Letter Re: Metro Health Equity Report, by Linnea Duckworth-Jennette

This week saw the release of the latest Metro Health Equity Report (check it out here). My friend Linnea Duckworth-Jennette wrote an insightful letter to the editor in response to the Courier Journal article (here) about the report. She lays it out better than I can.

While reading Laura Ungar’s piece on the Center for Health Equality’s 2014 “Louisville Metro Health Equality Report” I became somewhat confused when the Clifton-Crescent Hill-Butchertown area was singled out as having the highest rate of death by homicide in the city. As a former resident (of 20 years) of the Clifton neighborhood, I can not remember ever fearing for my life while riding my bike down Frankfort Avenue or waiting for the TARC bus on Brownsboro Road. At closer look, I noticed a caveat next to that rank- in both Ms. Ungar’s piece, and in the report itself - that this (death by) homicide rate is based on the residence of the victim. One small detail with large consequences. The number one “Death by Homicide” rate for the city is based on where the victim lived rather than where they were murdered. This rate does not actually mean what it is implying. It actually means nothing.

I am amazed that the City would release a report with such misleading data (their data source were Death Records from 2006-2010, not LMPD Crime Reports). In the previous Health Equity Report (published in 2012), the same area was in the bottom quartile of major crimes, based on LMPD data. Two years later Clifton-Crescent Hill- Butchertown has the top homicide rate, because the people who reside in this neighborhood have a higher statistical rate of dying by homicide, somewhere. This data set, and the GIS map of the data (which takes up more than half a page in the official report) is not only misleading, but defamatory. As this report relies heavily on infographics, rather than writing, the majority of readers are less likely to read the small descriptive print, and will take away that the Clifton-Crescent Hill-Butchertown neighborhood, with all of it’s recycling programs, sustainability initiatives, bike lanes, small businesses, and community gardens, has the highest (death by) homicide rate in the city. It’s almost as if the authors of this report are using inappropriate data to tell a story that is less than true.

The section of the report on Death Rates has some useful information, maps and infographics included, that show a geostatistical pattern in resident health. That being said, maps of Death by Homicide and Death by Accident do not belong in that section, and maybe more hurtful than helpful to the areas pointed out as “High Rates”. In these causes of death, the location of the victim is less important than the location of the cause, whether it be murder, car accident, or falling off a skateboard. In an age where people regularly leave their neighborhoods as they go about their day, relying on the home address of a victim as the source of data for a geostatistical map, only relays one type of information, correlational at best, that people who reside in this neighborhood are more likely to be in a deadly accident or be murdered somewhere, but not necessarily the location where this information is displayed, rendering these maps misleading and ultimately useless. The people composing this report should have used the appropriate data sources (crime statistics, traffic accident locations, poison control reports, etc) and put this information where it belongs, under Quality of Life.

I believe that there are strong relationships between geography and public health, and I commend the Center for Health Equality for producing this report. However, those involved with collecting and analyzing the data for this report should have been more responsible when evaluating and choosing data to include, and they certainly should have been aware that the story told by that data is misleading at best. These types of misrepresentations, whether intentional or not, have real world consequences in a variety of forms, and to present them in the manner reported strikes me as simply irresponsible.

-Linnea Duckworth-Jennette

Green Triangle Questionnaire

This is my response to a questionnaire sent out by the Green Triangle. I went a little long-form with my responses. Please, ask me further questions, either directly or in the comments!

1.  What is your personal definition of sustainability and how is your life guided by this definition?  Please name sustainability projects you have personally been involved with, either in your home or your community.

My first semester at college, I had a professor who put in front of me the Wendell Berry essay “Two Economies” and the lessons from that reading stuck with me. It just made sense to me that you couldn’t have the economy of man acting within but out of sync with the greater economy of our world. You can’t have industries that simply extract, or others that seek to push their waste and associated costs off their balance sheet. In the great economy, there is no ‘off the balance sheet’. You can observe this dynamic in every part of our lives- I can’t simply extract privilege and advantage from my community without seeking to replenish it, and I cannot simply seek to make my problems those of someone else. I appreciate Berry’s sense of thrift and frugality, of finding local answers to local problems, and of creating wealth within the community and returning it to the community. It may seem like I have wandered off the mark of defining sustainability for myself, but sustainability must be one of many values that we weave together to make a way of living.  

2.  From a sustainable 9th district perspective, what are your experiences in working with city and state departments or agencies?

I have few experiences working with city or state bodies, beyond the occasional call to MetroCall. 

From the point of view of a typical resident, the more you have to consciously interact with city or state bodies to get something done, the less likely you are to do it. My job on the metro council and as a leader of this community would be to make interactions with these programs as seamless as possible, and to incentivize participation when more effort is required by the individual. It is important that we make it as easy as possible for people to make the best decisions, whether that is providing residents with secure, lidded recycling containers, making sure people know their transit options in their community and make those easy to access, just to name a couple of ground level examples.    

3. Tina Ward-Pugh focused on sustainability in the 9th district through waste water compliance and she began using a “Green Lens” to view all public projects and work (roadways, construction ,growth projects and recreation) that is conducted in the district and beyond.  

Explain why you agree or disagree with the importance of using this “Green Lens”?

I agree absolutely with the value of viewing all our decisions through a ‘green lens’. I would argue, though, that this green lens is only a part of a greater Lens of Livability, focused on sustaining and conserving our people and our communities. 

Too often sustainability is seen as something extra that must be done, as a burden or as the sole provence of those with time and energy enough to pursue it. We must find the ways that sustainable practices make real differences in the lives of the individuals and businesses that take them up. We must educate people on how these practices intersect with other goals and provide other benefits, not only to the individual person or business, but to others as well. 

Take TARC, for example. Increasing TARC ridership will be a goal of my time in office. The benefits are many: by riding TARC instead of driving, you save money on gas for your car as well as reducing the pollution you personally release in to our community. You make the streets safer by reducing the total number of vehicles on them, as well as reducing congestion and the pollution that follows it. By incorporating TARC in to your life, you become more likely to shop at the small businesses along bus routes, while easing parking congestion. By buying your TARC pass and getting on the bus, you are supporting a vital service for many in our community, and you signal to our leaders that you are invested in the transit system that we have, but ready for the transit system that we want. That is an awful lot that I can accomplish by simply buying a TARC pass and climbing aboard a bus. 

Or take Demand Side Management funds. These funds come from a charge applied to every CCF of gas and KWH of electricity we consume, set aside to reduce demand and increase efficiency on the consumer end of things. Right now the city of Louisville does not ask for a seat at the table when the Public Service Commission decides how to use these funds. As a member of the Metro Council, I would strongly push to have the city intervene and direct these funds to programs that could have the greatest impact on energy consumption AND the greatest positive effect on people’s lives. Things like weatherization programs for older rental homes and apartments would reduce our carbon footprint by increasing the efficiency of these structures, it would promote investment (and the increased value and jobs that come with it) that would be unlikely to be made otherwise, and it would make life that much more livable for the tenant seeing the reduced energy bills. 

I would make it my job to find the most meaningful ways to enact sustainable practices in people’s lives, show them tangible benefits to themselves and their communities, and then use the good will and positive effects of real benefits to further other sustainable ends. Maybe the person who rides the bus becomes more likely to walk their neighborhood or ride a bike. Maybe with the money and time working you save through lower energy bills, you start a garden.   

4.  Would you support and, if so,  what would your strategy be, to expand the Central Business district's  wet/dry recycling pilot project into the 9th district?

I support anything that increases the diversion rate of recyclable materials, promotes composting, lowers costs for individuals and businesses, and generally keeps things out of the landfill. According to the CBD’s Wet/Dry recycling website, the pilot program is only now beginning. It is a pilot program, and the practices and results of it need to be evaluated before it can be expanded. I feel this is only prudent. 

5.  Surveys show that people in Louisville are driving less and are using alternate modes of transportation.  

How would you advance these alternate modes of transportation?

I believe that walkable, cyclable, accessible neighborhoods are essential for building communities as well as fostering the strong local businesses that often make our neighborhoods worth living in. I would seek to make all of District 9 as accessible as my neighborhood of Clifton, and to build on that accessibility. I also think that we must increase our TARC ridership, for many reasons, but not least to signal our investment and readiness for better transit options in our city. 

I think I made it pretty clear in my remarks above, and at the Frankfort Avenue Business Association forum, that I support increased TARC ridership, as well as walkable and cyclable neighborhoods.

I think that increased ridership is the only way to demonstrate that we are ready for better mass transit solutions in our city. This being said, I would like to see more bus shelters, with greater information available at them. The city presently includes GPS trackers on their buses, and is in the process of making this information available to bus tracking apps. This summer TARC will begin using tap-to-pay smart cards to eventually replace bus passes. Is it so hard to imagine a bus shelter that allows you to tap to pay before boarding the bus, that tells you when the next bus is coming, and about other intersecting bus routes. Maybe even a bus shelter that uses this information to run more efficiently and tailor service both that day and over the long term. Once again, though, nothing like this happens without people invested in the system and advocating from within. 

I would like to see more police officers on bicycles, especially in my neighborhood of Clifton. I think these officers could set an example to other cyclists as to how to behave, as well as making drivers more aware of cyclists and how to interact with them as traffic on our streets. There would be a public safety element as well. This district has plenty of alleys and discontinuous streets that anyone would be reluctant to push a Ford Crown Victoria down. Officers on bicycles though, would be better able to negotiate these spaces. I think that outside of their cruiser, police officers would be better able to interact with their community, and their community would feel much safer simply by this. 

6.  Are you aware of, and have you participated in, the Green Triangle website?

 Can we, the Green Triangle and the district, count on you to support the community's efforts?  

How would you entice your constituency to increase the efforts of sustainability in the 9th district? 

I am aware of the Green Triangle website, some of the programs that have been a part of it as well as the valuable data it has collected. I am under the impression that the Green Triangle’s activities are being rolled in to the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability and the Louisville Sustainability Council. I think this represents the next logical step, to take these efforts wider in the community, and to foster the deeper public/private connections that will be needed to build a truly sustainable community. 

I think I have outlined above my support for sustainability, and my intention to focus on things that can provide real tangible benefits to people and to businesses. It is then my intention to use these tangible benefits as the thin end of the wedge, to pursue green initiatives and practices that are also needed but may not provide as much tangible benefit to the individual. I would do everything I can to make sure man’s economy moves in concert with the great economy, and to see sustainability as a tool for making our district and city not only richer and better, but simply Livable for us all. 

Don't let our actions be dictated by fear.

I apologize, it has taken me a few days to unpack the events of this past weekend. As someone seeking office, I don’t want my voice to add to the distracting noise, or for anyone to feel like I am taking advantage of anyone else’s tragedy. But this is one Louisville, and one community, of which I am a member. 

 

I feel for the victim’s of this weekend’s violence. No one should be subjected to violence, ever, and community is hard to foster when people feel unsafe. I thank those victims who have come forward for their courage, I thank those who tried to intervene, and I thank everyone working to find out more facts about what happened. The people who were attacked have a lot of healing to do, both physically and emotionally. The police have a lot of work ahead of them, identifying the individuals responsible for each act, and making the public feel that our city is safe. 

 

So what about the rest of us? This situation reminds me of a woman I met on Bellaire Avenue. She described how someone had broken in to her home, which made her feel unsafe and violated. She told me that the burglar took her X Box, of course, but that they also took her bologna. In the same breath that she talked about her personal pain and losses, she began speaking to her concern for her neighborhood, and how that one small detail made her concerned about deeper causes for the bad things that happen in her community, and how she can help.

 

I can’t imagine what the victims of the violence Saturday night are going through. My heart is with them, and I hope that we, as a community, give them all the help that they need. As for the rest of us, I think that we are like that woman on Bellaire. We feel hurt and violated. Beyond immediate reactions, we need to think about what we can do to eliminate violence in our communities, to empower those who can intervene before violence occurs, and to make sure that all our city’s young people have as many positive individuals and influences in their lives as they can. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kentuckiana is always looking for Bigs. Right Turn Louisville is a program of KentuckianaWorks that provides positive mentors to juvenile offenders, maybe the people in most need of this kind of intervention. Look to your local churches, ministries, and civic groups to ask what more you could do to create a community where something like this cannot happen.   

 

Don’t let our actions be dictated by fear. Creating a community where these things can’t happen is a bigger job than enforcing a space where these things don’t happen.

Forums this week!

I'll be at the Mellwood Arts Center Tuesday at 7 for a candidate forum, hosted by the Clifton Heights Community Council. Meet the candidates, listen to us speak, and submit questions!

Wednesday I will be at the Clifton Center at 6 for a meeting hosted by the Frankfort Avenue Business Association. Each candidate will speak, followed by a meet-n-greet.

Both are open to everyone. I look forward to seeing some faces I've canvassed over the last few weeks.

Look out!

Sorry not to post too much over the last few days. We have been doing a lot of organizing to prepare for the next 77 days. 

I sent out our first volunteer email. If you should have received one, contact me and I will add you to the list.

Your support is vital to making a Livable Louisville for everyone. I'm inspired by the support so far in terms of volunteers and donations! We will continue to need your help, in hours worked and people reached, in dollars, and in kind words said to those you love. 

Be on the look out for some exciting things in the next couple of weeks, I can't wait to come to your door and share them with you!

A Livable Louisville, For Everyone

I want to make a livable Louisville for everyone.  I believe the community can come together to make changes that will benefit everyone in Louisville, and that we can only progress as a community when everyone in the community has these basic assurances:

Safe, Affordable Housing

Everyone deserves a home. One in a safe neighborhood, and one that isn't constantly threatened by high rents and low wages. 

Opportunity

Everyone deserves the same basic opportunities: to get a good education, to work at a good job for a fair wage, to marry the person they love. 

Fairness

Everyone deserves to live and act in their community without fear of prejudice, discrimination, or persecution. 

Good Health

Everyone deserves the chance to lead a healthy life: to be born as healthy as they can be, to grow up and live in a neighborhood that makes healthy choices easy, and to live in a community that offers the chance to be better. 

As your neighbor, I promise to do everything I can to make these things happen. As your council person, I promise to do the same. 

Read my response to a Sierra Club questionnaire; TLDR, a healthy Louisville = a healthy environment

Joan-

I apologize for being late with my response to your questionnaire. I hope you will still consider my responses to your inquiries.

1. How would you promote rapid adoption of renewable energy generation and effective efficiency programs by our electric utilities?

In each individual neighborhood, I would promote the purchase of renewable energy credits from our utility companies, as well as encouraging energy audits and the installation of smart utility meters. This will give energy consumers the information they need to make changes to their homes and habits to reduce their energy usage. 

I would promote each junk pick up with an emphasis of getting old inefficient secondary appliances out of homes and appropriately disposed of. I'm thinking here of old garage refrigerators, little used freezers, old CRT televisions. 

I would push to enact higher efficiency standards for all new buildings constructed by metro government, as well as using existing metro buildings to demonstrate new efficiency techniques before applying them to other structures.

2. What is your position on initiatives to promote infill and redevelopment of urban communities and what specific steps would you take to address suburban sprawl.

Affordable housing in Louisville is a real problem. As a metro council member, I would work to strengthen the relationship between metro government and organizations like the New Directions Housing Corporation and the Fuller Center for Housing to create more safe and affordable housing, make vibrant and diverse neighborhoods, and to foster home ownership in all of Louisville's communities. 

As for sprawl, I would seek zoning regulations that require contiguous neighborhood development. Builders must clearly demonstrate how new developments would encourage and support use of Louisville's mass transit system as well as walking and cycling, and how new developments would interface openly with surrounding streets and neighborhoods while mitigating negative effects on traffic. I would also seek zoning changes to promote a minimum population density in new development, multi-family dwellings, and vibrant combinations of residential and commercial structures.

3. What kinds of public transportation do you think would be practical and useful, and how will you work to bring these systems into being?

Too much time and energy has been wasted on trying to bring light rail to Louisville. Instead, I would follow the example of other cities that have tried to make their buses run more like trains. This would include creating dedicated lanes and providing traffic light priority for buses, building more bus shelters, and using pre-boarding payment systems for fares. TARC's adoption of smartcards is a great step in the right direction. I would work with employers to create incentives for their employees to use public transit and incorporate their feedback. 

I would work to diversify TARC's funding sources, so that in the case of an economic downturn, they are not forced to reduce services just as those services become more vital.  

I would support the conversion of the bus fleet to hybrid electric vehicles, with customer focused amenities like bike racks and wifi, and I will seek consumer input on what will make them more likely to use TARC services.

Overall, Louisville needs mass transit that is speedy, affordable, efficient, and focused on the rider as a consumer of a service. 

I would also like to examine programs like New York City's Vision Zero initiative, which seeks to eliminate pedestrian deaths in the city. 

4. What do you anticipate will be the three most important environmental issues that you will face if elected, and what actions would you take to address them?

1. How the built environment of Louisville impacts public health. 

This is a broad one, I know. This includes everything from toxic industries located close to residential areas to fragmented and inconsistent development leading to people leading more sedentary lives. Every change we can make to make Louisville's built environment serve public health and minimize it's negative impact will be a change that will also benefit the environment at large. 

2. What part Louisville can play in leading the country away from dependence on fossil fuels.

Louisville's presence in a coal producing state does not require the city to unquestioningly support the use of coal for energy production. This presents an opportunity for Louisville to demonstrate leadership among similar sized cities, to show that it is possible and beneficial for a city to increase efficiency and diversify and decentralize our sources of energy production. 

3. How to best educate the citizens of Louisville on how to make the best choices for the environment, and how to align the choices provided so that the choice that is best for the environment is also the best for the individual, their family, and their community.

It is our responsibility as leaders of Louisville to help educate our citizens and trust in them to make the best decision. It is also our responsibility to advocate effectively, and to make sure that we work to provide choices and opportunities that align as described above. 

 

Thank you!