LMPD :: Louisville Metro Police Department

Fischer, Leet offer starkly different pictures of Louisville at debate


Greg Fischer and Angela Leet both live and work in Louisville, but the two painted drastically different pictures of the city in their second and final debate Tuesday night, three weeks out from Election Day.

Fischer, the incumbent Democrat seeking a third four-year term, pledged in his closing remarks to build on the successes of his tenure, highlighting accomplishments in his description of Louisville's "renaissance."

Republican challenger Angela Leet, meanwhile, cast the city as one in desperate need of change. "We have the homelessness of San Francisco, the violence of Chicago and we are one employer away from becoming the next Detroit," Leet said. "It's time for a change."

The Fischer-Leet debate again focused on public safety, infrastructure and transparency. In the final question of the one-hour debate, the candidates were asked to name their opponent's greatest shortcoming.

Leet took the chance to swipe at the figures Fischer cites in describing the city's economic growth, but the incumbent mayor declined to go on the attack, saying instead that he appreciated the councilwoman running for office.

The debate, sponsored by WFPL, WAVE 3 and the League of Women Voters, aired Tuesday evening on both radio and TV stations. A second forum, made up of the five independent candidates in the race, took place immediately afterward.

Here are other takeaways from Tuesday's debate.

Is MSD Director Tony Parrott corrupt?

In a clash that continued from the first debate, Fischer and Leet sparred over how best to pay for the $4.3 billion in needs for the Metropolitan Sewer District.

The mayor said in the first debate he favored allowing the agency to temporarily raise its rates up to 10 percent for four years to pay for flood protection improvements, a proposal that has stalled in Metro Council.

Leet, who has cast doubt on the agency's leadership, accused Fischer on Tuesday of running behind Metro Council and the election, rather than making a decision.

"The reality is that this has been an issue we've been discussing for decades," she said. "We know that this mayor hired an MSD official to run its agency that is under investigation by the Ohio attorney general. And the fact is, is that our money has not been managed properly by that agency."

In response, Fischer defended MSD Executive Director Tony Parrott, who the Courier Journal previously reported could be "jointly liable" for about $460,000 in improperly paid contracts when he led the Cincinnati sewer district.

"As it relates to the director, it's a political witch hunt after him right now, by a guy that's running for attorney general in Ohio," Fischer said. "He's doing best practices and he's in trouble for that, because he's trying to improve minority participation."

What role does the mayor play in defending abortion rights?

Declaring that "reproductive health care" is one of the most basic rights a person should have, Fischer staked out a strong position protecting the state's only clinic that provides abortions.

Efforts from the Bevin administration to eliminate that choice for Kentuckians, Fischer said, would only result in more dangerous conditions for women.

"Nobody gets fired up about getting an abortion, but it needs to be available in a community in a safe way," he said.

Leet used her personal history -- she was adopted at a young age -- to explain her anti-abortion stance, thanking her birth mother for giving her the opportunity to grow up in a home where she had a loving mother and father. She added that she thinks there are "exceptions," but didn't go into specifics.

She then pivoted to the importance of ensuring safe neighborhoods for women and giving them the chance to live a life in which they are happy, able to take care of their children and to pursue their dreams.

How transparent should the mayor be on economic development?

Leet again took aim at Fischer's refusal to divulge what secret guests his administration has wined and dined at the Kentucky Derby, part of the city's effort to attract new business investments.

A Derby ticket, she said, should be a reward, not an incentive, and it's "laughable" to claim it's the only way to lure businesses to the city.

The mayor spent roughly $190,000 in taxpayer money to entertain a group during this year's festivities, but refuses to say who was entertained, igniting criticism that his office isn't being transparent. A proposal in Metro Council would force him to release expenses above $10,000 paid by the city and to back up any claim that there's an economic benefit to Derby-themed spending.

Fischer, who often says a mayor has to have the head of a CEO and the heart of a social worker, has maintained that providing that information is akin to tipping off competitors.

Tuesday, he said he was elected to office to exercise common sense and bring jobs to the city. The controversy around his Derby guests, he said, shows a "lack of awareness" of business practices.