Thursday, February 28, 2008

283. Wendell Ford Dinner in Louisville tomorrow

Back on February 18, 1971, I wrapped up a week of being a legislative page in the Kentucky Senate, working for State Senators Tom Mobley of Louisville and Carroll Hubbard of Murray. I was 10 years old. It was my second time paging, the first time much earlier for State Representative Tommy Riddle, who at the time was a Democrat but has since switched parties because he thought the Democrats were big spenders. I wonder how he feels about big borrowers. Maybe he is ready to switch again. But, I digress.

On that February 18, which was a Thursday, later in the day my grandmother took me down to the Lieutenant Governor's Office, then held by Wendell Ford. Later that year, Ford would move around the hallway to the Big Office by defeating Tom Emberton of Metcalfe County. Emberton had been a part of the Louie B. Nunn administration as a bureaucrat in the Public Service Commission, while Ford served those four years as Lieutenant Governor. Emberton would later be appointed as a judge by Wallace Wilkinson, one of my favorite characters from Kentucky's political past, and someone who was a friend. Ford, on the other hand, went on to the United States Senate, taking office in 1974 by defeating former Jefferson County Judge Marlow Cook. Cook was the incumbent Senator and did something that would be unheard of today. Cook, a Republican, resigned a month early, to allow Ford, a Democrat, to take office early and get a jump on seniority. It was a grand and noble gesture on Senator Cook's part.

Ford went on to serve longer in that office than any other person, although if Addison Mitchell McConnell, Jr. gets re-elected this fall, he will best Ford's record. The only person, to my knowledge, to serve longer in Kentucky politics was for Lieutenant Governor (and former several-other-things) Thelma L. Stovall, originally from Munfordsville, but mostly a resident of Louisville.

Anyway, the point I was heading toward was an announcement. Every year the Louisville-Jefferson County Democratic Party has as its chief fundraiser a Dinner in honor of the former State Senator - Lieutenant Governor - Governor - and United States Senator Wendell Hampton Ford. That dinner is tomorrow night, the 29th of February, at the Executive Inn on Phillips Lane at the Airport in Louisville. Tickets are $125.00 at the door. We have already sold a total of about 50 tables according to the Party Secretary Joyce Compton, who has done more work than should be allowed for a number of years on this event. This year's speakers are Governor Steve Beshear and Congressman John Yarmuth.

A good time should be had by all.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

282. Thoughts on a Snowy Tuesday night in February

First, some inside stuff to Moderate Man -- To spend capital, one must first have it. Your comment is ironic to say the least - commenting on the Louisville Urban Services District's lack of capital by calling on His Honor to spend some of his own to raise it. If there is any left, after nineteen years of spending very little if any, he may have fallen prone to a problem my forty-seven year old erstwhile muscles have - if you don't use them, you lose them. Lack of any expension of capital over the years has in and of itself depleted any available should the need arise - as is has now.

But, while that is a problem you and I must live through, at least until 2011 and more likely until 2015, it is not one we can solve with just words. There is a line in the play My Fair Lady, in a song, "Words, words, words, I'm so sick of words." Hillary Clinton used part of the line this week, saying that doing things, as she claims to have done 35 years more of than her opponent, is more important than saying them, even if in a grand oratorical style with thousands looking on. And although set in London, England, the song in the play leads to the Missouri saying of "Show me!" We have had a great deal of words and wordplay serving - or disgusied - as government for many years here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606. It is not by words, but by works that we will succeed. John of Patmos wrote in the Bible in the Book of Revelation at Chapter 2, Verse 19, "I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last [to be] more than the first."

To the work then.

On a different note, I have just a few minutes ago came in from driving through downtown Louisville. There is a light snow - a rather magical snow, a little heavier than mist, through which the city's glimmers are shining. It is quite easy to look at. The temperature is 30 degrees, which is near perfect for snowfall. The roads don't freeze until it is below 28 because of the brining, and the snow wont quite stick. Earlier in the day, I complained (much to my own surprise) of the cold weather we can't seem to shake. What was I thinking?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

281. Good News

First, State Representative Harry Moberly, a Democrat from Richmond who is the Democratic point man on budget matters, gets it. Good news. He is proposing tax increases here and there. One is a cigarette tax; another is an increase in corporate taxes; thirdly, some revenue enhancements in the indivudual tax code. Mr. Speaker Jody Richards says Moberly's plan is doable - at least in the House.

There are lots of ways for Moberly to go. They've been cutting taxes and exempting classes of folks for thirty years. Finally, at least there is acknowledgment that change is needed. Of couse the Senate end of the building is controlled by people who live in the fantasy land that "no government is good government," led by State Senator David Williams of P. O. Box 666 in Burkesville in Cumberland County (while his wife lives over in Russell County, which is not a part of his senate district). Senator Williams will direct the Republicans in the Senate (and probably a few of the Democrats) to vote against any of the proposals sent down by the House.

It is the intention of the Republicans to get people used to idea that Democrats are "tax and spend" types - as opposed to Republicans who are "borrow and spend" types. And, unfortunately, in the short run, he will probably succeed, which will eventually lead to the shutdowns of various parts of state government. I'm not sure when that will happen, but when it does, I am hopeful the KDP will buy some TV time and show pictures of when the Federal government was shut down under the Republican controlled United States House of Representatives, replete with pictures of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich being morphed into the current State Senate President David Williams. It is going to be a long and winding process and it will not be without some suffering on the parts of most every Kentuckian. And while Senator Williams and his Republicans (along with some Democrats) will be largely responsible, anyone who calls upon their legislators to "cut taxes" is also part of the problem.

Onto some better news. Here in Louisville, two items have crossed the newswires of interest to immigrants and those who believe that America should heed the words carved on the base of the Statue of Liberty about taking in those in need.

First, a storefront church in the Iroquois Manor Shopping Center on S. 3rd Street is offering free meals in this area which is heavily populated by immigrants from as many as 27 different countries. The Iglesia Cristiana He Visto La Luz , which translated means I Have Seen The Light Christian Church, serves the meals on Fridays from 12 noon to 2:00 pm. This is what is meant by doing God's work; not all the face-time a lot of politicians put in because they are giving away your tax dollars on their pet projects.

The other good news came from the Muhammad Ali Center yesterday where 195 formely non-Americans became Americans, including one, Jose Valdez, who has already served two tours of duty for what is now his country. Anyone who ever has the chance to witness one of these Swearing-Ins will never again take for granted the importance of being an American.

Thanks Be To God.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

280. Random plans for a Trip

I trekked [mapped] out on Google-Maps today the path I would take driving to Denver, Colorado if I am to go later this summer for the Democratic National Convention. Not as a delegate is my plan; rather I am angling to do some sort of staffing work if at all possible. Others of course will take to the friendly skies, but I prefer the open roads. Besides, I've never really driven much to the West at all - Fancy Farm, while a long ways off, really doesn't count. All of my driving travels outside the confines of the Commonwealth have generally been to the east, northeast, and southeast.

For such a trip west, I'd like to go by way of Springfield, Illinois on the way to revisit the Old State House, where both Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama launched their presidential campaigns, albeit several years apart.

I'd also like to go ot Omaha, Nebraska, where last year the University of Louisville Baseball team played in a collegiate world series of sorts. Both are along the way. On the return trip, I've got Wichita, Kansas on the journey, mostly because I've never been there. Another Springfield, this one in Missouri, is also scheduled. I have Hockensmith cousins there I've not seen in over twenty years, the children of my grandfather's younger brother William B. Hockensmith, of that city.

Saint Louis is a point both going and coming. I've been there many times and always like a return visit. And, unlike Louisville-Jefferson County Metro, they still have a City and a County, and the legislators in their city are called Aldermen, an office I wish we still had here in the Urban Services District of Louisville, along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606.


I'm listening to Barack and Hillary. It sounds like another love-fest so far. Outside, we had ice earlier. Now we have "a wintry mix" whatever that means. Tomorrow comes the rain.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

279. A little more Castro. Also, a little more a little closer to home.

My Cuban friend mentioned in the previous entry isn't all that enthused about Raoul Castro's ascension to power in his native state. He feels Raoul's military background under his older brother's regime will prove to be just as brutal if not moreso than Fidel's. He doesn't feel any change is anywhere near on the horizon just yet. That's a shame, but he would know more about it than me.

Closer to home, the political landscape is getting a little more interesting. I've written more than once than I felt Senator Hillary Clinton would ont only be the nominee but also the next president. The Junior Senator from Illinois is making that harder than anticipated. I've written before that I was for Clinton before I was for Obama before I was for Chris Dodd, who is no longer running. On one of the window sills in my office is a "Don't Tell Mama I'm For Obama" sticker. I suggested to one of my coworkers that one week it is up for everyone to view, while the next it is laying down. I'm still undecided although I do have a bumber sticker on my car for the current favored son of Hawai'i. There has to be something special about a candidate who draws the support of both former Congressman Romano L. Mazzoli and current Congressman John Yarmuth. They do not inhabit the same territory within the Party although both are from the idealist side of the Party. And the opinion of each of them makes an impression on me.

Even closer to home, there has been much consternation about Andrew Horne's aborted candidacy for the United Senate. A whole lot of people are upset about it including some in some very high places of power, at least here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606. I am admittedly not one of those upset. But neither have I cast my lot with either of the two serious challengers, Bruce Lunsford or Greg Fischer, both millionaires from Louisville. And I am even more undecided in this race than I am in the one between Clinton and Obama. And again, the opinions expressed by several of my friends from the Yarmuth campaign are pushing in one direction rather than another. There is the old saw about "some of my friends are for you and some of my friends are against you and I am for my friends." Ah, the joys of loyalty.

Finally, our Kentucky General Assembly, a collection of 138 lawmakers now assembled at Frankfort are busy introducing legislation, making attempts to amend said legislation, but doing very little passing of same. Actually, they have passed exactly zero pieces of legislation, which, frankly, is probably better than it seems. Introductions: 769. Amendments: 190. Enactments: 0. [Acknowledgements to, a service of the Bluegrass Instutute, a copyright of USA Votes, Inc. for these statistics]. The session is more than half over. At some point, legislation will start getting passed and that is when we Kentuckians should start paying closer attention. One recalls the old joke that we might be better off if the General Assembly met for two days every sixty years rather than sixty days every two years. Unfortunately, due to one of those constitutional amendments I habitually vote against, they now meet every year, making Frankfort a most dangerous place not just biennially but annually. If nothing else, it makes for interesting entertainment for the school children making field trips to the Commonwealth's seat of government. I know I always enjoyed it.

That's all for now.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

278. Castro

When I was in 7th grade, in Room 120 at Durrett High School, one of the first "big" papers I had to write was on Latin America. I wrote for pages and pages on the various governments up and down the land we call America, including a special section on Cuba. This was in 1972 or 1973, not so far removed from Castro's takeover of the government there just shortly before I was born 12 years earlier. Little did I know that many of the governments on which I had written were merely puppets of either the United States or the Soviet Union, or both.

Long-time readers will know that I've mentioned Cuba in previous posts, asking questions about the whereabouts of a statue of Jose Marti, a former leader of the island nation, whose statue once stood in Shively Park, but is there no more.

For the past 12 years, I have had the pleasure of a friendship with a Cuban refugee, one who I met shortly after his arrival here in the states aboard a raft, upon which he and two others had left the Castro regime. Put on a plane by the Catholic Refugee Services in southern Florida, he ended up in Louisville - loo-ese vee-ye - as he pronounced it at the time, thinking he was in Saint Louis, or sahn-loo-eee.

Since 1999, he has rented a little four room cottage from me, one in Camp Taylor in which I had lived for the previous twelve years, and there he remains today, through two or three girlfriends, one wife, three or four jobs, and a slew of friends.

He had often spoken of his Homeland, one he has not seen for over thirteen years, where his brothers and sisters, mother and grandmother, and his daughter, now a young lady of about 17 years old, remain, all hopeful that someday their family may be reunited.

My friend and his family are just one of many, many families in a like situation, all awaiting for the day that relations between Cuba and the United States are once again warm and friendly, as they were in the very beginning of Castro's reign of now fifty years.

The first step, a very small one, came in 2006 when Fidel Castro yielded over some of his power to his younger brother Raul, who is said to be just as ruthless at times as his older sibling. Another much larger step was taken today when Fidel announced, via the internet, he was stepping aside, ending his fifty year rule.

It will take many many more changes before relations between here and there will ever be anything close to normal. But, as with all journeys of a thousand miles, there is always that first important step.

For the sake of my friend and his family, and those of all the Cubans I've come to know, and all those I will never know, I am hopeful Castro's stepping down is the first step in the right direction.

Cuba Libre.

Here is a quote from Jose Marti, the former leader.

"One revolution is still necessary: the one that will not end with the rule of its leader. It will be the revolution against revolutions, the uprising of all peaceable individuals, who will become soldiers for once so that neither they nor anyone else will ever have to be a soldier again."

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Another Trip to Frankfort, and a tale about The Standing Ovation

I was in Frankfort this past Thursday for some legislative business. As most of my five faithful readers know, Frankfort is one of my favorite little cities. Louisville, of course, is my favorite really-big-town, but that is fodder for a different feeding. Thursday while there I made two stops off my schedule of historic interest, but probably to no one but me, just to take a look around our Capital and our Commonwealth.

First, I parked for a moment in the Riverview Park, established in 1997, along Wilkinson Boulevard and looked westward across the Kentucky River to the eddy formed by the mouth of Benson Creek. It was at this point, this juncture of land and water, that the Virginia legislature and governor, Thomas Jefferson, chose to divide Kentucky County, Virginia into its three original divisions, Fayette, Jefferson, and Lincoln counties. From my vantage point, I could look out to the northwest, up the Bald Knob Pike past Bellepoint, and let my eyes wander out into what was originally a part of Jefferson County, Virginia. Looking westward and southwestward, the view is blocked by Buttimer's Hill, the rock of a mountain just west of the city above the old Taylor Avenue and divided from what is now called Louisville Hill by the foot of Devil's Hollow Road, which itself formed the original path out of the capital city to what would become in time Kentucky largest really-big-twon, Louisville. That vista made up a part of Lincoln County, Virginia. If I were to look back over my shoulder toward South Frankfort and the New Capital, that too was a part of the original Lincoln County. The point where I was standing, on the Right Bank of the Kentucky River near Milepost 66, was a part of Fayette County, Virginia, which at that point in time was the most populous county of the three, with a census of about 2500 people in all of the area from Frankfort southeast to Pineville, east to Ashland, and north to Carrollton and Covington. That was one of my stops, viewing the origins of our state, which over in what was once a part of Lincoln County, was currently hosting our House and Senate in General Assembly.

My second view was made from on top of the Capitol Parking Garage, the one with the loops on either end, where the floors are numbered from bottom to top in ascending order so that the highest numbered floor is the lowest in elevation. Don't ever drive the loops within 30 minutes of having dinner in the Annex Cafeteria. You will not make it out of the City Limits. But, I digress.

Looking eastward from this point, the vista is of a broad plain below and then up the side of the hill toward Georgetown - "out East Main" as they would say in Frankfort. A look to the northeast is Frankfort Cemetery, the subject of one of the first entries of this blog. Looking below, of course, is the Kentucky River, which on Thursaday was a murky thick brown color, like coffee with cream, which is not the way I like my coffee, or my rivers. The river was up too, though not in any flooding territories as I have seen it now and then over time, most extraordinarily in 1978 when I was a freshman at the University of Kentucky. Much of the view of the old city to the north is obstructed from here by the Governor's Mansion and Grounds. Turning around one could look between the Capital and the Annex and up Lafayette Drive toward Louisville.

I always enjoy my trips to Frankfort, whether they are for business or pleasure. In the past, I am sure many legislators would have made this same comment. I have heard so many over time, though, comment that it is not what it used to be. I first became acquainted with the Capital through my grandmother, who had reason to be there from time to time. Later on, in Junior High School, which today is called Middle School, I made trips to the KYA conventions sponsored by the State YMCA, which was then headed by a Mr. Journey, who is long-since gone. In those Jr-KYA and later in High School in Sr-KYA conventions, I learned the legislative process and became enamored with the entire community around it. Having lots and lots of family in the Capital city was certainly a plus. Still later, as a freshman in college, I served as an advisor for some Jr-KYA students from what was then called Morton Junior High, on Tates Creek Pike in Lexington. The now-Morton Middle School is one of the prettiest buildings in Lexington in my opinion. I served in that role under a math teacher there, Sheila Becker (later Sheila Vice). I had a great time.

But, as I said, the environment is different now, the habits are different now, and of course, the fiscal underpinning of state government, as well as all other levels of government, is not there. We are at the bottom of the barrel with no real help in sight, only band-aids. While I was visiting at the Capital Annex Cafeteria, I called State Representative Jim Wayne, a Democrat of Jefferwon County's 35th District, over to my lunch table, which I was sharing with Assistant Jefferson County Attorneys E. Patrick Mulvihill (who is a candidate for Distict Judge in the upcoming elections) and John (J. P.) Ward, a part-time prosecutor who is learning the legislative ropes. Jim told us of his latest adventure in Taxing Matters, a proposal he is pushing to establish an Alternative Minimum Tax structure for the state along the lines of that established by the IRS for the Republic as a whole. His plan would remove many lower-income tax payers from the system while simultaneously shifting the burden to those in higher tax brackets, especially those making $250,000.00 or more. It is a noble goal. And even though adoption of Representative Wayne's plan would be a step in the right direction, it is not nearly enough. Proposals like Representative Wayne's must be introduced and passed at all levels of government, bringing needed resources for the country as a whole out of the pockets of multi-national corporations and their respective CEOs and CFOs and into the General Funds in Washington, Frankfort, and really-big-towns like Louisville.

At a different level, last Wednesday night the Mayor of Louisville-Jefferson County Metro gave a speech at the Metro Democratic Club, an update of his previously-given State of the City address, an annual event at the Downtown Rotary Club. In his update, he talked about the financial crises the City is in as being attributable to the general downturn of the economy as a whole. I have had discussions with others who laid part of the blame at the feet of a City financial planner whose numbers were skewed by a one-time payment into the City's coffers which was accounted as recurring income. Another person has informed me it is her opinion, based on some reputable knowledge she has (and she is in a position to have such knowledge) that the City's budget shortfall isn't nearly as big as is being reported. What the Mayor never alluded to in his speech were any new costs of running the merged City and County governments as one, without any equalisation of the propety tax structure for those people outside the old City who receive only one tax bill a year, unlike those in the old City who still receive two. As more and more services are being extended outside the Louisville Urban Service District without a like increase in taxes outside the Louisville Urban Service District, it becomes obvious that more revenue should be coming in from those receiving these new services, receiving them without paying for them. Since the adoption of Merger, there has never been an External or Internal Auditting presented to the Metro Council which would show these discrepancies. Nor is there any current plan of the Mayor or of the Council to correct this flagrant oversight in the merged government. At the end of his speech, the Mayor received a standing ovation from many (61) of the 64 people in the room. Based on his failure to communicate anything on the tax-fairness question, I was one of the three who did not rise in the ovation. I didn't make a scene; I didn't do anything other than some appropriate applause given the stature of the office.

While at the Capital on Thursday, the threesome of Mulvihill, Ward, and myself, happened around a corner in the Annex and encountered the Mayor and a few of his aides-de-camp, one of whom pointed out to the Mayor that out of the 64 people present in the room, at least one did not make the Standing-O. The Mayor asked me to affirm this which I did, offering that I was busy doing something else. What I was busy doing was trying to figure out why this tax-fairness question is not being addressed given the fiscal shortcomings the Mayor and the City are facing.

The problem isn't original with the Mayor. It is endemic to politicians who are unwilling to say to a populace which wants services that someone has to pay for them. If a politician says they want to raise taxes, many of the folks whose taxes are not likely to be affected, as they are at the lower end of the economic spectrum, are usually those who shout the loudest. They are only hurting themselves and the politicans who give in to them should be held accountable for the dismal state of economics affairs in all levels of the government.

Will this ever happen? Yes, I believe it will. Maybe not this year or next year, but soon. And it will take a fifteen to thirty year cycle to get us back where we were, but it will be worth the wait for the generations to follow beyond that thirty year mark. And we should all be working in that direction.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

276. Let It Snow. It is still winter.

You will recall my last entry ended with the weather-prognosticators proposing to their listeners that the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606 was in for some snow and ice. And this time they got it right. We are accustomed to hearing that the snow went "just to the north, along a line from Paoli to Salem to Madison," or "just to the south, hitting Brandenburg [which gets all the weather], Elizabethtown, and Bardstown." This time the snow dropped from the skies onto our little burg along the river, stacking up to between four and six inches. That was Monday night. Early Tuesday morning brought an inch of ice on top of the snow which made the 210' walk to the bus-stop interesting, as most of it was on top of the ice which was on top of the snow. [As an aside, I wrote several entries back about the proposal to remove my bus-stop. That proposal was dropped after some private-citizen agitation to both the TARC office and to City Hall. I appreciate the help of my councilmember, David Tandy, in that episode.] Later yesterday, as the temperatures edged above freezing, some of the ice and snow melted which made for a slush-filled afternoon. But then temperatures dipped back down into the 20s, where they remain today, so no melting is occurring. There is some fresh snow blowing about, but no additional accumulation is expected.

I like the snow. I always have. I remember the big snows of 1978 and 1994 - 16 or 17 inches worth. The one in 1994 closed down the city, the interstates, even UPS and the airport. Governor Jones took it on the chin for the conditions of Kentucky's various highways. Both snowfalls remind of me my brother, as they both fell on his birthday, respectively his 16th and 32nd. We were both still teenagers when the first one hit. The second time was a Sunday night/Monday night and my brother had "stopped by to visit" at my then-home in Camp Taylor. As I recall, he stayed aobut six weeks. The 1994 snow was complicated by an even heavier snow just a few days later, one of 22 inches, Louisville's deepest snow fall.

There were big snows when I was younger, but maybe they weren't as big as I recall because I was a lot smaller. I remember (barely) November, 1967 as a big snow. There was also a big snow in April, 1986 on Good Friday, if memory serves me. It didn't last, though. By the day after Easter that year, all traces were gone. I've seen it snow on Hallowe'en, and on Derby Day and Breeders' Cup Day. But it seems it doesn't snow nearly as much as it used to. Maybe that's the Global Warming lots of people talk about but no one wants to admit it is affecting the Ohio Valley's snow patterns. Or maybe I just like snow and wish we'd have more of it.

My mother says it is nice to look at as long as she doesn't have to get out in it. I still like getting out in it.

Unrelated, today is my Aunt Judy's birthday. She is the widow of my father's older brother, Uncle Don, who passed away in 2005. I called her this morning and wished her well. We talked politics for a minute, which isn't a big surprise.

Happy Birthday Aunt Judy.

Monday, February 11, 2008

275. Four Legs Good, Two Legs Better

Based on some emails I’ve received over the weekend, more than a few of my Democratic friends and all of my Republican friends are well to the right of me on the issue of new taxes, just as I know they are on immigration, and based on what a few of them said, maybe even the separation of church and state. The emails abovementioned all complained about my several entries recently calling for a rise in taxes, a rise to offset the thirty years of lowering them here and exempting folks from them there, although none of my correspondents mentioned the thirty year thing. A few mentioned that some of the slack in lower taxes which has led to social cuts have effectively been taken up by religious concerns, which then led to an exchange between us of whether or not those religious concerns were also on the government dole, taking monies for so-called faith-based initiatives, something I oppose. One even ventured to call me a Socialist. I responded to that one that a review of my political affiliation in the Secretary of State’s office would reveal that I am a Democrat. Deeper review in the Jefferson County Clerk’s Office would reveal that I’ve been a Democrat since I first registered to vote when I was 17 years old and I have not changed from that initial affiliation. But, I digress.

To make sure I got the message, a state legislator I was with last night at a social function, also complained to me about taxes being too high, explaining that he could not move to the neighborhood he desired because he couldn’t afford the property taxes. I just shrugged and took another sip of my sasparilla. And from there I went home and re-read the former Eric Blair’s little novella, Animal Farm, to reassure myself that while Socialism may be utopian and perhaps unattainable [Snowball], too many times other forms of government, whether Republics or Democracies on the one hand [Pilkington], and dictators and totalitarians on the other [Napoleon], are too often willing to play at being nice with each other for financial gain while simultaneously each offering to the other their own Ace of Spades, as if a deck of 52 cards would have more than one. And then I went to sleep with the intention of dreaming about Sugarcandy Mountain.

Unrelated, the Kroger Full Employment Support Group, aka the local television meteorologists, are calling for 2 to 4, or 4 to 6, or 6 to 12 inches of the white stuff sometime tonight and tomorrow here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606.

Thanks be to God.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

274. Inattention to blogs; inattention to government

A month and a week have already passed in the new year - when did that happen and where did it go? Anyone who has been paying attention here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606 is aware I've been lax and inattentive in posting entries and adding new photos. Sooner or later I'll get caught up. But right now, it looks like later is the more likely timeframe for doing so.

I have been a little too busy for my own comfort. I haven't made but one or two trips out into our Commonwealth or over into southern Indiana, which is one short mile away from my home. Even trips to Frankfort, which are typically frequent, have been few, one for a funeral, the other for a party, both of which I've written of in the last few weeks. I know I'll be back up there a few more times in the next few weeks, including on the 1st of March for a meeting of the Kentucky Democratic Party State Central Executive Committee, where I will be proposing to the membership some changes in our State Party By-Laws as they affect Fayette and Jefferson counties. Other By-Law changes will be proposed by the By-Laws Committee affecting the other 118 counties in the Commonwealth. All of these changes have to do with the selection process for Democratic nominees in Special Elections. We've had several in the last few months and at least one more is on the horizon as State Representative Brandon Smith, the recent Republican victor in the 30th Senate race, will be vacating his House seat for a move to the other end of the Capital. The State Committee has been notified of these proposals, and again, they will be discussed at the March 1 meeting.

The night before that meeting, on Leap Year Day, will be the Wendell H. Ford Dinner of the Louisville-Jefferson County Democratic Party, an annual fundraiser for the local Party. The crowd is expected to be addressed by both our Congressman John Yarmuth as well as our Governor Steve Beshear. The messages will probably be a mixed bag - things seem to be improving in the Congress, while back in Kentucky, a downward slide budget-wise is the center of attention, especially in the General Assembly. As I've said in previous entries, until and unless we have across the board tax increases, we will be having fiscal problems for years to come.

Another political event coming up much sooner, this coming Wednesday night, will be an address by the Mayor of Louisville-Jefferson County Metro to the Metro Democratic Club - a repeat and perhaps update to the State of the City address he gave earlier this month. Several things have changed since the initial address, not the least of which is the fiscal standing of our local government. That meeting will be held at 6:30 Wednesday at the UAW Hall on Fern Valley Road in Okolona. Last Thursday night, Metro Council President Jim King addressed the All Wool and a Yard Wide Democratic Club on the Council's Budget Committee discussions, with the Council asking pointed questions about the $9,000,000.00 shortfall the administration has announced the Metro is facing. Councilman King is a successful CPA and banker and fortunately has greater insight into these matters than most of his colleagues and having him there to ask the hard questions and helping to find the honest and needed answers is a good thing.

As you can see, budget shortfalls are the common denominator tying together all levels of government. These shortfalls can be directly attributable to legislators on both sides of the aisle at all levels of governing during the last thirty years who have fallen prey to putting their respective reelections ahead of fiscal responsiblity. Grover Norquist and his minions are winning - they are shrinking the government down to nothing. They are true anarchists. Yet legislators continue to give tax breaks to any number of entities, and many politicians continue to call for tax cuts. We are well past the time when it should have ended - we are now in the transition period from a caring and succesful government of laws, not individuals, to one which is failing at every level - a failing Republic, failing states, and failing local governments. If people want new roads and highways, they are forced to have tolls. If people want better schools, they are forced to have bake sales and car washes. If people want anything, the responsibility has shifted to exactly where the right has wanted it all along - the individual. We have devolved into a government of individuals, where the common ties which bind us are overcome by individual greed, individual wants, and individual control. There is no connect between the ones among us and the many we once were. We are getting the government we wish to pay for and the the government we deserve for our selfish actions over time.

Some day - not soon - maybe twenty or thirty years from now, one of the New York Times Bestseller listed books will be The Rise and Fall of the American Republic. We have been writing the chapters for several decades - all that is left are the closing paragraphs. You need not wait to see the movie - if one of the things you demand in your elected officials is a pledge and delivery of No New Taxes, then you are one of the central characters of the story.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

273. Errors, Omissions, and a whole lot more

Let me start with the “whole lot more” part of the entry, the weather, a favorite subject here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606. Last night’s wasn’t good, neither here nor elsewhere in the Commonwealth and throughout the South. [A note here: Louisville doesn’t really claim to be in the South except during the Kentucky Derby Festival weeks in April and early May. We’ve carved out a niche in some fantasy-land, somewhere between the South and the Midwest, the delineating line being somewhere around the Watterson Expressway]. But, I digress.

Seven lives are known to have been lost here in Kentucky, in Muhlenberg and Allen counties, both south of Louisville - Allen down on the Tennessee state line. Elsewhere, in other states including our neighbors in Tennessee and Missouri, an additional fifteen lives were taken by a series of storms and tornadoes which passed through during the evening hours yesterday and into the early morning hours today. As I sat and listened to the Tornado Sirens for nearly an hour last night, the temperature rose from the mid-60s to right at 70 degrees, with the warm southerly winds intermingling in a deadly dance with the cooler Midwestern winds. It wasn’t as bad in Louisville last night as it was a week ago, but it was obvious damage was being done here and there. Some local schools are closed from lack of power; also, many roads in Jefferson and the surrounding counties are closed from downed trees and power lines. As those families who lost members last night begin to pick up the pieces today, it is well to keep them in our thoughts and in our prayers.

Weather wasn’t the only thing blowing Change into America last night. We had elections, 24 of them if you count American Samoa, which was won by Hillary Clinton.

Ok, now for the E&O part of the essay. I blew the call on Super Dooper Tuesday with my proclamation that by the end of the night United States Senator Hillary Clinton could begin her Fall campaign against United States Senator John McCain in her quest to become the 44th Commander-In-Chief of our Republic. It seems the race is still on, although she currently holds a slight lead in the delegate count, but neither she nor United States Senator Barack Obama are anywhere near the 2,025 delegates needed to clinch the Democratic nomination. Obama’s wins in the South, probably somewhat based on race, along with others in the Midwest and the Mountains, with those based on old-fashioned populism, are keeping him well in the race with his chief rival, who won the big states by winning the more traditional voters. As my five faithful readers know, like lots of Americans I’ve wavered back and forth, and at times away from, these two contenders, either one of whom I will gladly support this Fall, and both of whom have the tools necessary to defeat whoever emerges on the other side.

I haven’t said much about the Republican race, but it is clear that John McCain is rather certain to be the nominee for the GOP. Many in the GOP are unhappy with his ascension, but I believe come Election Day, they will come around to his side of the equation. And, after last night’s performance, it is clear that former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, another populist, may have clinched a nomination of his own, but not one he was seeking or will admit to winning, that of the #2 spot on the GOP ticket this fall. I still think Hillary will be the Democratic nominee although that seems a little further from reach today moreso than yesterday. But again, it is my belief that on January 20, 2009, the day the Junta currently in control of the Nation’s Residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, is forced to vacate, it will be a family of Democrats who move in.

Political winds were shaking last night here in the Commonwealth as well, as three Special Elections were held, two of which went to the Democrats, both in the already-Democratic-controlled House of Representatives. But in the Republican Senate, where we really needed a win, we didn’t get it. The 30th Senate District, recently vacant due to the election of former Senator Dan Mongiardo as Lieutenant Governor, should have been a win for the Democrats. The selection of a candidate was mired in undue controversy, controversy mostly based upon objections filed by the person who didn’t get the nomination. But the nomination process was made According to Hoyle, following all the rules, including an appeal to the State Party, an appeal I was a part of. The eventual Democratic candidate was strongly supported by both the governor and the lieutenant governor (who formerly served the area), but to no avail. Brandon Smith, a Republican member of the House of Representatives won the seat, giving the GOP a 22-15-1 lead in the State Seante, and will vacate his House seat, maybe sometime today when the Secretary of State certifies the votes. The only good news in the scenario is that no Republican filed to claim Smith’s current seat in the House. There will however be yet another Special Election for that seat, to serve out the present term which runs through the end of this year, and it is one we need to preserve between now and then.

Finally, I spent the greater part of last night 55 miles up the road, ending up at a Grand Fete sponsored by the Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government (as well as several Louisville-area corporate citizens) honoring with grand offers of food and libations the members of the General Assembly, currently in session in Frankfort. The event was held at the Thomas Clark Kentucky History Center on Broadway in downtown Frankfort. Before arriving there, I had visited some friends over in the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security, which makes its home in the Transportation Cabinet building, Kentucky’s homage to glass and metal set against the Fort Hill side of the city. Leaving the KOHS, I wandered over to one of my favorite Frankfort haunts, the Kentucky Coffeehouse where Eric the barista sold me a cup of strong hot coffee and I made my way toward the back of the coffee shop, whose walls are lined with old books and tomes offered for reading and for sale. The coffee shop is connected to the Poor Richard’s Bookstore, a Carmichael’s type of place on the south side of Broadway. I’ve written about both of these before. The section of books toward the back, where I usually take my seat, are Civil War histories, along with other older books, many out of print for many years.

I joined Assistant Jefferson County Attorney Patrick Mulvihill for the grand fete, a block to the east. Any thing you could have wanted to eat or drink was available – it was a very well catered event. I especially liked the crab ragoons, the roast beef, the seven kinds of dessert, the shrimp (big and a little spiced) – lots of stuff. I had one or two (or three or five) of most everything, all paid for by my local tax dollars at work. The room was addressed by the Chief Magistrates of the governments of both Louisville-Jefferson County Metro and the Commonwealth, each lavishing praise upon the other for their work, but each also acknowledging the budget shortfalls of their respective governments. The Mayor had earlier in the day announced an additional $9,000,000.00 shortfall locally, closing public swimming pools and taking away some city-owned car driving priveleges. Deleting the cars is minor – closing public pools is a major blow. Pools and the parks they are usually in are special places for Louisville’s teen and younger population in the Summer. The pools the mayor chose to close tend to be in minority areas of the City, minorities who otherwise often do not have the luxury of even a three foot above ground pool when the temperatures rise in July, August, and September.

In each of their speeches, the two leaders said we will make it through these crises and on to better days ahead. Each promised to do so within of the confines of their respective current revenue streams. Neither wants to be labeled as a tax-raiser. It is my opinion that neither is being entirely realistic.

This is the hard part of governing. Eventually there comes a time when one has to make the very hard decision to raise taxes. Eventually one has to decide if one wishes to be fiscally responsible or fiscally conservative. Some people believe those two phrases mean the same thing. In times of surpluses, they might. In times of deficits, they may. And then there are times they are totally unrelated. We are living in these latter times.

Being fiscally responsible when the cupboard is bare means to be fiscally responsive, taking actions which infuse the revenue stream with real dollars, not dollars offset here by reductions there. For thirty years, since the adoption on June 6, 1978 of Proposition 13 by the voters of California, our governments have slowly but certainly been whittling away, one tax cut at a time, one tax exemption at a time, one set of lay-offs at a time, one set of attrition deleting positions at a time, one set of building delays at a time, one set of job hiring freezes at a time, one set of summer swimming pool closings at a time. And all those incremental abatements of revenues are finally taking a real toll. We are at the end of the era where we can continue to lower taxes, to shrink government, to reduce spending. The latest example in Kentucky is a $17,000,000.00 proposal by Christian County Democratic Senator Joey Pendleton, a friend and good man, who represents among others the military folks at Fort Campbell, both active and retired. This is a proposal which is very well meant, very noble, and very honorable. It would exempt servicemembers from certain state tax obligations. In a time of surplus, this would be a no-brainer. Even in a time of tight budgets, this is something which should somehow – someway be worked into the process. But at a time when the state is $600,000,000.00 or so in debt just this year, with another $400,000,000.00 of debt expected in the next biennial, an additional $17,000,000.00 of debt is something which unfortunately we should not be able to afford. But, I fully expect Senator Pendleton’s measure to pass. And I do not dislike the purposes of the proposal. But, where does the spending stop? When do we spend only what we have? When do we become fiscally responsible?

You will hear conservatives, and some others, say we need to reduce taxes and spending, but they never say exactly where – exactly who it is they want to cut out of the government’s alleged largesse. The scapegoats these days are illegal immigrants (perhaps justly so), the latest in a series of wedge issues, but one which resonates better than many of the others. But, illegal immigrants are said to be about 12,000,000 in number (some of whom are paying taxes, social security, and medicare payments under a stolen or false social security number which they will never get back (and shouldn’t)); 12,000,000 out of the current estimated population of the country of 303,382,716, as of early this morning. That’s a little under 4% of the total, which if totally cut out is not enough to overcome the current federal debt of $9,222,200,545,365.53, again an estimate as of this morning. The current state debt is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The mayor spoke yesterday of local debt of over $9,000,000.00.

The folks who want to say that all of that is caused by payments to illegals are fooling themselves and their pocketbooks. They are looking for an easy out. When your country is $9 Trillion in debt, there is no easy out, and whatever is placed upon the backs of those here illegally is a mere drop in the proverbial bucket. Getting out of debt requires cutting spending, ending borrowing (and its cousin bonding), and raising taxes.

Doing anything less is being fiscally irresponsible. What politician would want to run on a ticket of fiscal irresponsibility?

Saturday, February 2, 2008

272. Sorry, I've been busy

Happy Ground Hog Day. If any of Punxsutawney Phil's Kentucky cousins came out of their holes here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606 this morning, we should brace ourselves for six more weeks of something. I hesitate to say Winter because we haven't had much of that. We have had some scattered snow flurries, a few very cold nights, and a tornado or two (out of season), but we haven't had Winter. We haven't even had a good frost or heavy fog. It is beautiful and sunny here today with a temperature of 29 degrees, very close to Louisville's average temperature for this time of year.

I haven't been posting because, frankly, I've just been busy. I've had a few too many balls up in the air, many more than I can comfortably and effectively handle, which is usually about 1, or maybe 2. So the blog has taken a back seat to some other priorities for the moment, and probably will for a few days.

This being busy has meant I missed out on the Chris Theinemann news, the governor's budget address, the recent maturity and friendliness shown between Obama and Clinton, and McCain's apparent path toward clinching the Republican nomination, something which I think helps out whoever our eventual Democratic nominee is given that a number of Republicans dislike McCain, who, like Romney, has been here and there and everywhere on a number of issues over time, and has repeatedly been antoagonistic towards the Republican Party leadership. He is sort of like a Liebermann, except he is their Leibermann, not ours.

Expect light posting for a few more days, although I am sure that Super Tuesday will at least get me thinking about posting something. I expect Tuesday will bring most of the 2008 presidential campaign to an end, or rather a beginning, as I believe both parties will have a clear picture of who their nominees will be sometime late Tuesday or early Wednesday, nominees I expect to be Clinton and McCain. I am sure if I am wrong, some one will let me know in no uncertain terms.

I will say this about the process. This presidential election has already been way too damn long, and the actual balloting is still nine months hence. I recently wrote about supporting SB3 moving Kentucky's primary date to later in the season, along with its filing date. I still strongly support that, along with its provision to do away with the gubernatiorial run-off. But, I understand an amendment has been added to the bill which would move Kentucky's presidential primary to the First Tuesday in February, Super-Dooper-Stupor Tuesday. This I oppose. All of the states that do not already have an early Primary should band together and set their date sometime later in the season, so as to have an impact. Moving Kentucky in amongst 22 other states and territories, including New York, California, and Illinois, makes no sense. We will become one of the "other states" which also had elections of that day. Adding this provision to that bill strongly lessens my support of it.

But, as they say, the legislative process is akin to making sausages, something I am told ain't pretty.

Tuesday is also Mardi Gras Day. Enjoy.

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.