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Louisville Lawmakers Will Look To Big-Ticket Items After Summer Break

Louisville City Hall
J. Tyler Franklin
Louisville City Hall

The Louisville Metro Council is on summer break.

The 26-member legislative body takes its two-week recess each year after passage of the city's annual spending plan, which it unanimously approved Thursday evening.

Council meetings and committee sessions will resume during the second week of July. And when members return to City Hall, a list of attention-grabbing proposals awaits.

Sexual Harassment Policy

At present, the council has no policy related to the governing or reporting of sexual harassment of or by council members or staff.

The push to adopt such a policy comes in the wake of sexual abuse allegations against Democratic Councilman Dan Johnson. Johnson is accused of groping Democratic Councilwoman Jessica Green during a recent press conference.

Council leaders conducted an investigation of those allegations and presented a report to Johnson this week. The Courier-Journal obtained a copy of the report and found Democratic caucus leaders recommended Johnson be publicly condemned and kicked out of the caucus. But they have no power to remove him from office.

In response to the allegations, council president David Yates proposed a temporary policy to guide harassment issues during a meeting Thursday night. But he withdrew the measure after criticism from Green, who argued for a more comprehensive measure.

Green and Republican Councilwoman Angela Leet are drafting an ordinance, according to council spokesman Tony Hyatt. That ordinance is expected to be assigned to a committee for further examination in the coming weeks.

MSD Rate Hikes

When the council returns, they'll also be tasked with examining a proposal from local sewer officials to institute a 20 percent rate hike for sewer bills.

The rate increase would help fund critical infrastructure repairs, according to officials with the Metropolitan Sewer District. But the average bump in monthly bills — about $10.49 — doesn't sit well with everyone. And it's been shot down by council members in prior years.

The sewer district's board of directors can approve rate hikes up to 6.9 percent; anything greater than that requires Metro Council approval.

MSD is under a federal consent decree to reduce sewer overflows into the Ohio River; the agency has spent more than $400 million so far on those projects, with about $500 million to go. These projects are different from the investments included in the current rate increase.

Tree Laws

An ordinance sponsored by Democratic leaders Bill Hollander and Cheri Bryant Hamilton aims to slow the decline of Louisville's tree canopy by requiring all trees removed from public rights-of-way to be replaced.

The proposal has drawn pushback from council Republicans, but Hollander, the majority caucus chair, seems optimistic about its chances of becoming law.

The city already has a tree ordinance, but Hollander and Hamilton's proposal would put in place a mandate for the replacement of removed trees, an element missing form the current law.

Louisville struggles with a fast-shrinking stock of trees.

An assessment released in 2015 estimated the city was losing 54,000 trees a year. Fewer trees contributes to the city's growing heat island — an effect that leads to higher temperatures in the urban core.

Hollander said the ordinance is a step toward addressing that issue.

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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