Sunday, February 25, 2007

What He Did & Should Have Said

From the Kentucky Post:

The portable classrooms at Conner High School are reasonably warm. So is the main school building. Students dodging snowflakes while going to their next class? Not so warm.

Of the 4,560 times each school day a student goes to class in a portable classroom in the Boone County School District, 71 percent are at Conner. Some students go back and forth four times a day, on a rotating schedule. Several of the nine portable rooms are within a few yards of the school. The farthest is exactly 77 footsteps away, across a parking lot and up a ramp. "It's all right, but sometimes it gets kind of cold," sophomore Bryan Shirden said recently as he filed out of his Spanish II class in 28-degree weather. "They have heating, but it's not the best situation."

Three hours earlier, it was snowing. Shirden is one of 17,000 students in the district, by far the fastest-growing in Kentucky. Over the past half-decade, the district has consistently gained 700 to 800 students per year. Given projections based on residential building permits, it will again in August. Superintendent Bryan Blavatt and Conner Principal Michael Blevins liken the use of portable classrooms to a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound, expressing concern over security, safety and adequate education.

They also wonder if it's had an impact on students' rates of weather-related illness, though that's never been documented. Conner's attendance rate of 92 percent is below the district's other two high schools, Boone County and Ryle. A new chapter in this story began to unfold early this month, when the Kentucky General Assembly convened for a short session. Boone school officials hope lawmakers will reserve some of the projected $279 million budget surplus to help the district finance new construction, specifically two new elementary schools.

Gov. Ernie Fletcher told legislators he was looking into that issue but was otherwise non-committal, echoing comments he made to Blavatt and others at a Jan. 9 town-hall meeting at Northern Kentucky University. State Sen. Dick Roeding, a Lakeside Park Republican, said it isn't very likely Boone schools will see help from the surplus. "That would require opening up the budget," Roeding said, "so they're going to be very careful about doing that."

Blavatt's appeal to Fletcher at the NKU session included a half-inch-thick summary of Boone's building needs. "This is the biggest push for school facilities I've seen in the state," the governor responded. "I think it's something to look at."

Blavatt knows he's in line with a lot of other entities asking for money. Suggestions the governor heard on how to spend the surplus included a residential drug-treatment facility for adolescents in Northern Kentucky, billboards in high-crime areas of the state, a credit to nursing home residents, college tuition assistance, and a grant of about $1 million for a new center for victims of child and sexual abuse. "The thing I was trying to convey to the governor, and maybe the legislators," Blavatt said, "is they view Boone as a wealthy area, and to an extent it is, but it's also a cash cow for the rest of the state. And the cow's drying up."

Boone has already spent $215 million in the past 12 years to renovate and build schools, and is currently building a new high school at an estimated price tag of at least $45 million. Conner, off Limaburg Road in Hebron, had 1,050 students 10 years ago. Blevins said that, when the new school year begins in August, he expects to eclipse the 1,700-student mark. There have been three building expansions since Blevins arrived at Conner in 1980. He's been principal since 1996. The school has to use the trailers to make do. "They're a pain," Blevins said from his office at the end of a recent school day.

"Really," he said, "with all the school safety issues, I'm concerned about kids walking across the parking lot."

Blavatt worries about what students are carrying in their oversized winter coats. Blevins worries about how easy it would be for someone to "mingle in with the students" while they're going back and forth.

For comparison, another of the largest school districts in Northern Kentucky, Campbell County, has just two portable classrooms at Highland Heights. They will be eliminated when a new elementary school, Crossroads, opens in August in Cold Spring. Back at Conner, the classroom in which Shirden is taking Spanish II has its downsides. It's air-conditioned with window units. One window screen is ripped. Whenever a student needs to use the restroom, it involves going out.

It's functional, though. Desks are in orderly rows. Maps of Argentina and Mexico grace the walls. The dry-erase board is covered with words in Spanish. Special-education teacher Greg Wingate, who teaches in the other half of that trailer, says the one upside is that students aren't distracted by hallway noise. The more glaring downside is equally inescapable, though. "You have to go outside to go inside."

This situation is horrific. The Governor is “looking into it.”

Governor Fletcher’s response is unacceptable.

Governing is leadership. Governing is prioritizing. Education is critical. A Governor spouting platitudes is useless.

Upon being informed of Conner High School, Governor Fletcher should have acted. He should have committed funds. He should have announced Conner was a priority. However, he said nothing.

Governor Fletcher’s inaction is deplorable. He should be ashamed.

Anatomy of A Calamity

Everyone believes the vast McConnell wing conspiracy.

With that stated, Sabato’s analysis is correct. The persecution of Governor Fletcher is imagined. His intentions were pure. However, his hiring was illegal. Subsequent attacks were not partisan. They were a response to Fletcher’s incompetence.

Northup’s candidacy is ridiculous. Her lone talking point is “Fletcher cant win.” Supposedly, she is a product of Senator Mitch McConnell. Reality states she is a Congressional loser from a Republican district.

Neither should win this election. Given the nomination, neither will win.

By Larry Sabato, published on 2 paragraphs of many on the 3 2007 Governor races:

In Kentucky the only question is who is not running for Governor. The genesis of the large field is the deep trouble in which freshman GOP Governor Ernie Fletcher finds himself. Fletcher has been enormously weakened by a prolonged legal and political battle over his patronage hirings. No doubt, the pressure was great in 2003 to hire GOP office-seekers since Fletcher is the first Bluegrass State Republican Governor since Louie Nunn left office in 1971, but his handling of the matter has nearly destroyed his Governorship.

GOP stalwarts insist it is all partisan, a product of the ambitions of Democratic Attorney General Greg Stumbo (now running for lieutenant governor on a ticket in his party's primary). Whatever the truth of that, some of the revelations have been highly embarrassing to Fletcher, and his job approval and re-elect numbers are languishing in the 30s. Almost all Democrats and many key Republicans do not believe that he can be reelected in November.

Enter the Svengali of Kentucky GOP politics, U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell, who is not about to sit idly and watch the Republican house he has built since 1984 crumble. The Senate Minority Leader also comes up for reelection himself in 2008, and he doesn't want a Democratic Governor recruiting a strong candidate against him. Behind the scenes, McConnell and his allies have promised support to former Congresswoman Anne Northup, who was persuaded to run despite last November's defeat for reelection.

Northup had represented the Democratic Louisville area for ten years, managing to win close victories in a hostile environment until she was finally washed away in the Democratic wave of '06. Northup has already tied Fletcher in at least one survey conducted for her campaign, never a good sign for an incumbent. If her campaign is well run and generously financed, she has a decent chance to win in the May 22nd primary--though we note that Fletcher has started to effectively use the powers of incumbency in an attempt to hold on. He still has a mountain to climb.

Multimillionaire businessman Billy Harper, who led Fletcher's fundraising efforts in 2003, has also filed to challenge the Governor in the GOP primary. His main threat appears to be in forcing a costly runoff, which will occur if no candidate secures at least 40 percent in May--unless the legislature abolishes the run-off, which is a live possibility.

BGRS, Keeling Slam Governor

From Blue Grass, Red State:

Here's the part about Fletcher:


Gov. Ernie Fletcher's proposal to spend $200 milllion of a bogus $401 million "surplus" on a variety of initiatives was an all too obvious re-election campaign ploy. And his plan to blame lawmakers for denying Kentuckians these initiatives when they exercise the fiscal restraint he seems incapable of doing is another obvious ploy. But as usual with our Boy Governor and the worthy successors to his original Kiddie Korps, they were a bit shy on anticipating all the possible consequences of their plan. BG and his aides knew legislative leaders were not inclined to open up the budget for wholesale revisions in a non-budget year, particularly when the structural imbalance in the budget greatly exceeds the bogus "surplus."

But he went ahead with his fiscally foolish proposals anyway, thinking it put him in a win-win situation of taking credit if he got what he wanted or blaming lawmakers if his initiatives failed. But there was a third option he obviously didn't consider. A governor who makes all sorts of promises to the public that he can't get the legislature to go along with just looks weak. A weak governor who fires off angry letters and goes into rants at legislative receptions in response to the House exercising some fiscal prudence on the "Boni Bill" looks both weak and whiny. Those are two traits BG has down pat, but why would Kentucky voters want to re-elect a weak and whiny governor?

I'm glad Keeling is just crazy enough to put this out there. All the sensible Democrats are trying to support Fletcher so they can win in the November general.

Sarcasm duly noted. However, Fletcher is vulnerable and the stated point is correct.

Fletcher is the Democratic choice. Given his nomination, they will win.

Anne Northup Has A Health Plan?

This response from to a question to candidates regarding the importance of health care to Kentuckians: ANNE NORTHUP:

1. A healthier and better educated workforce is vital to individual success and the collective productiveness to make Kentucky competitive in the emergent world economy.

2. There are things Kentucky can do to provide more access to health care without adopting the single-pay system. Many European countries are moving away from the single-payer system in order to provide access to better health care. Tuition rates are too high and we must find ways to stop the upward spiral and, if possible, achieve reductions.

3. Government must provide adequate access to health care and insure its quality including preventative care and information to help individuals make healthier life choices. But personal responsibility must be an equal and vital component of making that system successful. ... We need creative efforts to make sure affordable health insurance choices are available so that low income workers who have access to private insurance have the help they need … . Keeping tuition rates affordable for more Kentuckians will take partnership between the higher education community and the state.

The higher education communities must contain costs and address the inefficiencies in their system ... . The state must make tuition assistance a priority for qualified Kentucky students who deserve and need financial help.

Anne Northup proposing policy? Incredible!

She has talking points? I am stunned. I was told the lone phrase at the campaign’s daily yell practice was “Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win.”

Pol Watchers Recognizes Steele’s Kentucky

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Steele's Kentucky (David Steele) says Gov. Ernie Fletcher's approach to economic development is like "standing on the beach, bailing out the ocean with a teaspoon."
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