Jobs not Abramson is key issue in Louisville mayoral race

06/05/2010 06:16 PM

LOUISVILLE — With longtime Louisville mayor Jerry Abramson joining Steve Beshear’s re-election ticket for 2011, the mayor’s office is open for only the second time in the last two decades.

And with primary battles behind them, Democrat Greg Fischer and Republican Hal Heiner told cn|2 Politics that the most important priorities for Louisville’s future are jobs and open government.

While both candidates stressed jobs, they differ on what jobs to create and what’s the best way to make Kentucky’s largest city attractive for business.

Greg Fischer, Democratic candidate for Louisville mayor

Fischer, a businessman who outlasted a large primary field for the Democratic nomination, favors a “broad portfolio” for Louisville, including strengthening the Ford and General Electric plants that have anchored the city for decades. At the same time, Fischer said Louisville should also create more “green-collared jobs” for the 21st century.

“We need to make it easy to start, grow and recruit businesses,” Fischer said. “Throughout my life, that’s been second nature to me.”

Heiner said his plan is to make it easier for businesses to expand more easily by overhauling local regulations.

“Louisville is the leader in red tape,” Heiner said. “It’s unpredictable. You have to go through the same regulatory process if you want to add 3,000 feet to your small business building as someone who wants to build another Jefferson Mall.”

Heiner said he intends to make the mayor’s office the chief economic officer and become the face of the city when it comes to

Hal Heiner, Republican candidate for Louisville mayor

attracting businesses. That’s falls to Greater Louisville Inc. now, he said.

If jobs are first priority to both candidates, open government is a close second.

But neither candidate criticized Abramson, whose administration has taken some hits in the last year. State and city audits in March revealed conflicts of interest by two Abramson aides that led to their resignations. Abramson described the incidents as “lapses in judgment.” And last year a state audit revealed “gross mismanagement” in the Louisville Metro Department of Housing and Family Services.

Still, Heiner and Fischer both stressed the need for better “customer service” when it comes to the mayor’s office.

Fischer, who is making his second run for office after finishing second in the 2008 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, is pushing his Louisville citizen’s “Bill of Rights,” which calls for transparency that includes releasing studies to the public, among other measures.

Heiner, in a separate interview, agreed. He added that he ran for Metro Council in 2002 on a promise of open government.

“My response is we need to let the sun shine in (on the mayor’s office),” Heiner said. “Put it all online. My goal of running is not just four years of openness, but to create a culture for the next 50 years”

Both candidates said that would include regular audits of government departments, routine looks into what is working and what isn’t efficient and dialogue with the public for its input.

“(My plan) would be different from the current administration,” Heiner said. “The good, the bad and the ugly, it would all be out there.”

And while the differences in the candidates seem small, both candidates said the race would depend on the issues and the candidates themselves, not political parties.

“This is about the person rather than the party,” Fischer said. “People aren’t looking at whether (a candidate) is Republican or Democrat. All politics are local; it’s about the person, not the label.

—Kenny Colston

About Pure Politics

Pure Politics airs Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. ET and again at 11:30 p.m. ET in all of cn|2's Kentucky markets. The program features political analysis and news, as well as interviews with officials, candidates, policy makers and political observers.

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