Archive for May, 2009

Quote of the day

Former British P.M. Tony Blair

Former Prime Minister Blair

No separation of faith and politics

“One of the oddest questions I get asked in interviews, and I get asked a lot of questions, is: Is faith important to your politics? It’s like asking someone whether their health is important to them or their family. If you are someone ‘of faith,’ it is the focal point of belief in your life. There is no conceivable way that it wouldn’t affect your politics.”

— Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, in a speech detailing the role of faith in his political career. (Source: Los Angeles Times)

WMU should rescind manager's raise

Editorial, The Winchester Sun, May 28

Whether or not Winchester Municipal Utilities’ general manager, Vernon Azevedo, has done his work well isn’t the issue.
What has so many people in Winchester steamed is the obscene magnitude of the pay raise his board gave him at a time when WMU’s employees and the town’s rate payers are being asked to make sacrifices.
That and the secretive way it was done.
The Sun learned several days ago that Azevedo had gotten a nearly 60 percent increase in his salary last year without the public or even the two ex-officio members of the utilities board, Mayor Ed Burtner and City Commissioner Shannon Cox, knowing anything about it.
It came to light only because City Commissioner Dennis Wallace filed an open records request for WMU employees’ salaries.
Wallace called the action “the most despicable thing” he had ever seen and “absolutely appalling.”
It was, he said, a betrayal of Cox and Burtner.
It also was a betrayal of WMU’s customers and employees — and of the public trust.
The decision, which was authorized individually by members of the commission between Sept. 16 and Sept. 22, raised the manager’s salary from $51.75 to $81.73 an hour.
What, it is reasonable to ask, could Azevedo have done to justify a $30-an-hour raise in one year?
First, let’s look at the record.
WMU is about to raise its water and sewer rates by about 70 percent, in part to pay for long overdue repairs and new line construction, building new water and sewage treatment plants, and complying with an out-of-court settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency, which sued the quasi-governmental corporation over the poor condition of its infrastructure.
In fairness, other cities across the state with deteriorating old sewer lines are also having to meet EPA mandates, and Winchester deserves some credit for negotiating a settlement with the federal agency rather than going to court.
However, if WMU and city officials had been more farsighted, they would have gradually increased rates each year instead of forcing customers to take such a big hit all at once.
There’s enough blame to go around, but if the company’s top executive couldn’t sell his board or the city commission on the necessity of making incremental rate adjustments to improve the water and sewer systems, then some of it must be his fault.
The pay decision could not have come at a worse time. In case no one at WMU has noticed, this country is in the most severe economic crisis since the Great Depression.
WMU workers have been told that, like most employees, they won’t be getting a pay increase this year.
What kind of message does it send to a meter reader or equipment operator or office assistant to say they’re going to have to do without, while their boss will get an extra $60,000 or so a year?
How could anyone think that’s fair or reasonable?
Wallace is right. It is despicable. And it must be corrected.
We commend Wallace for investigating the matter, WMU board member William Baker for opposing the pay increase (after the board got caught and voted publicly to ratify its earlier decision), and the city commission for demanding on Wednesday that the pay raise be rescinded. Maybe they should demand much more.
For everyone, though, who had a role in this decision to give the WMU manager a mammoth salary increase at such a difficult time for our community, we say, shame on you.

Clark County's history worth preserving

Holly Rood, Gov. James Clark's mansion

Holly Rood, Gov. James Clark's mansion

Our county is rich in history.

Named for Revolutionary War hero George Rogers Clark in 1792, when Kentucky became a state, Clark County is where Daniel Boone surveyed the Land of Tomorrow and saw that it held promise.

Kentucky’s great statesman, Henry Clay, first practiced law and argued his last case before a jury at the Clark County Courthouse.
The county has been home to four governors, including James Clark, the father of our state’s public schools.

Before English colonists settled here, Eskippakithiki was a great Shawnee trading post, and 150 years later, Winchester was also a bustling commercial center, with three railroads crossing the city and many languages being spoken by the European and Middle Eastern immigrants who came in droves to find work.

Clark County has its peculiar history as well. It is reputed to be the birthplace of beer cheese and fried banana peppers, and it has long had its own signature soft drink, Ale 8 One. During the Second World War, it was an important producer of hemp, which has long since been illegal.

Winchester is where President Harry Truman visited during his 1948 whistle stop campaign and where George C. Scott filmed the 1967 classic, “The Flim Flam Man.” It is the birthplace of the dean of White House reporters, Helen Thomas, and was the home of musical legend John Jacob Niles.

There is so much tradition here and so much worth saving — not only the stories, but also the material connections to our past.

Clark County has done much to preserve and restore its history in brick and stone. Main Street in Winchester has one of the finest collections of late 19th century Victorian storefronts in Kentucky. Gov. James Clark’s mansion, Holly Rood, has been saved, along with part of the historic Guerrant Hospital, the old Colbyville Tavern, the Leeds Theatre and the Winchester Opera House.

Yet much has been lost: the railroad depot on Main Street, stately farmhouses erected when the republic was young and brick sidewalks, for example. It’s ironic that at the moment a meeting on historic preservation was taking place at the Bluegrass Heritage Museum a couple of years ago, the grand old White House on Wynn Avenue was being torn down.

The McEldowney House

The McEldowney House

Still other treasures are threatened: the McEldowney House, rock fences constructed by Irish stonemasons and African American farm hands in the early 1800s, tobacco barns and Indian Old Fields, an archaeological gold mine of ancient Native American culture.

Fortunately, there are groups such as the Clark County/Winchester Heritage Commission, the Winchester Historic Preservation Commission, Winchester First and the Winchester-Clark County Tourism Commission that are working to preserve our architectural heritage.

They need our support.

During May, which is National Historic Preservation Month, the Sun has been publishing a series of articles focusing attention on public and private efforts to save our history.

There are also opportunities individuals can take advantage of to preserve their own property, such as the tax credits available to those who own older homes in the 19th century Thomson Addition or the downtown historical district.

Although most historical property is owned by families, in another way, our architectural history is something we should all take ownership of and help preserve in whatever ways we can.

Randy Patrick is the managing editor of The Winchester Sun. Contact him at rpatrick@winchestersun.com.

Quote of the day

“The man who thinks only of his own salvation is as good as a coal drawn out of the fire.” — James Jones, from “The Thin Red Line”

No greater love

Camp Nelson National Cemetery, Jessamine County, Kentucky.

Camp Nelson National Cemetery, Jessamine County, Kentucky.

On this Memorial Day I am eternally grateful for those who, through the ages, have given their lives to make our country and our world freer and more secure.

The following poem by Walt Whitman was included in “Leaves of Grass” in 1871.

“Dirge for Two Veterans”

The last sunbeam
Lightly falls from the finish’d Sabbath,
On the pavement here—and there beyond, it is looking,
Down a new-made double grave.

Lo! the moon ascending!
Up from the east, the silvery round moon;
Beautiful over the house tops, ghastly phantom moon;
Immense and silent moon.

I see a sad procession,
And I hear the sound of coming full-key’d bugles;
All the channels of the city streets they’re flooding,
As with voices and with tears.

I hear the great drums pounding,
And the small drums steady whirring;
And every blow of the great convulsive drums,
Strikes me through and through.

For the son is brought with the father;
In the foremost ranks of the fierce assault they fell;
Two veterans, son and father, dropt together,
And the double grave awaits them.

Now nearer blow the bugles,
And the drums strike more convulsive;
And the day-light o’er the pavement quite has faded,
And the strong dead-march enwraps me.

In the eastern sky up-buoying,
The sorrowful vast phantom moves illumin’d;
(’Tis some mother’s large, transparent face,
In heaven brighter growing.)

O strong dead-march, you please me!
O moon immense, with your silvery face you soothe me!
O my soldiers twain! O my veterans, passing to burial!
What I have I also give you.

The moon gives you light,
And the bugles and the drums give you music;
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,
My heart gives you love.

Quote of the day

“A lie can go halfway around the world before the truth even gets its boots on.”

— Mark Twainmarktwain

Give the newspaper credit

radio-microphoneOne reason newspapers are indispensable to journalism is that we do most of the news gathering, whether it’s at the local or global level. Most of the leg work is done by our reporters and then our work is picked up by broadcasters — often through the Associated Press — and by aggregator Web sites.
That’s to be expected. What gripes me, though, is that we seldom get credit for it.
There’s an area radio station, for example, that gets most of its Clark County news from the Sun and never tells where they got it.
It was funny when, one day this week, a man called to politely complain about a mistake in one of our stories. He had heard it on the radio, and told me: “They get their news from you,” he said.
The listeners aren’t fools.
So I would ask these radio “personalities”: If you’re going to take our work without asking, please at least mention the name of our business in your newscast.

Randy Patrick is the managing editor of The Winchester Sun. Contact him at rpatrick@winchestersun.com

Shearer kids and the future of journalism

newspaperIn these troubled times for the business of journalism, it’s encouraging to learn of the launch of a new newspaper.
Last week I had the privilege of talking with members of the staff of the new Shearer Shark, and giving them and their teacher, Deborah Walker, a tour of The Winchester Sun building. I was impressed that these fourth- and fifth-graders from Shearer Elementary School had the traits necessary for being good journalists: inquiring minds and a lack of bashfulness about asking questions.
I also gave them a tour of the Sun online and was pleased to learn that they already knew plenty about the Web, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and so forth.
It makes me think the future for this profession is brighter than the pessimists would have us believe.

Healthy choice for Winchester

Google.com

Google.com

There’s a time to test the waters and a time to dive right in.
Clark County and Winchester officials have taken some criticism for their decision to fund the indoor pool project at College Park during a time of economic uncertainty and tight budgets. But they did the right thing by approving the funding for the pool and making a big splash this week with the groundbreaking.
It was time for our community to come up with its share of the funding for this much-needed recreational facility or lose the state’s $1.4 million matching gift that will pay for almost half of the estimated $3.3 million cost. The Winchester Board of Commissioners and Clark County Fiscal Court will make payments to cover a Kentucky League of Cities loan for the balance.
Anything that contributes to good health is a good investment, and an indoor public pool will provide a year-round opportunity for low-impact exercise, including physical therapy that will benefit the elderly, injured and handicapped. It also will provide a place for competitions that could benefit the community by bringing in visitors.
After so much time, planning, money and effort had gone into this project, it would have been penny-wise and pound-foolish to have let this opportunity pass. Our elected officials should be commended for having the vision to see this through.

The conservative difference

Liberty and justice

Liberty and justice for all.

“The measure of social justice is the welfare of individuals, not the interests of the majority or the working out of impersonal political goals like socialist equality or absolute human autonomy and choice. Individuals are eternal, valuable and ultimately more important than any ideology of the left or right.” — Michael Gerson, Washington Post columnist and former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, from his book, “Heroic Conservatism.”

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