Feb 292012

By Marcus Flores

This will not be the first column dedicated to Rick Santorum.  Little attention was given to him when he was nestled into the shadow of obscurity and bigotry in which he ought to have remained.  But since then, Santorum has claimed a belated win in Iowa and added more states to his count, meaning that he has catapulted himself into the role of a viable politician.  Consequently, concerned voters ought to be glaring at the Senator even more.

Santorum has quite the desire—a need even—to insert his Catholic tentacles into everyone’s bedroom.  This invasion takes numerous forms.  By an act of sophistry, or perhaps creative ignorance, he posits that the Constitution permits states to decide whether or not to allow birth control for consenting and married adults.  He has also vowed to annul all gay marriages if elected president, because he believes “nothing is wrong with homosexuality, only homosexual acts.” Most significantly, the Senator has made it incredibly clear that he opposes abortion under all circumstances. These are no less than outrageous assaults on civil liberties. Continue reading »

Feb 092012
Audio from the November 1, 2011, performance of Rat Shed Radio, held at Homegrown Press. Other Rat Shed Radio paddles can be found here:  the Fabled Canelands and fair Jessamine.
High, high, yes when I die
there’s untold millions
standing next in line.

Wes Houp, “Up on Chenoca”

When development came to the bluegrass, it came from the east. From Fort Pitt at the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers on past the Kanawha, speculators from James Harrod to Johnny Appleseed floated the Ohio in search of available productive land. Harrod, like many of the early illegals who explored the region as citizens of invading British and American nations, came into the bluegrass by turning left at the mouth of the Kentucky and paddling, upriver, as far as Leestown. Later, by the 1780s, new arrivals to central Kentucky would shorten this trip immeasurably, by disembarking at the settlement of Limestone and then taking the southern road toward the growing frontier town of Lexington. Continue reading »

Feb 082012

By Danny Mayer

The central question surrounding the Rupp Opportunity Zone concerns its value. Will the capital outlays—human, monetary, carbon—necessary to redevelop the 50 acres surrounding Rupp Arena match the value projected to spring from the end-product? Will Rupp investment provide good value to the city? That is the question, and as usual, the answer depends on where you stand and how you define value.

The 47 appointed members of the Rupp Task Force have answered that question positively. This unelected body, with not a single publicly elected representative serving on it, spent $350,000 to issue a report calling for a $300 million renovation of Rupp Arena and construction of a new city convention center. To this body of vested UK boosters, downtown developers, bankers and other city business leaders, any capital servicing the Rupp environs is certain to provide a good return-on-investment (ROI). If designed well, they argue, any money shoveled into the small urban sliver of expensive Fayette County land will unlock private investment and provide enough economic returns to benefit the entire city.

Yet to the Fayette County resident who does not live, own property or run a business adjacent to Rupp Arena, is not affiliated with the UK Athletic Association, and does not attend conventions, arena concerts or UK home basketball games, the public investment will surely hold less value. The privately-funded Rupp Task Force subcommittee on Finance, chaired by big-time UK Athletic Booster Luther Deaton, has already outlined several local funding streams–park and water/sewer funds were both mentioned–that the city may need to capitalize upon. For non-downtown taxpayers (most of the city), this means that freeing up local money to pay for the Rupp transformation will have direct negative costs: at least some money earmarked for the entire Lexington community and our own unique neighborhoods will re-route into downtown.

For a Fayette County resident, then, valuing the Rupp project might be understood better by a simple cost comparison between development funds and projects. In Lexington’s ninth district, for example, outgoing council member Jay McChord has generated $2.5 million for park development, with the majority of that money coming from private sources. This investment has resulted in over 100 acres of new park land opening up across the district. At Shilito Park where much of the money was directed, funding produced a 2.25 mile healthway trail, improvements to a number of baseball fields, a resurfaced tennis complex, space for soccer and lacrosse, and expansion of a disc golf course. In addition, the $2.5 million investment netted other area parks playground equipment, four more healthway trails, a dog park, rain gardens, native plantings and a “sensory garden.” In the Ninth District, the $2.5 million in public/private funds have built community value by creating publicly accessible spaces of healthy activity, leisure and transportation. Park upgrades have also built property value and connected geographically disperse suburban neighborhoods and people, from mall rats on Nicholasville Road beyond New Circle to Unitarians attending church on Clay’s Mill nearby Man O’War.

In contrast, consider the plans submitted by UK booster Luther Deaton’s finance subcommittee. Unlike the Ninth District funds stewarded by McChord, initial funds directed to Rupp will produce nothing of value. Deaton’s group allocated most of the first $2.5 million in Rupp funds—all public money from the city or state—to achieving what the privately-funded Rupp Task Force had pretended to do: $500,000 will pay a real administrative staff; $600,000 will pay a real program manager to create a real plan of the area; $450,000 will create a real financial feasibility study; $200,000 will provide an arts facility feasibility study; and $500,000 will clean-up the site. City business leaders have called for an initial $300 million investment to be poured into Rupp’s 50 downtown acres. In terms of value for city residents, that should work out to a project with 120 times the value as McChord’s Ninth District funding for parks. It won’t even come close.

Feb 082012

Misadventures in the city

By Beth Connors-Manke

I’m wary of manifestos, but nonetheless I’m now offering mine. When NoC closed up shop for our annual holiday break, I was feeling cynical. On national news, I was listening to yahoos rail against American families receiving governmental assistance because of lost or downgraded jobs. Newt Gingrich was bombastically recommending that Occupiers give up their lazy ways and “go get a job right after they take a bath.” Even here in Lexington, the response to the New Life Day Center on Martin Luther King showed the degree to which some are willfully ignorant of the struggles—shared by many—brought on by this recession. Continue reading »

Feb 082012

Affordable Health Care Act heads to U.S. Supreme Court

By Jack Stevenson

The health care legislation promoted by the Obama administration and developed into law by the U.S. Congress, the Affordable Health Care Act, will be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court to determine whether the law is constitutional. According to the Associated Press news agency, 26 states have filed legal challenges to the new health insurance law. The U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Georgia, ruled that the U.S. Constitution does not confer to the United States Congress the authority to require private citizens to buy medical insurance from a commercial for-profit insurance company. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case in March and will probably release a decision this summer.

The requirement for individuals to purchase medical insurance is called the “individual mandate.” The U.S. Supreme Court may decide if either the interstate commerce clause or the tax clause of our Constitution grants Congress the authority to impose a “mandate” that requires individual citizens to purchase medical insurance.

If you and your friends were discussing the merits of universal health care, it seems unlikely that anyone would suggest that it depends on the interstate commerce clause of our constitution. But that is exactly the issue before the Supreme Court or, at least, one of the issues. The U.S. Constitution grants the U.S. Congress authority to “lay and collect taxes” and also grants Congress the authority to “regulate commerce. . .among the several states” (interstate commerce). That yields a question: Does the requirement for individual citizens to buy health insurance from a for-profit insurance company constitute interstate commerce? If the answer is yes, then the Congress acted within its authority.

Another argument is that the requirement to purchase medical insurance or pay a financial penalty for failure to purchase insurance is actually a tax. The U.S. Constitution grants Congress the power to tax. The Court may decide whether the insurance purchase or penalty for failure to purchase is a tax. If it is not a tax, then the health insurance law could not be justified by the constitutional tax clause.

The Affordable Health Care Act also expands the Medicaid program. Medicaid is administered by the several states and the cost is shared by the federal government and the states. The adjutants general of 26 states object to the burden placed on the states by expansion of the program and contend that it constitutes federal “coercion” of the states. The Supreme Court will hear their argument.

The Court will also consider the relevance of the 19th century Anti-Injunction Act. The argument, here, is that the court should not decide an issue prematurely, that is, before the law is implemented. The major provisions of the Affordable Health Care Act take effect in 2014. Reliance on the Anti-Injunction Act doctrine would delay any Supreme Court challenge to the health care law until the year 2015. If the Supreme Court adopts this view, the Court would, we assume, not decide the individual mandate issue at the present time. However, the health care law runs to 975 pages, and it contains other miscellaneous provisions that the Court may or may not decide.

The new law requires insurance coverage from birth to age 65 when a citizen becomes eligible for U.S. Government Medicare. Forty percent of lifetime medical costs occur during those first sixty-five years of life. The commercial for-profit insurance companies will collect premiums for 65 years and sustain 40 percent of the lifetime medical costs. Sixty percent of medical costs occur after age 65 and become the responsibility of the tax supported U.S. Government Medicare program.

Supreme Court decisions are difficult to predict. However, the current Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Roberts has been friendly to business organizations. The Affordable Health Care Act diverts a river of money, a continuous income stream, from citizens to health insurance corporations.

Whether the health insurance law, if implemented, will result in delivery of good health care, remains to be learned. During the past 79 years, 13 presidential administrations have looked at the health care question. None, to date, has found the magic potion.

Feb 082012

Out on the streets, that’s where we’ll meet

By Captain Comannokers
NoC Transportation Czar

A television commercial that recently caught some attention featured a wave of night cyclists cruising the streets in a futuristic, neon dream. The commercial had more people talking about the super-cool, glowing rides than the actual product it was trying to promote (cell phones), but that’s the way the marketing world works sometimes—as long as you’ve got ‘em talking, you are still in the game. You’ll actually have to check with college marketing classes or Mad Men to confirm that last statement, but it seems like something they’d teach you, or a line those witty writers would use. Continue reading »

Feb 082012

Though the sidewalks were sheathed in ice on this freezing Sunday afternoon, Keturah did not hesitate to step outside and sit on the old chair for us. We met her at Metro Alternative Shelter Housing of the Bluegrass: home of the blue chair for 4 years before someone sat on it and broke it.

Image and text by Kurt Gohde and Kremena Todorova, Discarded project.

Discarded project.

Feb 082012

By Stanley Sturgill

I live at the foot of Kentucky’s highest peak, Black Mountain, in Harlan County. I am retired with 41 years service to the mining industry. My wife and I have lived in Harlan County most of our lives. We have raised our family here, and we want to continue to remain here.

And I want to see my grandkids grow up here and find meaningful work and get as much joy and comfort from this beautiful part of Kentucky as I have.

That’s why I’ll be attending I Love Mountains Day.

Demonstrators gather in front of the Kentucky state capital building during last year's I Love Mountains Day. Photo by Jeff Gross.

Continue reading »