With the general election almost a month away, Democratic mayoral candidate Greg Fischer has unveiled a 10-point platform to create 21st Century neighborhoods across Louisville. The plan calls for — among other things — weatherizing homes, giving Dixie and Preston highways “extreme road makeovers” and developing after-school programs in neighborhoods.
“Louisville is a city of vibrant neighborhoods, and it’s time we invested them, just as we have invested in downtown,” Fischer said in a news release. “I will be a mayor for all parts of the city, from Valley Station to Prospect, Russell to Fern Creek, and I’ll make sure that our neighborhoods come first.”
The plan mirrors some of the initiatives and programs that were once a part of the old Department of Neighborhoods, which Mayor Jerry Abramson dismantled as part of city’s budget cuts. Unlike Abramson, however, Fischer emphasized in recent campaign advertisements a need to focus investment and development more in neighborhoods as opposed to downtown.
1. Creating Neighborhood Action Teams comprised of representatives from police, fire, city code inspectors and others who go directly into neighborhoods to identify problems and solve them immediately. These teams, which will meet with neighbors at their homes, coffee shops and houses of worship, will tackle everything from vacant houses to broken sidewalks to dangerous intersections. Benefit to you: Neighborhood problems solved quickly and efficiently.
2. Selling vacant and abandoned homes for $1 and providing no-interest loans for rehab. The city, under Greg’s leadership, will be more aggressive in gaining control of vacant, dilapidated and abandoned properties, then selling those homes to families, non-profit organizations and churches. Greg will hold a yearly news conference to highlight the 10 most deadbeat property owners to shame them into action. The city will also provide no-interest loans to help rehab the homes. Benefit to you: Creating new housing for families while also protecting the architectural fabric of our community and revitalizing neighborhoods.
3. Giving major thoroughfares such as Dixie and Preston highways and Shelbyville Road Extreme Road Makeovers, including synchronized stoplights and, where possible, trees and sidewalks and bus stops. These investments will also encourage business investments and growth. Benefit to you: Reduced traffic congestion, especially during rush hours; better roads attract more businesses.
4. Creating the Bull’s Eye program to target historical commercial centers such as Parkland in West Louisville and the Okolona Center on Preston Highway with targeted incentives to attract new restaurants and retail. The city will offer no-interest and forgivable loans to business and property owners to encourage investments. Local businesses, rather than out-of-town companies, will get first priority for the loans. Benefit to you: More restaurants, stores and shops in your neighborhood, near your home.
5. Building the Southwest Library on Dixie Highway in Valley Station. Also begin planning the two other regional libraries — near Jefferson Mall in Okolona and in the Lyndon area by the Northeast YMCA. These libraries will be heavy with technology. Benefit to you: With these three projects, 90 percent of Louisville residents will be located within five miles of a major library.
6. Building Spokes, a system of multi-use paved trails that will connect neighborhoods to schools, parks, churches, shopping centers, and the 100-mile Louisville Loop. Parents will be able to push their strollers out their front door and onto the spokes. Children and teenagers will have places to bike and hike off busy roads. Where possible, these spokes will connect to schools to provide safe walking routes. Benefit to you: Places for children to play and walk without worrying about traffic; places for families to exercise.
7. Developing vibrant neighborhood after-school programs, in partnership with Jefferson County Public Schools, private and Catholic schools, businesses, arts groups, non-profits, faith-based groups, community centers and the city’s library system. These programs will be world-class, offering everything from tutoring to field trips to healthy meals and snacks. Benefit to you: Children get increased education/tutoring time and keeps children off the streets and out of trouble.
8. Increase the presence of police in our neighborhoods, by requiring officers to regularly walk their beat through the Walk-A-Mile program. Police officers will also be encouraged to join neighborhood and business associations and to become integral parts of the neighborhoods they serve. Benefit to you: Better relations between police and neighborhoods; protecting your property and further reducing crime.
9. Green neighborhoods by planting 10,000 trees during the first term; weatherizing homes to make them energy-efficient; encouraging rain barrels to water lawns and gardens. The city will work closely with neighborhood associations, condominium and apartment groups and subdivision residents to determine the areas most in need of new trees, identify homes that need weatherizing and teach people how to use rain barrels to keep stormwater out of the sewer system. Benefit to you: Reduce heating and cooling bills; improves neighborhood appearance.
10. Lead the effort to restore and protect Louisville’s historic neighborhoods and homes. Louisville has a large collection of historic properties that make our neighborhoods unique, and our citizens need the tax incentives and credits to help with renovation and preservation. Currently, state tax credits are capped at $5 million annually for all of Kentucky. Greg will work with the state legislature to increase or remove that cap so more people can take advantage of credits. Benefit to you: Preserves the best architecture of our neighborhoods and gives homeowners incentives to invest in their property.