Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Louisville has lost a champion

Yesterday morning Louisville lost one of its heros. Former Heavyweight champion Greg page passed away. He was partially paralyzed from injuries he suffered from a fight in 2001. He will be missed. 

Friday, April 24, 2009

City to enforce a "relaxed" version of it's ban on Derby Cruising

It's that's time of year. Derby Time! That means the city will be cracking down on Derby cruising. However, according to the Courier-Journal this year they will "relax" enforcement of the city bans. Basically you will be able to drive on Broadway, the West Ends main business artery, this year. In years past they have blocked all access to Broadway from around 9th street to about 34th street. Which means that you had to drive blocks out of the way to do things like buy groceries, because the only grocer in Western Louisville is the Krogers on 28th and Broadway.  

I almost forgot. We will be able to use parks this year. This is the first time in years that we will be able to use the parks during Derby Weekend. Massa sho is kind.  

I'm interested to see how this turns out. Every year it's a little different. I remember one year when they completely blocked off the West End during Derby. It took me almost 2 hours to find my way home. I don't think I have ever been as mad before in my life. I know the city would never block off the Highlands or Middletown like they did the West End. 

Even with the relaxed standards I'm pretty sure that some things wont change. There will be at least 300 police officers on or near Broadway. They will wind up closing some parts of Broadway or some side streets. Like every year the police helicopter will be a near constant presence.  Starting Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon the Ghettobird (urbanslang for police helicopter) will be in the skies 24-7. There will be police on the tops of the tallest buildings overlooking Broadway. They will wind up closing Chickasaw Park at least twice over the weekend. Last but not least. You wont be able to drive 5 blocks without seeing the police pull someone over. 

I live about 2 blocks from Broadway on a busy street that feeds Broadway. Personally, cruising never really bothered me.  I just did like everybody else. Set up tent and sold food from in front of my house. The cruisers pretty much stayed on Broadway, so getting around wasn't that bad. I could just take the many side streets to where I wanted to go. 

I can understand the city wanting to stop Derby because it was a "problem." The main problem being that it didn't fit in with the image of the Derby. Yeah traffic was really bad on Broadway, but like I said most of the side streets were open.  All the LMPD had to do was call the Daytona or the Panama City police departments and get some ideas on how to effectively "police" cruising, but I digress.

Now that Derby Cruising is no more, I'm at least happy they opened Broadway and the parks. However, there are several night spots on broadway that can now operate normally on Derby weekend. The problem is that like most night spots in urban neighborhoods parking is limited. Usually that's not a problem because you could just park on the street. However, you can't park on the street. I wonder how that will be resolved? 

We will see what happens. Here is the link to the Story in the C-J.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Bringing Boxing back to Da Ville

Back in the 50's, 60's, 70's, and early 80's boxing was a major sport in Louisville, KY.  We had a local television show dedicated to local ametuer boxing, the mayor had a big tourney, and ever community center had a gym with a paid trainer. All of this investment in boxing paid off. Louisville produced 3 heavyweight champions in that time period. Jimmy Ellis, Greg Page and Muhammad Ali. For the record, Louisville has been home to 4 heavyweight champions. No other city on the planet has had more heavyweight champions! The first one was Marvin Hart in 1906. When you think about it that's amazing considering the size of Louisville. 

Unfortunately, sometime in the early 80's the funding dried up. When the funding dried up so did the talent. Why not bring boxing back to Louisville as part of the city's overall economic development strategy? You would think a city with such a rich history in the sport would try and revive it. Luckily for us a group of people are trying to do just that. I'm happy to say that I am one of them.

For those that don't know me my name is Haven Harrington, and I am the host of the Main Event Sports Show. I'm also a member of CARR and the guy behind the blog. Several months ago we at the Main Event Sports Show got the idea that we want to resurrect boxing in Louisville. We just weren't sure how we were going to accomplish that goal. Then last week we got an e-mail about a boxing match taking place last Friday. The fight was being put on by Dennis Page, the brother of ex-heavyweight champ Greg Page. We contacted Mr. Page about the fight and decided to go. We had a blast. More importantly we ran into someone who wanted the same thing as us. To bring Boxing back to Louisville in a major way. 

Dennis Page has a deep love for boxing and is putting on a series of fights to determine the Kentucky champion. This is the first time in years that local professional boxers will be able to fight in their home state. He is also heavily involved in ameture boxing as well and will soon be putting on a tourney for them.  His gym, Baxter Memorial Gym , will be home to both pro and ameture fighters. This will give kids a chance to see how their workouts now could become careers of the future. They will be exposed to all sorts of tourneys, AAU boxing, and even collegiate boxing. If nothing else they will learn discipline and how to keep in shape. However, this is just the first step. We have to reintroduce boxing to Louisville. We also have to introduce the local fighters to Louisville as well. People us to know the local fighters. Their fights were in the paper, and most people knew where the local gym was. 

There are only 2 boxing gyms in Louisville. 2. In it's heyday the city use to have about 15. To add a little perspective on this subject, St. Louis has about 40 gyms, Indy has close to 25-30, Ashland, Ky a city of about 22,000 has 7 gyms, and the midwest boxing mecca Cincinnati has about 30-40 gyms. Granted, not all of these are pure boxing gyms. Some of these gyms also serve as MMA gyms, but they have a strong boxing training. Louisville has about 4-5 MMA gyms that also have boxing trainers, but it's mainly boxing as it relates to MMA and not the complete sport. This puts Louisville at a serious disadvantage. The city has also lost its Golden Glove membership. However, with only 2 gyms it's  not really worth the effort to get another one. There aren't enough fighters or fans to support one.

So, where do we go from here? I think the first step has already been taken. We have to put on fights. No matter how small they are. We also have to be consistent. The fights need to be on a regular basis. We need to get people use to going to fights. I honestly don't think that will be a big problem. Louisvillans love sports. We supported boxing once before and I think we will again. 

I think we can build on the first fight and make them bigger and better each time we will begin to get some of those old fans back and also attract new ones. Once awareness has been raised it will make it easier to recruit kids. Especially if they can see an upgrade path. Then maybe we can open up another gym. we will also do our part by trying to get sponsors and using our Sports Talk radio show to introduce the public to boxing. 

These are just the first few steps. We have an idea on where we want to go from here and how to do it. But we have to get started first. Check back for updates. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Inner City Blues Pt 2.

I've been giving a lot of thought as of late on how to revitalize Russell and for that matter other inner-city neighborhoods. What's the best way to reinvigorate an inner-city mostly minority community? Should we push for lower taxes? A special financing district? Honestly, I don't think any of those will work in the long run. What will happen is what has already happened in Russell. You get a lot of light industry that moves in to take advantage of the tax breaks, but they never hire anybody from the neighborhood.  Hence the neighborhood doesn't get any better. It looks good in the paper, but the community stays the same.  Louisville has tried to revitalize Russell. Tearing down dilapidated homes and building new ones. The City has gone as far as tearing whole blocks to build a new neighborhood called the Ceder Street Development. I haven't seen the master plans for the development, but the few that have been built so far look like those in another western Louisville neighborhood called Park DuValle.  Personally, I think the architecture is a bit out of character for neighborhood, but it still works. Currently, they only have about 6 houses sold. 6 out of about 40. Once the housing market picks up hopefully more houses will be built.

I think there are several avenues that cities can pursue to revitalize these inner-city neighborhoods.  I know I said tax breaks may not be the way to go. And I agree to a certain extent. I think there should be a certain conditions on the tax breaks like the business (especially if they employee more than 25 and indeed are the warehouse/light industrial type) have to hire some people from the community. 

I would also like to see the use of forgivable 2nd mortgages.  I know when we purchased this house in Russell we were given a forgivable second mortgage. We were lucky, because the program we used was only for new construction. Our houses isn't new. However, we qualified, because we complete gutted the interior of the house. So in essence it was like a new house. I would like to see that program expanded to also included rehabbed houses and not just new construction. We still have a lot of old homes that need a lot of TLC. A program like this might help to save some of these houses. This program was federally funded, and the funds have dried up. I know Louisville has a severe budget shortfall so I don't expect this program to be reinstated, but it should be reinstated as soon as things turn around.

I also think cities have to do a much better job of reaching out to the community, and let people know that it is a priority that we revitalize Russell and neighborhoods like it. Take the forgivable second mortgage. If the city sent a representative to the area churches, civic organizations and actively told people that we have up to 15k in a forgivable second mortgage I think the city might be surprised at how many people would bite. The only way we found out about it was because we dug through the city's website and happen to stumble upon it. It shouldn't be so difficult. A revitalize urban neighborhood can only benefit the city in the long and short run. Why hide such a valuable tool?

One big mistake I see cities do all of the time is that they tear town whole sections of their inner-city neighborhoods, and then replace them with suburban style infill. A neighborhood that once had a lot of density and alleys now has a lot less density, no alleys, and a form factor that doesn't fit the character of the surround neighborhood. What usually happens is that the neighborhood gentrified. Hence reformed. But what happens to the poor people who use to live there? You can only reshuffle the chairs on the deck so many ways.

I'm not advocating that cities shouldn't try this sort of gentrification. I'm just saying that there are better ways to do it. I'm not against having poor people stay in the neighborhood. Quite the opposite. I think any infill projects such as these need to keep the density that have always had. instead of kicking all of the poor people put build a mix use/ mix income neighborhood.  Build apartment buildings that have market rate apartments, income based, and public housing in the same building. It's been done before, and it seems to have worked. an example of this would be Park Du Valle and Liberty Green.   

I would also like to see cities advocate urban gardening and famer's markets in poorer inner-city neighborhoods. Urban neighborhoods tend to be food islands. That means that residents usually don't have that many options for buying food. Take the west end of Louisville. Louisville's West-end comprises several neighborhoods and has about 75,ooo residents. There are only 3 grocers to service the community. To put it another way. Louisville averages 1 grocer for ever 12,500 residents. In western Louisville it's about 1 grocer for 25,000 residents. I would bet that it's about the same in most other urban neighborhoods across the country. I think this is one area where cities can provide some assistance. Urban gardening and farmers markets may not be the answer, but they are a piece of the answer. Cities and community agencies have to do a better job of explaining the "urban market" to large retailers. Most chain retailers are set up to cater to the suburban customers. Hence, they chose to place stores based on number of cars passing a certain point, and number of credit card transactions. That works well in a part a town that is geared toward automobiles. In a poorer part of town it doesn't work so well. In poorer urban communities people tend not to drive and pay for a lot of items with cash. Cities have to advocate building smaller stores. They all don't have to be huge big box retailers to serve urban communities. Smaller stores will work and would be just as profitable. I don't expect this change to come quickly if at all. Which is why I think farmers markets are the way to go. Maybe cities can offer grants and other incentives to local non-profits/businesses to open up small store farmer market grocers. Like this neighborhood stores of the past century.   

These are just some of the things I think cities could do to revitalize their urban neighborhoods. If nothing else this might help stabilize them. I don't think any one person or group has all of the answers. In the end, the community itself, with help from city government will be the best course of action.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

 Earth day is fast approaching, and CARR along with the families , teachers, and Staff on Byck Elementary plan on doing our part. On Saturday, April 18 we are going to have a community clean up. We will begin gathering in the playground area of Byck Elementary (2328 Ceder St.) at 10:00 A.M.

All volunteers will be assembled into various groups and disbursed around 10:30. We will all meet back at Byck at noon for a FREE lunch. 

I know this is Thunder Over Louisville Weekend, but you can give up your morning for such a worth while cause. Operation Brightside will provide gloves, garbage bags, and everything else we may need. All you have to do is show up.

You don't have to RSVP, but it would be appreciated. That way we can make sure we have enough food and supplies. If you have any questions or just want to RSVP contact the Angela Zito at 502-259-8490 or e-mail her at Zito.Angela@hotmail.com