But everything changed for Fischer that March. He felt the pandemic personally — his wife was one of the first people in Louisville diagnosed with covid-19 and was hospitalized before recovering. That same month, the city’s police, as part of a drug probe, burst into 26-year-old Breonna Taylor’s apartment after midnight, believing that a person under investigation was having packages shipped to her home. Not knowing who was entering, Taylor’s boyfriend fired a shot and hit one of the officers, leading the officers to fire back, killing Taylor, who was not under investigation.
“It was unusual in that it was a female involved,” Fischer told me during an interview in his office last week, describing his initial reaction when the police chief told him of the killing that would come to define his tenure.
Louisville activists led protests of Taylor’s killing, and those demonstrations grew dramatically after George Floyd’s murder with residents joining a national and international movement condemning police violence and systemic racism.
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“What I saw from that was a justified response from our citizens toward general injustice and specific issues that were happening in our time, the time of 2020, that brought all of this to a boil,“ Fischer said. “For us then, it’s like ‘Okay, how do you manage through what really is an unprecedented collision of events?’ ”
A community united — in opposition to the mayor
All of this created deep dissatisfaction with Fischer. Police and many Republicans in the city said the mayor was being too lenient on protesters and creating a climate of lawlessness. Business leaders said the protests were keeping people from going downtown and hurting the city’s economy, already reeling from covid-19. Protesters said that Fischer had condoned a culture of overly aggressive policing. Black leaders, including some who had previously aligned with Fischer, said that he had long ignored racial disparities in the city. They all agreed that Fischer was not leading the city effectively at a tense time. In a 22-to-4 vote, the city’s heavily Democratic council approved a no-confidence resolution blasting him.
“What Louisville was hungry for was leadership that went out and was with the community and acknowledged the pain and acknowledged the problem not in an intellectual way but in an emotional way,” said Cassie Chambers Armstrong, who joined the City Council this year.
Here, many of the problems of the past two years have been cast as shortcomings of Fischer and his leadership style. But because of his post with the national mayors group, Fischer knew his struggles were not unique. Activists in New York City were furious that Mayor Bill de Blasio, who had won his initial campaign by pleading to rein in police, did little as the cops at times roughed up protesters. Atlanta’s Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, considered a rising star in Democratic politics, opted not to run for a second term this year amid tensions between her and the city’s police. Minneapolis’s Jacob Frey did run for reelection, but had to overcome an aggressive effort from fellow Democrats to oust him. Big cities throughout the country are beset with high homicide rates and reduced downtown activity after the pandemic.
“We had our own support group,” Fischer said, referring to his conversations the past two years with other mayors.
‘Equity’ or the status quo?
Being a mayor has always been challenging, of course. But it’s perhaps more challenging than ever in this era.
The Democratic Party has moved to the left on just about every issue. Most Democratic elected officials (state legislators, members of Congress, etc.) can cheer on the latest progressive slogan without worrying about how to implement it. But the majority (64 of 100) of the nation’s largest cities are run by Democrats. So these mayors are tasked with achieving racial equity, keeping crime rates down while making sure police don’t abuse people, treating the homeless humanely while getting suburbanites to come downtown, and attracting new businesses and residents to their cities without gentrification that displaces those already there. And in red states such as Kentucky, they also face state-level GOP politicians who work to blunt or subvert the mayor’s initiatives.
“So much has been devolved down to them. There is nothing that doesn’t fall on the feet of the mayor,” said Amy Liu, who runs the metropolitan policy program at the Brookings Institution. “They have to try to solve a lot of structural challenges.”
Fischer is a 63-year-old White man, but he was very aware of the history of redlining and other discrimination against Black people in Louisville before Taylor’s death. In 2019, he launched an initiative called “Lean Into Louisville” — a series of events designed to highlight the city’s racial disparities and get White residents in particular invested in addressing them. “I knew almost all of the protesters,” the mayor said, referring to his long-standing relationships with some of the activists who ended up criticizing him.
But actually fixing these issues, at least in the short term, was too much for Fischer — and probably would have been for anyone else, too. The police department in Louisville, like their counterparts in other cities, are effectively their own power center, too aggressive and punitive toward Black people and deeply resistant to scrutiny and accountability. That made a killing like that of Taylor and the resulting friction between the police and the community almost inevitable. The protests brought attention to the racial inequality in virtually every realm of life in Louisville — issues present in cities everywhere and ones that require money and political support to address that are present virtually nowhere.
“Even before George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, ‘equity’ was a huge buzzword for mayors. It was quite clear that the growth in cities was not equally shared,” said Governing Magazine’s Alan Greenblatt. “Did anyone have a good solution? Not that I heard.”
That said, the front-runner to be Louisville’s next mayor is Craig Greenberg, a middle-aged White Democratic businessman who has long been part of the city’s political establishment.
In other words, Louisville is frustrated with Fischer, but may choose a Fischer-like mayor to succeed him. Many other cities are also either sticking with incumbent mayors or settling on establishment replacements. That’s in part due to the lack of other strong candidates — many up-and-coming figures among Louisville Democrats didn’t run because they understand how hard the job actually is.
But there is also a lack of clarity and agreement about what exactly people in Louisville (and other cities) want from their mayor. It is hard to satisfy both the police and activists who are inherently skeptical of them, both advocates of the homeless and people who want downtown cleared of homeless people, both big corporations and people who are wary of big corporations. Our urban status quo isn’t working but that’s in part because there isn’t agreement on how it should change.
“All that being said,” Fischer said, referring to the challenges he and other mayors have faced, “I didn’t lose my daughter. Breonna Taylor should not be dead.”
“Out of this tragedy, we’ve got to make something good happen,” Fischer added. “And that really will be the reckoning question for my time in office … in our city, in our country.”
Something strange happening in Canadian politics – The Hill Times
CHELSEA, QUE.—Something strange has been happening in Canadian politics since the Trump contagion to the south. Voters elect a mostly reasonable, often affable, Member of Parliament only to discover, as they watch their MP climb the leadership ladder, that they are not so reasonable, not so affable after all. That, in fact, some are drifting rapidly from the centre to the fringe, even to tinfoil-hat territory.
It is evident, most recently, with Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, whose public appearances—tweets, videos, press conferences—have taken on an almost manic tone. One 40-second video has him bouncing around in front of the Parliament Buildings in -23 weather—“-37 in Yellowknife!”—accusing Liberal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault of threatening to shut down Canada’s energy sector in 18 months, leaving us all freezing in the dark.
First, Guilbeault could never achieve such a coup even if he tried. Governments move too slowly. Second, even the most ardent environmentalists acknowledge that renewables are not ready to replace fossil fuels that quickly. But, more important, OToole’s claim is not true—and he knew when he said it that it wasn’t true, as The Toronto Star’s Althia Raj underscores in a recent column.
What Guilbeault has vowed to do—elaborating on an international commitment first endorsed by Stephen Harper in 2009—is end federal subsidies to fossil fuel companies by 2023. It’s a tall order, but it is no sneak attack: it was promised in the Liberals’ election campaign and now, at last, they are preparing to deliver. In an interview with The Narwhal, Guilbeault mentioned “eliminating fossil fuels” in a list of his government’s ambitions, an obvious error (he had spoken previously of eliminating fossil fuel *subsidies*.)
As Raj reports, O’Toole publicly acknowledged the minister “made a mistake” in a Zoom presentation, before an unusually animated O’Toole made his video, distorting Guilbeault’s intention. The Conservative leader apparently doesn’t care, because that is the way politics works these days. Hysterical exaggerations, often flatly untrue, advanced without a shred of shame or remorse.
Consider the Conservative leader’s recent condemnation of Justin Trudeau for “normalizing lockdowns” and single-handedly bungling the management of the pandemic, by failing to provide rapid tests and PPE. By now, everyone knows that lockdowns are determined by provinces and not by Ottawa— indeed, premiers are more inclined to ignore federal suggestions than embrace them.
As to rapid tests, some will recall stories a year ago of millions of rapid tests gathering dust in provincial storerooms, of premiers, like British Columbia’s John Horgan, reluctant to use them because they were seen to be not as reliable as lab-based PCR tests. In fact, as Trudeau underscored last week, his government has sourced 425 million rapid tests overall. Some 85 million were delivered to provinces before December, and the Omicron onslaught, and another 35 million last month. And, as O’Toole must surely know, another 140 million are arriving now and being distributed.
There have been, and still are, shortages in some provinces, but the problem can hardly be laid at the feet of the federal government—certainly, not entirely—as anyone following the news knows. But this distortion is of a piece with O’Toole’s incoherence on the pandemic.
He and his wife are both vaccinated, after an early bout of COVID, and he regularly urges everyone to get their shots. He supports mandatory vaccines for the Canadian Armed Forces—as a veteran and proud defender of the military—yet is ambiguous about his own caucus, playing with words to hide the fact that there are some vaccine resisters in the Conservative ranks.
He also took up the cause of long-haul truckers who were resisting mandatory vaccines to be imposed by the federal government this week. O’Toole claimed the requirement would disrupt crucial supply chains and called for rapid testing instead. Then, in a confusing climb-down, the government backed away from its vaccine deadline insisting that any unvaccinated Canadian drivers quarantine for several days before coming home. Unvaccinated American truckers will be turned back.
Vaccines, quarantines, rapid tests: any way this unfolds there will be (hopefully short-lived) supply chain disruptions and, ultimately, little daylight between O’Toole’s and Trudeau’s positions.
O’Toole also accuses the prime minister of characterizing all vaccine resisters as “racists” and worse, which is not what Trudeau said. In fact, he and O’Toole are in agreement that some who haven’t been vaccinated may be fearful, uninformed, or unable to manoeuvre the system. Trudeau’s target is the small minority of wilful resisters and protesters, with links to far-right movements who are also anti-immigrant, anti-feminist, and anti-government.
Yet O’Toole wants “reasonable accommodation” for all resisters and suggests frequent testing rather than vaccines—except, he must know the rapid tests are not as reliable when it comes to detecting Omicron. Meanwhile, the pandemic runs rampant, hospitals are overwhelmed and parents are worried sick for their school-age children.
To keep his ragged band of followers from splitting asunder, O’Toole—a formerly likeable, middle-of-the-road backbencher and junior minister in Harper’s government—is behaving like an unhinged bile-machine. It is particularly laughable when he accuses the prime minister of avoiding taking a stand on Quebec’s discriminatory Bill 21, of “attempting to play both sides” by leaving it to Quebecers to decide the issue, rather than forcefully defending the bill’s victims, notably Muslim women schoolteachers. Laughable, because that is exactly what O’Toole has been doing.
The brilliant political cartoonist, Michael de Adder, summed up public reaction to this new, hyperactive O’Toole with a depiction of a giant hand, labelled Public Opinion, flicking a tiny O’Toole away like an annoying fly.
For all that, O’Toole is a model of reserve compared to Maxime Bernier. Old-timers (guilty) remember Bernier as a dapper, friendly urban sophisticate with libertarian economic views—hence the sobriquet, Mad Max. However, he was thought to be socially liberal and displayed no overtly anti-immigrant, or social conservative views as a member of Harper’s cabinet.
That was then. Bernier, of course, has become a vehement anti-vaxxer, anti-masker, a critic of the immigration Quebec needs to fill jobs, and, since losing the leadership to O’Toole in 2019, a harsh critic of his former rival. He calls O’Toole #RedErin and “wet noodle” and vows NEVER to go back “to that morally and intellectually corrupt party.”
Bernier sees “fascists coming out from under rocks everywhere,” as he noted in a recent tweet, this one aimed at Alberta’s NDP health critic David Shepherd, who expressed cautious support for mandatory vaccines. He routinely calls Trudeau a fascist. The Toronto Star “is run by hateful fascists.” RCMP Chief Brenda Lucki is “gestapo” for asking Canadians to report suspicious internet activity.
Bernier also opposes the recently proposed Quebec tax on the unvaccinated— probably a trial balloon, rather than enforceable policy—and says Premier Francois Legault’s government “is responsible for the death of thousands of elderly Quebecers in nursing homes. Now it wants to force the unvaccinated to pay for its abysmal management of the pandemic.”
Bernier has his high-profile fans, including Dr. Jordan Peterson, the Canadian academic who made an international reputation opposing trans rights, or “radical trans ideology,” and taking on wokeism in all its manifestations. Peterson also likes Conservative finance critic, Pierre Poilievre, noting on Twitter last week: “It’s nice to see a politician with some courage. You should have run for the Conservative leadership, and maybe you could bring Max Bernier back on board. He has some spine, too.”
Poilievre was flattered by the vote of confidence from “an outstanding, world-renowned Canadian thinker.” When chided by Liberals for his praise of the discredited psychology professor, Poilievre replied, with typical subtlety: “There’s more brainpower in Dr. Peterson’s pinky finger than in all the bobbleheads in the Liberal caucus combined.”
So goes the debate within the new politics. (Rebel News Ezra Levant tweeted, after O’Toole posted a coded defence of “LIBERTY” last week, in a nod to anti-vaxxers: “You weird liar.”) It is steeped in vitriol, fuelled by resentment and untethered from facts. As Alberta Premier Jason Kenney once famously said of Trudeau, it has “the intellectual depth of a finger bowl.”
But it is dangerous and corrosive, nonetheless. Bernier is able to muster large crowds in downtown Montreal on a frigid January day. His People’s Party of Canada (PPC) is gaining strength in Alberta and Saskatchewan. As for Poilievre—shrewd, ambitious, coldly calculating, a master of the personal smear—he could well replace O’Toole when the time is right.
Many voters would not want these harsh, angry men—no matter their politics—sitting on the local school board, never mind running the country.
But there is no telling what will happen if Trudeau stumbles—as he inevitably will; as all long-serving prime ministers do.
O’Toole may look benign in retrospect.
Susan Riley is a veteran political columnist who writes regularly for The Hill Times.
The Hill Times
Poroshenko, Former President, Returns to Ukraine, Roiling Politics – The New York Times
Petro O. Poroshenko, a former president, returned to Kyiv on Monday facing possible arrest, adding internal political turmoil to a threat of Russian invasion.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s former president and a leading opposition figure, Petro O. Poroshenko, returned Monday to Kyiv, where he faced possible arrest, adding internal political turmoil to the mounting threat of a Russian invasion.
Mr. Poroshenko’s return brought into focus Ukraine’s wobbly politics, which were mostly in the background in recent weeks as the United States and its allies in Europe scrambled to forestall Russian military intervention.
He arrived Monday morning at Kyiv’s Zhuliani airport, where a scene erupted at passport control. Mr. Poroshenko said border guards for some time refused to allow him to enter the country, though he was due to appear at a court hearing later in the day in Kyiv. He later passed the border control but said authorities had confiscated his passport.
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has been embroiled in a long-running feud with Mr. Poroshenko, who was president from 2014 to 2019. Mr. Poroshenko faces a court hearing late Monday morning on charges of high treason and supporting terrorism.
His appearance in the capital where he once governed comes after a week of mostly futile negotiations between Russia and the West seeking a solution to tense disagreements over the security of Eastern Europe.
In Kyiv, opinions differed on whether the threat of an arrest was just another maneuver in Ukraine’s typically byzantine politics at home, or something more ominous related to the Russian threat.
Analysts suggested that Mr. Zelensky might be seizing on the distraction of the Russian military buildup on the Ukrainian border to sideline an opponent, or that he hoped to tamp down possible opposition protests if he is forced to make unpopular concessions to Moscow to avoid an invasion.
“Maybe he thinks that with forces on the border, Ukrainians won’t protest” an arrest of the opposition leader, said Volodymyr Yermolenko, editor in chief of Ukraine World, a journal covering politics. If so, he said, it is a risky move.
“With the situation on the border, when everybody is yelling, ‘There will be a war,’ it’s very strange,” Mr. Yermolenko said of the spectacle of Ukraine’s two leading politicians squabbling despite the existential threat to their country. “It just seems ridiculous.”
Polls have consistently shown Mr. Zelensky and Mr. Poroshenko to be Ukraine’s most popular politicians. Mr. Poroshenko has a base of support in Ukrainian nationalist politics, particularly in the country’s western regions, which want closer ties with Europe, and he has criticized Mr. Zelensky for giving ground in peace negotiations with Russia to resolve the war in eastern Ukraine.
Mr. Poroshenko left Ukraine last month, saying he had meetings in Europe. Prosecutors say he left to avoid a court hearing.
Mr. Zelensky’s aides have said that the charges against Mr. Poroshenko are justified and that courts decided the timing of the arrest and other actions, including the freezing of Mr. Poroshenko’s assets earlier this month.
The former president was accused of missing a court hearing last month while traveling abroad. He returned to Ukraine on Monday despite reports in the Ukrainian news media that a court had issued a sealed order for his arrest.
Mr. Poroshenko left the presidency in 2019, when he lost an election to Mr. Zelensky, a former comedian who ran as an outsider to politics who would fight corruption and uproot the entrenched interests of Ukraine’s political class. Mr. Zelensky’s popularity has since slumped. Opinion polls today show only a slight advantage in a potential future election against Mr. Poroshenko, who is now a member of Parliament in the European Solidarity party.
In an interview before his return to Ukraine, Mr. Poroshenko said that his arrest might help Mr. Zelensky sideline a rival but that the political instability would play into the hands of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
“He wants to undermine the stability in Ukraine,” Mr. Poroshenko said of Mr. Putin. “He analyzes two versions: One version is a military aggression through the Ukrainian-Russian or Ukrainian-Belarusian border. The second is just to undermine the stability inside Ukraine, and in this way just stop Ukraine from our future membership in NATO and in the E.U.”
Understand the Escalating Tensions Over Ukraine
Mr. Poroshenko offered no evidence of a Russian hand in the political turmoil and described internal Ukrainian feuds as the most likely cause of the legal pressure he faced. But he said Mr. Zelensky might hope to win concessions from Russia by arresting a politician aligned with the nationalist wing of Ukrainian politics.
“I am absolutely confident this is a very important gift to Putin,” Mr. Poroshenko said. “Maybe with this gift he wanted to launch a negotiation with Putin, as a precondition.”
After massing tens of thousands of soldiers on Ukraine’s border through the fall, Russia demanded last month that the United States and NATO pull back forces from countries in Eastern Europe and guarantee that Ukraine not join the Western alliance.
Diplomatic talks last week with Russia ended inconclusively, and Russian officials now say they are awaiting a written response to their demands from the United States.
As a contingency, in case diplomacy fails, Ukraine has also been quietly pursuing talks with Russia and proposed a bilateral meeting between Mr. Zelensky and Mr. Putin. On Friday, the Ukrainian presidential chief of staff, Andri Yermak, suggested a three-way video conference with the Russian and Ukrainian leaders and President Biden.
Mr. Poroshenko’s controversial return was not the first sign of political turmoil. In November, just as Russia was ramping up its deployments along the border, Mr. Zelensky told journalists that Russia was also planning a coup.
He said Russian operatives were seeking to draw one of Ukraine’s wealthy businessmen, Rinat Akhmetov, into a plot against his government. The businessman was “being dragged into a war against the Ukrainian state,” Mr. Zelensky said, but he provided no evidence and made no move to arrest Mr. Akhmetov.
Mr. Akhmetov vehemently denied any involvement in a plot to undermine Mr. Zelensky’s government.
New documents show census officials concerned about political interference from Trump's Commerce Department – CNN
(CNN)Newly released documents appear to show top career officials at the Census Bureau had drafted a memo of concerns during the Trump administration’s attempts to exert political pressure on the bureau during the 2020 population count.
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