Archive for January, 2009

The Sun shines bright

They say being close only counts in the game of horse shoes. It’s a shame it doesn’t count in newspaper contests, because we were close for 2008.
Oh, we were so close.
One week ago today most of us from the Sun news staff were at the  Kentucky Press Association’s annual awards dinner at The Galt House in Louisville to receive awards in the Excellence in Kentucky Newspapers contest.
We were hopeful we might win the top honor of General Excellence for small dailies — something that has been one of my main goals since I became managing editor three years ago. We had gotten letters informing us that we had racked up several individual awards, so we thought we just might have a chance this time.
As it turned out, we didn’t win. But we came in second in a crowded field that includes most of the 25 or so dailies in the state. We later learned that we missed getting the big prize by a mere two points.
And not to take anything away from the winner — the Kentucky News Era of Hopkinsville has long been an outstanding paper — but if they hadn’t dropped down into our circulation class (10,000 and under), we would have been first.
We were a little paper of 6,300 going up against a 9,600-circulation daily with greater resources, and still we did well. So I’m proud of my staff and of what we were able to accomplish.
Following is a rundown of the individual awards our folks won in the 2008 contest, which was judged by members of Arizona’s state press association.
Mike Wynn won both first place and an honorable mention in the Best Enterprise or Analytical Story category. The first place was for his investigation into why gas prices in Winchester are almost consistently higher than in neighboring communities. Referring to a character made famous in the 2008 presidential campaign, the judge called the story a “Joe the Plumber talker.”
Katheran Wasson, who recently left the Sun to become the education reporter for The State Journal in Frankfort, won a third place in Best Spot News Coverage for a breaking story about false rumors of a lockdown at George Rogers Clark High School and the alarm those reports caused.
Jenna Mink, who was our KPA intern last summer and is now working as a business reporter for the Daily News in Bowling Green, won second place in Best Business/Agribusiness Story for her feature on Winchester’s coffee shops.
Fred Petke won second place in the Best Sports Column category for three car racing columns he entered.
“The writer’s knowledge and passion for motor sports comes through in his work,” the judge said. “It gives him an expert’s voice without getting bogged down in technical jargon.”
And I won first place for Best Column for three of my entries, including one about state legislator Don Pasley’s Stream Saver Bill.
The judge wrote: “ ‘We Can Save Our Mountains and Streams’ gave me a real feel for Kentucky and for Mr. Patrick’s love of the state and his passion for good stewardship.”
The Sun won two photography awards.
Our staff photographer, James Mann, tied for first place for Best Spot News Photo for one of his shots of a fire last spring at the old Rockwell International building near Yeiser Industrial Park.
Although the judge wasn’t a “fan” of fire photos, this one was an exception. “The contrast and exposure are spot on,” he or she commented.
And Bill Thiry, a freelancer who shoots high school and college sports for the Sun, won second place in Best Sports Picture Essay for some “exciting action shots” of UK’s win over Florida State in last year’s Music City Bowl in Nashville.
In newspaper design, Brittany Griffin, our design editor, garnered three awards.
She won first place for Best Graphic for her illustration of GRC’s No Child Left Behind test score results. The winning entry included charts that accompanied the story, and which were superimposed on an image of a hand with a pencil checking off answers on a sheet.
Brittany won a second place for Best Business/Agribusiness Page, which, the judge noted, included “plenty of local” business news.
The Sun won first place for Best Front Page for three fronts that were submitted as a “Staff” entry, but Brittany designed all of those pages.
The judge said the photos were well cropped, the color reproduction was good, the design made good use of white space and graphics, and the headlines were “eye-catching.”
Finally, I want to mention that, not only did the Sun place in the top three overall, but so did our company’s other three Kentucky newspapers.
Schurz Communication Inc.’s largest daily, The Advocate-Messenger of Danville, won third place in Daily Class 2.
The Jessamine Journal, where I was editor for 11 years before I came to the Sun, won second place in Weekly Class 3 under the leadership of my successor, Mike Moore.
And our smallest paper, The Interior Journal of Stanford, came in third in Weekly Class 2.
I’ll end this by thanking our staff for making us look good, and by pledging to you, our readers, that we will strive for excellence in all that we do.

Contact Randy Patrick at

School officials must compromise

Editor’s note: This is the third and final editorial in a series on goals the Sun supports for our community in 2009.

Henry Clay, Kentucky’s best-known statesman, was known as the Great Compromiser because he could work out agreements between apparently irreconcilable factions.
“Let him who elevates himself above humanity . . . say, if he pleases, ‘I will never compromise’; but let no one who is not above the frailties of our common nature disdain compromise,” he said.
The “frailties of our common nature” would be a polite way to describe the relational problems some members of the Clark County Board of Education have with one another.
In an interview with the Sun in December, Debbie Fatkin, who at the time chaired the board, frankly admitted board members couldn’t get along.
“You know, our focus is supposed to be children, and … more often than not lately … it hasn’t been,” she said. “We are supposed to be the leaders of this district, and many times we sit at this table and we fight.”
A few days later, Dr. Ed Musgrove, Clark County’s superintendent, echoed those words when he explained why he was leaving. He said he wanted the administration to “reclaim a positive, student-centered focus.”
That’s also what the parents and taxpayers of this county want and should demand from the new school board and the next superintendent.
Less fighting and more leadership is what it will take to move this district forward and refocus on the children of Clark County.
The biggest challenge will be the district’s $80 million-plus school facilities plan, which remains unpopular.
The plan, which has been approved by the state and withstood legal challenges, would close rural schools throughout the county that have the highest test scores. Rather than first address the most critical needs — to renovate or replace run-down elementary schools in town — it postpones those needs for years in order to build a new high school, and it greatly increases property taxes at a time when homeowners can ill afford it.
In light of changing economic conditions and declining numbers of students, the plan needs a serious, in-depth review.
Instead of running ahead with the plan just because it was approved months ago, responsible heads should stop and commit to a total re-examination of the plan before advancing any further.
Even if it turns out that it’s too late to scrap the plan and start over again, there are changes the board can make within the existing plan to address the most urgent needs.
Some board members have said they would be open to compromise on changes. That would be a good start.
It is acceptable to have differences of opinion. What is unacceptable is a poisonous atmosphere that results in gridlock and hard feelings.
The Clark County School District has lost two knowledgeable and committed school board members, Ray Shear and Minnie Spangler, who were on opposite sides of the facilities issue. It has also lost a progressive and dedicated superintendent in Musgrove.
What else will this environment of rancor cost us?
Our school district gets the lion’s share of local tax revenue and it has what is arguably the most important role of any local government: caring for our children, who are our future.
With a new school board, there is an opportunity for a new approach of compromise and mutual respect.
Our officials had better seize that opportunity quickly.

Health board right to regulate smoking

Smoking bans in public places don’t prohibit people from smoking, they only prohibit people from making other people breathe smoke.
It really is that simple.
If a smoker lights up in a restaurant or bar, then the non-smoker is faced with a decision they shouldn’t have to make. There are three choices: He can get up and leave without finishing his meal or drink. He can ask the smoker not to smoke, which is an uncomfortable thing to have to do. Or he can sit there quietly and breathe noxious and dangerous fumes.
That isn’t a decision one should have to make when he’s in a place where he has as much right to be as anyone else does.
Also, in these times when it’s so hard to find employment, one shouldn’t have to choose between turning down a job and risking one’s health by working in a place where they are constantly surrounded by smoke that causes cancer, asthmatic or allergic reactions, eye irritation, especially for people who wear contact lenses, and a plethora of other problems.
It just isn’t right.
At one public forum, Winchester lawyer John Rice made a good point. John likes the freedom that comes with riding his motorcycle. But, in a room filled with people, he noted, he couldn’t ride it “in here.”
Smoking regulations don’t violate business owners’ rights any more than do other regulations that protect people’s health in public venues or work places, such as requiring that restaurants be free of rodents and roaches or that newspapers require pressmen to wear hearing protection when they’re operating presses.
There’s no such thing as absolute freedom. Individual rights have to be balanced against other individuals’ rights and the public interest. That’s why we have government.
On Jan. 12, the Clark County Health Department’s new regulation went into place that bans smoking in “all enclosed public places,” including restaurants, bars and businesses.
Now some business owners began circulating a petition demanding that the department cease from enforcing the rule and rescind the regulation.
I applaud the county health board members for doing the right thing, and I’m disappointed that the Clark County Fiscal Court and the Winchester Board of Commissioners didn’t enact a smoking ordinance — leaving the decision to health officials who are not elected by the clear majority of the public who favor the regulation.
As for those circulating the petition, I won’t be critical of their right to express their opinions. But health officials shouldn’t cave to the pressure. It was the popular decision, but more importantly, it was the responsible one.

A statewide smoking ban?

It’s a rare occasion when I see eye-to-eye with Kentucky’s Republican Senate President David Williams on something, but I was pleasantly surprised when I heard him say in a live broadcaston KET that our legislature should consider a statewide smoking ban.
Williams said that having a state ban on smoking in public places would reduce the number of smokers in Kentucky, which is one of the unhealthiest states — in part because of a high rate of smoking.
Reducing smoking would reduce the state’s Medicaid and health insurance burden, which is especially important now with the state facing a budget crisis. But it might be a hard sell in the country’s second-largest burley tobacco-producing state.
While he’s at it, Williams should support a state cigarette tax increase — for the same reasons.


Obama a socialist?

President Obama's election inspired many Americans.

One of the most poignant moments for me as I watched the news coverage today of President Barack Obama’s inauguration was an interview on PBS with a young black woman who couldn’t stop crying.

“I have a little boy …” she said, and now he can be “what he’s supposed to be.” His aspirations, she explained, don’t have to be limited to being a rapper or a basketball player.

Certainly there are other good African-American male role models in public service. Gen. Colin Powell, Georgia Congressman John Lewis and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick come to mind. But for a black man become president of the United States and leader of the free world tells young people of color that there is no longer any limit to what one can achieve.

'This is our story'

It is time to put away childish things like racism.

When I was a child growing up in the 1960s, I was aware of racial prejudice. But it was usually more subtle here in Kentucky than in the South.
I remember, as a young boy, vacationing with my family in Georgia and hearing a white man tell my father his motel was a good one because he didn’t allow “nigras” to stay there.
We didn’t stay there either.
When I was a child, our teacher at Central Elementary told us some black students would be transferring to our school and we must treat them as we would other children. Kids now might ask, “Why wouldn’t we?” But this was a different time.
I thought about these things Monday night while attending the celebration at First Baptist Church on Highland Street after Winchester’s Martin Luther King Day Unity March. The guest speaker was Dr. John Owen, pastor of First Baptist Church on Lexington Avenue.
Owen noted that many towns like Winchester have two First Baptist churches because of race. But it doesn’t matter who’s first, he said, what matters is “who’s faithful.”
A fourth-generation Baptist preacher, Owen recalled growing up in segregated Georgia, and later, in Lexington. He told about the Boston Celtics’ visit to Lexington in 1961. The team was denied service at a hotel restaurant, but when coach Red Auerbach was summoned, the manager relented, explaining that he didn’t know the men were players for the Celtics.
The legendary Bill Russell, who was part of the team, said however, that if his black brothers in Lexington weren’t allowed to eat there, the Celtics wouldn’t either, and they wouldn’t play there.
When I returned home last night, I read about a similar incident involving a young white man. In his book, “The Audacity of Hope,” President Barack Obama recalls that one of his field directors, Robert Stephan, was invited to join a social club in Alton, Ill. When he observed there were no black men among the 50 in the room, he was told it was a private club and that no blacks were allowed. Stephan folded his napkin, got up and walked out.
“I suppose I could spend my time brooding “ over that incident, Obama wrote, but “I don’t want to confer on such bigotry a power it no longer possesses.”
It is an act of maturity to walk away from what we know is wrong. In his sermon last night, Owen spoke about the transformation that comes with repentance and quoted the Apostle Paul, who said, “When I was a child … I thought as a child, but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
Childish things like racism, Owen added.
This afternoon, when our nation’s first African American president gave his inaugural address, he quoted the same scripture, saying we are a young country, but the world is changing, and “the time has come to set aside childish things.”
“The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit,” he said, “to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.”
I’m especially proud of my country on this day.
As John Owen said in his sermon last night, our dark past and the progress we’ve made in overcoming injustice isn’t only an African-American story. “This is our story,” he said.
I believe we are beginning a bright chapter of our story. These are hard times and we face hard challenges at home and abroad, but we’ve faced harder ones in the past and persevered. We will again.
I am especially hopeful this day about our country’s future.
We are putting aside childish things, making real those ideals we’ve always said we believe in and stood for but didn’t always live out, and becoming who we ought to be.

Industry isn't the only key to growth

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of editorials about The Winchester Sun’s goals for our community for 2009.

For a small town, Winchester has had some big successes in industry.
From the Ale 8 One Bottling Co., which has been a local, family-owned institution for more than 80 years, to the Japanese automotive firm Sekisui, which is a welcome new addition to our economy, Winchester has an impressive record of attracting and keeping industrial companies.
There will be other opportunities to build on that record. At present, city and county officials are working with the state and Eastern Kentucky University to attract an innovative project that would use non-food crops, such as switchgrass, to produce clean, affordable alternative fuel. It has the potential to provide jobs and revenue, and help struggling farmers. It would cost local government little and involve not much risk.
But other industrial development projects can involve considerable risks, as local leaders learned the hard way a generation ago with the Rockwell International truck axle plant, which, after years of labor disputes and other problems, left town and left elected officials with a big empty shell of a factory building.
In recent years, the Winchester-Clark County Industrial Development Authority, along with city and county governments, has worked to recruit small industries as well as non-industrial firms. They have worked together with other groups to try to recruit restaurants and retailers, expand existing businesses and redevelop shopping centers. They’ve even been involved in efforts to revitalize downtown, where some of the smallest businesses are located.
But small is good. Small businesses collectively employ more Americans than large businesses do, and they’re often rooted in their communities.
That doesn’t mean Winchester shouldn’t go after larger businesses too, but local leaders should be careful about how they assist and what costs are involved.
One recent proposal that appears to hold considerable promise is one to local a $300 million sports and entertainment complex near the 96 Interchange of I-64. The sports arena with a variety of indoor athletic fields and space for developing restaurants, hotels and a movie theater, could provide up to 2,000 construction jobs and, in five years, 1,500 permanent jobs.
The incentive package involves a tax increment finance district, industrial revenue bonds, and a land purchase agreement — all structured so that local governments are “not out any money,” and it’s “all performance-based,” according to Todd Denham, the economic development director.
We encourage our leaders to proceed with caution on both the sports arena and biodiesel plant, and we applaud their efforts to look beyond industry in developing our local economy.
Diversity is the key to stability.

McDonald's Jerry Healy: a model leader

Leadership isn’t about driving people, it’s about leading them.
If more business owners understood that, we would have better labor-management relations and better businesses.
I didn’t know Jerry Healy of McDonald’s (I worked for his competitor, Druther’s, when I was a teenager), but the memories his employees shared with me when I wrote the article last Friday about his passing led me to want to comment on some things I learned about his example as a business leader and philanthropist.
First, every leader should be a philanthropist.
There is no such thing as a “self-made man” (or woman). Everyone benefits from the counsel, example and help of others. And every businessman who is successful, no matter how smart he is or how much initiative he has, owes much of his success to the talent and hard work of his employees and the loyalty of his customers. It is, therefore, important to “give back.”
Mr. Healy seemed to understand this and gave back more than most.
He also understood that loyalty is a two-way street.
Before Southwest Airlines, Starbucks and Google popularized the idea that treating employees decently is good business, Mr. Healy was putting it into practice here.
“He was a firm believer that if you took care of your people, your people would take care of the business,” said Jim Bennett, an area supervisor for Healy’s McDonald’s who began working for the Winchester store as a cook when he was a young man. “He always put his people first.”
Beckey Hollon, who also started as a crew member 30 years ago at the Mount Sterling McDonald’s and worked her way up the corporate ladder, remembered her first day on the job when she was changing trash can liners. Healy saw her outside and said, “Oh, honey, you must be freezing!” and offered her his coat.
That’s the kind of first impression that stays with you — well, for a lifetime.
Mr. Healy cared about quality, and getting things done right the first time. And because he cared about his employees, they cared about those things too.
When was the last time you went to the Winchester McDonald’s and the food was almost fresh or the coffee almost hot, or you got your meal almost on time? No, it’s right every time.
The example Mr. Healy set made an impact all the way down the line.
And getting back to my point about philanthropy, his commitment to his community also made a difference. He supported Clark County Community Services, Operation Happiness, Strode Station Elementary School, the Ronald McDonald House, Winchester-Clark County Christians United Against Drugs and a myriad other causes, and in doing so, made Winchester and Kentucky a better place.
That’s a legacy his family and his company can be proud of.

Randy Patrick is the managing editor of  The Winchester Sun.

Why oppose sports arena?

The proposed $300 million sports arena for Winchester could potentially create 2,000 temporary and 1,500 permanent jobs, spur other development and make this community a more frequent destination for people traveling Mountain Parkway and Interstate 64.

It would provide much-needed revenue for the city, county and school district, and, according to Todd Denham, director of the Winchester-Clark County Industrial Development Authority, it wouldn’t cost local taxpayers anything —at least nothing that wouldn’t be reimbursed by the developer.

“We structured it so we are not committed to anything financially,” Denham told Sun reporter Mike Wynn. “We are not out any money. It’s all performance-based on the developer.”

So I’m puzzled as to why so many of our readers said they’re against the proposed development and incentive plan in an online poll we published last Friday night (and which will be on our Web site until this Friday). As of late this morning, about 65 percent of readers said they were in favor, and 35 percent were opposed to the plan.

The only concerns I personally would have are that if the company doesn’t get the financing, the city and county could be left with a partially completed structure. Or that if it is successful beyond anyone’s dreams, it could  create sprawl.

I wouldn’t want to turn Winchester into a smaller version of Pigeon Forge, but that isn’t likely to happen. This isn’t an amusement park or a NFL stadium we’re talking about here, it’s a youth sports facility with maybe a hotel or two, some restaurants and a theater.

So, let’s start a conversation. If you think this could be a good thing for Winchester, let us know why. Or if you have concerns, please share them here at Newer World. Also, you may write a letter to the editor and send it to me at Just remember that in the print edition of The Winchester Sun, we have to have your name and the name of the city or county where you live.

Consider merging local governments

Editorial, The Winchester Sun, published Jan. 9, 2009

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of editorials on goals the Sun supports for our community in 2009.

You have to hand it to our city and county officials: Rarely have the governments of Winchester and Clark County worked together as well as they have in the past two years, and much of the credit goes to the top leaders who were elected in 2006, Mayor Ed Burtner and County Judge-Executive Henry Branham.
Along with Superintendent of Schools Ed Musgrove, these officials have led an effort to learn what Clark Countians want from local government through a series of public meetings and an extensive survey of their constituents.
What is clear from the 2007 survey is that people want more cooperation among governments, and an overwhelming majority — 84 percent — want officials to study the pros and cons of having a merged city-county government.
However, if you were to gauge public opinion only by recent responses at community meetings in Pilot View and Trapp, you would think most people don’t even want our leaders to think about merger.
For example, at the meeting at Pilot View Elementary School on Dec. 30, one of the reasons Ronnie Mann gave for opposing merger was: “This is the country, and we need the country. The country needs to stay like it is.”
We agree. But having a merged government would make it more, not less likely, that the country would be protected from ugly and costly suburban sprawl.
Just look at Lexington and Fayette County — a community of a quarter of a million people, but one which has more unspoiled farmland, beautiful vistas and a stronger agricultural economy than most of the smaller counties surrounding it. That’s because Lexington does development right.
The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government closely guards its urban service boundary because it knows that the horse farms, Kentucky River Palisades and other natural areas are a big part of what attract residents and businesses to the community.
But in a county where the governments are divided, like ours, there is always the temptation to locate development in rural areas where it doesn’t belong in order to bring in revenue for county government — despite the fact that most developers want the amenities offered by the city and will request annexation.
By having a merged city-county government, you take those issues off the table.
Another resident at the Pilot View meeting, Tommy Rector, said that when he was growing up, a person was either “city or county,” and that’s the way he wants it to stay.
While some may identify themselves as townspeople or country folk, it isn’t really true that we’re two separate communities, even if we have separate governments.
Who in the country doesn’t come into town several times a week to work, shop or eat out?
And who in town doesn’t spend some of their time in the country?
County people benefit from city water lines and sewers, emergency services, industrial development and a wide array of other services. Likewise, city residents are safer because the county provides a jail and a health department and good roads.
Local governments already jointly fund an ambulance service (which is part of the city fire department), planning and zoning, tourism and other services, but it might make more sense for those things to be under the control of a single government. It might result in more efficiency and economy of scale, costing citizens less in the long run.
One legitimate concern rural residents have is that a city-county government would likely cost them more in taxes. But without a study, no one knows how much more. And they must consider what they might get for their tax dollars: more money for roads, more police and fire protection and better land use planning, as well as a greater voice in local government.
Among Bluegrass communities, Winchester and Clark County are unusually situated to be considered for merger. Unlike most counties in the region, Clark has only one incorporated city, located at the center of the county, and we already have many merged boards and services. We could become the first small county in the state to implement something that until now has been limited to big cities: Lexington and Louisville.
We think merger could be a force for progress that would give Winchester and Clark County an advantage over other towns and counties in attracting good economic development, while at the same time preserving our strong agricultural economy.
On the other hand, it may be that merger is not right for Clark County, for reasons that aren’t yet obvious to us. But we won’t know unless there is a thorough, independent study of the issue.
All we’re asking for at this point is more information so that officials and citizens can make a knowledgeable decision rather than deciding based on preconceived notions or gut reactions.
Let’s continue the public meetings in the city and county, but let’s do the study so we’ll know what the advantages and disadvantages, the costs and benefits, will be to the community as a whole.

January 2009
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