Louisville has taken center stage in the state’s pension crisis debate as the city’s pension liabilities have led to a $35 million budget shortfall. Rather than helping the state reform our pension system to protect taxpayers as well as both current and future pension holders, or cutting wasteful spending in his budget, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer asked Metro Council to raise taxes – a request they thankfully rejected.
To make up for the pension-caused shortfall, Fischer is asking for cuts to police and emergency services while fighting to continue paying for his pet projects like bikes lanes, a summer jobs program for teens, and tree-planting.
But, perhaps the most egregious wasteful spending is the $3.2 million for the Office of Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods.
This office, created by Fischer, hires vendors to utilize full-time taxpayer-funded employees called “interrupters” who are tasked with “interrupting” crime. One of the requirements to be an interrupter is you have to have a criminal background – law-abiding citizens need not apply.
Oddly, these criminals-turned-crime-fighters have no direct contact with Louisville Metro police. While LMPD faces $5 million in cuts and the loss of over 20 police officer positions, one of the points the Director of the Office of Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods used to justify funding of his office is that “it includes the work we are doing to support folks who made a mistake and are coming back into our community.” It’s as if this program is meant to basically pay felons to behave.
However, not all are behaving. In recent weeks, one taxpayer-funded interrupter was arrested for allegedly choking, punching and raping a woman. This felon had only been released from prison six months before his hiring, having served his sentence for drug convictions and – similar to his current crime – assault after he strangled a woman.
It’s disturbing that the current administration refers to violence against women as simply a “mistake” and that they would recommend this violent criminal for a position at the YMCA where he had access to women, children and the general public – all of whom had no clue that he had a previous criminal history.
One of the city’s vendors providing interrupters is No More Red Dots. They receive approximately $900,000 from the city yearly and city checks are paid directly to Eddie Woods, the head of the program – nearly $900,000 tax dollars are paid to him as an individual under his Social Security number rather than being paid to the organization. At the latest meeting of the Metro Council budget committee, Councilman Kevin Kramer pointed out that paying a contract of this size directly to an individual is highly unusual.
Another red flag: the organization is not registered with the IRS and has had several years of noncompliance with the Secretary of State, according to Councilwoman Marilyn Parker.
Louisville’s parole-to-payroll program isn’t working and it’s dangerous. The city should follow in the footsteps of the Chicago Police Department which, according to news reports, no longer works with interrupters after discovering the program was being used to funnel tax dollars to fuel drugs and violence after one of its leaders was indicted on federal charges for gang and drug activities.
Unfortunately, the reality is if it’s not warm and fuzzy, Louisville’s mayor doesn’t want to deal with it. He’s no more interested in dealing with the wasteful spending in his own budget than he is in helping those in Frankfort fix our pension crisis. However, he will use any crisis he can to raise Louisville taxes.