The view from Millionaires Row. | Photo by Boris Ladwig

Just before 3:30 a.m. Friday morning — at the end of a Metro Council meeting that lasted over nine hours — a proposed ordinance designed to force the mayor’s office to disclose the identity of the economic development guests it entertains at taxpayers expense failed to pass, receiving a 12-12 vote.

The debate over the ordinance since it was proposed this summer has revolved around the city’s economic development team spending nearly $400,000 on entertaining prospective business guests at the Kentucky Derby since 2015.

Louisville Forward has refused to disclose the identities of most of these guests, citing exemptions to the state’s open records law and potential harm to those businesses and the city’s economic development efforts if those names became public.

The original ordinance sponsored by Councilman Brent Ackerson, D-26, would have required the city to disclose the names of these prospective business guests after three years, reasoning that this was a reasonable amount of time for an economic development project to be completed.

Early Friday morning, the council amended the ordinance to extend this period to five years and raise the amount of spending on guests to trigger the reporting requirement to $25,000 from $10,000, but the measure still failed to gain a majority vote needed for passage.

All nine Republicans present voted for the ordinance, joined by Democrats Ackerson, Jessica Green and Vitalis Lanshima. The 12 other Democrats who stayed for the entire meeting voted against it, heeding the warning of the Fischer administration that it would cause companies to reject the city’s invitation to future Derbys, thus squandering opportunities and jobs.

Louisville Forward has provided detailed spending records on its Derby guests in past years, and has responded to criticism this year by reversing course and disclosing the names of city employees and local business leaders that it has provided Derby tickets to, though most of the dozens of guests each year remain secret.

Much earlier in the meeting on Thursday night, the council gave final approval to spending $546,791 on emergency services for the homeless this winter, directing the administration to work toward providing temporary storage of personal items so homeless individuals could enter overnight shelters, in addition to temporary low-barrier shelter.

Joe Sonka
Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]