I want to talk about the budget and the state of the city but first congratulations are in order to Democratic Primary winner Cassie Chambers Armstrong. No Republicans ran in the primary, so Cassie is the prohibitive favorite to take the District 8 office in January 2021. (Technically, the last day to file a declaration of intent to be a write-in candidate is October 23. Also, given how 2020 is going, it wouldn’t surprise me if aliens invaded the earth.) I will take my chances and we will start to prepare for the transition together in August. I think she has earned July for herself and her family, though.
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Among other things, Cassie will inherit half of the budget the Metro Council passed on Thursday (6/25). As I lamented at the meeting, I think it is just a shame that we have a “continuation” budget at a moment in history when society is finally changing. I am not saying the proposal I published in this space two weeks ago and then pitched to the Budget Committee last Monday was the right or only answer but I expected more from the council – an acknowledgement, at least, that reallocating general funding from LMPD to public health (or otherwise) may be part of building a better, safer community in the long run. Instead…
The council did redirect $2.8 million in capital grants for deflection, diversity recruitment and training and added tens of millions (in debt) to the mayor’s recommended budget for housing, small business assistance, a community grocery and other investments in disadvantaged neighborhoods – all good things – but we can’t buy our way out of racial inequity in the capital budget alone. We have to change the way we operate. To that end, the council’s reallocation of $763,500 in general funding for a civilian review board and an Office of Inspector General to lead independent investigations of the LMPD may become the FY21 budget’s lasting legacy.
(Honorable mention may go to general funding to employ an Energy Manager, which is crucial to achieving 100% clean renewable electricity for Metro Government (LMG) operations by 2030 and 100% clean energy for LMG by 2035. LMG is currently on track to completely implement our energy management and accounting software by December so that we can conduct an energy audit, which is equally critical. In any event, criminal justice reform and environmental justice are the twin rails that will take us through the tunnel.)
In other budget news: remember the street paving scarcity I wrote about last time? Fuhgeddaboudit! The council quadrupled our road borrowing ($20 million), including $700,000 for a new Pavement Condition Index (PCI) survey, which data the Department of Public Works (DPW) uses to prioritize paving projects. Moreover, for the first time ever, it will include a complete alley inventory. A long-term plan of alley paving will be prepared and presented to the council no later than March 1, 2021. (Fear not for the preservation of our historic brick alleys.)
More immediately, the extra money means that Beverly Road, Cross Road, Hawthorne Avenue (from Bon Air to Bardstown), Lowell Avenue (from Tyler to Hawthorne), Ruth Avenue (from Strand to Radnor) and Speed Avenue (from Fernwood to Bardstown and Bardstown to Spring) join the list of roads to be paved in FY21. Due to the forthcoming new PCI data, anything DPW has previously projected for FY22-FY23 may be completely different.
Finally, on the subject of the budget, we made a few adjustments to our District 8 accounts. First, we incurred one more FY20 expense after all, contributing $1,000 in Neighborhood Development Funding (NDF) to Waterfront Park’s Juneteenth Jubilee Video Series, happening now. Here are our final FY20 and FY21 NDF budgets, respectively. Second, the council decided to fully fund our Capital Infrastructure (CIF) programs ($100,000), so I allocated the balance ($50,000) to Bardstown Road Safety Study implementation. I expect to have some news about that next time. I also went digging around in Metro Government’s couch cushions and found an extra $11,366.55 for our capital coffers. (It is a trick I will teach Cassie.) Here are our final FY20 and FY21 CIF budgets.
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The justice quest for Breonna Taylor, David McAtee, now Tyler Gerth and others injured in the events surrounding their deaths continues. I spoke with Breonna Taylor’s attorney Lonita Baker on Eight More Miles: the District 8 Podcast on Friday (6/26) to get the latest.
The Metro Council continues to act, as well. Legislation has been filed requiring drug and alcohol testing of LMPD officers when critical incidents occur; urging the adoption of policies to increase transparency and expedite police internal investigations; and launching a Government Oversight and Audit Committee investigation into the administration’s handling of recent matters.
We need everyone from the mayor to the state attorney general to act quickly, too, because justice delayed means peace delayed – for the victims, their families and all of us.
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You don’t need to be Dr. Anthony Fauci to understand the coronavirus is coming back with a vengeance. Expect a renewed emphasis on the crisis response from local and state governments and watch this space for new resources. As an example, ATTN: Small Business, the application for LMG’s new $21 million federal CARES Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grants program is open now. Apply here for a grant up to $50,000 based on demonstrated impact from COVID-19.
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Finally, a note on communicating with us. Since March 13, Jasmine and I have been working remotely. Since May 14 – every day – our voice mailbox has exceeded the size limit with messages from around the country and I alone have received more than 10,000 emails from around the world. On social media, I get in and get out for my own mental health. Point being: we are doing our best to timely respond to questions, concerns and service requests amid an avalanche of information. Thank you for your patience and until further notice I recommend email as the best way to reach me.
District 8 eNews is taking a break on July 15 and we will see you back here on July 29.
For the latest news, resources and government response to the coronavirus crisis, please visit these local, state and federal websites. For breaking news and information, please follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you have a question or comment, please email me at: [email protected] (and copy [email protected]) or call: (502) 574-1108. If you have a service request, please call Metro 311 or visit Metro311 online. Visit the District 8 Strategic Plan page here.