Mera Kathryn Corlett | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

Mera Kathryn Corlett

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 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 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.

If Louisville claims to be a compassionate city, we need to respect that designation in every step of leadership. I will be that kind of leader. It’s time we have a councilperson 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: 

Kentuckians from across the state are coming together to say Black Lives Matter and to demand that all Kentuckians can move through our communities without fearing for our lives or our loved ones. What is the role of Metro Council in opposing white supremacy, addressing racial inequality and supporting racial justice for Black people, Indigenous people, and all people of color in our state? Please tell us about at least one policy initiative you would propose or support as a Metro Council member to address racial and systemic inequalities.

Metro Council took a great first step in creating the temporary Committee on Inclusion and Diversity. This needs to be a permanent committee though, and one guided by community and business leaders that have shown success in creating equitable workplaces and neighborhoods. It is the role of Metro Council to take this committee’s advice into account when crafting legislation and appropriating resources as even the most minor decision can sometimes have adverse effects on a disenfranchised population.

Metro Council took a great first step in creating the temporary Committee on Inclusion and Diversity. This needs to become a permanent committee, and one guided by community and business leaders that have shown success in creating equitable workplaces and neighborhoods. It is the role of Metro Council to take this committee’s advice into account when crafting legislation and appropriating resources. Even the most minor decision can sometimes have adverse effects on a disenfranchised population.

I believe that one important topic that should be addressed is intergenerational income mobility. When we discuss poverty, we often overlook asset poverty. It’s become more difficult for those in financial hardships to escape because assets are the primary driver of wealth, and current wages often prohibit asset … answer exceeds word limit

Question 3: 

Louisville Metro’s Racial Equity Tool is a tool that helps public employees examine decisions they make regarding changes to policy, programs, operations, budget, etc so that they can better understand how their decisions will impact racial equity. How will you support building capacity for the Racial Equity Tool to be used across all Louisville Metro's agencies and services in decision-making?

The RET in its current capacity should be focused on addressing the most severe of inequities. I consider the health of Louisville constituents to be of the utmost importance, and residents that live in the west half of our city see lower life expectancies and fewer healthy days due to the pollution. The fact that the environmental impacts in certain areas of the county are inhibiting the healthy development of children is unacceptable and needs to be addressed immediately. The RET would be an excellent support mechanism in that work.

Once the tool has been implemented effectively, we should expand use of the RET to examine business permitting, hiring practices within Metro Government, infrastructure allocation, and housing. These are all vital components of city management that support the health and financial well-being of our residents.

Question 4: 

Once in office, how will you support creating the community conditions that foster public safety? Recognizing that research shows more investment in policing and collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) does not lead to reduced rates of violence, what are alternative investments that can support a vision of public safety?

We need to shift the focus of policy making from reactive to proactive methods. Short-term investment in proactive solutions creates long-term saving. Public safety is no different. An example in my district was the re-paving and re-lining of Whipps Mill Road. Pedestrian and commuter safety has decreased after completion of the project because of increased traffic and an infrastructure design that makes speeding more commonplace. Instead of allocating funds to monitor speeding on one street, we should have made the upfront capital investment in creating multimodal streetways that discourage unsafe driving.

I understand that this problem does not reflect the complex safety issues facing other parts of the city, but a similar proactive approach to public safety could mean investment in stopping the school to prison pipeline and funding after school activities at community centers. As someone who is a part of implementing the latter, I know firsthand the positive outcomes from such programming.

Question 5: 

Substandard conditions in our jails and detention centers disproportionately impact Black and Latinx Kentuckians. Do you support ending cash bail and investing in alternatives to incarceration and detention? Why or why not? What is the role of the Metro Council to enact these types of policies?

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 justice system so that we are best serving everyone in our community, and it is the role of Metro Council to work with all stakeholders that have influence over the administration of justice in our city.

Question 6: 

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 and what areas of the budget would you recommend divesting? 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 local option sales taxes, 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 7: 

What would you do to address our country and our city’s role in the causes of climate change and to soften the devastating impacts of climate change on the most vulnerable people in your district? How would you address causes and effects of local pollution to our air, water, and soil?

Earlier this year, 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 happened on Dixie Highway. In my district, there are two major thoroughfares where this could reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality. 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. Similar programs to the emission reduction efforts at the Mill Creek Generating Station should be made at all coal-fired power plants and other heavy industry polluters.

Question 8: 

What is your plan for increasing access to safe, equitable, affordable housing, building homeownership and financial equity, and ensuring long term residents are not displaced from neighborhoods undergoing redevelopment? What is your position on tenants’ rights ordinances and halting evictions, rent, and mortgages during periods of high levels of unemployment such as the current COVID-19 pandemic?

Answer 8: 

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 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. During times of high unemployment and income instability, it does not make sense to proceed with evictions as it is a negative for both the tenant and the landlord. Housing demand will inevitably decrease because unemployed individuals will not be able to sustain personal funding for their rent or mortgage payments. Instead of expending resources on evictions, we should focus on funding income stabilization programs.

Question 9: 

In 2017, Metro Council passed an ordinance which states that local public safety officials can only assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents with a warrant signed by a judge or if there is a "reasonable suspicion of a risk of violence" or "a clear danger to the public" [source WFPL News]. If elected, what would you do to strengthen or expand Louisville's policies that support undocumented Kentuckians?

Answer 9: 

Putting our city’s sparse resources toward assisting a federal government agency that has the capability of meeting it’s funding requirements through federal deficit spending is fiscally irresponsible at a time like this. Louisville calls itself a Compassionate City and with that designation comes a responsibility to all residents. 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.

Question 10: 

What will you do to provide support for individuals and families who will not receive COVID-19 stimulus payments, including people who are undocumented and young adults who were listed as dependents on their parents/guardians’ 2019 tax filings? What are your plans to address the disproportionate economic and health impacts of the pandemic on poor people and communities of color?

Answer 10: 

City and state governments have unfortunately been hindered in their efforts to provide relief to those economically impacted by Covid-19 by inaction at the federal level. State and local leaders need to demand stimulus packages from the federal government. Metro Government did an excellent job of creating a small business relief grant program with the CARES funding it received, and women and minority owned businesses in low to middle income tracts were appropriately targeted for the grants, as these businesses were also the most vulnerable. We will likely need a similar program implemented for individuals that are in need of financial support and calculated based on year-over-year or projected expenses, similar to how businesses apply for grant relief or disaster loans.