Ryan Fenwick | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

Ryan Fenwick

Political party: 
Democrat
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 grew up in rural Western KY and moved to attend U of L. I studied law and urban planning at the graduate level and am a practicing attorney. I have volunteered countless hours as a grassroots activist. I am proud to have worked with JCKFTC on the Vision Smoketown report and People’s Guide to the Budget. I served on the KFTC steering and executive committee, and represented KFTC on the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee. I have knocked on thousands of doors during my run for Mayor, in which I earned 12,000 votes, and a couple thousand more to date in this race. I’ve listened to every single person who was willing to talk to me and have formed my platform based on working class priorities identified by voters. My experience has taught me leaders have to listen to make the right decision. I want to make sure city hall is hearing our communities’ lived experiences. My education and grassroots experience will inform how I make decisions as a Metro Council Representative.

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?

Independent civilian oversight of police is essential to ensuring a trustworthy police force. Currently, the commission only has limited powers to review after internal investigation and litigation. Our review board should have investigatory power, including authority to hold hearings. They need access to witnesses and evidence.

I will support initiatives that make sure our officers and residents feel like they are a part of the same community. Officers need support from Metro to allow them to spend more time on foot and bicycle. We also need better de-escalation training, and training that disrupts implicit biases to destigmatize people of different races and backgrounds.

I will join the Metro Council members calling for the replacement of our police chief with one who can articulate and bring about a vision of community policing and who will be serious about diversion and violence interruption. We should empathize with root causes and build a police force we feel will keep us safe.

Door to door the concerns I hear from residents of D10 largely deal with opportunistic theft. I want to work with officers who police D10 to identify appropriate, evidence-based solutions in the short- middle- and long term.

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?

We should end cash bail in Jefferson County because it is keeping people, disproportionately Black people, incarcerated while they await trial just because they can’t post bond. Cash bail means if two people are accused of the same crime, are assessed as having the same risk to society, and have the same bond one might walk free and the other waits in over overcrowded jail. Robust evidence demonstrates the lack of connection between cash bail and the rate accused people return to court. We can certainly achieve better results with alternatives to incarceration.

Incarceration while awaiting trial greatly decreases a person’s ability to get a fair trial. They can’t fully participate in their own defense or earn money to pay for an attorney. Incarceration also frequently has physical consequences that can make a person look more guilty to a jury.

I will not support any candidate for County or Commonwealth Attorney or judge who does not support ending cash bail and continue to attempt to recruit public defenders willing to take the risk and run. I will sponsor a resolution calling for the end of cash bail.

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?

I will sponsor legislation to institute a Metro-wide participatory budgeting (PB) process with a meaningful portion of the city’s budget. Based on experiences in other areas, the small amount of money required to make PB programs exciting for residents is not so large as to be a burden even during our current budgetary crisis. This form of direct democracy will increase understanding of our budget and help show the direct relation between taxing and services.

My absolute first priority is funding affordable housing and maintaining services such as our libraries that benefit the working class.

I prefer increases in revenue that do not impact low-income residents, but constraints at the state level prevent finding a perfect solution under current constraints. I believe a comprehensive solution will require building a coalition of Kentucky cities suffering similar budgetary problems. I would propose an increase in property tax, and special taxing districts to pay for services like our libraries, pools, or parks.

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? 

Climate change will significantly affect Louisville because we have the fastest escalating urban heat island effect. That means that Louisville will get hotter even faster than average. This will lead to heat-related illness, cardiovascular failures, and deaths. If elected, I will advocate for a stronger tree ordinance, investment in our flood infrastructure, stronger green building requirements, and policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

We have to ensure adequate funding for our Health and Wellness department in the city. The department combines experts in public health with experts in the health equity and can coordinate responses suitable to our city’s needs. I support Medicare for All at the state and Federal level, and will continue to make the case for why we should elect representatives who agree. We need universal coverage for all our residents, a goal out of reach for our municipal budget.

It is also essential we take proactive steps to clean the air, such as support for walking, biking and public transportation, and that we follow through with our decades long intention of increasing our urban tree canopy.

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. 

I want us to make investment in the affordable housing for those most in need our first priority, and make sure most of that money is really going to build housing for low-income residents.

I would support efforts to increase the homestead exemption to help lower the property tax burden on low-income residents. I also oppose our current top-down development model used in neighborhoods like Smoketown where large Federal program money is combined with municipal efforts at rapid gentrification with little input from residents. Even less effort is expended to make sure actual residents build real wealth in the process. A similar effort is likely to repeat with the same result in Russell Neighborhood.

I support expanding tenant rights. I’ve represented many tenants as an attorney and seen our packed eviction docket. Our tenant protections are counter-intuitive for people trying to deal with serious shortcomings in their rental property. I know first hand that too many of our landlords offering low-income rentals are ignoring their obligation to keep their properties livable.

Question 7: 

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

Our immigrant population is a great source of community strength. I will insist LMPD adopts and honors procedures that make sure our limited local police budget isn’t used to enforce federal immigration laws. I support implementation of a cooperative development fund that will make it possible for residents of the city to start democratically owned businesses to fill gaps in services provided by traditional businesses. We should adopt regulations requiring translators be made available to people participating on boards and commissions so we can achieve greater representation. City services should be coordinated through an office for immigrant affairs. The office should provide financial literacy training, citizenship workshops, and access to ESL classes for Louisville immigrants. I will advocate for a municipal ID to allow undocumented people to access services like LFPL.