Greg Fischer State of the City speech

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said the city can move forward by embracing the spirit of Muhammad Ali.

Fischer outlined that vision in his annual State of the City address to the Downtown Rotary Club on Thursday. He chose to Muhammad Ali Center to give the speech on what would have been the Louisville legend's 77th birthday.

Fischer said the state of the city is sound, and lessons from Ali can help it stay that way.

“Like Muhammad Ali, we have the vision on how to take our city to the next level,” he said.

Fischer encouraged Louisville to embrace Ali's legacy as it faces the future

“That same spirit of community, connection and pride and purpose is what we need right now to meet our challenges,” he said. 

Fischer noted the challenges of building on economic growth that is seeing more jobs and construction but also more homelessness and economic disparity.

“There is no point in lifting up our neighborhoods if we don't lift up our neighbors at the same time,” Fischer said.

Fischer, who is beginning his third term, announced a new project called Lean into Louisville designed to address issues of racism and discrimination that feed poverty.

“Classism, bigotry, hate and violence have no place in any city that expects a growing and prosperous future,” he said.

Fischer said he will boost the Cradle to Career program to help students further their educations. The program is being re-branded as Evolve 502.

“(The re-branding) will coordinate our work to make our students have what they need to succeed in school and in life,” Fischer said, adding that Evolve 502 will also work to provide scholarships for JCPS students.

Fischer also sounded the alarm about the city budget. He called on state lawmakers to solve the pension crisis and give cities more options for increasing revenue. Fischer has long called for approval of a local option sales tax.

“Without additional revenue, we now face the prospect of serious cuts in services,” he said.

Fischer also urged the legislature to pass a hate crimes law and gun control legislation.

He peppered his speech with video clips of Ali and called on Louisville to have his courage, vision and determination to become a global city.

“That's the spirit of Muhammad Ali. That’s the spirit of Louisville, Fischer said. “Let's embrace the spirit.”

David James, the president of Louisville Metro Council, said invoking Ali is appropriate as the 2019 budget fight approaches.

“We have to keep that spirit in mind and find out the best ways that we can do what we need to do to serve our community,” James said. “Despite what Frankfort has done to us.”

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I cover a range of stories for WDRB, but really enjoy tracking what's going on at our State Capitol. I grew up on military bases all over the world, but am a Kentuckian at heart. I'm an EKU alum, and have lived in Louisville for 30 years.