Archive for the ‘business’ Category

What it means to be a crunchy conservative

First published Oct. 3, 2016

There are many mansions in the American conservative house, and some of them are old and funky and smell like a pot of organic mustard greens cooking down on the stove.

— Rod Dreher, from “Crunchy Cons”

It wasn’t until I was 45 that I started to think of myself as a conservative.

At heart, I had always been one, even in my 20s, when I called myself a democratic socialist, traveled to Nicaragua, read Hunter Thompson and listened to Neil Young.

I still listen to Neil Young.

Like many of my contemporaries, I had the idea that to be a conservative meant to be a belligerent neocon on foreign policy, a self-centered libertarian on economics and a closed-minded culture warrior on social matters.

I was wrong.

Although I’ve never met him — and he’s several years younger than I am — Rod Dreher had a big influence on my thinking after I had left the Democratic Party over its ideological rigidity, joined an Anglican church and become the managing editor of a daily newspaper.

Dreher’s book that introduced me to a different way of understanding this venerable philosophy had a title that could have been a chapter: “Crunchy Cons: How Birkenstocked Burkeans, Gun-loving Organic Gardeners, Evangelical Free-range Farmers, Hip Homeschooling Mamas, Right-wing Nature Lovers, and Their Diverse Tribe of Countercultural Conservatives Plan to Save America (or at Least the Republican Party).”

Crunchy conservatism, Dreher explained, is not a political program, but rather a “practical sensibility” based on what the wisdom of tradition teaches is best for families and communities.

It is about conserving those things that are good and true.

This summer, I read the book again, and was struck by how much things have changed in the 10 years since it was written.

What a different time 2005 was. George W. Bush was president, Pope John Paul II was succeeded by the even more orthodox Benedict XVI, the Defense of Marriage Act was still the law of the land, legal recreational marijuana was a pipe dream, we were engaged in costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Hurricane Katrina demonstrated how inept big government could be, the housing market was soaring, fueled by bad loan practices, and almost no one could foresee the financial meltdown that was coming.

I’m convinced that if the Republican Party had gone in the direction that Dreher and others suggested, rather than toward the hard-line libertarianism and isolationism of the tea party movement, it would have been able to compete with the Democratic Party for the hearts and minds of younger Americans and could have made a positive difference in our society.

Dreher’s crunchy (read: earthy) conservatism is traditional Burkean conservatism for a new generation. Edmund Burke, an 18th century Dubliner and British statesman, rejected abstract Enlightenment reason and “natural law” as guiding lights. All of us, he wrote, are influenced by our cultural traditions, and while individual liberty is important, community is no less so. We belong to one another, and that affects who were are.

Burke wrote that the individual is foolish, but the species is wise. We must learn from those who have gone before us and not rely solely on ourselves. And we must rely on the greater wisdom of the Supreme Being as handed down through the ages.

Mainstream liberalism and conservatism are both essentially materialistic, Dreher argues, and we should not be surprised that neither has led to the improvement of our national character. He describes his book as a rebuke to both the economic individualism of the right and the moral individualism of the left. Its purpose is to explore ways to live out conservative values in a culture that seeks to separate us from our values, families and communities.

In less than 250 pages, “Crunchy Cons” uses Dreher’s own experiences as well as those of people across the country who are living countercultural lives that are socially, spiritually and physically healthier than the ways of the dominant culture. He looks at organic farming and the slow food movement, new urban planning, walkable neighborhoods and aesthetically pleasing architectural design such as bungalows, the attraction of liturgical Christianity to a generation bored with “relevant” contemporary worship, and the understanding that conservation is the essence of conservatism.

“Crunchy Cons” was not a bestseller and is now out of print. It won’t make a list of the most influential conservative tomes, like William Buckley’s “God and Man at Yale” or Russell Kirk’s “The Conservative Mind.” But it influenced me more than any other book in my evolution into a conservative, and to see that I had been one all along. I recommend it to others.

You probably won’t be able to find it, though, unless you come across it at a secondhand bookstore or on Amazon, so in the weeks to come, I want to share a little more of it and hope it will stir your imagination, as it did mine.

Negotiation requires dialogue, mutual respect

May 9, 2015

“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”

The quote from the 1967 film, “Cool Hand Luke” is first spoken by a prison warden before he starts pummeling the prisoner played by Paul Newman — and later by the prisoner himself when he’s surrounded and about to be shot.

I remembered that line last week when I was working on a story about “negotiations” between the Bardstown Fire Department and the nonprofit group known officially as the Bardstown-Nelson County Volunteer Fire Department and unofficially as “the corporation.”

When I went on PLG-TV Tuesday to talk about Bardstown Mayor John Royalty’s latest contract proposal, I mentioned that he and City Fire Chief Marlin Howard (who is also the fire chief for the corporation) want to hire a consultant to study a possible merger of the two departments.

At the time, I thought that was still the plan. I learned about an hour later that there wouldn’t be a study when the mayor asked the Bardstown City Council to “strike that” from the budget.

“The 20,000 for the consolidation study — that’s out,” he said.

Under the mayor’s proposal, he wants the corporation to contract with the Bardstown Fire Department to cover fire and rescue services in its service area outside the city limits and increase its $50 “membership fee” (actually a flat tax) as well as the amount of funding the corporation provides the city for joint operations.

The way I read it, the BNCVFD would still exist on paper but would be reduced to a funding mechanism for the Bardstown Fire Department. It would still own its trucks and buildings, but they would be maintained and used by the city. The volunteers would all be under the city’s authority.

Royalty has feels that Stacy Faulkner, the chairman of the corporation board, has been dragging his feet on negotiating a new contract for the fiscal year that begins July 1. According to the mayor’s administrative assistant, Kathy Graham, the corporation didn’t want to contribute $20,000 to the consolidation study, so the mayor decided on a new approach.

Faulkner, however, said he told Royalty the corporation board would fund its half of the study and pay for it by deferring the purchase of some equipment.

“We never said we weren’t going to fund it,” he said.

Faulkner also said he asked the mayor if there was “room to negotiate” on the latest proposal, but was told it was a take-it-or-leave-it proposition.

The chairman said he hasn’t had a chance to talk with the other board members about the proposal. Their next meeting is May 12. And the mayor wants the signed contract on his desk May 15 — or the corporation can pack up and leave.

As a reporter, I can’t take sides. Besides, I don’t know whether it would be best for the two departments to consolidate or separate.

Maybe the mayor’s proposal is the best option, or maybe there should be a countywide special taxing district, as Chief Ted Shields of the Northeast Nelson County Fire Protection District has suggested. It isn’t for me to say.

What I can say is what Chief Howard has said time and again — that the most important thing is for the fire service or services to provide the best protection they can for its residents, both in the city and in the unincorporated area.

The two sides need to work out something from a standpoint of mutual respect or agree to amicably go their separate ways.

And time is running out to make a decision.

Require insurers to pay for colonoscopies

Published March 7, 2015

The idea behind preventive health care is that if conditions are discovered and treated before they get worse, people will be healthier and pay less in the long run. But I believe insurance companies put profits before people, which is why regulation is necessary.

Last year this belief was reinforced by a personal experience that resulted in frustration and financial hardship.

In 2004, I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, condition that affects one out of five adults. I’m usually able to control it by taking a fiber supplement and watching my diet. But last winter, I began noticing a dull pain in my lower right abdomen, where I thought my gallbladder was. I made an appointment with Dr. Bennett Asher, my family physician in Winchester for 40 years, and he found nothing to indicate gallbladder disease, but sent me to Clark Regional Medical Center for a CT scan, which confirmed his diagnosis. He also had me follow up with Dr. David McMenamin, a gastroenterologist a few doors down, whose practice, like that of Dr. Asher’s, is owned by the community hospital, which was recently bought by the for-profit company LifePoint.

Dr. McMenamin also concluded I had nothing more serious than IBS, but he wanted me to have a colonoscopy because I hadn’t had one in 10 years.

I had learned that Anthem, my employer’s group insurance carrier, covered routine colonoscopies at 100 percent, so I agreed, as long as there would be no out-of-pocket expense.

The day of the procedure, someone at the hospital told me I should make sure the operation was coded as routine rather than diagnostic, so I called the specialist’s office and was assured it was.

Imagine my surprise when I got a bill from the hospital for $900, plus a bill for outside lab work.

I couldn’t get anyone from the hospital’s billing department to return my calls, so I took time off from work to go there, and was told that because some tissue was sent off for a biopsy, it made the procedure diagnostic, not routine.

“I can’t pay this! It might as well be $9,000,” I said, but all the hospital offered to do was set me up on a payment plan.

I argued with the insurance company, and my employer’s HR person set up a conference call with a health benefits expert in our corporate office, the insurance company and the gastroenterologist’s billing person, who told Anthem the operation was coded as preventive. I thought we were getting somewhere until I got two calls in one day from Anthem telling me the coding was wrong.

I took more time off from work and made another three-hour round trip to Winchester to meet with the doctor and get copies of the paperwork, which showed that the colonoscopy examination was “completely normal” and that “a random biopsy” was taken from “the whole colon.” Nothing about a polyp.

The doctor was apologetic that his coding had been changed.

“They do it all the time,” he added.

I threatened to sue the hospital and the insurance company and even talked to a lawyer, but I’ve now paid about half of the bill, and I’ve given up. Maybe that’s their strategy, to wear you down and make it too costly to challenge them.

I’m still bitter about it, and I’ve said I’d never have another colonoscopy until the government does something about this practice.

Maybe it won’t be a long wait.

Last week, the Kentucky House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 61, sponsored by another Clark County doctor, Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester. The bill, similar to one Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville, shepherded through the House in February, would require insurers to cover follow-up colonoscopies resulting from colorectal cancer screenings without imposing additional deductible or insurance costs on patients. With Burch’s leadership, the Senate bill passed the House last week, 95-5, and was sent to Gov. Steve Beshear for his signature.

I hope the governor will, with a stroke of his pen, remove this financial barrier to encouraging those of us over 50 to do what we should to avoid the second leading cause of cancer deaths in Kentucky, but also one of the most preventable.

Wouldn’t that be a fitting way to mark Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month?

Whiskey women — an acquired taste

Sept. 24, 2014

Whiskey and women have been a volatile combination for me, so when my editor, Forrest Berkshire, asked if I’d like to cover a talk on “whiskey women” last week, I said yes, but without enthusiasm.

First, a little background.

When I was a reporter for a daily newspaper, I was smitten by a beautiful and intelligent college student I met on a bus on the way to a rally in Washington, D.C. My infatuation was unrequited, so one night after talking with her best friend about the hopelessness of my desire, I drowned my sorrows in a bottle of bourbon.

The next morning at a Fiscal Court meeting, while someone was proposing a tax increase or a big outlay of taxpayers’ money, I passed out. The presenter, I was told, said he thought someone might faint, but he didn’t think it would be a reporter.

Before I could object, the paramedics, who were there for the meeting, had me on a stretcher and out the front door of the courthouse and past a crowd of gawkers. Because it was raining, someone pulled the sheet over my face, and by the time I got to the hospital — if I may borrow a quote from Mark Twain — rumors of my death were greatly exaggerated.

I was mortified but not ready for the morticians.

The paper I worked for paid pauper’s wages (which I misspent), so I had to moonlight as a pizza delivery driver for a few weeks to pay off my chauffered trip to the ER — which resulted in a column about my “pie by night” enterprise. And wouldn’t you know it, one of the first persons I encountered while wearing my Marco’s Man costume was the lovely young lady who had been the object of my misplaced affection. She looked confused, and I felt ridiculous.

That’s just one story involving whiskey and women. There are others as embarrassing.

Let’s just say they were teachable moments.

Twenty-five years later, I’m not a bourbon drinker. I like Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, bourbon bread pudding and bourbon-flavored everything. But, except for the rare bourbon on the rocks with my coworkers at Xavier’s, I tend to avoid the spirit in its pure form.

I might tip the scales at 280 pounds, but when it comes to holding my liquor, I’m a lightweight, so I practice moderation.

Since moving to Bardstown two years ago, however, I have come to appreciate bourbon lore, the sweet scent of sour mash on splendid autumn days — and whiskey women.

Not the ones like Toby Keith’s “Little Whiskey Girl” — “rough” and “ragged on the edges.” Some of the finest and most elegant ladies I’ve met around town are women who are in some way connected to the bourbon industry.

Which brings me back to where I was going with this — the lecture.

Fred Minnick, author of “Whiskey Women: How Women Saved Bourbon, Scotch and Irish Whiskey,” does the fair gender justice in his treatment of the important role women have played in the development of whiskey. After hearing his fascinating talk, I have a deeper respect for female pioneers and entrepreneurs — like Margie Mattingly Samuels, who came up with the Maker’s Mark name and the distinctive red wax design — as well as a new generation of bourbon businesswomen.

Strong women and strong spirits are acquired tastes.

Let’s just call it a teachable moment.

——

During a presentation on cocktails by Joy Perrine, the “Bad Girl of Bourbon,” Jude Talbott asked how I could be in Bardstown and Scotland at the same time, because he had seen pictures on Facebook and read my posts about the referendum on Scotland’s independence. Anyone who follows me on social media knows I’ve been obsessed with the subject because I love Britain and was thrilled the Scots voted to remain part of that great union.

However, I’ve never actually visited Scotland. I’ve traveled by train through the Garden of England, overlooked the dreaming spires of Oxford, trod the bricks of Grafton Street in Dublin and witnessed fairytale rainbows on Antrim’s craggy coast, but the part of those pleasant isles I’ve never seen is the country of my ancestry, Scotland. It’s on my bucket list, though, and when I get there, I hope it’s still part of the United Kingdom.

“What we have built together by sacrificing and sharing, let no narrow nationalism split asunder,” said one of my favorite Scots, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

I’ll drink to that.

First freedom trumps other rights

Saturday, July 5, 2014 at 11:55 am

The United States Supreme Court’s ruling last week in Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby isn’t about whether women have a right to birth control. They do.

It also isn’t about whether employers may discriminate against workers who don’t share their religious beliefs. They may not.

What it’s about is simple, really. By a majority of one, the justices said family businesses don’t have to pay for contraceptives for employees if it violates their moral convictions.

Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, made it clear the decision has nothing to do with other obligations employers have under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and it does not allow companies to deny coverage for other procedures such as blood transfusions or vaccinations. He also said that if the government wants to provide free contraceptives, there are other ways to do so.

Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., owned by David and Barbara Green of Oklahoma City and their family, and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. of East Earl, Pa., owned by a Mennonite family, had no objection to 16 of the 20 contraceptives covered under the federal mandate. But they balked at paying for two drugs they say are drugs that induce abortions, Ella and Plan B, as well as two intrauterine devices that prevent fertilized eggs from attaching themselves to the uterus. Proponents of these “emergency contraceptives” say they work by delaying ovulation or making it harder for the sperm to reach the egg.

It doesn’t matter which side is correct because the court’s ruling applies to all methods of birth control. It would protect “closely held” Catholic corporations from paying for birth control pills, for instance.

Despite the ruling’s narrow scope and the court’s laudable attempt to balance employees’ interests with the rights of business owners, the outcry from feminists and pro-choice activists was shrill. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called the decision “outrageous” and a “dangerous precedent.” One of my Facebook friends said women need “protection from religious fanatics.” I suppose her definition of a religious fanatic is anyone who puts faith first.

Barbara Green underscored what religious freedom means to evangelical Christians in her response to the ruling. “Today the nation’s highest court has reaffirmed the vital importance of religious liberty as one of our country’s highest principles,” she said, calling the decision “a victory, not just for our family business, but for all who seek to live out their faith.”

That’s an important distinction. When I asked Sen. Mitch McConnell about the ruling last week, he said liberals believe the First Amendment guarantees Americans the freedom to worship; conservatives believe it means the right to “practice their faith.”

Conservatives have the better understanding of the Bible.

Being a real Christian means your life is no longer your own, you have surrendered it to Christ, who guides everything you do. You know he is Lord of all, and in the fullness of time, he will bring everything under his authority. Jesus told his followers faith isn’t something they may keep to themselves if they want any part of his kingdom.

“Our religious convictions aren’t reduced to mere opinions we hide in our hearts and in our hymns. Our religious convictions inform the way we live,” said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. But this isn’t only a Protestant understanding. Pope Francis said, “No one can demand that religion should be relegated to the inner sanctum of personal life, without influence on societal and national life.”

It is this freedom to practice one’s faith that is protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, upon which the justices based their decision. It bars government from unduly burdening an individual’s free exercise of religion unless it has a compelling interest; and if it must intervene, it must do so in the least restrictive and intrusive way.

The court did not have to decide the case on constitutional grounds, but the Constitution informs the statute. Secularists think freedom of religion must take a back seat to every other right, real or imagined, but there is a reason the founders of our republic made the First Amendment, and specifically the freedom of religion, first — it is because it is first in importance.

Journey through the past in Bloomfield

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Little towns can be the most delightful places or the most disheartening.

As the crow flies, Clay City is about 50 miles from Midway, but in the charm factor, they’re worlds apart.

There’s nothing in the Appalachian slum but rural blight, while the Bluegrass village is a treasure trove of antique shops and eateries one would expect to see on the cover of Garden & Gun magazine.

Bloomfield is somewhere in between. It’s more like Midway, but without the thoroughbreds and tourists.

Downtown Bloomfield, restored by the Bruckheimers.

Last Saturday, I spent two or three hours in Bloomfield and talked with locals who painted contrasting portraits of their hometown.

“I’m glad to see anything here,” Roger Elmore told me on the opening day of the new Bloomfield Farmers Market.

Elmore said the town is depressed and its leaders aren’t business-friendly. Pointing to the vacant building across the road, he mentioned that Bloomfield doesn’t even have a grocery anymore.

But that’s one reason Mayor Rhonda Hagan and others wanted a farmers market.

“It could be a charming little town,” Elmore said.

I later learned that it is charming in its unique way.

After talking with guests and vendors at the farmers market, I went to Bloomfield Baptist Church for An Afternoon with the Past, an annual homecoming for septuagenarian former residents and their spouses.

I met couples from as far away as Florida and Arizona who had returned to their roots.

“It’s beautiful,” said Gary Caggiano, a native New Yorker who had come back to Bloomfield by way of Phoenix with his wife, Nancy, when I asked him what he thought of this part of the country.

What was most enchanting was what I discovered when I parked my car on Main Street and took a stroll. I first went inside the Old Sugar Valley Country Store, which was like walking into Ike Godsey’s store in “The Waltons.”

It looked like a movie set for good reason. It is one of a row of 19th century downtown stores owned and restored by preservationist Linda Bruckheimer and her husband, Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who have a farm nearby. They also own both locations of Nettie Jarvis Antiques, one of which has a “Before I Die” chalkboard where people can record their most personal hopes, and Miss Merrifield’s Tea Room, where waiters were setting gorgeous table arrangements with old English china and fresh cut flowers.

“You don’t see tea rooms like this everywhere,” said Donna Cornell, an employee of the Bruckheimers.

The most captivating experience was across the street at the Olde Bloomfield Meeting Hall, with its vintage four-lane bowling alley, Ernie’s Tavern, with its bar and billiards, and the most eclectic décor I’ve ever seen in an arcade.

Jody Bartley, who manages the place, said aloud what I had heard others allude to — that the Bruckheimers had practically saved Bloomfield’s historic Main Street.

“She did a tremendous job of restoring this town,” he said of Linda. “She’s tried to put it back the way it was.”

As Bardstown, Georgetown, Danville and other small cities have shown, the way forward often involves looking back and reviving the best of past.

Bloomfield is off the beaten path, but so is Midway, and I think it has the potential to be the same kind of attraction for tourists and history enthusiasts with the right planning and the caring contributions of the Bruckheimers and others.

A fine restaurant similar to Tony York’s in Glendale or Boone Tavern in Berea could do wonders for the city’s economy. So might an independent grocery that sells Kentucky Proud products and garden-fresh produce — sort of like an indoor farmers market.

Maybe I’m dreaming, but there’s often a thin line between the dream and the reality.

Just ask Jerry Bruckheimer.

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: http://www.kentucky.com

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.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2012/03/26/2126443/fate-of-old-winchester-hospital.html#storylink=misearch#storylink=cpy

 

Winchester’s new chamber director gets off to fast start

Note: This is an article I wrote for Business Lexington last year. It was published on Dec. 22, 2011. To see the article on the newspaper’s home page, go to this page, or click on the link: http://www.bizlex.com/Articles-Business-Lexington-Latest-News-c-2011-12-22-99833.113117-Meet-the-New-Chamber-Heads-in-Winchester-Garrard-County-and-Jessamine-County.html

 

By Randy Patrick/contributing writer, Business Lexington 

Winchester’s new chamber of commerce president “hit the ground running” on the Tuesday after Labor Day — and it was a hectic start.

Cindy Banks is the director of the Winchester-Clark County Chamber of Commerce. Photo by The Winchester Sun.

“Today I’ve had an interview with the radio station, and we’re getting ready for our golf scramble Monday, so we’ll be meeting in about an hour about that,” said Cindy Banks. She had also met the executive editor of Winchester’s newspaper and talked with Shelbyville’s chamber leader about a marketing idea she wanted to copy.

This was after a busy holiday weekend, during which she worked the information booth and “walked the crowd” at the Daniel Boone Pioneer Festival Saturday and Sunday and was at the downtown street dance on Friday night.

Even before officially taking office on Sept. 1, Banks had gone through the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s training program for new directors, given speeches to local groups and attended some chamber committee meetings.

“I rested a little Monday,” she said.

It’s a welcome change of pace for Banks, 45. For the past eight years, she’s been a “stay-at-home mom” and organized house parties for her Premier Design jewelry business.

Banks grew up in Winchester, graduated from George Rogers Clark High School in 1985 and studied nursing for three years at Eastern Kentucky University before earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She also has a master’s degree in health administration from the University of Kentucky.

For much of her career, Banks worked in organ and tissue donation in Louisville and Bowling Green, Ky., and for the American Red Cross in Washington, D.C., as a hospital education specialist on tissue donation. She also was a manager for assisted living facilities in Lexington, Richmond and Frankfort.

She is married to Montgomery County High School principal Todd Wilson, who is also from Winchester, and they have two sons, Asher, 4, and Palmer, 10.

When she learned about the chamber job, she thought it would be an exciting challenge.

“It was a good fit for me,” she said. “I know a lot of people here.”

Although her title is president, the position is really more of an executive director.

“My main job is to recruit new members,” she said, “and we have to try to get all of our members working together to benefit each other.”

The city-county economic development director, Todd Denham, is mainly responsible for recruiting new businesses, she explained, but she works with Denham and Nancy Turner, the tourism director, in the same office on South Maple Street, behind the county courthouse and city hall.

After new businesses move to Winchester or start up there, her mission is to convince the business leaders that it’s in their interest to belong to the chamber.

The chamber offers networking opportunities for its members and serves as a voice for the business community and an advocate in the state legislature.

Having businesses cooperate with one another through the chamber saves each business time and money and improves their chances of success, she said.

Approximately 280 businesses and 30 individuals are members of the Winchester-Clark County Chamber of Commerce. The chamber belongs to the Kentucky Chamber and works with other chambers in the state, such as Commerce Lexington.

One of its programs is Leadership Winchester, which helps members learn more about their community, its people and resources, so that they can be better informed leaders. That’s coming up in October, and Banks is going to be going through the program herself.

“And I’ll be leading it,” she added.

In the days ahead, Banks’ workload isn’t expected to get any lighter.

“I’m doing a walking tour of the schools with Nancy (Turner), and Todd (Denham) is going to take me next week to meet some people at the (Winchester) Industrial Park,” she said.

And it was apparent that she was enthusiastic about all of it.

“I’m excited to be here,” she said. “It’s going to be fun.”

 



 

In Versailles, women mean business

By Randy Patrick

Simply Elan on Main Street in Versailles is one of the town's many women-owned businesses. KentuckyTourism.com

At her boutique, catty corner from the courthouse in Versailles, Sharon Butts makes cheerful small talk while wrapping a purchase for a matronly customer who says she’s done with her Christmas shopping.

A younger woman wanders silently around the store amidst the sweet scent of candles and the vivid colors of pashmina scarves and ceramic soap dishes, carefully handling the merchandise.

On one wall of the shop are novelty wooden clocks and ceramic figurines. Opposite, surrounded by necklaces and other accessories, is a picture of  1960s starlet Audrey Hepburn with a quotation about how women can attain her look by “buying the large sunglasses and the little sleeveless dresses.”

In front of the counter are some of the most fascinating items: vintage straight-back wooden chairs with bottoms covered by a latticework of belts of various hues and textures.

The chairs are as unique as the store’s original proprietor (she recently acquired a business partner, Jackie Kidwell), who is dressed in what she calls her “Joseph coat,” an eye-catching garment of many colors made of cashmere, wool and silk.

“I think I’m a hippie at heart,” she explains with a smile.

Butts’s son came up with the name Simply Elan, which means “elegant” in French.

“Some people think my name is ‘Elan,’ but it’s not,” she laughed.

The store, which moved from Lexington Road in Woodford County to Main Street, is, like its founder, extraordinary. But so are most of the shops in downtown Versailles.

Next door to Simply Elan, occupying part of the same Victorian-era building that was once a hotel, is her friend Theresa Williams’s art gallery, Solaris. It opened in June after Williams decided her online business needed an actual storefront.

People want to see the actual paintings and photographs, not just pictures of the pictures, Williams said.

“Now I use online mostly to advertise.”

At Solaris, Williams, a painter, sells her own art and others’ — including that of renowned nature photographer John Snell and a little boy named Brandon, who dropped by for a visit one day recently and was thrilled to learn that his rendering of his family’s country home in oils had sold for $25.

Butts’s shop, which, she said, she thinks of as “a women’s accessories and gift shop,” sells many handcrafted items from around the country, but she deliberately doesn’t sell paintings because she doesn’t want to compete with Solaris, Five Seasons and other local businesses that do.

‘”I think we actually complement each other,” she said.

If there’s something she doesn’t carry, and she knows nearby who does, she’ll refer a customer to another Main Street business, and the other merchant will return the favor.

A “hippie” might think of it as karma.

Sharon isn’t afraid of competition because women who make downtown a shopping destination will often go from one store to another and the relationships among the businesswomen is more cooperative than competitive.

“I wish there were more retail shops downtown,” she admitted.

The collaborative atmosphere suits Williams fine.

“We all try to support and help each other so that we can all survive,” she said. “It takes a lot of creativity and a lot of work nowadays to get people to come downtown.”

The historical business district is a vibrant and eclectic mix of small shops, galleries, antique stores, restaurants and offices in 19th and 20th century brick buildings. The area has a sort of feminine feel, in large part because most of the businesses in downtown Versailles are owned by women, and women do things differently.

Tami Vater, executive director of the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce, said she doesn’t know why most of the businesses downtown are owned and operated by women, but it’s been a definite trend for quite some time, and it works.

“Women seem to do well in our downtown,” she said, and many of their shops cater to women customers.

“We have a niche market,” Vater said.

Versailles has become a destination for those who come to shop for the kinds of things they won’t find at the big box retailers or the malls.

“The women that run these businesses communicate with each other, they work together, they plan together and they collaborate to do what’s best for their business and downtown as a whole,” the chamber executive said.

For example, they will coordinate their hours so that when there’s a downtown sales event, they’ll all benefit.

“Women talk, and if you have a good sales opportunity, you’re going to share it with someone else.

“Word-of-mouth” advertising, cooperation and good customer service are what work in such a setting, Vater said.

“I think it’s what’s creating their success,” she said. “There is growth.”

Some of the other women-owned businesses are Raintree Gallery, Pretty in Pink, The Flower Box, Cornerstone Pharmacy, Frugal and Fabulous, two real estate offices, a lawyer’s office, antique stores and three restaurants.

At 1 o’clock on the day before Thanksgiving, nearly every table in Melissa’s Cottage Cafe was filled. The lively crowd included young couples, businessmen and a group of lady friends who were celebrating a birthday.

On several occasions, while Melissa Nickerson, the owner, talked with a guest, employees came by on their way out to wish her a happy holiday and give her a hug.

She didn’t think of it as being unusual.

“I’m a mom, is what I am,” she said with a smile. “We’re like a family here.”

Nickerson, who has held an assortment of jobs, had long thought about opening a restaurant downtown and had her eye on her building for a long time, before she finally started her business five years ago, offering what she calls “southern comfort” food. Most of the recipes are her grandmother’s, she mentioned. And much of the decor is from her own home.

“People walk into my restaurant who knew me before and say, ‘I feel like I’m in your living room!’” she said.

Melissa’s is one of the oldest establishments in town.

“It wasn’t always as good as it is now,” she said, but while businesses still “come and go,” downtown is succeeding.

The fact that most of the business people are women may be one of the reasons.

“I think women are more sensitive to people’s needs,” she said.

Jo Ludwick’s Sage Antiques & Uniques is the newest business to open downtown. She relocated her shop from Winchester Road in Lexington to a tiny space on Green Street, below the Chamber of Commerce office, which fronts on Main. She arrived just in time for the downtown Christmas open house and had been open for only a week at Thanksgiving.

No sooner had she settled in than “the girl across the street” came by to offer a warm welcome.

Ludwick said she chose Versailles because the kinds of businesses that are there attract women who’ll come downtown and make a day of it.

She thought that kind of customer base would be good for an unusual antiques store.

Men, she said, often shop like they’re on a mission. They’re looking for one thing, and they’re less likely to buy something they weren’t looking for, but women are different in how they shop.

“Women can go into a place if they’re having a crummy day and buy something small, and it makes them feel better,” before adding: “And my husband, like, totally doesn’t understand that.”

Ludwick said that because of the sour economy and the competition from thrift stores and other antique dealers, she’s had to change her merchandise.

“I used to have traditional furniture, but it was more expensive. So as time went on, I kind of went toward the shabby chic thing because a lot of the college girls really like that,” she said.

“I look for interesting things,” she said. “I love purses and vintage scarves,” and many Asian items such as colorful Indian saris and Japanese kimonos, because she once lived in Alexandria, Va., which has a large international population.

“I appreciate different things from different cultures,” she said. “I like learning new things.”

Athough she hadn’t gotten many customers yet in her new location, Ludwick was confident that it’s the right setting, and that the chamber of commerce and other associations will help get the word out. She thinks the place “has a lot of potential.”

“I really like being in Versailles. It’s very quiet, and I just like the feel,” she said. “Now it’s just a matter of people finding out that I’m here.”

That could also be true of downtown Versailles as a whole. For those looking for merchandise that is out of the ordinary, shops that cater to women and customer service with a feminine touch, perhaps it’s time to give Versailles another look.

Note: This article was published in February 2012 by the Georgetown News-Graphic for its Woodford Life special section. To read the entire magazine online click on this link or visit:

 

How will Kentucky fund its roads in a greener future?

[The Kentucky Gazette published this article in September and broke the story on Kentuckians for Better Transportation's alternative fuel tax proposal. It is republished with permission.]

By Randy Patrick for The Kentucky Gazette

While the recession has hit state governments hard, Kentucky’s road fund is flush with cash.

One reason is that 31 years ago, lawmakers had the foresight to tie the gas tax  to the wholesale price of petroleum fuels.

Kentucky's highways are expensive to build, maintain and patrol. They are funded by fuel taxes, but across the country, fuel consumption is falling.

When gasoline and diesel costs rise, as they have in recent years, so does the tax rate, without legislators having to vote on it.

This summer, the tax increased by 1.9 cents a gallon, to 27.8 cents, which would be expected to generate about $57 million in new revenue.

So why are transportation experts anxious about the future of funding for road improvements?

It isn’t because gas and diesel prices are going to fall; it’s because use of those fuels is already falling.

 Diminishing returns

According to the state Revenue Cabinet, in April 2010, nearly 190 million taxable gallons of fuel were sold in Kentucky. In April of this year, that figure was down below 180 million gallons. Since 2007, there has been some fluctuation, but the trend has been downward.

As cars become more fuel-efficient and consumers begin to change to cheaper and cleaner fuels, income from the gas tax is expected to decline while traffic increases.

That poses a big challenge for transportation planners.

“The status quo isn’t broken, but it’s damaged … and we’ve got to find a way where everybody pays their fair share,” said Stan Lampe, president of Kentuckians for Better Transportation.

KBT, an association of engineers, local officials, road material suppliers and others, this summer came up with a proposal to charge a flat excise fee, at the time of registration, for owners of cars that rely mostly on energy sources other than gas or diesel. Its board approved it on Sept. 16.

Chuck Wolfe, spokesman for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, didn’t know about KBT’s proposal, but likes the idea of a fair and easy way of paying for highway improvements — which is what the gas tax is, he said.

“We have a revenue model that has served us well for many years, and it really is a model of simplicity,” he said. “The more you use, the more you pay to maintain and build roads and bridges. It’s a classic user fee.”

In fiscal year 2010, the motor fuels tax accounted for 54.36 percent of total road fund receipts of $1,205,570, 266. The motor vehicle usage fee provided most of the rest, 27.6 percent. Mostly because of a 5.3 percent increase in receipts from the fuel tax, the road fund grew by 1.1 percent between FY 2009 and FY 2010.

But nationally, the revenue trend for the federal fuel tax and most state gas taxes has been downward as a result of greater efficiency, an increase in the number of hybrids, and the fact that the federal and most state gas taxes aren’t indexed to prices.

Between 2000 and 2010, fuel revenues in the United States decreased by 20 percent, but the number of vehicles increased by 13 percent, and the number of miles driven rose by 7 percent, according to KBT, based on a Gannett study.

That has Kentucky officials keeping a wary eye on what’s happening.

 Wait and see

Whether a different revenue model is needed for transportation funding is currently a subject of much discussion, not only in government, but also within transportation-related industries, Wolfe said in a prepared statement. But for the “foreseeable future,” he said, the user-fee system is what the state will rely on.

“We work within the law as it exists,” he said.

Whether the law changes in 2012 is anybody’s guess.

“The cabinet is not to the point of proposing any specific alternative,” Wolfe said. “But it’s something that’s getting more notice.”

Wolfe said he doesn’t expect any alternative vehicle tax legislation from the executive branch in the 2012 session of the General Assembly and hasn’t heard of any proposed bills from lawmakers.

 Fueling concern

Some legislators, however, are keenly interested in the issue.

State Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, a member of the Senate Transportation Committee, is one who has been raising the question to his colleagues.

“It’s a legitimate concern,” he said, and one that has come up in some meetings.

Vehicles that run on petroleum-based fuels are 20th century technology. Governments must prepare for new technologies that will replace gasoline-fueled cars and trucks.

Higdon recalled one meeting at which Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock responded to him by saying that the state was waiting on guidance from the federal government.

The senator responded that “if we’re going to do something … let’s look at it and start talking about what we’re going to do rather than waiting until every vehicle on the road is using an alternative fuel … .”

“It isn’t going to happen right away,” he said, but it is the responsibility of legislators and transportation officials to have a dialogue about it, watch what other states are doing, and be ready when the time comes.

Higdon understands the reluctance of lawmakers to discuss it.

“I’m not one for raising taxes. That’s sometimes an ugly word. But I think we have to have a reliable source of income” to maintain highways and build new ones, he said.

For the past several years, said Higdon, the goal of the Transportation Cabinet has been to do about a billion dollars a year in construction and repair work, “… and we have been able to do that, thanks to bonding and healthy revenue.”

But big projects like the Sherman Minton Bridges in Louisville and replacing the Brent Spence Bridges between Cincinnati and Kentucky have legislators focused on immediate needs.

Sen. Tim Shaughnessy, D-Louisville, also a member of the Transportation Committee, doesn’t want to think about something as futuristic as alternative-fuel vehicles.

Speaking during the week in September that President Barack Obama was in Cincinnati to talk about the nation’s infrastructure needs, Shaughnessy said the issue that’s dominating his agenda is the Louisville bridges.

“We’re not doing a good job of planning for what we’ve got now,” he said. “We’ve really got an urgent situation, and we need to get a handle on [that] before we start looking at what’s going to happen 10 or 15 years down the road.”

Like Hancock, Shaughnessy thinks the federal government should be leading on the issue. But he isn’t optimistic.

“I’m a Kentucky state senator,” he said. “I’ll leave the federal issues to the folks in Washington. But if we wait for Washington to come up with an answer, we’re going to be waiting a long time.”

 Running on air

Kentucky may not have a long time. Lampe thinks many different kinds of alternative vehicles such as electric, natural gas and hydrogen cars, will be on the market in the state within three years, not 15.

“Change happens more quickly than we expect,” he said.

Alternative-fuel vehicles like the all-electric Nissan LEAF are on the assembly lines now and are increasing in market share. There are also cars that run on hydrogen, natural gas and air.

Already hybrids like the Toyota Prius are popular, and all-electric cars like the Nissan LEAF are being built and sold.

Most electrics have a range of only 50 miles or so before they have to be recharged, but Tesla has designed electric cars that get more than already get 200 miles on a charge, he said.

Ford and General Motors have for many years been manufacturing forklifts that run on natural gas, and could easily convert their assembly lines to produce passenger cars and trucks that use it.

Fiat’s Doblo, which runs on natural gas, is being sold in Italy.

Hydrogen vehicles, too, may be closer than most think.

“Mercedes,” Lampe said, “has bet the farm on hydrogen,” and Toyota and Honda are also working on it.

Hydrogen cars would be inexpensive to operate and would have to refuel only about once a month, he said.

One new car Lampe finds especially fascinating runs on compressed air. It is the Tata, made by the Indian Motors Company, which also makes Jaguars and Range Rovers. It is currently being used for taxi service in Indian cities, but is not yet available in the U.S.

Except for the $400 air compressor one could buy at Home Depot and the few cents of electricity it would take to run the compressor, the fuel would be free, Lampe said.

“These cars are now on the assembly line, they’re not on the drawing board,” Lampe said.

And they’re coming to car dealerships in Kentucky in the near future.

Green is good

Ecology and economics are two factors that are driving the sale of hybrids and creating more interest in all-electric and other alternative cars.

But would electric cars really be greener than gasoline-fueled vehicles?

Most electricity in this country is produced by the burning of coal, which has become controversial because of mountaintop removal mining and global warming, which most climate scientists believe is caused by the greenhouse effect of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere resulting from the burning of fossil fuels.

State Rep. Hubert Collins, D-Wittensville, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, is doubtful about climate change.

“A lot of people think global warming is a myth,” he said.

He also thinks America should be using domestic fuels like coal, which, he said, we have enough of to last “hundreds of thousands of years.”

That same week, newspapers reported that Kentucky’s large coal seams are nearly depleted, and that the remaining coal will be harder and more expensive to mine and cause more environmental damage.

Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, a citizens group that started 30 years ago in the state’s eastern coalfield over mineral taxation and ownership issues, is against mountaintop removal mining, but has no position on the production or use of coal.

“It isn’t a given that the electricity that powers those cars has to be produced by coal,” said Jerry Hardt, a longtime KFTC member.

He mentioned that another KFTC member, Dr. Don Feeney, a Louisville dentist, plans to power his electric car using solar panels.

East Kentucky Power Cooperative uses natural gas as well as coal to produce electricity. It is cleaner, abundant and becoming easier to produce.

Collins thinks that electric and natural gas vehicles, and even cars that run on liquified coal, could be good for Kentucky’s energy economy.

Without a doubt, though, cost savings, not environmental awareness, will be the deciding factor in market penetration, he said.

And he should know something about consumer behavior. He’s a retired car dealer.

What’s good for GM

Lampe thinks Collins is probably right. It may be more about how much “green” individuals and businesses save than about saving the environment.

“People will purchase these vehicles for a variety of reasons,” Lampe said, but when the purchase price becomes about the same as for other cars, and fuel costs for the alternative cars are lower, “people are going to be making economic decisions ….”

And those personal economic decisions will affect the entire economy.

The new cars are coming, and we shouldn’t “demonize them,” Lampe said, because “they will strengthen Kentucky’s economy.”

Kentucky is the nation’s third largest manufacturer of automobiles, behind Michigan and Ohio, and has a skilled work force that knows how to build cars. It has natural gas and coal, and other resources that will be positively affected by the new technologies, he said.

 ‘Don’t tread on me’

Perhaps as controversial as the environmental and economic aspects of alternative-fuel vehicles is the issue of privacy.

Oregon has been studying the feasibility of a vehicle mileage tax by having volunteers equip their cars with global positioning system (GPS) devices that would allow the state to track where cars are driven so that consumers are only taxed for miles driven within the state.

Similar studies have been done in other locations around the country.

“Good gosh!” said state Rep. Donna Mayfield, R-Winchester, when told about the idea of a VMT. “There is something frightening about the government putting a GPS in your car. That’s too heavy-handed. … that’s too Big Brother for me.”

Mayfield, whose husband is a truck driver and a Republican county chairman, said she doesn’t think such a plan would be politically feasible.

“People would balk at that in a huge way,” she said.

She would, she added.

It isn’t only Republicans who feel that way.

State Rep. Bob Damron, D-Nicholasville, said he, too, dislikes the idea of a  vehicle mileage tax based on government monitoring of citizens.

“I don’t think anybody needs to know where I drive my car,” he said. “I don’t think that’s something the legislature would consider.”

The Democratic chairman of the House Transportation Committee said the GPS idea is too complicated.

“I just don’t know how that would work,” said Collins, “unless you just projected so many miles that people would drive on the average and charge them [based on] that. … That might be a thought.”

 Dollars and sense

State Rep. Sannie Overly, D-Paris, who chairs the budget subcommittee on transportation and formerly served on Collins’ committee, agrees with the chairman.

State Rep. Sannie Overly, D-Paris, is one of the legislature's transportation experts and among those who believe Kentucky must look forward to a future in which gasoline and diesel are not the main sources of energy for vehicles.

Other than having a flat fee like that proposed by Kentuckians for Better Transportation, there would be some big “hurdles to taxing those vehicles based on use,” and the privacy problem is one of them. Cost is another. GPS systems would cost hundreds of dollars per vehicle.

Overly thinks there is going to have to be a national proposal of some kind.

“I don’t think it’s going to work for the 50 states to have a patchwork approach to this issue,” she said.

Still, it is an issue she thinks is important, which is why she  conducted hearings on it in 2009 and 2010.

“I would expect to have a hearing in the interim as well, because I do believe it is an issue that will continue to have a great impact on this industry,” she said.

Overly said a federal official testified at one of her hearings, and the most important thing she learned from it was that testimony was that, based on federal analysis, the gas tax is expected to be the most reliable form of revenue for several years, probably through 2015 to 2017.

Kentucky’s situation looks good for now, so she doesn’t expect the need for a new revenue source to be an “immediate issue for the legislature.”

“Especially compared to the general fund revenue, the road fund revenue is healthy and robust, exceeding estimates quarter after quarter,” she said.

It is made up not only of the fuel tax, but the tax on the purchase of vehicles, federal reimbursements, and other sources of income, which, according to the Kentucky Constitution, cannot be used for anything other than roads and public safety.

Yet Overly thinks it’s good to plan ahead.

“It is a long-term concern. Having said that, I don’t think we can wait until it’s a real problem before we try to address it,” she said. “We see it coming. We know it’s coming. Certainly I think we need to be ready for it.”

“Even though it may be down the road somewhere, I have made it an important part of our subcommittee’s work to investigate it and continue to monitor it,” she added.

All taxes, Overly said, are unpopular, including the current fuel tax, but they are necessary to provide government services.

Higdon said there aren’t many services that are more important than having good roads, for reasons such as safety and economic development.

“We all have to pay our fair share,” Mayfield said, but she doesn’t think the time is right for any new taxes or tax increases.

She said there are places in the budget where the state can save money, and dollars could be transferred from the general fund to the road fund.

“There’s an old saying that you can move the capital if you have the votes to do it,” Collins said. But moving funds from other areas to transportation could be a hard sell.

Collins likes the idea of using tolling to pay for some roads and bridges because, like the gas tax, it’s a simple user fee; drivers pay based on the amount of use. But he doesn’t rule out having some sort of fee for alternative fuel vehicles when the time comes for it.

Most folks “are anti-tax, no matter what,” but they still want good roads, he said.

“People want to say, ‘Cut my taxes! Cut my taxes! But don’t take away any of my services,” Collins said. “It just doesn’t work that way.”

SIDEBAR:

Kentuckians for Better Transportation’s proposal for “next generation” motor vehicle excise fees:

“KBT recommends that the 2012 Kentucky General Assembly devise a fair and equitable way to levy the equivalent of a motor fuel excise fee on ‘next generation’ vehicles which will be using Kentucky’s street, road and highway network, but not be using gasoline or diesel as their chief source of fuel. Initially, KBT recommends that the General Assembly consider a simple flat fee be added to annual auto registration fees of these ‘next generation’ vehicles in an attempt to keep administrative costs and burden at a minimum.”

(This statement was adopted by KBT’s highways committee on Aug. 9 and by the board of directors on Sept. 16, 2011.)

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