Metro Council District 8 candidates discuss public safety, affordable housing
Democrat Ben Reno-Weber and Republican Phil Haming spoke at a candidate forum Tuesday evening. The two men are looking to win Louisville Metro Council’s District 8 seat in November’s general election.
Reno-Weber is the incumbent council member and deputy director at the University of Louisville’s Health Equity Innovation Hub.
Haming is a sales engineer at Haas Factory Outlet who previously ran, unsuccessfully, for a Jefferson County Public School Board seat in 2012.
With less than a month to go before the Nov. 7 election, the two men spoke to residents at Douglass Boulevard Christian Church, hosted by the League of Women Voters of Louisville and the District 8 Advisory Board, which includes local neighborhood and home rule city representatives.
Much of the discussion revolved around public safety and policing on Bardstown Road, which cuts through the middle of District 8. Recent shootings around the area’s popular bars and restaurants led to some increased policing and stricter noise ordinance enforcement.
Reno-Weber pushed for those changes and said during the forum that he’s interested in exploring how to take away alcohol licenses from problematic establishments.
He also said he supports a community policing approach that would incentivize officers to walk around the district more. But he doesn’t think police can best address every issue. He said he’d rather see health workers respond to mental health crises affecting homeless people, and use Medicaid to help fund solutions.
“Now all of a sudden, we’re not having a ‘Fund the police, defund the police’ conversation,” Reno-Weber said. “What we’re having is, ‘How do we be the best city we can be in a financially sustainable way?’”
Haming said busy bars along Bardstown Road need to prevent altercations from escalating by having bouncers break them up.
“They need to police themselves inside the bar and outside the bar,” Haming said.
But he disagreed with the current $2,500 fine for businesses that violate Louisville’s noise ordinance, calling it too steep.
Haming wants to have more undercover cops to catch criminals, who he believes are more likely to hide crimes around uniformed officers.
Both candidates also discussed affordable housing, a major need in Louisville.
Last year, Cassie Chambers Armstrong, who was the District 8 council member at the time, released a housing report that found median rent in the district was about $1,000 higher than Jefferson County’s median rent.
Haming said he was concerned about lower-priced housing attracting crime in the district and bringing down property values.
But he said he is not against the idea of new affordable housing in the area. He wants to see it through redeveloping current buildings, rather than changes like adding accessory dwelling units.
“We can have all the affordable housing you want, but you have to give up your home to develop it into a five- or six-unit apartment,” Haming said.
Reno-Weber pushed back on the idea that affordable housing would lead to more crime.
He said it’s necessary to make the district more accessible to others, including those who work at Bardstown Road businesses.
“If I want to put up a cottage or place in my backyard and rent that out to someone… absolutely, I want to do more of that,” Reno-Weber said.
Next month’s District 8 election is being held under special circumstances. Chambers Armstrong, a Democrat, vacated her seat after being elected to the Kentucky Senate in February.
The winning candidate will serve through next year, completing Chambers Armstrong’s term. The seat will be up for standard re-election again in Nov. 2024.
Correction: A previous version of this story omitted the name of one of the forum's hosts. It has been corrected to include that detail.