The Mayor’s Budget Address is tomorrow (4/25). I haven’t seen it. I don’t know what’s in it. All I know is that $35 million in programming and personnel will be missing from it, which I tried to avoid. I proposed a temporary tax increase coupled with cuts to buy us time to make a plan. I argued the investment was worth it. My Metro Council colleagues disagreed. So, here we are.
Since it costs a lot to win, and even more to lose, you and me bound to spend some time wondering what to choose.
In February, Mayor Greg Fischer laid out potential reductions spanning the whole of city government from public safety to nonprofit grants, including four hard District 8 assets: Fire Station Engine 20 (1735 Bardstown Road); the Douglass Community Center; the Cherokee Golf Course; and the Highlands-Shelby Park branch location of the Louisville Free Public Library. The loss of any of these assets will be painful; the loss of all of them would be devastating. That’s why I’ve been working to salvage what I can for the community. None of the following are done deals but I provide this status update to urge your support over the next two months and beyond:
The Douglass Community Center and Cherokee Golf Course both are located on city park properties, Douglass Park and Cherokee Park respectively. In March, the Metro Council passed an ordinance making it more difficult for the executive branch to sell or otherwise dispose of parks or golf courses. It is a good thing because I can imagine a frustrated and desperate administration thinking about testing the market for these two properties. The ordinance made it more difficult to sell them – but not impossible – so my goal is to preempt any notion the mayor might have by offering better alternatives.
Cherokee Golf Course lost $98,000 last year, which is typical for it. Golf is supposed to be a revenue producer for the city. I can understand why the course is endangered. As a result, I am advocating for the Olmsted Parks Conservancy to take over complete maintenance and management of the golf course property, effective December 1 after the summer season is over. I believe the Conservancy is best-suited to restore this historic landscape and expand public access to all of Cherokee Park. The Conservancy has agreed to take on this responsibility and, moreover, commission a master plan that will include meetings with neighbors and stakeholders to help determine the best use of this critical public green space in the heart of our community.
The Douglass Community Center has been threatened with closure for years. The main building, which is the oldest building in the parks system, is closed. The entire restoration is a $1 million+ project. It seems like a liability to unload. However, despite the facilities challenges, there is strong demand for recreation services at the Center among citizens of all ages. The average daily number of visitors ticked north of 100 in February. District 8 voters selected renovation of the basketball courts and weight room to be funded through the participatory budgeting process in March. If Louisville Parks and Recreation ceases programming at the Douglass Community Center, then I support leasing the property to Highland Community Ministries to continue sports leagues, activities for seniors and teens. Highland Youth Recreation (HYR) and the Senior Outreach Program can be cornerstones of Highland Community Ministries HQ2 to serve residents on the opposite end of District 8 from its E. Breckinridge St. Highlands Community Campus. A lease agreement by and between Parks and the nonprofit youth music program AMPED provides a template for negotiations, which are ongoing. Meanwhile, a private fundraising effort is underway, in partnership with the Louisville Parks Foundation, to secure $125,000 to restore and make fully accessible the first floor of the historic former estate house and Kentucky Home School for Girls. I am committed to this capital campaign. Please consider donating to the Douglass Community Center today. Saving the Center for the long term depends on it.
Highlands-Shelby Park is one of only four library spaces that the city doesn’t own. We paid $112,740 rent to the Mid City Mall last year. The trend is toward larger regional libraries. Again, it is no surprise we’re having this discussion. Notwithstanding, a city of lifelong learners demands a just transition from a branch system to whatever the future might hold. I have suggested that community schools – JCPS and its 169 school libraries – might be part of the solution. In the meantime, though, parochial and independent schools might be in a better position to act faster. For example, although Bellarmine University’s W. L. Lyons Brown Library is primarily intended for Bellarmine users, the library does offer some public services. These include walk-in access to Bellarmine’s physical collection, temporary guest log-in to use the library’s online databases and digital resources and, additionally, university neighbors who present an ID with a 40205-zip code can check out up to five books at a time with a temporary library card. Bellarmine is not an alternative to a good public library – laptops, DVDs, printing, remote access, interlibrary loans and more aren’t available to the public (and the parking isn’t great!) – but the university is a leader on this issue in my eyes. Regardless of the Highlands-Shelby Park Library’s immediate fate, I am calling on all Highlands-area private libraries to review their public service policies and join me in a coordinated effort to increase community outreach.
Unfortunately, there is no substitute for a fire engine company. “Telesqrt 20” is one of six stations located in Louisville Fire District 4 - East End and one of eight stations within about a 4-mile radius of the heart of District 8. If budget cuts claim Engine Co. 20 – which has stood at its present day location since 1915, and which still has the old horse stalls in the rear courtyard – then we will: a) partner with Louisville Fire to install smoke alarms and conduct fire safety education in the service area; and b) ensure preservation and redevelopment of the historic building is nothing like the old city police station in the 1300 block.
I been gambling hereabouts for ten good solid years. If I told you all that went down it would burn off both of your ears.
There'll be a hot time in the old town tomorrow night.
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Due to weather, the Eastern Cemetery cleanup originally scheduled for Sunday, April 14 has been rescheduled to Sunday, April 28 from 11am to 2pm, at 641 Baxter Avenue. Refresh your memory here.
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