Yesterday morning, a group of concerned citizens, dutiful city employees and elected officials gathered at Memorial Hall on 4th and Kentucky to discuss vacant and abandoned properties.
It is entirely likely that no one expected their blood to boil.
The event began friendly enough with a continental breakfast including pastries from local favorite, Heitzman's Bakery, and opening remarks from Jim Mims, director of Codes & Regulations. Mims mentioned that he loves the new words list announced annually, which this year included Occupy as a verb/noun, and humblebrag, a word born out of the TV show, Community. He also said that Louisville plans to continue its advocacy to remain a "Compassionate city," whatever that means.
Mims reminded the room filled with representatives of non-profits, developers, activists and people who just wanted some free coffee and a muffin, that, "Redevelopment is not only a governmental role. We can't do it alone."
Metro Council person Kelly Downard, chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on Vacant & Abandoned Properties, set the tone for the morning by reminding the audience that Metro Council is purely legislative. They talk, influence and appropriate funding, but it is up to citizens and other branches of government to get things done. Then he made the mistake of being an accessible legislative member by opening the floor up for questions, which gave the audience permission to start asking questions of every presenter thereafter.
Meanwhile, back at yesterday's summit, three enthusiastic women representing Community Service and Revitalization Programs described ways their department is educating, training and putting information in the hands of citizens. Another fantastic program outlined is the Brother's Keeper program which is a volunteer program within the Vacant & Abandoned Properties Initiative.
That's about when the people in attendance started verbalizing their frustrations. Questions about what Louisville metro government plans to do with the millions of dollars in federal settlement money came up. A lawyer representing a group against the bridges program was present, and asked questions about why the billions of dollars being spent on the bridges are not being appropriated for urban renewal. Citizens sounded pretty upset about the fact that money brought into Louisville to repair the west end was being distributed elsewhere.
Louisville citizens are passionate about vacant properties and this summit was simply an extension of that passion.
img via Metro Louisville website
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