Friday, June 29, 2007

130. Mid-Year Report, or what is the Vice President's role this week?

First, we will be taking a scheduled break from blogging here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606 for the next few days - probably through next Thursday the 5th. This scheduled break comes as opposed to the unscheduled ones we take simply from a lack of posting. The upcoming lack of posting is planned. I could use the cliche-ish description of a "much-needed break" but that would be disingenuous. Planning to do nothing may seem counter-productive, but it is a far better feeling to have than when one plans to do something and then, for whatever reason, fails to do so. Plus, doctors and people in the know tell you to schedule down time now and then, so we are. Of course, all that is subject to change on a whim. Kind of like the Vice President deciding if he is part of the executive, legislative, or extra (as taken in the old Latin form of the word exterus, meaning outside) branch of the government - depending upon his current whim.

But, I digress. One of the things I used to do from time to time was report to my five faithful readers on the faraway places from which others are joining them, at least for a page visit here on the blog. I've not done that since around mid-March. And truthfully, I've stopped keeping a close watch. I can report that as of today, one of my site-counters reports having had 2640 visits, accessing a total of 3670 pages since our inception on January 4th. The other one reads 2568 visits, but only 477 page views, as it has only been reporting those since June 9. I'm not sure why there is a difference in the visit-number. Nor do I care. It is just one of those things I can choose to ignore, much like the Vice President handles executive orders or demands of Congress. Since he is (sometimes) of neither branch, he simply, like me, doesn't care.

Presently, I can report people from at least 32 of the union's 50 states, plus our nation's capital district and city, have paid visits, as well as visitors from fifty different countries from around the world. My guess is most of them get here by accident, but more than a quarter can be documented, thanks to technology about which I understand nothing, as having visited on purpose. The five faithful readers account for maybe 1/10 of the number and I am personally repsonsible for maybe 1/15. They tell me I can eliminate my visits with the use of cookies, but since I post from a variety of places, including a church office, two of my friends' computers (now and then), and a secret bunker in Germantown, known only to me and the girls who run the Atomic Saucer Coffeeshop on East Oak Street (and maybe the Vice President who is into secret bunkers and all other things that might be labelled secret).

But, I digress. Today marks the close (business-wise) of the first half of the year. 2007 is half over. We are in the period of time where the nights are growing longer. This being Kentucky, we have politicians already thinking beyond this fall's statehouse elections and into 2008 and those for the U.S. Senate and House, as well as some local and state legislative contests. I found myself in a conversation last night about council districts and house districts, and if their was any synergy (a Buckminster Fuller word) to be gained by one candidate for the Council who supports another for the legislature, and vice versa co-ordinating their respective campaigns. I said I didn't think such arrangements were wise, although there probably is something to be gained, but not enough to make up for the detractions from the same. Neither party was particularly happy with my comment, but one of them still bought my drink (ginger ale, with some extra lime).

In another recent opportunity, I got to hang out with some of the Yarmuth staffers, who are already in the re-elect mode and I will be happily be playing a much-diminished role in that process. Our congressman has been working hard in Washington, doing lots of stuff a freshman legislator normally wouldn't be doing. It helps being in the majority. One of the arguments we used last fall when people said we needed the previous member's incumbency was that it would be of no use once the Democrats retook the House, something we were confident would happen, and which did indeed come to be. The hanging out part involved a visit to the campaign's storage facility to retrieve some furniture which was being moved to an as-yet undisclosed location - assuming the Vice President hasn't already established that location as part of his separate branch of the federal government.

I have only found fault - thus far - with two things my congressman has done. One is his support of Kentuckian Dr. James Holsinger, an able physician nominated by the Commander-In-Chief to be the nation's Surgeon General. [I had originally typed Attorney General, a faux-pas of enormous implications. We need a new one of those as well]. I find no fault with the good doctor's credentials, as the letters following his name are more numerous than the New Deal alphabet soup, to wit: James Wilson Holsinger, Jr., A.B., M.A., M.S., M.D., Ph.D., Sc.D. (Hon.), M.A.C.P., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.H.E., F.A.A.M.A.(Hon.). Like some of President Roosevelt's ABCs, I'm not sure what some of those mean. My concerns with the doctor are with his insistence of allowing his personal religious views to play a part in upholding laws he may not personally be supportive of. The Surgeon General does not have the privelege of ignoring laws; unlike the president, who can write out an Executive Memo and having done so explains he does not intend to follow a particular part of the Law of the Land, or the Vice President, who writes out nothing, but just proclaims his extraordinary role [there's that extra again] either within or without the constitutional framework of the government.

My other concern, thus far, with my congressman, has to do with the Bridges Plan and its antagonist, 8664, of which I am a supporter. We will leave that discussion for another day. Two issues out of the myriad of things which have happened in Washington in the last six months is nothing of real consequence - just my opinions.

But, I digress. I'm ready to lay off for a few days - or a few more than I already have without being pre-planned and well-announced. This weekend I will doing the announcing at my parish's annual Summer Picnic, telling people which booths are having specials, when there is a coverall on the cake wheel, the winners of the Lucky-13 scratch-offs, calling for an electrician because the fans in the Capital Prize section suddenly stopped, and acknowledging the occassional celebrity or politician who meanders through, although every year they ask me not to be too political, and every year I am, and every following year they invite me back. If you are in the vicinity of Poplar Level Road, a few blocks north of the Watterson Expressway, Holy Family's Picnic runs from about 5pm to midnight today and tomorrow.

Also, on the Fourth of July, the local Democratic Party, as it has done for more than a decade, will be meeting at 9am in front of the Old Courthouse (the building some people call simply the Courthouse, while the Mayor of the Louisville-Jefferson County Metro calls it Metro Hall) for a reading of the Declaration of Independence, one which declared our independence from King George III over 230 years ago. It is difficult not to make comparisons to the junta currently controlling the residency at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in our nation's capital.

Enjoy the break.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

129. Nothing here but gibberish.

This is just a little blather so as to make an entry. Nothing here but gibberish, the sole purpose of which is to strut or fret for a few lines and then to be heard from no more. Truthfully, I'm bored. The weather is boring. It has been hot and humid and a threat of showers (as-yet unfulfilled threats) for several days. I've not had a chance to make it over to the Falls of the Ohio State Park to see the exposed fossil beds as I have wished to do. My office has been in the throes of moving for several weeks, but because of the delays in the completion of our new space, those throes, like the threats of rain, are as-yet unfulfilled, meaning work is being done from boxes ready to be moved, but as-yet unmoved.

There may not be an entry tomorrow as I am scheduled on the appointment blotters of my two doctors, the general medicine guy to check on my asthma and allergies, and regular follow-ups with a neurologist and neurosurgeon from some head-splitting surgery a little over two years ago. The lead-ups to these regular appointments tend to drain me, worrying as to their outcomes, each of which is very frankly expected, like Shakespeare's characters Bertram and Helen, to turn out as All's Well Which Ended Well. My neurosurgeon from that experience was Dr. Michael Doyle, a person who I would highly recommend to anyone needing to do what I needed to have done. Thank you, Dr. Doyle.

An aside. I heard from my friend Taylor Coots today. Taylor is a young Democrat from Spencer County. He had a 27th birthday on June 12, which I missed. He is staffing the state of Nevada for the Bill Richardson for President campaign which is pretty cool. Good luck Taylor. There is a little over 573 days left in the wackiness known as the Bush Administration, wackiness I've more or less resigned myself to at least for the moment. I'm not sure if Big Dick Cheney is actually a part of the government or not. Neither is George. And the Congress doesn't seem to care - except for Chairman Waxman.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

128. A Crisis in Faith? No. A Crisis in Religion? Yes.

My candidate for president, United States Senator Barack Obama, is a member of the United Church of Christ, one of the more liberal denominations amongst the many which make up the religion we call Christianity. When he was here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River at Milepost 606 last fall, it was arranged that the cleric who prayed over the occasion was also a member of that denomination, the Reverend Beverly Lewis of the Chapel Hill United Church of Christ in Pleasure Ridge Park. Reverend Lewis is pastor of the church to which State Representative Joni Jenkins belongs.

Yesterday, Senator Obama addressed a national meeting of his church in Hartford, Connecticut, saying the religious right has highjacked religions in the name of politics. He said some are more interested in dividing America as a people as opposed to uniting us. He specifically outted the Christian Right as a group of people more concerned with their own agendas than with those of America as a whole. But such cross-breeding of politics and religion isn't confined to a few fundamentalist protestant religions. The church of which I am member, the Roman Catholic Church, has become home and host to a number of people and groups about whom it could very easily be said they are more interested in the division of people rather than the unity.

It is becoming more and more difficult for me, as a liberal Catholic Christian, one who bases his beliefs on the social justice teachings in the New Testament, as laid out by Jesus Christ, to comply with and fully support the teachings of the Catholic Church. Although my father would argue that I was always Catholic, given that I am his son and he is Catholic, and that as an infant I was baptized into the Church at Saint John Vianney Church back in October, 1960, I was not raised in that faith, or any other faith. I've written before of my journey, mostly with neighbors, through attendance in churches of other denominations. As a young child I attended but never belonged to the Mt. Holly Methodist Church in Fairdale. Later, I enrolled was in kindergarten at the Okolona Christian Church and for a few years attended services there. At the insistence of the parents of my childhood friend Glen Shumate, my brother and I began attending church with them at Thixton Lane Baptist Church, a small Southern Baptist congregation along the Jefferson/Bullitt county line on Cedar Creek Road. It was there my brother and I were both baptized as young teenagers. As an older adolescent, I did not attend church, except now and then with a friend. Finally, as an eighteen year old in my freshman year of college, I began the educational requirements of a convert, taking lessons from a priest at the Newman Center (called St. Rose) at the University of Kentucky.

I was attracted to the church for a few specific reasons. One was the discipline of the requirement at Mass every Sunday, a requirement I have often failed. Another was the lessons each week, a series of two or three readings taken directly from the Bible - the first reading from the Old Testament, a second from the New Testament outside of the Gospels, and a third from the Gospels themselves containing the words and actions of Jesus Christ, the person for whom the religion is named. Another was my understanding of the social justice movements within the church amongst the poor and especially in Latin America. A long time interest of mine, the first big paper I wrote in 7th grade English, as a student at Durrett, was on the needs of the poorest people in some of our latino neighbors to the south.

I have been a member of my church, Holy Family Catholic Church, since May of 1979 - twenty-eight years. I have a church family there who have been a part of my life for close to three decades. I have seen oldtimers pass on, new people join, and generations stay. Although I am not a native of the area where my church is located, some there are in their third and fourth generations as members. I have participated in most every social event held there over the years, volunteering when and where needed, as I will next weekend when I will serve as the announcer at our annual Summer Picnic. For twenty-three years, I have been a bingo caller, where I watched players, workers, and students come and go. Finally, in my times of need, whether of personal trials and mistakes, illnesses, or any of the other misfortunes, some great, some minor, which befall a person over a twenty-eight year relationship, these are the people who, outside of my family, have been most helpful in whatever recovery I have needed. While I know the personal politics of many of those there, a result of having knocked on the doors of and spoken with most every household in the area through three decades-plus of campaigning, and I know they know mine, all of us have been able to look through whatever differences we have had - again some great and some small - as we are one community.

Now we are in a time of change. For nearly all of my time as a member of the local Catholic Church, its leaders have been Pope John Paul II and Archbishop Thomas Kelly. The former pope has passed on and Archbishop Kelly has retired. The new pope, Benedict XVI, I believe comes with a stronger will to be divisive than I believe John Paul ever possessed. Our new archbishop, Joseph Kurtz, has had many good qualities written about him, and based on his work in his former diocese (Knoxville, Tennessee) he should be an asset to Louisville. His understanding of and help for the poor among us is dear. He also has an understanding of at least the Hispanic immigrant population, and that, too, will serve him well here in Louisville where several parishes offer masses in Spanish to our ever-growing latino hermanos y hermanas. I know there is another issue on which we will disagree. When the anti- same-sex marriage amendment was on Kentucky's ballot in 2004, like I had done on nearly every other attempt to amend the constitution, I voted no. My side lost in a big way, 30% to 70%. As a leader in the church's marriage movement, Archbishop Kurtz would have voted yes. Other than this, it is too early in Archbishop Kurtz' shepherding of the flock at Louisville for me to make any judgments, other than those I have listed herein, all of which are positive. But it may be too late for me in my personal journey of which church denomination I choose to be a part of. In the fall of 2003, I gave my self five years to make a decision. I am approaching the end of the fourth year of that journey. Chronologically, I'm 80% there. I'm not sure exactly where, ideologically, I am along the path.

All of this comes to mind as today in the Church is the celebration of the Birth of Saint John the Baptist, the one who was a Precursor to Jesus. John questioned his role in the church, acknowledging he didn't have all the answers but that one who was to come later did. John is supposed to have been six months older than Christ, hence today's celebration, six months in advance of the date purported as that of the birthday of Jesus. Not having all the answers seems to be where I am. Seeking unity, not division, seems to me that which I seek. Like Senator Obama, I see forces out there, in the name of religion, even in the name of Jesus and God, making statements which are antithetical to my beliefs, beliefs which I believe are based in the social justice teachings of Jesus.

It is a long and winding road, and one on which I have many more miles to travel.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

127 -- a highway number in Kentucky. Speaking of highways . . . . .

127 is a US highway route which ranges north to south through our Commonwealth, entering in Covington, multiplexed, or co-signed with US 42. It follows south, eventually departing US 42 about five miles east of Warsaw in Gallatin County, in an inward (eastward) bend of the Ohio opposite Switzerland County, Indiana, where some of my ancient Hockensmith relatives made their homes in the late 1800s, and more than a few have an eternal resting place there as well.

From that point, US 127 runs generally due south, through Owenton to the city of Frankfort, where it once went through town along Holmes Street, Ann Street, the Capital Avenue bridge, 2nd Street, and then up Louisville Hill to the west co-signed with US 60 (and US 460 at the time), but now somewhat by-passes around the western edge of the city through the older settlement of Leestown along Wilkinson Boulevard (which was not named for any recent governor), then across the new bridges and up the western side of Buttimer's Hill, where it rejoined it former course. From there the road follows to Lawrenceburg and Harrodsburg, then further to Danville, Liberty, and Jamestown. It swings out to the west to go around Lake Cumberland, and finally back southeastward to Albany, then six more miles in the Commonwealth before crossing the over Cedar Knob to the stateline into Tennessee at the tiny village of Static, Kentucky. Curiously, there is a five point intersection right there at the state line.

But, I didn't set out to write about US 127. This is entry #127 and I got a little carried away. I did set out to write about highways, specifically the plans in downtown Louisville to widen and expand I-64, I-65, I-71, and the accompanying plan to erect a new northbound-only bridge parallel to I-65 into downtown Jeffersonville, Indiana. I am opposed to this idea. I support the alternative plan presented by the 8664 proponents. We've visted this subject before and I am going to again today. If you aren't interested in a reprise, you are free to browse other more interesting pages of the web at this point.

As some of you know, I am a member and officer of the Metro Democratic Club in Louisville. We’ve talked about next month’s meeting possibly being a discussion of the 8664 proposal which finds some favor in the community, but not amongst the local powers-that-be. As most folks know by now, the 8664 proposal, in brief, emphasizes a parkway through downtown and a re-routing of Louisville’s through traffic around the metro area and into Indiana upon an as yet unbuilt East End bridge, the one former Congresswoman Anne Northup would have us believe she built during her ten years in the Congress.

The proposal has supporters and opponents for a variety of reasons. I am a supporter, and I know there are others which do not share my enthusiasm and support. My support stems mostly from two perspectives: history and safety. From a point of view taking history into account, not doing an 8664 type project then requires building a downtown bridge, something I strongly oppose. As a candidate for the Metro Council in 2002, I spoke of my opposition to a downtown bridge, and my support of two bridges, one in the northeast, the other in the southwest, when I was interviewed by the Courier.

Notwithstanding I-64, I-71, River Road, and 3rd Street, the widening of I-65 alone to connect to a new northbound-only bridge will devastate not only downtown Louisville but also downtown Jeffersonville on the other side of the river. Back on our side, sooner or later we all know there will be a catastrophic accident in Hospital Curve, one which require the evacuation of those occupying the hundreds of hospital rooms nearby. Many years ago the life of Oscar Hornung was taken in the curve when logs from a tractor-trailer became loosened and rolled off the truck and onto the vehicle Oscar was driving. Louisville was fortunate only one life was lost in that incidence. Widening the approaches to the new bridge will no doubt lead to more and more traffic, and we all know, despite all the warnings to slow down (to 50 MPH according to posted signs), very few people do slow down and a wider approach will invite even higher speeds. One day’s accident won’t be logs off a truck, but deadly chemicals from some carrier. We had such a scare yesterday when a train derailed out in Jeffersontown prompting an evacuation. Evacuation of the hospitals will be difficult at best and widening the highway will only invite problems, not help them. And what of the new Waterfront developments, both private and public, on both sides of the river? All this investment to have it overshadowed and overrun by an expanded raised roadway. Even the Louisville Skatepark, a favorite haunt of my oldest nephew and his friends and which the City has never bothered to finish, will fall under the shadow of one of the proposed new ramps.

By the same argument, widening I-65 and building a new bridge, and the 23 connecting lanes that go with it, will eventually lead in the not very distant future, to plans to widen I-64 through Cherokee and Seneca Parks, the probable removal of the Cochran Tunnels, as well as widening along I-71 through the Mellwood Avenue valley. When do we say “no more?” Or do we ever? Are we resigned to a continuous process of the rebuilding and widening of highways, ad infinitum?

I think and hope not. This summer is serving as a test run, one which both sides are closely watching. For the last few weekends, and throughout the month of July, excepting the 4th, I-64 is to be closed in downtown Louisville for much needed repairs. This is the first overhauling of this stretch since its construction in the 1960s. The Courier-Journal has already used to opportunity of the weekends closures to tell of the hardships created and those which are sure to follow, simply from these temporary closures. The implication from the paper is clear - it will be much worse if the supporters of 8664 have their way and the Riverside Expressway is torn down and lowered to a through street along the river at grade level. Oh the horrors we will experience!

Don’t believe it because it is merely conjecture; a campaign borrowed from the Bush White House, which emphasizes fear of the unknown, a xenophobic attitude for reasons unknown. The biggest point they never bother to point out that this current adventure does not include is a new East End Bridge carrying through traffic around the city. They do not bother to point out that the 8664 plan calls for a new through street, a grade level riverside drive, one which utilizes existing street patterns. The picture painted by the Courier-Journal, as well as the administration, is one of fear.

Again, don’t buy into it. Learn the facts first. If then you aren’t convinced, fine. This community deserves a larger and better discussion of this issue than the C-J and others are willing to give. Think about this - if there had been a larger and better discussion in the early 1960s about using the riverfront for a park instead of a raised river-blocking highway, would we be having this discussion today?

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Shortest Night and other midsummer interests

Yesterday, about 2:06 pm (if I have my time zones right), the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606 left the season of Spring and entered the season of Summer, a cardinal point in the rotation of the earth around the sun in its yearly repeated trek through the universe. This event is properly called the Summer Solstice in the northern hemisphere of the planetary orb we call home. "Solstice" derives from two roots, the Latin sol with which we are all familiar representing the sun; and stice from the Latin verb sistere, to stand by or stand still. We get words like assist (stand with), desist (stand away), and resist (stand against), from the same root. So the solstice indicates the day when the sun is standing still, or so it seems. Yesterday, the length of daylight was one second longer than the previous day, and today, the length of daylight will be one second shorter than yesterday, meaning the sun "stood still" in the sky longer yesterday than any other day of the year, hence a solstice. Having said that, last night then was the shortest night. See the chart below of sunrises and sunsets here in Louisville for the period mentioned.

In ancient times, Germanic, Slavic, and Celtic cultures (and others) lit a bonfire. One of the reasons for the bonfire was to give extra strength to the sun to guarantee the crops, as the length of days would now, and until around December 21, be growing shorter. The Oak King transpired into the Holly King. The shortest night was also a night of fire festivals and of love magic, of love oracles and divination. It had to do with lovers and predictions, when pairs of lovers would jump through the luck-bringing flames trying to see if their current love was their true love or not. And through it all there were good old-fashioned fairies, not all of whom were good. Some were mischievous and others were down right evil. But usually in the end, all is well. Shakespeare's play, A Misummer's Night Dream, is centered on the activities of the year's shortest night. The playful fairy in the play is Puck, or Robin Goodfellow. Of course, the Christian leaders, thinking there was a little too much celebrating in the woods with one's lover (or lovers), co-opted the day into the Feast of Saint John's Nativity, now celebrated on the 24th. No fun. So, in honor of the occassion, did you light a bonfire and ramble through the flames, chancing your luck in the night?

Here is the chart showing the lengthening of June 21st and the shortening of June 22nd.

June 20, 2007 6:20 AM 9:10 PM 14h 49m 39s + 0m 05s
June 21, 2007 6:20 AM 9:10 PM 14h 49m 40s + 0m 01s
June 22, 2007 6:20 AM 9:10 PM 14h 49m 39s − 0m 01s

Unrelated to Summer Solstices, Midsummer Dreams, and Bonfires, today marks a birthday of one of my friends, Jefferson County's County Judge Executive sans portfolio Ken Herndon, who is celebrating the 50th Anniversary - in Bingo we would say Five-Oh - of his Nativity. Ken is a native of Lone Oak, a formerly rural McCracken County village, now a suburb of Paducah. He has served since 2003 as our County Judge, dutifully carrying out the duties assigned to him under the Merger law by the Council, and getting paid in kind. They have given him nothing to do and they have paid him nothing for doing it. Pretty good gig. And, he is doing a bang-up (non-)job for the taxpayers of Jefferson County on his salary of Zero Dollars and Zero Cents. Happy 50th Birthday, Ken.

Tomorrow, if he were living, would be the 95th birthday of my grandfather who raised me, Dan Hockensmith.

Also, in a previous entry, I said the effective date of the legislation approving the creation of Jefferson County, Virginia was December, 1780. That was incorrect. It was a minor error, but any error is wrong. It was November 1, 1780. Remember that as it will likely appear again.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

126. Cardinals, Catholics, and Commonwealths

Some bits and pieces.

The University of Louisville Baseball team ended their season yesterday, losing 3-1 to North Carolina in the College World Series, played at Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha. They will be welcomed home at 1:30 this afternoon at a Rally at Jim Patterson Stadium, located at the northeast corner of S. Third Street and Cental Avenue, alongside the Denny Crum Overpass. Imagine coaching basketball for thirty-one years (although the last three were not up to par), compiling a 675-295 record, and guiding your college to two NCAA championships, first in 1980, then in 1986, and as a reward, they name a railroad overpass in your honor.

Last week, I scribbled some lines on Jim Patterson, the Louisville entrepreneur who put down some money to have the new baseball stadium built. An unidentified reader has commented that I failed to mention Mr. Patterson was a $10,000.00 donor to the Swift Boat PAC which attacked John Kerry in the 2004 presidential race. While I have not confirmed this donation, such a donation from Mr. Patterson would not surprise me. The unidentified commenter pointed out that as a donor, Mr. Patterson is "part of the problem." If he is a donor, I concur.

Having said that, one of my goals here is to convey some sense of the history here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606. Who was whom, why things were named, which Catholic churches were exclusively Irish, German, or French, how colleges became universities, how something called Lee Terminal became Louisville International Airport, how buffalo and cattle paths becames lanes, then roads, and now highways, and other such trivia. Now and then I might ignore some fact and choose to skip over it. In other instances, the fact later pointed out to me may be one I did not know, as is the case with Mr. Patterson and his purported donation of $10,000.00 to the Swiftboaters. When I wrote of Mr. Patterson, I did not know of this donation. And, I'm not sure if I would have included it or not. After all, it is my blog. I will promise to always portray as facts things I know to be facts. Allegations tend to be identified as such, as are my personal opinions.

A few entries back I mentioned Virginia Governor Thomas Jefferson signing into law a county named in his honor and asked if anyone knew where it was (or is). No one responded. Either my five loyal readers didn't know or don't care. Ignorance can be corrected with education. Apathy is something I'm not sure I understand. Anyway, the county Jefferson approved the legislation creating is now known as Jefferson County, Kentucky, located here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606. The legislation was approved in June, 1780 and became effective in December, 1780, when the transmontane territory of Kentucky was still a part of the Commonwealth of Virginia. It is a recurring question - I've asked it before.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

125. A Birthday, some fossils, some blogs, and a fossil of a Party Van


1. Yesterday was my oldest niece's birthday. I called Lindsey and wished her a Happy Birthday. I missed her birthday party held last Friday night at the Kingfish on River Road. She is the artist. She is now 20. At the time that I called her yesterday she was in a discussion with her mother and a friend about whether or not to buy a $100.00 purse. She was against the idea. Smart girl.

2. Today, for the second time since Oaks Day back at the beginning of May, it is raining here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River at Milepost 606. Twice in two months - imagine that. I want to get over to the Falls of the Ohio State Park, an Indiana state park, a park where most of the land is is Kentucky, and see the exposed fossil beds, which are more exposed than usual given the recent drought. The river is at its lowest levels since 1999 (but that might change with today's rain). I often guage the level of the river by glancing at some big red signs painted on the columns supporting the George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge (also known as the Louisville Memorial Bridge, as well as the Second Street Bridge); the signs are warning signs of some sort. If I can see the bottom of the sign, then the water is low. I noticed the bottom just the other day for the first time in years.

3. I've neglected to thank two fellow bloggers who have linked my blog on their own blog-pages - actually one is a female who might take offense at me calling her a "fellow." First, Paul Hosse writes the "Another Opinion" blog based here in Louisville. He is a former Democrat-turned-Republican-turned Independent. You may want to visit him sometime. The other is Diane Brumback, a northern Kentucky based activist, a resident of Boone County, who belongs to a variety of civic, political, and feminist organizations. Her blog is called "Kentucky Women: Power, Passion, and Politics - except that she doesn't utilize the Oxford Comma after the word "passion," a practice of mine and of Stuart Perelmuter, of Congressman Yarmuth's office in Washington DC, one which we discuss now and then in personal emails. Links to their respective blogs appear below.

Paul and Diane become the second and third bloggers to do this. Back when I first started, a Northern Kentucky University student named Daniel Solzman linked up right away. His blog is called the Kentucky Democrat. He is currently on a hiatus in Israel. His link is also posted below.

4. Speaking of Diane's blog, someone - one of those unidentified commenters who are legion in the blogosphere - asked me to post my email in an entry of hers concerning a "Party Van," and not a "party van," which the State Democratic Party owns and which allegedly has been sold to the father of its new Vice Chair, Jennifer Moore. I'm not familiar with the sale, if indeed there has been a sale, which apparently there hasn't. In fact I've been assured by the daughter of the father of the State Party Vice Chair that her father has not bought the van nor would he be interested in the purchase of a van with perhaps 300,000 miles on it, one I am familiar with. I'm presuming the van in question is the one my friend Bill Ryan has been driving all over the state in his work for the Party trying to get the local Executive Committees organized, but I don't really know. If it is, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. Not long ago I had to help Bill get it started. In any event, I left my email for "whoever" to contact me about "whatever" it is I can add to their discussion.

That's all.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

124. Cards Win!

Cards Win! 12-4 over Mississippi State. They play again on Tuesday against the winner of Rice-North Carolina.

There is no other news. No change in weather. Showers maybe on Tuesday.

Nice article today on Congressman Yarmuth in the Courier-Journal.

Happy Father's Day, Dad. My dad is Gene Noble, a retired Realtor and Property Manager, enjoying retirement by hanging out at the Library, the Kroger, the skatepark (with his oldest grandson Jacob), or at Saint Joseph's in Butchertown, where he attends church.

They were only there because we think we are in the South, which honestly begins just outside the Watterson

Gone With The Wind. Or rather, taken by storm. No neither of these. If GWTW reminds you of magnolia trees growing on the town square, yesterday may not have been your day. Our Jefferson County Court House, about which I write from time-to-time, is getting a much needed makeover. Earlier this year they took out the magnolias north of the centerline sidewalks amd replaced them with gardens and a patio area. Yesterday, a few more magnolias came out, these just south of the centerline. One can now easily see more of the Court House, which as previously stated, is a beautiful structure, built to serve both City and County governments in the latter part of the first half of the 19th century. But, if you've read back entries, you will know that James Guthrie, the civic leader who undertook to raise the money and have the building erected, was really trying to lure away from Frankfort the seat of our Commonwealth's government. His scheme did not work and we here in Louisville are left with the Court House for our own purposes, which is all the better for us. There are still a few more magnolias left on the Court House (half) square, but they are destined to come out as well.

And with their removal will come to an end our government's endless cleaning up of old leaves and the bird excrement which has been a part of the Court House scene for as long as I can remember. No more hair nets on the trees, no more grape juice sprayed in, no more sirens to ward off the thousands of starlings which roost there every year. It is nothing short of a revolution. Well, that's overdoing it, but it does change the landscape, one which has been in place for my lifetime. And just in time. The exterior of the building is being renovated, tuck-pointed, and painted. The part already completed, the southeast side and the upper portions on the front (or south) side is beautiful. Once completed, it will indeed be a wonderful building view. But, then there on the eastern side is that droopy pink steel bike rack. A pink steel bike rack in the shape of, well frankly, a sperm-looking creature, or what one gets after the sperm has done his work, limply hanging over one of our two small ancient fountains, always in need of repair, but still pretty when they work. An overrreaching limp pink structure - surely its days on Mayor Abramson's public lawn are numbered. It is rumored it will be moved to the Theatre Square area. But, that is just rumor. It will more likely disappear to some warehouse where things go when mayors no longer want to look at them. Remember the bust of Jose Marti? We're still looking.

But, the Court House looks great - or is at least beginning to. Good work, Mr. Mayor.

(Sorry, no new pics today. Blogging from a secret bunker in Germantown).

Friday, June 15, 2007

122. A little more Flat Lick Road, a little flat luck for the Cards, and no change in the weather

My friend Bobby Haddad calls it the "Haddad Effect." You would talk about someone or something and suddenly there they were. While it is a stretch, yesterday I mentioned both Flat Lick Road and my old and closed elementary school; today having lunch with Marty Meyer, a staffer in Congressman John Yarmuth's office, he mentioned he had attended the J. Stoddard Johnston School, also closed, and while when he went there in the 1970s, the address was on Bradley Avenue, when built and for many years thereafter, the name of the road upon which the building sat and still stands was Flat Lick Road.

J. Stoddard Johnston School was named for a prominent Louisville historian who was also Kentucky's Secretary of State during the end of Governor Preston Leslie's term and for the entirety of the first term of Governor James B. McCreary. McCreary is one of those governors, like Isaac Shelby and A. B. "Happy" Chandler, whose terms were several years apart. McCreary served with Johnson in the 1870s. McCreary came back to Frankfort in 1912, after serving several terms in the United States House of Representatives and one in the United States Senate. In his second term as governor, he succeeded the only governor ever elected from Louisville, Augustus Willson, whose life was discussed herein in an early entry of the Left Bank of the Ohio River at Milepost 606. You may think Augustus an unusual name as I do. Nonetheless, the man who succeeded McCreary in his second term was also an Augustus, Augustus Stanley. McCreary has two other distinctions from his second term: 1) he was the first governor to live in the new Executive Mansion on the Capital Avenue Circle, and 2) he was governor when the last county formed in Kentucky was officially established and named McCreary County for him, the sitting governor. Virginia Governor Thomas Jefferson once named a county for himself, in 1780? Do you know where it is?

Johnston, by the way, is buried here in Cave Hill Cemetery.

That's enough history for the day.

In current affairs, Beware the Ides of June. The Boys of Summer took it on the knee in the 8th inning today, giving up 6 runs to Rice in that inning alone and losing the first game of the Collegiate World Series 15-10. Damn. They will play again Sunday at 2:00 pm, now in the loser's bracket, against the winner of this evening's Mississippi State - North Carolina game.

The weather for weekend calls for hot and humid conditions, with a very slight chance of showers. Highs in the low 90s, lows in the low 70s. Where have I heard that before?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

121. Along Preston Street Road, from Flat Lick Road to Norton Lane. Where is this?

Thirty-five years ago this week, I graduated from Prestonia Elementary School, at that point, a very old school in a very new building. Prestonia School has popped into my mind twice in the last few weeks. First there was the obituary in the Courier-Journal of John R. Masden, who was my principal from 3rd grade to 6th grade. It is reprinted here below.

MASDEN, JOHN R., 97, of Elizabethtown formerly of Bullitt County, KY died Monday, June 4, 2007 at Helmwood Health Care Center, Elizabethtown, KY. He was a native of Bullitt County, KY. An Army veteran of World War II, a retired teacher for the Jefferson County School System and a former Principal for the Prestonia Elementary School and also a member of the Davidson United Methodist Church in Shepherdsville, KY. He was preceded in death by his wife the former Ruth Weller. He is survived by his cousin, Joyce Sturgill of Lebanon Junction, KY who cared for him; two nieces, Sandy Cove of Dayton; OH and Ann Southerland of Maple City, MI; and a nephew, Tom Hackney of Sutton Bay, MI; and a loving friend, Renata Reever of Las Vegas, NV. Funeral: 11 a.m. Saturday, June 9, 2007 at Kappel Funeral Home, Lebanon Junction, KY with Rev. John Vaught officiating. Burial will be in Hebron Cemetery, Shepherdsville, KY. Visitation: 1-8 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. Saturday at Kappel Funeral Home, Lebanon Junction. Expressions of sympathy to his church.
Published in The Courier-Journal on 6/7/2007.

That was last week's news. Then yesterday was another article in the Courier which, well frankly, didn't mention Prestonia, and that prompted the following essay concerning the Norfolk/Southern Railway trestle which divides the present Camp Taylor neighborhood from the present Belmar neighborhood, both of which are parts of the former neighborhood known as Prestonia, the area for which my elementary school was named.

The article on the Camp Taylor / Belmar trestle (link below) caught my eye and causes me concern over place names. As many of you know, names of streets, places, and neighborhoods have long been an interest of mine and the city does an poor job of properly identifying everything. Having formerly been a resident of Camp Taylor for nineteen years, I remain keenly interested in the area. But, before being a Camp Taylor resident, I was a student at Durrett High School, and before that Prestonia Elementary, from which I graduated in 1972. In fact, before there was a Camp Taylor and before there was a Belmar, there was Prestonia.

The area along Preston south of what is now called Locust Lane (the former Flat Lick Road) and as far south as what is now called Gilmore Lane, (the former Norton Lane) gradually became what today we would call a town center. A siding along the Norfolk Railroad, then the Southern Railroad, was established and is still there, as shown in the first picture to the right. This stop was known as Prestonia as early as 1907. It probably served people exiting to the new residential development known as Audubon Park, first laid out by a Mr. Harmon in the 1890s on land formerly owned by Mrs. Sallie Durrett. There is a listing of the neighborhood with that date in the 1907 Report of the Interstate Commerce Commission, on page 312 of that document listed as item 237, dated December 23, 1907.

Prestonia School, my Alma Mater, was a landmark along Preston Highway for many years, dating from 1912. The school was located at three different locations, the first one up near Locust Lane and previously called Spring Garden School. Sallie Phillips Durrett was a teacher at this school. The second and most prominent stood on Preston, opposite what is now called Belmar Drive. That school closed in 1970 and a new school building was opened on the Durrett High School campus one mile south. Prestonia School finally closed its doors in 1981. The most recent school building is now known as the Gheens Academy. Another school, called Prestonia #2 existed in the 1930s along Crittenden Drive where the C. B. Young Jr Educational Center is near Central Avenue.

The beginning of the end of Prestonia came with the establishment of Camp Zachary Taylor in 1917, established on grounds for the most part owned by the Durrett and Phillips families, which had owned property in the area since the early 1800s. Jenkins Phillips first land patent in the area dates from 1790. The "Main Camp" covered most of the area between Preston Highway on the west and Beargrass Creek, near to Newburg Road on the east, and from Clarks Lane on the north to the northern line of Evergreen Cemetery on the south. Excluded from the camp was the French farm (generally the area along Delor, Colin, and Pindell avenues); as well as that part of Audubon Park which was already under development, and the original Prestonia neighborhood which ran along streets of the east side of Preston, now known as Morgan, Farmdale, and Sprindale avenues. Extensions of the camp were located across the street, where Value City is now, extending over to Crittenden Drive and out to Ash Bottom Road, where the FedEx building is now on the southwest side of the airport. A second extension existed a little north of this one near where the Denny's is at Crittenden Drive and Eastern Parkway and extending out to the Churchill Park School. Another extension was out along what is now Minor's Lane near South Park Road and the Snyder Freeway, an area which today looks much as it did then, now deprived of homes levelled in the ever-growing Airport Expansion Project, first begun in the 1980s. A final extension was in the hills of southwestern Jefferson, western Bullitt, and northwestern Hardin counties, a firing range which eventually was renamed Camp Knox, and years later enlarged and renamed Fort Knox, after the closing of Camp Zachary Taylor.

But, I digress.

Prestonia as a community existed for most of the early to mid 1900s. The school opened in 1912. By 1921, there was a Prestonia Bank, owned by George Schuster. Also that year, the Prestonia Post Office was established. The Prestonia Presbyterian Church was established in 1924, changing its name to the Fourth Presbyterian Church in 1938. The was a Coal storage factory owned by the Oehrle family. A Prestonia Garage, originally a stable, existed on the west side of Preston where the old Burnett Brothers Auto Shop later located.

After the closing and subsequent selling of the lands once belonging to Camp Taylor, two new communities arose. Camp Taylor, not Camp Zachary Taylor, formed inside the area between Audubon Park, Durrett Lane, the railroad, and Illinois Avenue. This, of course, was the area I lived in, first in two different apartments along Belmar Drive, and finally, for seventeen years at 4104 Lee Avenue. Another picture on the column is from the old Camp, taken in what is approximately my backyard, looking southeast toward where Camp Taylor Memorial Park currently is situated. Another neighborhood, Belmar, was established as a subdivision around 1928, developing that part of the camp between the railroad, Preston, and north of Morgan Avenue. That subdivision, Belmar, eventually overtook the older name of Prestonia as an identity for the area. Even homes in the original Prestonia neighborhood along Farmdale and Springdale have been absorbed by the neighborhood's name.

Much later, the western side of the Prestonia neighborhood was developed by Weyer and Mann developers, who built the subdivision which used to be along the south side of Phillips Lane. Streets in it were known as Fontaine, Weyer, Nally, and others. In the 1970s, when the federal government began distributing "block grants" funds for cities, they required areas to be laid off into neighborhoods. Some areas fit a well-defined description and the neighborhood name fit. Others, such as "Poplar Level," the area north of the Watterson on the east side of Poplar Level never went by that name, but nonetheless that is what is it officially called. Some areas did not fit any description and were called "Remainder of City." It was at this time that the Prestonia name was revived, identifying an area which would, for the most part be consumed by the airport expansion. The part of it which wasn't was later called East Prestonia and finally Belmar, after the subdivision name from those earlier years.

As a note here, the street now called Belmar was originally known as Kentucky Avenue from Preston to Lee Avenue and Indiana Avenue from Redwood Avenue to Poplar Level Road. East of Poplar Level Road, the former Indiana Avenue is now known as Trevilian Way. In 1956, the old Camp Taylor Post Office was annexed into the Louisville Post Office system. To avoid confusion, the Kentucky Avenue name was changed to Belmar up to what is now Redwood Avenue. Redwood was also Kentucky Avenue out to Poplar Level Road. This was to avoid confusion with the much longer Kentucky Street in the Louisville Post Office area. The Belmar name was also adopted for that part of Indiana Avenue, north from the intersection with what is now Redwood, since it no longer directly connected with the other part of Indiana to the west. The post office also changed the name of a short alley near U of L from Indiana Avenue to Riley Avenue, again because it was the shorter of the two streets with the same name. I've never known where the Belmar name, originally applied to the new subdivision in the 1920s came from. I do know the 1895 winner of the Preakness was the horse Belmar.)

The whole point of this discussion is my concern over the loss of an historical name, Prestonia. I would propose that should a name sign be erected on the trestle identifying the area, as the C-J article suggests, the name Prestonia be included in identifying the area west of the Railroad overpass, as such name is older than either Camp Taylor or Belmar, both of which were formed out of land in the original Prestonia area.

Monday, June 11, 2007

120. Omaha - the short story

The Boys of Summer on the University of Louisville Cardinal Baseball team will have their season extended a little longer. They won yesterday's Super Regional Championship before a standing-room only crowd at Jim Patterson Stadium by a whopping 20-2. Congratulations to Coach McConnell and the team. They advance to Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Nebraska for the College World Series. Rosenblatt Stadium, like Slugger Field home to a AAA pro team, has hosted the college tournament since the 1950s. The series begins Friday when Louisville faces Rice University, and runs through the championship game on June 25th.

Omaha is Nebraska's largest city, on its eastern border along the Missouri River, and opposite Council Bluffs, Iowa. The city is near the geographic center of the continental United States, which at Lebanon, Kansas is about 230 miles to the northeast. Omaha is west-north-west of Louisville, about 700 miles away depending on how you get there. Most people would take I-64 west to St. Louis, and then I-70 west almost to Kansas, then I-29 north into the city. My trip would be altered, so as to go through some historically and politically significant towns, such as Vincennes, Indiana; Springfield, Illinois; Hannibal, Missouri; and Des Moines, Iowa. But that is just me.

Omaha has one of those Botanical Gardens, the type that Louisville doesn't, but that has been mentioned as a possibilty somewhere along River Road east of the Waterfront Park. They also have a ballet company, a couple of acting troupes, and a neat downtown skyline. Demographically, the area is smaller than Louisville's metropolitan count of nearly 1,000,000, with a population of about 820,000 in an eight county area. Like Louisville, Omaha's history is closely connected with a river (the Missouri) and a railroad (the Union Pacific). Although the city wasn't there at the time, the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which shoved off from across the river at Louisville, made a stop at Council Bluffs, across the river at Omaha, in their trek across the country. Omaha dates its founding from a half-century later in 1854, marked by the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Territorial Act, and Omaha was the territorial capital until the first session of the state legislature thirteen years later. Omaha's real growth came as part of President Lincoln's dream of a trans-continental railroad for the Republic. The president purchased land where he proposed the railroad from the east would cross the Missouri joining the railroad from the west. And that eventually happened.

The City of Omaha is bigger than the old City of Louisville by a half in both population and area. Omaha possesses a population of close to 350,000 in the 100 square miles making up the city limits. The old City of Louisville has a population of about 225,000 in an area of about 68 square miles. While the governments of Douglas County and Omaha have merged some services and agencies, the two governments have not actually been combined into one single taxing unit creating an efficient and smooth running engine of economic proseperity and growth - of course, neither have we done that here, where basically all we did was get rid of one city, twelve aldermen, and three county commissioners, and replace them with twenty-six council members. We still have nearly one hundred different taxing districts in Jefferson County - and property owners in the old City of Louisville, what the Mayor calls the Urban Services Disrict, are like residents of the other 94 cities remaining after merger, still doubly taxed, this while services and infrastructure expansion takes place at an alarming rate in the unincorporated county area, where there have been no accompanying and appropriate increases in taxes. But, I digress.

Somehow it always gets back to politics. Sorry about that. I think what I need in these lazy days of summer is some old fashioned religion. Surely there is a Vacation Bible School somewhere around which caters to back-sliding Christians who are more concerned about social justice than the privacy of other people's bedrooms. Surely.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

119. Summertime, Idea Fest, and some college notes

Sorry for the lack of posting. It's summertime and the living is easy, or at least it is supposed to be. I've decided to take the summer off the best I can, at least from politics and other social activities. As I said, the best I can, which I know wont be very good. Last week I had lunches with two different friends, Dann Byck and Shawn Reilly, both of whom want me to get involved in things. As best I could I declined Shawn's invitation and only hesitantly took up Dann in a partial way. Dann's is presently the more intriguing - something called the Idea Festival which is coming to Louisville late this summer. I remember last fall when it was here but I was consumed with the Yarmuth campaign, and did not have time to look into it. Dann gave me an overview and I promised to work a booth during the summer to help promote it.

The website for you go to look at it is I recomment you visiting the site - it is interesting reading, naturally, for an idea fest.

Shawn's interest was more political and still of interest, but as I said, for the moment I declined. I'd like summer to be sort of summer-ish this year. I am getting old enough to appreciate a little unscheduled time. Later this summer, I am hoping to make a road trip to Virginia with a friend to her collegiate Alma Mater, which starting this fall will end a more-than-100-year tradition of single-sex studies when it begins to admit males. It is also dropping part of its name - the soon-to-be former Randolph-Macon Women's College will become Randolph College. The Randolph is for a Virginian who was a benefactor while Macon was a North Carolinian, also a benefactor. I guess the Randolphs are still around and are, obviously, closer to home. The college is in Lynchburg.

The last entry mentioned the University of Louisville's Baseball team and their playing in a SuperRegional. They are tied with Oklahoma State at one apiece. Yesterday's game, which OK State won, was far less lopsided than Friday's when Louisville won 9-0. Today's tiebreaker and championship gets underway at 4 pm.

That's all.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

118. Cardinal Baseball

Louisville is known as a college sports town and has been for some time. More than a few people suggested that J. Bruce Miller, Dan Johnson, Steve Magre, and others were tilting at windmills when they suggested the best way to pay for a new downtown arena was to lure an NBA team to town, thereby ensuring some national TV revenue, along with the accompanying occupational taxes paid from the players and others whose jobs would be performed here in Louisville-Jefferson County Metro. They said professinal sports would never take hold here because of our allegiances to U of L, UK, Notre Dame, IU, and others.

As a supporter of the concept of building an arena and building it downtown, and as someone who has been watching budgets come and go in the old City of Louisville as well as the Mayor's new hybrid creation of Louisville-Jefferson County Metro (what former County Commissioner Darryl T. Owens called at the time the Jerry Abramson Full Employment Act), I knew that paying for such a needed entity would be troublesome and the NBA idea seemed a logical mean to meet that end. Despite all the promises made by Jim Host (a foreigner to Louisville), as well as His Honor and his henchmen, including those housed in the editorial offices at 6th and Broadway, Miller's projection that outisde revenues were the keys to financial success has been proven. Just ask 10th District Councilman Jim King, the CPA turned politician, who has been finetuning the arena financing package, finding those shortcomings either unfounded or blatantly ignored by Host and his host of sock-puppet supporters. King's job has been not only to find the problems, but to also suggest solutions, and he has been fairly successful at both - moreso than the administration and the newspaper, whose only role has been to thwart the efforts of Miller and Johnson et al, and to promote (successfully) the relocation of the arena site to appease an industrial giant, the Germany-based E-ON, the owner of LG&E and its plant at 2nd Street and River Road, which will be moved from one side of the street to the other, about 30 yards, and rebuilt at government expense (with a price tag around $63,000,000.00 more or less), a process which is already undereay as evidenced by the closure of the western 1/2 of 3rd Street between Main Street and River Road. But, in the end, Louisville will have an arena and it will be built downtown, and hopefully it will attract some big-time basketball games, say perhaps NCAA Regionals, to the city.

On a somewhat related note, one of the city's hometown colleges, the University of Louisville, has recently built another arena which is attracting an NCAA Regional, actually a Super Regional, to town this weekend. A Super-Regional in Baseball is akin to the Sweet 16 in Basketball. The Jim Patterson Stadium serves as the home field for the University of Louisville Baseball team, and has since 2005. Patterson replaced the old Parkway Field, located along Eastern Parkway at the L&N Railroad, which served the same purpose - in two different configurations, since its construction in 1923. (A note here - Parkway Field was home to the old Louisville Colonels professional baseball team, and was built for them after their old home at Eclipse Park burned in 1922. The Colonels played there until 1956 when they moved to the Fairgrounds. In additional to the college's baseball team, Parkway Field had also served as a home football field in the 1950s. Louisville Baseball continued off-and-on while also playing at Derby City Field and the old Cardinals Stadium before moving to Patterson in 2005). The new field's construction and finances were helped along with a generous donation from Jim Patterson, a Louisville entrepreneur and civic leader. (I'll add here Patterson is among those who helped make the decision for the new arena downtown to be built on the LG&E site).

Patterson's story is one of those rags-to-riches story, coming from the poor side of Louisville, spending time in college at U of L on a baseball scholarship, giving service to the country in the Air Force, and then making a career as a salesman. He joined the Jerry's Restaurants franchise and later helped create and run (as President and CEO) the Long John Silver's Fish Restaurants - apropos for a Catholic kid who probably ate fish every Friday at school, along with Macaroni and Cheese - at least that's what I always had, even though I went to a public school. Patterson's return gift was the stadium which bears his name, built on a brownfields site (the old American Air Filter plant) at what is now intersection of Central Avenue and 2nd Street, an intersection which wasn't there ten years ago. Patterson has also been a major contributor to Catholic schools in Louisville, including Bellarmine University on Newburg Road.

But, I digress.

This weekend, starting tomorrow afternoon at 2:00 pm, Jim Patterson Stadium will be hosting an NCAA Basketball Super-Regional Tournament pitting Oklahoma State against the hometown favorites, the University of Louisville. It is a best two-out-of-three series, with the second game Saturday at Noon, and if needed, a Sunday game at 4. All the games are being telecast on some version of ESPN. Louisville enters the tournament with a 44-21 record, having won their first-ever Regional on Thursday, defeating Missouri 15-5. Now, to be honest, I couldn't name one player on the team. Nonetheless, I am a baseball fan of many years and it is good publicity for the hometown when the local boys do good. I plan on being at Saturday's game, and maybe Sunday's as well, pulling for the Cardinals.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

117. Forecast: Showers likely, same as yesterday.

No news today. Nothing to write home about. It hasn't rained since the day before Derby Day, when it poured right before the Oaks.

UPDATE - Tuesday, 3:46 pm - It's Raining. It's really pouring down rain - I can't see more a block or so out of the window from up here on the 10th floor. Lightning, too. Maybe I shouldn't be blogging.

UPDATE - Tuesday, 4:03 pm - It stopped. I can see the hills along the ridge that cuts across southern Jefferson County, from I-65 over to the Illinois Central Gulf RR line, which collectively form the Jefferson Memorial Forest, about 10 miles south of downtown.

Here comes the sun.

Monday, June 4, 2007

116. New Ground To Plow

Last week the Kentucky Democratic Party State Central Executive Committee met and affirmed gubernatorial nominee Steve Beshear's recommendations for State Party Chair and Vice Chair. Jonathan Miller and Jennifer Moore were elected to those respective positions by a unanimous vote. There were congratulations to the newcomers and good-byes to the outgoing chair, my friend Jerry Lundergan. At the end of the day as the parking lot was beginning to clear, Lundergan and I embraced, wished each other well, provided mutual assurances of aid in times of need, and then Jerry pulled away with the exclamation "Off to plow new ground!" much like Santa Claus' "Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night!" Lundergan, someone I supported, was a polarizing chair of the Party for a little under 2 and 1/2 years, and had now left the premises to plow some new ground, and being the aggressive and successful businessman he is, he will no doubt do just that.

For me plowing new ground is much less aggressive, and the pay is far less - typically zero. It mostly involves playing pianos I come across "in the public domain," so to speak. I've written before of this affliction. I found new ground to plow over the weekend at a fundraiser I attended for John Yarmuth, my congressman, at the home of Chris Poynter, a writer formerly with the Courier-Journal, who presently works "as hard as I ever have," as he told me sometime last week, working as a PR person for His Honor, the Mayor of Louisville-Jefferson County Metro.

I had noticed the piano upon entering the house amid the 50 or so folks there helping to re-elect the congressman we so very recently helped to elect back in November, 2006. A friend of mine, knowing my preoccupation with the palying of the ivories, asked me if I intended to play. I was awaiting the host to see if he himself so intended. Eventually he did, playing just one song. After he departed the bench, in a deferential voice, I enquired as to permission to assume the bench and tickle the ivories. With Chris' encouragement, I did so. I learned he had only acquired the piano a month earlier and was engaged in piano lessons, something I never did. While playing, I was joined briefly by the Congressman, who hummed along with my rendition of Paul Anka's "My Way." After John vacated, I was next joined by former State Senator Lindy Casebier, a trained musician to whom I eventually yielded the entire bench as his playing is far more listenable [note: new word] than mine. Before long there was an entire chorus singing a few lines from a variety of classics, all pleased with the opportunity to sing for a Congressman.

Ah, the life of a plowman.

115. A thought worth revisiting --

Several entries back, I reprinted in full an entry made on Paul Hosse's blog, known as Another Opinion, written by someone, someone I now know to be someone I have known for years, who calls themself Moderate Man an entry called "Big Steps." In my discussion of Moderate Man's posting, I mentioned discussions my friend Ken Herndon (Jefferson County's County Judge/Executive sans portfolio) and I had had in the past along the same lines.

Over the weekend, the Courier-Journal presented a Special Op/Ed piece, written by Herndon, on the matter. If you didn't read it, here it is again. A link to the original article appears below.

***** *****

Amenities taxes offer broad support
Libraries, parks, zoos can benefit

By Ken Herndon
Special to The Courier-Journal

On May 9, supporters of the Louisville Free Public Library announced an initiative to place, on this November's ballot, a vote to increase Jefferson County's occupational tax by two-tenths of 1 percent to raise $38.9 million to revamp a library system that was once one of the nation's best, but which has, in recent years, had to struggle because of inadequate revenue.

Many communities -- most, in fact -- struggle to fund their "community assets" -- especially in these days of tighter budgets all around. Most strive to solve one problem at a time, like the library proposal or, just last year, the Louisville Orchestra funding shortfall. A smaller number, however, have boldly decided to address funding issues for multiple projects simultaneously as part of a grander, more comprehensive package, sometimes called Quality of Life initiatives.

Seattle, Denver and Pittsburgh among them, these communities have enacted far-reaching, tax-supported programs that establish funding mechanisms through which a multitude of projects are supported, enabling each community to provide an ongoing revenue stream to support everything from parks to zoos to sports facilities to light-rail systems to the arts.

Louisville should do the same.

Not only would the successful implementation of such an initiative make us instantly more competitive, I believe that a grander program would actually have a better chance of passage since, unlike the narrow focus of the library proposal, almost every voter would likely have a special affinity for one or more of the numerous beneficiaries of a broader plan.

The effort, energy, money and political capital it would take to get the library tax passed would be not be significantly different from that needed to pass a much broader, more visionary alternative -- so why not go for the gusto? Further, the library vote, successful or not, could effectively poison the well for any other initiative down the road. Once that political capital was spent, it is unlikely that anyone would dare consider another attempt for anything else in the foreseeable future.

Raising the occupational tax rate by five-tenths instead of two, for example, would garner $99.5 million annually. Or another alternative, adding a penny to the sales tax in Jefferson County, would garner at least $100 million per year, according to University of Louisville economist Paul Coomes. Many consider the sales tax option to be less regressive, since only those who spend actually pay the tax -- therefore reducing the burden on folks with lower incomes. Each initiative in each city is like a fingerprint, unique to local needs, local desires and local or state governmental structures and limitations. Some have a time limit, and some are perpetual. They can be based upon property, occupational or sales taxes, or some combination.

As an example for consideration, I would like to share some details of the Allegheny Regional Asset District in Pittsburgh primarily because it included, from its inception, funding for a wide variety of programs and projects, large and small -- including libraries. Created in 1994, the Allegheny Regional Asset District is a special-purpose unit of local government but has no independent taxing authority. Allegheny County was authorized by the Pennsylvania Legislature to levy a 1 percent sales tax in addition to the state sales tax in order to fund the activities of the district and provide funds for county and local government tax reform. Allegheny County is not able to increase the tax levy without additional state approval.

Jefferson County would also have to get legislative approval for a broader plan based upon the occupational tax. Some say such permission is unlikely to be granted. They forget, however, that twice in the last five years the General Assembly did exactly that -- with merger in 2000 and the hotel tax in the 2007 session. The sales tax option, while less regressive, would require a constitutional amendment. Amendment language for a "local option" is currently under consideration.

One important note regarding the Pittsburgh plan: Of those taxes collected in Allegheny County, 25 percent goes directly to county government and 25 percent goes to the other municipal governments within Allegheny County -- a component that we would likely choose not to emulate. The remaining 50 percent, which is directly relevant to this conversation, goes to the Asset District and is distributed to libraries, parks, sports facilities and civic, cultural and recreational entities of all sizes.

That distribution is made by a board of directors composed of four persons appointed by the county chief executive, two appointed by the mayor of Pittsburgh and one person elected by those six appointees. Each proposed allocation requires the support of six of the seven board members. The board also appoints a 27-person advisory board to provide public input and comment on policies and procedures for maximum accountability.

The final budget allocation for 2006 totaled $74 million, of which 31 percent supported libraries, 27 percent went for parks, 10 percent for special facilities (zoo, aviary, conservatory), 22 percent for sports facilities and 9 percent for arts and cultural organizations. In the 11 years of its existence, the Allegheny Regional Asset District has distributed over $826 million to almost 150 projects and organizations. Little wonder Pittsburgh's star has been consistently rising.

As I mentioned, Allegheny County was granted the authority to form this taxing district by the Pennsylvania legislature.

We would need to follow a similar path in this state. Unlike California and Oregon, and similar to Pennsylvania, Kentucky is not a referendum state. In order to attain the ability to vote on such a tax, Jefferson County would first need to be granted permission to do so by the General Assembly either for a single opportunity on a single issue like merger or, as many would prefer, to have the ongoing opportunity, the local option, in place as needs occur.

Yes, it would take longer than the library tax vote planned for this fall, but the payoff would be worth the wait. At the end of the day, no one wakes up in the middle of the night having dreamt of paying more taxes. But we all have walked in the bright light of day and noted things that we want or need for the community we love. And, if we're fiscally responsible, we know that we have to pay for what we want.

If a program is presented to the public properly, if the long-term benefits are clearly demonstrated and if the subsequent expenditures are very detailed, many believe that the public would respond favorably. Thirty-four years ago, the last time we passed a tax increase by referendum to create TARC, Mayor Harvey Sloane and County Judge Executive Louis J. (Todd) Hollenbach led just such an effort.

Three decades ago, the people of Kentucky, hardly a tax-and-spend state, voted to raise the state sales tax by a penny, and 15 years ago, we raised the income taxes to support education reform. Compelling cases were made and Kentuckians responded. And we will again. As a community, a state or a nation, we have to decide what we want and then we have to pay for it. Initiatives like the Allegheny Regional Asset District, and others like it across the nation, provide a template for our future.

Ken Herndon is the director of operations of the Louisville Downtown Management District, and vice president of the Old Louisville Neighborhood Council. The views expressed in this article are his own, not those of those organizations.

***** *****

A political friend of mine sent me an email asking my opinion of Ken's piece. Of course, I told him I agreed wholeheartedly. I added that while the Council and the Mayor said they will support the Library if and when the voters approve it, this plan of Ken's is so broad, I am sure no one of these elected leaders would step and and actually lead. Ken mentioned the TARC vote in the early 1970s. Had he gone back just a few more years, he would have found the bonding refendum on several other projects, some of which passed, some of which didn't; votes which lead to the construction of the southwest Jefferson floodwall, the southwest Jefferson Community College, the eventual building of the Louis D. Brandeis Jefferson Hall of Justice, and several other public amenities. Like TARC, Judge Hollenbach pushed for these votes and had the help of then County Attorney J. Bruce Miller, as well as several southwest Jefferson legislators, among them Dottie Priddy, Jim Dunn, and Al Bennett. All of these folks were leading, as opposed to following. Politicians like Hollenbach and others from an earlier era, who lead the charge for public improvements (including the raising of taxes or borrowing by bonding) are rightfully called leaders. Those who don't, haven't, or won't, should be afforded some descriptive term other than leader.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

114. Hail To Thee, Our Alma Mater

This will be short as it is too nice a day to put too much time into thoughts, words, pictures, and occassionally attitude. Today was the day on which twenty-nine years ago, on a Friday as I recall, but it might have been a Saturday, as that would make more sense, I graduated from the rigors of high school and commenced by life in the free world. I was 17 and acted like it, knowing I could conquer the world, or at least my little corner of it. I had what I consider a pretty good education, better than many, who like me, were a product of the Jefferson County Public Schools in the 1960s and 1970s. I had graduated from Prestonia Elementary School in 1972, the second graduating class of that school in their new building on the campus of Sallie Phillips Durrett High School. There would only be nine more. Graduating from Durrett in 1978, I was in the fourth-to-last class, of a total of 22. Both Durrett and Prestonia closed after the 1981 school year due to a decrease in enrolment, mostly brought on by their location. Near the geographic center of the county, both schools' districts were being given over to expansions for the public good. The Watterson Expressway, one block to the north, had begun its great widening project in the late 1970s, just as I was getting my driver's license. I learned to drive on the "old" Watterson, which was two lanes in each direction, with more than a few entry ramps, like that along Durrett Lane, which were little more than openings in the fence along the highway, with acceleration ramps, if you could call them that, of about 25 feet. Interstate 65, which runs directly in front of the schools, had also began its expansion from the old four-lane Kentucky Turnpike, which cost ten cents to enter from either the Outer Loop or Fern Valley, to a fourteen-lane wide true interstate. The Fairgrounds was also expanding along its west side, territory which provided a number of students, especially for Durrett, from the old Seneca Mobile Home Park. Elementary students from there went to the old James Russell Lowell School, the public school built in the 1880s, which served the Highland Park neighborhood, a neighborhood and school which would be wiped off the map about four years later with the expansion of Lee Terminal at Standiford Field into the modern Louisville International Airport, where you can go anywhere in the world, as long as you are in a box and being shipped out by UPS; otherwise, our only international flights are to Montreal, Quebec, which admittedly is in another country.

So, here we are twenty-nine years later. The Airport continues its expansion, now taking in ground to the south. The Fairgrounds - no longer called that officially, it is now the Kentucky Exposition Center - and is also still building. Soon the State Highway Department, built in the early 1960s in the front yard of the Fairgrounds, will give way to the bulldozer and the ever-burgeoning Fairgrounds. (As a side note on the Highway Department, my mother retired from there in 2005 after almost 39 years of off-and-on employment, so whenever there is talk about the instability of the state retirement system, both she and I pay attention. But, I digress). Both the Durrett and Prestonia facilities have been put to reuse, which is good. Since 1991, Durrett's old building, on which was spent $21,000,000.00 for an upgrade, has been home to a Louisville legend, Louisville Male High School, now in its 142nd year, or thereabouts. Prestonia, which existed as a school in three different buildings from about 1912 to 1981, is now home to the Gheens Institute, a public facility which is used as a teacher-training school for teachers and others from throughout the Commonwealth. As a gesture to the Sallie Durrett family, which since 1790 held the property on which both Male and Gheens is situated, the new auditorium built in between the two structures was, in 1995, christened the Sallie Phillips Durrett Auditorium, Thus the venerable name of my old Alma Mater remains a part of the educational process of the public school system and for that I am glad.

***** *****

Unrelated, I am going to my first fundraiser (although there have already been some) in the re-election campaign of my congressman, John Yarmuth. It is time to get started for 2008. Oh wait, we do need to win the Governor's Mansion this fall.

***** *****

[There are no pictures today as I am blogging from a secret remote location along E. Oak Street in the Germantown neighborhood, here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606].

Friday, June 1, 2007

113. King George W

The land of the thirteen colonies, which includes the sovereign territory along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606, was once governed by a King, George III, who ruled as King of Great Britain from 1760 to 1820, the second longest reign of any British monarch. (A note should be made that George was declared incompetent in 1811 and the last decade of his reign was lead by his son, the Prince Regent George IV). It was during the early part of George's reign that the American colonies declared their independence and then fought a war to secure that declaration. George lost the colonies.

Since that time, our government has moved through a progession of changes, from a collection of sovereign states to a federal government centrally controlled and funded by a national tax, among other things, all the while making the transition, however troubled or untroubled, from one President to the next, from one Congress to the next, and from Justice to Justice on the Supreme Court. Enter the current leader of the executive branch of the government, George W. Bush, a man who is unmoved by the fact that there are two other co-equal branches of the government he leads, something he would more readily understand if he were remotely familiar with what Senator Robert Byrd calls "America's Rule Book," the United States Constitution. The first three Articles of that august document defines those three co-equal branches. Interestingly, the presidency is listed second, behind the legislative, for whatever that may be worth. Later, under the sixth article, the Constitution declares itself to be "the supreme law of the land." It goes on to state, among other things, that "[t]he Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution."

The president (and those in his administration) have conveniently used the events of September 11, 2001 as an avenue to circumvent the other branches of government and the Constitution. (A note here to be fair: the Congress abdicated their responsibilties in a vote and have yet to reclaim their rightful role in the operation of the Union). Last month, on May 9, 2007, the president took that circumvention to a new high (or low). I am referring to NATIONAL SECURITY PRESIDENTIAL DIRECTIVE/NSPD 51 and HOMELAND SECURITY PRESIDENTIAL DIRECTIVE/HSPD-20, which I've linked to below. You should take a moment to visit this White House site and read about the possible future of the leadership of our Republic. Specifically, under Definitions read (2)(g) where the functions of the three branches are rolled into one - then further under Implementation Actions read paragraphs 6 through 10, which are alarming, to say the least. The legislative and judicial branches, under this Executive Oder, will be overseen by an appointee of the Chief of Staff to the president. State, local, territorial, and tribal governments, as well as the private sector will be controlled by the Secretary of Homeland Security. And who gets to decide when such an order might be put into use and administration? Section 12 assigns that to the President of the United States and no one else.

This should scare you. It does me. I've written before about the possibility that Bush and his ilk will not give up control of the government just because an election was held. After all, they took over the government in 2001 despite the results of an election in 2000 that indicated they had lost, not won. Do you feel they will have any more respect for an election held in 2008 than the one held in 2000? You may find this entry a little hard to accept as serious. I understand that. But the groundwork is being laid. We should at least keep an eye on the contractors doing the work. Again, the link to these Executive Orders is below.

January 20, 2009 can not come fast enough. But, what then?

The Archives at Milepost 606


Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Never married, liberal Democrat, born in 1960, opinionated but generally pleasant, member of the Episcopal Church. Graduate of Prestonia Elementary, Durrett High, and Spalding University; the first two now-closed Jefferson County Public Schools, the latter a very small liberal arts college in downtown Louisville affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. My vocation and avocation is politics. My favorite pastime is driving the backroads of Kentucky and southern Indiana, visiting small towns, political hangouts, courthouses, churches, and cemeteries. You are welcome to ride with me sometime.