Thursday, March 22, 2007

A.F.C.: Additional Fletcher Corruption

Bath County Judge-Executive Walter Bascom Shrout resigned his office Monday following a federal court order to do so. In a one-sentence letter to Gov. Ernie Fletcher, Shrout said his resignation was effective as of noon. "I sure am," Shrout said of resigning, in a telephone interview. "I have no choice."

Three Words For Kentucky…

From NKY Politics:

Received this as part of a campaign email from the Northup/Hoover gubernatorial campaign.

Survey USA shows Ernie Fletcher with 63% Disapproval rating Survey USA has released the results of a recent survey (click here for survey results) showing that with a little over two months to go before the primary election Ernie Fletcher now has a 32% job approval rating, while 63% of the people in Kentucky disapprove of the job he has done!

Among Republicans, Fletcher’s approval ratings are at a low for the year with a full 50% disapproving of the job he is doing (click here for survey results). It is time Kentucky Republicans make a change.

Everyone… Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win. Fletcher can’t win.

Will Fletcher Lead?

From the Kentucky Post:

A judge has ruled that Kenton County Fiscal Court violated open-meetings laws on two occasions when it met in closed session last year to discuss the purchase of a site for a new county jail. Kenton Circuit Judge Greg Bartlett isn't yet sure, though, if those violations are sufficient grounds to invalidate the county's purchase of the land.

Bartlett made the ruling at a hearing requested by Independence attorney Eric Deters, who is representing more than 200 residents in a lawsuit opposing the jail. Deters asked Bartlett to void the county's purchase of 25 acres just south of Pelly Road along the extension of Ky. 17 near the Independence border. Deters contends that, because the county violated open meetings laws on two occasions to discuss the site, the property's sale should be invalidated. Bartlett stopped short of that finding, but he did ask Deters and Kenton County Attorney Garry Edmondson, who is representing the fiscal court, to submit briefs on the matter within the next 10 days. "The only way you can interpret this is a huge victory for us," Deters said. "We hope the judge takes it a step further and voids the sale."

They have argued, bickered, quarreled, delayed construction, discussed alternative sites, and denied the opposing points. Now, they are committing illegal acts. This situation is absurd. Governor Fletcher must become involved.

Bunning & Northup: The Perfect Couple

From the Lexington Herald-Leader:

A plan endorsed by Gov. Ernie Fletcher and the state Senate to overhaul Kentucky's pension system would overburden the state's financial future, U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning said Tuesday. Bunning, Kentucky's junior senator and a Republican, criticized a plan pending in the General Assembly that calls for the state to sell about $800 million in pension bonds to give its financially troubled public retirement systems a cash infusion. "That won't work," Bunning said of the plan. "There's no way to pay the bonds off out of future income of the state."

Democrats and Republicans in the GOP-led state Senate approved the measure, aimed at boosting the system, which handles retirement benefits for state and county public employees and police and firefighters across Kentucky. The plan also seeks to put money into the retirement system for public school teachers. Under the proposal, future employees would no longer receive the traditional pensions enjoyed by current employees and retirees. Instead, they would have benefits more similar to private sector retirement offerings.

It is pending in the Democratic-controlled House, which agrees with selling the bonds, but not changes to employee benefits. House Speaker Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, said the proposal's long-term effects on state employees were still uncertain, and there was not enough time during this session to resolve those issues. "You need to know where you're going to land before you jump," said Richards, who is running for governor.

The "most prudent" thing for lawmakers to do this year is to "stop the bleeding" by selling the pension bonds, Richards said. Still, he acknowledged that could affect the amount of bonding lawmakers are able to authorize when crafting the budget again next year. "There would still be some capacity left, but we would be going toward the ceiling," Richards said.

Fletcher, who has said he supports the plan, has threatened to call the legislature into a special session to deal with pensions and possibly other issues. The legislature, which has only two working days left during this session, adjourned last week and is not scheduled to reconvene until Monday.

Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, has said the state stands to lose about $200 million this year if no changes are made. Within 15 years, the state could face annual pension payments of about $2 billion - a prospect that jeopardizes other government spending, Williams has said. Williams said he spoke with a member of Bunning's staff on Tuesday and did not believe the senator fully understood the issue. Bunning spokesman Mike Reynard could not immediately comment.

Obviously, Senator Bunning endorsed Anne Northup. He mirrors Northup’s campaign. Thousands of words, hundreds of “Fletcher can’t win,” and zero action or solutions.

Kentucky Pachyderm 2 Assails Anne

From many indications, things aren't going well in Annieland. Rumor has it that Northup is finding fundraising to be difficult. Her attacks on Gov. Fletcher aren't going over well at Lincoln Day dinners across the state. (We have heard from more than one source that at the Corbin dinner last weekend, one of her attack lines drew thunderous applause from the Fletcher contingent because what she thought was a weak point for Fletcher was actually a strong point.) And she still hasn't come up with much of a campaign message other than "Fletcher can't win in the fall so vote for me in the spring."

But one of the dumbest things Northup has said so far was reported last week in a central Kentucky weekly newspaper, the Citizen Voice & Times out of Estill County. Reporter Rhonda Smyth wrote a column published on March 15, chronicling her recent encounter with Northup. We'll let Ms. Smyth's column speak for itself, but there was one quote that was definitely attention-getting: "...I asked her why she didn’t come and speak with the other candidates at the Kentucky Press Association Convention in January. Her answer was 'I didn’t want to participate in a forum where I have to listen to what the Democrats have to say.'" How stupid a thing was that to say?

First of all, any Republican running in a statewide general election needs lots of votes from Democrats in order to win, unless a lot of Democrats just sit the election out. To dismiss the other party's concerns out of hand is a bit foolish, don'tcha think? But to top it off, if Northup is lucky enough to win the primary, she is going to have to face one of those Democrats in the fall. She will be participating in forums with the Democrat nominee at Fancy Farm, on KET debates and any number of other events. Wouldn't it pay to know what the Democrat nominee's strategy is? How do they approach the task of speaking to a group? What policy positions do they enumerate? What public speaking weaknesses do they show that can be exploited? There's a reason that basketball coaches scout their opponents.

We're sure the basketball coach at North Laurel feels like he's going into enemy territory if he watches a game at South Laurel, but he's observing his upcoming opponent and taking notes, even if the game he's watching is in December and the two teams won't play until February. Seems to us to be logical for Northup to do the same thing -- evaluate her opponents -- at every opportunity. For the record, Ms. Smyth admits she's a Democrat and predicts a Fletcher win in the primary, and she also notes that she personally found Northup's

"I have no ideas so I'll just attack Ernie" strategy somewhat off-putting. Her conclusion? "Big mistake for somebody who wants to serve all the people in BOTH parties as governor, don’t you think?" Ms. Smyth, we are in total agreement. Catalog this as a Stupid Northup Trick.

Education Fails… Twice

State Lags In Technology

Kentucky ranks 47th among U.S. states in its per-capita number of working scientists and engineers. That's the "good" news. The state ranks even worse - 49th - in the number of science and engineering degrees conferred by its universities. That must improve, or, as the technology-driven global economy continues to emerge, India and China are going to eat our lunch.

Task force issues eight-point plan to improve math and science education

A statewide task force approved eight recommendations Tuesday to address what it called a "national crisis" in science and mathematics that is inhibiting the United States' ability to compete in a global economy. The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Task Force, which goes by the acronym STEM, appointed by the state Council on Postsecondary Education, released its proposal in a press conference at Tates Creek High School.

The recommendations are: Launch a statewide campaign to increase public awareness of the urgency of the science and math problems and how they affect the state's economy. Create incentives, including pay for teachers, so that students, teachers and schools will be encouraged to improve learning in science, math and related fields. Intensify professional development for math and science teachers based on based on rigorous national and international standards.

Improve teacher education programs to encourage people with degrees in science, math and related fields to become teachers. Encourage business, industry and civic leaders to improve education in math, science and related fields and creative incentives for Kentucky businesses to employ students educated in those fields. Develop a coordinated statewide effort among state agencies, schools, colleges and universities to maximize Kentucky's ability to attract jobs in science, math and related fields. Make energy sustainability and alternative forms of energy a major goal stemming for the improvements in science, math and related fields. The STEM task force issued a 35-page report, which is available from the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, 1024 Capital Center Drive, Suite 320, Frankfort, Ky. 40601.

Kentucky education is horrific. The system’s failures are pronounced. Our Governor is… silent.

Government Limiting… Themselves

From the Louisville Courier-Journal:

The political deadlock between the House and Senate is threatening continued operations at six state agencies that have requested a total of $23 million for this fiscal year, officials said.

Kentucky State Police would pull cruisers off the highways if they don't get a $3.3 million infusion, and the prison system would implement a hiring freeze and cut services if it doesn't receive an additional $10.4 million, said Gen. Norman Arflack, the Justice Cabinet secretary. "If we don't have the money, we can't pay the bills. And if we can't pay the bills, those people we do business with in some situations won't provide the supplies and services we need," he said.

The agency funding issue became entangled in a bigger battle between the House and Senate last week over proposals to reform the state pension system and fund projects the governor vetoed last year.

"Until the commitment is upheld on House Bill 1 (funding for the vetoed projects), I don't know that we're ever going to be in a position to talk about any of those things," said House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook. Senate leadership said it was unwilling to move on HB 1 unless the House supported a plan to borrow more than $800 million to stabilize the state-employee and teacher pension systems and cut benefits for future state employees.

House leaders said the Senate reneged on its agreement to fund the vetoed projects; Senate leaders said the projects seem to be the House's only priority. "I find it quite interesting that Rep. Adkins said they weren't interested in stuff … but it appears that stuff is what is motivating them rather than substantive needs that we are mandated and dictated by the state and federal governments to provide," said Sen. Robert Stivers, R-Manchester.

House Speaker Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, said he was unaware that the state agencies were facing dire needs for operating funds. "My understanding is they have not made that case to the House," he said. "They may say they have, but … they certainly haven't made it with me, and I would be fairly important in the equation. It's my guess they have not made that with our leadership."

Stivers said the Justice Cabinet sent letters to House and Senate leaders pleading its case, but Richards said a letter isn't sufficient. "They need to come and see us and talk about the situation," Richards said.

State Budget Director Brad Cowgill said that in January he briefed leaders of the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee. Agency officials said the shortfalls are a combined result of higher-than-expected costs, lower-than-expected revenue and lower-than-requested allocations in the last budget cycle.

The prison system, for example, received 2 percent less than what it requested last year. Arflack said that, combined with higher-than-anticipated medical expenses and fuel costs, leaves the agency with a $10.4 million shortfall. Medical expenses also played a role in cost overruns at the Juvenile Justice Department, which has asked for $2.7 million more for this fiscal year, which ends June 30. Arflack said the state police have been hit hard by fuel costs, which were projected to be an average of $2.08 per gallon and are coming in at about $2.22 per gallon. "The motor-fuel costs were based on a lower dollar amount than what we actually had to pay," he said.

Other agencies experiencing shortfalls include: The Parks Department, which has asked for $4.5 million. Commerce Secretary George Ward said the shortfall is a result of increased utility and fuel costs, lower-than-expected revenue at parks and the elimination last year of the boat-launching fee, which generated about $1 million annually. Without the additional money, Ward said the department would begin closing facilities that don't bring in revenue.

The Department of Veterans Affairs, which has asked for another $2 million. Deputy Commissioner Marty Pinkston said the department was not adequately funded last year and was ordered by the legislature to hire another five or six field representatives. The department also has received less from the federal government than anticipated. Pinkston said he was unsure how the department would absorb the shortfall. The Commission on Human Rights, which has requested another $220,000. Executive Director Linda Strite Murnane said the shortfall is a result of a lower-than-requested budget allocation and lower-than-expected federal contributions. Murnane, a retired Air Force colonel, has waived her salary since February to make sure she doesn't have to lay off the five employees she hired after a blue ribbon panel recommended a staff expansion to address a backlog in cases.

Because of a Kentucky Supreme Court ruling in the wake of the two sessions in which the General Assembly did not pass a budget, the governor's office does not have the ability to address these issues without legislative approval, Cowgill said. "If we had the unilateral ability to take care of it, we would have," he said.

Deputy Budget Director John Hicks said the impact would go beyond hiring freezes and other cost-cutting measures. "Those won't be enough," he said. "Bills will go unpaid for a period of time."

The aforesaid is asinine. Police and prison funding endangered? Promptly, Kentucky politicians must awaken. They must compromise and complete the people’s business.

Elendil’s Journal Examines Race

My friend over at has done a masterful job of bringing together conservative bloggers across Kentucky. Yesterday, he decided to shut down his web site until after the May primary because of the heated vitriol spewing from some of the partisans on each side of the Republican primary.

Members, I have made the decision to shut down the until after the May Primary. With my absence in Washington D.C, I didn't have the opportunity to keep up with reading everyone's posts, but once I did I was surprised by the harshness the Fletcher and Northup factions were attacking each other directly, and that is not why I helped organize this network.

When Northup joined the race over a month ago, I knew these types of attacks would occur. How could it not? On one side you have supporters of the Governor who believe they have been wronged by the party. And now they are seeing members of their own party ripping into their candidate and have become very defensive. On the other side you have those who are saying that Fletcher is a scoundrel and as such is unelectable.

How do you close this rhetorical gap after the primary? If Fletcher wins, will all of the people who have been saying Fletcher can't win change their tune and say "We were just kidding, of course Fletcher can win"? If Northup wins, do you think those who have been smeared by her aggressive tactics will gladly fall in line to support her?

How can this end well? I am a Fletcher supporter who likes Northup. I just think her run for the governorship is a bit misguided at this time. But with that said, I know I am having a hard time getting excited about her campaign as she continually trashes Fletcher. Especially knowing that if Fletcher wins, Northup's words will be echoed by whoever the Democratic nominee. Imagine how those more partisan than I am will feel?

For a party that is outnumbered almost two to one in registration in this state, we can't afford to be divided going into the general election. But how can we be unified? Which means we are faced with the real and discouraging possibility that a second rate Democrat will sit in the governors mansion next year.

I hope I am proven wrong. Maybe we can be like the Democrats and circle the wagons once the primary battle is over. But for some reason, I don't think it will be as easy for us Republicans who have never been in this situation before. We have already passed the brink. It is too late to reverse this split. Hopefully, the scars from this war will heal up and not come back to haunt us this November.

Two of A Fiasco

From On the Right:

From New Orleans TV: Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco has requested television time tonight for a gubernatorial address that will be carried live on Eyewitness News at 6 p.m..

Sources tell Eyewitness News that Blanco will announce she is not seeking re-election. From Reuters: In a televised address from the governor's mansion in Baton Rouge, Blanco, a first-term Democrat, said she did not want the distractions of an election campaign to interfere with her agenda for the upcoming legislative session.

"I am choosing to do what I believe is best for my state. I will focus my time and my energy for the next nine months on the people's work, not on politics," Blanco said.

Comment: Blanco's approval ratings are higher than Fletchers!

Governor Fletcher’s indictment paralyzed Kentucky Republicans. Governor Blanco’s incompetence crippled New Orleans. Neither one is an exemplary leader.

They are both jerks!

Fletcher’s “Leadership” is Garbage

This situation is ludicrous. Lexington is our showcase city. Why is our Governor ignoring this disgrace?

From the Lexington Herald-Leader:

Trash of all shapes and sizes clogs the little stream that flows behind Home Depot and Perkins Restaurant and in front of Lexington Mall along Richmond Road. Shopping carts poke up out of the water. Caught in bushes along the banks are beer cans, soda bottles, car batteries, mega-size plastic jugs and fast-food containers. A hubcap, planks, a printer and old tires stick out of the mud. In places, the trash floats on the surface of the water, caught in a sheet of slime. "I'm just appalled," Natasha Collins, senior environmentalist with the county health department, said yesterday as she walked along the stream.

The vacant Lexington Mall, long a source of frustration for the city, is causing new concerns about trash and pollution. Trash from the stream has been known to wash into the reservoir across the street during heavy rains. The city is sending a code-enforcement officer to the property today to investigate pollution of the stream, which runs between the edge of the Lexington Mall property and Richmond Road.

State road officials say the stream is the city's responsibility. A city spokesman said cleaning up the area is already on a list of projects for a cleanup crew from the jail. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the mall's owner said he shares concerns that the mall has become an eyesore. He said the mall will be redeveloped, though he declined to say what shape the redevelopment will take.

Yesterday, the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department sent Collins and an environmental team to the property after the Herald-Leader received complaints about rats being sighted there. No rats were spotted, but along a stream flowing near the back of the mall property, the health department team found an abundance of holes that were identified as rodent burrows. Packets of anti-coagulant that cause rats to bleed to death internally were stuffed into each hole. "You aren't going to see rats running around the parking lot at 1 o'clock in the afternoon.

They come out at night," said Jim Rebmann, the city's environmental planner. He said he recently spotted a rat in the mall parking lot. "When you get an abandoned building, no persons in there except for an occasional street person, rats will be there undisturbed," Rebmann said.

Kentucky American Water voiced concerns yesterday about trash from Lexington Mall that is flushed during rainstorms through a culvert under Richmond Road, into Reservoir No. 1, owned by the water company. "Oh, absolutely we see the trash," Susan Lancho, water company spokeswoman, said. "It's an ongoing challenge. We had guys out there this week cleaning up around the reservoir."

The reservoir is not a regular source of the city's drinking water. The last time it was tapped as a water source was 1999, she said. Debris from the Lexington Mall property can potentially flow through reservoirs 1, 2, and 3, into Hickman Creek, eventually winding up in the Kentucky River, Lancho said. The mall has been cited in the past for litter in the parking lot and pond in front of the mall, said David Jarvis, the city's director of code enforcement. "We've sent crews out there to clean it up," he said.

The health department issued this statement yesterday: "We are concerned about the area and are working with other agencies to determine who is responsible for cleaning up the site."

The trash-filled stream, which flows behind Home Depot and across the front of the mall property, is on a 34-foot right-of-way owned by the state, said Steve Farmer, branch manager in the highway department's district office in Lexington. The state entered an agreement with local municipalities several years ago in which the state maintains the traveled right-of-way, Farmer said. "The cities maintain the rest." The stream flowing beside Richmond Road is the responsibility of the city of Lexington, he said. Lexington Mall is owned by Saul Holdings. Yesterday, company vice president Chris Netter, reached by telephone, was asked if he was concerned that the shopping center property had become a community eyesore. "More so than anybody," he said.

Netter, director of leasing and development, said the property would be redeveloped in time for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. He declined to elaborate on the nature of the redevelopment.

Yesterday, Mayor Jim Newberry's press secretary, Susan Straub, said a city code-enforcement officer will inspect the mall today. "We have contacted Saul about it," Straub said. Straub did not know the timetable for when the jail cleanup crew will start work on the mall property. "We are going to work with all parties and look for the best way to get it cleaned up," she said.

As for the mall property being redeveloped, a Saul representative met with Newberry in January. "They have been in regular contact," Straub said.

Newberry understands that the community is concerned that the vacant mall, on a major corridor leading into the city, is an eyesore, she said. "He shares that concern."

Work Trumps Welfare

From the Lexington Herald-Leader:

Ask any LexTran official how the mass transit system is doing these days and chances are you'll hear the word "phenomenal" at least once in the answer. Bus ridership is up dramatically. There were 2.1 million boardings in the 2004-2005 fiscal year; this fiscal year's ridership figure is projected to be 3.9 million. LexTran buses traveled 1.1 million miles two fiscal years ago; this fiscal year they are expected to travel more than 2 million miles, LexTran officials say.

The local bus system, which had to cut services by 33 percent in mid-2004 because it was on the brink of collapse, has restored those services and has added more, thanks to millions of dollars generated from a dedicated transit tax approved by voters in 2004. The once cash-strapped agency even expects to have more than $9.1 million in local tax dollars collecting interest in a money market account by the end of June. "I would characterize LexTran like the Phoenix rising out of the ashes," said LexTran general manager Terry Garcia Crews.

LexTran’s renaissance is exceptional. They exemplify the Republican ideal. Given minimal assistance, they reinvented and reinvigorated themselves.

As Governor Fletcher champions Fordfare, he should observe LexTran. He should then mimic their successful formula.
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