Friday June 27, 2003
For Immediate Release
For Information Contact:
Jennifer F. Brislin
Patrick H. Neely
Louisville Metro Council Republicans voted against the operating budget tonight. Republicans cited many positive aspects of the budget, but ultimately voted against it because of a lack of oversight and accountability on how taxpayer money would be spent.
“Too many important decisions were made in a backroom, behind closed doors,” said District 18 Councilman Hal Heiner, who is the Republican Caucus vice-chairman. “The Appropriations Committee didn’t have any public debate or make any decisions until it was time to vote. “Instead, a super slush fund, which more the doubles the council’s current discretionary funds, was created in private. We thought we had an agreement to use this money responsibly on public infrastructure and capital projects. Only yesterday, we were given a list of dozens of pet projects. Each project is only a line item in the budget, stating the organization’s name and amount they will be given. We have no information on who the organization is, what it does, if it is a charity, if it has been around for six years or six months, if it will be around in another six months.”
Republicans wanted to uphold the process that the Mayor and Council agreed to on how to determine which outside agencies received funding. Taskforces were composed of the Mayor’s administration, the Council and citizens throughout the community, who judged each proposal based on need and effectiveness rather than on politics.
Republicans said the process was violated, and discussions about budget priorities should have been more open and focused on the community as a whole. They wanted to make changes to how determinations were made to spend some of the money. In addition, they would have kept some funding in place.
“There are many things in this budget that the council and the entire community can be proud of,” said Ellen Call, R-District 26. “No new taxes, more money for the parks, zoo funding to increase accessibility for people with disabilities, and additional funds for our libraries. “But the initiative that I am most proud of, the initiative that I believe will have the greatest impact on our community, is the one to help families who have experienced domestic violence.”
District 16 Councilman Kelly Downard, who is the Republican Caucus Chairman, cited the recently released Crime Commission research showed that domestic violence is the No. 1 crime in our community.
Domestic violence programs will receive a $397,961 boost in funding if the initiatives are approved Thursday when the full Metro Council votes on the fiscal year 2004 budget. The Louisville Metro Council Appropriations Committee approved the funding earlier today.
“We have tremendous programs in this community, but we must make a stronger commitment to helping them make even more successful,” said Councilman Kelly Downard, who coordinated efforts among the Center for Women and Families, the County Attorney’s office and the Metro Council to make this program a both a reality and a priority of local government. “A family’s house should be a haven for safety and security, not a harbor for secrets, abuse and destruction. Through increased services and programs, we can make great strides toward that goal.”
The funds will accomplish two important goals for The Center for Women and Families, which served 30,000 people last year:
-- Contribute $85,000 toward an $800,000 challenge grant from the Michigan-based Kresge Foundation. The grant will help renovate the former San Antonio Inn property on Second Street to create transitional housing, temporary shelters, longer-term housing and a 24-hour clinic.
-- Provide for two court advocate positions and one community educator/trainer. Among other things, these positions will expand legal advocacy, increase the pro-bono attorney project, provide more safety planning and crisis counseling, educate school-age children and cover training that previously had been offered through Metro Government’s Office for Women.
Additional funds also will be used to staff more positions within the Jefferson County Attorney’s Domestic Violence Unit. It will staff and hours at the Intake Center to 24 hours during the week, rather than only operating from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The Intake Center staff provides legal options, safety planning and community referrals for important services such as counseling, social services and legal advocacy. In 2002, there were more than 3,000 complaints filed at the Intake Center.
Other key initiatives in the budget that the Republicans won support for include: the ability to maintain the library’s Sunday hours, which were cut in the mayor’s proposal, as well as add more money to the building repair account; increased money for the zoo to help it become more accessible to people with disabilities; park improvements and ballfields throughout Louisville Metro; extended benefits to workers who were laid off for three months; designated funds to buy property for a community center in Southwest Jefferson County; and funds for Heart of St. Matthews, which will make the business district near St. Matthews more pedestrian friendly and safe.
In addition, before the Council meeting, all 11 Republicans and five Democrats asked Jefferson County Attorney Irv Maze to determine how they could return their cost-of-living raise. There is a question about whether state law mandates that council members must receive a cost-of-living raise each year, but the 16 Council members do not want a raise when 2,000 other employees won’t receive a raise this year.
Julie Raque Adams (R) 18
Stuart Benson (R) 20
Ellen Call (R) 26
Kelly Downard (R) 16
Robin Engel (R) 22
Kenneth C. Fleming (R) 7
Doug Hawkins (R) 25
Hal Heiner (R) 19
Kevin Kramer (R) 11
James Peden (R) 23
Glen Stuckel (R) 17