Louisville Metro Council re-elects Markus Winkler as president
Democrat Markus Winkler will serve another one-year term as the Metro Council’s president. Council members also selected their party leadership, with the most significant changes in the Republican Caucus.
The council was unanimous in its support for Winkler, who represents District 17 in the East End. He first assumed the presidency last year, promising to take a collaborative and bipartisan approach to leadership. The president leads all of the regular Metro Council meetings and decides who sits on the eight committees that vet legislation and determine which items receive a vote from the full body.
In an interview earlier this week, Winkler said Metro Council debated relatively few policy proposals last year, focusing instead on how to spend remaining COVID-19 relief funds from the federal government. Part of the reason, he said, was there were seven new Metro Council members who were getting used to how council business works.
Winkler said he expects things will be different in 2024.
“I think that you’ll see them really dive into issues that they are passionate about in this coming year and see them find their voice a little more as they step into leadership roles,” he said.
In recent years, Metro Council has increased funding for city agencies and nonprofits dealing with some of the biggest issues facing Louisville: homelessness and gun violence. Winkler said he’s hoping to see the fruits of that focus in 2024, and he thinks residents are expecting “something significant.”
“If we see a double-digit reduction in homicides, some improvements in the homelessness situation and movement on some of these infrastructure projects, I think we’d look back at 2024 and say it was successful,” he said.
Winkler's comments came on the heels of police data showing only a slight decrease in homicides and nonfatal shootings in 2023.
Council Democrats, Republicans elect leadership
Metro Council members met with their fellow Democrats and Republicans Thursday afternoon ahead of the organizational meeting. The main topic of discussion was who would serve as the parties’ chairs and vice chairs this year.
Republicans unanimously backed District 11 Council Member Kevin Kramer as their leader. Kramer, who has served as caucus chair seven times in the past, replaces District 19’s Anthony Piagentini in that role.
In the last year, Piagentini has faced scrutiny over his relationship with a local nonprofit that sought federal funding from Louisville Metro. The Ethics Commission ruled in October that he supported the nonprofit’s bid while negotiating a job with them, a violation of city ethics rules. Piagentini is now facing the prospect of a second ethics trial in the coming months, this time by his peers, and potential removal from office.
Kramer told LPM News following the vote that his caucus’ main concerns heading into 2024 are public safety, homelessness and the city's shortage of crossing guards. He said he shared Winkler’s urgency in seeing meaningful movement on gun violence and affordable housing.
“I think it’s great that our concerns are so well-aligned,” Kramer said. “Our challenges are not small, but I think if we can find a way to work together on those things we can make some good progress.”
District 16 Council Member Scott Reed was appointed vice-chair of the Republican Caucus by his colleagues.
Democrats, meanwhile, voted to re-elect Council Member Paula McCraney as their party chair. McCraney represents District 7, which includes parts of Lyndon and St. Matthews.
South End Council Member Cindi Fowler had initially announced her intent to run against McCraney, but withdrew her candidacy at the last minute. Fowler said she thought it would be better to have “a united caucus.”
Addressing her colleagues after the vote, McCraney said she was hopeful Metro Council will “get a whole lot done” in the coming year.
“A divided anything is not of any use to us, but together we can conquer a lot,” McCraney said.
Council Democrats chose District 1’s Tammy Hawkins as caucus vice-chair.
Metro Council will resume its regular meetings next month.
Democrats hold a majority on the council, with 16 of 26 seats. There are nine Republicans and one Independent. All the even-numbered districts are up for election this year, starting with the primary races in May.