At Least It’s Not Breaking News

Worst Misuse of the term “Breaking News” We’ve Heard in a Long Time: The headline on the e-mail blast from Jack Conway’s camp screamed: “Breaking News: Conway Gets Major Backing From Key Unions That Represent Over 100,000 Members.” IN ALL CAPS. Happy for you, Jack, but let’s not get in the habit of releasing news this way. [Joe Arnold]

Fancy New Toy: The Full Signal media empire has a new camera, and Jake used it at the Lincoln Memorial Dedication last week. So now we have a new way to make snarky comments about local politicians. [Page One]

Costs More, But Not as Good as Before: TARC held a board meeting this morning to discuss how to stabilize its budget, with the idea of raising fares by a quarter and cutting back on service somehow leading the way as a good idea. [Courier]

Cops On Deck: Tomorrow the Metro Council resumes its budget hearings, with the police scheduled for three potentially contentious hours.

Finally Friday: That’s right. It’s the cut0ff for the digital TV transition, so expect plenty of whining from holdouts who have refused to get their TV’s upgraded. Converter boxes on sale at Meijer last weekend were going for $49.99. [WFPL]

Egotistical Gasbag: The not-so-delicate description of Senate President David Williams in Billy Reed’s piece on how unlikely it is that the Special Session will accomplish anything on the slots issue. [BillyReedSays]

Neighborhood Prejudice: For Fox41’s Bill Lamb, a trip to the Ukraine was inspiration for suggesting that we break down our local South End, West End, East End barriers. Not likely. [Fox41]

Turning Around?: The median homes sales price was up by 1.5% in May, and real estate pros are getting all excited about the market turning around. Even the Home Builders Association’s Chuck Kavanaugh is trying to convince us that the market is good in this editorial, or is it an ad, on WAVE? [Hot Button]

Smart-Aleck Responses to Budget Highlights

Just for fun, let’s take a look at the official highlights of the Mayor’s budget, accompanied by our own editorial comments.

Preserves basic services despite rising costs and declining revenues
Anticipates 1.4 percent decrease in General Fund revenues

Predicting future revenue is risky, as we learned the hard way. Last year’s decrease was 2 percent, so this means the Mayor thinks things are getting better. Let’s hope he’s not wrong again.

Creates about 3,000 private-sector jobs to stimulate the local economy with capital investments in roads, sidewalks, public housing, parks.
Leverages $109 million in federal, state and private dollars with $8.2 million in local tax dollars

The federal stimulus money to the rescue.

Continues reducing the size of government
Eliminates 528 positions, including 119 filled and 409 vacant jobs
Brings net reduction of government positions since merger to 1,600 jobs

It is about time that local government stopped claiming that avoiding layoffs was some kind of moral victory.

Devotes largest share of revenue to police department to keep citizens safe
Provides $152 million for police, about 30 percent of General Fund budget
Maintain current strength of police force with two recruit classes
Invests $5.6 million in new police cars, body armor, in-car computers, cameras and other equipment

Even Jerry knows that public safety is the last thing to cut. And the city’s lost battle on take-home cars is showing up in this budget.

Read the Rest after the Jump…

Read moreSmart-Aleck Responses to Budget Highlights

Layoffs Coming to Metro Government

During the budget crises of the last year or two, as Metro Government has repeatedly cut back services, closed parks and instituted hiring and salary freezes, the one area that seemed to be off-limits to the budget ax was personnel. Mayor Abramson made several budget announcements in which he was able to say, proudly — the good news is there are no layoffs.

Those days are over.

Abramson’s new budget calls for significant cuts, based on estimates of a 2 percent revenue decline in the current year and a forecast 1.4 percent drop next year. So 528 positions are coming off the payroll, including 119 people who will lose their government jobs on July 1. The other positions are open and won’t be filled. Cuts to his and senior staff salaries remain in place.

There will be four new furlough days (yet to be determined) and there will be cutbacks in street sweeping and junk pickup. Fees for construction permits and alcohol licenses are going up. And if you get locked up, the booking fee at the jail goes up from $25 to $35.

Departments most affected by personnel cuts, in order, are Neighborhoods, Parks, Human Resources and Housing. Police and Public Safety expenses, which make up 56 percent of the Metro budget, will see only a slight decrease.

Tuesday: Clear Skies and Conflicts

It’s Tuesday, so be sure and tune in to the CW this morning at 10. You might win something…

The Black Hat at the Arena Goes to:  Turns out that Jim Host and Mortenson Construction are none too happy with Wilhelm, the company responsible for the “human error” that caused the concrete collapse at the arena last month. And let’s just say “surprise” was the nice way an official put it when asked what he thought about Wilhelm not showing up for yesterday’s arena meeting. [Joe Arnold]

Happy Birthday: The local Broken Sidewalk blog site, which takes note of changes in local buildings and neighborhoods, is celebrating its first birthday. The V.V., by the way, first launched in 2006, joined by Page One in 2007. [Broken Sidewalk]

From Here, But Not Like Us: The premiere of SoapNet’s Southern Belles is Thursday, so the C-J did a feature to let us know that Shea Johnson, who wants to get engaged, flies to Chicago to shop for $250K wedding rings. And then there’s Emily Gimmel, the TV reporter and aspiring celebrity. We’re not sure we’ll be able to resist watching. The show is on Insight’s channel 75 here. [Courier]

Constable and the Cowboy: Somebody needs to get rid of the office of Constable in Jefferson County. Adam Walser’s report makes it clear that David Whitlock has no business carrying a gun and writing tickets, and the real law enforcement people call him a wannabe. But what’s with Walser’s cowboy outfit? Watch and chuckle. [WHAS-TV]

Decision Day for Jerry?: The Mayor says he may announce today whether or not he’s going to veto the labor standards ordinance passed by the Metro Council last week, rather than wait another week as we expected. As we’ve said, he’s going to veto it, and probably just doesn’t want to prolong the decision. [Fox41]

A Little Late to be Making Suggestions: There’s finally been a contract awarded to rebuild the Harrods Creek Bridge, at a cost of $2.3 million, by December. Now that the issue is settled, River Fields is making noise that it wants to open the bridge next week because it doesn’t believe the work will get done in the time frame suggested by Metro Government. [Courier]

Anybody Want to Run Otter Creek?: After a lengthy delay, Metro Parks has put together specs for an RFP to see if there’s anybody out there who wants to operate Otter Creek Park.  You’ve got 60 days. Let’s just say we’re skeptical. [WHAS Radio]

Back in Civilization: Jake’s back to causing trouble for people over at Page One after a trip to the mountains.  [Page One]

Gassed Up and Ready

Suddenly, gas prices jump 30 cents a gallon. No reason given.  No one in the gas supply pipeline can explain it. It just is. Which sucks. Jack Conway, if you can find the bad guys involved in this, that Senate seat is yours.

Saw This One Coming: The police union is now complaining that its members, relieved of some of their obligations to show up for court duty, count on the overtime pay they get and, well, going to court wasn’t so bad after all. Government spent $833K in six months paying cops to show up in court, money better spent elsewhere. [Fox41]

Old-Fashioned Newsman: Congressman John Yarmuth paid tribute to WHAS-TV’s Mark Hebert on the floor of the House yesterday. [WHAS-TV]

Leaving Las Vegas: Yes, it was a pretty big deal, this ABC Kids convention that Louisville’s CVB lured here and announced yesterday. But we’re not really buying Jim Wood’s logic — that Louisville won out because it has fewer distractions for visitors than Las Vegas. Let’s see if any other big shows make the Vegas to Ville switch. [Joe Arnold]

Johnson, Trees, Pissed: Councilman Dan Johnson is holding a press conference at 10:45 this morning at 6th and Ashland, where we can assume there are still storm debris lying around. We’re anxious to hear if Johnson is going to criticize the Mayor. [press release]

No Poe Development in Irish Hill: Remember all that controversy over moving a creek in Irish Hill to accommodate plans by Poe Companies to bring some retail to the area near Breslin Park? Well, never mind. Poe is walking away from the project. [Broken Sidewalk]

Not in Church: We saw the WHAS-TV report on religion and weren’t impressed.  The two-part series featured comments from locals on what we already knew – there’s a big decline in the number of people who identify themselves as Christians. But Gary Roedemeier’s series barely mentioned controversial church positions on sex and politics and how they might factor into the decline. [WHAS-TV]

“They’re Just Completely Full of Shit.” — Quote of the day from LEO’s piece on downtown entertainment, from Ward Plauche, who recently closed the CityBlock nightclub. Plauche, as you might guess, was referring to city economic development officials. [LEO]

Don’t Hire a Guy Named Ramon: Local wedding photographer Ramon Rodriguez has some DUI problems and seems to have skipped town with deposits from dozens of clients. Even his attorney doesn’t know where he is. [WAVE]

Olmstead Way: There’s a ceremony later today unveiling new signs at Armory Place honoring the late WHAS reporter Chuck Olmstead. [WHAS-TV]

Media Plays a Role in Sex Sting Story

Yesterday, the news media pounced on the story of Operation Bulldog, in which officers from LMPD’s Crimes Against Children Unit posed as 14-year-old girls to catch Internet sex predators in the act. They set up meetings after conversations with horny guys online, then when the guys showed up, they got arrested.

It was a smaller scale version of the NBC Show “To Catch a Predator.” By all accounts, the sting was successful and the eight men who got caught suffered consequences — public humiliation, job loss, federal criminal charges.

But some members of the police department were unhappy that a part of the story came out publicly before the operation was finished, and thinks the publicity may have affected the Internet habits of potential suspects.

Here’s the sequence of events. The U.S. Department of Justice announced on Monday, April 6 that it had arrested Timothy Love on federal charges after he tried to entice a police officer posing as a 14-year-old girl to have sex. WLKY-TV, of course, knew about Timothy Love.

In 1998, Love was caught in a similar situation during an investigation by the station’s John Boel. That the same guy was caught doing the same thing 11 years later made it a big story for the station.

But the LMPD wanted the station to wait before reporting the incident. Word gets around on the Internet, and they reasoned that potential predators knew about the sting, they wouldn’t be so bold with young women.

LMPD officials talked with the station. Then on April 8, WLKY ran a story by Steve Burgin that recounted Love’s 1998 altercation with Boel. The story included details of his recent arrest, obtained from federal records.

We’ll never know if the story affected the police operation. It did affect the relationship between police and media.

“We’ve brought it to the attention of the news director and scheduled meetings to facilitate the discussion,” said police spokesman Phil Russell. “We work closely with all members of the media to foster transparency and a proper relationship.”

It’s hard to blame WLKY for doing the story, especially with its prior connection. But it’s easy to make a case for the police request to hold the story until their operation was complete.

Opening Day Follies

Good Morning! It’s Opening Day for the Louisville Bats, and the rain is not supposed to start until after the game. Let’s see who’s screwing up enough to get in the news today, starting with this crazy costume shop owner in Cranston, R.I. who shocks a reporter on an ambush over a cyberstalking crime. Really, it’s worth watching the video.

Not Nice to Tease…Yesterday we noticed that the C-J teased readers with a promise of a special front page today. And today, of course, the “special” front page is promised for tomorrow. We think.

Off With A Warning: Ali Ahmedi, the Javanon Soccer Club president and employee of the Public Works Department, is getting off with a warning from the city after his involvement in constructing an illegal building. This quote may indicate why he’s avoided the media: “I think somebody wanted to punish somebody, so they punish me,” he told the C-J. Considering it’s not the first time he’s been warned, the punishing should have been stronger. [Courier]

Is Stupid Not a Defense: Credit the C-J’s Nancy Rodriguez for reading the 320-page transcript of interviews conducted with Robert Felner at U of L last June. Felner acknowledged at the end of the daylong interview, that he’d done some stupid stuff, actually asking if being stupid was a defense. [Courier, Page One]

Naked Truth: We just checked headlines of the local news organizations’ coverage of the Okolona shooting yesterday. Most showed great restraint in writing the headline to the story, avoiding the obvious description of the man who started it all. Not WHAS-TV: “Naked man shoots 2 including police officer” which is what we would have written. [WHAS-TV]

Novel Crime Idea: In the West End, a couple of guys decided to call on residents posing as police officers, asking for money and possessions. Victims, all 70 or older, fell for it when the scammers asked to see the serial numbers on their cash. The suspects haven’t been caught. [WLKY]

No Alexandra: For those of you who keep asking, we hear that Alexandra Koetter has indeed left the traffic desk at WLKY-TV.

Police Visibility an Issue in Nightclub Violence

It’s all of three days later, and the shooting of four people on the dance floor at Jim Porter’s Sunday night has taken a back seat in the media to other crimes. But one local bar owner says that making a change in police policy could increase safety at Louisville nightclubs that are becoming more dangerous.

Ward Plauche, co-owner of CityBlock Louisville, has been in the industry since 1972. He says a police policy that prohibits off-duty officers hired by clubs from being stationed inside could and should be changed. Plauche said that had a uniformed officer been in the room at Jim Porter’s, the perpetrator would have thought twice before he started shooting. As it was, he could plan an escaape route without passing an officer.

“The visibility of a uniform is preventive maintenance in a club,” he said. “We can’t hire them to come in ahd have a visible presence.”

As it is, LMPD policy prevents officers hired by clubs from standing inside. So they are visible in parking lots and near entrances, but not inside. When called, police can come inside and restore order and they can come and go as they please. On Sunday, officers came inside Porter’s only after shots were fired.

LMPD spokesman Phil Russell said the policy is designed to prevent bar owners from using officers for duties that should be performed by bouncers or bar personnel.

Plauche said the nightclub scene has changed in recent years, especially in regard to the prevalence of party promoters appealing to an urban crowd. Those parties feature rep and hip-hop music, and more frequently are held at venues like Porter’s and CityBlock. Promoters use sites like MySpace and Facebook to drum up notice, and bring in big crowds.These groups have hosted parties on Sunday nights at Jim Porter’s for several years.

“The urban crowd is an underserved market for nightclubs, so we’re serving the market,” he said. But Plauche said that “aggressive, violent music” makes for a more dangerous crowd. He said he uses metal detectors as a deterrent at CityBlock, though Porter’s doesn’t.

Police still haven’t made an arrest in Sunday night’s shooting at Jim Porter’s, though they are searching for a suspect.

Look Who’s Still Winning the Popularity Contest

Let’s take a look at what you people are thinking, at least according to a Survey USA poll released last week.

The headline at WHAS-TV was that Mayor Jerry Abramson’s approval rating has hit a new low. But it’s far from being really low. He’s still popular enough to easily win if he were running for re-election, which is an all-but-assured eventuality in 2010.  His LOW level in popularity in the three years they’ve done the poll is now 54 percent.

It’s like criticizing U of L for wining by just 45 points yesterday. Sure, the Cards could have gotten to 50, but what’s the point? More interesting was the poll’s results on issues concerning Abramson’s actions in office.

The public doesn’t have much sympathy for cops in their battle with the Mayor over take-home cars. Six in 10 think police should either not have the cars at all or have the fee they pay for the cars go up.

Furloughing city employees is popular enough, with half of respondants supporting it. But the idea of closing parks is not, with 73 percent saying they don’t want to see that step taken.  And cutting back the hours at libraries is unpopular, with 56 percent resisting.

The public saved its harshest crtique of the Mayor’s action for an issue that gets the most publicity — closing fire stations.  More than 8 in 10 think that’s a step too far for solving the budget problem.

So the poll results say, basically, that the people don’t want fire stations, parks or libraries closed to save money, but they’re OK with jacking up the cost of take-home cars for police and giving employees a few unpaid days off.  Which leads me to think the Mayor is overestimating the negative feedback he’d get if he were to announce layoffs of 10 percent.

It’s easy to explain the Mayor’s popularity numbers. Unlike the other 19 years of his oversight of the city’s budget, he’s been put in the position of telling people things they don’t want to hear. So surveys aren’t going to be kind to him.  But it’s hardly an uprising from the people.

The Mayor’s critics may be getting louder, but they’ve got a long way to go before they dent his popularity.