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Mayor Greenberg goes to D.C. to talk gun violence, homelessness

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Stephanie Wolf
/
LPM
Craig Greenberg at a campaign event in June 2021.

After a little more than two weeks as Louisville mayor, Craig Greenberg was in Washington D.C. Thursday for a winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Speaking by phone, Greenberg said he was meeting with officials from President Joe Biden’s administration, as well as fellow mayors of mid-sized cities across the country. He said his top priorities were learning about programs and funding opportunities to tackle Louisville’s most pressing issues: an epidemic of gun violence and residents without housing.

“I think it’s helpful to learn from other cities,” Greenberg said. “If we can learn about what initiatives have worked and what haven’t worked as well to inform what we do in our city, knowing we have our own unique set of issues, [it’s] helpful to know.”

Greenberg said he talked about potential funding opportunities for public safety initiatives with Biden administration officials. While he didn’t specify who he met with, officials from the Environmental Protection Agency, Housing and Urban Development and Lucine Hachigian, U.S. Special Representative for City and State Diplomacy, were expected to be in attendance, according to a press release from the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

There may be some federal resources to support police officer training and community intervention programs leaders to stop violence, but Louisville has some unique challenges, Greenberg said.

“Our state law makes it very difficult to specifically target guns that are in the hands of the wrong people, that are looking to use guns for the wrong reasons,” he said. “Other states have some more flexibility than we do.”

During his campaign, Greenberg criticized the Kentucky law that requires police to auction off guns that are illegally owned or used in the commission of a crime. A 2021 investigation by the Courier-Journal found some auctioned firearms ended up back in the hands of people committing crimes.

Greenberg has vowed that Louisville will render seized guns permanently inoperable before sending them to Kentucky State Police for auction.

On Wednesday, Greenberg met with the mayors of San Diego and Houston, who he said have “made very positive steps forward in providing services and shelter to their homeless community.” He learned about how some California cities are using vacant hotels to provide housing and access to case management.

Last year, the Coalition for the Homeless said in a report analyzing its annual surveys in Louisville that, from 2018 to 2021, more people experienced homelessness and significantly more people sought services other than shelter.

With millions of dollars in grants from the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law still on the table, Greenberg said another goal of attending the conference was to understand what kind of public projects federal agencies are interested in funding.

Unlike with the money from the American Rescue Plan Act, which was distributed to cities as a lump sum, much of the available funding for public infrastructure is project-based. Greenberg said Louisville is looking for support on transportation and broadband internet access proposals.

“The reason I came here was to really meet as many representatives of the Biden administration as possible who are administering those programs, so that Louisville is on their radar screen,” he said. “And as we’re applying for grants for federal funds we have an opportunity to receive those grants and improve the lives of people in our community.”

Last year, Louisville Metro received $20.5 million in grants funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Roughly $15 million was earmarked for the final design and construction of the Reimagining 9th Street project to change it from a six-lane road into a pedestrian-friendly street with protected bike lanes and a dedicated bus lane. Another $5 million went to the Broadway All the Way project to bring bus rapid transit service to that corridor.

Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL. Email Roberto at rroldan@lpm.org.