Metro Council Member Ben Reno-Weber wins nomination for November election
Louisville Metro Council Member Ben Reno-Weber, who was recently appointed to temporarily fill the District 8 seat, will be the Democratic nominee in the November special election.
Reno-Weber, 43, received the Louisville Democratic Party’s nomination late last week. He’s represented District 8 since March, after Cassie Chambers Armstrong left for the state Senate. A majority of the remaining Metro Council members voted to appoint him to fill the vacancy in District 8, which includes most of the Highlands and Bardstown Road business corridor.
If he wins in November, he’ll hold the office until the start of 2025, when Chambers Armstrong’s term ends.
In an interview Wednesday, Reno-Weber said he is running because “it’s a really interesting moment” in Louisville. He pointed out there’s not only a new mayor, but also ten new policymakers on Metro Council.
“Remote work, the pandemic, AI, and this long overdue racial reckoning we are having gives us this opportunity to really look at how we make community investments,” he said. “I think Metro Council is a great platform for helping to shape that conversation.”
Since joining Louisville’s legislative body, Reno-Weber has advocated for expanding Louisville’s 911 deflection program. The initiative allows dispatchers to send trained social workers in response to some emergency calls, rather than police officers.
“You’re getting higher quality engagement with somebody who’s getting the services they need, and you’re freeing up the police to address the things police are trained to deal with,” he said.
Reno-Weber said his interest in supporting the deflection program stems from his work as the deputy director of the Health Equity Innovation Hub at the University of Louisville.
Mayor Craig Greenberg recently announced a county-wide expansionof the 911 deflection program, and he’s asking Metro Council to put more funding behind it. The Council is currently vetting Greenberg’s proposed budget for 2024.
In District 8, Reno-Weber said the biggest issue on his mind is the future of Bardstown Road. He said the business corridor generates the largest amount of tax revenue for the city by square foot. The challenge, he said, is how the city can improve the experience people have on Bardstown Road “as consumers, as pedestrians, as drivers,” including addressing residents’ concerns about safety and people experiencing homelessness.
“Part of that is making sure that the people who are struggling with substance use who are there are getting the services they need in the places they should be getting them,” he said.
Another part, Reno-Weber said, is making the area more walkable and bikeable.
He said the main issue for residents living in the neighborhoods surrounding Bardstown Road is housing affordability.
“We, as a city, really struggle with matching people with the housing stock that they can afford,” he said. “That’s certainly happening along Bardstown Road.”
One potential way to alleviate the affordable housing crisis is limiting the number of properties being used as short-term rentals, such as Airbnb or VRBO, he said.
Reno-Weber said the biggest complaints he’s received about short-term rentals are that they are driving up the price of housing by creating more scarcity, and that they’re changing the feel of residential neighborhoods in the district.
“They’re really degrading the ability for neighbors to connect with one another,” he said. “When you have a lot of transience on your street, you’re not building those connections.”
Reno-Weber recently threw his support behind an ordinance, authored by District 4 Democrat Jecorey Arthur, that would place a moratorium on approving licenses for new short-term rentals in some of Louisville’s most densely populated urban areas. If approved, the hold would last for six months, giving city planning officials time to propose changes to the existing regulations.
Reno-Weber and other council members have asked the Planning and Design Department to look into how the city can better enforce registration requirements and crack down on illegal operators. They also want to rethink the amount of waivers being issued by city officials that allow multiple short-term rentals to operate in close proximity.
If Louisville’s short-term rental regulations are reworked, it would be the third amendment since they were created in 2017.
Reno-Weber’s nomination means he will appear on the ballot in November, alongside a candidate chosen by the Jefferson County Republican Party as well as any independent challengers.
Marty Meyer, a political advertising executive who was a district representative for former U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, was Reno-Weber’s main challenger for the Democratic nomination. Meyer had received endorsements from the Fairness Campaign, the Jefferson County Teachers Association and various local unions.
Speaking ahead of the nomination vote last week, Meyer told LPM News he planned to run in an open primary next year where voters, not local party officials, will decide who will represent Democrats in a general election for District 8. All of Metro Council’s even-numbered districts will be on the ballot in 2024.
“I’m a hard campaigner,” Meyer said. “If I’m not running this fall, I’m going to start knocking on doors for next spring.”
Metro Council’s District 8 is considered a safe Democratic district. Residents have elected a Democrat to represent them in every election since the 2003 city-county merger.