Exclusive Interview with Curtis Morrrison (D-Louisville) candidate for Jefferson County Judge/ExecutiveMar 10th, 2010 | By Michael Thomas, Kentucky Political Editor & Senior Contributor | Category: Kentucky Guardian Interviews, Kentucky Political News
No doubt to the dismay to the Family Foundation of Kentucky, the Commonwealth has several gay men seeking political offices across the Commonwealth. From Representative, Mayor, to Judge/Executive, Kentucky could have multiple gay men in high profile political offices.
Curtis Morrison has been a diplomatic, honest, opinionated (especially on his blog, Louisville Courant), direct, no-nonsense “cut to the chase” kind of guy since I’ve known him. As an activist, Mr. Morrison well known as a person with substance and character.
Earlier this year, Mr. Morrison (D-Louisville) decided to run for the Office of Jefferson County Judge/Executive. United We Stand – Kentucky’s LGBTI News™ had the pleasure of interviewing him.
UNITED WE STAND: Let’s get this out of the way immediately, what is your sexual orientation?
UNITED WE STAND: Many conservatives believe that when gays are elected to political office, they only push LGBTI issues; what would you say to those conservatives?
MORRISON: I would disagree with that point of view. That’s like saying when straights are elected to political office, they only push straight issues. At the end of the day, public servants must serve the public, and that means giving people a great community to call home, one in which their kids are educated, their streets are safe, and there’s an environment that promotes creativity and new businesses, while still respecting existing employers. Those issues are important to everyone.
UNITED WE STAND: How is the economy in Louisville, KY?
MORRISON: Louisville is struggling like most of the country but it could be worse. I heard today Nevada has 13% unemployment and we certainly don’t have it that bad. However, our fair fortune is dependent on a couple fragile large employers facing changes in their industries: General Electric, Ford and Humana. The latter has already announced plans to lay off 750 employees this year.
What’s disturbing about Louisville is even without the current recession, we’d be struggling because our city leaders haven’t planned well to bring us into this century. We still don’t have an expressway ring around our region (short by 1 bridge that would have to come through a ritzy east-end neighborhood of elites) and we don’t have even have a modern transportation, like mass transit or light rail, on the table. That’s embarrassing.
UNITED WE STAND: How do you feel about the current bridge projects in Louisville?
MORRISON: I feel it is a well-executed failure. The elitist interests of the Riverfields lobbied to include a tunnel under the Drumanard Estate, and an unnecessary additional bridge downtown, to ensure the project would never get off the ground. Now the project is so big, the only way to pay for it is with tolling existing bridges that are already paid for. Tolling existing bridges is an idea that not only angers me, but most people in our community. We have to start from scratch with new ideas. I’m a big fan of 8664, and of Tyler Allen for having the courage and leadership to bring that idea to the table.
UNITED WE STAND: Do you like the new merged government?
MORRISON: It’s bittersweet. I’m a big fan of regional governing. Because decisions made in the old city of Louisville definitely affect not only the county but the region, and even the state. However, a lot of the promises of our merged government have not been fulfilled. African-Americans have less representation on our Metro Council. We have more poverty, more homelessness. I’d say we have more crime, but the city would argue. I’m not sure if they’re unbiased in that debate though. If anything merged government would promise a regional decision like the bridges project would be implemented with near perfection. Well, that’s another failure, but I don’t blame the merger itself, but more the actors and their allegiances to old money.
UNITED WE STAND: Do you believe merged governments are generally are more or less effective than having multiple cities in the same county? Why?
MORRISON: Overall, I believe they are more effective for the collective. However, I can understand how it might not always look that way when we just look at like “what’s in it for us?” Merged government or regional government requires an acceptance by the community that what’s good for the entire community is what’s best. That’s understandably difficult for many people to accept.
UNITED WE STAND CLARIFICATION: On November 7, 2000, voters in Louisville and Jefferson County approved a referendum to merge into a consolidated city-county government named Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government (official long form) and Louisville Metro (official short form), which took effect January 6, 2003. Consolidated, or “merged” city–county in the Commonwealth of Kentucky is a city and county that have been merged into one unified jurisdiction with the city basically annexing the entire county. After the annexation, it is simultaneously a city, which is a municipal corporation; and a county, which is an administrative division of the Commonwealth. Therefore, it enjoys the powers of both types of entities, but is also subject to the duties and responsibilities of both.
UNITED WE STAND: Section 5 of the Commonwealth’s Constitution states: “the civil rights, privileges or capacities of no person shall be taken away, or in anywise diminished or enlarged, on account of his belief or disbelief of any religious tenet, dogma or teaching.”
QUESTION: How you feel about that?
MORRISON: I think that’s awesome. I think Kentucky operates on it’s 5th version of a constitution, so I guess practice makes perfection.
QUESTION: Do you agree with separate of church and state?
MORRISON: Yes, very much so. I’m not a fan of the Representative Tom Riner‘s crusade to make his Jesus the Director of Kentucky’s Homeland Security. It’s not only expensive to defend, it’s distracting our state from important issues that we need to deal with, and it’s pretty embarrassing for Kentucky when we travel. Do a search on YouTube for Kentucky Department of Homeland Security and there’s a comedian that actually basis his skit on this nonsense.
UNITED WE STAND: Do you believe the Commonwealth should have a law in place to protect gay and lesbian people from job, credit, accommodations, and housing discrimination? Why?
MORRISON: Yes. Specifically, I believe we should pass a statewide fairness amendment which would extend civil rights protections to Kentuckians based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
UNITED WE STAND: In November, Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer said that allowing Kentucky AIDS Drug Assistance Program [which expired in 2007] was: “inhumane, shortsighted, and threatens individual and public health.” Do you agree or disagree? Why?
MORRISON: I agree with Palmer’s outrage at the underfunding for KADAP. A couple months ago I was talking to the director of Louisville’s Wing’s Clinic, and she said the waiting list was now way over 100 people and growing. I don’t think the general public has forgotten what happens when people living with HIV/AIDS don’t get medical treatment.
UNITED WE STAND: What did you think about the protest and boycott Louisville’s Fairness Campaign organized against Woody’s Tavern in Louisville for ‘racist and sexist remarks?’
MORRISON: I am a firm believer that all oppression is wrong. And that we must acknowledge there’s an intersectionality of oppression where marginalized people have to stand up for each other. If we don’t stand up for other factions when they are wronged, we can’t expect them to stand up for us.
That being said, I believe that the last boycott of Woody’s went too far. The primary grounds for the boycott was the owner’s use of the word “faggot.” This is clearly hypocritical. Monday nights at the Dock, a bar owned by the chair of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, is called “Rock and Roll Fag Night.” I find that incredibly offensive, and I’ve emailed the bar, and complained to the Fairness Campaign. But where’s the boycott against that bar?
UNITED WE STAND: What do you think about Senate President David L. Williams?
MORRISON: I try not to.
UNITED WE STAND: What do you think about House Speak Greg Stumbo?
MORRISON: I’ve never met him but when he was attorney general, he decided domestic-partner benefits to state university employees was unconstitutional. I don’t think he should be allowed to decide things, he’s not very good at it. (previous story)
UNITED WE STAND: What do you think the Governor and lawmakers in Frankfort should do to get the Commonwealth out of its current economic crisis?
MORRISON: Make Kentucky a nicer place to live. This will mean raising taxes to finance our future. That’s going to take some real leadership and courage, and the good old boys in Frankfort are not equipped for that.
UNITED WE STAND: Do you support the Governor’s expanded gambling proposal to bring new revenue to the Commonwealth?
MORRISON: No. I’m against expanding gambling. I lived in Indiana and I saw the social consequences first hand when a casino come in.
UNITED WE STAND: Unlike some states, the heads of Kentucky’s highest levels of government [Cabinet Secretaries] are appointed by the Governor and are never questioned or scrutinized by lawmakers. Do you feel like the Executive Branch of Kentucky’s Government has any oversight?
MORRISON: I think cabinet secretary appointments are necessary for an administration to be on the same page and get stuff done. I don’t propose more oversight, but more transparency.
UNITED WE STAND: Do you think public corruption is a problem in Kentucky?
UNITED WE STAND: What scandals and public corruption charges come to mind when you think about public corruption in Kentucky?
MORRISON: Boptrot back in the early ’90’s. That was pretty embarrassing for Kentucky.
UNITED WE STAND: Do you think public corruption is a problem in Louisville/Jefferson County?
UNITED WE STAND: What scandals and public corruption charges come to mind when you think about public corruption in Louisville/Jefferson County?
MORRISON: One of our metro council members, Jim King, financed his daughter’s election campaign to become judge to the tune of $120,000. Individual campaign contributions exceeding $1000 have been illegal since the 1970’s, yet he, and now the KREF, say that they broke the law “unknowingly.”
When has that ever got anyone out of even a speeding ticket?
UNITED WE STAND: Following in the footsteps of many other states, legislation has been pre-filed reasserting Kentucky sovereignty (BR-50, and BR-54). What do you think about these pre-filed bills? Many have started calling us the “Divided States of America.” What are your thoughts?
MORRISON: I understand the passion behind the supporters of such bills, and I commend them for standing up for what they believe in, but my focus is on other issues.
UNITED WE STAND: Texas, Vermont, Michigan, California, and other states have Independence “movements” to leave the Union. Why do you think that is? Do you believe the federal government (wish exists parallel to all the several states, on the same level) has grown too large and intrusive?
MORRISON: I can’t speak for those other states, but I don’t believe the federal government has grown too large. There are lots of things the government needs to be doing that it’s not, like improving regional transportation and providing funding for ADAP. Those things can’t happen with smaller government.
UNITED WE STAND FOLLOW-UP: The U.S. Congress gives money to AIDS Drug Assistance Programs, with each state contributing money to the program also. In Kentucky, this program is administered (if it was funded, currently it is not) but he HIV/AIDS Branch of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Human Services.
UNITED WE STAND: What do you hope to accomplish if you are elected Judge/Executive of Jefferson County?
MORRISON: I’m going to speak out for those that don’t have a voice. I do this now and will continue to, but I believe this position will help me amplify that voice.
UNITED WE STAND: Does the Office of Jefferson County Judge/Executive have any political power since the merger (similar to Lexington)?
MORRISON: There are no powers or responsibilities in law, but I intend to set a precedent where this position is held by a citizen activist that is paying attention to what’s going on in metro government and speaks out about it.
UNITED WE STAND: Most Lexington citizens don’t know what a Judge/Executive is, what they do, or if they have one, so why run for the same office in Louisville?
MORRISON: Well, I have to admit, in my decision to run, I didn’t even consider what citizens in Lexington would think! However, I’ll say this. I’ll be able to join the Kentucky County Judge Executive Association, and in that organization I’ll be able to lobby other CJ/E’s for regional issues, like statewide fairness and transportation, that will benefit all of Kentucky.
I was talking to Melanie J. Roberts, the County Judge/Executive of Bullitt County today at a public meeting about TARC route changes, and I realized how my voice nearly as effective as hers. All I’d have to do is show up. Embarrassingly, lot of our leaders don’t show up to do their jobs now.*
* United We Stand – Kentucky’s LGBTI News agrees with this statement.
UNITED WE STAND: How do you picture your working relationship with the Mayor of Louisville?
MORRISON: Depends on who it is.
UNITED WE STAND: If you’re elected, what should the citizens of Jefferson County expect from your office?
MORRISON: I’ll be honest and I won’t sell them down the river. And I won’t be an agent of the elite.
UNITED WE STAND: Any message or statement you would like to give our readers?
MORRISON: First, I want to thank you, Michael, for some really great questions. Second, I want to say I’m not fund raising for this election. My political communication plan is limited to a Facebook fanpage, and word-of mouth. I’m relying a bit on my past involvement in our community, too.
This election in Louisville is very important because we will be deciding who our next mayor will be. This is the first opportunity we’ve had In Louisville to do that in a long time. I’m encouraging voters to find out as much as they can about that race and take it seriously instead of focusing on the CJ/E race. Our mayor race, that’s crucially important. As you may know, I stood on the stage behind Tyler Allen the day he announced his candidacy back in August. With a field of over a dozen candidates, he’s still my choice. Plus, I know with him as mayor, my job as CJ/E will be a bit easier, because he’ll be implementing some big ideas with short-term and long-term planning for our community. That will be so refreshing! I’ll have a lot harder time picking on that kind of leadership!
MORRISON’S BLOG: Louisville Courant (also featured as one of United We Stand’s Blog Friends)
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