Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Con Edge Crosses Parties, Bases Northup

Governor Fletcher should send a bouquet of roses to Jonathan Miller. At his press conference today, announcing that he was dropping his bid for Governor, Miller drove a stake through the heart of Anne Northup's reason for running for Governor. Here's what Miller had to say: But the odds are, if I stayed in the race, there is a real possibility that the Democratic primary would produce a nominee who was unelectable in the fall.

A nominee whose baggage would be picked apart and exploited by the Fletcher media machine. The reality of the situation is that there is a likely possibility that no matter who wins the Democratic nomination, that person will not win the election.

The very fact that Miller acknowledges that Governor Fletcher is not "unelectable" as Anne Northup and her supporters insist, is huge. For more than a year, the Democratic establishment has tried to finish off Governor Fletcher through death by a thousand cuts.

Now, with two weeks to go until the primary, one of the Democratic establishment stalwarts admits that at least one of the top Democratic nominees will have great difficulty beating the Governor. It's a tacit admission that only one Democrat has a real shot, because Lunsford and Henry have all kinds of baggage, and no one else has a chance besides those two and Beshear. It will be interesting to see the Northup reaction.

Republicans Engage in Final Debate

From the Pol Watchers:

The two Republican rivals of Gov. Ernie Fletcher aggressively challenged the governor on his ethics and the fiscal record of his administration in the final statewide televised debate before the May 22 primary. Former Congresswoman Anne Northup hammered Fletcher for failing to deliver on his 2003 campaign promise of "changing the culture of Frankfort."

Instead, she said he got mired in a state hiring scandal and campaigned using taxpayer’s money. "This administration has not been without scandal and because of that the Democrats are lined up to run against us," she said.

Paducah businessman Billy Harper repeatedly referenced a need for greater leadership from the governor’s office and criticized Fletcher’s record on taxes, noting that he signed off on $4 billion in debt over his term — more than any governor in state history.

Both Northup and Harper said Fletcher — and any governor — should disclose donors to funds that benefit him during an election year, such as a legal defense fund set up to help Fletcher pay his lawyer fees from the 16-month-long hiring investigation. Harper also said the law should bar people whose companies have state contracts or work with the state from donating funds to an incumbent’s campaign.

While Fletcher found himself on the defensive for much of the night, he clung to his message, touting his 2005 plan for lowering taxes on corporations and crediting it for boosting the economy, as well as filling the state coffers. "The true mark of leadership, again, is results," he said. "We’ve had four years of surpluses.

"We’re providing better benefits," Fletcher continued "We’ve done a lot to increase health care. As we’ve begun to tell the story, the support is growing."

Northup then countered that the governor has regularly trumpeted an "embellished record" in ads and speeches.

Fletcher’s campaign has repeatedly claimed he turned a $1 billion deficit into a budget surplus. When Fletcher took office in 2003, the deficit was $262 million and went up to $303 million before the governor instituted budget cuts and tapped reserve funds to cover it. Fletcher said again last night that he considered a report by former Gov. Paul Patton that called for an extra $700 million in new revenue as his defense for using the $1 billion deficit figure.

In another notable exchange, Fletcher was forced to defend his pattern of attending campaign events during publicly-funded official trips across the state. "When the Herald-Leader brought up some questions about my travel and using the state plane, we stepped back and took another look and said, ‘Yeah we’ll share those costs,’" Fletcher said.

On Friday, Fletcher’s campaign agreed to reimburse the state coffers for $19,359 in travel costs. "This administration, until they were caught, did not offer to pay it back," Northup shot back. "This is a perfect example of not having a personal ethical standard."

More concerning to her is Fletcher’s practice of holding campaign fund-raisers to solicit money from donors who were seeking some of the state projects for which Fletcher was providing state money on the same day.

Fletcher also said he has no plans to disclose donors to his legal defense fund, despite calls by his opponents. "I’m not going to expose these folks who came to me and wanted to help because of the ordeal that was unprecedented," Fletcher said, referring to the state hiring investigation.

He said the same people who have helped donate $3 million to his campaign have contributed to the legal defense fund, which he said he will disclose after Attorney General Greg Stumbo — who led the probe — leaves office in December. Northup later fired back, "If these were just the same people who were contributing to the campaign, what possible reason could there be not to disclose it and make it available to the public?"

Fletcher said he offered transparency by volunteering his tax returns to the public’s view, unlike past governors. Harper, the contractor, has been the only candidate to sign a pledge not to raise taxes offered by a Washington-based conservative group, Americans for Tax Reform. Fletcher said he signed that pledge in the past and has honored it, while Northup said she had a conservative record on taxes and didn’t want to cede decision making power to an out of state group.

Both Harper and Northup said they believed Fletcher’s 2005 tax plan did raise taxes on small businesses, cigarettes, alcohol and cable television. Fletcher then went on the offense, noting that Northup voted for tax increases as part of the 1990 Kentucky Educational Reform Act.

Fletcher Era Education

From the Lexington Herald-Leader:

Former Clinton County School Superintendent Sam Gibson was suspended from his job in 2002 for sleeping with a co-worker on school property, and then indicted for forging expense receipts related to the affair. He later resigned as part of a court order. But his career with the school system may not be over -- Gibson is a finalist for the job of girls' basketball coach at Clinton County High School. Principal William Warriner said the school council was "mulling it over."

Gibson applied for the position based on having coached teams to three state championships in Tennessee, Warriner said. However, given his scandalous past, parents are very divided over the possibility. "That brings on the mulling," Warriner said.

The school council is supposed to vote on the matter some time next week. Gibson's problems started back in 2002, when he was suspended without pay for 30 days for having sex with a female secretary on school property. The woman later filed a harassment claim, which led to an investigation. The board said there was no evidence of harassment but suspended Gibson for what it termed an ethical lapse.

Then the grand jury indicted him on two felony charges of forgery and one felony charge of theft for forging expense forms and using a school-owned cell phone for personal use. One of the forged "receipts" -- scrawled on a Post-it note -- was from a hotel in order to hide the affair with the secretary, a school board investigation found. However, in an agreed order with the court, those charges were amended to misdemeanors in exchange for Gibson resigning and paying back the school district. The charges were then dropped.

Gibson was permanently stripped of his superintendent license, and his teaching certificate was suspended for six months, according to the agreed upon order from the Education Professional Standards Board. The board oversees teacher certification. Julian Tackett, an assistant commissioner at the Kentucky High School Athletic Association said the first preference for coaches is faculty, but if they can't find a staff person, they can hire someone with 64 hours of college credits.

They must also pass a criminal background check. Clinton Judge-Executive Lyle Huff said the possible hiring had caused an uproar, most of it against hiring Gibson. "They've been bending my ear regular about that," said Huff, whose wife, Beth, is a school board member. "Whoever the site base (council) chooses, I wish they would look at moving our school system and athletics forward."

Beth Huff declined to comment. Superintendent Mickey McFall said the position was posted, and the council had interviewed several candidates. According to state law on school-based positions, the principal must consult with the council. The principal makes a recommendation which must be accepted by the superintendent. A superintendent can withhold names but the council can request all other names be submitted as well. McFall said he could not disclose whether the council had requested all the applicants.

Fletcher’s Minimalism

From NKY Politics:

Gov. Ernie Fletcher has reimbursed the state for campaign trips he made on a state-owned plane. Here is the campaign's statement. Today the Fletcher Campaign announced that a check is being issued to the Commonwealth of Kentucky to pay for a pro-rated share of the Governor’s campaign travel. This action is not required by Kentucky law. The campaign is going above and beyond its legal obligations.

Campaign Manager Marty Ryall said today, "We have authorized a check in the amount of $18,840.46 to be issued from the campaign to the Commonwealth of Kentucky. This covers a pro-rated share of the Governor’s travel when political events were included in the itinerary." Ryall said, "This covers all of the Governor’s travel from July of 2006 through April of 2007.”

Anyone notice, Governor Fletcher only reacts? The Lexington Herald-Leader reprimands him. He reimburses travel expenses. Fletcher never acts sans prompting. Once again, this was the least he could do.

As the World Watches… Fletcher Fails

This issue was visible. This issue affected individuals, businesses, and Kentucky’s crown jewel. Amidst the controversy, Governor Fletcher remained silent. Why? This issue begged involvement. This issue coveted leadership. Once again, why was our Governor absent?

From the Lexington Herald-Leader:

The leather couches and flat-screen televisions at Bentley's sports bar were all in place for the Derby weekend rush, but only a handful of customers showed up. Robert Mitchem opened the bar a year ago after investors spent more than a million dollars renovating the red-brick building in Louisville's west end. But on the city's most lucrative weekend of 2006, he said his place turned a lousy $25 profit. "It is the one day that the city itself is on the map and makes money," said Mitchem, the bar's manager. "But we took a tremendous pounding."

Owners of fast-food restaurants, bars and barber shops say a city blockade in their neighborhood will keep them from sharing in the $200 million that's poured into the local economy on the weekend of the Kentucky Derby. The police shutdown of a portion of Broadway - a wide downtown thoroughfare just a few miles from the world's most famous horse race - targets a predominantly black area, business owners said. The business owners filed a lawsuit last month asking a federal judge to ban the police plan, but the court ruled it will stand, at least for this year's Derby. "Supposedly Derby is good business, but we haven't gotten any of it," said Jessie Green, the owner of Big Momma's Soul Kitchen along Broadway.

Louisville police began the blockade to discourage the thousands of shiny, souped-up cars and revelers who had flocked to the area in recent years to hang out and be seen. Broadway's six lanes resembled a parking lot as gridlocked traffic stretched for dozens of blocks.

The unofficial tradition grew in popularity and brought a boon to neighborhood businesses but culminated in violence two years ago. "In '05 when we experienced such violence, the community at large said, 'Hey, this is not acceptable,'" said Lt. Col. Phil Turner, an assistant Louisville police chief. "And that's why we took the position that there would be no cruising and no violence along Broadway. Our goal is to eliminate that."

But business owners said that closes them off from the bonanza most other Louisville businesses enjoy on Derby weekend. The main race and its Friday predecessor, the Kentucky Oaks, attract more than 250,000 people to Churchill Downs over two days. An economic impact study from 2001 found that fans, horse owners, trainers and corporate sponsors spend more than $137 million over the three-day weekend, and that spending generates another $80 million in indirect expenditures. The group of west end businesses that sued said last year's shutdown cost them at least $150,000 in sales, and many ended up closing on what should have been the busiest day of the year.

"Last year, I made no money," said Marilyn Bland, who has owned Lee's Famous Recipe on Broadway for 23 years. Bland said she made so little the night before Derby that she ended up sending her workers home and closing the restaurant for the rest of the weekend, losing about $15,000. "I realize the city's got to do what they got to do to control the crime, but I don't think that making me suffer is the answer," Bland said.

Bland and other business owners met with Dick Gregory, a national civil-rights activist, before a court hearing on the suit this week. Gregory called the police plan heavy-handed and racist. "You have two standards, one for the black community and one for the white community," Gregory said.

The court ruled that the police shutdown "imposed financial and intangible injuries to local residents and business owners," but the public safety issue outweighed those concerns. Louisville's police chief, Robert White, said the city's anti-cruising plan - which uses hundreds of officers - is flexible but the latest method "has the potential of saving someone's life."

Other tactics in past years included relaxing enforcement of minor offenses and alternate events to try and draw cruisers away from Broadway. In 2001, the city spent $325,000 to organize concerts on the other end of town, but attendance lagged and the plan was scrapped. Last year's shutdown was announced after a fatal shooting and rape occurred in 2005. Police have scaled back the plan this year, closing off a smaller portion of Broadway. That will leave Green's restaurant outside the blockade. "I was going to close, but they say they're going to open it up down here, so I'm hoping people will come," Green said.

Again, From Their Lips…

Another promise? Governor Fletcher promised aid. He delivered Fordfare. Why should Ford workers believe official’s assurances?

From the Louisville Courier-Journal:

Union workers at the Kentucky Truck Plant are due to vote Wednesday and Thursday on company-proposed concessions that slash overtime by converting the workweek from five days to four and eliminate some jobs. In the agreement, Ford assures that Super Duty truck production will remain in Louisville and promises plant investments.

Many of the concessions sought by Ford from 4,800 union workers at the Chamberlain Lane plant resembles one passed last March by UAW members at the Louisville Assembly Plant on Fern Valley Road. Similar deals have also been approved by most of Ford's North American plants in the last 18 months as the troubled automaker seeks to pare costs.

"It is a changing world and we have got to accept these changes. We have got to do this to have a future," United Auto Workers Local 862 president Rocky Comito said this morning. "The whole idea is to do more with less," Ford spokeswoman Anne Marie Gattari said. "We are trying to make our plants more efficient."
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