Here are the candidates vying to represent Louisville’s District 6
In less than two weeks, voters in Louisville’s District 6 will decide who will represent them on Metro Council. The district includes Old Louisville, Shelby Park and parts of the Algonquin and Park Hill neighborhoods.
There wouldn’t typically be any Metro Council races on the ballot this year, but vacancies left by council members who moved onto other public positions, meaning there will be three special elections. In District 6, former Metro Council President David James resigned at the start of the year for a leadership role in Mayor Craig Greenberg’s new administration.
The winner of this election will serve the rest of James' term, which runs through next year. The District 6 seat, and all other even-numbered seats on the council, will be up for election in 2024.
Phillip Baker, a Democrat, was appointed by the remaining Metro Council members to fill the seat until the special election. Baker is a graduate of Tennessee State University who works as a family resource center coordinator for Jefferson County Public Schools. He was recently appointed by Greenberg to represent Metro Council on a board overseeing Louisville’s $57 million share of opioid settlement funds.
Republican Judy Martin Stallard is challenging Baker. Stallard is a retired steel industry specialist. If elected, this would be her first time holding public office. Stallard ran unsuccessfully against Democrat Keturah Herron for the Kentucky House of Representatives last year.
Baker and Stallard participated in a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Louisville Tuesday night to discuss the future of the district.
Homelessness and affordable housing
Both Baker and Stallard agree that too many residents are living on the streets without access to social services and affordable housing.
Stallard said that her first priority would be to work with people who are homeless because of “financial reversals.”
“A lot of times they have families,” she said. “Get them into some type of job training and get them a home.”
Stallard said her second priority would be to focus on the people who may have substance abuse disorder and mental health issues, connecting them with available treatment.
Stallard’s plan for ensuring residents have access to affordable housing would include using vacant and abandoned housing. She said some neighborhoods in District 6, like Old Louisville, have a plethora of it.
“When I was in the MLK parade last year, just on the parade route there was 40 [boarded up houses],” she said. “We can take those houses and put our people who are needing homes in those houses. It also improves the neighborhood and increases the property values.”
Baker, meanwhile, said he believes the city needs to do more to incentivize building affordable housing “in every council district.” He pointed to a 2019 housing assessment commissioned by the city that found an unmet need of more than 30,000 housing units for Louisville’s poorest residents.
“From a planning and zoning perspective, we need to look at the buildings that we have,” Baker said. “Downtown we have several high rises that are traditionally for attorneys or law firms. We need to treat it like a neighborhood, from commercial spaces at the bottom to residential.”
He said the city also needs to do more for “people who are right there on the borderline” of losing their housing, like those who’ve recently had their power disconnected.
“We need to support the people who have homes and make sure they stay in homes,’ Baker said.
Public safety and policing
Asked about how he’d address gang and gun violence in Louisville, Baker said, “you need to attack it at all levels,” including education.
“By the age of seven, if your literacy is not where it needs to be, I can tell you what you’re doing at 18,” he said.
Baker said he also plans to advocate for adequately funding Louisville’s Office of Safe and Health Neighborhoods, which employs gun violence interrupters, as well as funding parks and libraries.
“Making sure that there’s a safe place for kids to do something productive,” he said. “That’s how we all come together.”
Part of his public safety plan, Baker said, also includes supporting reforms within the Louisville Metro Police Department and “bridging the gap between community and government.” Baker said residents aren’t anti-police, they’re anti-bad police.
“We should not be taking these bad officers who are committing offenses and putting them in our neighborhoods to be our community liaisons,” he said. “That’s a real issue.”
Baker said having officers police neighborhoods they actually live in could help improve community relations. A 2020 report by WDRB found hundreds of LMPD officers live outside Jefferson County.
For Stallard, one major problem is LMPD’s workforce. City officials have said for years that the department is hundreds of officers short.
She said she’d also like to see a move toward a community policing model.
“I would like to see our police get out of their cars and get to know their community,” Stallard said. “Where kids can see them as a person and not just a police officer, being with them in a situation where there’s not an altercation.”
She agreed with Baker that the city needs to ensure “the bad ones are gone.”
On reducing gun violence, Stallard said she regularly attends meetings of the Bishop’s Table, a group organized by Bishop Dennis Lyons of Gospel Missionary Baptist Church.
“The police are there, the preachers are there, the people are there, the protesters are there,” she said. “People are talking to each other. They’re getting to know each other.”
Stallard said she’d like to see more opportunities like that where residents and community leaders can engage with LMPD.
Stallard said the city needs to help people that want to become entrepreneurs in order to foster economic development.
“It takes a lot more than just saying, ‘OK, this is what I want to do,’” she said. “We need some folks who can sit down with you and help write a business plan.”
Baker said he will make sure officials in Louisville Metro’s Department of Economic Development have “everything they need to get a wide, diverse set of businesses” they can support. He also wants to make sure there’s funding in the budget for business accelerator programs and the METCO program, a city initiative that provides low-interest loans for small businesses’ startup and expansion costs.
“Also making sure that, as a councilperson, when businesses come to your area they have what they need to thrive.”
The District 6 special election will be held on Nov. 7. In-person, no-excuse absentee voting in Jefferson County runs from Nov. 2-4. A full list of early voting locations is available on the County Clerk’s website.