Louisville Metro Council members push 'transparency' measure for applicants to city boards
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A bipartisan group of Louisville Metro Council members wants more information about how Mayor Greg Fischer nominates people to scores of city boards and commissions.
Seeking “transparency in the process,” new council member Julie Denton proposed a measure that would require that Fischer give city legislators details about all applicants who seek commission positions, including their resumes, home addresses and background checks.
Louisville has more than 80 boards, ranging from a group that maintains a county law library to powerful panels that oversee and spend public funds on the city's waterfront, downtown arena and suburban fire departments. For many of those commissions, the mayor appoints members and the council ratifies them.
“There is a disparity among some of the boards and commissions with regard to geographically being represented from around the county, male verses female, age, political party—just a myriad of things,” Denton said in an interview.
The council's Committee on Contracts and Appointments plans to take up the ordinance at its meeting on Thursday. Denton, however, said she believed she had withdrawn the ordinance to make changes in wording before resubmitting it.
Denton, a Republican who was elected to the council last fall after serving in the Kentucky Senate, said she asked for additional details about board applicants in a recent meeting with Fischer administration officials, but “they refused to give us that information.”
But the process works as intended, Fischer spokesman Chris Poynter said.
“The council votes yes or no on the appointments, and that's what's required and that's what happens," he said.
The Fischer administration annually briefs the council on the makeup for all appointments, although it doesn't provide data for each panel. The most recent report, from November 2014, shows that nearly 65 percent of the nominees were Democrats, and Highlands-area and eastern Jefferson County neighborhoods along the Ohio River had the most appointees.
Fischer's office fears the ordinance could create a “chilling effect” for people who are interested in boards but don't apply because it could be publicly known that they weren't chosen, Poynter said.
The ordinance isn't a response to specific appointees or commissions, but rather an attempt to better understand of who is applying for membership on the panels, said Denton, who represents Middletown, Douglass Hills and other areas in eastern Jefferson County.
“Are we having trouble with certain boards and commissions in getting people from around the county to want to participate? And, if that's the case, why? It just gives us a better picture of where you pull from,” she said.
Some commissions require their members to live in certain parts of Metro Louisville or represent specific interests. The board of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, for example, must have seven members who live west of Interstate 65, with six who live east of the interstate.
But other boards lack those types of requirements. Democratic council member Rick Blackwell, whose southwestern Jefferson County district takes in Pleasure Ridge Park and parts of Valley Station, said he long has been concerned about the geographic makeup of the city's boards and commissions.
“Sometimes we'll find that there will be a board that might have two or three people from the same council district,” he said.
The other sponsors of the ordinance are Republican Robin Engel and Democrats Jessica Green and Brent Ackerson. Democrat David Yates is listed as a co-sponsor, but a spokesman for the council's Democratic caucus said Yates removed his name from the measure on Monday.
Like Denton, Ackerson said he simply wants a more transparent process.
“We're asked to vote on, approve the selection,” he said. “Now we can either rubber stamp that or, you know, we can say, ‘Is this person a good person or a bad person?' Or we can expand it even further and say, ‘How did this person compare to the others who had applied?'”
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