Not Surprising: Greg Fischer’s Professed Transparency Is A Myth & He’s Learned Exactly Zero Preservation Lessons

FLASHBACK: Remember Whiskey Row?


WHISKEY ROW — DON VISH — CLICK FOR ORIGINAL

That should have been a positive preservation lesson for Fischer. But… it’s happened again. And this time he acted with reckless abandon and secrecy.

By now you’re likely aware that the entire preservation community is in an angry froth over the demolition of a set of historic buildings on Third Street.

Morrisey Parking Garage/Bosler’s Fireproof Garage at 423 South Third Street was one of those buildings. It was constructed in 1919 and received landmark designation by the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

Here’s what the 2004 book Louisville Guide had to say about it:

Bosler’s Fireproof Garage was one of the first parking structures in Louisville. Located in the heart of the Central Business District, it was heated and provided related services, such as cleaning and polishing. This Romanesque revival structure accentuates its utilitarian function. The massing of the façade provides architectural continuity with the buildings along Third Street and is symmetrical and divided into three bays. The central bay provides entry to the parking structure and is flanked at the first floor by two rectangular business storefronts, with three arched openings at the second floor. Several businesses, such as Goodrich Tires, Garage Equipment and Supply, a fruit market, bookstores, and a surgical supply store, have occupied the storefront. The structure has a basement, three levels of parking, and a spiral ramp that forms a cylindrical mass at the rear of the building.

Coincidentally (of course!) the very spot Omni wants to build a massive 30-story hotel.

It’s another interesting coincidence that right as Omni was ready for construction, it just happened to produce a study claiming the buildings needed to be torn down… the very next day.

It gets more scandalous. Or par for the course, since we’re talking about Greg Fischer.

Check out this email sent to Fischer and his communications team, which includes Margaret Brosko of Sadie’s Law infamy:

From: John Hildreth
Date: Friday, April 10, 2015 at 4:14 PM
To: greg.fischer@louisvilleky.gov
Cc: Virginia VLee@XXXXXXX-XX.com, Gretchen Milliken Gretchen.milliken@louisvilleky.gov, “Wiederwohl, Mary Ellen” MaryEllen.Wiederwohl@louisvilleky.gov, Ellen Hesen ellen.hesen@louisvilleky.gov, “Margaret.Brosko@louisvilleky.gov” , James Lindberg JLindberg@XXXXXXXXXXXXX.org
Subject: 3rd Street Buildings

Dear Mayor Fischer:

I am the Eastern Regional Vice President for the National Trust for Historic Preservation and during my 30 years in preservation have had the privilege of working with Metro Government and the preservationists of Louisville quite often.

I am writing to you with a simple request. Please allow us and others in Louisville time to perform a second engineering study of the Morrissey Garage and the Falls City Theater Company buildings prior to initiating demolition. We need approximately two weeks to identify and bring in an engineer with experience in the rehabilitation of historic buildings. We have the funding in place to perform the study, we simply need the time.

Our objective in performing this study is to ascertain, with more certainty, the possibility of rehabilitation for those structures and, just as importantly, to understand if the facades of the structures could be retained for incorporation into new design for the site.

We certainly are not asking you to risk the health and well being of your citizens and would call for the temporary fencing and, if needed, temporary closing of a traffic lane if merited. We are moving with utmost speed to arrange for this secondary review and ask for your cooperation.

As you are aware, the National Trust, through our National Treasure program, is investing a great deal of time and expertise in Louisville to help the community realize its revitalization potential. We stand behind the research which states that mixed-vintage blocks are vital to any thriving urban environment. A compromise that would retain the facades is not simply a preservation appeal but is based on the fact that incorporating old and new on a human scale is at its heart an urban design best practice. I know from firsthand experience here in Charleston, where I am based, that the design of the Omni Charleston Place was enhanced, and its contribution to downtown revitalization was realized, in part because they retained a block of historic building fronts in the plan.

I am glad to speak with you further about this through 4:30 EDT at my office phone or over the weekend on my cell. My contact information is contained below.

Thank you for your attention to this request.

John Hildreth

Eastern Regional Vice President for Field Services
National Trust for Historic Preservation

To say that there’s a disconnect between the preservation community and the Fischer Administration is an understatement. But Brosko and the rest on the communications team are making relations worse. By refusing to communicate, refusing to listen, being more cagey than normal.

Here’s a rough timeline of events:

  • Preservationists met with Omni architects and the city in January but no specific plans were discussed.
  • They toured the old Water Company block with the city on February 10
  • On March 11 they again met with Omni architects and the city. On that date the first schematic plan was presented and no buildings on Third Street were to be conserved or repurposed. The city said the first two buildings had to be demolished.
  • On March 13 preservationists wrote to Omni and its architects providing suggestions. Things like reusing the Morrisey building façade, salvaging details from the old theater building, repurposing the original central section of the water company complex. Copies were forwarded to the city but Omni and its architects chose to defer to the city.
  • On April 9 the city responded to suggests provided by preservationists… with an emergency demolition press release. No warning, no notice, gave no one any time to raise funds to save what could be saved. Then radio silence.

From just after 12:00 today:




POSSIBILITY CITY

Yep. Demolition started with the façade to guarantee there’d be no way to intervene. Because of course it did.

Sources close to Fischer tells us they believe Mary Ellen Wiederwohl (Fischer’s former deputy chief of staff and current head of Louisville Forward, Fischer’s community development program) promised the Omni Group there’d be no issue demolishing the buildings long before any of this came to light. The current PR disaster is how Fischer’s team handled it. We reached out to Wiederwohl for comment but she wouldn’t respond. Because that’s what you do when you’re a highly paid government employee with nothing to hide.

If Steve Poe can save the façade at the Aloft site, those buildings’ historic façades could have been saved.

So I asked one of the individuals responsible for saving and paying for Whiskey Row (I’m making the decision to withhold publication of their name because you know how Greg Fischer treats whistleblowers) a couple questions.

They told me that the façades could have 100% been saved, quickly and easily. They also believe key parts of the buildings themselves could have been saved.

When asked what kind of message they think it sends the city’s residents when Metro Government takes abrupt action like this without communicating and without allowing anyone to respond? Here’s their response: “DISTURBING.”

48% ($139 million, including tax rebates and $17 million for a parking garage) of the Omni project will be taxpayer funded, so preservationists and all people with half a brain are adamant that there should have been more public input and way more listening on the part of Fischer and his staff.

Forget the historic buildings and their façades. Ignore the reality that Fischer’s employees routinely fine people for unkept lawns and graffiti but can’t be bothered to protect properties on the National Register of Historic Places.

Louisville ought to be outraged because Mr. Transparency is once again trying to pull the wool over its eyes.

Let the spin begin in 3, 2…

LMPD’s WASP Problem Is Front & Center

The building formerly occupied by the restaurant Taco Punk in the NuLu neighborhood has a new owner. [WDRB]

Three teachers from duPont Manual High are challenging longtime Jefferson County Teachers Association leader Brent McKim in the union’s presidential election, saying they want to see the union push harder to fix the state’s woefully underfunded teacher pension system. [C-J/AKN]

Students at Brooklawn School will soon be getting their hands dirty all part of the learning process. [WHAS11]

Five barrels seized last week from behind a shed in Franklin County do contain Wild Turkey bourbon, according to a statement from Gruppo Campari, the distillery’s parent. [H-L]

WARNING! RIDICULOUS AUTOPLAY VIDEO! The city apparently can’t get enough of this story. A 73-year-old Louisville woman was found dead in an old septic tank Tuesday night. [WLKY]

These bills, it turns out, are essentially efforts to undermine Wall Street reform and Obamacare while greenlighting pollution. [HuffPo]

Oh, looky, LMPD has begun its revisionist history tour with its religious pretty boy who fancies himself an actor. [WAVE3]

When a four-year-old comes home from Pre-K proudly announcing that she spent her “choice time” playing on the computer, what’s a parent to do? [NPR]

Louisville Gas and Electric is still on track to open the company’s natural gas-fired power plant in Louisville in May, as it retires the current Cane Run coal power plant. The new power plant won’t produce coal ash, but 60 years worth of old ash will remain on site. [WFPL]

Several battleground states are planning ballot measures that could force presidential contenders to take firm stances on marijuana legalization. [The Hill]

Clifton’s Pizza Co. has been a Louisville and Frankfort Avenue institution for more than two decades and will celebrate its 25th anniversary this weekend. [Business First]

An appeal hearing over the New Albany Police Merit Commission’s decision to fire Officer Laura Schook has been continued at her request. [News & Tribune]

JCPS Continues To Make It Rain For Union Guy

Brent McKim is paid about $75,000 annually by Jefferson County Public Schools — the going rate for a high school physics teacher with a master’s degree and 23 years’ experience. Yet, it’s been more than a decade since McKim has taught a class or had any duties at a particular school. [WDRB]

You can go thank this man for twiddling his thumbs for four years. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s administration has scheduled a public hearing on tax rates for the 2014-15 fiscal year for metro government’s operations. [C-J/AKN]

Yes, as we’ve told you for years, Greg Fischer is considering another U.S. Senate bid. But that’s not going to happen. Just like everyone ate him alive in 2008, we’ll all eat him alive in 2016. Just like then — faux ice machine credentials and shiz — it’ll be all his doing. You think Metro Animal Services stings now, Greg? Wait until wealthy folks run against you and we have a Super PAC to tell your story to the entire Commonwealth. Heck, if you had a credible opponent this year, you’d already be finished. [WHAS11]

When the University of Kentucky’s new emergency room opened in 2010, Dr. Michael Karpf, executive vice president for UK’s health affairs, compared the sleek new facility to a Ferrari. [H-L]

Louisville Metro Police are investigating an armed robbery. The robbery happened Saturday afternoon at the Family Dollar on Eastern Parkway at Preston Highway. [WLKY]

RunSwitch PR has been recognized as the largest PR firm in the state of Kentucky. The ranking, released today by Louisville’s Business First and based on 2013 net fee income and total revenue, places RunSwitch PR at the top of the state’s most recognized public relations agencies. [Click the Clicky]

Football players at a local high school had to tackle the extreme heat. Several of them and a coach were rushed to the hospital Saturday during the PRP versus Doss High School game. [WAVE3]

UltraViolet, a group that runs campaigns for women’s rights, recently began an ad campaign to target states that have big tourism industries and bad track records on women’s economic equality. The group requested to place ads in airports in Kentucky, Louisiana, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas. [Think Progress]

The Kentucky Department of Education is looking to fill open seats on a statewide student council that offers feedback to state education leaders. [WFPL]

Wearing a Bushnell camo hat, Jeremy Arnold held up a black poster with a single blue line taped across it to show his support for Darren Wilson and other police officers. As for the man he shot to death? Michael Brown, Arnold said, “got exactly what he deserved.” [HuffPo]

Louisville banking numbers are in line with national averages, but that might mean bank earnings could plateau soon. [Business First]

This guy really ought to be shut down. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, today asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate Wildlife in Need owner Tim Stark for mistreating a tiger cub. [News & Tribune]

Why Is LG&E Promoting This Anti-Gay Mess?

Here comes your daily dose of crazy.

This guy at LG&E – Eric Yussman – thought it would be a good idea to invite us (to pay) to attend some energy event at the Southern Baptist Seminary. The most anti-gay, anti-woman, bigoted place in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Here’s the “invitation” – converted from a PDF for your convenience:


CLICK TO ENLARGE

Yussman is clearly out of his mind. LG&E-KU is apparently unaware of what’s going on. Or they just have no idea that there are much better places for an event like that.

Unbelievable. Holding an event at the seminary behind every anti-gay effort in the country. In a city that’s so focused on fairness and equality. Using LG&E’s reputation to promote it, no less. If the Fairness Campaign had guts, we’d expect some of them to speak up (don’t hold your breath, as they’ll likely excuse it and take their donations in stride).

For the record: we told Yussman via email that we planned to drag LG&E through the mud on this one and suggested he contact his bosses so they can come up with some spin. We can’t wait to see what sort of lame excuse the PR hacks provide.

Local PR Agency Holding Donation Drive For KHS

RunSiwtch PR – in observation of Give a Day Service Week – is hosting a “Tail-gate” donation drive for the Kentucky Humane Society.

Details:

  • Wednesday, April 17
  • 11:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M.
  • 6000 Brownsboro Park Blvd, behind Panera Bread and Fresh Market at Brownsboro & Rudy

Donors who drop off supplies can grab a hotdog and snacks. If you’re taking your pet with you, they’ll also get t-r-e-a-t-s (dog owners know better than to say the word out loud).

Items requested include: baby wipes, canned dog and cat food, cat and dog toys, cat and dog treats (no rawhide), Dawn dish soap, squirty cheese, trash bags, latex gloves, wild bird seed, paper towels, pillow cases. Or go here to view the complete wish list.

Sure, this is two weeks away. Just never hurts to be prepared. And if you’re one of those East Enders, this is your chance to do something positive.

Louisville On A Mission To Eradicate Pedestrians?

Metrosafe dispatchers tell WDRB News that a child was found with a BB gun on a JCPS school bus Thursday afternoon. That should make you feel extra-safe. [WDRB]

There’s a push in Frankfort to go even further in preventing grocery stores from selling wine and liquor. But when you look at the money that’s been given to the politicians sponsoring the bill? You get a feeling for just how silly it is. And it’s mostly the Louisville folks pocketing the campaign cash. [Page One]

A drunk guy in Louisville allegedly broke into a fire house and masturbated on uniforms. We couldn’t make this up if we tried. [WHAS11]

Make this happen, Frankfort! A bill that would place those who have been convicted of adult abuse on a state-wide registry now heads to the full House for a vote. [Bluegrass Politics]

Louisville Metro Police are investigating a death in the downtown area. At about 7 p.m. Thursday, detectives were called to the Dosker Manor Apartment Complex. [WLKY]

What the hell is Attica Scott thinking trying to officially honor Judy Green? The woman may be dead but she still wreaked havoc and that is not something you use taxpayer time to reward. A Louisville Metro Council resolution recognizing the late Metro Councilwoman Judy Green, a Democrat who was removed from her 1st District seat in 2011 for violating ethics rules, has been withdrawn by its sponsor. [C-J/AKN]

Another day, another pedestrian hit in Possibility City. A man is being treated for life-threatening injuries after he was hit by a car in the Smoketown neighborhood Thursday night. [WAVE3]

Inside RunSwitch LLC’s office off Brownsboro Road, it’s rather barren. Walls are blank; shelves are empty. [Business First]

It’d be good for Kenny Coleslaw to look at how bonding will be next year after new reporting requirements. But he won’t because that’d take too much effort. Six Kentucky’s public universities can immediately start construction on more than $300 million in construction or renovation projects, including a $110-million renovation of Lexington’s Commonwealth Stadium. [KPR]

Mayor Jeff Gahan’s vision of an aquatic center and multiuse sports complex are a major step closer to becoming reality, as the New Albany City Council approved Thursday a lease agreement that will allow a bond of up to $19.6 million to be issued. [News & Tribune]