The state of downtown: competition and camp bans

This afternoon, Mayor Greg Fischer’s office announced a proposed ordinance that would forbid camping in public green spaces of less than 3 acres.

The new rule is, in essence, Fischer grounding Occupy Louisville protestors for behavior that irked him.

About six months ago, protestors set up camp at Founders Square (a largely unused grass patch) at Fifth and Muhammad Ali Boulevard. Occupy Louisville is a local outcrop of the larger, nationwide Occupy movement aimed at shedding light on economic and social injustices.

It appears Mayor Fischer was indeed enlightened. The press release announcing this ordinance reads (in part):

“…the Occupy Louisville encampment exposed a loophole in the city’s regulations. Though camping is not permitted in Metro Parks by ordinance, the same rules do not apply to green spaces around Louisville which are public spaces but not considered Metro Parks.”

The city says it cost $7,400 to clean the property once protestors agreed to leave peacefully. Fischer wants to bill Occupy protestors for the clean up.

There are plenty of unspoken reasons why the city doesn’t want campers in green spaces. The most obvious being it would mean looking at homeless people. And when you’re jockeying for mid-size city supremacy, that’s a major stumbling block.

Hours before this announcement, Fischer addressed the Louisville Downtown Development Corporation’s Second Annual State of Downtown gathering. Over eggs and hash browns, an array of movers, shakers and policy makers heard how Louisville stacks up against our competition.

Judging by how many times Indianapolis came up, it seems that’s what the powers-that-be calculate as the ideal. Make of that what you will.

Here’s a link to all the presentations made, including a survey done on the public’s perception of downtown.

The main presentation utilized 2010 census data to stack us up against our competition on a number of indicators, including job growth:

In other news, downtown has 11 percent of the Louisville MSA jobs. (Indy’s downtown has 17 percent and Jacksonville, 4 percent, putting us in the middle of the pack of usual suspects: Dayton, Cincinnati, Birmingham, Nashville, etc.)

And our city has shown a jump in the number of hotel rooms sold in the last decade, up 44 percent.

But when it comes to folks living downtown, we lag.

(Note: If the jail’s population is counted, we’d be up around Kansas City … )

(Another note: Many of the current downtown residents live in subsidized or rented units, a fact deemed worthy of change. Where those individuals should go … eh, they’ll find a place. Newburg’s nice this time of year.)

A lot of attention was given to a survey that showed the under-31 crowd desires downtown living. This would, presumably, help reinvigorate the city’s core, possibly bringing with it more private investment, retailers, etc.

Mayor Fischer proudly helped announce two steps taken to improve downtown:

1) The Kentucky legislature approved $10 million for streetscape improvements along Market Street.

2) A roughly $4 million commercial loan fund has been established to entice small businesses having a hard time securing financing during a rough economy.

It’s been a big day for downtown, with efforts to clean it up, size it up and turn it into something better. It reminds us of an old ’80s movie…

Here’s to hoping all the Mayor-ly love being showered onto downtown spreads to other corners of the city.

One Comment

  1. Stunoland
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    Nothing will do more to harm downtown than the undemocratic, economically detrimental, and socially unjust downtown Ohio River Bridge Project. This epic mistake tolls citizens against their will, distorts billion dollar financial projections, and builds unmarketable infrastructure on the city’s central business district riverfront. Speak up for the silent super-majority.

    Prevent the biggest urban planning mistake of the 21st century. Divide the project, not the community. Stop the tolling of the existing Sherman-Minton bridge. Build the east end bridge and multiple local-access bridges. Save Louisville.