Good morning, Cardinal fans. Good morning, Louisville residents. Good morning to all who call the 502 their lifelong home. Good morning to all those who are proud of the city of Louisville and prideful that they call it home. Good morning to everyone who got up early enough to try to beat the Watterson Expressway traffic and good evening to all those busting their tails at UPS or Hospital Curve. Good morning to all my Cardinal fans from Shively to Prospect, from Dixie Highway to Fern Creek, and from Portland to St. Matthews. We might not have met, but all those living, loving, working and playing in Louisville I consider my blood, and if there’s one thing we all can relate to, it’s being the unappreciated outsider.
Why’s that? Well, venture beyond the Gene Snyder, and ask the average Kentuckian what they think about Louisville. The ones living in places like Ashland, Hazard, Campbellsville, Paducah, or even the places that are really out in the sticks. Even ask the Lexington residents. Ask them what they think about Louisville. Not the Louisville Cardinals, the city of Louisville. In fact, ask a UK fan. Especially ask the one in the UK hat, a torn up UK t-shirt, and the tattoo sleeve documenting all 8 of their national titles. Ask them, and chances are they are gonna depict the city of Louisville in the most negative light imaginable. This dirty, scandalous, crime-ridden cesspool that even the most brave of souls wouldn’t dare go visit. To them, all of Kentucky and her rolling hills & numerous thoroughbreds are like The Shire, and Louisville is Mordor, with Tom Jurich, Coaches Pitino or Petrino, or even Mayor Greg Fisher playing the role of Sauron.
I’ve been hearing all of this slander for quite a while, if not most of my life, and I’m sure most people living in Louisville or who are from Louisville can relate to this. Usually it’s from people who genuinely have zero idea what they are talking about, and already have pre-determined biases against the city of Louisville. Well I’ve had enough, and it’s time for me to put my foot down and properly defend the 502. In fact, not only will I defend the city’s honor, I will go as far to say that Louisville is the golden standard in all regards for the state of Kentucky and deserves respect and recognition for it.
To start things off, I’ll talk about money and finances. Recently, Jared Lorenzen, aka “The Pillsbury Throwboy” decided to make a bold claim that “it would make the state better if we didn’t have Louisville”. Really, Jared? Let’s dive deeper into this claim and discover how truly asinine this statement is, especially from a money standpoint. According to numbers from the U.S. Department of Commerce, the state of Kentucky has a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 170.92 Billion. How much of that comes from Louisville? 39.4% does, at 67.33 Billion, or roughly 2/5. To put that number into a bigger perspective, numbers from the 2015 census show that Louisville’s population is 13.9% of Kentucky’s population. In layman’s terms, 13.9% of the population generates 40% of the income. The fact that Louisville harbors three of the five Fortune 500 companies in the state of Kentucky (the other two being in Northern Kentucky) could very well be a contributing factor to this.
Plus, not only does the city generate all this revenue, it also loses a ton of money in taxes to the rest of the state. According to former UofL Business School professor Paul Coomes, around $950 million per year is leaked out of the community, and “we get the least money of any county in the state per capita back”. Where does this money go? It’s used to subsidize the rest of the state. Quite literally, we fund the rest of the state. What’s worse is that Professor Coomes was quoted saying this in late 2005, so we could very well have over a billion dollars be leaking out of the community by now. So go ahead and build that wall, Jared. We’ll keep our money.
Those who wanna point to the KFC Yum! Center as a way for the average Kentuckian’s taxes to increase would also be wrong. The Yum! Center is financed by a mixture of direct contributions from UofL, as well a tax increment financing (TIF) district. A TIF district is an area carved out within a city or county where certain excess tax revenues can be reallocated for projects. Where is the TIF district for the Yum! Center? Well, it’s directly surrounding the Yum! Center. The initial financial forecasts for the arena projected the TIF district to generate more money than it actually did, so all the recent legislation surrounding the Yum! Center’s deal did was extend the TIF for 25 years. So the next time someone complains about an increase in their taxes due to the KFC Yum! Center, and they don’t live in Louisville, feel free to tell them that they are just flat wrong.
Not only is Louisville/Jefferson County the wealthiest county in the entire state of Kentucky, it also is the most educated. According to a study by the Legislative Research Commission in Frankfort, the only counties in the state of Kentucky where less than 30% of the working age population (age 16-64) was at level 1 (0-5.9 grade level) or level 2 (6-8.9 grade level) literacy were Jefferson County and Christian County.
Many people also like to accuse the city of Louisville of being this huge crime den. While I’m not going to say that Louisville is crime-free, as all urban centers do have some element of crime, comparatively speaking to other urbanized areas in the nation Louisville is actually better about crime than most. According to census data, Louisville currently sits at No.23 population wise. You would expect Louisville to rank 23rd in all crime-related categories, right? Well, you would surprised. According to 2015 crime data from the FBI, the only category in which Louisville ranks above No.23 is Burglary at 21st. Louisville is 25th in murder, 29th in property crime and larceny, 34th in robbery, 45th in both aggravated assault and violent crime, and 68th in rape. In fact, the city of Lexington actually ranked ahead of Louisville in both rape and larceny. So while we have a big city population, we don’t have as much overall crime as many cities with similar populations.
The anti-Louisville bias even works its way up into the state government. Recently, the Kentucky State Senate passed what was dubbed the “War on Louisville” bill. The original draft of this bill gave the governor the power to appoint Louisville’s mayor or Metro Council members in the case of a vacancy. After the bill was revised, it removed such power from the governor, but Mayor Fisher still accused Frankfort of wanting to micromanage Louisville. Most Louisville residents, or at least most of the ones I have conversed with, are extremely uneasy by Matt Bevin’s tenure as governor, especially after he essentially picked most of the new members on UofL’s Board of Trustees that he wanted, and not who was the best fit for the university. It also doesn’t help that several new member are his donors. Also, just last month, Bevin signed a bill that allowed student groups at high schools and universities in Kentucky to discriminate against LGBT students. This same category of bill got NCAA events ousted from the state of North Carolina when the state government there passed the infamous and now defunct “bathroom bill”. I’m disappointed, but I’m not exactly surprised by the state government’s ineptitude. After all, this is the same state where the constituents keep electing a public official who has a 19% approval rating.
Not only is the state government both inept and extremely out of touch with the city of Louisville, they were also recently determined to be among the most corrupt. A 2014 study by Harvard University’s Center for Ethics found that Kentucky’s state government was both a leader in legal corruption and illegal corruption, especially in legal corruption, which is even worse in my opinion. The study was even quoted in saying that “Kentucky is not only perceived to be illegally corrupt but also legally corrupt.”
So not only does Louisville get a bad wrap from a national perspective because of their de jure association with the rest of the state of Kentucky, but the rest of the state of Kentucky wrongly looks at Louisville like it’s unholy ground, when they should in fact be praising what we in the 502 have accomplished. So the next time someone asks you where you’re from, with a big grin on your face, tell them that you’re from Louisville, Kentucky. If that person wants to slander the Derby City, well, you now know what to say to them.