Mera Kathryn Corlett | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

Mera Kathryn Corlett

Political party: 
Question 1: 

What skills, values, and experiences will you bring to this position? What is your vision for Metro Louisville, and how will the lives of Louisvillians be improved as a result of your time in office?

I have spent my entire professional career serving Louisville. Through my work with Commonwealth Theatre Center, I have visited every elementary school within JCPS, along with multiple early childhood, secondary, and environmental schools. This has given me the unique opportunity to forge relationships with people throughout our city and collaborate with to address relevant needs in our community. As an elected Justice of the Peace, I dedicate my time to providing affordable services; I do not believe money should be a barrier to marriage.

Louisville is known as the Compassionate City, and I will respect that designation in every step of my leadership. It’s time we have a leader with a vision for District 18 that extends beyond pavement and sidewalks. We need to invest in social infrastructure. Research shows that if we do not, our population grows more isolated. I want this to be a place where residents can thrive and feel connected. Some ways to make that happen are improving the tree canopy, attracting new business, holding community events, funding wraparound services in schools, utilizing smart data tools to more quickly assess issues, and develop more equitable systems so everyone is supported.

Question 2: 

What initiatives will you support to decrease the use of deadly force by law enforcement officers, particularly in communities of color? What is your position on an independent civilian review of any police shooting resulting in a death? What other resources should Metro Council provide to improve public safety in your district and across Louisville?

Having an independent civilian review board when a police shooting results in a death is best practices and is essential to the public trust. But we should also examine the policies in place in other cities that can prevent such occurrences from happening. The Philadelphia PD’s policy states that deadly force can be used only after “all reasonable alternatives have been exhausted” and Las Vegas PD’s policy requires officers to intervene when they observe another using excessive force; these are both examples of preventative steps. I also believe that increasing training on techniques to de-escalate situations will keep both vulnerable communities and our officers safe.

Given the budget constraints facing our local government, it is important that we look at strategic, incremental improvements that can have a big impact on safety. The top places I see room in my district include improving lighting and posting clear signage. Much of District 18 is neighborhood associations and small cities. Establishing quarterly meetings with these leaders allows us to streamline communication within the district and understand where to focus efforts, ultimately addressing public safety in a very direct system.

Question 3: 

Jail overcrowding is a huge issue in Louisville, and one that disproportionately impacts Black Louisvillians. What role do you think that ending cash bail and supporting alternatives to incarceration can play in addressing this issue?

Cash bail adds further strain to those who are already disenfranchised and creates a pathway to recidivism. Incorporating alternatives to cash bail for non-violent offenders would lessen the burden placed on our jail and would, in the long run, save taxpayer dollars. We should explore community service and restorative justice as an option whenever possible. Moreover, home incarceration as an alternative should also be explored. People’s rights and human dignity must be honored even when being detained. Jail overcrowding creates major problems to maintaining that promise. We must continually improve our system so that we are best serving everyone in our community.

Question 4: 

How would you include constituents in your district and across Louisville in the development of the annual Metro Louisville budget? What area(s) of the budget would you prioritize funding? What revenue increases would you propose to meet our city’s future budget needs?

In lieu of our budget cuts, my biggest priority will be placed on returning funding to first responder and social support services. When these two areas are underfunded it impacts our community and ultimately contributes to bigger problems down the road. Something that has compounded the budget problem is that the state limits Louisville’s ability to generate revenue, and lobbying for change on that front is needed. Many are turning focus toward a local option sales taxes. A restaurant tax like the one filed by Councilman Brent Ackerson should be considered, but we must be certain that any revenue enhancement is not regressive in nature. I believe that we should collaborate with the GLI, a chamber of commerce that agrees that no more cuts should be made, to develop a comprehensive plan. I also oppose privatization and believe it is a dangerously short-sighted response to a long term problem.

When it comes to the budget, I believe transparency is imperative. It should be the goal of every council member that we are championing everyone in our community and no group’s interests are disproportionately represented.

Question 5: 

What are the main impacts of the global climate crisis in your community and what would you do to address the public health effects of this crisis on people in your district? 

In the last Metro Council meeting, the Council passed a resolution to move to 100% clean energy within the next 20 years. This decision is a step toward addressing our city’s impact on the global climate crisis, but in order to achieve this goal there is no room for passivity. We have to actively pursue it and motivate energy suppliers to champion this cause alongside us. Converting energy production to renewable resources must be a part of that long term strategy. However, in the more immediate future we should incorporate public transit lanes in high traffic areas similar to what is happening on Dixie Highway. In my district, there are two major thoroughfares where this could reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality (Hurstbourne Parkway and Shelbyville Road). We should also increase the tree canopy in District 18 and throughout the city of Louisville. We can reduce hospital admissions for children by doing something so basic. In that same vein, increasing access to affordable preventative health care for people suffering from respiratory problems can actually save the community money in the long term.

Question 6: 

What is your plan for increasing access to safe, affordable housing and ensuring that long term residents are not displaced from neighborhoods that are undergoing redevelopment? What is your position on tenant's rights ordinances such as the proposed Clean Hands housing ordinance? Please explain. 

Limited access to affordable housing is affecting cities across our nation and we are seeing that in a very real way right here in our city. It is a pressing issue that needs to be addressed at all levels of government, but especially at the local level. I am in favor of policies such as the Clean Hands eviction ordinance and other tenants right’s securities proposed by Councilwoman Green and Councilman Hollander. These are steps in the right direction towards creating a more equitable housing system in our city and protecting those vulnerable to eviction. Housing instability can be devastating both for the individual it impacts and the society as a whole. We should develop further programs like Community Land Trusts that will help lift residents out of poverty and produce more homeowners.

Question 7: 

What are your plans to create and expand support and resources toward our immigrant population, undocumented or otherwise?

First and foremost, Louisville calls itself a Compassionate City and with that designation comes a responsibility to all citizens. In 2016, the Mayor proposed attracting more immigrants to our city and my councilmember responded that we should be taking care of our residents first. Responses like these contribute to a narrative that not everyone is getting their fair share. In truth, immigrants actually do more to create economic growth and that benefits everyone. This is personal, because my husband immigrated to Louisville with his family when he was in elementary school. He became an American citizen when he was eighteen and embodies the American Dream as a successful small business owner who employs over 20 local workers.

Last year’s Metro Council budget allocated funding to Kentucky Refugee Ministries for worker development, youth services, and through a Community Development Block Grant for housing coordination, and I would fight to keep these in all future budgets and expand funding for preventive health services. Problems still exist around housing availability for immigrant populations, and some facilities that many live in are not well maintained. We need improved tenant rights for our minority and immigrant communities.