Archive for June, 2012

The Other America: 50 years on

 By Randy Patrick/The Kentucky Gazette

The first time I read Michael Harrington’s “The Other America: Poverty in the United States,” I was a  college student.

Harrington was the founder of Democratic Socialists of America, an infinitesimal faction within the Democratic Party that sought to lead it in a more leftward direction: toward policies to give working class people more influence in the workplace and government and to reate a stronger safety net.

On my 22nd birthday, Harrington spoke at the University of Kentucky on the subject of poverty and his ideas for ending it. I didn’t attend the speech, but I read about it in the newspapers and was fascinated. Almost at once, I became a convert to democratic socialism, with its emphasis on co-ops, pension-fund investments, union representation on corporate boards and other examples of market-based, decentralized economic democracy.

A few days after his speech, I encountered Harrington outside a lecture hall at UK at the same moment that he encountered and spoke with another socialist, the former British prime minister Sir Harold Wilson, whom I had gone to hear. It was a pivotal moment in my political transformation. I joined DSA for a year or two and read everything I could get my hands on by Harrington.

That was 30 years ago. Since then, I’ve evolved into a Burkean conservative. And though I’m still as concerned about the poor as I was then, I now think the right approach is to give them “a hand up, not a handout” — in the phrase coined by Sargent Shriver, who led the War on Poverty in the 1960s.

The Great Society programs — Head Start, Upward Bound, Volunteers in Service to America and the rest — were, for the most part, shaped to help the poor help themselves, rather than make them dependent on welfare. Contrary to popular belief, those programs worked. Poverty declined sharply in the 60s, until the government cut its funding and commitment in the late 1970s.

Young Michael Harrington’s bestseller (Time magazine included it in a list of the 10 most influential nonfiction books of the 20th Century) has been credited with sparking the War on Poverty in the last days of Presdent John F. Kennedy’s administration.

What was bracing about the thin volume was that it was not a dry analytical piece, filled with statistics and theory. Rather, it was a portrait of the poor and a call to conscience.

Reading the 50th anniversary edition this spring, it’s obvious to me that in many ways it is dated. Today the author’s suggestion of a massive public jobs program, for example, would have almost no political support. But Harrington’s central thesis — that solving the problem of poverty requires changing how we think about the underprivileged and the culture of poverty, is as relevant today as it was half a century ago.

His words still sting and, at the same time, inspire: “I want to tell every well-fed and optimistic American that it is intolerable that so many millions should be maimed in body and spirit when it is not necessary that they should be. My standard of comparison is not how much worse things used to be. It is how much better they could be if only we were stirred.”

At a crucial moment in our nation’s history, Harrington stirred us to be a better society, and his legacy is with us still.

Randy Patrick is a freelance writer in Winchester, Ky., and a longtime community journalist.

‘I was a stranger and you took me in’

“For I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you took me in.” – Matthew 25: 35.

The ragged man was one of more than a hundred who shuffled along the corridor at the Hope Center. As he reached to receive a fish sandwich and a bowl of beans, one of the servers smiled and asked him how he was. He smiled back and answered, “I’m blessed. I really am.”

How you see things depends on where you’re standing. For someone who has been sleeping under a bridge and scavenging food from garbage bins, a good meal and a clean bed is a blessing. For a man who is addicted to drugs or drink, getting treatment and support can give him the hope he needs to change his life.

Jesus taught that what we do for “the least of these,” we do for him. One way we at Apostles witness to the poor and those with substance abuse issues to serve at the Hope Center. For nearly a decade, our members have worked in the dining room at the homeless shelter and recovery center.

We not only want to be consistent about fulfilling our commitment to have volunteers there for our scheduled time of 5-6 p.m. on the second Friday of each month, but also to consider how we can do more. This is an exciting time to be involved because the Hope Center has moved its food program to the new Jacobs Hope Kitchen on W. Loudon Ave. (on the same side of the street as the YMCA and across from the George Privett Recovery Center and the Hope Center’s emergency shelter).

If you would like to be a volunteer, contact Randy Patrick or Tony Fox.

Note: I wrote this some time ago for Apostles Anglican Church’s publications and website. A group from our Lexington, Ky., church has been volunteering to serve dinner the second Friday night of each month for nearly a decade.

Good work if you can get it: On being a freelance writer

Nearly 40 years ago, when I was a seventh-grader at Conkwright Junior High School in Winchester, Ky., my English teacher, Mrs. Singer, had our class do a career study, and I chose “freelance writer” as my future occupation.

My classmates didn’t know what that meant, so I had to explain that it was a writer who isn’t an employee of a newspaper or magazine, but who sells his work.

John Boy Walton, played by Richard Thomas in the 1970s TV series "The Waltons," is reflective of the early life of the story's originator, novelist Earl Hamner Jr.

Like John Boy Walton on the 1970s TV series, I wanted to write what I wanted to write.

When I started freelancing late last year, it wasn’t because I had chosen it as a career, but it was one of the few options available to a jobless journalist in the most depressed economy our nation has seen since John Boy was scribbling stories on school notepads in the 1930s.

Last October, I ran into an old acquaintance, historian Thomas Parrish, at the Kentucky Book Fair in Frankfort, and he asked what I was doing. I said I was doing a bit of freelancing, but added: “It’s a tough way to make a living.”

“Well,” he said, “you have to have a good idea.”

I felt stupid. I had just told one of Kentucky’s best-known authors — a man in his senior years who had made his living for decades as a self-employed writer — that it wasn’t a good life.

It certainly isn’t easy, as even the most talented and prolific writers will tell you. But even if you’re not as talented as Tom Parrish — or Charles Bracelen Flood or Silas House — it can be rewarding work if you don’t mind the rejection letters and sporadic paychecks.

This year, I worked part-time for almost four months covering the state legislature for The Associated Press, but I’ve continued writing articles for various publications.

Tom Martin, editor of Business Lexington, gave me my first assignment, an interview with Cindy Banks, executive editor of the Winchester-Clark County Chamber of Commerce.

When I applied for a reporter’s job at the Georgetown News-Graphic, the publisher, Mike Scogin, said he had decided to leave the position open for a while, but he could use me for some freelance work. That led to a week in Versailles working on stories for the News-Graphic’s Woodford Life magazine, a publication of the chamber of commerce. The two stories were about the women who own and operate most of the businesses in downtown Versailles, and a new initiative at Woodford County High School involving the use of school-provided iPads for all of the seniors.

My most recent article for publication was one I wrote for the Lexington Herald-Leader about the Clark Regional Foundation for the Promotion of Health and its plans for the old Clark Regional Medical Center after the hospital’s relocation to its new, facility on U.S. 60.

The story I spent the most time on, and which led to my current job covering state government, was one I did for Laura Cullen Glasscock, owner and editor of The Kentucky Gazette, a twice-monthly journal that covers state government, politics and public affairs. Now that my work with AP has ended, she wants me to write for the Gazette on a regular basis — at least one article per issue and a regular column on politics and public affairs.

The Gazette, named for the commonwealth’s first newspaper, had been publishing my political columns when I was the managing editor of The Winchester Sun until last August. When I lost that position, I asked Laura if she had something I could do. For the next few weeks, I worked on an in-depth article about how the trend toward more fuel-efficient vehicles would affect Kentucky’s road fund, which relies on the fuel tax for most of its revenue, and what alternatives the state might consider for those cars and trucks that don’t use diesel or gasoline as their fuel source.

Those articles are all here on Newer World, and I’ve included links to the original websites of the publications:

–– How will Kentucky fund its roads in a greener future? (The Kentucky Gazette, September 2011)

–– Winchester’s new chamber director gets off to a fast start (Business Lexington, Dec. 22, 2011)

–– Education in touch with technology at Woodford High (Georgtown News-Graphic, February 2012)

–– In Versailles, women mean business (Georgetown News-Graphic, February 2012)

–– Fate of old Winchester hospital complex has not been determined (Lexington Herald-Leader, March 26, 2012)

While I’m looking for full-time work as an editor or reporter, or a communications director for a nonprofit group, I intend to continue to do as much freelancing as I can. It will reduce the amount the government pays me in unemployment benefits, and, I hope, hone my skills.

Maybe I’ll even come up with a good idea, as Tom suggested, that will enable me to earn a living as a writer for hire.




Fate of old Winchester hospital complex has not been determined

At noon today, I’m going to tour the new Clark Regional Medical Center with members of the Winchester Kiwanis Club. What will become of the old hospital on Lexington Avenue is something many residents are wondering. Here’s an article I wrote for the Lexington Herald-Leader earlier this spring about the Clark Regional Foundation for the Promotion of Health’s plans for the old hospital property, worth about $10 million, as well as $25 million in additional assets.

March 26, 2012

By Randy Patrick — Special to the Herald-Leader

Move to new site leads to flood of ideas

Clark Regional Medical Center in Winchester will be moving to a new location on Saturday. What will become of the former hospital has yet to be determined. The property includes about 70 acres. Laura Strange | Staff — Herald-Leader Read more here:

WINCHESTER — When the new Clark Regional Medical Center opens Saturday, the old hospital on Lexington Avenue, which has served people in Winchester and its region since 1967, will close. What will happen to the former hospital building and its nearly 70 acres of land has not been determined.

The Clark Regional Foundation for the Promotion of Health, which owns the property, says no decision has been reached. Leaders said they have heard ideas and have formed a team to study the issue and make a proposal.

Since the for-profit Nashville company LifePoint Hospitals bought the 95-year-old hospital and began operating it in May 2010, there has been plenty of speculation about how the old hospital could be adapted for another purpose or be torn down and replaced with something else.

Recommended uses for the red-brick building have included a drug-abuse treatment center and a veterans medical center.

“We’ve had every suggestion imaginable of how the property could be utilized,” said Ed Mastrean, chairman of the foundation’s board. The building is in good shape, he said.

Nonetheless, it’s an old building, and it was built as a hospital, which limits its potential uses, said Jen Algire, who was recently hired as the foundation’s president, an administrative position.

“If the building was sufficient, we would still be using it as a hospital, so I think we have to balance that,” she said. “I would hate for somebody to think that if something were to happen to the building, we were throwing away a perfectly good building, which would not be the case.”

There has been some interest in the property.

“We’ve shown it a number of times, and to this point, we’re not quite sure exactly what to do with it,” Mastrean said.

Regardless of what happens to the land and buildings, the money will be used to benefit the community and promote health. That is the mission of the foundation.

It’s a large amount of money, perhaps as much as $35 million to $40 million.

The property comprises the old hospital and 37 acres, including a medical office park, 30 acres of land on Winchester’s bypass that is being leased to the city’s parks and recreation department for a walking trail, and a clinic in Powell County. Together, it is estimated to be worth about $10 million, Mastrean said. Corporate assets accumulated over the years amount to $25 million or more.

The physical structures of some non-profit hospitals in the United States are considered community assets because they were financed with state and federal grants under the Hill-Burton Act of 1946. But that is not the case with Clark County hospital, which was privately financed. Algire said the reason its assets were retained for charitable purposes is that the old hospital board’s trustees “negotiated well.”

“The assets from the sale will always benefit the community in some way, shape or form,” she said.

The foundation is working with the Clark County Health Department and other groups on a three- to five-year community health study using a process called Mobilizing for Action Through Planning and Partnerships, or MAPP. The strategic planning tool, which was developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has become a standard for determining health problems and solutions.

Beth Willett, a community health educator for the health department, is coordinating the survey, which has involved local officials, school personnel, health care professionals, emergency services and non-profit groups such as Rapha Ministries and the Clark County Homeless Coalition.

The six-stage process begins with engaging the community through conversations and public forums, followed by “visioning.” The third phase is assessment, which is gathering data about the community’s health, current services and demographics. Assessment, the longest phase, is being done now.

A few of the issues that have been discussed at the community forums are obesity, poverty, drug addiction, the uninsured and an aging population. After collecting the data, participants identify issues, and then formulate goals and strategies to address them. All of that information goes into a Community Health Improvement Plan.

The sixth and final phase is implementation of parts of the plan by the participants.

The current plan, which will be for 2013 to 2018, is similar to what’s being done now in Montgomery and Fayette counties. What makes Clark County’s MAPP different, however, is the funding potential that the Clark Regional Foundation represents. In the language of the MAPP process, Willett said, it’s called a “force of change.”

“It’s a leverage point for us where we can make a lot of difference if we make the right decisions, … if we use it appropriately,” Willett said.

He said the foundation’s money can be used to leverage other funds.

Most foundations, agencies and groups that make grants want to see collaboration, she said.

“They want to see that you are working with partners and your local public health system, and that you’re doing something that’s timely and necessary,” Willett said. “We have to do more with less, so if you’re partnering, hopefully, you’re reducing redundancy and duplication of services.”

Willett said everyone in Clark County will own the Community Health Improvement Plan and can use it to write grant proposals.

The partnering, planning and fund-raising strategy fits well with the Clark Regional Foundation’s goals.

It isn’t the intention of the foundation to distribute the old hospital’s assets in a few years and then dissolve, leaders said.

Mastrean said the foundation will invest its principal to earn interest, raise more money, and serve needs in its service area in perpetuity, just as other foundations do. By law, he said, it must distribute 5 percent of its assets each year.

Beneficiaries probably will receive money in installments, based on performance, Mastrean said. The foundation will want to know what the money is to be used for, how it is used and what the results are.

Already, Mastrean said, the foundation is one of the largest in Kentucky.

It has leased the old PNC Bank building on Bypass Road near U.S. 60 for office space, and it’s the board’s intention that Algire will eventually have a small staff.

Mastrean said, “We’re going to be here for a long, long time.”

Randy Patrick is a Winchester writer.

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June 2012
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