could be, but then why are Police and firefighter unions exempt? Why? Because they tend to support Republican candidates. Thats why when the Wisconsin governor wanted to end collective bargaining it didn't cover police and firefighters unions. Which if you're trying to save money would be the first you would target since their benefits cost more than all other public unions combined.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I Apologize.

I've been mulling writing this post for a while. Like most of you I've seen the news reports about the murders. I have seen how our youth seem to have lost their way. This post is for them, our youth

I want to apologize to all of the youth in the current generation and the next one coming up. We have failed you. We have failed you miserably.

I want to apologize for not passing on our true history as African-Americans to you. We have taught you nothing about where you came from and who you are. Instead we let the public school system and the mass media teach you about who you are. It's no wonder that all you know of black history is that we were slaves who didn't fight back, the Harlem Renaissance, and the Civil Rights Movement. We have failed to give you sense of self.

I want to apologize for not providing you with independent schools where you could be taught by people who looked like you and shared your experiences. Thus giving you the proper guidance you needed. When I was growing up we had those schools like Christ The King and others. We left you to fend for yourselves.

I want to apologize for leaving you a community in disrepair. We haven't been the best caretakers of West Louisville. We let our historic building be torn down. We have not created long lasting small to medium size businesses that can add riches and employment to the neighborhood. Instead we all got jobs with some of Louisville's largest companies and moved east. Those of us who couldn't move East moved to Shively. We let the city turn large parts of West Louisville into warehousing of the poor and halfway houses.

There are 1000 more things I could apologize for and for those things I am truly sorry. We have failed you. But I will fail you no more. That's my promise to you.

Friday, November 2, 2012

What Should Have Been, What Should Be, What Still Could Be

As some of you may know, I along with several other preservation groups, have been trying to save the old Phillip Morris warehouse on the corner of 18th and Broadway. Currently the YMCA of Greater Louisville wants to tear down the warehouse that stands 5 stories, is a block long, has more than 500,000+ square foot space, to build a 2.5 story Y that will include an aquatic center and UL healthcare and will have 70,000 sq. ft. of space and is a little over a block long.

I commend the Y for investing in west Louisville and bringing much needed services to a part of town that needs them. The Y deserves big kudos for that. But does the Y need to tear down such a large historic structure to build a much smaller Y?

Across 18th street there is a large vacant lot that will become a development known as NewBridge Crossing. According to there is a major big box retailer looking into moving into that site. If that happens I'm sure they will need most of the 19 acres that the site currently occupies. Why didn't Y choose to move across the street into the NewBridge Crossing development? According to various articles in the Courier-Journal. The original plans for NewBridge Crossing called for a lifestyle center (think an urban Summit) that included condos, UL pediatrics, and the YMCA. SO, if the YMCA was a part of the original plans for NewBridge Crossing what happened? I don't know, but I think that deserves some investigation.

What really got my attention were the plans for the old Phillip Morris warhouse in question. In those plans, TMG (developers of NewBridge Crossing) wanted to turn the warehouse into a Boutique Hotel, with condos and apartments. There is another newer warehouse on the site that faces 18th that was suppose to be a convention center. Call me crazy, but that is a much better use of the property than a YMCA.

The YMCA is a great project and much needed in west Louisville, just not at 18th and Broadway. This part of west Louisville already has a YMCA at 10th and Chestnut, and there is a great workout facility at St. Stephen's Baptist Church right off of 16th st.  A better place for the YMCA would be near Park Duvall, Shawnee, or the Chickasaw neighborhoods. Those areas are severally underserve. Not the Russell/California area.

The development plan presented by TMG is a much better fit for the area and is what this community truly needs. How many more jobs would the boutique hotel/convention provide rather than the Y? How many more spin off businesses would that kind of development spur as opposed to the Y? I know there are a lot of nay sayers that doubt a hotel can work in west Louisville. I understand your doubts. But you have to remember what is directly behind this warehouse. Brown-Forman. How many executives does Brown Forman fly in or host on a yearly basis? I'm sure they fly in hundreds of people. A hotel that is less than a block away from their corporate HQ would be a perfect fit.

This is they type of responsible urban development that Louisville needs. Which leads me to another question. What happened to this project? If TMG had plans for the property why did they fall through?

I don't think it's too late to save the warehouse nor do I think it's too late for a win/win outcome for all parties involved. This is something we need to make happen.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

There They Go Again...

4th Street is at it again. Will Green, the CEO of So Fly ENT, attempted to hold an event at the Makers Marks Lounge and needless to say once he showed up Markers Mark showed out. You can read Mr. Green's account of the situation on his Facebook page.    This isn't the first, second, or third time 4th Street Live has been accused of racism. This also seems to be a trend of Cordish owned "Live" districts.  The KC Live district in Kansas City has been the object of numerous complaints about racism.

On Tuesday, August 28th at 6:30pm  there will be a forum held at the Improv to discuss discrimination at 4th Street Live. That sounds like a good first step by the Cordish Co, but I think the Improv has more to lose if black folks stop patronizing 4th Street Live than any other business. The improv depends on black patrons for its very survival. If you look at the comics that the Improv brings in most of them appeal to black folks. The Improv is the only business on 4th Street Live that advertises on an urban radio station. They had to act, but what about the other businesses on 4th Street Live and what should be done?

Before I go on and in the name of full disclosure, I supported 4th Street Live when it was first proposed. I still do. I think downtown Louisville is better off with 4th Street Live than without it. Like I said I was in favor of 4th Street Live when it was FIRST proposed. In the original proposal 4th Street Live was to include local businesses and not just chain bars or bars owned by Cordish. There was also a fund set up to help local businesses move south of 4th Street Live. As soon as the administration changed in Louisville many of those perks for local companies dried up.

Where do we go from here? I understand the desire to boycott 4th Street Live, and talk about changing the culture there, but I'm not sure that will solve the problem. We can talk to the owners and managers and they will promise to change their ways. Black promotors will have more opportunities to hold events at 4th Street and prove that Cordish's fear of young black folks are unfounded. I understand those sentiments, but it almost feels like we are begging to spend money at an establishment that has shown it doesn't want us.

I understand where the black party promotors are coming from. Louisville doesn't have an upscale black club besides Jazzy Blu. Where else are they suppose to go and hold their functions? Personally, I would love to see a group of black party promotors get together and use the spot light that they have now and open an upscale bar/club south of 4th Street. If 4th Street Live does not want your business fine. We can start out own thing.

I know we are suppose to fight for equal access, but I feel we need our own space. Martin Luther King faced the same dilema (granted on a much larger scale). He wanted an end to segregation, but still wanted black folks to keep their businesses and institutions at the same time. I think we can do both as well.  

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Can Artist Save West Louisville?

In my last post about revitalizing West Louisville I proposed that we copy the Paducah, KY model with our own Artist relocation program. Here is a video about Paducah's program. If they can't do it why can't we?

Here is an article by an artist who moved to Paducah and renovated one of those old Mansions and his experience with the program  (part 1, part 2, part 3). Thoughts?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Revitalizing West Louisville pt 2

In part one of my series on revitalizing west Louisville I talked about micro-lending and bringing back the forgivable second mortgage. These are two things that can be done relatively quickly to stabilized some of the neighborhoods in westren Louisville. This fix will not work overnight, but it would be a good start. That was part 1. In part 2 I want to lay out the framework for west Louisville's renaissance.

If you are going to revitalize a city, or a large section of the city, you need a plan and you need to work your plan. The plan has to aspirational and realistic at the same time. It should also build on what the area/city has traditionally done well and expand on it. More importantly it has to be geared towards the future. The plan has to put you slightly ahead of the curve to maximize growth potential. You don't want to bank on old style manufacturing that most likely is not coming back from China. You also don't want to place all of your bets to far ahead of the curve because it could be several decades before you see the fruits of your labor if at all. Lastly you have to be willing to try something, fail, and then try something else. This last point is the most important. You have to keep trying. We in Louisville, for the longest time, gave up on whole sections of the county. Not just west Louisville, but southwest Jefferson Co. as well. Now it's beginning to catch up with us. Let's change that.

Like any economic development plan I want to focus on several core industries I think we can really exploit to help revitalize west Louisville. They would be: Film/TV/entertainment production, Organic food/ "Green" industries, Sports, Keeping the Promise, and logistics.


This might be a head scratcher to some folks, but if you've read any of my past post from the Russell neighborhood blog site you know that I am a big fan of Louisville's potential here. This is such a natural fit for the city and west Louisville. What makes this such a natural fit for west louisville ( and in Louisville in particular) is that we already have the foundation built. The feeder system is already in place. We have several performing arts schools in YPAS, Lincoln Elementary and Western middle. The University of Louisville has the African American Theater program which is the only place in the country where you can get a masters in African American Theater and Simmons College is starting a film school. The only thing that is missing is direction. We need a west/Louisville film commission to get everybody on the same page and to come up with a coherent strategy.

The great thing about the film industry is that this industry is expected to expand in the next couple of years, and Louisville has proven that it can make films. In the early to mid 70's There were several films made in Louisville including Abby (the black exorcist), Sheba Baby staring Pam Grier, and several more. Currently Louisville is home to Hart-Lunsford Pictures. This is something that we can definitely do.  However, if we do this we need to focus on more than just feature films. There also needs to be a focus on the internet only productions, plays, and the arts in general.

It will be hard for Louisville to compete with other cities in attracting big hollywood productions. We just don't have the talent currently to compete on a consistant basis. Louisville may have a ton of actors, but we don't have the grips, cameramen and the like. This will take time to build. But we can jump the start process.

We need to copy what Paducah, KY has done to attract artist. Paducah $2500 reimbursement for any design or renovation cost involved with the purchase of certain properties, plus 100% financing for the  purchase or renovation of an existing structure or the building of a new structure. They also give land for and dilapidated houses for $1 to help relocate artist. West Louisville needs to copy the Paducah artist relocation program. West Louisville has a ton of empty houses and vacant lots. We could copy the Paducah program and enhance it with the forgivable second mortgage I mention above and the micro-lending program. The city could also work with local businesses and start a venture club for the arts industry.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Revitalizing West Louisville pt 1

I've written several articles about how I think we could revitalize west Louisville. You can read some of my past post here, here, here, and here. I wrote most of those blog post in 2009 so I think it might be time for update.

I know the city is broke and we can't invest a ton of money, but like most revitalization efforts it will take some investment. The city has realized this and Mayor Fischer has set aside $500,000 to assemble land in west Louisville for "development" I say development in quotation marks because I'm afraid it will be just another way to build a suburban style warehousing project in west Louisville. A project that wil detract from the urban nature of west Louisville and provide nothing but low income jobs. While jobs are a good thing you need more than just dead-end jobs. Where's the plan for the overall development of west Louisville?

I've spoken to enough folks in GLI to know that they basically view west Louisville as a great place for warehouses, light industry, and manufacturing. They very rarely mention anything about local mom and pop businesses, corner retail, and the types of small businesses you see up and down Bardstown Rd, East Market St, and Frankfort Ave. Those are the types of businesses we need. We have to build a strong urban fabric.

What we need in west Louisville is plan. We can have light industry and warehousing, but we also need the type of retail and commercial density found on Bardstown Rd and East Market. Like I said, I've written about economic development before. When I do I like to break my ideas into 3 parts. Things you can do in the near term (1-5 years), mid-term (5-10 years) and long term (10-20 years). I'm a firm believer that you have to look into the future and see where theres are going so you can get ahead of the curve. If you build a economic development plan on things are now, or what you did 100 years ago you are bound to fail.  Louisville is still trying to be the city it was 20-100 years ago. We want to be the logistics hub and manufacturing center of the mid south. Now we are trying to be the bio-med capital of the mid south. That's great and all, but most manufacturing is done in China and Mexico. Logistics is great if you want a ton of jobs that pay on average $9-11 an hour. You can't build a vibrant economy if most of your population is below the poverty line. Bio-med is also great and can build great wealth. But that wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few scientist and medical investors.  You also need a top notch research university to attract, keep, and foster bio-med. UL is a great university, but it can;t compete with the established heavyweights. At least not with the funding it gets from the state of Kentucky.

My ideas are also interconnected. One builds off of another. If you just did one without the other I think you can still have a tremendous impact on west Louisville, however, if done as a whole it would be a game changer. So, here's my plan:

To keep this post from becoming a book I'm going break it up into several parts and try be as concise as possible.

1) Micro-lending. Instead of spending $500, 000 to buy land to give to a developer to build another suburban style warehouse why not put that money into a micro-lending program to start small businesses, re-hab foreclosed/abandoned properties, or for home-owners to improve their properties.

The problems most businesses face in getting started is funding. A lot of businesses could use a small infusion of cash to get started. A micro-lending program that gave loans from $1000-5000 would do the trick. Of course you wouldn't just loan everybody the money. The soon-to-be business owners would have to go through classes on how to run a business and the program could even provide mentors for the businesses once they are started. If the city didn't want to run such a program they could set aside the money for a public private partnership with companies like Community Venture Corporation. 

I also talked about giving the money to re-hab foreclosed/abandoned properties and like. More on that later.

2) Bring back the forgivable second mortgage.  If you are going to have businesses in west Louisville then you are going to need people that have disposable income.  You also need to stabilize neighborhoods. Building nothing but new Section 8 housing in west Louisville is not going to stabilize it. You need middle income folks with middle class incomes to do that. Bringing back the $20,000 forgivable second mortgage is a way to entice people to move to west Louisville.  However, there needs to be changes made to the program. In the past you had to have a new home to qualify. The new program has to be for new homes or old homes as well. If you can buy an existing home and re-hab it you should qualify as well.  We need to keep as much of the old housing stock as possible.

Stay tuned for part 2

Monday, February 20, 2012

West Louisville Loses Another Historic Structure

The old National Tabacco Company's warehouse/factory on 30th and Ali is being torn down. I hate losing these old warehouses because, unlike their newer counterparts, these old warehouses are easily converted for other uses. This is a hug warehouse/factory that could have become an apartments, retail space, and much much more.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Is MSD's Plan to Demolish 128 in West Louisville Good?

MSD has a plan to buy 128 homes in west Louisville around Maple and demolish them. That area of Maple street is in a low lying area was hit particularly hard by the historic August 4th flood. Many of the homes in that area sufferd severe flood damage. According to an article in the Courier-Journal, the area has a a lot of impervious surfaces, it is not in a flood plain, and it sits a top of one of Louisville's largest combined sewers.

The question that I have that nobody has raised is simple, do we need to tear down 128 homes to fix a flooding problem that was caused by a once in 100 year rain event? Could the $9 million in grant be used instead to improve the neighborhood and may be fix the flooding problem in other ways? From the way the article reads it sounds like the real objective is to tear down a large part of the California neighborhood  so MSD can build an underground storage basin. As of now MSD doesn't know what they will do with the soon to be 15 acres of green space. Why tear down a large part of the California neighborhood if you don't know what you're going to do with it? Are there other ways to fix the "flooding" problems?

I first learned about the MSD project over a year ago. I was skeptical then and I still remain so. The California neighborhood isn't the only neighborhood MSD has planned to tear down. They also have plans to tear down large portions of Shawnee, Portland, and the area around Churchill downs. Why don't they have plans to demolish any areas in southern Louisville where flooding is more rampant?

I'm not saying that Louisville doesn't have a flooding problem, but I think there may be other ways to fix them and build stronger neighborhoods at the same time. Why not use pervious pavement in those areas to allow rain water to soak in the ground instead of into the sewer system? In the older sections of town we could back to brick sidewalks that would not only allow rainwater to seep into the ground, but it would also slow it down from running into the sewer system. Maybe use of more rain gardens and tree lined streets? We could also explore removing the asphalt in some of the older parts of town and go back to the old brick streets or maybe just the alleyways?

What worries me is that there has been zero discussion. ZERO. And all of the area slated to be demolished are in poor areas of town where resistance from the populace at large would be low. MSD doesn't even know what they will do with land. Will they sale it? Will it be permanent green space? I can almost guarantee the land around Churchill Downs will be sold once the poor folks are removed and the "flooding" issues are fixed. In light of the recent problems that MSD faced I think there needs to be a lot more discussion. A lot more.