Archive for May, 2011

Reflections on Kentucky's election

Judge James Hillary Mulligan famously wrote that politics are the darnedest in Kentucky. Actually, he used a different word that rhymes with “grandest” in his 1902 poem “In Kentucky,” but if I used that word in print, my mother would be disappointed, so I’ve opted for the sanitized version.

Speaking of Mom, she likes to know who I’m voting for so she can be for the other person, because she likes to back a winner. There was some validity to that view back in the days when I favored liberals like Ted Kennedy, George McGovern and Michael Dukakis, but I’ve had a good track record myself in recent years. Not so this time.

In Tuesday’s election, with the exception of Senate President David Williams, who narrowly won the primary contest for governor, every candidate I voted for in the Republican primary lost.

In the secretary of state’s race, I was for Hilda Legg, who served in the administration of President George H.W. Bush because I thought she was about a thousand times more qualified than Bill Johnson, a substitute teacher, who wound up winning.

In the contest for state auditor, I voted for Addia Wuchner, a sensible state representative, who lost to a bankrupt house builder John T. Kemper III.

And for commissioner of agriculture, I picked Shelby County Judge-Executive Rob Rothenberger because: a.) he has worked for the Department of Agriculture before, and b.) he isn’t a tea party libertarian. But the tea party guy, James Comer, a state representative, won.

John F. Lackey, Democratic candidate for commissioner of agriculture.

If I had been registered as a Democrat, I would have lost most of those contests, too. I favored Elaine Walker, our current appointed secretary of state, over Alison Lundergan Grimes, mostly because the Democratic Party machine was for Lundergan, the daughter of former party chief Jerry Lundergan, who has had some ethics issues.

I would have voted for Treasurer Todd Hollenbach because I don’t know who Steve Hamrick is, and I tend to support experienced incumbents unless they give me reason not to support them.

In the race for agriculture commissioner, I was disappointed that my old friend John Lackey, of Richmond didn’t win his party’s nomination. If you herded all the ag guys into one place, John, a lawyer and former state senator, would be the smartest guy in the room. He’s the only farmer I know who has degrees from William & Mary, Harvard, Yale and UK Law, yet is about as unpretentious and down-to-earth as they come.

Alas, in Kentucky, it’s the “thoroughbreds,” not the elected officials, who are “the fleetest.”

Same name game 1

Among the oddities of Tuesday’s primary are two involving names. One is the candidate Democrats chose to succeed our farm commissioner, Richie Farmer, is also a farmer named Farmer — Bob Farmer. The other is that, although there were so few names on the ballot this time, two of them were the same: David Williams.

One of those is the Republican candidate for governor whom everyone knows. The other is a guy we should know, because he runs every year for something: Democrat David Williams of Glasgow. I have a theory that 90 percent of those who vote for that David Williams think they’re voting for the other one.

Same name game 2

Judging by the turnout at the board meeting, the contest that was all but forgotten Tuesday was an important one: for naming the new high school. The Louisville carpetbagger, George Rogers Clark, won that race by a landslide. Congratulations to the general.

David Williams for governor

Editorial, The Winchester Sun, May 16

For nearly its entire history, Kentucky has been controlled by the Democratic Party.

We often send Republicans to Washington and vote for them in presidential elections, but when it comes to state government, the party of Andrew Jackson has ruled the statehouse except for brief periods.

Senate President David Williams, shown here with Ray Shear and state Rep. Donna Mayfield, both Winchester Republicans, is his party's most qualified choice to be governor and would give Gov. Steve Beshear a strong challenge in November. Sun photo by Randy Patrick

One-party rule didn’t work any better for Kentucky than for Cuba or Mexico, and for the same reasons. When one party controls government, politicians see the people’s money as their own, and use it to help themselves and their friends, creating an environment that discourages entrepreneurship and initiative.

In Kentucky, that model changed 12 years ago when the Republicans took control of the state Senate. The man who had been most instrumental in maintaining that control and being an effective leader of the Senate and his party is President David Williams.

The Burkesville attorney has been accused of being dictatorial and vindictive — and he can be. He doesn’t suffer fools, and he knows he has to be tough when dealing with the two branches of government that have more control over the purse strings — the House of Representatives and the governor. Yet he can also be gracious and accommodating, according to Democrats who have worked closely with him, such as House Speaker Greg Stumbo.

That’s important. The tea party movement, which is most closely associated in this Republican governor’s race with Louisville businessman Phil Moffett, takes pride in its reputation for being unyielding. Yet radicals, while they may make some noise, seldom make policy. Getting things done means knowing when to stand firm, and when and how to compromise. That is one of the things that make political tacticians like Mitch McConnell and Bill Clinton so effective.

David Williams is that kind of leader. He is one of the smartest people in Frankfort, and knows state government better than almost anyone. Like McConnell, Williams was once regarded as a moderate, and has moved to the right as his party has. But he is no ideologue. He has asserted in this campaign that he has halted hundreds of millions of dollars in tax increases, yet, like Ronald Reagan, he has voted for taxes when it was fiscally responsible to do so, such as when he voted for higher levies on cigarettes and alcohol in 1999. He supported the Kentucky Education Reform Act 20 years ago because he was disturbed by the inequality of resources for the state’s schools, but he has also been critical of parts of education reform that didn’t work well, and, for example, had a role in doing away with an inefficient state testing system.

As governor, William’ top priority would be to reduce wasteful spending and state taxes on corporate and personal income in order to make Kentucky more business-friendly and improve economic development and living standards. But he would do it in a prudent way, not by taking a meat ax to public education and infrastructure projects that are necessary to development. He has said he would appoint an independent commission to look at how to reform the state’s outdated tax system. These are things that must happen in order to improve our economy.

We don’t agree with Williams on every issue. We’re troubled by his unqualified support for Kentucky’s coal industry and criticism of the EPA when it’s evident that the tragedy of mountaintop removal mining is polluting our streams and destroying our landscapes. We know that coal, while necessary in the short term, cannot be the energy source of the future. We also think his opposition to expanded gambling at race tracks hurts Kentucky’s signature thoroughbred racing industry. It’s also apparent now that he made an embarrassing mistake in choosing our spendthrift commissioner of agriculture, Richie Farmer, as his running mate.

On the other hand, we are pleased with his advocacy of a statewide smoking ban for indoor public places, adult education and literacy, criminal justice reform to reduce spending for incarceration, and most of all, a fiscally conservative approach to taxes and spending.

Moffett and the other Republican candidate in the governor’s race, Bobbie Holsclaw, have impressive records of achievement. But neither has the experience in government that Williams has. The senator stands head and shoulders above the other two candidates in qualifications for the job, and he offers Republicans the strongest challenge, in the general election, to Democratic incumbent Gov. Steve Beshear, who is unopposed in the Democratic primary, along with running mate Jerry Abramson.

There has been little attention to, or interest in, the other primary contests on next Tuesday’s ballot, and we have chosen not to offer endorsements for the other statewide offices.

In the Republican primary for governor, though, the choice couldn’t be clearer. We strongly urge Clark County Republicans to vote for David Williams.

Changing school's name is not a Cardinal sin

The thought that school officials would even consider the possibility of naming the new high school something other than George Rogers Clark has some seeing red.

At the risk of ruffling scarlet feathers, though, I can’t not offer a few words on the matter.

Things can get really confusing when the Clark County Cardinals play the Scott County Cardinals. Could it be that there are too many teams called the Cardinals? There are 10 high schools in Kentucky that have the Cardinal as their mascot, as well as the University of Louisville. Isn't it time we come up with something a little more original? Sun photo by Bill Thiry

First, there’s been a lot of misinformation about this issue.

GRC students have been insulted that “nobody asked” their opinion. That isn’t true.

What started this whole debate was that the school board did ask — everybody, including students, to offer their suggestions for what to name the school currently under construction.

The fact that they received more than 50 different suggested names from more than 5,000 responses online and on paper indicates that the preference for the name George Rogers Clark High School is far from unanimous.

Also, the 19-member committee formed to review those suggestions includes five students, five parents and only six staff members. So the students and parents of students have a huge advantage.

Of course, it’s ultimately the school board’s decision. But the way I see it, asking for the community’s input was quite considerate. Wasn’t it?

The most absurd allegation I’ve heard is that it’s all a ruse, and the board will name the school for one of its own members.

If those who are spreading that rumor had bothered to read the Sun, they would know that if the school is named for a person, it must be someone who is either “famous in the history of Winchester or Clark County” or a prominent national figure.

That would exclude any Clark Countian who is now living.

It should also exclude Gen. George Rogers Clark because, although he was famous, he was not famous “in the history of Clark County.”

Clark, a Revolutionary War hero and the founder of Louisville, had no connection to our county except for the fact that they named it for him.

I think the confusion is that people get him mixed up with Gov. James Clark, who was a Clark Countian, and who basically established the public schools in Kentucky. He would be an excellent choice for someone to name a school for, but I’ve put that idea out there, and it’s gotten no response.

So, in a column I wrote for April 28, I suggested that the school be named Clark County High School — because that’s what most people  (incorrectly) call it. And we could keep the Cardinal mascot and the red-and-white colors, which are holdovers from the old Clark County High School that existed before 1963, when it merged with the former Winchester High.

“Clark County Cardinals” has a nice alliteration, and it’s been long enough since the two schools merged that it wouldn’t be politically incorrect now to restore the old name and tradition.

My main argument was that there is a disconnect between the name of the school, for a hero of the Revolution, and the Cardinal mascot and colors.

If we’re going to keep the name George Rogers Clark High School, we should come up with a new mascot and colors that have some relation to the general for whom the school is named.

George Rogers Clark was a general in the United States Army during the American Revolution who led a force of mostly Kentucky militiamen against the British and Shawnees in Indiana, where he later lived. The Continental soldiers' theme, or a Kentucky frontiersman theme would be a more fitting one for a school named for George Rogers Clark than would the Cardinal, which has no relevance to the name at all. Photo by The Vancouver Sun.

The name Generals is already taken by Lafayette High. But we could call ourselves the Patriots, Pioneers or the Militia — something that has a historical connection to the men  of Kentucky whom Gen. George Rogers Clark led into battle against the British and Shawnees in the Revolutionary War. And we could change the school colors to royal blue and white with a dash of red — the colors of the Continental army during the Revolution.

But the “Cardinals” theme has no relevance to “George Rogers Clark.” They don’t match. One or the other should be changed.
If we were to keep the name George Rogers Clark and and adopt a Continental army/militia theme, it would be fitting because Clark County has a strong tradition of honoring the military.

Besides, there are nine other high schools and a university in Kentucky that have a Cardinal mascot. The name “Cardinals” is so common it’s boring.

A name like the Militia or the Long Knives would be original, and anyone reading such a name in a headline would have no doubt what school the article was about.

Originality, consistency and historical relevance are preferable to the hodepodge of names and themes our high school has now.

In business, they call it “branding.” Our high school currently has so many different brands, some of them holdovers from the old Winchester and Clark County schools, that others would be justified in thinking we don’t know who we are.

We should change that. This is our opportunity.

America the resolute

Three days after the Al Qaeda attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 killed nearly 3,000 people in New York City, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., President George W. Bush stood with firefighters on the ruins of the World Trade Center and offered words of encouragement.

President George W. Bush with firefighter Bob Beckwith at the site of the World Trade Centers: "The world hears you."

He told those gathered that Americans were “on bended knee, in prayer for the people whose lives were lost here, for the workers who work here, for the families who mourn …”

A rescue worker shouted: “I can’t hear you!” Then the president uttered the words that resounded around the world: “I can hear you! “I can hear you, the rest of the world hears you, and the people who knocked down these buildings will hear from all of us soon,” he said.

He kept that promise. Within weeks, America was at war against Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda network and Afghanistan’s Taliban regime, which allowed the terrorists to use the mountainous country as a base of operations and hiding place. American and coalition troops quickly overthrew the Taliban while going after Al Qaeda and its allies around the world.

There were other terrorist attacks — in Mumbai, Madrid, Instanbul, Bali, London and Fort Hood, Texas — but we had the initiative, and have made significant gains. We captured or killed many of Al Qaeda’s leaders, including Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was behind the attacks in Iraq, and Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, believed to be the mastermind of 9/11.

President Barack Obama at Fort Campbell, Ky.: "We are still the America that does the hard things."

On May 1, six Navy SEALS scored the biggest victory yet in the war on terror when they found and raided Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, killed him and captured a treasure trove of intelligence that should aid us in dismantling his operation.

It was another promise kept.

President Barack Obama had said as a candidate in 2008 that if he had “actionable intelligence” that Osama bin Laden was hiding out in Pakistan, he would unilaterally send in American troops and kill him. And that’s exactly what he did.

In the short term, there will be reprisals, we can be sure. Al Qaeda has promised to turn America’s happiness into sorrow. In the long run, though, this event will be huge in undermining a movement that runs on emotionalism.

When he was in Kentucky last week, speaking to soldiers at Fort Campbell and meeting privately with Navy SEALS and Army helicopter pilots who were involved in the operation, President Obama assured our troops: “We are going to succeed in this mission.”

“We are still the America that does the hard things,” he said.

It has been hard, and the cost great. As of May 8, 1,572 Americans have given their lives in Operation Enduring Freedom (the war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban) and 4,452 more have died in the Iraq war. Tens of thousands have been wounded. Our allies have also lost thousands of troops. We have had to sacrifice civil liberties, and the war on terror has cost us more than a trillion dollars.

The alternative, though, would be far worse: a world where evil reigns and innocent people live in fear. So we must continue the fight, and we must honor and support our military men and women, intelligence operatives, homeland security personnel and others who are protecting us and crushing this threat.

Ten years after President Bush sent a message to our enemies, our current commander in chief — and those Navy SEALS — sent another message: America’s resolve is strong. We will never surrender.

Clark voters voice concerns about Farmer

Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer, left, and Senate President David Williams, right, are polling as the Republican frontrunners for lieutenant governor and governor in Kentucky's primary.

Richie Farmer wasn’t in Winchester Thursday morning, but had he been, he would have had some questions to answer about his spending.

David Williams had to sub for him.

Williams, who is the state Senate president and a Republican candidate for governor, was at the Dairy Queen on Main Street as part of the Williams-Farmer bus tour that began this week. The candidate praised Farmer for his work as the state’s agriculture commissioner and apologized for him Farmer not being there to meet the voters.

“Mr. Farmer’s running a little late,” Williams said. “He had to deliver one of his kids to school. [The kid] got up a little colicky this morning, evidently, but he’ll be here in a few minutes, I’m sure.”

Farmer never showed up.

Williams, however, praised his running mate for his promotion of agriculture and said that Farmer’s leadership of the Kentucky Proud marketing program had substantially increased farmers’ income. He also said these past few weeks have been tough for Kentucky farmers because of heavy flooding, especially in the western part of the state.

After a brief talk to constituents, Williams asked if anyone in the audience had any questions, and just as he was thanking the people for coming, Roy Bates said he had one.

“I’m not being negative, but I’m concerned … about this business about Richie staying in those hotels 15 miles from home, and that kind of thing,” Bates said. “I just would like to hear you clarify that myself.”

Farmer has recently come under criticism for spending hundreds of dollars on hotel rooms while attending the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville and the boys Sweet Sixteen basketball tournament in Lexington, and for not paying taxes on personal use of state vehicles for years. Williams answered Bates by repeating what he had already said about Farmer being a successful agriculture commissioner, and Bates interrupted: “I don’t doubt that.”

Then Williams tried to explain that the state fair is mainly an agricultural event and that the commissioner must be there from morning to night every day. Farmer, a former University of Kentucky basketball player, was also promoting Kentucky Proud at the tournament, he noted.

The point, though, Bates insisted, is that he was spending $400 a night on hotel rooms when he could have driven at night in less than an hour. “It’s our money, and I just can’t understand it,” he said.

Rather than justifying the expenditure, Williams said that the state’s largest newspapers and the Democratic Party were using the issue as a “diversionary technique” when the real issues in the contest should be tax reform, the state pension system and economic development.

“We believe the commissioner should be judged on his entire record,” Williams said. “There might be some things you don’t agree that should have been done, but … I think his program overall has been very successful.”

Later, he said that when he and Farmer win the primary and face off against Gov. Steve Beshear and his running mate, former Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson, in the general election, the issues about Farmer that have gotten so much attention will “be eclipsed” by revelations about things the Democrats have done.

Jack Buchanan, a Clark County Republican stalwart, suggested that the “simple answer” would be for Farmer or his supporters to write the state a check to reimburse it for what is, he said, a small amount of money, and not worth front page coverage in the newspapers. “It is a thorn in the flesh, and it will continue to be unless … you put it to rest,” he said.

Williams then answered Buchanan: “I’ll talk to the commissioner. … Thank you for your suggestion.”

Richie Farmer was once a star player on the University of Kentucky's basketball team.

After Williams’ talk, Buchanan and Bates were asked if they were satisfied with the candidates’ answers. “He said he would discuss it with Mr. Farmer, and I think that’s sufficient,” Buchanan said. He added that he would be willing to contribute some money himself.

Bates said that if the election were held that day, he would vote for Williams and Farmer, but the lieutenant governor’s actions didn’t “make sense.” He said he respects Farmer “for what he was and what he is,” but added: “I’ve learned in my life that when you do something and it’s pretty easy, it makes it easier the second time and the third time. That’s not an accusation. It just concerns me in the times that we’re in.”

“Why let it linger?” Buchanan chimed in. “Why not say, ‘I made a mistake,’ correct the mistake and go on?”

“Well, it’s never been declared a mistake,” Bates said. Contact Randy Patrick at rpatrick@winchestersun.com.

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