School Boards held hostage
The dreaded August dilemma for local school districts is once again underway as board members decide how to raise funds to educate our public school children. By law, school boards may take a 4% tax increase each year. While many Kentucky districts take the increase, others manage their budgets without it, in most cases struggling to keep their figures in the black.
For our elected school board members, the scenario is unpleasant at best. You see, the local boards set the tax rates but our state legislature mandates how they spend their money. On more than a few occasions we have observed well-intentioned locals take the allowed increase in August before facing a school board election in November and then be defeated because they raised school taxes. Every one of our area school districts have lost effective board members because of this action.
This scenario raises the question of who is to blame for this predicament. We elect local people and place our trust in them to do everything in their power to see that our children receive the best possible educational opportunities. Yet, a higher level authority that is also elected by the people, the Kentucky General Assembly, mandates that the local school board fund a variety of programs and practices while giving the schools no money to pay for them.
For example, our public school teachers are getting a 1% raise this year and a 2% raise next year – something they haven’t had for far too long – which was mandated by the General Assembly. The problem is that the General Assembly provided no additional funding to pay for those salary increases. Legislators will eagerly inform you that the vital SEEK funding didn’t take a budget cut, but yet the increase was less than the mandated salary increase.
Every school district is required to use the MUNIS payroll and financial reporting system – that costs a local board about $5,700 annually. Every school district is required to report attendance through the Infinite Campus computer program – at a cost of about $12,000 annually. Schools are required to offer professional development for teachers, keep up-to-date on technology, provide school nurses, and the list could fill the rest of this newspaper page – but it’s without funding to pay for it. Sadly, state officials point to the local school board’s authority to raise school taxes as a possible funding source.
Another financial burden placed on local school boards is the increased cost of construction projects due to Kentucky’s Prevailing Wage law. Taxpayers certainly want our students to have efficient and safe school facilities and local school boards work tirelessly to create funding packages that will bring projects to fruition.
The issue is that Right to Work and Prevailing Wage requirements can add as much as 25% to the cost of a school construction project. For example, Glasgow Independent Schools’ new high school cost nearly $1 million more (much less than 25%, however) because of the Prevailing Wage mandate. As school board member Leigh Lessenberry commented earlier this year, “to think of the waste – it is astounding. I don’t understand why we don’t address that.” Area school superintendents have openly stated that eliminating such requirements would solve a lot of problems for local school boards. Here again, state officials point to local officials to “figure it out” when it comes to managing funds when in reality it is the General Assembly that could fix the problem.
As if unfunded mandates and unnecessary wage laws were not enough, our state has encumbered local school boards with hundreds of questionable regulations. For example, when moving an Internet server from one building to another, as the Glasgow Board of Education did last year, they were prohibited from using a local service provider that could have done the job for around $6,000. Instead, an exclusive state contract with AT&T and subcontractor Windstream required the school district to use their services at a cost of $52,250 in un-itemized charges. Even though the bill was reduced by a few thousand dollars, the reality is outrageous. Once again, our state officials wrestled decision-making authority from locals who could have accomplished the task more efficiently and saved thousands of dollars.
Is it appropriate that the body that levies the tax doesn’t determine how to best use the proceeds? For our local school boards, the scenario is nothing short of having a gun leveled on them.
Kentucky’s budgetary switcheroo
With the arrival of July each year comes the beginning of a new fiscal year and a troublesome routine that reveals just how fragile our state’s financial well-being really is. Without fail, our state’s top officials will scramble to cover the deficit of the ending budget by grabbing funds from all sorts of places to give Kentuckians a false sense of security and those officials a false sense of accomplishment.
Kentucky’s recently-concluded budget of $9.5 billion ended with a $91 million deficit – a tidy sum of money for an already cash-strapped state government. How is it that every year our state’s budget advisors miss the mark and over-estimate the state’s income and under-estimate the state’s expenses? A business operating in the same manner as our state wouldn’t likely last very long; businesses don’t have other funds to rob to cover budgetary bobbles. Should our state have the luxury of commandeering monies taken in for one purpose and then have them gobbled up to cover someone else’s mistake?
For example, Governor Beshear grabbed $21.2 million from the Commonwealth’s “rainy day fund.” Government finance experts suggest that 5-15% of general fund revenues be set aside for use in emergencies. Kentucky’s reserve fund was already low at $77 million, just 1% of the budget.
It’s troubling that our leaders took around $50 million from 45 various funds in order to balance the budget. In many cases, the funds were fees paid by various professionals regulated by the state. To illustrate, Kentucky’s Board of Nursing saw $1 million disappear from its coffers. The Firefighters Foundation Program Fund lost $2 million that was intended to train volunteer firefighters.
Environmental programs saw around $3 million disappear from their coffers while a fund intended to clean up leaking underground fuel tanks lost more than $2 million. The Kentucky Pride Fund which has given grants to several of our area counties for worthwhile projects lost $1 million that was projected to help properly shut down aging landfills. The Agent Licensing Fund of the state’s Department of Insurance lost $2.5 million. Around $15 million was taken from the Behavioral Health Development and Intellectual Disabilities fund intended to aid residential institutions.
Beshear commented, “The use of fund transfers is a valuable tool in how we manage and balance the overall budget of the Commonwealth, and one that keeps us from making deeper cuts to state agencies.”
While fund transfers may be commonplace, taking monies collected from Kentucky citizens for a specific purpose and then converting those monies to the state’s general fund is simply misleading and wrong. Does taking such funds not diminish the future success of so many programs intended to benefit from those monies?
By the same token, if the programs for which the funds are collected don’t need the funding, then why does the fee exist? The excessive fees are themselves an example of why Kentucky has lost its competitive business edge.
It’s time Kentucky’s leaders got serious about operating within a budget that can be balanced without such shenanigans. The taxpayers who hand over their hard-earned dollars deserve better.
Billa set example for embracing life
Small towns aren't all church potlucks and parades. They're about a lot of hard work, and at times, a lot of heartbreak. Some days that heartbreak comes in tragedies like vehicle or farm accidents, floods, or house fires. Other days, heartbreak comes by causes or reasons we simply can’t understand. Sometimes the most painful moments as a community publisher are when we see those in our communities hurt or grieve over the loss of someone special. Last Friday was one of those days as I sat in the gymnasium of Park City School and witnessed family members, co-workers, community leaders, and friends celebrate the life of Chris Billa.
I am saddened by the fact that I never got to truly know Chris because knowing his story and hearing the heartfelt words spoken about him since his passing are infectious. It was inspiring to listen to his friends share the stories of Chris’ dedication to the Park City community as a fire fighter and city council member. I feel confident in saying that people like Chris are the lifeblood of small towns in rural America. Every community needs people with contagious enthusiasm for their chosen hometown and Park City was fortunate that Chris placed his passion here in Barren County.
I have no doubt that the life and legacy of Chris will remain an active part of our community for many years to come. We should all take notes about how Chris embraced life to live every moment of it, whether good or bad, and always keep smiling.
May he rest in peace.
Patriotism is also sacrifice
Patriotism is defined as love of country but I also believe it means more, perhaps the willingness to sacrifice for it.
Many Americans show their patriotism by flying our nation’s flag from their porch or in their yard. Others show patriotism by decorating their homes and some even dressing themselves in red, white and blue for the 4th of July. Others may not put their patriotism on display but when their rights are tread upon or our country is threatened, you will see the passion for America become their focus. Few of us will ever forget how we came together as a country when terrorists struck on September 11, 2001, a day filled with emotions we all hope to never feel again. A generation older than mine remembers similar things about November 22, 1963 – the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and an earlier generation recalls the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
To me, patriotism is more than a once-a-year activity. As a community publisher, I feel passionate about my role in helping our communities and our people remember to pause for patriotism as a matter of routine. Patriotic holidays like Independence Day, Veteran’s Day, and Memorial Day help us to refocus on who we are today while never forgetting where we were as a country yesterday, last year, or even the last century.
Today, I still have vivid memories of my grandfather daily struggling with injuries he sustained during the Battle of Argonne Forest. I never knew him without a limp and for much of my life it never sunk into me how he came to have it. I never thought much about my grandfather’s patriotism and its connection to his unique gait for most of his life. Being a child, I didn’t view him as a veteran injured in a war, but simply my grandfather.
My generation was too young to understand much of the Vietnam War era and by the time we came of age, the draft was something of the past. While we were sheltered from the realities of war, our generation became “late-bloomers” when it came to heart-tugging, gut-wrenching, pure American patriotism until September 11, 2001. As a newspaper publisher in a small community, I felt like most Americans - that the horrors of the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were things I would only watch on television, that they weren’t events bringing a story directly affecting small-town America.
My thoughts changed the following Sunday when I realized that when the United States is at war, then south central Kentucky is at war, and that means us. The reality was brought to me when my pastor introduced a young man in our congregation who had been called up to serve. The young soldier’s father worked from an office next door to mine and I’d known his family for years. I quickly recalled all the days I’d seen this young man in his father’s office after school and during summer breaks. The reality of how 9-11 affected small-town America became all too real and I recall Terrell House joining me outside the church to give this young man our heartfelt good wishes and walking off to my car with tears flooding my eyes.
On that day, the war on television had made its way to our hometown and that changed my perspective. As a community publisher, I now could put a hometown face with all the coverage dealing with the military. For the longest time, that young man was my inspiration to not only recognize those who were serving, but to honor their worried families as they anxiously awaited their safe return. Since that time, our family of newspapers have established themselves as patriotic pulse-takers and the first to honor those serving our country as well as those who served in the past. It’s one of Jobe Publishing’s traditions and it will always be one of our company’s passions.
Such things tend to prepare us for future roles in life that we have no way of predicting. I’m a proud and patriotic American. I’ve always been proud of my grandfather for taking a bullet that left him with a limp for 70 years. I’ve summoned up courage when listening to grieving parents talk about their children who didn’t come home alive when serving our country. Then, one day my own son informed me he wanted to join the United States Air Force. When your 18-year old son reminds you of his age and that he doesn’t need your signature to join Uncle Sam’s forces, it makes you take an immediate pause. Those words delivered a hard reality check making me realize my son had changed from a little boy to a young man. Needless to say, it made me proud beyond description, but it also changed my patriotism once again.
There’s a different feeling of patriotism when holidays such as Independence Day roll around and your child is serving our country, potentially putting himself or herself in harm’s way for our country and our freedom. It’s a distinctive feeling of sacrificial patriotism to watch your boy turn and walk away from you to become a freedom fighter to keep our country the land of the free and the home of the brave. I am sure every parent, sibling, and grandparent knows the feeling I am writing about.
On this Independence Day, the first one in which my son has been a member of the United States Air Force, I will be blessed with his presence under my roof for a few days. You can be sure that our family will display its patriotism like never before. I ask you to join us in celebrating freedom in whatever way you wish, but always remember how patriotism made America the greatest country in the world.
Rethinking coal, renewable energy and our future
“You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else.”
While Churchill’s words have been around for decades, they ring true in modern times as our country finds itself in the midst of the “War on Coal” that seems to command our attention daily. Recently the federal government’s EPA unveiled a series of new restrictions regarding greenhouse gas emissions from power plants that unleashed a storm of conflicting bits of information about the future of our country.
Certainly, there is a certain amount of propaganda mixed with reality on these issues, but the bottom line is we must not accept decisions that ultimately hurt America’s citizens. Kentuckians should be keenly interested in these regulations because of their power to destroy Kentucky’s coal industry, one of the Commonwealth’s mainstays for decades. At the same time, Kentuckians must also pay attention to what these regulations can do to our manufacturing industry.
Manufacturers use one-third of the energy produced in the United States and they rely on that energy source to be there while remaining affordable. Our manufacturers and our communities have enjoyed their success in part due to the availability of reasonably priced energy. The proposed regulations have the ability to eliminate the plentiful and consistent sources of energy that have helped create success.
The Obama administration has made it clear that it is committed to a regulatory path that threatens the future of manufacturing in America. The administration readily admits that our country has reduced its total greenhouse gas emissions more than any other country since 2005. Our industries have used technology and innovation to make those reductions possible, yet the new regulations will limit the future development of those technologies because they will ultimately discourage future investment in our country.
Simply put, the administration’s demand for such regulations command that we give up the American spirit to be creative in finding solutions that make our business climate – our country – even stronger. Instead of stifling innovation, we need to find solutions that fuel our economy, drive growth, and create jobs.
Regarding the Obama administration’s insistence on virtually destroying the coal industry, the new regulations fall right into line with Churchill’s statement about America doing the right thing after everything else has failed. Destroying the Kentucky coal industry in an effort to force our country into a faulty plan for renewable energy is wrong.
The 28 countries in the European Union have been down this path and found that it was not all that our federal government might want you to think about their plan. Nearly 20 years ago European leaders were convinced that the use of fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas were changing the world’s climate and they thought energy produced from wind and sunlight would be better for the environment.
One of the European countries, Germany, thrust itself into the concept of renewable energy with a plan termed “Energiewende.” The program sought to transform the country’s reliance on coal and natural gas into the new model focused on wind and sun energy. In order to make their new program shift into high gear, the German government set up a system of subsidies to encourage the use of the sun and wind. The only catch was a surcharge added to every electric bill. When the surcharges proved insufficient, they were increased. At this point in time, Germans pay a $22 surcharge for each $100 of electricity used each month.
A second part of Germany’s renewable energy downfall was the fact that their government guaranteed to pay the operators of wind and sun energy operations a greatly inflated price for their power. The reality was that the price the government paid was higher than they were paying for electricity generated by coal and natural gas.
As a result of two poorly-planned systems, Germans now pay the highest electricity rates in the 28 countries making up the European Union. German families are now having a hard time affording electricity and many are finding themselves relying on public assistance. Friends, the same type things can and likely will happen in this country with the newly-proposed regulations.
Not unlike America, Germany’s economy is reliant on manufacturing. As you might have already assumed, German industries have found that they can’t afford to pay their electricity bills. Some, about one in six, companies have switched to generating their own electricity and simply disconnect from the power sources. Not surprising, the government’s loss of income has caused the surcharges to increase on businesses and individuals in order to cover the shortfall.
For German manufacturers, generating their own electricity is not a viable option and their best course of action is to close their German facilities and move to another country with lower electricity costs. Obviously, when manufacturing plants close, jobs are eliminated, and the German economy takes another hit.
Today, Germans are gradually returning to coal as the source of their electricity and they are not alone. In fact, coal consumption in European counties and China has actually increased by 3% in the past year. In counties such as China, India, and other developing countries, coal is in greater demand than ever.
Are we prepared to destroy Kentucky’s coal industry while adopting a plan that other countries have already tried and found did not work?
The Greatest Generation of Smiles
Last Thursday morning it was my honor and privilege to attend the opening ceremony for the Midway Island Reunion in Glasgow. It was the beginning of a four-day event that was filled with meaningful moments organized by a small group of dedicated citizens with a very small amount of money. The event required more than a year of planning and it was gratifying to hear our visitors comment that it was the best military reunion they’d ever attended. It was community in action.
One of the inspirations for the reunion was one of our own local heroes, John Wood, who was in the forefront in each planning meeting. Our community is blessed by the presence of this 93-year old who survived the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor and the June 1942 attack on Midway Island. While he may move a little slower than he did 73 years ago, the twinkle in his eye and the smile on his face never fail to inspire everyone who see him.
I’ve come to know Mr. Wood over the past few years in my role as a community publisher attending community events. Anyone who is involved in this community knows that if it involves veterans, John Wood will be present. My family got to know Mr. Wood quite well when we had the pleasure of presenting him as Jobe Publishing’s special guest in the Glasgow Christmas Parade last December. While we waited in line for the parade to begin, I asked Mr. Wood if he might share with my daughters some of his memories of Pearl Harbor. For next three hours this true American hero gave us a history lesson we’ll never forget. When we finally reached the end of the parade route, Mr. Wood’s family stood in the cold wind while he finished our personal encounter with living history. No sooner than he exited the vehicle, my daughters began discussing their favorite parts of the story and the memories of that night are frequently discussed in our house.
A few years ago the television news anchor Tom Brokaw named his book about the men and women of the World War II era “The Greatest Generation.” I absolutely agree with that description except I might add that they are the friendliest generation of Americans I’ve had the pleasure of knowing.
Most of our World War II veterans are somewhat closed-mouth when it comes to discussing their wartime service. They tend to down play their accomplishments on behalf of our country though their stories are indeed priceless glimpses into the hearts and minds of men and women who risked their lives to maintain our freedoms. Their stories are amazing and extremely interesting to hear.
At Thursday’s event, the veterans were asked to stand for recognition along with the Battle of Midway survivors. I watched and was not surprised by their retiring reaction as they politely hesitated before rising to give their name, branch and dates of service as though they might not be worthy of all the attention. As I expected, they were sincerely friendly, patriotic gentlemen.
Their generation grew up without televisions, computers, iPads, smart phones, and all of the other so-called conveniences that distract us today. As a result, they are wonderful conversationalists. I believe there are no greater communicators than this generation. They can converse with anyone of any age, they can deliver a joke with a devilish grin, and when they speak they generally say something worth hearing. I’ve never regretted a single moment spent in conversation with any of my DAV friends. I’ve come to realize that they are sincere when they ask about your day or your family and when they call you “friend.”
The folks who made up the Greatest Generation each have distinct personalities that shine through their day-to-day lives. Whether sharing a quiet conversation of a serious nature, or a slightly risqué joke, they are always the same solid people. One of my DAV friends recently dropped into my shirt pocket a spent rifle casing from the 21-gun salute he had just helped fire, adding the comment that I might like to keep the memento to remember the day. I’m proud to call that gentleman my friend and I’m certain he realizes I am his friend.
As last weekend’s reunion unfolded, I found the same traits among our visitors as I’ve come to know in our local veterans. They came walking in wearing friendly smiles and loaded with tales to tell if you asked. Each step they took was deliberate as they made their way to embrace friends, both old and new. Their days of effortlessly walking to the car, climbing flights of stairs, and strenuous activity are passed. Their travel to Kentucky was a testament to their determination and their love for one another and those of us who took the time to share the experience.
I like to think I’m a likable fella but I’ve also discovered that for some reason I have the ability to bring out a little orneriness in some of these guys – and I assure you, it is not intended. Keep in mind that their degree of ornery would probably fall into today’s PG movie ratings. Sometimes, it’s not so much what they say as it is them saying it.
I’ve come to expect my mature friends to tease me, and sometimes they are relentless as they seem to enjoy picking on me just to see my reaction. I’ve reached a point in our relationships that I anticipate most anything and never-ending efforts to catch me off-guard. Thursday evening as I stood in line to pick up tickets for one of the reunion events, one of the Battle of Midway survivors standing in front of me turned and began rubbing my head. I’d never met this fella before but there he stood rubbing my bald head. He said to me and those standing nearby, “You know what this is?” I replied that I was afraid to ask and he said, “It’s a solar panel for a sex drive.” I thought it was clever but everyone around seemed to find it hilarious.
I don’t possess the time-earned wisdom of these gentlemen, but I know for a fact when I see the smiling faces and hear the voices of these folks that God has blessed me and our community by their presence. Without a doubt, I am certain that there were more smiles on faces of the Greatest Generation in Glasgow last weekend than anywhere else in the world.
If Kentuckians can count on anything from politicians, it’s a habit of stepping up to take credit for nearly any good thing that happens. If a company expands its operation, there will be multiple politicians lined up to take credit for it. If there’s a new industry locating in one of our communities or the state, there will be several clamoring to bask in the glory of the accomplishment. If there’s a new road or bridge project, you can bet on who will take the credit. Sometimes, they even take credit for something their predecessor started. Sometimes the officials will resort to a heated argument about who will get the most credit.
While this phenomenon is common, it’s never so obvious than during an election year. Over the past few months this trend has been unusually evident. It’s almost a spectator sport to see how smooth-talking self-promoters have deftly commanded credit for good works. I was amazed to observe one area city council meeting in which three different officials from various levels each claimed credit for re-engineering a tiny bit of Barren County roadway. Ironically when this newspaper reported the simple facts of who said what at the meeting, one of the individuals called to complain that he didn’t get enough press over his claim-taking competitors.
Job creation and industrial recruitment is an area where this spectacle occurs most blatantly. Whether a company chooses to locate here and bring 10, 75 or 750 jobs, there will always be an elected official ready to jump behind the podium to share how they have worked to bring those jobs. Sadly, there are many people – the “work horses” – who are very dedicated to putting together the packages to bring a company to town and far too often there are a few people – the “show-horses” – who arrive for an announcement, a ground-breaking, a ribbon cutting, or a dedication ceremony and without hesitation tell of their work on the project. But we must never forget that the employees, managers and owners of the company are the people most responsible and deserving of appreciation.
Communities are too quick to forget the fact that if a company owner doesn’t want something to happen in our community, it won’t. If officials merely give lip service to their needs rather than genuine roll-up-your sleeves help, loyalty to our community will not play a role. If a company doesn’t feel appreciated, they can easily move to another state or even another country that is all too willing to welcome them. When local governments create less-than-hospitable operating environments, they frequently choose to leave. It seems every few weeks we read about another company leaving our state while public officials shrug their shoulders, comment that it’s a shame, and then do nothing to fix the problem.
You can ask any industrial recruiter or merely Google the Internet to find a short list of factors that attract companies. I ask you to find one such guideline suggesting smiling and hand-shaking politicians are essential for success. Sadly, our country, our state, and even some of our local governments seem to be unwavering in being inhospitable. Instead of creating a business climate that attracts, we have leaders far more interested in establishing more regulations, and piling on even more fees and taxes.
Now, when things are not quite as positive, we see businesses leaving, down-sizing, or closing. Unfortunately when this situation occurs, the claim-taking politicians won’t be found saying much more than “I wish we’d have known there was a problem.” All the folks who were adamant to take credit in the good times rarely want to be in the newspaper photo in the bad times.
Kentucky’s method of job recruitment frequently centers of offering lavish incentive packages rather than offering the positive, business-friendly climate in which a company can be successful. Far too often we observe local officials dole out hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars as a form of government subsidy and once the deal is inked, they gleefully speak of all they did to help in the effort. Those officials should be just as concerned about getting our tax dollars back when the company leaves as they were to dole it out to attract them.
Such is the case of Aphena Pharma, a company recruited to Barren County with $1.35 million in incentives. When the company accepted incentives, they stated that they planned to employee more than 100 people within two years. When they abruptly announced their closing last week, they apparently had about 65 employees, just a few more than the 55 required to have use of our money. Our industrial recruitment group used $1.1 million in grant money to purchase equipment essential for the company to operate and then leased it back to them. When Aphena closes its doors later this summer, we will have once-valuable equipment, paid for by the people’s money, now of little value to anyone.
One of the problems with government and quasi-government groups today is doing business with little thought and few plans in place. We have elected officials and a lot of candidates for office who talk the talk of job recruitment but they rarely walk the walk of business management in offering incentive packages. A key issue here is that few of these officials have had to worry about making a payroll on time every two weeks, or worrying about being able to make the loan payment, or figuring out how to adjust the budget when a government entity adds a new tax or fee. What they offer is a big campaign smile with words of encouragement while shaking hands rather than good business practices.
Now, before I am bombarded with emails and phone calls accusing me of being a know-it-all, let me be clear in stating that I am not an expert in business. I don’t have all the answers but I know that our community has some good business managers who have expertise and who should be consulted before approaching job recruitment using only the shake-your-hand and pat-your-back good old boy routine. I do know that anytime you don’t surround yourself with knowledgeable people who can share sound business practices, you risk failure. I know that it is questionable to bribe out-of-town companies to come to Kentucky with lavish incentives that only temporarily balance the playing field. Instead, we should be looking to the most successful business-friendly states, Texas and Tennessee, and patterning our efforts on proven practices.
Having the courage to keep integrity intact
This past Sunday I left my home on the way to church thinking about the fact that I still didn’t have a clear idea what subject I might write about this week. As day-to-day activities evolve, I usually have several ideas about an editorial but find that the time is just not right for that subject or that it’s one that I must mull over to find the thoughts I wish to share.
As is sometimes typical, my minister presented one of those sermons that screamed “Jeff, you need to write about this!” As Sunday morning moved into afternoon and later evening, I considered how integrity impacts our personal lives and our communities. This is exactly how this week’s commentary found its way to our pages.
While the word “integrity” is frequently heard, it is a concept that is rarely discussed. While sitting in the audience at my son’s Air Force Pararescue graduation a few months ago, the word was used frequently and in the world of the United States Air Force, integrity revolves around the concept of “service before self.” This concept is essential for the Pararescue forces, a group of highly-trained personnel called into action to rescue downed pilots who are sometimes in very hostile places.
Integrity in my own career is something of tremendous value. I probably pay attention to words more than most people as I have made a career out of listening to others speak in meetings, at events, and even one-on-one, and it has been necessary for me to know exactly what the speaker said and the words used. It is my deep-seeded opinion that if our newspapers simply report the news accurately to show what happened, who did it, and the ultimate outcome, we have served our readers with integrity.
I have also observed that if you don’t have integrity, you have nothing. It can’t be bought - in fact, you can have all the money and power in the world, but if you are not keeping your ethical compass intact, you really have nothing. Almost daily, we have people calling us, hoping to influence how we might write a story. Foremost in my mind is the fact that others can’t take my integrity away from me but if I lose my integrity, it’s because I gave it away.
Over the past few months I’ve listened to dozens of political candidates at all levels of government speaking about why they should be elected. There have been times I’ve struggled to watch someone begin losing their integrity by focusing on what might sound good versus facts. I am continually amazed that would-be leaders fail to remember that in today’s world, facts are easily checked.
In every one of the counties served by Jobe Publishing, there are serious issues calling for leaders to guide local communities through difficult times toward a brighter future. As President Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible.”
Kentucky and our local communities stand at a crossroads and I believe one of the most important issues is electing leaders who will govern with integrity. In order to accomplish that task, we realize that actions speak louder than words. After all, knowing what’s right doesn’t mean much unless you do what’s right as we serve others before ourselves.
Savoring Our Kentucky Traditions
As the parent of rapidly-maturing children whose ever-increasing social lives leave me juggling calendars, I think one of the most important roles of a parent is building meaningful memories. Those memories might be of something very simple that becomes meaningful because of something that was said or heard, or a feeling we experienced together. Sometimes, our special memories can be something grand.
Sometimes my children will be the initiator of a memory-making experience – and occasionally they will use my feelings to support their idea - after all, they know the importance I place on such moments. If you’re a parent, you understand the funny feeling when your children use your own words to encourage you to fulfill their own ideas.
The most recent example of was my daughters, Reagan and McKenna, suggesting how great it would be to visit Churchill Downs during Kentucky’s shining moment, Derby weekend. To reinforce her case, McKenna added, “You know Dad, it would be a great memory for us to go to the Kentucky Derby this year.” Like any good Kentucky farmer, McKenna had planted a seed and waited for it to sprout.
Taking a few moments to mentally review our more recent memory-making experiences before adopting the idea, I added my usual, “You know that may be fun, but let me think about it.”
Having earned some mileage as a dad, I recalled that we sometimes strive so hard to please our children that it can create problems. Granted, what parent doesn’t want to provide their child with an experience they didn’t have when they were growing up? An example of the need for a litmus test before such decisions are made takes me back to my daughters’ desire to attend a concert and my giving an affirmative answer without weighing the options. The end result included Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, and what seemed like 50,000 screaming mothers and daughters; and then there were the 9 other dads in the crowd. It was, indeed, a memory.
Our third concert trip was planned to celebrate Reagan’s 14th birthday. She said, “Dad, how about you and I go to a concert, just us?” The notion of my daughter wanting me all to herself for a special outing seemed like a great idea and within minutes the tickets were on the way to my home. It seemed like a perfect idea until Reagan shared with her older brother what we had planned.
That led to Wyatt quizzing me by asking, “Dad, are you taking Reagan to see Lady Gaga in concert?" After I confirmed that was the plan, he said something along the lines of, “You know Dad, I believe you to be a good father and I wouldn’t want to step on your toes, but do you even know who Lady Gaga is?” Thinking I was being funny, I responded “No” with little thought, after all I didn’t know what “Bieber Fever” was until I had it either.
Wyatt then pulled up one of Lady Gaga’s recent videos on his phone and played the sound track for me. I won’t go into a lot of detail, but the rest of the story includes the return of the tickets and that concert was one we never experienced. Since that scenario, we’ve not been to any more concerts and I’ve become much more cautious about quickly saying “yes” to just about anything. I am convinced to this day that I prevented myself from suffering a heart attack by abandoning that memory-making experience.
Considering the father-daughter concert history in the Jobe household, you’ll understand my deliberate caution before responding to suggestions for memory-making experiences. The girls’ mother and I came to the conclusion that the Kentucky Oaks Day Races would be a good experience, and while I arranged for the tickets, my daughters got to shop with their mother for the perfect hats to match their new dresses. Last weekend I was blessed to introduce Reagan and McKenna to one of Kentucky’s time-honored traditions.
It was a proud moment for me to escort my lovely daughters in their Kentucky Oaks attire and I’m even more proud to say they loved it. It has always been my desire to provide nice things for my family but a parallel goal has been to never allow them to take it for granted. As the races were getting started I commented to them that we should always be proud to be Kentuckians. Noticing they were listening and waiting for another comment, I reminded them that this was a special day and that not everyone could enjoy the beautiful new clothes or box seats where we watched fine horses gallop into history, and that the nearest some people would come to this scene was reading a news story.
I shared with Reagan and McKenna that far too often people fail to appreciate who we are and where we’ve come from. I noted that I am proud to be a Kentuckian because I chose to return here after leaving to find a job. It took me several years to get back to my native land and I’m proud of the journey. As I gazed across the crowd of more than 113,000 people, I thought about the strength found in Kentucky families who work hard, endure hardships, and make a better life for the next generation. I pondered how many of the people standing around me had roots in Kentucky tobacco fields, coal mines, and farms and because of hard work and pride in being a Kentuckian, they had come to partake in another of Kentucky’s fine moments.
While my daughters proclaimed our Kentucky Oaks experience among the best, I hope that they, and everyone who had the honor of being at Churchill Downs, will always pause to consider things like family farms and coal mines that helped advance our state and our people. While it’s fun to realize that the fellow in the neighboring box asking you to make a photo with his cellphone is the Mayor of Louisville, it also reminds us that no matter what we’ve achieved personally, most of us have roots that take us back to hard work and the signature industries that helped make Kentucky great.
I’m glad to report that my daughters and I enjoyed a wonderful day, and more importantly shared some memory-making moments that we will carry with us the rest of our lives. God has blessed our state and our Kentucky families with wonderful traditions. May we never forget to honor our past and proudly stand on the foundations laid for us while we prepare for our future.
Republicans hold off another Democrat proposed gasoline tax
Like many of you, I have found myself traveling more in recent weeks as my children and I have enjoyed Spring Break and an increase in activities that fill our calendars this time each year. Just like you, I have felt the assault on my wallet each time I fill up my vehicle with gasoline. It’s a topic that one hears discussed daily because it affects nearly everyone. Just like you, I am puzzled by the fact that it costs me more to buy a tank of gas right here at home than any of the dozens of places I’ve been recently. I’m not a conspiracy theorist but it does make me want to dig for some answers.
Let me share some insights on the topic. Outside the routine business decisions made by owners of gasoline retailers, there are only a few state-to-state factors that affect the cost of gasoline at the pump. The two most prominent are the amount of taxes placed on a gallon of gasoline and the costs associated with dealing with state regulatory or environmental demands. Both are issues out of our hands but they are held firmly by the legislators serving us in Frankfort.
Considering the facts, I recently travelled from Kentucky, through Tennessee and Georgia, to Florida. In my trek, the taxes per gallon varied greatly. A full tank of fuel purchased here in Kentucky had a tax of $.3010 cents per gallon. As we drove through Tennessee my daughters were tuned into videos but I was more interested in the signs indicating that gasoline there was $.16 to $.20 per gallon less than in our home state. Out of curiosity, I discovered that Tennessee’s gas tax, set by their legislature, is $.2140 cents per gallon, nearly $.09 cents per gallon lower than Kentucky’s.
By the time we crossed into Georgia and the girls had introduced me to what must be every hit ever recorded by Justin Bieber, I was still thinking about the cost of gasoline. I found that the Peach State also has a lower gas tax than Kentucky. As of this month, Georgia’s fuel tax is $.2845 per gallon.
Now, the gasoline tax is not the only indicator that affects the cost of a gallon of gasoline at the pump no matter where you buy it. Like so many things affecting our everyday lives, the government’s environmental regulations come into play in our fuel costs. Please understand that we all want clean water and fresh air, yet the level of regulation is mind-boggling. The amount of money we are taxed or charged in fees becomes a very large amount of money, yet we see little to show a better quality of life in exchange for our hard-earned money.
Looking at Kentucky’s current status, our state is one of the most costly in which to do business. Whether a small company or a large-scale production facility, Kentucky’s legislature has followed right along with the national trend of increasing environmental demands on businesses. Like Kentucky, liberal policy-makers in many states have dominated to constantly increase regulations that affect traditional Kentucky industries such as tobacco and coal.
With all of the regulations and all of the taxes placed on Kentuckians, we still rank around #43 when it comes to studies tracking the “green” movement. I find it amazing that Kentucky is at the bottom of the lists in which we should be at the top and we find ourselves ranked at the top of lists where you’d think we should rate poorly.
So, there you have it: two of the controllable factors that affect fuel prices for you and me. Yet, while my family and I travelled back to Kentucky our Governor and the Democrats in control were working overtime to increase our fuel tax.
Representative C.B. Embry said it best in explaining the proposed fuel tax increase. “On Wednesday we took up House Bill 445, which is the revenue portion of the budget or, more commonly, the proposal on how we plan to pay for the list of items in the budget. Those who crafted the bill placed a requirement to raise Kentucky’s gas tax 1.5 cents per gallon as soon as April 1 and also to increase the ‘floor,’ or the minimum wholesale price so the gas tax will keep going up in the future. I voted against this measure, as I do not believe increasing the gas tax is fiscally sound policy and will hurt Kentuckians during tough economic times.”
It is sad to see these facts and then watch as officials elected to serve us return home to spin their views in an attempt to explain why they voted as they did. The vote on the fuel tax, like so many others, was an example of how Democrats have dominated one chamber of our legislature when the vote count revealed a 53 to 46 majority.
Sadly, this is a bold statement about issues that affect every one of us. The fuel tax increase would hit the pockets of hard-working Kentuckians. The fuel tax increase would affect our state even because it would be another in the long list of issues making Kentucky less business friendly than our neighbors to the south and north. Thankfully, when all was said and done, the Republican-controlled Senate stopped this unnecessary policy that would intrude on our lives and our livelihood.
Balanced compensation for officials is a good idea; but overnight fix could be too costly
As a publishing company focused on local news, we sometimes cover matters in local government that on the surface appear to be very simple, sometimes routine, matters. In reality, we sometimes stumble into an area that is actually one of serious contention. Some 16 years ago I was covering the Morgantown City Council and noticed something that appeared on agendas each year not unlike a holiday on the calendar.
In that small community, the city council at the time was increasing their own compensation annually by leaps and bounds. On more than one occasion, the motion would be made and the vote would be tied with three council members voting “yes” and three voting “no” which required the mayor to break the tie. For a long time, the mayor voted “yes” and all of the council, including the mayor, would enjoy yet another increase paid with taxpayer dollars.
After a few years, the increases were of epic proportions and the Morgantown City Council became the highest paid council and mayor in Kentucky cities of similar size. Today, those persons are paid $7,740 per year to serve on the council while the mayor is paid $41,813 per year. Added to that compensation are full-time benefits and health care. This caused me to keep watch on what other cities in our area are paying their elected officials.
Long before I was led to Glasgow by the opportunity to own and publish the Barren County Progress and the Hart County News Herald, I was aware of how little the elected officials in Cave City and Horse Cave were being paid. They were nearly donating their time to serve their communities. Having knowledge of these situations gave me perspective on how excessively Morgantown officials were being paid.
I have no issue with public officials being provided compensation as long as it is fair to the taxpayers, the local government, and the office holders. Public officials sacrifice much to serve their communities but their compensation should be considered in an open and honest manner while being fair and balanced.
Armed with data from nearly 30 Kentucky cities of the same class and similar size, I have not been shy about pointing out the discrepancies. Sadly, when given the evidence, many officials have chosen to ignore the issue and do nothing. For Morgantown’s situation to be addressed, it took several election cycles in which the voters spoke and our newspaper invested gallons of ink to correct the situation.
It’s taken years, but I am proud to say that the Morgantown City Council has just voted to lower their council members’ compensation to $5,000 annually and reducing the mayor’s salary to $36,000. This long-overdue change will save taxpayers $16,700 annually. I am confident Morgantown officials can find a legitimate and worthwhile use for that money by making this change. After all these years, the taxpayers can feel like they have been heard and they have caused positive change.
While Morgantown is moving in the right direction, the two other cities are also doing the right thing by increasing their compensation.
In the case of Horse Cave, when 2015 arrives, their council members will begin receiving $7,800 per year and their mayor will receive $24,000 per year. While that seems good, the reality is that it appears such an increase is more than the city’s budget can handle. Increasing the mayor’s pay from $3,000 to $24,000 is a considerable jump. It’s an even greater concern when only months later the council raised the payroll tax on every person employed within that city, claiming they need more money.
On Monday evening the Cave City Council unanimously passed the first reading of an ordinance to increase their officials’ compensation. If passed on the second reading, beginning in 2015 their council members’ pay will increase to $50 per meeting (regular or special called) and the mayor’s salary will increase to $500 per month or $6,000 per year. The leaders of that community have obviously observed the broad range of salaries and have chosen to take a more modest approach by increasing compensation at a level that their budget can withstand.
I applaud Cave City leaders for considering a more fair compensation for their elected officials; it is a move in the right direction and it is fair to both taxpayers and office holders. More so, I applaud those officials for obviously giving careful consideration to how their city’s resources will allow them to pay their officials. Fiscal responsibility and good stewardship of taxpayers’ dollars is of utmost importance in today’s world. It’s refreshing to see positive change that has earned merit before it comes time for a vote.
Celebrating a new generation
At the end of this week our community will have another opportunity to witness the phenomenal abilities of some impressive young people. The students in the limelight of the Plaza Theatre on Saturday evening are not star athletes, or champion horn players, but they possess a unique talent that has been developed thanks to the ever-evolving technological age. The students who will be lauded for achievement will be high school film makers in the Reel Generation Film Festival.
More than four years ago, I was one of the local folks recruited to be part of a brand new effort to do two things: bring statewide attention to our own beautiful historic movie theatre and recognize high school students who are outstanding film makers. Today, I’m honored to have been among the ranks of Rita Riherd, Dr. Jerry Ralston, Phillip Napier, and Jennifer Moonsong as we explored ways to achieve our goals. Along the way we’ve encountered people who didn’t share a passion for our idea and who had to be convinced that the two-pronged goal was do-able.
As a demonstration of the commitment I have to this project, our company signed on as one of the major prize sponsors to help get the ball rolling. This past year, our committee’s persistence was recognized by Watkins College of Art, Design & Film when they partnered with us to offer more than $18,000 in scholarships to the makers of outstanding films. On Saturday evening three Kentucky students will not only be rewarded with those scholarships, but prize money as well.
As further proof of our persistence, this year we have entries from various parts of our state – a testimony that student film makers are all around us and like the star athlete, the champion horn player or the academic all-star, they have outstanding talents that should be celebrated.
I cannot pass up the opportunity to mention one of our past award winners, Sam Stucky, a native of Lexington. When Sam was a student at Bryan Station High School he honed his skills as a film maker and entered multiple award-winning entries in our festival for multiple years. Sam’s work got the attention of the University of Kentucky where the high school student was employed, yes employed, to make films. He also earned a spot in the Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts where he wowed organizers with his amazing talent. Today, Sam Stucky is a full scholarship student at Columbia College Chicago, one of the nation’s outstanding schools for film makers.
I also cannot forget another talented student who won a major prize at the Reel Generation Film Festival two years ago. That young man went home that night and made a film of himself, sitting on his bed in the wee hours of the following morning, telling how the recognition he earned inside Glasgow’s Plaze Theatre had been one of the most important things to ever happen in his young life. He shared that the Reel Generation Film Festival had changed his life and had given him the confidence to pursue his passion for creating movies – something that few other people had ever encouraged him to do.
I must admit that my early involvement in this project was a nice way to promote a local landmark, my company and I even liked the idea of my daughters being on stage to present the award from our family business. I soon came to realize that this unique project wasn’t about me, my company, or any of the other notions that entered my mind. Instead, I quickly realized it was about encouraging a few young people and assuring them that their talents were incredible, reminding them that they were valuable assets to our state, and our future. I’m proud to say that Glasgow is home to Kentucky’s only event of this type and that we are indeed achieving our goals.
As you will read on the front page of our newspaper this week, this year’s Reel Generation Film Festival will feature some unique additions that tie our local history to this event. I invite you to join us this Saturday evening at the Plaza for an evening you won’t soon forget.
How backroom deals once again hurt Kentuckians
As our State Senate does all it can to hold off another gasoline tax, more unfunded mandates, and long-term liabilities for one of the nation’s most underfunded retirement systems, we now have the threat of a debt-load reaching billions of dollars.
Without a doubt, the key to Kentucky's future is to have leadership with the desire to check politics at the door and embrace a plan to make our state more business-friendly like our neighbors in Tennessee and Indiana.
These states have been fortunate to have strong, forward-thinking leaders to bring economic success to their people. Kentucky has excellent business managers and recruiters but they have been hampered by politicians’ refusal to implement change at the cost of special interest groups. While I hear these same sentiments repeated locally, we are merely one of dozens of Kentucky communities begging our leaders to step up and do the right thing.
It is my opinion that the chief goal of any legislative body is to bring the wishes of the people to the table and create legislation that helps our communities. The deals made behind closed doors may bring some tax dollars to the pockets of a few in our community, but for the average citizen in south central Kentucky, they do not. Tax dollars are needed to provide a good quality of life for our people, yet the policies put in place have the potential to destroy the ability of those taxpayers to contribute tax dollars or have a decent living.
As a community publisher involved in local commerce, I find myself frequently engaged in discussions about our state and national policies that affect Kentucky’s ability to be more business-friendly in its dealings and attract much-needed jobs. If your paths don’t cause you to be aware of such issues, simply take a few minutes and ask any small business owner, industrial manager or business leader in our community and you will become informed. Ask them how higher payroll taxes affect them, what the effect of a higher gasoline tax will do to their business, and how a higher minimum wage threatens to cost jobs in the long run.
One thing any community publisher must be devoted to is listening, after all, we all have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Listening to the community is how any editorial writer effectively gauges the pulse of the people. This topic is one that I hear about every day whether it’s at the local coffee shop, the corporate boardroom, or in line at one of the local big box stores. Simply put, Kentucky is losing and it’s not because the people are misinformed. We are losing because we are plagued by self-serving leaders who are more committed to protecting the turf of special interest groups and doling out political favors than addressing the concerns of our people. Far too many good, worthwhile, change-causing bills are left on committee room floors instead of being given proper consideration.
Tennessee leaders have shown that lower taxes and fiscal stability are key reasons why many companies choose a city or state for expansion or relocation. Agriculture Commissioner James Comer has cut an estimated 10% of the budget in the Kentucky Department of Agriculture while others are screaming at the thought of doing more with less than last year’s budget. Comer has not gone to Frankfort to represent the special interests in Frankfort, he is there to represent those of us out here. We need more like him.
According to Fitch Ratings, one of the country’s top bond-rating agencies, Tennessee has the lowest debt ratio of any state in the country. In 2012, Barron’s magazine ranked Tennessee as the third-best-run state. In 2013, Tennessee was named “State of the Year” by Business Facilities magazine. Tennessee is a right-to-work state, has no personal income tax, and enjoys the second-lowest cost of living in the United States.
Tennessee is also known for its manufacturing — the number of workers employed in manufacturing in Tennessee is almost a third greater than the national average and way higher than Kentucky. In the meantime, more and more Kentucky small business owners throw in the towel out of frustration with an ever-growing government overwhelming them with multiple stumbling blocks provided by our leaders.
Education and work force partnerships that advance manufacturing in Tennessee include the Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing in Kingsport, a state-of-the-art training facility that helps create a pipeline of well-prepared applicants for manufacturing positions. In Chattanooga, Volkswagen and Chattanooga State Community College have partnered to create the Volkswagen Academy, which prepares new employees to work at the Volkswagen plant. Nissan, Volkswagen, and General Motors all have major production hubs in Tennessee.
Tennessee’s proactive approach to business is reflected in the fact that in a 12-month period in 2012-2013, five economic development projects created 6,900 jobs and $3.2 billion in capital investments. None of these advancements were created by raising a single tax, all were made possible by creating a business-friendly environment. Tennessee’s job growth has affected every facet of that state with an influx of revenue and employed citizens.
It was recently brought to my attention that 50 years ago this year, local leaders in Glasgow and Cave City passed legislation to promote a Right to Work environment. While the economic environment of 1964 was much different than ours, those leaders were progressive in trying to move our region forward. Unfortunately, Kentucky’s leaders in 2014 have chosen to take the easy route by ignoring the wishes of the people and simply do nothing to create a more business-friendly environment. Our state and our citizens deserve better.
Yet another Mayor and City Council ignoring the voters
The time has come for me to once again share my sincere opinion on an issue that I have followed for nearly two decades. For years I have promised our readers that I would constantly watch issues that are important to them, a promise I take seriously with no personal animosity toward any person. I have probably devoted more ink on the pages of this newspaper to the issue of the compensation of public officials than any other. My concerns are not about any person, but my frustration with a system that just can’t seem to get it right.
For residents of Morgantown, the salary of their elected mayor has been an issued filled with deception after deception. This is not a new problem; it’s gone on for nearly 20 years. The voters of Morgantown do not believe they should have the highest paid mayor and city council among Kentucky’s 4th and 5th Class cities. Voters have expressed their opinion very clearly in the past and it seems some people have very short memory and consider promises broken to be of no consequence.
For those whose memory might not be too clear, let me remind you that this is not a new issue in Morgantown nor is it a subject that I created. I purchased the Banner and Republican newspaper in February of 1998 and the subject of compensation for the 5th class city had been discussed many times over the years by the former editor and publisher, Deborah and Roger Givens.
It was never my desire to become involved in local elections, yet the political deception by self-serving leaders was so rampant and hurt the community to the point that I felt dirty not doing the job I was blessed to hold. Morgantown needed a newspaper publisher who was not timid about telling the truth, which I did.
Initially, we exposed the "Yes-Men" of the late 1990’s and early 2000's. These three men would vote for pay increases for themselves and the mayor every single year while three other council members would vote against the pay increase. Because Morgantown had six council members, the mayor had the privilege of breaking the tie vote and without so much as a thought to the contrary, that mayor would give himself and the council a raise every time. This scenario played out year after year until Morgantown had the highest paid part-time leadership in Kentucky.
As publisher, I secured a ruling from the Attorney General stating that a mayor would have to remove himself from any vote in which his own compensation was the subject. The mayor at the time knew I didn't want to hurt him personally but if he chose to ignore the ruling, it was out of my hands. He did what was right and the vote failed because he abstained from the vote.
In small communities like those scattered all across south central Kentucky, it is important to never allow our differences of opinion affect other things. One of the blessings of small towns is that we are all neighbors and while I may write something denouncing an issue on Monday and a couple of days later have dinner with the person at the center of my editorial.
As time moved along, one of the council members who voted “no” on the compensation increases in Morgantown chose to challenge the sitting mayor and she won the election. One of the primary tenants of her campaign was that she would do all that she could the reduce the pay of the mayor and council if elected.
This issue provided me with proof that our news coverage made a difference in the community. I honestly felt that because of the emphasis placed on this issue, the long overdue error would be addressed and corrected once and for all. Yet, when the time came for the new mayor fix the compensation problem, she had surrounded herself with a few blindly-loyal council members who felt if they campaigned together they could hold onto their offices and the higher pay. Instead of addressing the amount of the salary, they chose to fight my commentary by making the mayor position full-time to justify the full-time benefits being given to a part-time position while other part-time city workers were not offered similar benefits.
Their plan backfired and that mayor was replaced after one term and several of the council members were traded for new officials who again promised to address the issue. Among the boisterous candidates seeking office were Linda Keown campaigning to be mayor and Terrell House seeking a second term as a council member. They openly agreed that the salary must change and committed themselves to make it happen.
The candidates promised voters that they would reduce the nearly $42,000 per year mayor’s salary and the $7,740 annual for council members. They pledged to bring Morgantown’s compensation for its elected officials in line with other cities of the same classification. To illustrate my concern about just how different Morgantown’s salary compared to similar towns, understand that the mayor of Cave City, Kentucky is being paid $1,800 per year while council members are paid $600 per year.
Both House and Keown won the election and within a few weeks of taking office, House began discussing his campaign promise. He said at the time, “We all know this is a priority for our community and I am simply honoring my word and addressing something I know to be important to those who asked me to serve." At the same time, Mayor Keown had no comments on the subject.
As time passed and voters became irritated about the lack of action, House introduced the subject and found himself abandoned by Keown. The mayor had now come to the conclusion that her pay was not too much and might even be enough considered the work she performed. It was disappointing to observe this about-face after witnessing her discussion of how the money could be put to better use in the community if the salary was reduced.
In politics there are always differences of opinion but in this particular situation, I am convinced that the voters will frown on Councilman Russell Givens’ statement, "If salaries are reduced then we might not be able to attract professionals for the job." He indicated the city shouldn't offer a laborer’s salary for a management position. I also the feel the community disagrees with Councilman Gary Southerland’s comment, "I just don't believe it matters to people, I don't even know why we are discussing it."
It is refreshing to see House honor his word but at the same time it is terribly disappointing that the issue was never pushed until the very last moment for so much as a discussion.
I have no doubt that in just a very short time many Morgantown citizens will join me and Council member Allen Meredith who said, "I believe this is a very important issue to the community and it should be addressed."
The majority has no vote in Kentucky
Without a doubt, most people would agree that if the majority of the members of the Kentucky General Assembly agreed on an issue it would be placed on the floor of the respective chambers for consideration. I would agree with this simple concept and I think you do, too. To the contrary, in the very body that governs our great Commonwealth, this concept has no meaning.
As a young newspaper professional, I used to ask our local legislators why they never introduced issues they knew voters in our region are passionate about. Almost a routine response, I was told, "Why bring it up when you know it has no chance at all of getting a vote in the House?" At the time, I was a young and aggressive reporter looking for a front-page story but as the years have passed, I’ve become more interested in what is good for our communities and the opinions of the people.
For those who’ve read what I’ve shared over the past sixteen years, you may recall that I became a Republican for the same reason Ronald Reagan did. He famously said the he didn’t leave his old party, but that the party left him. Like many residents of our area, I agreed with Reagan and left the party that my grandfather loved and promoted to the point of naming his first son Happy Chandler Miller.
When you look at voting trends for our state, I am not unique at all. As a matter of fact, some of the issues I wrote against back then are the very same issues that caused many Kentuckians to have a change of heart politically. Only in recent years have we seen the national policies of the Democratic Party being promoted by Kentucky party officials. Those very issues were the ones that stole the party from the people and now there is ample evidence that some Democratic members of the Kentucky legislature are willing to sacrifice the opinions of the people for the platform of the national party.
I don’t intend for this column to be about politics, it is about doing what is right. I am not asking for opinions on House Bill 575, a bill relating to full disclosure in public safety. Simply put, this bill empowers women facing an unplanned pregnancy to make informed choices. The bill requires information from an ultrasound, already a routine practice, be made available to a woman 24 hours before undergoing an abortion. Can we honestly say that Kentuckians would prefer women not have every reasonable bit of information available to them before making a decision that is difficult and personal, but also irreversible and involves another life?
No doubt, you already have an opinion on the subject. As a newspaper publisher engaged in our community, I have no doubt what the local majority believes. If you want to get yourself in hot water, stop by any of the local breakfast hangouts and tell any Democrat over age 60 that he supports abortion if he votes for Democrat leadership. There are passionate opinions on all sides of the abortion issue and I am not at all offering up an opinion on the subject myself at this time.
I ask you to look closely at HB 575 which is found at the bottom of this page. What you will notice, besides the simple wording and its intent, is that 61 of 100 members of the Kentucky House of Representatives signed on as co-sponsors. Note that there are 45 Republicans in that body and in order for a total of 61 to co-sponsor this bill, there were Democrats who agreed with it. It’s pretty simple to see that these men and women have made this an issue that crosses party lines. I commend those 16 Democrats who have stood against leadership on the issue no doubt because they believe it is what the communities they serve would want.
It’s very clear that the majority feels this legislation is good. Some of you may feel likewise. In the Jobe Publishing service area, we have five members of the lower chamber of the legislature. Reps. Jim DeCesare, C.B. Embry, Michael Meredith, and Bart Rowland all lent their support to this bill; Rep. Johnny Bell is not a co-sponsor. These gentlemen all serve in a body led by Speaker Greg Stumbo who wields an iron hand when it comes to what bills make it to the floor where they can be debated and voted on. Instead, the leadership has assigned HB 575 to the Health and Welfare Committee, termed by some as “the graveyard,” where co-chair Tom Burch has declared that all pro-life legislation will be killed whether it is the will of the majority or not.
Sadly, this is how the opinions of our citizens are dealt with in Frankfort. There are dozens of pieces of legislation that Kentuckians support yet they are killed off simply because party leaders wish to serve up a victory for a national party platform.
Something just doesn't seem right.
Right to work legislation essential for a competitive Kentucky future
I can’t imagine the amount of unrest that would be unleashed at Jobe Publishing if I announced that I would be deducting several hundred dollars from each paycheck throughout the year to support political causes without regard to what the individual might think. I can assure that such a move wouldn’t go too far because I am aware that each employee has his or her own opinion and they each have issues that are important to them.
While I have made it a policy to never ask the political affiliation or even political leanings of our six editors, I have read their opinions over the years and I am comfortable in reporting that we have a very broad range of political opinions within in our company. We tend to be about as varied as those casting votes across America each Election Day. We have an individual who embraces the extreme left and another who embraces issues promoted by the extreme right. We have others who proudly stand right in the middle and prefer to weigh each issue. As a whole, we mirror our region.
Last week several political leaders gathered in Frankfort for the Kentucky Right to Work legislation kick-off. Joining them were industrial association presidents, chamber presidents and industrial recruiters from all over our state. As with any event connected to a topic that attracts people with passionate feelings, there will be some who feel exactly the opposite of the group. That was the case last week when a few in opposition made their presence known with outspoken objection using comments filled with anger and delivered in a nasty manner. It took only a moment for everyone to understand that they were paid to be there to grab the attention of the media, spew anger at the people on the program, and share distorted facts to make their case.
My thoughts in this column are simple. I believe the concept of forced union dues presents two big problems in my idea of balance.
First, I do not believe any American should be forced by law to join or affiliate themselves as a member of any group with which they do not choose to associate. This is a simple First Amendment issue. It’s very simple. You and I are guaranteed the right to choose what we join and pay dues to be a part of. No one should make us do otherwise.
Second, it is a matter of ethics. I strive to do what is ethically correct. This is an issue our editorial team grapples with weekly as we sit down to hammer out what we write. We strive to consider what our subscribing readers want to know and read about vs. what we feel is important for those same readers to be informed of. We strive to be fair and balanced. We listen carefully to what our communities are saying as well as what individual readers are saying. It takes a confident editor to listen to all sides and then take a stance that may not be popular with powerful people. Sometimes that stance is with the majority and sometimes it must be with what is right. Newspapers are businesses but they must also be ethical when taking a stand.
Our editors strive to stay in tune with our readers and our communities but unlike our editors, union officials are not always receptive to their members. I am not writing this to stir a fight; I have no access to union minutes, memorandums or questionnaires and I base this thought on a general conclusion. I am comfortable most of our readers will agree.
Anyone who was paying attention during the 2012 presidential election will recall that Kentucky overwhelmingly voted against Barack Obama. I mention this not to share my opinion on that election or our presidents’ job performance - it takes no real courage to write about national figures because they are easy targets for criticism. In all honesty, no one truly cares what our editorial writers feel about President Obama. My point is that upwards of 73% of our region voted against Obama’s re-election. His campaign was heavily financed by unions and promoted issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, healthcare, and how our ever-enlarging government operates. Those campaign contributions came from union dues taken from American workers who may or may not support those issues. Yet, their money that they earned was deducted from their paycheck and used to promote some of those very issues.
Unions have forced millions of Americans to pay dues as a condition of employment. The powerful unions use those dues to influence politicians by making contributions to their campaign funds and in gratitude the politicians use their influence to keep things centered on pro-union issues. If you question my statements, put down this paper in a few minutes and call any local school superintendent, school board member, industrial recruiter, private contractor, or public official and ask what they feel about things such as prevailing wage laws.
If you’re not familiar with prevailing wage, it’s a means of forcing each of these public entities to pay higher union wages whether a worker is a union member or not. It translates into sky-rocketing costs to build every school, public building, highway, and more. Our union-controlled politicians are all too happy to support prevailing wage laws and other measures that ultimately hurt America.
If there is one important thing the Kentucky House of Representatives can accomplish in the current session, it would be to enact the Right to Work legislation proposed in HB 496. It is time for the playing field to be leveled for our industrial recruiters. It is time for our local school leaders to be empowered to balance budgets by eliminating forced waste and allow them to make good decisions. It is time our elected officials stand and represent the majority of our district and not the minority.
Giving respect to local professionals
As all good managers understand, the best motivator for any team is equipping them with the tools they need to succeed. Leaders who can objectively evaluate such needs tend to find themselves feeling blessed when they realize those serving on their team are true professionals who care and who will not ask for the absurd. Team players understand that times are tough and they realize the financial strains our companies are under; the same can be said of many who work inside our government.
Here at Jobe Publishing, I find that I rarely face such decisions because our team understands we don’t have a pot full of money hidden away to cover grandiose expenditures. While every facet of our company could quickly produce a wish list, our team members understand that we operate frugally. We constantly look for ways to be more efficient while working to make our company stronger.
A similar management philosophy is badly needed in our government. As a newspaper publisher observing our community and the various levels of government, it is sad to see intelligent, caring, and fully-dedicated local leaders asking, sometimes pleading, for the opportunities to do things a better way and still being ignored.
Sadly, it is not uncommon to observe local educators and education decision-makers being ignored by those wielding power at higher levels. In 2010 and again this past January 11, local school board members and superintendents met with our legislators, Sen. David Givens and Rep. Johnny Bell, to ask for help on matters they felt were vital to our local schools.
In the 2010 dialogue, the group discussed the issue of passing legislation that directly affects local schools while not being given the revenue to pay for the new requirements. Little has changed since that time and to this day, unfunded mandates continue to plague our local leaders.
During last month’s meeting our local school officials shared their need for improved funding and fewer strings dictating how that funding is used. We sit in a county with numerous new school facilities and every one of them cost local school boards more money than was necessary due to the requirement to pay prevailing wages. Our local school board members and administrators continue to be in agreement that our state’s requirement to pay prevailing wages hurts our local school districts and their bottom line. Dozens of other unfunded mandates forced upon our schools make the situation even more serious.
Allow me to share a couple of examples that have been discussed in meetings recently. Glasgow Independent Schools has a handsome new high school that cost nearly $1 million more because of the requirement to pay prevailing wages as mandated by our legislature. When that same school district moved its central offices in a cost-cutting move, they had an estimate from a local service provider to move the Internet server at a cost of $6,000. Yet, as the process moved along, our local officials learned that they must abide by a state contract with a major corporation and use their services for this work with a price tag of $52,000. Friends, I have faith in our school boards and the administrators they hire to handle our money better than these examples reflect.
Back in the January 11 meeting, both legislators acknowledged that unfunded mandates were not good for schools. As part of that discussion, our legislators disagreed on the issue of prevailing wages. Sen. Givens stated that if a bill doing away with the regulation were offered, it would pass the State Senate today; Rep. Bell indicated that he would not support such legislation.
Thinking about such issues, I recall a supervisor at a large newspaper sharing her philosophy about such decisions with me. She said, “If your employees do exactly what you want, when you want it, and how you want it, then whose fault is it if you lose readers, money, or market share to your competitor?”
I understood the philosophy then and I continue to understand it today as a business owner. If my team asks for the tools they need to do their job more efficiently and successfully, and I don’t make an effort to provide it, I cannot hold them accountable to achieve my goals. This is exactly what our local school officials and educators face daily. The government that oversees them controls the purse-strings, yet they fail to properly equip the local officials with the tools they need to be successful and then add more regulations and additional unfunded mandates in an effort to make them achieve certain goals. It simply does not work.
It is time for our government to adopt a more sensible philosophy and allow our local officials to truly make the decisions and as a result, we will hold them accountable to producing the appropriate results.
Define your candidacy
As a local newspaper publisher, I have been accused of covering news in a manner to merely sell newspapers. This accusation usually comes from individuals who find themselves on the front page doing or saying something they later wish they hadn’t done or said.
Now that the political campaign season is underway, I am encouraging candidates in the communities Jobe Publishing serves – Barren, Butler, Hart, Metcalfe, and Monroe Counties - to remember that people are always watching you. No, it’s not necessarily the media watching all the time, but it is your community that is watching you. It’s important for you to handle yourself in the same respectful manner before and after you speak as well as while others are speaking. It would be wise to remember that the very people you might be battling on the campaign trail are still going to be your neighbors after the election and who knows, you might even find yourselves being friends at some point.
Granted, I am a candidate myself this year and I’ve got Jobe Publishing’s five newspapers in good hands while I concentrate my efforts to convey to voters why I am the best candidate. It is a long-standing tradition for our newspapers to attend all kinds of community events where we’ve snapped a few pictures and published a few stories about those events along the way. Our coverage of these events documents the very life of our small communities. While accomplishing that task, these events help us keep a finger on the pulse of our communities and the issues that affect them. While we don’t generally endorse or promote candidates we do endorse good government that is of, by, and for the people.
To those who are candidates for office, it is just as much your responsibility to reign in the emotions of your supporters as it is to contain your own. Our country has over 230 years of elections under its belt and one of the ways we learn about those seeking office to hear comparisons of the candidates as well as their ideas for better government. As we have all seen in the past, this can be effectively accomplished without smear tactics, personal attacks, and outright bullying. Every candidate has a right to express his or her legitimate ideas that define them as a candidate.
Candidates, when you consider the message you wish to convey, formulate a few talking points that establish the differences between you and your competitors. It’s difficult for the media to fairly write about the candidates for an office if you don’t share the essential reasons you are seeking office. Give voters and the press something of substance. Few people today base their vote on how long a person has been married, how their children turned out, or what school or church you attend. As a matter of fact it is frustrating for a news reporter to sit through long periods of what one might write on their first resume. There’s a difference between every candidate and it’s up to you to tell us what that difference might be.
Tell the people why your ideas are better. Tell the people how you will make our government, no matter what level, better for everyone. Give some specifics about what you support and what you don’t support. Tell the people how you will spend their hard-earned tax dollars. If candidates convey this essential information, it won’t take long before we begin to see individuals pull out front in each election. A community who has an engaged media and candidates not timid about sharing their views most definitely equals a better informed voter.
Last weekend a very good friend of mine dropped off some reading material at my back door and among the pages was a quote from Winston Churchill. It was his philosophy that when speaking one should hit the point once, come back and hit it again, and in concluding, give it a tremendous whack. I couldn’t help but think of the candidates I’ve observed in over 25 years of newspaper management and how this was exactly what made them memorable to this day.
Over the years I have referenced my grandfather who often commented, “You can say almost anything as long as you have a smile on your face.” This quaint idea from the past doesn’t always hold true when mixed with the combination of politics and power. When I was actively covering the news as a young man, I received death threats, was personally attacked, and even offered bribes, because some people don’t want news covered objectively and fairly. Likewise, candidates for office should never find themselves bullying another candidate because the laws of our land guarantee us the right to express our thoughts in a dignified and truthful manner.
People become passionate about politics. Nearly every adult can share an example of a bad policy or an unethical leader that does not benefit the people or provide good government. Elections provide our citizens with the opportunity to change the elected officials who make decisions when they feel the official is no longer effective. The decision of who serves us is up to the voting public. In order for voters to make that determination, candidates must present themselves and their views clearly and with dignity.
We at Jobe Publishing look forward to covering hometown news in each of our communities. We pledge ourselves to covering community political events fairly and with integrity for the very thing we most desire: good government by our elected officials.
Remembering the Golden Rule
One of the by-products of maturing and settling into our personal comfort zones is the ability to reflect on who we are and what we believe. If you’re anything like me, there are moments in life that remain vivid memories because of the impressions made on us. Some of my most valued memories center on my grandparents and those experiences continue to impact what I do today in my business and in rearing my children.
My grandmother, Rosie Mae Miller, spoke frequently about how we should treat one another. Her words to me were powerful, even as a very young boy, when she reminded me to treat others as I want to be treated. Later, I came to recognize those thoughts as the Golden Rule and while they are biblical in origin, I still associate them with my grandmother.
I think of the Golden Rule frequently as I see politicians slam one another in open meetings or even help others file lawsuits against their fellow elected officials without so much as an attempt to resolve the issue properly. In the news business we receive hundreds of press releases each week and not all of them contain factual information from reliable sources. If our newspapers printed some of the information presented to us, many people could potentially be hurt, lose their reputation, and even their dignity. One of the most difficult aspects of covering local news in a small community is doing our job and doing it fairly. One of the questions I have posed to myself while approaching local news is “if this story involved my family, how would I want it reported?”
Last week Jobe Publishing’s Managing Editor Sam Terry and I attended the annual Kentucky Press Association conference in Lexington. During the event we had the pleasure of being accompanied by my daughters, Reagan and McKenna, for the awards banquet. As in the past, Jobe Publishing brought home honors for advertising, marketing and design. However, this year was different in that we were recognized by our peers for excellence in news coverage and writing. Naturally, having the combination of writing ability, research, and editing skills within our company means outstanding stories that rightfully carry the byline of those doing the work. Additionally, I feel blessed that the very stories that won prestigious awards were some of the most difficult we’ve had to write and we did it with integrity.
Jobe Publishing’s first award for the Best General News Story was written by Sam Terry and I recall all too well the multiple days he spent doing research and the numerous people interviewed to make certain the true story was placed in our readers’ hands. I specifically recall the interviews with individuals who had been all but found guilty based on public opinion created by a court motion that did not tell all of the facts. That story revealed a multi-faceted saga in which individuals’ reputations were tainted by accusations of mishandling evidence and involved a cast of characters including personnel from the Glasgow Police Department, various Glasgow officials including the City Attorney, the Barren County Detention Center, the Barren County Sheriff’s office, the Commonwealth Attorney’s office, and no less than three judges. Sadly, all of that was a power play to grab headlines, possibly for political gain, as well as potentially gutting criminal charges against a long-term criminal defendant with decades of similar charges.
News of one politician slamming another doesn’t excite me too much because we see it so often when observing local government meetings. Even those who don’t follow those meetings catch on to the routine in which individuals are demeaned. As the late Margaret Thatcher said, “If they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left.” When I see outright attacks and the innuendo I cannot help but think of the Golden Rule.
When we delved inside this story we found there was a single individual by the name of Amanda Miller, a young professional with a resume filled with some of the most outstanding training certifications to be found in this area. Yet, unfounded allegations suggested that Ms. Miller wasn’t doing her job correctly and would take the brunt of accusations that threatened to destroy her career. As the story unfolded to reveal facts and a clear trail of documentation involving multiple persons, it became more important that the story be told.
The judges who critiqued Sam Terry’s story made a point of leaving written comments about the fact that there are always two sides to a story and they commended him for his excellent job of telling both sides with fairness and integrity. Attorney Johnny Bell and his client, two of the subjects of the story, had the ability to put their words in a court document but the other individuals did not have that privilege.
Instead, others found their lips silenced and the only means of getting to the heart of the matter was a fair and balanced news story uncovered by our newspaper. Over the years I have found that when both sides are allowed to present their sides fairly, then most of us unassociated with the case will come to a similar agreement. In the case in question, there is no substantiation that anyone did anything wrong in handing evidence. In the meantime, a dedicated and highly-trained professional, numerous law enforcement officials, and our court system still have not seen the motion dismissed as court dates have been repeatedly postponed for months. The scenario is a pure example of what happens when people merely doing their jobs are shoved into the manure of a legal maneuver designed to get charges against a client dropped. There is a very real possibility that had it not been for what has now become an award-winning story, the “rest of the story” would never have been told.
As a community publisher, I stand proud that we once again enacted the time-honored Golden Rule and we told all of the story.
Leaders of the Future following the lead of the past
On Monday January 20, Jobe Publishing hosted to two separate groups of Leaders of the Future. I usually rework my schedule so that I can be on hand when such groups visit because I take pride in showcasing the company that carries my name and the career I have enjoyed all of my adult life.
On many of these occasions I have the pleasure of sharing the story of Jobe Publishing with the children of my friends and neighbors and I want to instill in them the opportunities available to them as they consider their future. I use myself as an example of a person following a dream and seeing it come true due to hard work and perseverance.
For many young people today, the traditional role of the print media is unfamiliar territory. They haven’t grown up with the news being delivered to their door but rather their computer devices. While the way the media accomplishes its mission has changed, I believe our industry is poised for a strong future if there are future leaders who creatively embrace change instead of fearing it.
It’s a pleasure to lead students in examples of ways that our company has embraced an ever-evolving industry by thinking creatively and seeking to explore uncharted territory. Jobe Publishing was the first community newspaper to offer a full-color front page. We were the first to provide an opinion page presided over by a published who is still not timid about speaking out when the need exists. Jobe Publishing was the first to sell an advertisement on page one which brought snooty ridicule by a leading statewide newspaper declaring that we were prostituting our front page (and today you will find the front page of that newspaper doing exactly what Jobe Publishing was the first in Kentucky to do). I’m proud to say we were among the first to fully paginate our pages for printing and we were the first to charge for full access to our online content.
Our afternoon was an opportunity for our team to show the students the entire process of gathering the news of our communities, preparing it for print and finally dissemination to the public. We were honored to share a small portion of the process with a group of young people who are clearly the future leaders of our communities.
I found it ironic that the Leaders of the Future visit occurred on a day set aside to remember the struggles of our country in assuring equality for all citizens of our great country. On this day we recall how some of our leaders and citizens can be terribly wrong in their ideas and behavior. It is a good day to recall our misdeeds as we strive to be certain that we don’t make some of the same mistakes in the present as we look to the future. It is a good time to remember what terrible outcomes corruption and abuse of power can produce. We have all seen first-hand how wrong ideas have hurt not just those living at the time, but their succeeding generations who have to struggle to overcome those ideas. At the same time, the descendants of those who wielded such power must overcome the wrong ideas of their ancestors.
Sometimes the people who stand up and alert others about wrong ideas, legislation, and regulations earn the label of “rebel.” Many people today continue to view the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as a rebel because he pointed to inequalities in our country and he spoke about the need to fix them. Dr. King was a visible leader in a movement that needed to gain ground in our country to bring all Americans to table to freely enjoy the fruits of freedom in our country. That’s a concept that I can embrace.
As I reflected on the notions of speaking up, being a rebel, using innovative ideas, and standing for something, I suddenly recalled the students touring our plant on Monday. What wonderful opportunities await them if they are willing to accept the challenges of the future. Just as Jobe Publishing has a tradition of moving forward into uncharted territory, it is my hope that our young people embrace their future and never forget to dream.
Enriching our community through serving others
In the news business it is not unusual to learn of stories that inspire us. We frequently learn about students who have charted new territories, business people who have overcome odds and achieved success, athletes who have set a record, and more. Less frequently we learn about public employees who go above and beyond the call of duty.
There are dozens of very good public employees in each of our communities who perform their jobs well but sometimes those employees choose to “go the extra mile.” For example, in Barren County, employees of the Glasgow Fire Department and 911 Call Center chose to use their talents to renovate the former Glasgow City Hall and Glasgow Police Department offices into attractive and efficient work spaces that anyone would be proud of.
Fire Chief Tony Atwood and his fellow fire fighters were beaming with pride as they told the public about the renovation during an open house Monday evening. Just as they have every right to be proud of their accomplishments, we the taxpayers should be proud of their efforts and express gratitude to each helping hand.
According to Atwood, about one-third of the department’s personnel chose to take on the task of renovating the building – no one told them to do it nor were they asked to do it – they volunteered to use their skills to better their work environment and the city for our benefit. Amazingly, walls were removed, windows replaced, thousands of feet of old wiring was removed, the walls were painted – virtually everything was given a new lease on life.
The employees generally did the work in the evening hours, on weekends, and they were even there working on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day because of their desire to finish the project by the end of 2013. The group spent about eight months on the project.
As Atwood pulled a very long adding machine tape from his pocket, he shared that a total of $8,316.34 was spent on the renovations and of that amount, more than $3,000 was for replacement windows and their installation. Judging from building costs these days, the employees likely saved taxpayers more than $100,000.
There are numerous examples of how many of our public employees share their talent for the common good and as such, they become public servants. Over the holidays, Editor Sam Terry and I visited with one of our mature friends and she shared how relieved she was that the sanitation workers on her route watched out for her garbage on pick-up. No, they don’t have to worry about it, but realizing her plight, the workers rolled her garbage can to street, emptied it into the truck, returned it to its storage spot behind her house. And, they knocked on her door to let her know they thought about her and wished her well during the holidays.
I’m also reminded of how a group in Morgantown chose to escape the normal process for renovating sidewalks – a project that had been discussed for decades – and found a way to do them on their own. They found a way to make it a community project by gathering ideas and bids and they completed the badly-needed work for pennies on the dollar.
Similarly, Horse Cave business and property owners joined forces with interested members of the community to spruce up their downtown by making things more attractive and inviting. Their work is visible everywhere you look because for more than a year they planned and found a way to make their dreams a reality.
From one end of the Jobe Publishing service area to the other, we find these inspiring stories and we are happy to share them with our readers. While we’re bombarded with news of people taking advantage of taxpayers, it is motivating to know that there are good people with good ideas who are armed with talent and a desire to help make something better in each of our communities.
I’m reminded of what President Woodrow Wilson told Americans decades ago, “You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.”
2014 offers political options like never before
The upcoming political campaign season has more potential for voters in this region to align with the rest of the Commonwealth and the country to affect change than ever before. In 2014, Kentuckians may well see a junior Senator rise to the top of the heap as a potential candidate for President of the United States. At the same time, we will witness more chapters in what is already the most-watched race for U.S. Senator in the United States.
Closer to home, we will watch our one-cause Governor have one last chance to gamble on Kentucky’s future. Simultaneously, voters around the state have the opportunity to end over 90 years of one-party domination in the Kentucky House of Representatives.
While recently reassessing my own life accomplishments and my vision for my future, I was reminded of being a student at the University of Kentucky, where, like every other college campus, debate on every sort of issue was a routine occurrence. Obviously, one of those debate themes was politics and I found myself feeling overpowered by those who followed politics closely. Admittedly, I came from a family that didn’t give a lot of attention to politics and, more often than not, we voted the way our parents and grandparents before us cast their ballots.
While a college student I had the experience of sitting in on a lecture by William F. Buckley, Jr., and the thing I remember most was his comfort in allowing almost everyone on the panel to speak first and even longer than they were supposed to. When he was asked why he allowed everyone else to share their opinions first, he said something to the effect of “I’m confident in my own views, so I do not take offense in someone opposing mine.” I still recall thinking what a powerful statement that was.
In recent times I have traversed a complete circle in my thoughts on various issues and I have reached a point of embracing the true meaning of thought. It’s been a long time since I first stood on a stage at the University of Kentucky and defended my views in front of my peers. I recall that more than two decades ago I felt almost insulted that some could hold views contrary to mine. With the passing of time and many life experiences, not the least of which is being a community newspaper publisher, that I came to appreciate how others might develop their own opinions. Maturity helped me realize that those with opposing views were not, and still are not, ignorant or evil nor are they enemies.
Buckley’s calm and encouraging approach of giving opposing opinions a venue to express themselves helped this small town boy see the benefit of civil debate where respect and honesty are foremost. As a result, I found that I love debate and discussions with individuals possessing sound convictions. All these years later, that exact concept helps me maintain confidence in my own thoughts.
With those thoughts in mind as we step into a new year, I feel secure in the position of Jobe Publishing providing fair and balanced coverage. Anyone who knows me or who has taken the time to have a conversation with me, or who reads our newspapers, knows that our company will do our best to give fair and balanced coverage to all concerned.
Does that mean Jobe Publishing will not be covering politics this year? Absolutely not because we have a responsibility to our communities to share what we perceive to be the most important information about issues and candidates as the campaigns evolve. We understand that Jobe Publishing represents a region filled with readers who will be affected by the upcoming Primary and General Elections of 2014. We understand that every reader cannot attend all of the meetings, debates, forums or discussions and that it is our job to document and share this information in a trustworthy manner.
In our business, there is a difference in Page One news coverage and the space dedicated to opinions, usually found inside the newspaper. As a publisher, I do not take offense sitting among the journalistic extremists who cover political events. There was a day when I would later read their commentary and wonder how they could come to such conclusions. Now, I find myself appreciating that they have every right to express their thoughts, provided it is not reported as Page One news but rather delivered as opinion in the appropriate spot in the news.
Our readers can rest assured that all Jobe Publishing newspapers will always feature news stories on Page One and we will gladly allow everyone to share their opinions inside. This is our promise to readers in this election year and always.
On the top of this page you will find a statement I made in 1998, “Create an interactive environment that facilitates debate among readers on issues concerning them.” This was true then and remains true now. The only thing that has changed since I made that statement is that I have become more like Buckley in being willing to allow others to express their opinions, even if they are contrary to mine. With that, I will add that I am rather secure in my position on issues today and you can be sure there’s not much chance of me flipping tomorrow.
Taking a life assessment
The biggest disappointments in our lives are often the result of misplaced expectations. This is especially true when it comes to our relationships and interactions with others, and the disappointment can be compounded during the holidays. Lessening our expectations of others can significantly reduce unnecessary frustration and misery, and helps us focus on things that truly matter.
Probably just like you, I found that it was a tough lesson to realize some people will never agree with me and it’s equally hard when you realize not everyone wishes you well. For the longest time I felt that if I just explained the facts as I know them, we could end a discussion with a respectful handshake and walk away knowing we share the same thoughts about what is best for our community, our state and perhaps even our country.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that we are not in this world to live up to the expectations of others. At the same time, I must constantly remind myself that I can’t expect others to always live up to my expectations. We all must approve of our own decisions and stop worrying about the approval of others when we feel confident a decision is right for us. In fact, I’ve come to realize that the more I own the decisions I make, the more I realize that others’ approval is not always necessary. I now understand that I don’t have to win people over to my way of thinking. Looking toward a new year next week, I realize that I am ending 2013 better prepared for the future than ever before.
We must dare to be ourselves and follow our own intuition, however frightening or strange that may feel or prove to be. We create frustration and false motives when we compare ourselves to others and strive to win their approval. Like the lives of most people, mine has taken some twists and turns I never expected but I have met those challenges and I take pride in my progress along the way because I am now choosing my own path.
Along those same lines, I have stopped looking for others to respect me more than I respect myself. We all know when something is not right in our lives and if we don’t address it ourselves, it will linger inside us forever.
I would like to have the respect of all our 52,000 combined readers; however, I already respect myself because I have grown as a person. My mind knows where I came from while my heart knows where I want to go and why I want to go there.
I’ve learned that to the world I may be just one person and of small significance, but I’ve also learned that to some people I’m a priceless part of their lives. I’ve learned that it’s more important to spend time with those who value me as a person of character rather than the negative person who strives to criticize, manipulate, and tear down. Of course, there are downright dirty people who sit and wait for an opportunity to hurt you. When this happens, we learn to simply smile, ignore them, and move on in the manner necessary to meet our personal goals.
In this crazy world we have external forces that work to make you like everyone else and that sometimes becomes an epic battle to be yourself. The world hates it when they can’t make you like everyone else. When you assert yourself to make your own way, not everyone will like you, some will belittle you, and the smallest people might even call you a few ugly names because you have the intestinal fortitude to stand up, be yourself and follow your dreams. As A.A. Milne once said, “The things that make me different are the things that make me.”
Now, all of this is not to say I can't consider another person’s opinion and sometimes even change my own opinion after listening to their reasoning. Perhaps one of the most compassionate things any of us can do this Christmas is to listen. Now some of my friends will get a laugh when I say that I want to become a better listener in the coming year. They will chuckle because I’ve been accused to doing more talking than listening sometimes but 2014 is the year I’m going to prove them wrong.
This Christmas let’s all be kinder than necessary and remember that everyone we meet is fighting some kind of battle, just like us. Every smile or sign of strength hides an inner struggle every bit as complex and extraordinary as your own. I read somewhere that embracing your light does not at all mean we are ignoring our darkness.
We are measured by our ability to overcome adversities and insecurities, not avoid them. Supporting, sharing, and making contributions to other people is one of life’s greatest rewards.
When the time comes for my life to be reviewed, I am hopeful that I will be judged as having endured and embraced the course in life presented to me and that along the way I did all I could to help others do the same.
Betting on Kentucky’s future amid scandal
Just as we are in the midst of the holiday season, minds begin to turn toward Frankfort and what our General Assembly may or may not do when it convenes in a few weeks. In the course of the current gubernatorial administration, when the legislature is mentioned speculation immediately turns to expanded gambling.
So far, the speculation has produced little more than a few bills being filed only to be abandoned. In a couple of instances, there have been occasional votes in one legislative body or another that essentially go nowhere. Of course, your voice being heard depends on whether your elected official shows up to cast a vote. Yet, those who watch the actions of our elected officials are well aware that the 2014 session is the last best opportunity to saddle Kentuckians with being a “racino” state.
The chief difference in the 2014 efforts will be the fact that the thoroughbred racing industry might finally accept the fact that it cannot have a monopoly on expanded gambling and thus, appears willing to support what has been termed a “clean” gambling amendment to Kentucky’s constitution. The Republican-controlled Kentucky Senate might be more open to such an amendment even though the Senate previously axed a slots bill passed by the Democrat-controlled House. Speaker Greg Stumbo has already let it be known that the Senate will have to pass a proposed expanded gambling bill before the House of Representatives will consider it.
If the legislature agrees to put a gambling amendment on next November’s ballot, it could prove to rally anti-gambling conservatives who are already irritated by the actions of Gov. Beshear and Speaker Stumbo, not to mention the national healthcare debacle that has frustrated all of America. Even if voters approved expanded gambling, it would be 2015 before the first revenue might be seen, providing no political capital for Beshear as a lame-duck governor.
Now for a dose of reality, keep in mind that Kentucky politics can take many twists and turns. Last week’s special election in the House 7th District saw Republican Suzanne Miles rise to the top, leaving Democrats with a 54-46 majority in that body. With just four victories unseating incumbent Democrats, Republicans stand to even the playing field and end either party having the upper hand. If circumstances allowed, Republicans could possibly pick up more seats and have a majority for the first time in nine decades. All of this to ponder the question of whether Democrats will sacrifice some of their own incumbents on the altar of expanded gambling in the upcoming legislative session.
Regarding the special election in the 7th District, the catalyst for that election has been all but forgotten. Former Rep. John Arnold resigned amid allegations he sexually harassed female staffers in the state capitol which caused Stumbo to appoint a committee to investigate. Even though Arnold resigned and the committee could no longer expel or censure him, last week’s decision to discontinue the investigation reeks of questionable actions likely indicating a cover-up scheme to protect other members of the Kentucky legislature.
While the special committee’s dissolution doesn’t stop potential ethics charges or civil litigation, it remains a slap in the face to every woman. The committee proved to be nothing more than lip service to appear forthright.
The group took no testimony, considered no evidence, and at best, held a few private meetings with their legal counsel. Of course, the taxpayers paid for the committee members to attend a couple of meetings and we also picked up the tab for the lawyers they hired.
Let’s hope Speaker Stumbo and his current majority in the Kentucky House will take some responsibility for cleaning up their act and actually do something worthwhile and not politically-motivated. Kentucky has serious issues demanding attention and gambling on covering up sex scandals is nothing short of reckless. There is no doubt that this saga will remain in voters’ minds in the coming year.
Reuniting as a community
As reported on page one of this issue, virtually everyone in south central Kentucky has been aware of the stand-off between the Board of Directors of T.J. Samson Community Hospital and a group organized to legally challenge their right to serve. Late last week, Special Judge Ken Howard issued a long-awaited opinion that has essentially settled the question after more than 16 months of community debate and unrest. What last week’s decision presents is the opportunity for our community to end a conflict, realize there were valid concerns on both sides of the issue, and make a conscious decision to both respect the opinions of others and resolve issues as they emerge.
More than fifty years ago President John F. Kennedy said, “Victory has a thousand authors, but defeat is an orphan.” No doubt, that will be the case as hundreds of people share their own “I told you so” commentary. The situation is not quite the same after nearly a year and a half of wrangling with issues related to local healthcare delivered by T.J. Samson Community Hospital. The reality here is that both groups have learned, both have lost some battles, and some valid concerns have been addressed.
There is no doubt that the challengers were at a clear disadvantage standing against the powerful and deep-pocketed healthcare facility. The individuals who have dared to ask questions and share concerns should be respected. Adults repeatedly remind young people that the only stupid question is the one that isn’t asked. We can apply that logic to the issues of local healthcare delivered by T.J. Samson Community Hospital. There were genuine concerns brought into the open and there were difficult questions asked that needed a definitive answer. Some of the individuals have risked their personal resources and community standing to pursue the answers to those tough questions. Whether you supported their position or not, those individuals deserve some admiration for speaking their mind, asking the questions, and personally funding an effort to find the answers.
One of the by-products of the T.J. Samson dilemma is the recognition of character found among the people involved in both sides of the issue. Our newspaper has strived to cover this saga with truthfulness and impartiality. We have been diligent in our coverage to ignore personal attacks and innuendo and instead place full emphasis where it belonged: on this issues.
Like everyone else in our community, we know the people on both sides of this saga. Some of the participants are friends, some are people we do business with, while others are trusted community leaders, none of whom have ever been out to hurt the delivery of quality healthcare in our community. Sadly, it didn’t take long until many of us witnessed the invisible wall in our community – that is the wall that divides those who happen to have different opinions on issues. Sadly, the T.J. Samson saga has hurt individuals, families, and businesses and when each of those elements is hurting, our community suffers. This is the tragedy of what has occurred in our area for too many stressful months.
The challengers raised their concerns about business decisions and operating procedures. One of the chief concerns has been whether T.J. Samson’s organizational structure has cost local governments and schools much-needed tax revenue. There is no doubt that the City of Glasgow, Barren County, and two local school districts could use additional tax revenue. At the same time, the hospital has revealed a multitude of ways that it contributes to the community through charitable donations and as someone who understands how important strong industry is to a community; I am extremely thankful we have T.J. Samson and all of our industries doing all they can to provide the employees who work for them the means to care for their families. The hospital has remained our largest employer and thus, is vital to our community.
It doesn’t take carefully-worded press releases or in-depth investigative coverage to know that there has been change going on at T.J. Samson Community Hospital in recent months. There are notable changes with administrators and employees as the hospital board attempts to address sensitive financial issues while providing outstanding medical care. These are issues not to be addressed without careful consideration as they affect both people and an institution that is valuable to our area. Obviously, we covet wise decision-makers and wish them success in addressing whatever issues exist.
It is important to every man, woman, and child in this area that we have the best possible medical care available in our community and administered by the brightest and best minds available. It is important that T.J. Samson Community Hospital return to a thriving status as it delivers good healthcare to our people – the ones who are well-insured and those who have no insurance or safety net in life. At the same time, it is of paramount importance that the organization fondly referred to as “T.J.” respect not only their own medical providers but all who choose to do business in Glasgow.
Early on in this controversy, I personally met with administrators and board members and found them open and forthcoming with answers to my questions. I take pride in knowing that our coverage was the first to step inside this story and offer insight into the issues. I am proud that we have successfully reported the facts presented in this saga and have not relied on the ever-present propaganda. The thing that never fails to emerge in the print media is if someone tells you an untruth and we print it, it doesn’t take long before the truth is exposed. Our coverage of this issue stands as it was printed.
From all indications, the challengers will appeal Judge Howard’s opinion and that is fine, perhaps even expected in a case of such magnitude. That aside, it is time for everyone to declare the battle over and reunite as a community. We are in the midst of the Christmas season, a time that encourages everyone to be of good cheer, look for the best in everyone, and hope for success in making everyone become better than their former self. Those are the very things we hope for all parties involved in the T.J. Samson saga. Let’s come together and once again work for the good of all.
Good old-fashioned common sense
Nowhere on my resume do I claim to be a man with all the answers, nor will I claim to always have the correct answers. Yet, each week I find myself sharing an opinion on one issue or another that we feel is important to our local communities.
This week, on page one of the Barren County Progress, Editor Sam Terry reports that Barren County government’s insurance provider has paid $888,968 to settle ten lawsuits ranging over the past five years. Without a doubt, this is a significant amount of money that affects every single taxpayer in our county. Of course, the payoffs are covered by insurance policies but don’t ever think that the insurers won’t make up for their losses. County government saw its insurance premium increase by $32,000 last year. Please note that more times than not it is the insurance provider who chooses to settle and not the county official. Some will argue this in itself is a flaw in the system encouraging erroneous payouts.
Last week we learned that Barren County government has once again been sued, this time by Daniel Lee Creek and Dale Allen Maish. The two allege they were not provided access to a law library when requested. While our current Jailer reports that he hasn’t even been served with the papers on the federal lawsuit, I’m still going to share a few thoughts.
It is common knowledge for anyone taking the time to learn, that the Barren County Detention Center is inspected twice a year by the Kentucky Department of Corrections. I don’t think it’s too much to expect that if a law library for inmates is required by statute or regulation, it would be one of the items on the inspection checklist. According to our jailer, Class D facilities are not required to provide a law library.
Now, understand some of the contents of the latest suit designed for no purpose other than to get money. Both Creek and Maish were told the jail had no law library and the staff offered to accommodate the requests for information. It was also suggested that the inmates could obtain materials from their attorney, the county attorney, or have materials mailed to them. Apparently that was not the answer the inmates wanted to hear. So we now have yet another lawsuit which will burden Barren County taxpayers
Sadly, what we find far too often in our communities is a questionable approach to dealing with government issues. Just a few weeks ago, our editorial board was informed that there was an investigation of another issue at the jail. In response to our Open Records Request, we were provided with audio recordings on which two elected officials speak to an inmate and neither suggests that the inmate ask the appropriate person, the jailer, for help in addressing his problem. Instead, these officials seemed to go into overdrive to help build a case against a county facility rather than pointing the inmate in the proper direction and fixing the problem.
This is perhaps one of the greatest problems today when political figures align themselves in a manner to achieve political gain at the cost of our community’s financial stability.
Consider this regarding the payoffs of ten lawsuits settled on behalf of Barren County government. The $888,968 paid out in settlements divided over a five-year period comes to $177,793 per year. Based on Glasgow’s occupational tax of 1.5%, it would take a tax base of $11,852,000 to offset this expense. That amount would require 237 new $50,000 a year jobs to offset this amount.
Because our state legislature refuses to enact simple legislation as Tennessee and Indiana have done, we are not only losing new jobs coming to our communities, but our existing companies are now moving across state lines. This combined with a philosophy of helping someone with a problem get a big payout instead of resolving the issue is taking much-needed dollars from both ends of our financial base.
Barren County must do all it can to forge a path toward cooperation in our local government and watch closely for opportunities to help change the business climate of our state.
Coveting the blessing of good leaders
With the Thanksgiving holiday upon us it is very easy for any community-oriented individual to quickly list people, organizations and community leaders for which we are thankful. As a matter of fact, many of our pages are filled with great examples each week. Considering all that we are thankful for also causes us to consider blessings that we covet for our communities.
What we at Jobe Publishing covet most for the coming year is leadership. We crave well-informed leadership in our communities that look for opportunities to show their appreciation for all the features which help make a community strong. Here at the newspaper, we do all we can to create an unofficial marketing strategy for every aspect of our communities but sometimes we fall short when leaders fail to do the same.
A few weeks back, we shared our opinion about what we perceived as disrespectful to Horse Cave businesses when the city council and mayor doubled the occupational tax. We still believe this is an issue that should be revisited and until it is reconsidered, it jeopardizes what has been a strong community to attract industries such as T. Marzetti, and Sister Schubert while encouraging significant expansions from Dart Container and others.
To balance our reporting, we want to applaud the spirit of leaders in Metcalfe County. Specifically, we point to Metcalfe County Judge/Executive Greg Wilson, Edmonton Mayor Howard Garrett and members of local government as well as Senator David Givens and Representative Bart Rowland for their leadership in showing appreciation for Sumitomo Electrical Wiring Systems as they celebrate 25 years of operation in Metcalfe County.
You see, I have witnessed first-hand what can happen when a valued industry such as Sumitomo chooses to exit a community. There was a time when a former Butler County mayor would boast of his community being the busiest little town in America. As the new and exited newspaper publisher, I took great pride in having an industrial partner employing perhaps 900 people in our community.
While in that community, I sat in city council and fiscal court meetings documenting and reporting the decisions of local leaders to establish and/or increase payroll taxes that now stand at 2% for the county and 1% for the city. What that means is that every worker in Morgantown pays 3% of their salary while workers in other Kentucky communities and in Tennessee enjoy the money they earn because local leaders have avoided unnecessary taxation.
It hasn’t been too many years since Horse Cave had no payroll tax. As a matter of fact, when some of the above-mentioned industries chose to locate in Horse Cave, there was no occupational tax. Much like the greed in Morgantown, Horse Cave leaders have chosen to yank the community welcome mat from beneath these local employers’ feet. Their actions paint an unattractive picture for industrial partners who might have considered Horse Cave as a potential new location.
In Morgantown, I stood with plant officials and workers to speak out against increasing the payroll taxes. We collectively cited numerous reasons it was a bad decision, but first and foremost, that local leaders should be respectful of Sumitomo and all industry. Instead of inflicting such taxes on local workers, local leaders should have been working to make the community even more enticing to potential industry.
The honorable men and women representing our industrial partners base many of their decisions on relationships and relationships work best when there is mutual respect. Industrial decision-makers can choose where they go. When they encounter local leaders who work to understand their needs and help them find ways to meet those needs, it doesn’t take long to see which communities get the jobs.
In Morgantown’s case, it wasn't long after the last tax increase and a few other disagreements that one morning it was announced that Sumitomo would be leaving Butler County. No official documents could be obtained at the time, but if you listened to the politicians you heard the untrue cry of “they’re sending those jobs to Mexico.”
Sadly, Kentucky has used that incorrect statement for years when making excuses for why we have lost jobs.
It’s one of the primary reasons Kentucky continues to fall behind neighboring states such as Tennessee and Indiana. Simply put, officials in those states have taken bold steps to create a welcoming business climate and as a result, they are taking our jobs. It wasn’t long after I acquired newspapers in Metcalfe, Hart, Barren and Monroe Counties that I learned where those jobs actually went.
Morgantown’s 900 jobs didn’t go to Mexico, they went to plants in Metcalfe and Warren Counties because those locations were more hospitable to industry. Morgantown didn’t lose just those jobs, they also lost a very large and long-standing trucking contract that eventually found its way to Glasgow-based Walbert Trucking. Today, when I visit our offices in Morgantown and pass the old Sumitomo plant I am reminded of just how much a bad decision can affect an entire community.
I want to thank the area leaders who took the time to show appreciation for Sumitomo and them being part of Metcalfe County for 25 years and I sincerely hope Horse Cave will not continue on a path of self-destruction.
Celebrating Veterans in our own way
Each year our editorial team coordinates coverage of area Veteran’s Day activities to make an effort to cover as many facets of the observances as possible. While we have a small staff, I am confident that the Barren County Progress will include more comprehensive coverage than the majority of community newspapers in Kentucky. Veteran’s Day is a treasured time and to experience it in Barren County is one of the most memorable things we do each year.
Late last week Editor Sam Terry and I set out on a whirlwind tour of Barren County that included nearly every local community hosting a patriotic celebration. I’ve chosen a few impressions that stuck in my mind from some of those events to share with you.
My heart was warmed when we encountered Red Cross Elementary School kindergarten students lining the entrance to that school’s gymnasium to shake hands with those entering and thanking veterans for their service. Hats off to their teachers for an age-old tradition given a fresh twist. I still smile thinking about those little handshakes.
If there is a local school where model behavior and respect translates into educational success, it must be Hiseville Elementary School. While students and staff were celebrating their achievement as a proficient school, you could hear a pin drop as Principal Jeff Richey began the school’s Veteran’s Day program. The mutual respect between students, teachers, staff and administrators was clearly evident and admirable.
Our Friday visit to Temple Hill Elementary School was the first opportunity this year to see the POW-MIA Missing Man Table and it was performed by Freddie Joe Wilkerson's Barren County High School Junior ROTC members. Any parent is well aware of a young child emulating an older role model and I can think of no better way to instill patriotism than having it demonstrated by older youths to impressionable youngsters.
Music and the arts is always an impressive means of involving a large number of students and this is what Highland Elementary School did so well. Under the direction of Amanda Taylor and Todd Woodward, the student body and guests were treated to toe-tapping patriotic songs and a skit. Clearly, they had rehearsals because from where I was standing, I could see each child contributing in song and spoken word to create a wonderful tribute.
Principal Anthony Janes and I agree that if you want an organized Veteran's Day event, call in the professional. For Park City Elementary School and the community as a whole, that man is Charlie Hogan. Hogan is quick to credit others but I’m certain he should be credited with the idea of having Commonwealth Attorney John Gardner speak. Gardner has deep roots in the community with his grandfather having been principal of Park City High School and John having spent much of his free time as a child just across the railroad tracks at his grandparents’ home.
Our visit with Barren County Middle School grabbed me a bit because Principal Lorie Downs is a former military professional while the Veteran’s Day program featured another retired military professional, current teach Annell Becker. These two distinguished women display the sort of character found only in veterans as they now focus on careers as educators.
From the first word spoken to the last strain of music played, Barren County High School presented a Veteran’s Day program that exhibited patriotism and professionalism. The school and distinguished guests paid tribute to the hardest-working patriots in our community: the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 20 of Glasgow. Todd Steenbergen led the assembly in a combination of prayer and song that brought all of our hearts closer to where they should be. When I expressed appreciation for it afterwards, Steenbergen commented, "I felt led this morning to do that and that is what I did."
There were many tears flowing by the end of BCHS senior Colton Kise's vocal and guitar contribution to the POW-MIA Missing Man Table presentation. Colton’s unique voice and impressive talent caused a line of admirers to form to speak with him after the program’s end.
A new Veteran’s Day tribute this year was the screening of a patriotic movie at Glasgow’s historic Plaza Theatre. The building’s brightly lit marquee reminded us to honor our American heroes not only on Veteran’s Day, but every day of the year.
A memorable stop for us on Veterans Day was at North Jackson Elementary School where Tina Sharp had members of the Student Lighthouse Team out in force. Two patriotically-attired students from each homeroom met us at the door and never left our side as they served us lunch alongside some of our local veterans. In her sixth year of coordinating the school’s Veteran’s Day activities, Sharp and her team of young patriots were successful in making our veterans feel honored.
On Sunday evening the National Guard Armory was filled with patriotic music, treasured veterans, and appreciative Americans for the annual Veteran’s Day Dinner. A long-standing community tradition, the event is a memorable evening of pomp and circumstance that allows our local heroes to squeeze into their old uniforms and polish their medals for an evening of honor, appreciation, and fellowship.
For most of us, our busy-ness with life prevents us from reflecting on our lives growing up. The tribute at Freedom on Saturday was a perfect occasion to pause and reflect on values and traditions from decades past. While Rose Mary Byrd was speaking, I was sitting near the front of the old one-room school, complete with the privy out back, I observed an older veteran walking with the help of a walker and a family member. The scene brought back memories of my own grandfather, Joe Miller, who I recall struggling to stand at attention for the pledge of allegiance to our flag and our National Anthem. It is a treasured memory and I am thankful for the event at Freedom for helping me recall it.
The grand finale for this year's Veteran’s Day activities was Glasgow’s annual parade on Monday afternoon. Following the cheers of the parade goers and the melodies of the band, we all paused to recall the names of every local veteran who has passed on since the last Veteran’s Day. Listening to the dozens of names read is a solemn reminder of what a great country we call home and how blessed we are to live in Barren County, Kentucky.
Inspiration right here at home
I can only pray to serve my country, a wife and my community as Leslie Dean.
In our business, newspaper people come in contact with folks from all walks of life. We are in the presence of community leaders just as frequently as we are with the average person trying to make a living and raise a family without any fanfare. In some instances a person will make an indelible impression on us because of some notable accomplishment, a well-spoken word, and sometimes it might be just the way they delivered a quip with a mischievous grin. They are the folks who inspire us.
Recently, I was inspired by a fellow who was among a group of local veterans watching the installation of plaques on the Veterans Wall of Honor in downtown Glasgow. As I was visiting with these gentlemen, each of whom I’ve known for years, I found myself listening carefully to the comments of Leslie Dean who was present to accomplish a mission.
You see, Leslie was waiting to honor his late brother, Claude, by ceremonially installing a plaque in his honor nearly 70 years after his death. Leslie’s brother was injured in Normandy and was fatally wounded in Belgium in World War II. That’s enough to make you admire a fellow but while I listened to Leslie, I learned more about him than I’d previously known.
I learned that as a 20 year old, Leslie spent 14 months in Japan in 1946 and 1947 serving as Military Police and he spent an additional four months serving elsewhere. I was reminded of the importance shared experiences when Leslie told about sharing his time in Japan with two other Barren County boys, John Tobin and George Lohden.
I found myself quietly aching as he told me of his mother, Katherine (“Kate”) Dean, who died at age 52 while he was overseas, an experience that has obviously stayed fixed in his mind all these years. There was obvious decades-old sadness when he shared that he couldn’t get home before her burial. Mrs. Dean had three sons who served in that war and Leslie feels certain that her demise was hastened by worry over the situation.
Leslie also told about the love of his life, Christine Culver, who he married as soon as he could when he got home from the service. I was inspired by his story about how he cared for her in her final years, motivated by her constant care for him for prior decades. Christine died seven years ago after having been married 57 ½ years.
Today, Leslie fills his time with various projects and he goes to the YMCA each day before heading to a local fast food restaurant for coffee and conversation with the guys on an almost-daily basis. One of these days very soon I intend to show up for a cup of coffee with Leslie and see what other bits of wisdom he might share.
When the weekend comes, people all across the country will pause to give honor to our veterans. Needless to say, our veterans deserve every accolade offered for their service to our country. I will look forward to thinking of Leslie and all the others like him who sacrificed for us in the past and presently inspire us for our future.
Thank you for your example, I can only pray to have the opportunity to serve my country, a wife and my community as you have done Leslie.
Take Responsibility Not Credit
Nearly every single day of the year Jobe Publishing editors and I attend an event on behalf of the public. It is not uncommon for newspapers to be invited to lots of occasions both public and private. After all, newspapers are there to record the happenings of our communities and report them to you.
Regarding events not generally open to the public, in most instances, it is an honor for us to be allowed to witness certain momentous occasions and even some that are not history-in-the-making. Newspapers have no special rights or privileges but we think of ourselves attending to represent you and your right to information.
I’m proud to say that we frequently attend a meeting or event and because of our attendance, some worthwhile decision or community-centered project is brought into the public’s view. On the other hand, we are sometimes kept in the dark about good things that happen all around our communities.
In addition to the good news we share, we also come in contact with challenging folks such as the proverbial “good old boys” who thrive on manipulation and hushed conversations to plan strategy. Every community has them, we know them, and you probably do, too. You know them: the folks who get the plum contracts, or whose relatives are hired first or their political candidates seem to always pull off an election to public office. They can be chameleon-like, rapidly changing colors to suit the occasion and the other folks in the room.
It’s much more enjoyable to cover the good news and when the positive news occasionally outweighs the negative news, people accuse us of getting soft. This past week it was a pleasure to attend the Parks and Recreation Department’s Halloween Fest and the church’s Trunk or Treat events, plus sharing a bowl of chili with groups raising money for good local causes. It was heartwarming to be able to photograph local soldiers returning home and school children rehearsing a musical. Those events were far more pleasurable than speaking against the Horse Cave City Council’s recent decision to double their occupational tax.
It is a wonderful feeling for us to hear the 9-year-old say, “Hey, paper man, take my picture!” It’s reassuring to receive dozens of emails from Hart County factory workers, plant managers, and business owners thanking us for standing up against a small group’s steamrolling over taxpayers for no good reason. It’s gratifying to have a person you casually know entrust you with her grandmother’s obituary.
Each of those things amount to blessings for newspaper people – the blessing of trust – from you, our readers. We are grateful when, unlike the general public, we are allowed to witness the naturalization of new American citizens, or be a part of the return of local troops and stand among their families, or being backstage with local children as the curtain rises for the opening night of their school play. These are only a few examples of the things we are trusted to be a part of on our readers’ behalf.
As memorable as those examples might be, it is also challenging to find the positive aspect of local news when we sometimes know in our hearts that what is happening is completely wrong. In those situations, when the end of the day arrives we hope that we have handled ourselves and the news in the best possible way, once again looking out for our community.
A perfect example is my stance as a business owner and publisher regarding the Horse Cave City Council and Mayor Randall Curry’s terrible decision to double that town’s occupational tax. Sadly, those elected officials have forgotten that nothing in government would be possible without the tax burden paid by local workers and businesses.
While Horse Cave officials have chosen to abuse local workers and their wallets, neighboring Tennessee welcomed Hankook Tire Company’s 1800 new jobs while Indiana passed legislation making them the 7th most business-friendly state in the country. Yet, we have area officials who promote the nonsense that south central Kentucky has lost hundreds of jobs to Mexico. We have watched two large employers in nearby communities pack up and leave because of unwarranted occupational taxes, fire fees, and increased property taxes. Those companies didn’t leave for Mexico, they went to other Kentucky towns who were more welcoming.
South central Kentucky is blessed with great families, good workers willing to produce good products and services, and even some elected officials with the best of intentions. What all of Kentucky needs is elected officials willing to make hard decisions about how Kentucky can become more attractive to prospective employers while maintaining good relationships with existing businesses. Far too often, our local governments are willing to offer incentive packages overflowing with tax dollars, rebates, land deals, and other perks that are not truly in the best interest of our citizens.
What Kentucky needs is a new attitude about attracting business. We need leaders who will look to states such as Tennessee and Indiana and understand the error of Kentucky’s ways. Instead, we find ourselves with local elected officials far more worried about who will get credit for attracting 50-70 jobs rather asking why 2500 jobs located elsewhere and how to justify yet another tax increase.
The Greed Bill of 2005 still in effect
My friend and fellow columnist Jim Waters shares this page with me this week to once again raise awareness about a topic about which I have written since late 2006: House Bill 299. A less formal title would be the “Greed Bill of 2005.”
For members of Kentucky’s General Assembly, this bill has done more to destroy legislators’ credibility than all others combined. Any voter who has taken the time to understand HB 299, finds what it says shocking. In case you are unfamiliar with it, the bill is our finest example of elected officials wildly boosting their own pensions to outrageous sums. Lest you think Kentucky legislators were among the first to take such action, other states jumped on the government greed band wagon as early as 1982.
Talking with Senator David Givens and Representatives C.B. Embry and Jim DeCesare, it is revealed that one of the enormous issues is a particular clause in the bill, a reciprocity clause. This clause allows a Kentucky legislator to base his or her state pension on their highest-earning years in any government position whose entities participate in one of Kentucky’s six pension plans.
Please understand this situation clearly: a part-time state legislator earning $39,000 a year while in office can later take a much higher-paying full-time government job making perhaps $100,000 for only 3 years and when that individual’s pension is calculated, it will be based on the much larger salary. It is important to understand that legislators leaving the office to accept a higher-paying appointment, will later retire and for the remainder of their lives be earning an enormous pension that Kentucky taxpayers will pay for.
During the most recent regular session, bills were filed in both the House and Senate in an effort to fix this specific issue. The House did entertain a bill and enthusiastically issued glowing statements about how they had fixed the problem, yet they didn’t. What they changed was prohibiting future elected officials from enjoying the practice. However, legislators made sure they weren’t prohibited from greedily imbibing at the government well supplied by Kentucky taxpayers.
It comes as no surprise to anyone who’s paying attention that among those poised to receive the most benefits is Greg Stumbo, our current Speaker of the House. Stumbo will receive a lifetime state pension based on his one four-year term as Attorney General rather than the decades he has served as a legislator in the House of Representatives.
Without reciprocity, Speaker Stumbo would receive a pension of about $40,000 per year. However, because of the “Greed Bill of 2005,” Stumbo will earn much more. In fact, state numbers crunchers estimate that if Stumbo retired tomorrow, he would receive a pension in excess of $98,000 per year the rest of his life, plus cost-of-living increases. There is no better example of a person’s character being revealed than when he is given an opportunity to give himself a better life than those he was elected to serve.
Under his leadership, Speaker Stumbo and the House of Representatives have announced at least three times since 2005 that they have fixed the pension crisis for Kentucky. Yet, each time they did nothing to address their own personal abuses of taxpayer dollars. Instead, they simply cut those coming into the system rather than themselves.
I have written numerous times that our legislators should be ashamed to take a single dime from the working families of Kentucky before they fix the abuses they continue to enjoy for their own benefit. These are the same legislators controlled by Stumbo who have killed efforts by Rep. Embry to address this issue. Likewise, Sen. Givens’ efforts in the Senate were pushed aside to remove raises for state workers and cost-of-living increases for retirees.
The reciprocity clause of HB 299 puts Kentucky’s legislators in an elite class all of their own, according to the Bluegrass Institute, “Legislators work part-time. Nonetheless, the richness of their pensions far exceeds those of full-time state and local government employees. The gap is so wide and the greed so great that legislators have seriously compromised their ability – and credibility – to make the tough decisions needed to fix the $34.5 billion unfunded liability.”
The sad reality is that when the General Assembly convenes in January, it is doubtful that measures to remedy this situation will see the light of day. Instead, look for Speaker Stumbo to wield his trusty broom and sweep all efforts at reform under the legislature’s rug before settling down in a comfy chair, assured of his financial security thanks to his own efforts. Sadly, nothing can be done to move Kentucky forward until we send legislators to Frankfort armed with a commitment to serving people rather than harvesting riches.
Jeff Jobe is the community publisher for the locally owned news and print company, Jobe Publishing, Inc. He prints his phone number and email in every issue for readers to share their thoughts on his writtings and offering ideas of their own.
In defense of the heart of Horse Cave
For much the past century, neighborhoods in south central Kentucky were organized around schools and churches to become thriving small communities. Over time, school systems have consolidated, country stores have closed their doors, churches have waxed and waned, and those pockets of friends and neighbors have changed immensely. In modern times, one group has emerged to be the heart of what holds people together as a community: volunteer fire departments.
The men and women who volunteer to be trained and give their time to serve others in the local communities scattered across our region are to be commended. The groups are diverse collections of people from all walks of life from farmers to factory workers, preachers to business owners, and older teens to octogenarians. There aren’t many situations in which all of those people could band together for the same cause, but they do.
Armed with this knowledge, it is not surprising to find self-serving political types doing all they can to harness years of dedication, service, and goodwill for their own gain. As a community publisher, I have witnessed such actions in the past and sometimes politicians are savvy enough to do this successfully while others have seen it back-fire on them.
In one case, the Butler County Judge/Executive made weekly visits to each fire district to promise a fire tax and related fee; whatever you wish to call it, the bottom line was he patronized volunteer fire fighters hoping to get their votes. That official was elected but when the word got out about his self-serving promise, a lot of citizens got very upset and because of political pressures he backed out of the promise. That promise deservedly ended that official’s political career.
Like the case in Butler County, this week’s action by the Horse Cave City Council doubling their occupational tax rate is similar. Poor city managers have depleted a $300,000 surplus and a positive annual cash flow and now they want more money to spend. The council has increased their personal compensation as much as 300% for council members and 800% for the mayor.
It was only after a few minutes’ of questions fielded by Mayor Randall Curry and council members in support of the tax increase that they used their ace in the hole: volunteer fire fighters. Yes, the community-minded men and women who give so much to small communities were used as the excuse to double the occupational tax on every single individual working inside Horse Cave’s city limits. I look forward to reviewing the City of Horse Cave’s budget details for the past five years in an effort to quantify the on-the-record statements made in open meetings. It is simply not right to increase taxes