Best Of 2017: City Reporter Jake Ryan On Overdoses, Homeless Camps And A Stolen Bus
This year, WFPL City Reporter Jake Ryan covered everything from Metro Council meetings to ambitious development proposals in Butchertown and the displacement of the city's most vulnerable residents. He moved over to the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting this fall, but here are some of his favorite stories of 2017.
RG Williams’ story is too good not to be on this list. He’s a supervisor with the city’s transit authority, and before that he was a bus driver. But it’s how he got hired — and the interesting route he took — that’s truly remarkable. It’s a tale of determination, promise and redemption.
Spend an afternoon riding with a Louisville Metro police officer and you’re sure to find yourself at an overdose scene. Countless residents across the city are caught in a battle with addiction. Hundreds overdose and many die. Police are being thrust into the fight against the epidemic and are now armed with overdose-fighting antidote, which they often use multiple times a shift. In this story, I rode with police in Louisville’s south-end and watched as an officer saved a woman’s life. Minutes later the radio crackled with another call, another overdose. This story is important because it’s a micro look at a city-wide issue. It shows the normalcy in an extraordinary moment.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer often touts transparency and access as core elements of his governing philosophy. But he won’t tell the public who he meets with in his office at Metro Hall. He cloaks his daily happenings in secret, keeping no visitor logs and refusing to disclose details about to whom he gives face time. Experts said that without such knowledge, residents are left not knowing who has a say in how policy is shaped and whether those people are experts, lobbyists or have a financial stake in a given project. This story is important because it shows how the top city official contradicts his own philosophy. It also emphasizes how the work of public officials should be available to the public.
This story stems from the California Attorney General’s announcement that all state-sponsored travel to Kentucky would be banned due to a recently-passed law that some considered discriminatory. In response, Mayor Fischer requested the city be exempt from the ban; he touted the city’s inclusive nature during a news conference. But Fischer scoffed at the notion of a divide between Louisville and the rest of the state, even though it’s apparent to many people from across the state. This story is important because it examines that divide — why it exists and how it impacts the state’s cohesiveness and future.
City officials often praise the “renaissance” taking place in Louisville. They praise development and economic activity and paint a rosy picture of the city’s current state. But there’s also thousands of people who sleep on the street and in tents tucked behind trees, just out of public view. Some of those homeless residents live in a camp on the site that’s set to become a $200 million soccer stadium development. They’ll soon be kicked off the land, and they’re not surprised. But where they go next, they’re not so sure. This story weighs the progress of development with the compassion that comes with ensuring everyone has a place to live.