Building a fairer, bolder, stronger Louisville together

This piece appeared in The Courier-Journal on May 10, 2016.

Some of you are lifelong Louisvillians who anchor your neighborhoods and extended families. Some of you (like me) chose Louisville as your hometown because it’s an amazing place to raise a family, start a business and give back. And some of you are newcomers, attracted by Louisville’s welcoming spirit and a feeling that it’s on the cusp of becoming one of the special, winning cities of the 21st century.

I have met you all as I have walked the neighborhoods of the Highlands over the past few months: the loving father at St. Raphael’s parish; the empty-nesters living near Cherokee Park; the teacher looking after her neighbors in Deer Park; and the young gay couple who know that the Highlands will respect and protect them.

The world is urbanizing, so is Kentucky, and so is Louisville – nowhere so much as in the Highlands. How we manage that process will determine who we are as neighbors, as parents, and as people who can push Louisville forward to its full potential.

That means we need neighborhoods that remain truly livable even as our streets become cut-throughs for traffic; a Bardstown Road that serves neighbors (and home-grown businesses) as much as it serves the visitors we welcome to it; and a city that honors our neighbors and embraces newcomers.

Among the candidates for District 8, I alone have a record of success in both the for-profit and not-for-profit space, building new businesses from scratch and creating jobs that make it possible to live good lives in Louisville.

Among the candidates for District 8, I alone have a 20-year record of public support for progressive Democratic candidates and causes that treat our fellow citizens with dignity and serve as the foundation for economic prosperity. People of Louisville know we can’t turn back if we want to succeed; just look at North Carolina.

That record is why I’ve received endorsements from groups like C-FAIR (Fairness), the Sierra Club and our firefighters.  And it’s why progressive heroes (and strong women) like former Lt. Gov. Crit Luallen, Sen. Denise Harper Angel and Rep. Mary Lou Marzian have endorsed me as well.

Like you, I love Louisville deeply.  And I love the idea of serving your daily needs, supporting your vision for the Highlands and working with 25 other council members to build a fairer, bolder, stronger Louisville together.

Endorsed by Crit Luallen

CritLuallenCrit Luallen represents the highest standard of public service that I expect to see in my lifetime. Among the many ways she has served us: as Founder of the Governor’s School of the Arts, as Head of the Greater Louisville Economic Development Partnership (predecessor to GLI); as two-term Auditor of the Commonwealth; and as our Lieutenant Governor.  I have known and admired Crit for 20 years.  But I never imagined I would earn her endorsement.  Here is a letter she wrote about my campaign (the Courier-Journal has published it as an op-ed):

Dear Friends,

Having worked with seven governors and held statewide office as auditor and lieutenant governor, I have learned the value of strong elected leaders and candidates who can take the torch as it is passed to their generation.

Which is why I was so pleased when I heard that Stephen Reily had decided to run for elected office as a candidate for the Metro Council’s 8th District.Having worked with seven governors and held statewide office as auditor and lieutenant governor, I have learned the value of strong elected leaders and candidates who can take the torch as it is passed to their generation.

An entrepreneur, Stephen is passionate about Louisville and has a proven record of producing results at all levels of his community engagement. He has worked to grow the economy through the Greater Louisville Project; he brought a focus to improving educational attainment through his work with 55,000 Degrees; and he is the driving force behind the new West Louisville FoodPort, which is creating desperately needed local jobs as well as a more sustainable future for local agriculture.

I have long admired the way Stephen and his wife, Emily Bingham, have supported Kentucky’s women. They have fought for access to reproductive health services and have been steadfast backers of Emerge Kentucky, a statewide program that identifies, trains and encourages women to run for office. And the company he founded and continues to operate, IMC/Vibrant Nation, is a thriving firm staffed and led entirely by women.

At a time when it is easy to become discouraged about the political process, it gives me hope to see someone of Stephen’s caliber step forward. Stephen will bring a clear and positive vision for the community’s future to the job. His decisions on the Metro Council will be marked by integrity and a strong moral compass – and they will be informed by listening to and learning from the people he serves.

I am proud to endorse Stephen Reily and encourage voters to support him for Metro Council in the Democratic primary election on May 17.

Crit Luallen


Endorsed by C-FAIR

CFAIRI am honored and humbled to have the endorsement of the Louisville’s pre-eminent LGBTQ rights organization, C-FAIR/the Fairness Campaign, for my campaign for Metro Council. I supported Louisville’s first steps towards a Fairness Ordinance in the 1990s; I’ve continued supporting Fairness, and I won’t stop now. On the campaign trail I will honor this endorsement by listening to all the voices in District 8. And if elected I will honor this endorsement by fighting for individual rights and the rights of cities like Louisville to protect their own.


Endorsed by the Sierra Club!

Sierra Club Endorsement Photo

I am very grateful to the members of the Kentucky Sierra Club for entrusting me with their endorsement as the next Metro Council member for District 8. I have spent more than 20 years here advocating for responsible development and for sustainability, and making my own long-term investments in the same causes, at home, at the West Louisville FoodPort, and elsewhere. I hope to honor this endorsement by focusing on three primary goals on Metro Council:

  • A Greener Budget. Metro Council should spend less time reacting to individual line items in the Mayor’s budget than focus on its overarching goals. As a Metro Council member I would work with others to focus on the strategy underlying the Mayor’s budget, looking for a bolder vision – and then a bigger budget – on investments in health and sustainability. At the Greater Louisville Project, whose Policy Board I have chaired for 6 years, we use data to measure Louisville against its peer cities. I would do the same on sustainability. We cannot build a healthier city for the 21st Century – much less identify ourselves as a leader among cities – if our investments in sustainability do not match or exceed our peers. If Louisville fails that grade I will call attention to it, and work to make us a city that uses its financial resources in a way that honors our natural resources.
  • A Healthy City for Everyone. The disparities in health outcomes and life expectancy in Louisville depend far too much on where you are born and live. I would focus on two issues in particular:
    • Air quality. Ted Smith, Louisville’s Chief Innovation Office and Director of the Institute for Healthy Air, Soil & Water has led efforts to develop effective monitoring tools for air quality; the Metro Council now needs to demand action (and direct resources) to improve those metrics. Every child should grow up breathing clean air in Louisville.
    • Tree canopy. We now know the sad statistics on tree loss and heat islands in Louisville. Metro Council needs to support a no-net-loss policy on tree loss and a dramatic increase in trees where our heat islands are the hottest. At the West Louisville FoodPort we will plant hundreds of trees on what is now a barren brownfield; we will build a 2-acre demonstration farm for the Jefferson County Extension to operate; and we are looking for partners to develop a nursery to grow native trees for planting in West Louisville, creating job opportunities and cleaner air at the same time. We need to require other developers to do the same.
  • Citizen Engagement. If you give people information and a chance to shape their own future, they will choose a greener and more sustainable future. As a Metro Council member, I will use, encourage, and enable a fully engaged base of citizens in shaping their own future in the Highlands. I want to connect all of my neighbors and the neighborhood associations and small cities of District 8 on a Master Plan for Bardstown Road (the backbone of our district) that incorporates world-class ideas for parking, public transportation, pedestrian safety, trees, and utilities – and I am confident that an open and transparent process will help citizens develop a future they are proud to own. I will encourage Metro Louisville and Develop Louisville to adopt similar practices. Civic leaders sometimes appear to think that progress and citizen engagement are in opposition. I disagree, and I believe that it is easier than ever (primarily through technology) to promote civic engagement and to make Louisville a model city where informed citizens can shape their own future.

Please join me in building a more sustainable Louisville that honors its natural beauty and lives up to its potential as a leading city of the 21st Century!

Cherokee Triangle Association questionnaire

The CTA sent the candidates questions on a wide variety of topics of importance to our neighborhood and all of Metro Louisville. These include preservation, neighborhood plans, zoning, and Baxter Avenue/Bardstown Road development. You can read all of the candidates’ responses in entirety here. My responses appear below.

It appears to the Cherokee Triangle Association there are not enough staff members in the Landmarks department of Metro Louisville.  Would you support increased funding necessary for Landmarks staff to enforce rules and regulations on the books affecting historic neighborhoods?

There has been a dramatic decline in staffing devoted to Landmarks, through attrition and reassignment, in recent years. In the wake of the 2008 Recession some of that decline may have had some justification: Metro revenues and new development proposals were also declining during that period. But revenues and development proposals are both increasing now, and funding for Landmarks should increase again. As a Council member I would advocate for Landmarks funding and staffing benchmarked against other cities that value their architectural heritage and its role in promoting both cultural and economic growth.

Would you support Landmarks staff, which was created to uphold rules and regulations supporting historic preservation districts and individual structures throughout Metro Louisville? If yes, how would you support them?

Yes. I would support Landmarks staff in the following ways:

• Helping staff work with constituents on preservation issues through the application process, the Architectural Review Committee, Landmarks Commission, and all aspects of the planning process;
• Supporting budgets that allow Landmarks staff to do their job effectively; and
• Respecting the positions they take in the planning process – not overruling their recommendations in the Landmarks/Planning process.

Would you favor developing a process to identify when neighborhood plans need to be reviewed or changed?  If so, would you require an opportunity for input from all neighborhoods affected?

I respect neighborhood plans and the democratic process by which neighbors develop a vision of what they want their neighborhood to look like. As a Council member I will stand up for those plans, which should not be modified or ignored by the Council. If the Council were to consider a “process” by which neighborhood plans should be reviewed or changed, I would certainly require input from all affected neighborhoods.

I chaired the CTA Subcommittee on the proposed “Cherokee Grande” project, one in which we successfully opposed the construction of a 6-story building in the middle of the 1000 block of Cherokee Road because it was 3 stories and over 25 feet taller than allowed under our Neighborhood Plan. I respect the role that Planning and Zoning (now Develop Louisville) staff members played in that process and would respect their expertise and experience as a Council member.

Would you require input from affected neighborhoods should the Metro Council wish to make any changes to neighborhood plans (including a decision that a plan is no longer valid)

Yes (see above).

What sort of development would benefit the Cherokee Triangle neighborhood  What would harm it?

Development in the Triangle should, first of all, comply with the Cherokee Triangle Neighborhood Plan of 1989 and with the guidelines associated with the Cherokee Triangle Preservation District established in the early 1970s. I believe that the District Guidelines and the Plan itself – and the reasonableness which the CTA and neighbors have shown in applying it – allow for sufficient flexibility to allow for creative and beneficial development, especially in the 20-odd nonconforming lots that are most likely to see new development proposals.

I have already described my leadership role regarding the proposed “Cherokee Grande” building in the middle of the 1000 block of Cherokee Road. While I would welcome redevelopment of sites that contain nonconforming uses I know that developers can make money with buildings that conform with our neighborhood plan, and I know that neighbors are willing to allow developers enough flexibility to succeed.

In the Triangle’s commercial corridor (primarily on Bardstown Road), development should comply with the Triangle Neighborhood Plan, the Bardstown Road Overlay District and other applicable guidelines and regulations.

In addition, Develop Louisville and the Metro Council should immediately examine the rules that allow bars and restaurants to provide so few parking spaces related to their scale of operations; these formulas are putting unacceptable pressure on the residential neighborhoods that surround them.

In August of 2013, the Louisville Metro Council voted to up zone the Bordeaux Apartments property (corner of Willow and Baringer Avenues from R-7 to R-8A.  This change increased substantially the housing density allowed on that site; it also reversed the 1989 Cherokee Triangle Neighborhood Plan that established the zoning on that property R-7.  This zoning now allows the Willow Grande to be built at 15 stories high.  If you were a Metro council member in 2013 would you have voted in favor or against up-zoning this site to R8A? Why would you have voted in that way?

I would have voted against the up-zoning of the Bordeaux property. The Council should respect the decisions of the Planning Commission and should not overrule Planning Commission decisions as it did in this case.

The commercial viability of the Bardstown Road/Baxter Avenue corridor is vital to the health and success of the surrounding neighborhoods.  Issues such as 4:00am liquor license benefit businesses while creating additional problems for neighborhoods. How do you propose businesses and neighborhoods balance commercial and residential needs to ensure the continued success of both?

As I listen to residents of the Triangle, the Original Highlands and other neighborhoods in District 8, it is clear that the balance between commercial activity and residential life (something that drew most of us to this neighborhood) is out of whack.

As a first matter, I will stand up and do whatever it takes to ensure that existing laws are being enforced. I will also use my experience in building technology companies and online communities to create a single platform where citizens can see how their Metro Council representative and all government agencies are serving their needs. This platform will also help me know when commercial activity is veering out of control. A Council member needs to step up and defend his constituents and their residential interests. This can all be done while honoring and encouraging commercial development on Bardstown Road.

I propose to engage all neighborhood associations, commercial guilds and neighbors in a new Bardstown Road Master Plan that addresses important issues like parking, pedestrian safety, and public transportation that serves all users of Bardstown Road. Our city’s most important urban corridor deserves a plan that honors its character and ensures that it serves the people who live alongside it.

How do you propose helping neighborhoods manage issues associate with 4am alcohol Licenses?

I will support efforts to limit late alcohol licenses where they are not appropriate, and encourage Metro ABC to judge them on a case-by-case basis. I am attaching a letter my wife and I submitted last year in opposition to a 4:00 AM liquor license application for 814-816 Cherokee Road as evidence of my approach to these matters. I followed up on this letter with an in-person meeting with Metro ABC officials. Late licenses should not be automatically granted to all bars. As a Council member I will support residents in such efforts, including advocating for decisions that support their views in Frankfort.

While 4:00 AM licenses are likely to remain with us on Bardstown Road, I will also direct my efforts to minimizing their impact on residential life in the blocks nearby, by enforcing other rules (on excessive noise and criminal activity), and by developing a Master Plan that keeps more of the people who visit businesses on Bardstown Road remain on Bardstown Road.

Describe your philosophy of the role of representative as it relates to District 8 and Metro Louisville as a whole

A Metro Council member’s job falls into three categories:

• Constituent service. This is by far the most important, and I will listen to and serve the needs of my neighbors right where they live – in their homes, on their streets and in their neighborhoods. A Metro Council member must be willing to stand up to defend residents and their right to shape their own neighborhoods.
• District-wide issues. I will seek to connect all neighborhoods and neighbors on the issues that connect us all. This includes Bardstown Road and developing a plan that serves the residential neighborhoods that give it life.
• City-wide issues. As a Council member I will work across districts and with other Council members to develop majority support for issues that the citizens of District 8 want to see advanced on a city-wide basis. I have a long record of working with other civic leaders to advance important goals like education, health and the arts, and will work with my fellow Council members on the issues that create a better Louisville for every citizen AND attract newcomers and companies to our city and its amazing neighborhoods.

Metro Council members have recused themselves from some matters due to declared conflicts of interest.  In advance of the election, are you willing /open to disclosing the occupations and or investments of all your family members in order to discuss areas of possible conflicts of interest?  If so, please provide a list of such possible conflicts.

The only financial interest I hold in District 8 is my ownership, with my wife, of property located at 1074 Cherokee Road, the first house built in what became the Cherokee Triangle. We bought the main house at this address in 1995 and a few years later purchased its carriage house, which had been legally subdivided into two separate condominiums. I am fully invested in the success of the Triangle as an important residential neighborhood.

I chair the board of Seed Capital Kentucky, a non-profit organization that is developing the West Louisville FoodPort, and although I have no personal financial interest in that project I would recuse myself from any Metro Council decisions relating to it. A company I control owns my office building at 200 York St. south of Broadway. Although my businesses employ many people in Louisville, our revenue is almost entirely generated from clients outside Louisville. I have no other financial interests that pose any conflicts of interest with Metro Council matters.

I would be happy to make disclosures related to myself and other immediate family members to answer any specific questions regarding conflicts.

How important is historic preservation in Metro Louisville, especially in Landmark neighborhoods in Metro Council District 8, such as the Cherokee Triangle but also including other Landmark neighborhoods?

As I think you can tell from my earlier answers, I believe that historic preservation is incredibly important in Metro Louisville. The best way for Louisville to grow and to move forward is by doing so in a way that honors our past and our unique character as a city. Preserving our natural heritage as a portage and watershed is also critically important.

I grew up in another city that honors its historical legacy – New Orleans – and I came to Louisville in part because of this city’s own cultural heritage, one embodied in both the natural beauty of its location and the built environment that makes it such a welcoming home for natives and newcomers. The Cherokee Triangle embodies that beauty and that spirit.

I believe that preservation in other Landmark neighborhoods is also important. I have extensive hands-on experience in preservation beyond the Triangle, including:

• Negotiating historic easements on many buildings and properties in Jefferson and Oldham Counties with several preservation organizations, including the Kentucky Heritage Council.
• Working with preservation organizations and the State Historical Preservation Officer since the mid-1990s on preservation issues in multiple hearings and filings under the National Environmental Policy Act and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.

Supporting Gill

12378065_1005834682818726_6161103572065418225_oMy old friend, Gill Holland, has a completely different race for Metro Council from my own. My campaign is all primary; he has no primary. My district is majority Democratic; his is not.

But we want the same great things for Louisville and it would be an honor and a pleasure to serve on the Metro Council with him. I enjoyed taking a break from door-knocking to attend his campaign kickoff tonight.

Wherever you live, like his Facebook page and offer Gill your support. If you have friends in District 16, tell them to do the same, to request yard signs, and to vote for him in November!


Making your vote count


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!

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.

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.