LOUISVILLE, Ky. — For weeks, Louisville's mayoral candidates have detailed their plans to improve public safety. But during Friday's forum, the focus was largely on education and giving the city's youth the best chance to succeed.
Kentucky Youth Advocates hosted an hour-long discussion between Democrat Craig Greenberg and Republican Bill Dieruf, who answered questions on school safety, childcare and reducing the rates of students living through poverty and housing insecurity.
Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio was in attendance, and asked how each candidate would help him reverse the troubling trend.
"I appreciate that the school system feeds them and sends the [food] backpacks home, but one thing we are forgetting is they're not always in school. So, the very first thing we have to do is have the program continued during the summer," Dieruf said. "It's [already] there, but it's not financially sound."
Greenberg spoke about his commitment to help start and build 15,000 new affordable housing units in Louisville during his first term, if elected.
"So families can start to create generational wealth to improve neighborhoods and give students that safe and high-quality place to live and grow up," Greenberg said.
Both candidates guaranteed they'd work with school districts, including JCPS, to ensure safety.
Greenberg touted mental health professionals on site to help kids, while Dieruf promoted resource officers who get to know students well.
The candidates zeroed in on improving the home environment. They also stressed that teens finishing grade school need more guidance, to lead them to opportunities right after they graduate.
"There are so many other ways to have good paying career-path jobs to learn how to start a business, to learn how to code, to learn trade -- and we can do that by working with JCPS," Greenberg said.
Dieruf voiced his intentions to build off a successful JCPS model.
"Something like Evolve502 that has the benefit of scholarships for the kids and wraparound services for the kids," Dieruf said.
At the Speed Art Museum Friday, young adults got to address their concerns directly to the candidates.
"What steps will you take to effectively support youth to get them back on track?" asked a member from YouthBuild Louisville.
Dieruf focused on cutting off gang influence and connecting teens with mentors.
"We have to show the youth all the different ways they can go. We have to be able to work with the Black youth in the future to where they know they can be doctors, engineers, architects," Dieruf said.
Greenberg talked about community policing and re-opening more family centers and after-school programs.
"We need to take our summer workers programs that provide young adults with summer jobs, and make that a year-round program," Greenberg said. "So kids can have more opportunities to start earning wages, [and] learn what it's like to be in the workforce."
And as far as childcare deserts, Greenberg said he plans to create a department within the mayor's office specifically to make universal Pre-K happen in the city.
While Dieruf said he'd push state legislators to implement tax credits for the businesses themselves, to keep them open and make it easier to retain staff.
Make it easy to keep up-to-date with more stories like this. Download the WHAS11 News app now. For Apple or Android users.
Have a news tip? Email email@example.com, visit our Facebook page or Twitter feed.
Contact reporter Isaiah Kim-Martinez at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter (@isaiah_km) and Facebook.