My name is Ryan Fenwick, and I am running for Mayor of Louisville. I am challenging Mayor Fischer in the Democratic primary because I fundamentally disagree with his administration’s approach to running the city. Mayor Fischer says he has the heart of a social worker and the brain of a CEO. His heart may be in the right place, but his actions and policies do not reflect the compassion fundamental to social work, nor has running the city like a top-down corporation resulted in outcomes that matter most to the people he serves. My intention in writing this is not to smear the mayor or question his character, but to express why I think it is time for a change.
My opponent boasts that we have 1,500 hotel rooms currently under construction. While we are providing plenty of housing for tourists and pricey homes they hope will attract more affluent residents to Louisville, thousands of local families, young professionals burdened with student debt, and seniors living on a modest income, struggle to pay the rent or can’t afford a mortgage. We have an incredibly high rate of eviction, and an appalling number of homeless sleep on our streets in the shadow of the mayor’s new construction. Of course we welcome visitors to our city, and we welcome companies here for a job, but this administration has poured a disproportionate amount of public resources attract new residents and tourist to occupy spaces few of us could comfortably afford. We spend too much on Louisville being a first class destination, and not enough on making it a first class place to live.
A rising tide doesn’t automatically lift all boats. The notion that any development is good development has its consequences. Too often the good jobs are brought to attract folks from outside of Louisville, leading to increased income inequality and economic displacement. We need more than just jobs jobs jobs. We need good jobs that create locally owned wealth.
In my experience as a grassroots activist, too often I have seen Mayor Fischer prioritizing what wealthy interests want rather than listening to the community’s needs.
When it was time to write the Move Louisville transportation plan, I watched out of touch consultants he’d hired ignore local activists who had lived our road conditions first hand.
When residents of West Louisville came out against the proposed methane plant, he ignored the community and told them they should be grateful for industrial pollution in their backyards. When preservation-minded groups requested the old water company building be incorporated into the design of the Omni hotel, he had it bulldozed. When labor marched to demand latinx workers be paid the same as caucasian workers on a project subsidized by the city, he issued a vague statement about hoping contracts were followed. When hundreds of West Louisville residents came out universally against a proposal to allow a chemical company to pollute additional toxic chemicals, his administration allowed the company to increase its pollution anyway.
Despite widespread disapproval of the secretive SCALA group, Fischer continues to participate, sending important members of his administration to discuss public issues with the private group before meeting with impacted communities. Fischer has sided with SCALA against our teachers and school board, without acknowledging his family’s interest in charters.
When it comes to public safety, the mayor’s criminal justice policies have failed to help Louisville break away from a system that continues to recycle offenders and perpetuate mass incarceration. His support of the anti-gang bill to look tough on crime against his Republican opponent, is just another example of the failure of his public safety strategy. We have seen no leadership to find innovative solutions to fix the deplorable conditions plaguing Louisville’s jail. We need to do more than just talk about restorative justice and community policing. We need to prioritize a public safety agenda with policies that will move Louisville away from a punitive system, and instead address the root causes of crime.
Finally, it seems as if mayor Fischer will take the safe road instead of being the bold leader Louisville needs. Even after holding a rally in which he implied Louisville was a sanctuary city, he failed to ensure LMPD was not cooperating with ICE. When Dan Johnson sexually harassed Councilwoman Green, he failed to take a stand in support of Councilwoman Green. When MSD warned that our flood infrastructure is crumbling, he failed to show timely leadership on MSD’s proposed rate increase, instead punting the issue to Metro Council. When it came out that a number of LMPD officers were fraudulently using overtime funding, he failed to accept any responsibility for for his administration’s lack of oversight.
We need a mayor who is not afraid to take a stand on important issues and who is willing to be held accountable. Democracy shouldn’t stop at the ballot box, and I don’t think the mayor’s job should be to represent developers and the interests of wealthy elites. I think the city should be seeking and valuing meaningful community input at every step of its decision making processes. From years of work in the grassroots, I know you can’t expect where a brilliant idea will come from, and that by refusing to listen we’ll never get anything that looks even a little like justice. Without listening, we’re never going to implement the best ideas or build a city that is authentically the Louisville we love.
The mayor talks a lot about compassion, but too often his policies don’t match his rhetoric. We need leadership that follows through. The slogan of my campaign is “compassion through action” because I think that we have heard too much empty rhetoric. Compassion without action isn’t worth much. I believe we can make Louisville a city that works for everyone, I hope you’ll take a look at my platform.