Three weeks ago, several members of Louisville Socialists attended the annual Nehemiah Action held by the Citizens of Louisville Organized and United Together (CLOUT) and watched as Councilman Brent Ackerson told the assembly he would not commit to putting $10 million in the Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF). Specifically, Ackerson refused to fight on behalf of the 60,000 Louisville households in need of affordable housing if those funds were not already present in the mayor’s initial budget proposal. His compromise was to advocate for $5 million, citing his ‘honesty,’ ‘pragmatism,’ and an unwillingness to cut other vital social programs.
Last week, that same Councilman Ackerson finally found the courage to boldly stand up for something: an additional $9 million to the LMPD, specifically earmarked for boosting manpower and patrols. This probably should not come as a surprise, considering Ackerson said just this past December that “we have made spending decisions and neglected [the police].” However, it is difficult to reconcile this statement with the fact that the LMPD already ranks as the city’s largest single expenditure by far. In last year’s budget, the police department alone accounted for $167 million out of a total $822 million — and that’s not even including an additional $11 million in state and federal grants. Throwing in the cost of corrections, Louisville Metro budgeted a total of $229 million of our tax money toward policing and jailing the people of Louisville.
So which is it? Are we on a tight budget that prevents us from dedicating $10 million to affordable housing? Or do we have an extra $9 million laying around ready to throw into police coffers? Ackerson’s pathetic attempt to hide behind an emotional appeal falls apart under even the slightest scrutiny. If we truly cannot fund the AHTF without cutting vital social programs, which program is Ackerson eager to slash in order to put more cops on the street? Who is he willing to throw under the bus just to appear tough on crime?
Perhaps Ackerson should consider that the issue is not that we have neglected to adequately fund the police, but rather that more police is not a real solution. If he is truly that concerned about solving the issues of crime and drug use, he should be willing to address the poverty, economic anxiety, and other factors that lie beneath the surface of these issues. Refusing to meet the community’s demand for $10 million in affordable housing while offering almost the equivalent amount to the LMPD shows an absolute disregard toward the people he supposedly represents, and stunts a vital social program that would decrease the need for a police presence that’s already draining 25% of our budget. Clearly, we can dispense with any notion that damaging social programs is a real concern of his and conclude that Ackerson simply is not willing to do what his constituency wants.
Indeed, despite representing a number of people in at least one neighborhood well below the median income of Louisville, Ackerson’s district only contains 1.6% of Louisville’s public and Section 8 housing. Likewise, only a meager 0.3% of the LIHTC units in Jefferson County have been built in Metro District 26. Ackerson does not care about truly fixing the issues in the community he represents — he only cares about containing them. Ackerson does not care about an elderly woman in Bon Air struggling to get by on fixed income; he does not care about a single parent family cramped into an apartment in Klondike struggling to stay afloat; he does not care about kids going hungry and unsupervised, falling behind in school because their mother has to work two or three jobs in the struggle to make rent. Ackerson cares only about maintaining his image and the status quo.
The capitalist state, even at its lowest and most local rungs, does not care about working people or their families. Ackerson’s leadership — or lack thereof — exemplifies the logic of a government that exists to protect the interests of capital rather than the interests of real people. This is why the US government spends billions on wars but always ends up strapped for cash when we demand single-payer health insurance or tuition-free college. This is why Louisville Metro can spend nearly a quarter of a billion dollars on police and jails, but seems to come up short on money when we demand housing.
There’s a massive leak in Louisville’s ceiling. Ackerson won’t even ask for $10 million toward the repairs, but he is more than happy to spend nearly $250 million on buckets. The leak will never get better this way. It will only grow worse, requiring more and more buckets, and meanwhile the working class people of Louisville will continue struggling to keep their heads above the water.