Posts tagged Network Center for Community Change
Working to Redesign MSD's Logan CSO Interceptor Project in Smoketown

Smoketown’s efforts to advocate for a change in the basin design of the Logan CSO Interceptor Project took major steps forward last week. For the Smoketown community, this is a crucial issue of environmental, racial, and economic justice. At stake is whether the community will be blighted by a structure covering a city block built by MSD or whether MSD will bury its facility and provide much-needed greenspace to the Smoketown community above its facility.  

To recap: the Logan CSO Interceptor is one of a dozen basins Metropolitan Sewer District is constructing around Louisville to capture Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) during heavy rain events. These basins are part of MSD’s effort to comply with a consent decree it entered into with the EPA to reduce pollution of the Ohio River. At every other site where it is environmentally feasible to bury the basin below ground, MSD is doing just that. However, MSD designed the Smoketown basin first and—by its own admission—failed to do the outreach necessary to get community input and engagement in Smoketown and designed the Smoketown facility as a block-long, windowless brick structure. This, instead of the greenspace being provided to other neighborhoods above the CSO facilities. For more information on the history of the project and the design, you can read the Smoketown community’s letter to MSD it delivered last week, copied in full below. 

Now to recent events: MSD scheduled a meeting last Wednesday to design the facade of the block-long building. At that meeting, Rev. Bruce Williams of Bates Memorial Baptist Church spoke for ten minutes about the history of the project and why he would refuse to participate in the design of the facade. It was a remarkable statement on behalf of the neighborhood and, following his remarks, over a hundred people walked out of the meeting. As Rev. Williams’s said, this building is an insult to Smoketown and “you cannot decorate an insult”. Here is the video of Rev. Williams’s speech: 

Led by Rev. Williams, residents, business owners, advocates, and allies met the following day. From that meeting, we have written a letter to MSD inviting its Executive Director and Board to another community meeting to “outline a process going forward in which MSD and the Smoketown neighborhood can work together to ensure that the Logan CSO Interceptor Project is a) completed in a timely manner and b) constructed in a way that treats the Smoketown neighborhood with the same respect and dignity provided to the other neighborhoods in which you are constructing CSO projects”.

It is our hope that from Wednesday’s meeting, MSD leadership will commit to redesign the Logan CSO Interceptor Project now, before it is too late. 

So, what can you do to help Smoketown get the same treatment as other communities?

  1. Come to the community meeting on Wednesday, March 24 at 6 p.m. at Bates Memorial Baptist Church (620 E. Lampton Street)
  2. Sign the petition at This is a website we have set up to advocate for equal treatment of Smoketown by MSD. 
  3. Like the Smoketown Voice Facebook Page:
  4. Help share the petition and the Facebook page on your social media networks!

Here is the full letter to MSD: 

March 18, 2016

Re: Upcoming community meeting for Logan CSO Interceptor Project; March 23 at 6 p.m. 

Dear Executive Director Parrott and the MSD Board, 

We are writing today on behalf of ourselves, our congregations, our members, our businesses, and our neighbors in the Smoketown neighborhood. We would like to invite you to a community meeting at Bates Memorial Baptist Church on March 23 at 6 p.m. At this meeting we hope to discuss with you our vision for the Logan CSO Interceptor Project and outline a process going forward in which MSD and the Smoketown neighborhood can work together to ensure that the Logan CSO Interceptor Project is a) completed in a timely manner and b) constructed in a way that treats the Smoketown neighborhood with the same respect and dignity provided to the other neighborhoods in which you are constructing CSO projects. 

It is our hope that after this meeting you will commit to: 

  1. seek approval of a resolution at your March 28th Board Meeting to amend the design of the Logan CSO Project to construct an at‑grade facility, and 
  2. meet with our community again on March 31 to create a process with timelines to provide the community an opportunity to comment on and participate in the approval of preliminary designs of an at-grade basin and engage in the design of the land above the facility for the mutual benefit of MSD and the Smoketown neighborhood. 

While for MSD the Logan CSO Interceptor Project may only be one step in complying with the Consent Decree it entered into with the Environmental Protection Agency, for us, this is an issue of environmental justice, of racial justice, and economic justice. You plan to build a windowless, block-long building in our community while planning to buildunderground structures in other communities around Louisville in which it is environmentally feasible and to provide those communities with much-needed green space above the structure. 

The disparity in your plans for Smoketown and other Louisville neighborhoods is unjust and unacceptable. It is not too late to make it right and we want to work with you in that effort. 

How we got here

At a community meeting on November 16 at Coke Memorial Baptist Church, Smoketown residents, businesspeople, and allies gathered to hear from MSD’s Executive Director Tony Parrott. Mr. Parrott, responding to the dissatisfaction from Smoketown residents, admitted that the Logan project "did not have a good rollout" and lacked "community engagement". The Logan CSO Interceptor was the the first of the twelve CSO structures to be designed and built, Mr. Parrott explained, and he apologized for not developing good partnerships with Louisville Metro and for failing to get community input at the outset on the design of the building. 

During the course of the meeting, we learned that after receiving input from other neighborhoods on their CSO Interceptor projects, MSD decided to bury each of the other 11 structures at grade. It was clear from the comments made by neighbors at the Smoketown meeting that an at-grade structure was their preferred design, as well. MSD had studied the possibility of doing this for the Logan CSO Interceptor project and determined that burying the facility at grade would have cost an additional $4,000,000. 

As a concession to the neighborhood, MSD offered the Smoketown community the opportunity to weigh in on the design of the facade of the building. MSD explained that it would agree to allow the community to spend $700,000 that was previously budgeted for bricks on some alternative facade of which the community approves. 

On January 28, 2016, community members met with De Leon & Primmer, the architects hired by MSD to revise MSD’s plans for the Logan CSO Project. The overwhelming consensus at that meeting (like at the November 2015 meeting) was that the community was not interested in having an above-grade building on the site. Instead, we submitted to MSD several visions for the green space above an at-grade facility. 

The community members hoped that MSD would review the plans generated at the January 28th meeting, recognize the injustice it was perpetrating in the Smoketown community, and amend its plans accordingly. 

That is not what happened. 

Instead, the next meeting MSD scheduled was the “Logan Street CSO Basin Facade Design Meeting” for this past Wednesday, March 16. At the meeting, the proposed agenda was to hear from Executive Director Parrott, review the design proposals for the facade as conceived by DeLeon and Primmer, and then break up into small groups to further discuss the architect’s proposals for the facade. In other words, the entire meeting was structured to preemptively reject this communities’ repeated demand for an at-grade facility, circumscribe the discussion to preclude the expression of any preference for an at-grade facility, and treat the construction of an above-grade facade as an inexorable truth.

We rejected those terms.

As Pastor Williams said, “It’s your mistake, but we have to live with it, and I can’t accept that.” Despite hearing clearly from this community that your plans are unacceptable, you are continuing to construct an unfair building that will blight our neighborhood and stand as an insult to the Smoketown people. The neighborhood of Smoketown agreed with Pastor Williams who said, “You cannot decorate an insult” and hundreds of neighbors, businesspeople, and allies walked out of that “facade design” meeting. A link to Pastor Williams’s full comments are available at This is a website we have created specifically to advocate for an at-grade basin at the Logan CSO Interceptor site. 

Wednesday’s meeting was not productive. We will not participate in decorating an insult. We hope you will meet with us this Wednesday to discuss how we can go forward together in a way that simultaneously honors both MSD’s commitments under the Consent Decree and the dignity and integrity of the Smoketown neighborhood.     

It’s not too late

During his comments at the March 16th meeting, Executive Director Parrott explained that the project was 35% complete and that “all of the blasting will be completed by the end of the month.” 

It is not too late to alter the design of the Logan CSO Interceptor Project to bring it in line with the other CSO basins you are building in other communities around Louisville. However, we understand that time is of the essence. That’s why we hope to meet with you on Wednesday. 

Will changing the design of the Logan CSO cost more money? Yes it will. From our perspective, this is a problem for MSD to solve, not the Smoketown community. Will changing the design require more workers and potentially increase the duration of the project? Almost certainly. This, again, is on MSD. MSD has already admitted that it did not do the proper community outreach and engagement in the Smoketown neighborhood when it designed this basin. MSD has admitted its process was flawed. That flawed process led to MSD to decide—without community input—to save $4,000,000 on the Logan CSO Interceptor. After it got input from other communities, it learned that its decision at the Logan site was wrong and invested in more expensive projects in the 11 other neighborhoods. Yet, MSD has not returned to Smoketown to fix its $4,000,000 mistake. 

Please join us

We want to work with MSD to make the Logan CSO Interceptor Project work for both MSD and the Smoketown neighborhood. Please join us at on March 23 at 6 p.m. at Bates Memorial Baptist Church. From there, we hope you will commit to seek board approval on a resolution to build an at-grade basin in Smoketown on March 28th. Then, on March 31st, we can meet again to chart our way forward so that the community can quickly approve preliminary and final plans for the revised project. We know you have work to do under the Consent Decree. We are committed to working with you to fix this project quickly. 

I hope it is clear from the community’s actions on Wednesday that we will not accept an above‑grade facility in Smoketown. Not when an at-grade facility is possible and while MSD is constructing at-grade facilities in other neighborhoods across Louisville. Because time is of the essence, we will need to see positive steps from MSD in the coming weeks that communicate clearly to this community that it has heard our voices and is going to change the design of the Logan CSO Interceptor Project. These positive steps include, at minimum,

  • attending our community meeting on March 23, 2016 at 6 p.m. at Bates Memorial Baptist Church (620 E. Lampton St.)
  • ratifying a resolution at your MSD board meeting on March 28th, 2016 to build an at-grade basin at the Logan CSO Interceptor site
  • attending our community meeting on March 31, 2016 at 6 p.m. at Bates Memorial Baptist Church (620 E. Lampton St.) to put a plan into place for ratification of design changes by the Smoketown community 

If we do not see these positive steps from MSD, we are preparing to insist on the design changes through direct action, political engagement, litigation, community education, protest, and activism. 

This is not our preferred path. We would prefer to work in concert with MSD and create a win‑win outcome for our neighborhood and MSD. Please call Bates Memorial Baptist Church(502-636-0523) and let us know if we can expect you at our community meeting next Wednesday. We look forward to welcoming you then and working with you during this redesign process. 


The Smoketown Neighborhood Association

Dr. F. Bruce Williams, Bates Memorial Baptist Church

Ben Carter, Ben Carter Law, PLLC 

Stephen Kertis, Kertis Creative

Louisville, Don't Miss this Party

The Network Center for Community Change's annual Chill 4 Change fundraiser is this Saturday at 7 p.m.


Louisville's most righteous nonprofit, The Network Center for Community Change, is having its annual "Chill 4 Change" fundraiser this Saturday night. Read more about NC3 and Chill 4 Change. 

If I were to follow convention, I would exhort you to attend or donate by referencing the awesome work NC3 does in Louisville around educational equity, workforce development, and family financial stability. I would explain that NC3 is a client of mine. They pay me to continue encouraging our elected officials to adopt policies to remedy the fallout from the ongoing foreclosure crisis.

But, I'm not conventional and neither is NC3. In an era defined by the contradiction—enormous wealth going to very few, unemployed college graduates, electronic connectedness supplanting connection IRL—NC3 combines an old-school commitment to bringing diverse communities of people together with a new-school approach to community organizing. I don't know of another organization doing work as interesting as NC3.

Am I biased? You bet. Am I wrong? Come to Chill 4 Change and find out for yourself. 

At Chill 4 Change, you'll meet the people behind Louisville's most daring nonprofit. They're not bad dancers, either, so wear comfortable shoes.

If you're ready to buy tickets, this is the link for you


Bonnie "Prince" Billy and Deli Radio

If you weren't at Bonnie "Prince" Billy's show last night to benefit the Network Center for Community Change, well, lo siento. 

But, if you don't want to miss great live music in Louisville (or anywhere), here is a radio station I made on my buddy Howie Cockrill's smoking-good website, Deli Radio, of all the bands coming to Louisville in the next two weeks.  Happy Monday. 

DeliRadio allows you to create custom playlists based on location and genre(s) to find live music where you live (or—and I use this a lot—where you're traveling to). WELCOME TO THE FUTURE.  

The Network Center for Community Change's use of data to advocate for change

Last night I had the opportunity to provide color commentary to a talk Michael Poindexter, researcher at NC3 and all-around dude, did for a group of MBA students at Sullivan University. Michael spoke about the Network's use of data to make the case for change here in Louisville and around Kentucky. 

As promised, here is the link to the presentation slides.  

Preparing for and giving this talk gave me a chance to reflect on the role data has played in my advocacy—inside and outside the courtroom—first at Legal Aid Society and now at BCL. As I told the students last night, nothing in my liberal arts or legal education instilled in me an appreciation of the importance of data. Nor did my time in school prepare me for the challenges of determining what data I should collect, how I should get my hands on that data, or how to evaluate the data once I captured it. In the 21st century, that I was able to spend seven years in higher education and not have one data analysis class is harrowing. "Data" should be a required class at all law schools. 

Hearing Michael talk also renewed my understanding of just how unique NC3 is as an organization. Here is a group of people who gather data—both quantitative and qualitative—from people and neighborhoods who have not had the political power to control what data is collected about themselves and their communities. NC3 then helps those same people find avenues to use that data to advocate for social and political change. I don't know of another organization like it. 

If you want to support the Network's work, you can buy a ticket to go see Bonny Prince Billy LIVE IN CONCERT on Saturday, August 4. Mr. Billy is a member of the Network and is playing a show at the Kentucky Center to benefit NC3. Or, you can straight-up donate.


Holy Lord, I started a law firm.

I have exciting news: Ben Carter Law PLLC is a thing that exists in the world. Today. 


While there are a number of heartening things about starting my own firm, perhaps the best is that I now count myself as a member of the elite class of “job creators” that make America great.

My job at Ben Carter Law PLLC? I built that.

I want to tell you what I’m going to be working on because I think some of it is very exciting:

  • I’m going to continue working for the Network Center for Community Change, advising them on issues surrounding foreclosure and vacant and abandoned property. I’ll be training Kentucky attorneys to defend homeowners facing foreclosure and lobbying in Frankfort to give local communities the 21st–century tools they need to address the growing number of vacant, abandoned, and blighted homes.
  • I will represent creative professionals: web designers, app developers, photographers, videographers, musicians, and graphic artists. These good people often don’t use lawyers and as a result don’t have contracts that help them have good conversations with their clients about deadlines, payment, and deliverables or protect them when things occasionally go south.
  • I am going to continue representing people who have been injured by someone else’s negligence, whether that someone else is a negligent driver, lawyer, doctor, corporation, or property owner.
  • I’m going to continue representing consumers that have been duped and defrauded by the false, unfair, deceptive, or misleading acts and practices of unscrupulous businesses.
  • I want to help attorneys build beautiful, easy-to-maintain websites and not be idiots about technology. Many attorneys pay too much money for ugly, unusable sites.  Others don’t have sites at all. In 2012, it doesn’t have to be this way.
  • One of the things I am most excited about is a conference I’m organizing for 2013. The Commonwealth Justice Conferencewill be in Louisville from August 8–10. It’s for attorneys and laypeople in Kentucky who want to use the law and grassroots organizing to pursue impact litigation and legislative change to make Kentucky a better, safer, fairer place to be a worker, an immigrant, a homosexual, a voter, a kid, or a consumer. I’ll be launching a website and providing additional information about location, events, schwag, and speakers in the weeks and months ahead. Please sign up to receive email updates if you are interested in hearing more about Commonwealth Justice 2013.  

That’s it. This is the plan. You can get email updates from the firm, but only if you sign up for them

My phone number is (502) 509-3231 and email

You can be strange, but don’t be a stranger.


P.S. Since I last emailed you, I wrote a pretty good essay on typography that lawyers and other people who type on a computer should read.

P.P.S. You really should hop on the Commonwealth Justice train

Foreclosure Presentation: Loan Modifications and Foreclosure Mediation

The Network Center for Community Change pays me (yes, it is a great job) to train attorneys attorneys to defend homeowners facing foreclosure and work with courts to implement processes that ensure everyone is getting a fair shake during a foreclosure. This is a presentation from last fall at the Kentucky Bar Association's Kentucky Law Update in Covington, Kentucky in which I explain to attorneys how they can profitably incorporate foreclosure defense into their practice, how loan modifications work and don't work, and why the court system needs to change how it handles foreclosure proceedings. Somehow, I also talk about the Sausage of Justice.

Read more about the Network Center for Community Change:

If you would like for me to come to your area to give a talk, I'm available