Making your vote count

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With the election primary fast approaching, several people I’ve met walking the Highlands have asked me how to go about registering to vote on May 17th. This post is intended to answer those questions and provide a guidemap to voter-related resources.

Can I still register to vote in the primary as a new voter? Yes! If you’ve never registered to vote before, you have until April 18th to do so.*

Can I still vote in the primary if I recently moved to District 8? Yes! If you’ve recently moved, or if your name has changed recently, you have until April 18th to register.

Can I vote in the primary if I turn 18 near election day? Yes! Kentucky’s election laws allow you to vote in the primary if you are 17 but will turn 18 on or before November 8, 2016 (the date of the general election).

Can I change your party registration from Republican to Democrat in order to vote in the primary on May 17th? Sorry, no. In order to change parties for this primary, you must have done so by December 31, 2015.

How do I register? It’s easy! Registration can be done in person or by mail with the Jefferson County Clerk or online through the Kentucky Secretary of State.

What if I will be out of town on election day? Voters who will be outside the county on Election Day may vote in person at the Election Center, 810 Barret Avenue, Room 103, by 4:30 PM on Monday, May 16th.

Can I vote by absentee ballot? Maybe. At this time, an absentee vote ballot can only be mailed to a Jefferson County address if the voter is either (1) unable to go to the polls because of age, disability or illness, or (2) required by his/her job to be out of town during the election. I understand that the Kentucky General Assembly is considering making it possible for anyone to vote by absentee ballot who wishes to.

How do I request an absentee ballot? Voters may request an absentee ballot by phone, fax or email with the Jefferson County Clerk. The last day that the Election Center can accept a completed Mail-In Absentee Ballot application is by close of business, seven (7) days before the Election. (5:00pm, May 10, 2016).

* You may register to vote in the primary so long as you: 1. Are a native-born or naturalized U.S. citizen who is 18 years old by the general election. 2. Are a resident of Jefferson County at least 28 days before election. 3. Are not a convicted felon. 4. Have not been judged “mentally incompetent” in a court of law. 5. Do not claim the right to vote outside Kentucky.

Happy voting!

Parade Day for the Campaign

We had a terrific time at the 2016 Highlands St. Patrick’s Parade! Thanks to all of our friends who marched/biked with us, and to all who helped us push our car for the last leg of the parade! The diversity of the groups involved showcased just how fantastic our little corner of Louisville truly is, and it makes me proud to be running to represent the people, communities, and businesses of District 8 on the Metro Council. Or as I like to call it: Home. ‪#‎LouisvilleProud‬

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Listening to Corey

Campaigning is new for me, so it brings lots of happy surprises – sometimes even from my fellow candidates in District 8.

Corey Nett describes himself as a differently-abled resident of Tyler Park who joined the race for District 8 in November.  His presence made a strong field stronger, and I had looked forward to meeting him on the campaign trail.  On Sunday, Corey announced that he was withdrawing from the race for personal reasons, so I realized I could no longer wait for that meeting to happen on its own.

We got together at Wick’s on Monday.  It was a total pleasure, and just about everything Corey said taught me something.  

We can’t understand what accessibility means unless we listen to people to whom accessibility is denied.  I saw Louisville differently when one of my brothers visited two years ago and I saw how inhospitable our city was to his wheelchair.  I saw this campaign differently after meeting with Corey.  In the case of my own positions, Corey’s comments made me realize how his perspective can inform – and enrich – my own ideas for Metro Council.

As a Council member, I want to use technology to bring constituent service into the 21st Century, and Corey reminded me that doing this will not just make government more responsive; it will also make government more accessible.

Bardstown Road is the backbone of the Highlands, and I want to help my neighbors in the Highlands work together to develop a world-class vision for our busy, funky, and unsafe road.  As one such neighbor, Corey calls on us to consider burying utilities not just for aesthetic reasons but because burying utilities would make sidewalks accessible for all.  What would it mean to manage our most important urban corridor in a way that serves all of its users?

Finally, I want to work across districts on Metro Council to move Louisville towards a bigger and bolder future.  Building on Mayor Fischer’s compassion initiative, what would it mean if Louisville became the most welcoming city in the country – for all people?  How would we modify ordinances and policies, and allocate our budgets,  to do that?

Answering those questions will require a lot more listening to Corey,  and listening to others who can help us see where our city’s pride in its own accessibility (as in access to downtown and access to leaders) doesn’t match its reality.  

The subject of Corey endorsing one of the remaining seven candidates is hard to avoid.  Corey himself asked me if I would continue to support his concerns even if he didn’t endorse me.  Of course, the answer is yes.  I’m sorry he had to ask it.  

Instead of Corey asking us this question, I think that we candidates should be asking each other; the voters of District 8 should be asking us; and the citizens of Louisville should be asking all of its leaders: Are you listening to people who aren’t always heard?  What are you doing to make the city more accessible to them and their messages?

Listening to Corey is a great way to start.

Our Supporters

I truly love Louisville – in part because of the friends and community it has brought me. Now those friends are supporters, and you can hear from some of them in our new video. Check it out!

Some Endorsements are Worth Rejecting

I got a candidate questionnaire from the Frank Simon “Freedoms Heritage Forum” that includes some of the strangest, factually inaccurate, hostile, divisive, and un-Christian “questions” I have ever read.

Here are a few:

“Are you fed up with the system that Redefined marriage and promotes sodomy in our schools?”

I am not fed up with this “system” and do not believe such a “system” exists. Our evolving sense of respect for all of our sisters and brothers has led us to understand that the desire for marital bonds is human and should not be denied to same-sex couples. And schools that educate children for the real world should promote respect for all people, including respect for our LGBTQ peers.

“Are you fed up with the system that Legalized the shedding of innocent blood, through abortion?”

 No. As a former U.S. Supreme Court clerk I believe in the rule of law, and I also believe that its arc bends (sometimes very slowly) towards justice. 43 years ago the Supreme Court ruled that the individual right of privacy, and a woman’s right to make her own private healthcare decisions, is more important that society’s right to impose its beliefs (even well-intentioned beliefs) on her body. You can believe that the Supreme Court was wrong (as it was wrong when it decided in Bowers v. Hardwick that the Constitution does not protect consensual homosexual behavior) but it remains the rule of law.

 “Are you fed up with the system that Banned Christian prayer in schools but allows Muslim prayer, while the Muslims have already taken over Europe and are about to take over America?”

Again, this statement is both factually inaccurate and hateful to our Muslim brothers and sisters. Our Constitution protects religious freedom, and being American means welcoming people with different beliefs.

I won’t bother mentioning my answers to questions about “the unproven theory of evolution” or asking Congress to take away the Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction.

I happen to be a Christian, optimistic, future-focused person who wants to build a stronger community and not tear it apart in the name of belief.   I am running for Metro Council because I know that people in Louisville want to honor each other and own a future we can all believe in.

I reject the endorsement of Frank Simon’s Freedoms Heritage Foundation.

Public Safety and the Bardstown Road Corridor

I keep hearing complaints about the “bar corridor” of Bardstown Road – so I decided to see it for myself, and the 5th Division of the Louisville Metro Police Department let me tag along for a midnight ride last night.

12771533_978586352210226_7651131766663191386_oBecause it was an unusually warm Saturday, the night brought a range of activity, including:

– a drug arrest outside one bar;
– an ambulance tending a head wound after a bar fight;
– random traffic accidents;
– a domestic violence dispute with an unexpected plotline; and
– an apparently drunk driver who drove his SUV straight into Za’s Pizza Pub.

775267_978586305543564_5635465637486068418_oBy the end of my shift, it was clear that Bardstown Road is now the place where the entire city comes to party – and that we are lucky to have LMPD officers working hard to keep the peace. As a Council member I will continue to look at issues through the eyes of professionals who address them AND bring to their attention what my neighbors in the Highlands are telling me about.

A Council Member’s 3rd Job – Building a Stronger City

SR_0127_006webThe third area of a Council member’s job is finding ways to work across districts to help the council lead Louisville into a bolder and better future.

The Metro Council has some success in this work.  It passed the Fairness Ordinance (many years after some of us began asking it to do so).  And that ordinance not only provided equal protection to all of our brothers and sisters in Louisville; it also helped attract more talented outsiders and the companies that want to employ them.  The Council passed a smoking ban – something that was unthinkable when I moved to Louisville in 1995 – and it make Louisville a healthier place for every citizen while also sending an important message about what kind of city we want to be in the future.

I want to work with other Council members on similar goals.  We should nudge the Fischer administration towards a bolder vision and a bigger budget to support a sustainable future.  That would improve health outcomes for our people, strengthen our regional economy, and create a legacy for Louisville that reflects our city’s natural beauty.  And I hope to build on the Mayor’s wonderful success with compassion to ask the question: “What would it look like if we were the most welcoming city in the country?”  What would our policies and decision look like then?  What would it mean about how we treated each other, and what would it mean to the people and companies we want to welcome here, too?

I want to use my position on the Council to help other people do big things in Louisville.  That means people who are already working here as well as people who may not yet know how welcome they are.  It should include the Somalian refugee who comes to the Highlands to learn English and make her way in a new world.  It should include the young gay man or the ambitious woman lawyer who move to the Highlands because it feels like a safe place to achieve his or her own great things here.

The Metro Council needs leaders who can work efffectively with others to accomplish big goals.  that’s just what I’vebeen doing for the last 20 years in Louisville.

A Council Member’s 2nd Job – District-Wide Issues

SR_0127_002webThe second area of a Council member’s work is identifying those issues that connect every neighborhood in a district.

Bardstown Road – a Master Plan that Serves Neighbors

In District 8, that means Bardstown Road.  It’s our backbone, and it connects us all.  We love Bardstown Road’s balance of commercial activity and wonderful residential neighborhoods right next to it.  But too many people feel that this delicate balance is out of whack.  I want to work with our neighborhood associations and our neighbors to develop a new Master Plan for Bardstown Road in District 8.  We need to design crosswalks that actually work; a solution for parking that relieves pressure from residential blocks; find public transportation solutions that serve all users of the road; and achieve an overall design that honors the unique character of this important urban corridor while making it better serve the needs of the citizens who live near it and give it life.

Connecting Neighbors in the 21st Century

I also want to use my experience in building digital businesses and online communities to develop a 1-stop shop for citizens, an online platform that lets people see how their council member (and all Metro agencies) are addressing their concerns.  As a council member I need a tool like this, too.  If police are being called to Bardstown Road bars because of illegal activity I need to know about it when it’s happening, not after police have been called out hundreds of times and we read about it in the paper.  This kind of tool will bring government service into the 21st Century and also give us a chance to build a stronger community; some of the answers we need will come from the Council and Metro government, and some will come from each other.

A Council Member’s 1st Job – Constituent Service

160213_MAP_01037The first, and by far the most important, part of a Council member’s job is constituent service: listening to the real needs of every person in the district and serving them where they live: in their homes, on their streets and in their neighborhoods.  And here are a couple of things I’ve been hearing:

Pedestrian Safety

Pedestrian safety is a problem.  Almost everyone tells me that they aren’t feeling safe on their sidewalks, crossing their streets, or riding their bikes in the Highlands.  Mothers and fathers tell me they won’t let their children bike to Tyler Park or Seneca Park or Cherokee Park if it means crossing a major street.  On January 30 another pedestrian was killed – this time by a hit-and-run driver – on Bardstown Road.  It turns out that this problem is actually out of control – and it is time to enforce rules of the road that are being ignored by drivers across our district.  Here are some of the ways I want to accomplish this goal:

  • Working with police on best-in-class enforcement practices.  Drivers who don’t see police presence enough will keep ignoring the rules.
  • Modernizing constituent service to be a better conduit of information for the police and others.  A single Facebook post from my campaign has uncovered lots of specific information about dangerous intersections, but Louisville Metro Police Department’s 5th Division tells me they don’t hear a lot about this issue.  If elected Councilman, I will build tools that listen to constituents in whatever way they want to share information, and I will share it with the police and others as your advocate.
  • Working with public works to calm traffic and build world-class crosswalks that are actually respected by drivers.  Everywhere I go people want speed bumps, and we should explore their use more fully.  Other tools can also work, whether narrowing streets (as on Payne Street) or building islands in the middle of wide residential intersections to keep cars from speeding through.  We also need more stop signs at intersections where cards build up speed.  We should also look at a city-wide ban on hand-held phone use in cars.
  • Looking at other cities for examples.  We are not the first city or district that wants to calm traffic in residential neighborhoods, and we can learn from them.
  • Measuring our problems – and our success.  I have relied on data in all of my civic work to identify problems, to compare Louisville to other cities, and to determine whether we are succeeding at addressing our biggest challenges.  I will do this in pedestrian safety as well, using public information and survey tools to evaluate exactly what the situation is; to compare us to other similar districts in Louisville and other cities; and then to measure whether we are getting better.

Neighborhood Plans

People want a council member who will stand up for neighborhood plans and the rights of citizens to shape the future of their own neighborhoods.  I deeply respect the democratic process by which our neighborhoods have developed neighborhood plans, and I will defend them as a Council member.  My own neighbors know that I led the effort to oppose plans for a building that was 3 stories taller than our own neighborhood plan allows, in the middle of a block – and we won.  (You can see my answers to questions about this work here.)  I’ll do the same for all my neighbors in District 8.

Our Kickoff Event Was Anything But ‘Mellow’

 

12631398_968937906508404_7459346903815996665_nMy campaign “officially” kicked off this month with a high-energy event at the Mellow Mushroom. (Check out this recent story on the my friend Andy Blieden’s successful renovation of this Highlands brownfield into a neighrbood gem) More than 200 friends, old and new, joined me and my family for the start of what I know will be an exciting, invigorating and gratifying experience.

David Jones, Jr. and Mary Gwen Wheeler gave eloquent introductions, and then  I told everyone who gathered for the kickoff what I’ll be telling voters as I knock on doors for the next three months. As a Metro Council member, I plan to work with my constituents, my colleagues and all Louisvillians to help make our city a better place to live, raise a family or start a business. In equal measure, I will draw on my experience as a successful business owner and supporter of progressive causes, while actively listening to residents’ ideas and concerns. I approach this process with humility and a willingness to work with and for my neighbors.

Thanks to everyone who made the timme to support me on this big night. I can’t do this alone, and I’m grateful to know so many great people are behind me.