By Curtis Morrison
In the frantically contested 2010 mayoral primary election for the Democratic Party, a game-changing development occurred in March when Greg Fischer’s campaign began running a commercial produced by the successful DC campaign strategist David Heller.
According to Heller’s bio, in 1997 he “produced TV ads for the President of Montenegro, Milo Djukanovic, in his upset win over Serbian leader Slobodan Milosovic’s hand-picked choice.”
Even though none of Fischer’s challengers had been hand-picked by Milosovic, candidate Jim King did own a bank. So why leave fate to chance?
Heller was hired, commercials were produced, and the rest is history.
Main Street Communications, Heller’s company, boasts on their website how one specific commercial impacted Fischer’s primary win:
“After it aired for 10 days, we went up 18 points in the polls and ultimately won the Democratic primary by 25 points — despite starting out in third place and being outspent by more than $1 million.”
The commercial allowed Fischer to highlight the four priorities he would be taking up as mayor to a broad audience of voters, who at that time were mostly disengaged from the election.
- Creating jobs.
- Investing in clean energy.
- Making metro government more transparent, and building two new bridges.
We knew Fischer was serious about No. 2, sustainability, when we saw him pointing at a solar panel while he’s on a roof with Gill Holland.
But what really sealed the deal is the next scene, a stock clip of a White dude patting a Black dude on the shoulder to signal to him it was time to start that awkward prayerful walk toward windmills.
“Invest in clean energy jobs. The green jobs of tomorrow should start here, today,” Fischer says about priority No 2.
As the 2010 general election approached, sustainability activist and independent mayoral candidate Jackie Green withdrew from the mayoral race, endorsing Fischer. Green then wrote then that Fischer had made a promise to Louisville to consult with him, “to provide significant input to help structure that office (the Office of Sustainability).”
“Louisville will hold Greg to that promise,” Green wrote.
Following the election, Fischer didn’t consult with Green. But he still did “Green” stuff.
In his first year as mayor, the Louisville installed green roofs on the Metro Development Center, and the Louisville Metro Archives and Records Center. The Newburg Library became the first Metro Government building to achieve the Silver LEED designation. The library has flooring constructed from recycled materials, geo-thermal heating and cooling, solar panels, a butterfly roof design that feeds a rain garden, well, when it rains.
The mayor also created a Tree Advisory Board.
In January of 2012, Fischer created the Office of Sustainability, and appointed Maria Koetter to serve as its Director. Koetter’s been on the job almost six months, and at a pay rate of $78,000 per year, she’s been paid about $35,000 so far.
Yet only one news release has been generated from the Office of Sustainability’s Newsroom. That release came just a month ago when Metro Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh was granted the “Joan Riehm Environmental Leadership Award for her outstanding leadership in the quest for a more sustainable future through the creation of the 9th District Green Triangle.”
“We also just announced that we will purchase 95-gallon recycling bins for two city recycling routes, at a cost of $400,000. This is a pilot project to see if the larger bins encourage more recycling,” mayor spokesperson Chris Poynter wrote to us in an email. “We’ve installed new energy-efficient systems in numerous city buildings that will save money on HVAC costs.”
Last week, the mayor joined Congressman John Yarmuth to announce Louisville’s Air Pollution Control Board was receiving an awarded $1.6 million in federal funds to help retrofit diesel engines with pollution controls.
The right direction, but is it enough?
Green, the sustainability activist, is part of a group called the Greening of Louisville and they don’t think it is.
The group has scheduled the first meeting of what they’re calling the Sustainable Louisville Ad Hoc Committee for Wednesday.
A recent email blast from the Greening of Louisville itemizes specific actions the informal group is expecting Mayor Fischer to take immediately:
- deny infrastructure for green field development
- invest in re-development
- oppose building surface parking lots, highways & roads (Louisville leads the nation in the rate of increase of urban heat island effect - a result of buildings, surface parking lots, highways and roads)
- invest in parks close to dense neighborhood (Louisville trails the nation in park ratings – a result of our parks not being accessible to many pedestrians)
- oppose investment in parks not serviced regularly by TARC
- oppose building a VA Hospital surrounded by surface parking lots in the east end
- invest in public transit rather than more interstate highways and bridges (TARC is raising fares and cutting service)
- endow with real authority and ability the Office of Sustainability or close the office
- raze no more downtown historical structures, replacing them with surface parking lots
- prioritize pedestrian safety rather than moving traffic quickly
- invest in Beargrass Creek and the bridges that link the community to the creek
- reduce litter by increasing littering fees and taxing disposables
- improve the area’s air quality by focusing on point sources such as those found in the west end and along the lower Frankfort Ave corridor and mobile sources (vehicle emissions)
The draft was authored by a team of less than a dozen citizens.
The committee’s getting together Wednesday morning at 7 a.m. at the main library at Fourth and York streets, outside near the Abraham Lincoln statue on the west side.
“We hope that there is enough interest by the public to generate the Mayor’s interest and action,” Green says.
But wait! This week, a new page will be turned in the mayor’s sustainability record:
“…we will have another announcement about recycling and city government. Stay tuned,” Poynter wrote.
Um, interesting time. We’ll stayed tuned.
Oh, what about those green jobs?
Sadly, Louisville’s not been lucky enough to land any clean energy jobs since Fischer’s taken office.
Technically, some were created in turning those Metro buildings green, but those jobs are over now. And there’s Koetter’s job. That’s one.
Probably the bold question we all should be asking, what can a city and a Mayor do to create clean energy jobs?
What have other cities done?
What have other cities not done?
And what, exactly, are we doing?
Clean energy jobs. Sustainability.
Both noble priorities, when they’re taken seriously.
(Author’s note: I did find this state government release about a small county in Kentucky that added 30 new clean-energy jobs.)
About Curtis Morrison: Curtis Morrison is a journalist who blogs at Louisville Courant. Morrison is a political activist, active in historic-preservation efforts. He is a board member of Neighborhoods Planning and Preservation.