Urban League executives resign from West End development board
Two leaders of the Louisville Urban League have resigned from their positions on a board that will control future tax revenue in the West End.
Metro Council President David James, who also serves as the interim board chair for the West End Opportunity Partnership, confirmed Monday that Urban League President Sadiqa Reynolds and Christina Shadle, the League’s director of investment, both resigned at a meeting on Saturday. The Partnership was created by the General Assembly earlier this year to collect future tax revenue generated by west Louisville neighborhoods and use that money to subsidize new development. Supporters of the Partnership are currently trying to raise $10 million in seed money.
In a statement, Reynolds said the board needs to “take the time to understand the potential unintended consequences,” especially the potential for displacing existing residents.
“The fundamental concern for each of us and the Louisville Urban League continues to be around support and protections for residents of the West End, more than 75% of whom are renters,” Reynolds said.
She also urged the Partnership’s board members to take time to listen to residents’ concerns and meaningfully engage with them.
“We urge interim Chair, Council President James, to lead this Partnership in a way that is responsive to residents - giving residents time to speak, and moreover, hearing what they have to say and substantively incorporating their feedback into the planning and proceedings,” Reynolds said.
James said earlier Monday that Reynolds resigned because internal rules at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Louisville Branch, where she is a board member, did not allow her to serve on the Partnership’s board. But a memo obtained by WFPL News shows the Federal Reserve does not want to be on the board at all.
The August 18 memo from J. Michael Brown, Secretary of the Executive Cabinet for Gov. Andy Beshear, includes a quote from a previous email from Nikki R. Lanier, Senior Vice President of the Federal Reserve’s Louisville Branch. In it, Lanier says anyone from the Federal Reserve serving on the West End Opportunity Partnership board is “beyond our federal authority and mission.”
“We should not make decisions on distribution of public revenue,” Lanier wrote, according to the memo.
Brown responded that the law creating the Partnership requires a representative of the Federal Reserve Bank to serve on the board. Removing that requirement “will require some action by the WEOP Board and later by the Legislature,” Brown said.
In the statement Reynolds provided, she asked Beshear to appoint Celine Mutuyemariya in her place. Mutuyemariya currently serves on the Metropolitan Housing Coalition’s board and is a housing policy advisor to the Louisville Urban League.
Once the Partnership secures $30 million in seed money, it’s expected to oversee a new taxing scheme for west Louisville known as tax increment financing. That means city officials will look at how much the area is producing in taxes right now. Using that number as a benchmark, 80% of any new tax revenue over that will go directly to the Partnership’s account for the next 20 years. The board is supposed to use that money to encourage new business and development to locate in the West End.
The Partnership will control much of the future tax revenue for nine Louisville neighborhoods: Algonquin, California, Chickasaw, Park Duvalle, Park Hill, Parkland, Portland, Russell and Shawnee.
Some residents have criticized the Partnership, saying many of its board members come from the same organizations that have been promising to bring development and resources to west Louisville for decades with little results. Others are concerned new housing developments and businesses could bring gentrification and displacement.
Mike Neagle, who heads the Portland Now Neighborhood Association, told WFPL last month that residents are concerned the Partnership’s focus on development could overshadow their existing needs.
“You know, what good is a sculpture garden if I don’t have enough food to last me through the end of the week?” he said. “People are concerned that things are coming, but it’s not for them.”
Activists with the resident-led #StopTheWestEndTIF campaign are also organizing against the Partnership.
Supporters, however, say the legislation that created the partnership protects homeowners from displacement. They point to a provision that would give homeowners a refund on any increase in property taxes over the next 20 years.
Board members, like Frank Smith, Jr. with Simmons College, have also promised to listen to West End residents about where the money should be spent.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated with a statement from Sadiqa Reynolds and new information about the Federal Reserve of St. Louis' involvement with the West End Opportunity Partnership.