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 by $350,000 while claiming a $60,000 payment on a fire house is a legitimate reason to do so.
It saddens me to see the volunteers of the Horse Cave Fire Department being used in such a shameful manner. There is without a doubt enough positive cash flow existing inside the city’s finances to manage the need council members described unless there are expenses that are not being discussed. Horse Cave’s volunteer fire fighters have given their own time to work hard to raise funds toward the purchase of the new fire truck and they’ve already suffered the fallout of over the county’s new fire dues. Simply put, the Horse Cave Volunteer Fire Department is not all of the reason for this increased tax. No one should be upset with the fire fighters but everyone should be upset by the mismanagement of the city’s funds.
However, even when one feels attacked because of being placed in such a situation; it is absolutely wrong to lash out in the unprofessional manner I witnessed in the open meeting on Monday evening. I feel a quick apology from the Mayor and council along with assurances from the Fire Chief that the sentiments openly shared regarding volunteers not responding to a potential fire at a Dart Container employee's home was nothing more than ill thought words.
One of the more extreme proponents of the tax increase shared her views, claiming that the only people upset by the tax were those who work in Horse Cave but live elsewhere. That person went on to state, “Glasgow collects 1.5% and Cave City collects 2%.” That statement is true but what Mayor Curry and the city council have done is cause all Horse Cave workers to pay the city a 1% fee plus Hart County’s occupational tax for a total of 1.8% taken from every paycheck. Supporters of the increase fail to understand that Barren County has no occupational tax, only the cities of Glasgow and Cave City.
Consider that nearby communities with high occupational taxes have actually seen a decline in industrial growth, and one quickly realizes the terrible blow that has been leveled on Horse Cave by its own elected officials. Specifically, Cave City has an occupational tax of 2%, Morgantown and Butler County collect a combined 3%, Tompkinsville and Monroe County collect a combined 2%, and Edmonton and Metcalfe County collect a combined 2.5%. Horse Cave can no longer boast of having the lowest occupational tax in our region.
Our volunteer fire fighters commit to serving all of us because they desire to. When the alarm sounds, these men and women jump into action whether it suits the moment or not; they serve when there is a need not just when it is convenient. The return to these individuals is minimal, but ask any volunteer fire fighter and you’ll learn that the job is indeed rewarding. The hours of training and expanding their knowledge make being a part of a VFD almost like a second job. The preparation goes beyond fighting fires, but extends to assisting at automobile accidents, health crises and other emergencies. These generous people provide our communities with a service no one hopes they ever need.
One of Horse Cave’s true success stories has been the attraction of good industrial partners to the community to provide valued jobs and as a result, improve the entire community. The city has enjoyed being held up as an example of a community partnering with local government and citizens to make things better. The decision of Mayor Curry and three council members was a slap in the face to industry that should be appreciated, workers who should be respected, and local volunteers who should not be used as an excuse for pushing an agenda. Unfortunately, the action taken by the Horse Cave City Council can be summed up rather simply: the right to do something does not mean that doing it is right.
Horse Cave's need versus greed
As a community publisher focused on local news, I have witnessed much change in south central Kentucky over the past several years. With those successes, however, come mistakes and even close calls that could end up being very big mistakes. This is exactly what is about to happen to our friends in Horse Cave, Kentucky.
Horse Cave has been blessed with a budget that has given them more tax growth than any community in our region. In 2006, Horse Cave leaders initiated an occupational tax of half of one percent on every paycheck issued in the town. Half of a percent is a small amount compared to other communities in our state. It was a move I understood at the time because it would give the community much-needed revenue. Horse Cave is a beautiful community and like all towns, it needs money to operate and the traditional means of raising money were no longer working.
Now, fast-forward seven years and Horse Cave’s elected officials would have us believe the income derived from occupational tax is not enough. Please understand some facts: the first full year the City of Horse Cave received money from the occupational tax it totaled $273,074. In the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2013, the local government took in $350,983. That’s about a 30% increase in revenue. Considering our country has been through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, a 30% increase in revenue is significant.
While most cities are striving to express their thanks for industrial partners that employ workers and provide municipal income while striving to cut every possible expense, Horse Cave appears to have other ideas that don’t add up. At the last Horse Cave Council meeting, unbeknownst to virtually anyone, council members slipped in a new item of business: increase the local occupational tax to 1% - or double the current rate.
The surprise ordinance was offered in a motion by Council member Ray Wilcoxson and seconded by Council member Perry Martin. The duo was joined by Council member Sue Nunn. When it came to a vote, half the council voted against the measure and Mayor Randall Curry broke the tie in favor of the increase. Next Monday evening, the Council will hear the second reading of the ordinance and vote again.
What is happening in Horse Cave is a classic example of elected officials quietly slipping in more taxes while hoping no one notices or asks questions. This measure should have been clearly stated on the meeting agenda, not brought up in an ambiguous item known as “Council Concerns.” An ordinance of this magnitude should have a public hearing with the tax-paying public given ample notice of their opportunity to express their opinion on this issue.
When pressed for reasons the City of Horse Cave needs an additional $350,000 in revenue, officials informed us that health insurance for the city’s 13 employees had increased about 36%. The city has acquired a new fire truck at a cost of $293,000 yet, the fire truck is to be paid for with revenue from county fire dues which brings in $45,000 per year to Horse Cave. The city has a new $1.06 million fire department facility under construction, nearly half of which will be paid for with grant funds. That facility will stand on the former Shorty’s TV property which the city purchased for $245,000 and paid for out the general fund. This city has also paid about $80,000 in architect’s fees to design the fire-department. The general fund also allowed the city to pay $20,000 for property adjoining the local cemetery.
While considering other reasons the City might need more revenue, one must not forget that the Council voted to increase their own compensation from $50 to $150 per month – a 300% increase. It also should be noted that beginning in 2015, Horse Cave’s mayor will see a pay increase from $250 per month to $2,000 per month, an increase of 800%. I don’t take issue with increasing the compensation, but such overwhelming increases are questionable.
Before the Horse Cave Council holds its meeting on October 14, let me share some recollections with the hope they will consider them before making a poor decision.
Kentucky is ranked near the bottom, usually around 36th, when it comes to business friendly climates. This low standing particularly affects south-central Kentucky because we are less than an hour’s drive to an adjoining state that consistently ranks about 7th in the nation for being a business-friendly place.
Fair taxes and fiscal stability are key reasons why many companies choose a city or state for expansion or relocation. Tennessee has the lowest debt ratio of any state in the country. It is a right-to-work state, has no personal income tax, and enjoys the second-lowest cost of living in the United States. There was a time when Hart County was one of Kentucky’s most business-friendly communities. I had the privilege of being involved with the Hart County Industrial Authority several years ago. Under the leadership of Judge/Executive Terry Martin and local volunteers such as Glen Thomas, Elroy Larimore, Garland Cottrell, Carla Weurtzer, John Bunnell, and current Horse Cave Mayor Randall Curry, great strides were made to attract and retain good industrial partners.
I witnessed individuals speak openly about low labor costs, no occupational taxes, and the excitement of bringing people jobs. It was a nice feeling to report on the expansion of the transportation division of Dart Container moving to Horse Cave, the opening of T. Marzetti and Sister Schubert. Much work was done to make these local operations a reality and it would be a shame for greedy local officials to now penalize such businesses and their employees with unnecessary taxes. Ill-conceived plans such as what the Horse Cave City Council has set in motion have been the start of industrial downfalls in other places. It should not happen here.
Horse Cave has no reason to double the occupational tax on our employees and doing so is nothing more than a blatant example of government greed.
The growing pain of fatherhood
I am sure to butcher my thoughts this evening because I am so tired and far behind in my work I may never catch up. Please allow me to explain.
Just over eight weeks ago, my son Wyatt officially enlisted in the United States Air Force. I confess that I had mixed feelings about his decision, but we rear our children and give them wings to chart their own course in life. It was Wyatt’s decision and I honored him by giving my full support. After all, a father supports his child. I have no doubt he could be a success in whatever career path he chose because he’s just that kind of young man.
When Wyatt told me of his choice, my mixed feelings were charged with my personal recollections of working my way through college more than twenty-five years ago. As a young adult, I vowed I would be successful enough to provide a financial foundation for my children to focus on their studies at a college of their choice. Wyatt’s decision caused me to do a bit of re-organization of my long-held thoughts. I had to accept that my son wanted a different path and any father knows you must support the decisions of your son on such matters.
The second reason for my initial mixed feelings about my son’s choice is the same as any parent – I feared for Wyatt’s safety and wellbeing. I continue to cringe at the thought of him serving our country in a hostile territory where evildoers prey on American soldiers and have little regard for any lover of freedom. Still, I remind myself that this is Wyatt’s choice for his life’s work.
For the past several weeks Wyatt and I have rediscovered ways of communicating that most of us have forgotten. His situation has allowed him only fifteen minutes of phone time per week. For a young man who wishes to speak to his two parents, his sisters and a special girl back home, fifteen minutes passes very quickly. So, we have been forced to write letters, real hand-written letters. However, my son has commented that my penmanship is not very good and his suggestion that I type has been taken under advisement.
Wyatt and I have both survived his first period of training and it is debatable which one of us had the more difficult time. This past week I was honored to attend his first Air Force graduation at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. I will admit those five days were some of the most emotionally-charged days of my life.
Being able to see my son after more than sixty days apart was not unlike seeing him the day he was born. I learned that a father can feel enormous satisfaction watching his young adult son run past in a graduation exercise sporting as big a smile as I’ve ever seen him share. I found that the sights and sounds under the Texas sun brought a combination of laughter and tears that seemed to have no end. In the course of that day, an older gentleman tugged at my sleeve and hugged me while saying, “I am so honored to know my grandson is serving with your son.”
Wyatt’s choices at this point in time have placed him on a path of intense training that requires great dedication. As I reflected on the these thoughts during my flight back to Kentucky, I found myself more proud than ever that Wyatt’s choice was his, that he initiated it, that he has claimed it, that he is living it, and that he is happy. I can think of nothing more satisfying for a father to know.
Celebrating public servants
While the Jobe Publishing editorial team was meeting one day last week, one of the topics we touched on was the pleasure we have in working with effective and dedicated public servants. Our area is blessed to have several people who fit into such a classification. By public servants, we mean not just those elected to public office, but appointees and employees who work to benefit the public good and who are paid by our tax dollars. As you would understand, we all come in contact with public servants daily while covering everything from city council meetings and school events to breaking news stories.
The catalyst for our discussion was an experience earlier in the week with a public servant that was not a pleasant occurrence. The situation was nothing more than a public employee demanding we print a legal announcement in a size so small it would be unreadable to most. The other part of the equation is that newspapers are bound by regulations requiring such advertisements being readable and details are set to bind us to compliance. “I don’t care if they can read it or not,” was not a statement anyone would want to hear from the mouth of a person our tax dollars pay to perform a required task. How disappointing to be accused of price gouging, and then when attempting to explain the legal constraints, to be told, “That is not true, you are making that up.” In other words, a nice way of saying, “you are a liar.”
To be perfectly clear, the motive for the reduction in size is probably because we charge by inches and the smaller the text the less space used. Yet, in our business we often have customers make things bigger or smaller, a simple request we don’t take personally. We also don’t like to be accused of things we know not to be true. It was refreshing to receive a call of apology from the elected official who employs our accuser and I believe her apology to be sincere.
And for the record this example did not happen here in Barren County.
Our editorial team discussion turned to what traits are desirable in a public servant.
Obviously, we expect the people our tax dollars pay to follow the law. Perhaps some other traits needed to be effective would be a sound head, an honest heart, a humble and caring spirit, and a desire to provide good and appropriate service to the very people paying their salary. Simply put, using common sense to see situations as they are and then doing things as they ought to be done.
Last week’s discussion later turned to examples of great public servants in the five counties Jobe Publishing serves. Some of the persons named were little known people while others were well known names with which we are all familiar.
Nancy Botts is an example of a successful public servant. Nancy served the
Barren County community in a number of roles for more than thirty years, including
Circuit Court Clerk. She consistently conducted herself by the traits mentioned above.
Joy Medley Lyons has devoted her career to the public good through her work at Mammoth Cave National Park and in volunteer roles connected to historic Bell’s Tavern in Park City.
Ann Matera, Horse Cave City Clerk for more than 29-years, is another example of an individual who has given outstanding service to the public she serves. She will typically be found volunteering for nearly any worthwhile community project where she will lend valuable experience and dedication.
These are just a few of my examples and I am comfortable each of you could provide a name or two yourselves if asked.
The traits of being a good public servant are very simple. They are precisely the same qualities that work well for the editorial teams of community newspapers.
It is our intent to treat everyone in our communities with respect, to cover local news with clarity and honesty all the while being fair and balanced to all parties.
We take pride in developing a trust between ourselves and those we write about, realizing that the events in which they are involved make up the heart of our communities.
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When one of us hurts
My son, Wyatt, was not yet three years old when he fell while playing in the living room of his grandparent’s home and hit the corner of his eye. I was planting trees in the apple orchard when I learned of his mishap and I quickly took him from his grandmother’s arms and held him in the back seat of the car as we drove to the emergency room.
I still recall the fear I felt that day as Wyatt was screaming, not so much with pain, but fear and confusion. I have no doubt that the toddler could recognize the fear in my eyes. As a new father, I had not yet learned that children observe us and feed on our every move and I didn’t realize that a child will adopt the same feelings as his parent whether it is fear or calmness.
I remember demanding the emergency room call in an off-duty plastic surgeon because I screamed in prayer to God something along the line of, "God, I just thought I would be the one carrying my family scars." My scars are visible to all with every step I take. As many already know, I was run over in the river by a drunken boat driver when I was a teenager.
My accident resulted in months in the hospital, hundreds of stitches, years of physical therapy, and left me with a prominent limp and numerous scars on my left leg. My greatest fear at the time of Wyatt’s accident was that I didn’t want him to be left with a scar that would be a burden the rest of his life. Surely my suffering was enough for one family to endure.
Looking back at that time, I can laugh a bit because the little scar above his left eye took a total of five tiny stitches and is clearly a sign of character that he is not ashamed of at all.
But none-the-less, the fear I felt the day of Wyatt’s misfortune was real pain for an inexperienced father.
Now, fast-forward 16 years and I am once again experiencing a new pain associated with being a parent of that same child. As I wrote a few months ago, my son is now a young man and is currently in basic training for the United States Air Force. He has been in San Antonio, Texas enduring the rigors of training that will make him a credit to our country’s armed forces.
I shared a single thought on my personal Facebook account, one I established a few years back to help monitor my children's Internet usages. I wrote, "A most difficult day! Watching my son walk onto an airplane leaving me to serve our country in the US Air-Force!"
I never imagined the responses I got from friends. Dozens of individuals commented that they understood my pain because they, too, had dropped a child at the airport to leave under similar circumstances. Dozens of people offered words of support to me through Facebook, email, and hand-written notes. What I soon realized was that four of the first five people who comforted me were friends who have lost a child. I know, because I did what they were doing for me by offering an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on.
I shared with each of them my thoughts that after knowing what they have been through and continue to go through, that perhaps I should be ashamed of my pain. But each of those parents, in their own words, explained that pain is real no matter what or who caused it. They assured me that it is okay to feel the pain, that it is okay to share my feelings, and that they sincerely understand my pain.
It has been almost a month since I have gotten to speak with my son and it may be another month before I fly to San Antonio for the first of what I might be many graduations of the next few years.
Now, as this week dawns and I gradually come to grips with knowing I’ve placed my son in God’s hands, I again return to Facebook and read that a local young woman, Haley Wilkinson, has just lost her precious baby boy, Layne.
I only know her as a skilled waitress at A Little Taste of Texas restaurant in Glasgow and as the daughter of a friend, but because of Facebook and living in a small town, I know I am affected by this loss myself.
So, I am asking for you to join me in sending prayers to all in our community who, for whatever reason, are hurting because when one of our neighbors hurts, we all hurt.
Mr. Jobe has not written a column this week because he is out of town with his son who is being sworn in to serve in the United States Air Force.
Do we need government?
If someone picked up a single issue for one of Jobe Publishing’s newspapers and read nothing but the editorial page they could easily walk away with a feeling that our letter writers, columnists, editors, and even I have nothing good to say about government.
Perhaps this is a trait for some but not at all for me. You see, I believe we absolutely need government. Government should be the balance of justice that protects us from the misguided passions of our fellow man.
This past weekend my family found itself seeking shelter from the rain rather than basking in the sunshine at the lake. Sometimes those unplanned days spent together bring about meaningful conversations that otherwise might never occur. That’s exactly what happened around our dinner table when my daughter Reagan asked, “Dad, why do you think we need government if people only complain about it?”
In order to buy myself a little time, I responded in the usual manner: “Rea, that is a very good question.” Knowing I was buying time before answering a difficult question, I noticed Kenna direct her full attention toward me as well. You would have to know Kenna’s personality to appreciate the pressure this put on me. She enjoys a good debate. If I give her an opportunity to jump into a discussion by doing something like mispronouncing a word, she will take the bait and run with it. I have no idea where she gets this from...
So, I chose my words cautiously as I explained that my belief is that government is needed to find balance for man’s belief and passion.
I explained that some people are so passionate in their thoughts that they can overlook the thoughts of others who might think differently. These individuals do not want fairness, they want things their own way; they manipulate the law, use political pressure or threats, and they use the power of money to buy influence, all the while not caring about anyone else. Examples of such abuses abound.
Often, these citizens are not bad people, they just simply believe so strongly in their view that they can’t grasp the view from another perspective. I pointed out topics in today’s society that cause such passionate feelings: same-sex marriage, abortion, immigration, unions, and the size of government.
I reminded my debaters that sometimes individuals believe so strongly in something or against something, they will break the law for what otherwise is a good cause. My examples were the man who is so anti-abortion that he kills a doctor for performing a partial birth abortion. Another was someone who as long as they get their subsidy, benefits or perks that they encourage government to continue to tax and tax and tax.
Without having so much as formulated this thought before this conversation, I felt pretty good about the answer I gave because they seemed to be satisfied and gave examples of their own. Kenna said, “This might be like someone who wants all Sheltie dogs put to death because they were bitten by one when they were young.” I agreed.
As I sat down to fill this space I thought about the conversation with my daughters and decided to research a bit to support my views. I was surprised to find that I am not alone in this belief. As a matter of fact, one of our founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, actually wrote rather eloquently about thoughts similar to mine.
Hamilton, when describing the need for government, explained that it is because the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice, without constraint.
Wow, I find that my beliefs are in some very good company and this would be a perfect place to end this commentary. However, if you are a history buff or simply paid attention in history class, you may recall why Hamilton is famously remembered.
One of the most famous personal conflicts in American history, the Burr-Hamilton duel, arose from a long-standing political and personal bitterness developed between two men over the course of several years. These two prominent American politicians, the former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton and sitting Vice-President Aaron Burr, on July 11, 1804 allowed their passions to get the best of them. At Weehawken in New Jersey, Burr shot and mortally wounded Hamilton.
Tensions reached a bursting point with Hamilton’s - get this - journalistic defamation of Burr’s character during the 1804 gubernatorial race in which Burr was a candidate.
As mentioned earlier, I am thankful for government in fostering a balance in man’s passions. After a quick reminder, even though Hamilton and I share the same philosophy and perhaps even the same outspoken journalistic qualities, unlike Hamilton, I just happen to be protected by our government from preventing someone from challenging me to a duel in which my passions could get the best of me as well.
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Our greatest freedom?
As Independence Day draws near, I feel it is an appropriate time to ask, "What is America's greatest freedom?"
Compared to many countries, we've got it made. We can stand up, speak out, criticize our president or any official, and we have no fear of repercussion. As a matter of fact, in the five editorial pages we printed this week, the majority of commentary will be directed at an official or issue someone does not agree with.
Since February 1998 I have been trying to get our readers to speak out on issues important to them and I assume this is exactly what the authors of our letters are doing.
But when one really starts to contemplate the question it becomes a little trickier.
What is our greatest freedom?
When sitting in the University of Kentucky Library many years ago I remember reading a slogan, “Read what you’re not supposed to - a banned book.”
Looking back, my interest and having retained this memory could have been some insight as to what later became my chosen profession because a Google search shows the slogan was issued by a professional journalism society.
I liked it because it was pretty bold, especially for that day and time. I remember noticing it throughout campus and it actually popped up in more mainstream locations. It made me think.
For many, book banning is a frightening idea. For journalists, it tends to be a very, very scary thought - one that flies in the face of the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights: "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press ..."
Journalists live by the First Amendment daily. And, we realize the founding fathers of our country had tremendous foresight to not only acknowledge the importance of a free press, but to include it in the First Amendment to the Constitution. The amendment also guarantees freedom of religion, freedom of speech, the right to assemble peaceably and the right to petition for redress.
While journalists may feel a special kinship to freedom of the press, most Americans cherish the importance of freedom of religion, the right to worship without government interference.
And who cannot appreciate freedom of speech? Whether you're standing on a street corner passing out flyers that espouse your view of the government, writing a letter to the editor or addressing a board, city council or legislator over them passing yet another tax or hiding perks, you have the right to say what's on your mind.
The beautiful thing about standing up and having those in power ignore your comments, you can gather your neighbors, notify the newspaper, stand on a soapbox and take your message to the masses.
If I were to create my own slogan, it would be something along the lines of, “Talk is cheap and action is powerful.” None of us can take on every challenge nor can a local newspaper. However, I believe when those in power begin to ignore the person standing up, it is time for change.
All of us like to think we make a difference but it is because of freedom of speech that the media can help facilitate that change. I take pride in knowing I have contributed to change in our communities. Over the years I have strived to be balanced in the opinions I write.
In every single so-called hard-hitting news story published on our front pages, the common denominator in each of them is individuals speaking out. However, when the issue is not being addressed properly, it tends to reappear week after week.
Over the years I have found that people are very forgiving except when their concerns are ignored. Even when mistakes or troublesome issues are pointed out, it is far better to consider all sides of an issue rather than to hide or hope that a problem will go away.
One of the frequently forgotten gifts of free speech is that those making a mistake have the same exact resources to speak out, if only they will use them.
Jobe Publishing offers our pages to all those choosing to speak out on all sides of an issue. We also do our best to consider them when exercising what I believe to be our greatest gift as Americans, Free Speech.
Hospital taxability issue needs closure
For more than ten months our community has been struggling over issues relating to T.J. Samson Community Hospital and its various spin-off organizations and operations. Anyone living here or even passing through our area has been aware of the ongoing struggles relating to our chief health care facility.
One of the topics that has been most volatile is the question of whether the hospital and its sister organizations are paying all the property taxes that the various entities should be paying. It’s a serious question and it has serious repercussions depending on the answer to the question. And although they are not openly saying so, this has some to do with the attitude and budget struggles inside City Hall. For months our community has been subjected to the drama associated with this single issue.
I have no less than a dozen city, county and school board officials wanting us to disclose the burden put on these particular budgets because of the lost revenue associated with the sale of the old Wal-Mart building to the non-profit T.J. Samson.
But honestly the balance between promised payroll taxes for future jobs versus actual taxes collected at this time is way over my pay scale and until recently not a single one of those wanting our coverage was open to speaking on the record for themselves.
We've seen two attempts by the Glasgow City Council to ask the Kentucky Attorney General to investigate the matter. We’ve seen Barren County Fiscal Court members attempt to make the same request. All three initiatives have been voted down.
Now, the ethics of members of the Glasgow City Council and Barren County Fiscal Court who cast votes in those meetings have been called into question because of a complex network of connections to T.J. Samson Community Hospital. Many of those connections are nothing more than a by-product of living and working in a small community that most any of us in business or involved in community would have, yet, clearly some of those connections are significant and they should have removed themselves from votes relating to the hospital.
Even since the notion of asking for an AG’s opinion has been voted down, the question is still present among us. We hear it spoken in conversations both public and private. We hear references to it at public meetings, committee meetings, non-profit organization meetings, and more. The question is present in all of those gatherings and it does not appear that it’s going to go away.
In the meantime, our local officials have been plagued with accusations and innuendo while personal relationships have in some cases been greatly damaged by this question and the lack of a definitive answer. I feel business reputations for the individuals not disclosing the associations or removing themselves from the vote are jeopardized as well as the integrity of those perceived to be pressuring from the hospital, and certainly the elected officials who cast the votes with associations on both sides of the issue.
The fact is that this question is not going to go away. Although we don’t know the answer to that question nor are we legal professionals, I have an opinion based on experience from serving in an elected capacity for an incorporated press-association with the same profit and nonprofit structure. I have shared this opinion with many officials, friends on both sides of this issue and I now share with you. I do not believe T.J. Samson Community Hospital is doing anything wrong with how they are buying property and it being removed from tax rolls.
This is also pretty much the same conclusion for similar questions and opinions issued by the AG provided to our editorial team. Yet again, we don't know for sure nor does the general public until the question has been asked and answered.
Our city, county and T.J. Samson Community Hospital all have serious issues also demanding full attention.
The trustees of T.J. Samson Community Hospital should put this particular matter to rest. Ladies and gentlemen, for the good of the community and for the reputation of the respected organization you so proudly serve it is time to ask the Attorney General for an opinion, receive that opinion and share it, and let’s move forward.
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God gave me eyes but my son gave me sight
Getting the next promotion… newspapering of any kind…. whether it was calculating single copy sales from front page stories or charts to show trends, nobody could predict or calculate the outcome of a news story or sales program better than me.
I was the youngest marketing director Gannett Rochester Newspapers ever had, the first Vice President of Circulation without ties to the 100-year old family-owned newspaper in West Virginia, the youngest General Manager for Thompson Newspapers and was poised to move to California for an even bigger challenge. I had secretly interviewed for the position of Vice President of Marketing and Operations for the Los Angeles Times and all of the sudden, my eyes could see.
At Christmas dinner that year I was poised to share with the family that I was going to go to California for an on-site interview and was sure to get the job. I say “sure” because there was an internal power struggle going on at the time and I had already worked for the publisher once before in Rochester. I knew the job was mine if I wanted it.
But, the Christmas Spirit has a way of changing things and I guess that’s what came over me as I chose not to spoil the moment by revealing the plans swirling in my head. Instead, I chose not to share the news of my recent phone call with anyone. Later that evening as we sat in the midnight Christmas Eve service at a small church in Taylorsville, it dawned on me that family life was more important than money.
As I gazed around that little church I noticed grandfathers, fathers, and sons all sitting together. With my own son happily sitting in my lap and his grand-father beside me, I suddenly remembered sitting beside my grandfather in church when I was a child. The memory brought a cold chill over me because my grandfather died when I was only seven years old and yet, I could remember those moments so vividly.
As I pondered the holiday sights of families sitting before my eyes and the recollections of my childhood, I could not help but recall that I never had a father in my life. I began to quietly weep over the thought that if I took the job in California, there was a great chance that I would not be in my son’s life the way I had always envisioned.
Later that night, when Christmas joy should be foremost in one’s mind, my mind was still thinking of what a job in California might mean to our little family. So, I had decided in prayer that night to push to buy the Butler County newspaper with the goal of a deal in writing by January 8 so I could turn down the California job. I had to have the deal in writing because I believed then, and still do, that God intends for man to protect and provide for his family and I realized being an out-of-work once highly-paid executive would not be very desirable.
In short, I decided that night to put aside my personal desire to compete and expand the career I loved because I loved my son so much more.
Up until that point, my competitive spirit had its foundation in a promise I made to my grandmother after the accident that changed my life at age 14. That tragedy left me walking the way I do and in turn, I was determined to compete in everything to fulfill my own need to overcome my feelings of shame over a limp.
Of course, the deal to buy the Butler County paper worked out and our family came to call Morgantown “home.” One afternoon my son’s mother and I were following him up the sidewalk when, not unlike that earlier Christmas Eve, a realization came over me. On that night, I realized how much I loved my son. This time the realization was different for it was then that I realized how much my son loves me. You see, my son was walking along the sidewalk, favoring his left leg. I asked his mother if he had hurt his foot or leg that day and she said, “No silly, he is just trying to walk like his Daddy.” At that moment I realized what I considered my greatest weakness was the very thing my son was trying to emulate.
A few years have passed since that memorable day and life has handed us some twists and bumps in the road that we weren’t expecting, but it’s worked out well. That little boy just graduated from Woodford County High School last week and because his high school days were out of the coverage area for our newspapers, I sat on the sidelines at football games and took pictures and videos of him making plays every bit as good as any I’ve placed on the pages of the newspapers I publish.
I think any parent who has opened the newspaper to see their child’s picture will know how this made me feel. I’m honored to have been able to showcase all of the graduates in the Jobe Publishing service area, perhaps even your once little boys and girls who are ready to embark on their amazing life journey.
So, while the caps and gowns have already been put away in most cases, I am proud to introduce the last graduate this year: my son, Donald Wyatt Jobe.
Wyatt will be leaving for the United States Air Force on July 15, to begin his basic training having already earned the classification of "Iron man."
Memorial Day Weekend
This weekend, the summer season will be ushered in around our communities. School is out and thoughts of cookouts and family vacations fill our minds.
But the Memorial Day weekend should be viewed as something more than just the opportunity to have three days off and a chance to throw some burgers on the grill, sneaking away to the lake and getting caught up on neglected yard work.
The word “memorial” is defined as commemorative object or event — something that is intended to remind people of somebody who has died or an event in which people died.
For many of us, the day is spent showing our respect for loved ones as we clean up areas around a grave, including the placement of flowers and perhaps a short prayer. It is a time to remember a person who meant a lot to us — someone who impacted our lives.
But the real reason for the day of remembrance is focused on those who gave their life to provide us with the freedoms we enjoy today. While we all enjoy a gathering with friends, we must not forget that Memorial Day is not so much a celebration that summer has arrived but should be a day devoted to those who gave their lives for their country.
I am accused of many things for simply covering your hometown news but I challenge anyone not to acknowledge that we do all we can to promote Christmas, July 4th, and Memorial Day. I take great pride in knowing that Jobe
Publishing is covering some 40 events this weekend and we feel it is our job to recognize not only those who gave their all but to honor those keeping memories alive.
The history of Memorial Day is not clear, as there are numerous cities and towns that want to take credit for the day’s origin. Some records even show a group of women decorated graves of fallen South soldiers before the end of the Civil War, but in 1966, President Lyndon Johnson declared that Waterloo,
N.Y., was the birthplace of Memorial Day. Chances are, the origin of the day, like the United States, was forged from many people and place from all across our great country.
What is more important than how it began is why it was established. As one person put it, “Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all.” This is a common theme and I honor its true meaning. But we can not forget those who were there and came home. Some showed up for the fight and came home to only realize they left so much on the field of battle.
My grandfather was a young boy who left with some 290 other boys to fight in the first World War. It is reported that from this single county in north-east Kentucky that only 90 of them returned. He was one of the 90 and one of the almost 50% who lost legs, arms or carried deep wounds. He died when I was 7-years old and had walked 60 years of his life with a bullet in his hip that he got from fighting at the Battle of the Argonne Forest.
As a country boy and a somewhat emotionally internal conservative kind of guy you will not find me referencing poets or songs but as I was researching some data years ago and I ran across a definition of why this day is important. It came in 1915 from Moina Michael who wrote: “We cherish too the Poppy red, That grows on fields where valor led, It seems to signal to the skies, That blood of heroes never dies.”
I was researching what the significance was of wearing red poppie seeds because I found some in an old trunk I purchased at an auction when living in Rochester, New York. After that poem was published, a movement began that continues today where red poppies are worn in honor of those who died serving our country.
Unfortunately, the observance of Memorial Day has lessened over the years. In many parts of this nation, the graves of the fallen are not maintained and even fewer people are aware of proper flag etiquette for the day. Yet while this is happening in other parts of our country I am proud to say for us here in South Central Kentucky; we continue to honor and the tradition lives on.
By the time you read this your Memorial Day weekend will have come and gone. As I write I pray we give those
who have fallen honor, remembered those who came home and take pride in knowing the tradition to serve and remember is still alive here at home.
The role of town-criers in history continues today
In history, town-criers were people of some standing in the community because they had to be able to read and write many of their proclamations themselves. Reading and writing is something most of us now take for granted, much like we trust those we elect will serve us by using common sense.
Yet, common sense is perceived in many different ways these days bringing us to a point where what is common sense for one person is not common sense for another.
I agree with President Obama when he says it is common sense to remove guns from individuals legally prohibited from owning them. Yet, among those pushing for more stringent gun control laws are persons such as Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy who feels our Second Amendment “limits citizens to owning smooth-bore muskets.” I am not in agreement with that thought.
Here is one for Superintendent McCarthy, I feel it is absolutely common sense to remove someone from office who is not getting the job done. Superintendent McCarthy is wanting more laws and yet he does not enforce the laws on the books in his own city regarding such things. Chicago has some of the nation’s strictest gun laws and yet ranks among the highest in crime statistics. Even his own city council members openly state that their laws are so absurd that average citizens ignore them. McCarthy wants more laws and is not enforcing the ones he has.
Other national issues getting lots of attention these days might include immigration reform which many of our officials are tossing about like a hot potato. Man, what an issue. None of us has a desire to hurt law-abiding citizens, but from where I sit, it is just common sense not to reward someone who is breaking the law. It appears this is what our own Representative Johnny Bell is doing by beginning to introduce bills giving drivers licenses to illegal immigrants.
It is usually easy to be a town crier about such news items because they seem so far away. Nobody could think here in south-central Kentucky that it may someday be illegal to own a 12-gauge shotgun and few of us would have ever thought our elected officials would be leading a movement to reward illegal immigrants.
The toughest crying we do relates to local issues like the new stormwater management “fee” imposed on all Glasgow property owners. We were alone in detailing the facts of this “fee” and if God is willing, it may be the only government “fee” I outlive.
House and Senate leadership exposed
With only two legislative days left, the 2013 General Assembly Session has come to a major turning point in which I?believe the true colors of our House and Senate leadership is exposed. As I have reported as far back as 7 years ago, Kentucky faces an intense shortfall in unfunded liability because of our public employee pension system.
Senate Democrat and Republicans have agreed to a plan that will protect all those in the system now and also bring the out of control abuses associated with the legislative pension plan back in line with all state employees. See who supports this plan and who is using politics to get their pet project, "Expanded Gambling," passed.
For complete details pick up a copy of any Jobe newspaper on newsstands or online this week.
This week I share my thoughts on Helping good people in office stay honest. I share an example of how an elected official of the past used his office to manipulate the law to hurt me and our newspaper.
This and more can be found on page 4 of any Jobe Publishing newspaper.
This week in the Barren County Progress I share my thoughts on the never ending drama surrounding a headline grabbing magistrate, jail and the Barren County Fiscal Court.
While inside all Jobe newspapers I take one more shot at encouraging our Democrat legislators to get on board with fixing their own pension abuses. This column will give blatant examples of how legislators have abused our trust and put into place a pension for themselves sure to break our state if not fixed soon.
I am interested in your thoughts on these issues and any subject important to you. Thanks for reading.
Publisher Jeff Jobe writes about the need for tax accountability. He details a plan of action in which the politicians who vote to pass along tax increases and fees should be held accountable. He compliments and shares the views of Auditor Adam Edelen in shining a light on "Ghost Government."
This and more on page 4 of all Jobe Publishing community newspapers and available in newsstands Wednesday morning or online at jpinews.com
Ethics, Rand Paul and community drama
This week Jeff Jobe questions decision of the Glasgow Daily Times to not cover a story they were positioned to have first hand knowledge, this story and more in the Barren County Progress. He compliments those in attendance at the Lincoln Dinner and speaks of the attraction of Rand Paul in The Edmonton Herald-News and the Monroe County Citizens and he writes about behind the scenes community drama and what it takes to get beyond it to make a community strong in the Butler County Banner.
The Progress, Banner and Herald-News are available on newsstands Tuesday evening and delivered to mail boxes and on-line Wednesday. The Citizen and News-Herald are delivered to newsstands each Wednesday and available to subscribers online and in the mail Thursday.
Can't seem to find the humor anymore
by Jeff Jobe
Over the years I have actually found it enjoyable to cover local news and sporting events. But today I find myself so tainted with a feeling of disappointment it is a challenge to give our legislators the respect I know I should.
It comes from the fact that every single legislator will quickly identify the main issue needing addressed this year is the pension problems with state employees. We just can not continue as it is or we will destroy our commonwealth and they know it.
Yet, these same individuals have a pension plan that allows them to serve 22 years as a part-time legislator then take a full-time job (such as a judge) for only 3 years and retire with FULL PAY and benefits for the rest of their lives. Many of the names serving us are 1st, or 2nd term politicians because those before them took the bait and left for their 3-year full-time jobs so that us tax-payers can give lifetime $100,000 pensions and full benefits before we catch on!
Most our legislators inherited this situation yet they know it is wrong and have yet to speak out. How in the world can they vote to address any full-time state worker pension when they willfully accept such an unfair perk themselves? Retired reputable legislators right here in our region served with honor and dignity and those approached on this subject agree legislators are part-time and should get no retirement. Call the legislative hotline at (877) 257-5541 and help us encourage our legislators to be leaders with ethics and make South Central Kentucky proud. Our Legislators are Senator Mike Wilson and Representative C.B. Embry for Butler; Senator David Givens and Representative Johnny Bell for Barren; Senator Carroll Gibson and Representative Michael Meredith for Hart; Senator David Givens and Representative Bart Rowland for Metcalfe and Senator Sara Beth Gregory and Bart Rowland for Monroe County.
It is not a Dem. or Rep. issue because both sides are equally covered with dirt and neither have had the integrity to do what is right. Other states have done this and now is the time for Kentucky to have elected officials to do the job they were elected to do. Return honor to the offices they hold!
Jeff also shares his thoughts on celebrating milestones as the Glasgow High School nears completion, WKU-Glasgow Campus celebrates 25-years and his view on honoring open meeting laws in Barren County Fiscal Court. Available on page 4 of the Barren County Progress, read online or buy a copy today.
Will Kentucky's true leaders please stand up
“The best way to get a better job is to be the best at the job you have right now,” is a comment my grandfather shared with me and one that I shared with my son, Wyatt, over the past weekend. It is a strategy that has served me well over the years. In my own experience, back when I was working for large newspaper companies, several promotions came my way and I wasn’t even looking for them.
This is exactly what I believe Kentucky Auditor Adam Edelen is doing with his work on the Commonwealth’s “Ghost Government.” Would it not make since that somewhere over the past 25 years or so an auditor before him would have asked a simple question, “Who is looking at special districts?”
Read how Jeff Jobe is encouraging local legislators to be leaders on page 4 of all Jobe Publishing, Inc. newspapers.
Showing love - is a good place to start
Active duty military suicide must be talked about
As a small-town newspaper publisher I find myself very close to the happenings of our military. Whether it is press releases for events or casualty reports during a time of war, local publishers are among the first to know when unfortunate things happen our military men and women. I would like nothing more than to never see another local service person lose their life for I?have seen far more than I ever wanted.
Our newspaper is not too different than most when it comes to this type coverage. We promote all events out of respect in an effort to bring honor to those who have lost their lives. We are proud to honor these heroes and their families when both good and bad things happen in their lives.
However, a few newspaper opinion pages are beginning to write about a tragedy that is quietly happening and not making our front pages. The tragedy comes in the form of suicide. I suppose it is because suicide has such a stigma attached to it that few newspapers cover these type stories. As I write, I struggle with an internal dilemma because I know something must change.
Read what Jeff Jobe feels must be changed about Military Suicide on page 4 of all Jobe Publishing newspapers.
Embracing our opportunities
Well, it has finally happened. I am no longer the young, aggressive newspaper guy doing things that others wouldn’t dare do.
I remember the feeling of how easy it was to impress my higher-ups at the Courier-Journal back when I first started down a road in search of a newspaper career. I was just out of college and had no idea what I was being hired to do and I didn’t care because I simply wanted a job and hoped it would be one that offered opportunity for advancement.
Honestly, the only reason I took the newspaper job was because I had a business degree with emphasis in finance and the only jobs at the time were in banking. Banking would have been a fine career choice, but not one I believed would be a good fit for me. I hated being in the office and when interviewing, it seemed no one would speculate on what I might be doing in 5 years. If the interviewers did care to speculate, their answer was always based on pay scales that came time with the company.
When I posed similar questions to interviewers at newspapers, I was told, “There are newspapers all over the world and always an opportunity if you become good at the job.” I really didn’t like the idea of being strapped to an office and I was not thinking I would be staying in Kentucky my entire life when I took a job working for Barry Bingham, Jr., at the Louisville Times and Courier-Journal Company.
Having grown up in North-eastern Kentucky, I had no idea who Mr. Bingham was, but when sharing the story with friends in Louisville and Lexington, it seemed I had met someone who could help me create a career. He seemed like a pretty funny guy with a weird mustache and after meeting with about 10 managers I was offered a job paying $50 more a week than the banks were paying, so I took it.
Days later, I jumped into debt by buying a new Ford Topaz (what a ride), and found myself with the fancy title of Assistant Manager-in-training. Or, in terms that would best describe my duties for the first four months, “Door-to-door subscription sales representative.”
I was somewhat ashamed of what I did because some of my fraternity brothers were entering graduate school, taking over family businesses, or enjoying titles with larger and more visible companies. I shared this thought with a long-time mentor, John C. Grubb, and was told the best way to get a better job is to be the best in the job you had at the moment.
Guess what? It worked! I got a promotion or transferred to a new job no less than ten times over the next 14 years - all inside the newspaper business and working for large major newspaper companies. In essence, I took a job selling newspaper subscriptions and parlayed it into a career where I was managing 142 newspapers in 1997.
The success at the time came from being ambitious and not timid about taking chances on new programs, seizing marketing opportunities, and always remembering to surpass the previous year by just a little bit. I say a little bit, because I soon found that in large companies if you grow your district, division or newspaper by 30% this year, it meant you got the same bonus as the guy who grew his by 5% with the only difference my next year goal became 30% growth while his might be 6%. After a while I was good at managing the system, so I would take a new job and clean up problems, set up a few new programs, and sit back and watch as growth was inevitable.
However, with the blessing of my first child’s birth, I soon realized while sitting in the third interview for a publisher’s position in California that I would be missing ballgames, school plays, and thousands of good night kisses if I took the job. A family member suggested I take my experience and work for myself. I found a small newspaper in Butler County and in two months was closing a deal and establishing Jobe Publishing, Inc.
Often, weekly newspaper corporate names are the same as the newspaper, but not for me. It was my goal day one to buy that newspaper, establish a corporate holding company and turn it into something more than a newspaper company.
My strategy was to simply do what had made me successful when working for others and this has been our driving force since that day. We were the first community newspaper in Kentucky to offer full-color front pages each week, advertising on page one, an editorial page and completely paginated on the computer instead of the old layout tables.
The difference in Jobe Publishing and other newspaper companies is we embrace technology and by doing so, it helps us accomplish our goals of creating more marketing opportunities for businesses, and growing more paid subscribers. But one must be careful because not all technology is friendly to the business climate of newspapers and this has proven to be deadly to some.
I watched as major daily newspapers embraced the on-line news sites and although the best intentions were planned, the strategy of giving news free and charging for advertising just doesn’t work. The absolute and only way to quantify your reach is through paid subscriptions and this is the only way at this time an advertiser can quantify how many homes or readers they are getting for their advertisement.
Jobe Publishing had a web site up long before most but it wasn’t until we perfected the ability to put our actual newspaper pages online that we began to see real opportunities. We got heat from small-minded competitors who made fun of us for requiring a subscription to read our news. Some of those same competitors also laughed in 1998 when we sold our first front page advertisement across the bottom of page one.
I remember the threat of free distributed magazines in the 1980’s and that trend passed and so is the concept of free online newspapers because there is no independent governing body to monitor the numbers they boast as readers without a money trail. That money trail cannot be beaten because of 32,000 individual subscribers have chosen one of Jobe Publishing’s community newspapers as their local news source.
The wonderful thing about technology is the opportunity to use it to better serve your customers. JPI’s new mobile application is allowing us to do just such a thing. Anyone can get a taste of late-breaking news by going to www.jpinews.com and automatically have the easy-to-use free mobile app activated. Just as it has been for more than 100 years, only those who truly value our hometown and don’t want to miss a single issue of hometown news can access our online pages through a subscription.
2012 was a good year for all of our company services. We saw strong growth in our business last year and I have no doubt that although our news, advertising, and printing are independent of one-another, business owners and managers today realize the best marketing strategies coordinate a common theme in all they do. Jobe Publishing is the only company that can now design your advertisement, make sure the same logo is on all your printed material, help you write press releases and provide the most-used online and print distribution method in South Central Kentucky.
As a young newspaper professional I coordinated a program that secured donations to help offset costs to send active military personnel a copy of their hometown newspaper at a reduced rate and this made me very proud. But today, as a somewhat older newspaper owner, I feel blessed to able to provide all our sons and daughters serving anywhere in the world with ability to see all their hometown news on-line at no charge at all. I’m proud that Jobe Publishing has been able to embrace technology to help keep our own business at the forefront as well as enhance the lives of our readers and the communities we serve. We are proud to offer complimentary online subscriptions to the brave and caring men and women who protect and serve our country.
Just as our military serves us, Jobe Publishing, Inc., is committed to using every opportunity to serve you.
2012 has ended much better than began and poised for a good 2013
I am grabbing a few minutes while waiting on my son and his girl friend to arrive for Christmas dinner. Our holiday dinner is one that I have prepared on my own since 2007 and that itself a wonderful feeling of accomplishment. All is so very calm this wonderful Christmas day and I have so much for which to be thankful.
Christmas is ever-spiritual because it celebrates the birth of a single child more than 2,000 years ago whose arrival has defined all the dates of history. No other human, before or since, has influenced mankind as much as Jesus Christ. As dusk settles on this crisp Christmas day, we finish off the celebration for the day marking the birth of the Christ child, a day dedicated to “good tidings of great joy.”
As your families gather together along with mine, I am reminded that my own family seemed broken in 2007 but is now stronger than ever and is the foundation on which all of my accomplishments are laid.
Happiness is something that is best when shared. The holidays are a time where people of all faiths can celebrate shared happiness. The thoughtfulness of loved ones is a wonderful gift in itself. Our churches, families, and individuals pray for children all over the world to have the chance for peace and joy in their hearts.
When I was in my early years of grade school in Greenup, Kentucky, I was offered my first taste of newspapering when a local newspaper photographer snapped a picture of me and it was placed on the front page of the Greenup News. I remember having been asked to deliver a friend’s paper route that exact same week and how it felt to have my picture in print.
Never did I imagine, during those early years in Greenup, that I would be blessed with a career that had me grow and develop my trade in that same business over decades and someday own my own newspaper.
I have only worked in one business since my days at the University of Kentucky and it has been inside the newspaper industry. It is an industry that was supposed to be gone by now if you embraced the predictions of the 1980’s and 1990’s.
Yet, here I am poised to begin 2013 as the publisher and owner of a small family- owned newspaper company, literally stronger than ever and excited about seeing where this growth and excitement will take us over the next few years.
For those of you concerned about the business climate of 2013, I will give you some advice I have realized to be a requirement for business success. Trust in yourself only after you put your trust in God. By doing this you find the calmness needed to make the decisions strong leaders must make. Decisions made today will define your company’s future and strong, honest management is essential.
I am not a preacher, nor do I feeling a calling to preach, it’s a noble profession but one that’s just not one for me. I write this because even the average man can set himself up for success if he follows the biblical values we all know to be true.
In the newspaper business we are often provided with a sideline to a story and if we were to use this sideline view alone, so many times things would be much easier and few people would know the difference.
I am certain that if most people reaching the end of life were asked to identify their greatest accomplishments outside their family, they would describe overcoming adversity and turning it into a blessing.
2012 saw more than a few challenges for my company, most all of which cost me personally in some manner, but as we wrap up the fiscal year for my company, our managers and I are over-whelmed by the growth we have seen. Ours is growth that can only be described as a company managed by individuals who did their best to do what is right when facing negative or evil challenges and because of it, we are realizing blessings.
As I finish this simple column of saying thanks, I hope in some way I might inspire one of you who need an understanding friend at this time. I understand the decisions you face.
Exactly one-year ago this week, I was facing layoffs in my company, I moved money from personal accounts to pay property taxes and faced threats from politically-powerful individuals. It seemed we were going into a year filled with unnecessary expenses and possibly one of boycotts for decisions I knew in my heart were the right ones.
Yet today, as I prepare to sit down with my family and give thanks for them and the joy they offer, I feel blessed to know 2012 has been a wonderful year in business and because of this fact, my family is blessed.
Jobe Publishing is among the fastest growing newspaper companies in the nation and it is based on one simple fact: we are strong enough to report the truth.
I encourage you to be honest and confident in the decisions you make because you know them to be true needs.
God bless you and your family and thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to serve you.
Where do you call home?
It is customary for our families to load the kids up and head home for the holidays. Over the next few days most of us will either do some driving or we are blessed with others driving to see us.
We enjoy visiting with family and friends in our hometowns. I have read more than once that the word hometown is described as where a person’s roots lie. But I think the word home has many meetings and even one’s hometown’ can be described differently as well. It seems we have a president who is attacked for probably the same problems I might have in describing my hometown.
For me, my roots lie in Northeast Kentucky in a town by the name of Greenup. My mother’s family pretty much still migrates back there for the holidays and for various visits throughout the year. But as our family gets older, with my grandmother no longer living, and my friends all busy with living life and growing their own families, I find myself being pulled to the area less and less each year.
Please don’t misunderstand, I love having grown up in this community and take pride in the values I gained from so many people.
Yet, I seem to miss the feeling of community because those I remember are no longer there.
Community is so important. I had all but forgotten how this feeling was until a few days ago.
In this business, it is easy to think people don’t appreciate you personally, but instead they appreciate what you do for them. I have actually had to remind a few misguided employees along the way over the years of this fact. I am often invited to some event and before I can even say I will have it covered I am told, “If you can’t make it that is ok, just have someone cover it for us.” I am ok with this because often I am busy and trying to drive hours for a single event when you have children, a home and a business spread over a few counties make it difficult to manage such things.
But a few days ago I found myself with a full day and nothing planned on my calendar so I made the drive to Butler County for a ribbon cutting.
I got calls from several friends asking me to come and this was nice. I had already promised it would be covered but these friends were asking for me to attend. It was a nice feeling.
I had all but forgotten about the event that morning when I was reminded again with a phone call so I jumped in my car and made the drive.
Before I even got out of my car, there were three vehicles waiting to speak to me in front of the Banner office. I hadn’t seen these friends for a long time and they noticed me and wanted to say hello.
A friend followed me inside and we talked for along time. It was a very nice visit. While there I was informed that the annual musical event held at Morgantown Bank and Trust was that afternoon and once again, I was asked to attend.
I had a few minutes before the ribbon cutting for the renovated antique shop donated by J. Marshall Hughes to the Boys and Girls Club so I thought I would grab lunch. I ate with another friend and again as I walked out to my car I had a couple of my more crazy friends act like they were going to have me escorted to the edge of town.
At the ribbon cutting I had the pleasure to visit with probably twenty individuals that I have not seen in years.
We shared old stories of some of the more memorable news stories, hunting stories, gardening fabrications and personal experiences from the years my family and I lived in Morgantown.
I’m not sure if there is any scientific explanation, but perhaps it is because my two baby girls were born in Morgantown, but I have a feeling for this community like no other.
I think perhaps it is because these friends don’t talk about a boy that is all but long gone, as my friends in Greenup remember, or the young man who aggressively chased a career throughout several states, but instead they know the man who had chosen to settle and raise a family. I wanted to live in Morgantown and will forever be grateful because of this community accepting and welcoming me and my family.
Pushing back Glasgow’s fiscal cliff or fixing it”?
Now that the election’s over, we have winners and losers. Now is the time for us to embrace open and honest discussions about the hurdles we are facing not only in Washington and Frankfort, but here at home as well.
We voters, the people who elect our officials, are sometimes treated as children as if we are not capable of understanding problems facing our communities.
This is a serious problem in Washington and Frankfort and it’s one that’s becoming very obvious here in Glasgow. It is not much of a leap to conclude that if twelve individuals and a mayor can introduce a federally-mandated program requiring additional fee revenue (tax) of more than $500,000 in a very short time period with little discussion and then vote quickly and loudly to ?move, it to a second vote that they’ve probably already discussed this one and had their minds made up.
This is what alerted me and our staff at the Progress to look into the ‘unfunded federal stormwater management mandate.’
It didn’t take too many calls to realize Glasgow already had a program in compliance and was doing more than most cities our size. So why would our elected officials want so badly to push this new fee on us if no real mandate for new costly projects? Notice I wrote ‘fee’ rather than ‘program’ because that’s what the issue is the fee which is not mandated.
After taking a quick look at the proposed expenses for the new stormwater management program and the year-end balance sheets for the general fund, it was painfully obvious. Glasgow has its own fiscal cliff approaching if something is not done to increase revenue or cut spending.
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Beware of the unfunded federal mandate
When you read the headline of this column I am comfortable most will think I am going to write about one of the perceived dozens, if not hundreds, of unfunded federal mandates that require our fine, upstanding, community-minded local leaders to impose increased taxes or new fees.
If you have heard it once, you probably remember hearing a dozen times of the mandate to raise taxes in order to get money to build a new school, make required improvements or comply with new government regulations. As of this date, I have not seen such a mandate in writing for any of them. It is nothing more than deception.
I would imagine compliance with some programs could perhaps necessitate additional funds to accomplish various tasks but saying it is a mandate to raise a tax or increase a fee just doesn’t hold to be true. This is what I have concluded after years of experience as community publisher. Because of this experience such a statement is a red flag for me to expose some smooth-talking deception about to take place if we allow it continue unquestioned.
When I asked Mayor Rhonda Trautman for an explanation for the new Stormwater Management fee she said, “Jeff, this is something the Infrastructure committee has presented and you should contact Doug Isenberg since he is the chairman of the committee.” She gave me his phone number and I have yet to get a return call for messages left more than a week ago. Upon further questioning, the Mayor suggested I speak with April Russell, the city’s Stormwater Manager and Grant Writer of two year’s service.
Ms. Russell is as sincere a person as anyone would ever want to speak with in regard to this program. I believe she wants nothing other than to do her job well. After numerous emails and several follow-up conversations with state officials and several persons around the state with the same title as Ms. Russell, I?have concluded that the only piece of the puzzle Russell needs is a designated fund on the books showing Glasgow is indeed paying for what it says they are doing.
Glasgow is already doing more about stormwater than most cities while Trautman believes the rates proposed by Isenberg are “minimal compared to other cities in Kentucky.” Council members Stacy Norman Hammer and Wendell Honeycutt told me individually, “none of us like fees or taxes, but this is a clear-cut example of an unfunded federal mandate.” These three capable community leaders are either being mislead to believe what they state, or they are as deceptive as Isenberg in knowingly making such untrue statements.
In a quote from a website detailing this program in Jefferson County, blog editors of an organization called badwater.com writes, “The path of least resistance for regulatory agencies and the way to retain your cush, high paying administrative job year after year, is to open a store selling exemptions from pollution regulation to developers, while transferring the actual cost of pollution control to the public, then flood the media with declarations of your dedication to environmental protection and goals to attain water quality.” This is how they describe what has happened in Jefferson County and this is what Isenberg and the quiet Infrastructure Committee is either allowing Isenberg to stand alone in his lack of understanding or his plan to justify raking in more hard-earned taxpayer dollars under the guise of a federal requirement.
Russell only wants to do her job. Our research concluded that Glasgow is already more equipped and better-established than most cities our size. If Mayor Trautman would simply move the funds already listed in her existing budget and identify measures already in place when she took office and then establish a dedicated expense line for the Stormwater Management Program, this issue would be no more.
There is no need for additional funds to operate the essentially already-existing program and according to Abigail Raines, Kentucky’s Stormwater Coordinator, “If I were to check on Glasgow, I would expect a city this size to implement a program more in line with Elizabethtown instead of say Northern Kentucky or one of the bigger cities.” Elizabethtown is one of the 40 or so of the 50 MSV cities who chose to manage inside existing budgets instead of sell the program as an “unfunded government mandate.” Raines said, “They have a wonderful program and I would encourage anyone to speak with them before establishing a program themselves.” Isenberg or none of those he speaks for spoke to a single city who chose not to establish a fee or tax.
It is now my opinion after extensive research, that our local developers do not need more costs, property owners do not need more government eyes looking for problems, and this newspaper staff will not allow ourselves to be used as a tool to promote ideals that serve only to increase the tax burden on families and friends who are already overburdened.
I share this column with other communities because if it passes in Glasgow, it is sure to come to a community near you....
Shopping at home is self-preservation
Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone, and we have seen and lived through another Black Friday, most of us will begin to put the finishing touches on our purchases for Christmas gifts.
Over the next few weeks we will open our wallets and deplete our checking and savings accounts and come closer to melting our plastic than we have all year long.
Our local newspapers have been promoting shopping locally for more than 100 years and to us it comes so naturally. I am comfortable that most any gift my family might want or need could be found with the help of one of our friends who own a local business.
I shop locally because I honestly feel good knowing I am helping a family just like mine. Each of them knows the challenges with making payroll, paying ever-increasing utility bills, higher taxes, and worry about what kind of special fee our elected officials might quietly throw at us next. Unless you have owned or managed a small business you have no idea of the stress these families endure.
But today I will simply put my thoughts about the importance of shopping at home into two very simple reasons.
The first was talked about heavily during the most recent election: jobs. Not just my friends, but your friends and neighbors, who work in local businesses depend on customers walking through their doors to make purchases to stay open. You don’t have to possess a degree in rocket science to understand that if enough sales don’t happen, friends and neighbors won’t keep their jobs. And just as you hope your friends and neighbors will patronize your place of work, they want to see you in theirs. I believe this is the biggest problem with local business owners. They seem to forget that if they know one business owner is not shopping with them, then it is only natural for that business owner to know where you shop. Each year at our Christmas luncheon I remind all our employees to support the businesses that support our company and to please let them know we appreciate their business at Jobe Publishing.
Most of us are to some degree emotionally invested in our friends and neighbors’ well-being. It’s just natural for us to care about the parents of our friends, the children of our friends, or the family who shares the pew at church. I ask you, if we are going to spend the money anyway, why would we spend it with a stranger in Nashville or Louisville, rather than our friend from down the street?
The second clear cut reason in favor of shopping locally is one of self-preservation.
Yes, self-preservation in this tricky economy should be a priority. Our local governments receive money from the state, based in part, on how much money was actually spent in our town in the form of sales tax. Money spent in Louisville or Lexington, sends tax revenue to those cities and keeps it out of the coffers of governments in Edmonton. When those towns see that money supply dry up, they make up for it by raising other taxes. That means we pay to support people in Louisville and Lexington when we go there to do business and then turn around and pay more to support our local government services. Everything we know from local government comes from taxes, payroll taxes from those neighbors who have jobs here, property taxes from those businesses who choose to be here, and from the money we spend when shopping. Why in the world would we not shop at home, knowing that our hometown as we know it depends on our shopping choices?
So, this year, we hope you’ll care for yourself and a neighbor by shopping locally as much as you can. The impact is far-reaching, even if you’re talking about what seems like a small purchase.
Together we survive!
More fees for property owners in Glasgow?
Just as we all have known for the past few years, these are challenging times. Residents of the City of Glasgow are about to receive a new challenge in the coming weeks with the potential for a new fee being placed on property owners. Just like you, we have to ask, “Another fee? You’ve got to be kidding!”
Like many cities across the country, Glasgow has been given a mandate by our federal government to better control stormwater and the resulting drainage issues in our fair city. That mandate comes with no funding from our federal government to aid this or other communities in addressing these issues. Stormwater is not a topic most people want to spend hours discussing. However, now is the time for all of us to be discussing it and specifically how to pay for its management.
Our local government has been aware of this mandate and for some time now, and has been considering how to pay for these required regulations and improvements. The City Council’s Infrastructure Committee has been working with the staff in the Department of Public Works to determine how to pay for this program. The committee’s choice is apparently to add an annual fee to every property owner’s budget.
If plans proceed as anticipated, everyone in Glasgow will be paying a visit to City Hall next April to pay a portion of the costs associated with this program. According to sources in our city government, the owners of some 7,000 parcels of real estate in Glasgow will be required to pay the fee. According to those same sources, it’s not a tax, its a fee. You see, if it were a tax, some individuals along with churches and schools, would be exempt; they won’t be so lucky, in fact their bills will be figured on a higher rate than residential properties. Additionally, our coveted industries will have the fee placed on their property based on the size of their operation and the square footage of impervious surface on their property.
On the surface, the average monthly fee of $4 per month doesn't sound bad; however, considering that annual fee totals $48, it begins to look a little different. In today's world, one can visit any grocery store and easily carry out a few bags full of groceries that cost $48. That amount is almost the equivalent to getting two extra water bills per year. It might pay for a tank of gasoline for some cars. There are many things one can purchase with $48. But, to many of our local citizens who live simply and frugally in tough economic times, $48 can make a difference ‘ such as not buying those groceries or your prescription drug co-pay, or your child’s extra-curricular fee at school, or not getting to take your family out for a simple, but nevertheless, special meal.
The city staff working on these plans assures us that our City Council members are well aware of the mandate and plans for adding this fee to our expenses as property owners. We cannot help but find it interesting that these plans have been formed but only revealed the week following the election of twelve persons to the City Council, eight of whom were incumbents.
In reviewing the responses to The Barren County Progress’s candidate questionnaires prior to the November 6 election, only one incumbent candidate, Wendell Honeycutt, mentioned unfunded mandates as a coming challenge for the city. Of all the candidates vying for a seat on the council, it was Earl Hammons, a political newcomer who didn’t make it to a seat on the council, who specifically mentioned the looming issue of paying for stormwater management. Obviously, we’ll pay closer attention to Mr. Honeycutt and Mr. Hammons in the future.
The issue of stormwater management is an unfortunate necessity just as it’s necessary to determine how to pay for it. It’s not an issue to be kept behind closed doors when it affects everyone owning property in Glasgow. We think the community should have some input in the process rather than being run over roughshod and being ordered to pay yet another fee with little opportunity for education about the issue or for giving input.
We have to ask, “Where do all of the fees and taxes end?” Earlier this year we saw passage of a rate increase that will help pay for our city’s aging water and sanitary sewer system to be gradually overhauled. Last year we saw an order that a $2 surcharge be added to our monthly bills for garbage collection. While city officials can boast that they haven’t raised taxes, they have certainly taken advantage of a means of increasing city revenues through backdoor measures such as fees.
As it stands at press time for this newspaper, the first reading and vote on the fee will come at the November 26 council meeting and the second reading and vote at the December 10 council meeting.
We encourage you to do your part as a citizen and let our Glasgow City Council members know your feelings on this issue. Attend the meeting and let your opinion be known. It affects you, it affects your family, and it affects your community.
“Buy Local” has been a catch phrase for hometown newspapers for as long as I can remember. It seemed only natural for my family to embrace the concept when we purchased the first newspaper in Butler County. My girls were born there and that community was so very important to us. It was our home and we wanted to show we cared about it.
We took pride in knowing everything we purchased came from local merchants and this has been a way of life for us since long before our children were old enough to understand why we shopped locally.
As a matter of fact, we built a home there and promoted it in the newspaper as the home Butler County built because every single item in that home was purchased locally. It was a home that when finished, appraised for much more than had been put into it because our friends who owned local stores helped us find the best deals.
When I first wrote about the importance of buying locally I put a little twist on it. I gave my comments a title of “Remember to dance with the fella who brought you.”
It seemed at that time everyone who owned a local store wanted the business but often those who had a strong business couldn’t be found buying locally.
I can’t count the number of times I would try to encourage one business owner to buy from another to only hear, “Are you crazy, that person has never stepped foot in my store.” I have no doubt that if you own an appliance store you know where every single friend you have, purchased their last appliance. Why would it surprise you if you own a tire store to have someone who owns an appliance store not buy from you when you have never stepped inside their store?
I give credit for the statement to my grandfather, but honestly I am not sure where I heard it first. Each of us should remember to be thankful for surviving some of the toughest years in locally-owned businesses in most of our lifetimes. These have been difficult years for us all but none more so than for the businesses right here in our hometown.
I am not a pessimistic man, I have seen very difficult times in my life but I feel our business future could be challenged. It is important to thank your friends and neighbors for supporting you and your family by giving the same respect back to them.
There is no better way to say thanks than to give business to the stores right here in our community. Do what I do, on your next purchase make it a point to introduce yourself and say, “I just wanted to buy locally.”
You may find it feels very good to support a local business.
Make Veteran’s Day meaningful
I grew up in a small community in northeastern Kentucky and can remember almost every parade and holiday function to be as much about our veterans as Veterans Day itself.
Having grown up in a family with strong military ties it was not uncommon for us to be present at most of these functions. But much like having brown beans and cornbread so often for dinner, I feel perhaps I missed out on truly appreciating much of life as a young boy because of routine. It was a routine I remember so much differently as a grown man today.
My grandfather, Joseph Miller, served in the Army and was injured in the Battle of Argonne and carried a bullet in his hip for more than 60 years, while his oldest son Happy Chandler Miller enlisted and served during the Korean War. My grandmother, Mae Rose Miller, often spoke of how blessed she was because her husband and son came home from war knowing so many who didn’t. Clearly her appreciation for Veteran’s Day was more evident than most of my generation because we grew up without war or conflict.
A while back, I read "A veteran is someone who, at one point, wrote a check to the United States of America, payable in any amount, up to and including his life." I seem to have read many times, “Freedom is not free, it comes at a price - a high price.” Nothing could be truer than these statements.
Small town publishers are patriotic because any of us worth our weight in salt can’t do this job without seeing the love and passion many of those who served have for our country. I enjoy the stories and I wish I had written just a few of them down as they were told to honor the facts and to share with you now. But like the young boy I once was, these stories had no meaning other than just being stories because I hadn’t lived during a time of war myself.
For me and my generation September 11, 2001 was the day the stories we grew up listening to began to have a meaning.
With tension and unrest still in my heart, I remember sitting in the congregation of Morgantown Community Church holding my son Wyatt in my lap watching as our church introduced a young man, Andy Hocker. He was the son of a friend David Hocker and was leaving to serve our country in the war in Afghanistan. Andy was among the first from that community to serve in a war specifically because of September 11.
As I sat and thought about this being David’s son and holding my own baby boy I felt my life experiences begin to change.
I will forever remember this day because it helped me understand patriotism. The war came to our country and into our homes on television that day. But on this day it was in my church and looking me right in the eyes. It was real and at that very moment it gave so much meaning to being an American.
Here it is now 2012 and that small boy on my lap is now approaching manhood. He is 17 and has announced his intentions to serve in the United States Air Force. With that said, I can only imagine the powerful realizations I am about to experience over the next few years.
I write today with appreciation in my heart for all those who served our great country in the past, for those serving at this time, and pray for the same blessings appreciated so much by my grandmother, for the safe return of my son.
God bless America!
Decisions need to be made locally
Leaders open to business concepts will excel in today’s climate of government.
Much like what Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker did for his state could be done for our Commonwealth and the United States if a truly qualified business-minded individual was our President along with a Congress agreeable to do the job instead of stopping someone else from doing it.
In February of 2011, Walker introduced a budget repair bill and he spoke time and again of what it would do to help cities, counties, and school districts take charge of their own expenses and run the day-to-day business. He gave them the flexibility to cut their own costs without having to negotiate every single move with union officials. To the point, he eliminated collective bargaining and I had not seen a politician bold enough to utter those words in public during my tenure as a small town publisher until just this year.
Local officials used this to their advantage and the results have been amazing. Local school boards, city, county and state governments could put out bids for healthcare coverage for employees and found that those special interest groups providing coverage like leagues of cities and state teachers unions were not a good deal as they had thought. How often do you read in the newspaper about the school board, city or county official asking for bids on insurance? You don’t, they are pressured to stay with existing providers and these providers are enjoying a non-competitive bid-free environment - something clearly not good for obtaining the best value.
(For the complete column sign up on-line today, email us at email@example.com or pick up a copy of any Jobe Publishing newspaper at the newsstand of your choice in Barren, Butler, Hart, Metcalfe or Monroe County.)
We gave Rand Paul the opportunity and he seems to know it
Senator Rand Paul is back home in Kentucky asking for our thoughts in numerous round table meetings after having made a big splash nationally.
Paul made his national debut at the Republican convention of 2010 and soon became one of the neo-Republican mavericks in that fall’s election, making me proud to have voted for him. His speech was one that got attention and is building momentum to what I believe could prove to be the beginning of real change in our country.
I don’t take notes or even write about national events because I feel it is a waste of ink for me to do so about issues in which I have little or no real influence or relevance. I am often pulling items from being printed in our newspaper because we are a local newspaper and what we provide is local news.
But, when you watch a man on television and a few weeks later he is sitting in front of you asking you for your opinion, is it so profound I feel I must attempt to explain. I am proud to have been blessed in meeting many national, state, and local officials because of my work right here covering your hometown news. I actually consider some of them distant friends and offer coverage anytime they visit because I feel this is my job.
Yet the past few weeks I have had the pleasure to see a different kind of exchange coming from Senator Paul with his staff is coordinating round table meetings with small business owners, educators, medical professionals and various groups of individuals and actually taking questions from everyone in attendance.
Wow! What a concept: political leaders asking questions of those who elected them. I was asked to sit in on one of those meetings in Barren?County for small business owners and feel many good questions were asked. I was equally impressed with the Senator’s desire to respond to all of the questions.
I cannot remember a single time our Senator said, “We tried to do that but the Democrats wouldn’t let us.” A new breed of politician, Paul appears to be building a good argument for his beliefs and we can expect him to take the fight to Washington for us.
He seems to understand the challenges we all face but is not going to get lost in any one of our causes. All of us may have to tighten our belts a bit down the road, but it will be for the good of our country and not any one of our special interests. Special interests are destroying our country because as long as they get what they want, they couldn’t care less what happens to the rest of us.
Senator Paul is openly discussing the size of government and its certain doom due to entitlements, and identifying examples of waste, and yet seems to understand the lack of confidence our business community feels. Most importantly, he can respond to each concern with examples of what he is doing at this very moment to try to help those issues.
Like many of you, I love this country and feel ready to get back to work and agree with Senator Paul when he said, “You, the individual, are the engine of America’s greatness.”
Community is needed to stop bullying
A few weeks ago my good friend, pastor and community columnist Oliver Hofmann wrote about bullying. Like Oliver often does, he shared some thoughts that challenged me to think a bit for myself.
The subject of bullying was not one I had really thought too much about.
As a young fellow I was the number 5 man on the basketball team, I lifted weights with the average guys, ran for distance in cross-country and played a trombone in the high school band. I enjoyed my middle school and high school days but as you can see, there is not really anything that would have had me step out too much to grab attention for I was your average kind of guy.
Heck, the entire Greenup County High School that I remember was just about filled with average kinds of guys. We had our heavy, slim, short, tall, intelligent, not-so-intelligent, pot smokers, beer drinkers, womanizers, loose girls, church kids, gay, straight, pregnant, really lucky, handicapped, white, black, a few other nationalities, kids from good homes and kids from not-so-good homes but the bottom line was we were all Greenup County High School students and accepted one-another for who we were.
Back in those days students knew what was right and wrong and would never even think of allowing anyone to see them attack a person for any reason. Such actions would quickly find oneself in the front office with perhaps a 2-inch slab of wood burning your backside and a conference with your parent and the principal. Yet, I didn’t see much of that - it was just something you might expect if you did.
There were few fights because if you happened to weigh 70 pounds, you soon figured out not to bad mouth a 200-pound fellow. Just as important, you soon realized that even a 70-pound boy might have a 250-pound first cousin. It was just the code of living in a small town.
Bullying was not tolerated. But bullying back then was definable because it was open. If there was a bully, everyone knew it. Usually it was the kid who transferred in that had moved from school to school and came in with a chip on his shoulder. Sooner or later anyone with a chip on his shoulder will have someone step up and knock it off.
This is not how it is today. Because of social media, smart phones, email, twitter, and sites where you can post without even giving a name, the game of bullying has changed. Bullying back in 1979 and even today has a common thread of envy. People attack those who often step out or choose to be different. But unlike 1979, if you spoke against someone everyone would know it was you and you would be held accountable. Today an individual can attack someone and do it virtually in the dark.
This is what is happening across our country and beginning to find its way into our communities. Teachers and active school board members are self-educating themselves and are always on guard for such actions. But more is needed - parents and friends of all students must keep an eye open for such things.
In about 10 minutes of searching the web for “bullying” I found about 50 names, photographs and obituaries of some of the finest young people you would ever have wanted to meet. The smiles were so bright and the comments of friends on Facebook, Twitter, and in news stories about these 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, all the way up through college freshman-aged kids took their own lives because of nothing more than nameless bullying. Comments surely were never expected to be the cause for someone to kill themselves.
Children that stood out to me was a 13-year-old girl named Rachel Ehmke and a 15-year-old boy named Kenneth James Weishuhn, Jr. Rachel was targeted ruthlessly on various social media sites and Kenneth was from a community with a population of approximately 909.
I didn’t read enough to extract the bogus reasons given for why these two beautiful young people were targeted. But I can’t help think of how the teachers, parents, and friends of Rachel must feel knowing she asked numerous times for help. Or how painful it is for a community of only 909 people to know they did such a thing to one of their own.
Clearly, the families of more than these two children were destroyed because the identity of every one of the individuals who made each comment is now known. Just imagine the degree of denial and finger pointing. Within a few days of any suicide every single internet thread, post and comment is in the possession of the authorities and because of the seriousness of these matters some knowledgeable officials have begun to be very aggressive in identifying individuals and enforcing laws against such actions. I remembe