LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Delivering his ninth annual State of the City address from the Muhammad Ali Center on The Champ’s birthday, Mayor Greg Fischer today challenged the community to have the same courage, vision and determination that made Ali one of the most beloved, respected and well-known people the world has ever seen.
The Mayor noted that Ali came of age at a time of great change and “refused to let the world dictate what his life could be,” making him a great role model today, “because this is another moment of great change: in society, in technology, and in our economy.”
It’s time, he said, “to embrace Ali’s spirit and boldly make our own future.”
Proclaiming the State of the City as strong, Mayor Fischer outlined the many achievements over the past eight years, including 80,000 new private sector jobs, 2,700 new businesses, and $13 billion in capital investment just since 2014, including nearly $1 billion in west Louisville.
Our city and its partners have “transformed our skyline with new bridges and landmarks. We renovated the gorgeous Kentucky International Convention Center, built two dozen new hotels and are attracting 16 million visitors a year,” Mayor Fischer said. “We’ve achieved these successes thanks to ambitious goals, smart investments and strong partnerships.”
And, Mayor Fischer said, there’s more coming soon:
- The new soccer stadium district in Butchertown
- The restored and reimagined Colonial Gardens near Iroquois Park
- The Paristown development with a new performance venue for the Kentucky Center
- Expansion of the St. Matthews library and the grand opening of the new Northeast Regional Library, the city’s third regional library to open in five years
“This is what happens when we decide to write our own story,” Mayor Fischer said.
“But we’re just getting started,” he added. “If this were a 15-round title fight, we’re just in the second or third round. That’s why we have to keep pushing. We have to avoid the mentality that ‘better than before’ is good enough.”
He said, for example, that the city must boost its business clusters by focusing even more on innovation, technology and globalization.
“We are radically scaling our technology workforce training” with the goal of increasing by five times the number of people receiving technology workforce training in the next four years.
Mayor Fischer discussed the budget challenges wrought by the state pension crisis, and outlined several legislative priorities, including the need to strengthen hate crime and gun safety laws, and provide revenue options and flexibility for cities in the face of the state’s pension crisis.
“Frankfort seems focused on changing the structure of the pension system, but as the major bond rating agency Fitch stated last week, it is the inadequate funding of pensions that is the critical issue,” Mayor Fischer said.
Mayor Fischer also unveiled plans to boost the Cradle to Career framework, which the city established in 2014, bringing public and private partners together to coordinate work to ensure Louisvillians have what they need, from birth, to succeed in school and in life.
“I’m proud to announce today that we’re transitioning Cradle to Career into Evolve502: Louisville’s Promise from Cradle to Career,” which features two key elements: comprehensive wraparound support services for children and parents, as well as a scholarship program for JCPS graduates, giving them the opportunity to earn a two-year college degree tuition-free,” Mayor Fischer said.
Mayor Fischer encouraged those gathered to support the city’s SummerWorks youth jobs program, which he said, “is one of the best ways to show your love for our hometown.”
Mayor Fischer also discussed the need for an open dialogue on challenges, such as discrimination and inequity, that keep some residents from reaching their full potential. And he previewed an initiative being formally announced tomorrow: Lean Into Louisville, an unprecedented series of conversations, presentations, activities and art exhibits to explore, confront, and act on the history and legacy of all forms of discrimination and inequality in our city.
“The initiative’s name reflects our understanding that we must lean into these subjects to understand the historical roots of discrimination – and to understand that classism, bigotry, hate and violence have no place in any city that expects a growing and prosperous future,” Mayor Fischer said.
Harkening back to the “Louisville Lip” and his love of his hometown, the Mayor encouraged residents to brag on the city. “We have great, unique assets and opportunities here. We need to do more to let people know why we live in Louisville. Why we love Louisville.”
And he closed his remarks by noting that, “Like Ali, we have the vision for how to take our city to the next level,” which requires coming together as the city did during the June 2016 celebration of Ali’s life.
“That same spirit of community and connection of pride and purpose is what we need right now,” he said, “to meet our challenges and take the bold steps necessary to sow the seeds of greatness in every neighborhood and every man, woman and child in our city,” Mayor Fischer said.