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Primary election 2022: Metro Council District 9

Metro Council District 9 includes the Crescent Hill neighborhood east of downtown. Incumbent Bill Hollander, who was first elected in 2014, is not running for reelection.

There are seven candidates running in the May 17 primaries: six Democrats and a Republican.

Jack Andrews, 76, is an attorney who lives in Druid Hills.

Mike Brooks, 41, is an accountant living in Crescent Hill, where he’s served as president of the Crescent Hill Community Council since 2020. Brooks previously unsuccessfully ran for Metro Council District 9 in 2014.

Alison Brotzge-Elder, 37, is a communications professional living in Crescent Hill. She previously worked for Greater Louisville, Inc., the city’s chamber of commerce.

Alexandra Martindale, 28, is running unopposed in the Republican primary. She works in operations and human resources and lives in the Crescent Hill area.

Jim Mims is a professional planner and landscape architect who lives in the Bowman neighborhood. According to his campaign website, he held several positions in Metro Government, including as Director of Codes and Regulations and Director of Develop Louisville. His campaign priorities focus on public infrastructure and improving the quality of life in District 9.

Andrew Owen, 49, is a real estate investor living in Crescent Hill.

Wynn Simpson is a technical service provider with a law degree from the University of Louisville, according to his LinkedIn page. He lives in Crescent Hill.

All candidates were invited to participate in a survey by WFPL News. The answers of those who responded are below. They were edited for clarity and length.

What are your ideas for helping residents in your district navigate the next phases of COVID-19, which could include intermittent surges, in terms of their health, finances and social needs?

Brooks (D): Firstly, the office is a communication hub with direct access to thousands in the 9th District through its excellent and widely read newsletter. I'll leverage this medium to make sure we're getting our neighbors the best and most up-to-date information available from the city.

Secondly, I support mandatory paid sick leave. If we are going to continue to force people to work in close proximity to one another through the  continuing pandemic, we just can't have people showing up to the office, to the restaurant, to the theater sick. Paid sick leave is a net positive for people, productivity and profitability.

Brotzge-Elder (D): I think frequent and clear communications are absolutely vital as we move into the future stages of COVID-19. Many people are frayed physically, mentally, financially and emotionally. Thousands of our friends and neighbors have experienced serious tragedies over these past two years. I think the only way to pick up the pieces and continue is by being clear about what we know and what we do not know about the next phase of the virus. Ignoring COVID-19 does not make it go away. We will be dealing with the impacts of this virus for the foreseeable future. As a leader, I pledge to approach every situation understanding the complexities and limitations of science and with grace towards my fellow Louisvillians. We need leaders who are comfortable with the unknown, who can communicate effectively and who can act when needed.

Martindale (R): This is such a complicated and ever-evolving situation. District 9 is home to so many resilient individuals, some of which would be considered our most vulnerable. We will keep a constant eye on the next phases of COVID-19 and communicate through the website, newsletter, social media and word of mouth if there are any concerns that will affect the health of our neighbors. I have and will deliver groceries to those who are unable to make it to the grocery store. Restaurants are delivering more food and providing more outside seating than ever before. USA.gov, Community Action Kentucky, the Team Kentucky Fund, the Kentucky Homeownership Protection Center are just a few of the many resources available for those requiring financial assistance. I will always prioritize the safety of every neighbor in District 9 and make sure these resources are properly promoted through every possible outlet.

Owen (D): Metro Council can focus on two things to help support individuals and families struggling with the pandemic. First, we have to make quality, affordable child care more available to working families. The pandemic has forced hundreds of child care providers to close. And, without child care, people are unable to work and support their families, especially as public schools have to close to protect public health. The Metro Council is currently looking at revising zoning and other regulations to potentially streamline the opening of new childcare businesses in an effort to lower the barriers to entry to aspiring child-care providers.

The second focus needs to be on improving access to quality healthcare within poorer neighborhoods. Norton Healthcare announced it was building the first hospital in the West End of Louisville in over 100 years. It is my firm belief that, if there is any budget shortfall for the project going forward, Metro Louisville should do everything in its power to provide incentives to make sure this critical project moves forward.

What investments, reforms or new initiatives would you pursue to decrease violent crime and homicides in Louisville?

Andrews (D): To reduce gun violence, I will urge the Louisville Metro Police Department to focus on arresting those who sell or distribute guns to our children and youth. As your Council member, I will stand up to the NRA.

Brooks (D): We must do everything in our power to reduce the number of guns on our streets. We have to take this fight to Frankfort to get the flexibility and authority we need to curb the needless shootings, and we need to be more nimble when responding to the sources and root causes of the violence. I will advocate for substantial increased support for the Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods. It's time to get LMPD back to what they are chartered to do, which is to solve crimes, and to let trained professionals of other, more appropriate disciplines respond to community needs as they arise. Getting people out in the neighborhoods to mediate and to mentor, bringing services to the unhoused, making more and better drug counseling available; all these investments pay dividends in improved social cohesion and reduced violence and misery. The No. 1 way to reduce violence, though, is to address the root causes of poverty; until we get serious about that we're just going to be playing around at the edges.

Brotzge-Elder (D): The police department plays an important role in our city and it will continue to do so, but it is not the "be all, end all" solution to the underlying causes of violent crime and it never will be. That is not what police officers are trained to do and we are not setting them up for success by asking them to solve the public mental health crisis of drug addiction and its impacts. We need to increase investment in our public health infrastructure, specifically in behavioral health and drug addiction recovery programs. We need to increase the funding for the Office of Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods. We need to immediately stand up the program for mental health professionals to respond to people in mental health crises and better train our officers to identify and defuse these situations. We need to implement the proposals people who live in communities that are overwhelmingly impacted by violence are pushing for, like code enforcement, securing vacant/abandoned properties and better street lighting.

Martindale (R): We need to prioritize getting the LMPD fully staffed and competitive with neighboring small and large cities. We need to invest in technologies such as ShotSpotter in high-crime neighborhoods to target illegal gun use that make up most violent crimes and homicides. There are technologies like never before that will increase the safety of the police, suspects and neighbors when called to a crime scene. I will support organizations like the Family Scholar House, Christopher 2X Game Changers, the Louisville Urban League and others that support the development and education for children in high-crime neighborhoods and adults interested in further education, gaining new skills and preparing for homeownership.

Owen (D): Community having trust and faith in the police department and its officers begins and ends with accountability. We need to hire the best and brightest recruits and we need to train them well using the accepted best practices of 21st Century Policing. At this moment, our police department is down approximately 200 officers. We can embrace this moment as the pivotal time when we commit to a new way of training and policing that will ensure we are molding the department leaders of the future. But as a government we also need to make sure our officers know we are all in this together and we need to encourage our rank-and-file officers to be members of the community they serve. That means Metro Police officers should be incentivized to live in Jefferson County. The police force should reflect the social and racial diversity of the community. Officers should be required to get out of their cars and walk or bike a beat for at least part of their shift. And part of their week should be spent performing community outreach at schools, churches, parks and neighborhood events.

In your view, what are the city's greatest needs in terms of housing, and how would you address them through legislation?

Brooks (D): My number one goal in my first term is to secure a robust, permanent appropriation to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. We've done the best we could over the last few years, scraping together $10 million where we could, but it's time to get real about the need and the scale of the necessary investment. We must incent the kind of private sector growth we need — development of missing-middle housing, more and more-affordable units inside the urban core — while also taking a greater direct role in development of public multifamily housing. We must demand the highest standards in the management of our public housing assets, upholding the essential humanity and dignity of each resident.

Brotzge-Elder (D): We need to continue to increase our investment in affordable housing in development projects. We must look into revising our land use codes to allow for more "middle-sized" housing throughout the city.  We need to make sure we are building mixed-income housing in places that are close to job centers, with safe access to public transportation or the ability to reach them without the use of a single-passenger vehicle, which is a big expense for working people and families. Our zoning processes and procedures need significant updates to streamline smart growth projects, specifically within the urban core of Louisville. And we must bring along residents and community leaders to include their voices in what new developments will look like in our neighborhoods. Clear lines of communication and accountability are vital to build the future of Louisville and improve the lives of residents.

Martindale (R): Local government has a responsibility to ensure there is enough housing units to keep up with population growth, by incentivizing new builds and home ownership for those on all income levels. I will support the reduction of regulation and red tape to make it easier for people to start or grow their businesses near newer or existing developments to encourage greater walkability and local business support. As well, investing in public transportation will greatly support residents living in the immediate downtown, and those surrounding, to make jobs and newer housing developments more accessible.

Owen (D): During the last budget cycle, Metro Council was able to make a significant investment in the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Prioritizing affordable housing during budget negotiations, and through decisions about how the American Rescue Plan funds are used, needs to continue.We also need to be creative with property tax abatements or freezes. For example, we could designate certain neighborhoods or ZIP codes where property taxes can be abated or frozen for a period of 10 years if a certain amount of money is invested in the improvement of that property. The property taxes could then recalibrate slowly over the following 10 years, to bring them closer to market rate.

We are going to have to be creative to bring vitality back to downtown and our urban neighborhoods, and that may mean we need to look at non-traditional uses for certain types of downtown structures. We have to be creative in our adaptive reuse of underutilized buildings and we need to take a close look at the efficacy of the Land Development code. It may be that to encourage more affordable housing units, we have to be more flexible with traditional uses and setbacks and we may have to be open to allowing for more density and requiring less parking.

What do you see as the No. 1 issue facing your district in the next five years?

Andrews (D): I will protect our precious public green spaces, and strenuously oppose the sale of the Crescent Hill and Cherokee golf courses to developers or commercial landlords. I will seek better coordination with MSD and other agencies on repair of streets in the Lexington Road, Frankfort Avenue, and Brownsboro Road corridors. I will seek to have Metro Government better promote our Frankfort Ave. business corridor.

Brooks (D): Setting aside for a moment the threat to democracy and our rapidly warming planet, our biggest challenge in our neighborhoods will be stewarding smart growth. The 9th District is a sought-after destination both residentially and commercially, and we will only continue to grow and intensify our use of the finite available land here. We need to make sure that we incent the kind of growth that builds community, that puts people first rather than cars, that supports healthy lives and lifestyles.

Brotzge-Elder (D): District 9 is undergoing some much needed updates to our infrastructure and that has caused upheaval in our daily lives. I think the next "big thing" for District 9 is investing in improving transit safety and increasing our tree canopy.  By investing in resiliency projects, we are working to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Frankfort Avenue, Lexington Road and Shelbyville Road are main arteries of Louisville and we need to make them safer for people to walk and ride bikes.

Right-sizing our roads and traffic patterns to account for population growth, planting more trees to replace what we lost during the recent MSD and Louisville Water projects, and improving our built infrastructure, will increase the livability of our neighborhoods, grow our small businesses' footprints, and make D9's unique neighborhoods even more desirable places to live.

Martindale (R): Public safety.

Owen (D): In District 9, we have the largest and best collection of local shops and businesses of any district in Metro Louisville. In a post-COVID world, I will be laser-focused on making sure those businesses have the resources and support they need to continue to thrive in an ever-changing business environment. Government can do that by supporting the associations to which those businesses belong, like the Frankfort Avenue Business Association and the St. Matthews Chamber of Commerce.

In order for Metro Louisville to continue to heal from the tragedy of the Breonna Taylor killing, in the next five years, there is further conversation and action required to address the racial divide that so clearly exists within our broader population. If we want to be known as a place where people of all backgrounds and colors are not only welcomed but supported and encouraged to meet their potential, then we first have to acknowledge that we have made decisions in the past--and continue to make decisions--that either intentionally or unintentionally have disenfranchised and disempowered people of color.

Aprile Rickert is LPM's Southern Indiana reporter. Email Aprile at arickert@lpm.org.

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