Humana’s corporate building, National City Tower and 400 West Market in downtown Louisville | Courtesy of Jason Meredith

This post has been updated.

After facing criticism for operating in secret, the Steering Committee for Action on Louisville’s Agenda (SCALA) will allow the media to attend its next meeting, according to a spokesperson for the group.

Leaders of SCALA, an invite-only group of 69 business, nonprofit and religious leaders, decided to open its previously closed-door meetings to the media following Insider Louisville’s article revealing the group’s existence and subsequent criticism from public officials and advocacy organizations.

“The media will be invited. A time and location should be determined early next week,” Michael Tierney, a spokesperson for SCALA, told Insider in an email. Tierney is COO at Tandem Public Relations, whose CEO Sandra Frazier co-founded SCALA with Humana founder David Jones Sr.

SCALA members originally planned to meet today, Feb. 14, to hear a presentation from its subcommittee on public safety but decided to reschedule.

A new collective calling itself AROS Louisville planned to march today in PNC Plaza, opposing a lack of diversity among SCALA’s members.

“The ‘This Is Us’ march is a message to our wealthy corporate CEOs that Democracy does not exclude the voices of the people. We are the voices of our communities, city, public schools, and children,” according to the Facebook event. “Our vision for Louisville is one built upon inclusiveness of all stakeholders regardless of social economic standing, race, color, national origin, sex or disability. Our voices must be heard and appreciated for the vital insight that we all bring to the table.”

Roughly 30 people showed up. One woman was passing out fliers saying Louisville, the city’s public safety and its public education are not for sale. The flier also asked people to join as “we file one of the biggest grievance against Mayor [Greg] Fischer to hold his administration accountable.”

David Jones Sr. | Courtesy of UofL

The group — which includes organizations Dear JCPS, Jefferson County Teachers Association, League of Women Voters of Louisville, Louisville Showing Up for Racial Justice, Fellowship of Reconciliation and the Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression — has called for members of SCALA to walk away and engage with existing organizations or initiatives that aim to improve Louisville schools.

While SCALA also is focused on public safety and air service, its concentration on K-12 public education in Jefferson County has drawn the most criticism, with some stating that SCALA is trying to undermine the JCPS school board and throw its weight behind a state takeover of the school district.

The group does not include any current JCPS board members or administrative leaders; however, Jones Sr. recently extended an invite to Marty Pollio, who was recently named superintendent of JPCS.

In an email to Pollio obtained by Insider, Jones Sr. issued a formal invite.

“This note is an invitation to become a member of The Steering Committee for Action on the Louisville Agenda (SCALA),” Jones Sr. wrote. “You have earned the CEO job at a truly major enterprise! Your interaction with many local peers, whose only purpose in this group is to make our city a better place, will be helpful and productive! Our next meeting will be in a few weeks. Please attend, and if you feel it’s a good fit, join us. Sincere thanks for working to help all our kids receive a good education, and for considering joining us!”

Jones Sr. previously championed it as “a broad-based group” of proven leaders who want to help improve the community. Mayor Greg Fischer, who is a SCALA member, also has defended the group from those who have questioned its motives and methods, saying it is “not a secret group of any kind.”

Council president David James, D-6, criticized Fischer for not letting the public know about SCALA.

Metro Councilman Brandon Coan, D-8, wrote a haiku in an email to constituents, encouraging the group to be more public.

“Steering Committee

of the Great and Powerful,

Let the Sunshine In!”

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Caitlin Bowling
Louisville native Caitlin Bowling has covered the local restaurant and retail scene since 2014. After graduating from the Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Caitlin got her start at a newspaper in the mountains of North Carolina where she won multiple state awards for her reporting. Since returning to Louisville, she’s written for Business First and Insider Louisville, winning awards for health and business reporting and becoming a go-to source for business news. In addition to restaurants and retail business, Caitlin covers real estate, economic development and tourism. Email Caitlin at [email protected]