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Public Policy: A Fresh Start for Derby City

New mayor addresses challenges, outlines plan to revive Louisville

By Bob Babbage and Rebecca Hartsough

In true Derby City fashion, Louisville’s new Mayor Craig Greenberg broke fast from the starting gate with his plans to revamp the state’s largest city. Although Greenberg just took office on January 2, he’s already launched major policy and funding initiatives targeting some of the city’s most significant problems.

Speaking to a sold-out crowd at a Louisville Chamber lunch on January 25, Greenberg talked in broad terms about the plans for his first term. At the top of the pile was a pledge to “say yes.” For Greenberg, “saying yes” means creating a city government environment that is constantly willing to listen and partner on ideas that will propel Louisville forward.

Making the city more attractive for business locations and development is a chief priority. He aims to achieve this goal with major improvements across multiple arenas, including but not limited to: public safety, education and alliances with leaders in Frankfort. Revitalizing the hard-hit downtown area is also crucial to this success.

As Louisville’s homicide and violent crime rates continue to rise, Greenberg is committing to significant reforms and safety enhancements. His appointment of new interim Louisville Metro Police Chief Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel is the first of many steps in this sphere. Greenberg discussed illegal-gun saturation, a problem he says is unique to Louisville with respect to the rest of the state. The mayor has hinted at launching a program to target illicitly obtained firearms and ensure they don’t fall back onto the streets. Juvenile justice reform is another strongly linked issue his team plans to confront.

Early childhood education is another top policy area for Greenberg’s first term. Securing funding for universal pre-K—not just for 4-year-olds but also 3-year-olds—is one of the most important objectives. Early education initiatives, the new city leader urges, are some of the best safeguards against a life lost to crime and homelessness. Funding and promoting educational opportunities make for a safer, better skilled Louisville.

Homelessness and affordable housing are two issues the new administration is already tackling, committing a historic $34 million with multiple health care and community outreach collaborators. The funds will create more affordable housing across the city as well as keep people at risk of homelessness in their current homes. According to the mayor’s office, Louisville is 30,000 short of the homes needed. The city is currently seeking partners to help create new permanent housing opportunities for very low-income households at or below the 50% area median income index (the standard metric for assessment).

In addition, the homelessness initiative will establish a community-care campus in the Smoketown neighborhood just east of I-65. Norton Healthcare, UofL Health, Coalition for the Homeless and others will assist in providing temporary housing, medical care and mental health support for those in need. Per the administration, these partners have been working together over the last year to determine and deploy the most effective resources and practices for combating recurrent homelessness.

Greenberg talks extensively of the need for Louisville to forge a better relationship with officials in Frankfort. At a Louisville Chamber event in December, both House Speaker David Osborne (R-Prospect) and Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) voiced their excitement for a fresh start and better relationship with the city. After all, the metro area is responsible for generating over 40% of the state’s revenue.

A new leader with a fresh perspective and a full tank of proverbial gas (or fully charged electric battery) is ready to lead Kentucky’s star city into the next generation. The betting odds for a brighter Louisville are the best they’ve been in quite some time.