District 13 Metro Council member wants to bring ‘shared focus’ to South End
Metro Council member Dan Seum, Jr. wants to see new development projects and infrastructure improvements in southwest Louisville, an area he says city government has forgotten.
The son of a former former state senator, Seum defeated Democratic incumbent Mark Fox in the District 13 election last November. That district includes the Fairdale neighborhood and parts of Okolona. Seum was one of two Republicans, along with District 25’s Khalil Batshon, who flipped Metro Council seats in the South End.
On the campaign trail, Seum promised to bring what he calls a “shared focus” back to city government. In addition to new housing and businesses, Seum says he wants to see investments in the South End’s public parks and youth programming.
“In Fairdale, our park is dilapidated,” he said. “Our youth sports, they’re sitting on splinters for bleachers. They’ve been neglected for many years.”
Seum has been a political activist for decades. At the state level, he fought for motorcyclists’ “right to decide” whether to wear a helmet as well as legalization of medical marijuana. He also advocated for a Louisville Metro Council ordinance directing police not to prioritize arresting residents for cannabis possession.
LPM’s Roberto Roldan recently spoke with Seum about his background and the political shift in south Louisville. An excerpt of that interview, edited for length and clarity, is below:
Can you tell me about your previous experience in state politics and what made you decide to run for Metro Council?
I've worked in state politics for about 25, maybe 30 years with my father. He's retired state Senator Dan Seum. And then for the last 15, maybe 20 years I've been working on the medical cannabis issue in Kentucky. Then I started working on local politics. We had LLEPO done. That's the lowest law enforcement policy ordinance for cannabis in Jefferson County. And then I saw things just falling apart in Louisville. I was afraid of what was happening in Louisville and I wanted to try to get in and be a voice to maybe make some change.
What do you see as the big issues that are facing Louisville right now?
Well, safety's number one. That's the number one reason I ran. Nobody feels safe. We can't have economic development without a safe city. I have a four-month-old and a four-year-old niece that live next door to me who I'm afraid for. I just want to do what I can to help make it safe again.
You've said that the number one issue for you is adding more officers to the Louisville Metro Police Department, which currently has hundreds of vacancies that are already funded. What do you think Metro Council can do to fill those vacancies besides just throw more money at LMPD?
Well, of course, we work on the budget, but I am looking to find ways to bring back the morale of our police officers, to bridge the gap in the communities. The morale is really, really low right now. I've talked to a lot of officers. I've talked to a lot of people who don't trust police officers. It's going to take a lot of media. I mean, we always find ways to accentuate the bad things, but we need to find ways to accentuate the good things. They're they're good people. They're they're human. And [I want to] try to bring in the human factor into the community.
In November, you beat Democratic incumbent Mark Fox, you are one of two Republicans in South Louisville, who flipped a seat. Why do you think that there was a shift in the South End?
They're tired of being forgotten. The South End is rarely spoken of. Not to diminish the need of the West End, I know there's a need, but every time you hear money's coming in it's going to the West End. The people in the South End, they continually see that and it’s like another blow because nobody's looking at them. We promised that we're going to bring shared focus to the South End and that's exactly what we're gonna do.
And what does that “shared focus” look like? I know, we've talked about this issue of infrastructure and growth.
Well, I've been meeting with a lot of economic developers and I asked them where do their priorities come from? Why does Fairdale not have a grocery store? Why do we not have a pharmacy? Why are you guys not focusing on the development around there? We have a gem in the Jefferson [Memorial] Forest. That is the largest urban forest in America. We're trying to get the developers to look at it that way, and not just to bring a bunch of apartments and jump them on the people and not worry about the infrastructure that's there in the first place.