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On a bit of short notice, the message came in.
“Hey, Josh. Career Day at high school tomorrow. They want you to speak about photography. Be there at 8:15 a.m.”
Now, anyone who knows me, knows a couple of things right off about such a proposition.
Number One: I can talk about a subject ad nauseam. I can talk so long the listener wants to scream. I can talk until ears beg for mercy.
Number Two: 8:15 a.m., is pretty danged early for me.
Nevertheless, I relented and replied, “Sure thing,” knowing full well 8:15 a.m., can be a toughie for a journalist such as myself. But this was to be about photography, not that OTHER part of my professional life.
Simply to be asked to speak to students about your career, and really about your personal viewpoints and experience, is an honor. This has always seemed to me to be a recognition by others you just might have some expertise to share.
And if those doing the asking are mistaken, just wing it, right?
But I commend the Youth Services Center for bring such a program to the students of Butler County High School. Much more than a “show-and-tell” session by hometown professionals, the Career Day has been going strong since 1997, bringing sharing career people together with young people looking for an example of their interests.
I was speaking on photography, so I had to leave that journalist hat at the door, so to speak. While so much of my photography in tied up in newspapering, some of it is not. It is the “not” I chose to talk about, stressing the importance of following dreams, never giving up, and, most importantly, seeking the type of training and education which will get you to your goals.
Quite often we hear of how “bad” our kids are. How they are never going to amount to “nothing,” and live lives filled with entitlements, acceptance of failure, bereft of goals.
That is not what I saw on Friday morning. Speaking to two groups of students, apparently photography is a hot topic, I was impressed with the respect and attention each student gave to me. I am in the habit of maintaining eye contact when speaking, and I can tell you each student in those two groups met my eyes. This is where you know people are paying attention.
But the treat was afterwards, as students excitedly shared their own photo work. Impressive is a word I would use to describe the examples of expression and skill I saw, but impressive would fall short. A more accurate description would be that these kids see things in important ways, and are looking for a way to make a life of it.
I once told by a man of wise years to always be willing to share your knowledge and experience with others, but ONLY when they ask for it. Not sure I buy that completely, but I understand the need to share your lessons with others.
Coordinator Karla Lashley told me some 57 professionals including educators, law enforcement, funeral directors, nurses, construction managers, farmers, and accountants participated in the day. Each person represent a different field, and many spoke to two sessions of 45 minutes each.
The students were placed in the sessions based upon career surveys they had completed earlier. Staff worked diligently to assure students were in their top-two sessions, where scheduling allowed.
Overall, I would say they did a pretty good job of coordinating the event, and should be proud of hooking kids up with people who know what they are talking about.
Because it is one thing to dream of a goal, read all you can, research your options, and then dream about it some more, when compared to actually talking to someone who has been through it, made the mistakes, and can share how to get there with a better plan.
And, no, I understand not every student who attended the sessions will become a photojournalist or a wedding photographer. And that is just fine.
Because maybe just one will. And isn’t “one” all I should be concerned with replacing when my days are through in this career of mine?
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Without teeth, no bite
At some point, one must ponder the notion of putting a little something behind telling someone to NOT do something.
Meaning: Does no good to tell your children “Stop running through the house,” if you are not going to enforce those threats of “there will be crawling from the kitchen to couch.”
Yeah, perhaps a little extreme, but what of the other hand?
The hand which says to Kentucky governments bound to the Constitution of the Commonwealth to not being doing that which state law says is a no-no.
Cases in point, the enumerated “violations” – and complaints – of Kentucky Open Meetings and Open Records laws not only in the state, but also in Butler County.
For now, we will discuss the County, and those complaints lodged by Robert Cron since 2009 – numbering 17 by search of Opinion Attorney General online records – the latest of which has now elevated to a court case in Butler Circuit Court.
In this latest case, Cron is saying the county has failed to comply with a ruling by the Kentucky Attorney General to turn over state-mandated real estate appraisals of two pieces of county-purchased property.
Appraisals, it turns out, that do not exist. And the failure of the documents’ existence, this is another hang-up, but one the county’s executive says was shared with Mr. Cron in separate August 2012 requests.
Judge-Executive David Fields acknowledges the failure of the county to obtain appraisals for nearly five-acres and the Rochester Ferry purchased with Ohio Fiscal Court for $90,000 in 2008; as well as its half of $500,000 with Morgantown’s Industrial Holding Corp., for 22-acres on Highway 70 in 2011.
But what to be done of it? Even when there is an admission of guilt, perhaps even ignorance of state laws over real estate purchases (no excuse, really), if there is no tangible gain to a public official, there is no punishment beyond Attorney General rulings to “encourage” government to obey the mandates of “sunshine.”
Even a Fiscal Year 2011 State Auditor report noted the lack of appraisals per KRS 67.080 on the Rochester and KY 70 industrial park property. The reports recommends the County always obtain appraisals prior to real estate purchases. Fields’ response in that report was the “County did not have knowledge of appraisal requirement as set forth,” and assuring to do so in the future.
Certainly, one could understand an opinion of general public Joe Schmo maybe Mr. Cron keeps a whole bunch of people busy “for no good reason.” I am certain there are some who would gladly listen to those arguments.
Then there are still others who look upon it as, “Yeah, they’re breaking the law. Keeping ‘em honest is what it is all about.” And you would not be wrong.
But while not all of Mr. Cron’s complaints resulted in rulings favorable to his claims, some have. But the end result, which is clear, is an apparent nothing.
Because, you see, through all the open meetings violations, open records denials, opinions by the Attorney General, there are no teeth in the law. There is no punishment.
Sure, the government or whatnot gets a letter from the AG and the opinion is entered into record, but without criminal gain, there is very little to be done. Moral victories, but whatever, right?
In this latest instance, Mr. Cron is asking for payment of $25 per day for each day he is denied the requested record. A record which does not exist, and the Attorney General says does not excuse the County’s failure at fulfilling the request.
If Mr. Cron is successful in his court challenge, could this $25-per-day request, if adjudged, be the teeth so many have lamented in absentia? I do not know, but how this chapter of one man’s eagle-eye observation over open government plays out just might make for the most interesting entry yet.
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The Constitution -- not just a 'thing' anymore
In this nation, a right to speak – even to be able to do so in secret – are freedoms protected under the Constitution.
Speaking freely. Rightful privacy – yep, right comfortable rights, huh?
It should come as no surprise that as a journalist, an American, a veteran, a freedom-loving heathen human being from Kentucky, I would hold these rights to speech and privacy in the highest regards, along with all those other ones.
You know another favorite? The Fourth.
Peachy thing, the Fourth Amendment, what with protecting us against illegal search of our property and persons by authoritative types, such as those folks working in the employ of governments and regimes, whether federal, state, county or city local.
So, with all that rah-rah-right-hand-oath-swearing out of the way, I will get to my point.
Morgantown Mayor Linda Keown and City Attorney Jon King owe The Banner-Republican and its editor, this writer, an apology, handwritten. We will take hand-signed, just in case you all are into that whole laser printer thing.
Mr. King owes us an apology for attempting to impede our rights to speak and have our privacy, as well as submitting this writer, and thereby, this newspaper, to an illegal search of our property.
Mayor Keown, you owe us an apology for openly questioning our journalistic veracity and trustworthiness, not only as a 20-year veteran editor but also as a newspaper which has faithfully served Butler County since 1885.
For those who were not there – which is all of you, save Council, the named, and the assistant City Clerk – this is what “went down”.
Monday evening, EJH Ag Expo and Community Building, special-called meeting of City Council. Purpose: hire a police chief and something about “proposed litigation.”
Anyways, both items are listed for closed session discussion under KRS 61.810., the Open Meetings Act. No problems there.
The problem came as spectators showed up at the meeting. Since there is no “special” room for Council’s repose in closed sessions, spectators and filthy media types must wait outside. Not the kitchen, but outside.
Well, I know spring is coming, but it is cold. After an hour of Council pontificating in private, I wanted warmth. Into the lobby I went, taking a seat on the floor.
This just happened to give me view through glass doors of the media table, where my computer and camera sat.
After about five minutes, fumbling with my phone, waiting, I happened to look up and see Mr. King gawking around my computer, bent at the waist at the 45-degree-angled screen.
I was up, opening the door and not caring of closed sessions or whatevers. Into the room, not knowing exactly what this attorney was looking for around my journalistic tools … while I was not allowed in the room.
nd presumably, when he thought I was not looking.
“May I ask why you are looking at my computer,” I said.
“Checking to see if it is on,” King replied.
I huffed up, and turned to leave the meeting. King sat down.
Seconds later, Mayor Keown stepped into the lobby.
“Mayor, why would your attorney be looking at my computer,” I asked. “For three years, not one time have I broken trust. Three years.”
“Well, we don’t know that,” Keown said.
“You don’t know that,” I said. “You don’t know that!”
“Well, we just didn’t know if it was on,” Keown said.
I sat back at my seat, and slammed the keys hard, as I noted the hiring of a police chief and nothing much else. The meeting adjourned, and I did not stick around for fear of making an ass of myself.
The way I see it, Mayor Keown and Mr. King have no respect for the privacy of the individual, and certainly have no respect of the media or its role in the preservation of the free state.
To Mr. King, shame on you. If electronics and such are a concern in meeting chambers, perhaps you should advise your client to request their removal during closed sessions. Playing the sleuth is not for you.
To Mayor Keown, I say such. Ma’am, I thought we knew each other better than that. Apparently not. That is disappointing, considering we all should be in the same game of always doing best for Morgantown. I realize we find ourselves at odds concerning my reporting and your decision-making, but should I have ever given you reason to think I am a sneak and liar, drop it on the table.
Otherwise, I shall stand on my duties as a journalist and citizen, continuing to report the truth as it is sometimes begrudgingly presented before me.
I will do it freely, with an understanding my notes, thoughts, and ideas are private, and no one can get at either one without a darn good Constitutional reason.
Nemo silentium quiete.
C. Josh Givens