Apr 272012

Tuesday gathering of parents’ friends to be held at Kenwick Park in support of CROCKers, workers of the world

May Day Kid and family. Photo by Matt Garbett.

NoC News

Parental sources say that Josie Rose, the May Day Kid, has moved her One-Year-Old birthday bash from the family’s backyard to Kenwick Park. The move is in solidarity with the General Strikes taking place that day across the country, and with the Community Radicals of Central Kentucky, who will be holding their first weekly Kenwick Exchange that night from 6:00-8:00 PM.

“With so much public love taking place in the world that day, the family decided that privatizing the May Day Kid’s birthday celebration was not an option. We wanted her to be a part of it all,” read a press release issued early this morning. “Kenwick Park, which has some nice new playground equipment, will be a great place to celebrate the one year anniversary of the Kid’s pushing into the world.” Continue reading »

Apr 172012

Dear Jim,

I am sending a third follow-up to my April 9 letter that requested information regarding those who invested in the Rupp Arena Arts and Entertainment Task Force report. As a matter of open government, I asked—and your office agreed—to offer up the list of people who paid for the privately funded report, which by now has been used by both city and state leaders to determine whether the $300+ million Rupp project constitutes good public investment. Eight days and two follow-up emails later, I have yet to receive a response.

I am of course dismayed that my elected mayor is apparently blocking the release of information that will give constituents some basic information regarding a several hundred million dollar project that, if enacted, will largely be funded with our federal, state and local tax dollars. I am more disappointed, however, to realize that I am apparently a second-class Lexington citizen.

Consider, for example, the treatment your office has given Ben Self, another publicly engaged downtown citizen connected to a local first start-up media outlet. As you’ll recall, in March of 2011 when Ben and his on-again, off-again startup blog ProgressLex informed you and area citizens about a plagiarized economic development report submitted to the city by Angelou Economics, your office responded publicly and pointedly within 24 hours. In fact, not only did you respond to Ben and ProgressLex in this time-frame, but you also carried out to the letter his group’s demand that the city exact a return on its $75,000 stake in the $150,000 report.

As a publicly engaged downtown citizen–someone who like Self has committed a great amount of time, energy and household money to write about my city and region–one would expect I’d receive close to the same treatment by my progressive, downtown-loving mayor. One would expect, that is, that I’d be listened to. After all, I am asking much less of you than Ben and ProgressLex. Though I find the Rupp Task Force report fraudulent in all the same important ways as the Angelou Report, unlike Self I am not demanding a refund on services. Nor am I asking you to take a public stance on a project you seem stubbornly committed to. For the past several months, I have been requesting instead that you provide something much easier: the list of people who invested $350,000 in making the Rupp Task Force report a reality, along with the amount each individual invested in the project.

It’s hard not to infer a great divide in political representation. When Ben contacted you as a concerned resident, you responded swiftly and decisively. By now, after I have waited between 2 weeks and 12 months (take your pick) for you to make good on your promise to make the Rupp donor list public, I’ve learned my pecking order in this city: well behind citizen Ben Self and his media board at ProgressLex. It’s enough to discourage public civic involvement in my community. And it’s your fault.

But hey, let’s let bygones be bygones. A new spring is emerging, so I’ll give you a second chance. It took your administration less than 24 hours to respond to Self, both publicly and privately, and to make the strong political move of questioning the Angelou report. I’m not asking you to to do anything bold like that. I’ll be happy to receive a private email, with investors and amounts attached as a word or excel doc, by say, sundown Thursday ( April 19).

You don’t even need to send me warm regards, though of course I’m sure you do that for first class citizens. It is, after all, just a nice thing that mayors normally do for the right people, right Jim? To make the right citizens with the right viewpoints feel represented, spoken for, acknowledged.

Danny Mayer

Fayette Urban County resident

Apr 092012

Dear Jim,

On February 7, your assistant Susan Straub responded to my email request for the list of financial contributors for the Rupp Arena Arts and Entertainment District Task Force study, along with amounts that each contributor donated. At the time, I was curious—and am still now—about who actually paid for the $350,000 study, and how much each contributor invested, so starting last January I began asking your office for that list of investors.

Mainly, my interest was rooted in good consumerism and rudimentary English 101 skills of authorship and credibility: I wanted to know who is funding the people who say that Rupp and its environs need large amounts of prioritized public capital. But with city and state budgets now in the news, this question has assumed an added journalistic urgency. It has re-entered the news cycle.

At the state level, the Rupp Task Force study was surely used by lawmakers last month in their deliberations over where to direct diminishing public funds. In an austere budget where most state run agencies can expect cuts of 8.4% for the upcoming fiscal calendar—a decision that the Governor himself has cautioned  will likely lead to delays in service, loss of federal funds, facility closures, unfilled positions, and possible layoffsthese leaders no doubt relied upon the Task Force’s privately funded work to determine that the Rupp project should receive $2.5 million in public state funds.

Here at the municipal level, the privately funded Rupp Report promises to play a large role in the city’s budget. The state funds now commit Lexington to $1.5 million in additional public money, which will come from the upcoming Fayette Urban County budget. As you formulate Lexington’s budget priorities and run up against a limited amount of city capital, the Task Force document helps prioritize Rupp’s needs over, for example, local agencies like the Explorium of Lexington, Big Brother Big Sister, Moveable Feast, Salvation Army, Baby Health and the Hope Center—which in your previous budget experienced cuts totaling $125,810 (or about 1/10 of the money destined for Rupp in this budget alone).

In her Feb 7 email to my query about the donor list, Straub responded, “You are correct about the list of people who contributed to the task force costs. It wasn’t quite ready for the final report, but we’re close. As discussed in an earlier e-mail, I will give you a list of the individuals, not of the amounts of their contributions. You will have it as soon as it’s complete and it should be soon.”

My apologies for the public format. I hate doing things this way. But after the third or fourth email, one gets tired of all the delays and begins to suspect that you really aren’t interested in circulating this information. When I received no response to my February 17 email follow-up, I resolved that the public might could compel a quicker response from you than Straub. After all, you do claim the mantel of progressive, constituent-friendly, mayor, right?

So I’ll ask again: can you send me the list of Rupp contributors and their specific monetary investments in the Rupp report? I—and who knows, maybe others, too—would like to know who paid for the study that, in this year’s budget cycle alone, has reaped $4 million of public monies–over a 10-1 return on private investment thus far for the under-writers of the Task Force report.

With March Madness over, it is time now to commence with the real world of budgets, and with the spring reality of what happens when some things get overwatered and others wither from want.  In this season of rebirth, it is high time to reveal the Rupp rain-makers.

Thanks for your prompt response to something promised over two two months ago,

Danny Mayer

Fayette Urban County citizen

Apr 042012

CSAs, short for Community Supported Agriculture, grew out of 1960s Japanese and Swiss culture and were transplanted to the United States in the mid-1980s. In a typical CSA, shareholders exchange their upfront monetary investment for a stake in a farm’s seasonal or yearly bounty. As Susan DeMuth has observed, CSAs are places “where consumers interested in safe food and farmers seeking stable markets for their crops [have] joined together in economic partnerships.”

North of Center is offering its own model of community sustained products: a CSJ (Community Sustained Journalism). In buying a share in NoC, your money will help purchase ad space. You can choose to advertise for your favorite businesses or nonprofit, or you can choose to dedicate your share for a space to announce, publicly, a kickass party you’re throwing.

You’ve got choices. Check them out, along with the great swag that accompanies each CSJ choice, below:

Continue reading »

Apr 042012

By David Shattuck

Editor’s note: David’s previous two columns demonstrated that converting Lexington’s downtown streets to two-way traffic would result in unacceptable congestion at peak hours.  Currently, city leadership is once-again expending public capital to study two-way conversion as a means to improve the city.

Conversion proponents argue that slower traffic makes streets more “walkable,” thereby enhancing retail potential, and that retailers shun locating on one-way streets.  Slower traffic means fewer accidents, and is safer for pedestrians, they reason.  This column dispels these myths.

One would expect that conversion proponents would have evidence supporting their claims.  The Lexington Downtown Development Authority (LDDA), an entity that was created in large part to make conversion happen, offers none. Remarkably, as the LDDA wrote me last November, it “has conducted no research and has no information regarding the benefits and costs of converting Lexington’s downtown streets to two-way traffic.” Continue reading »

Apr 042012

Bike polo tourney, April 27-29

By Sunny Montgomery

It was a warm and particularly windy afternoon when I attended my first bike polo practice, arriving at Coolavin Park as the pickup games were already underway.  A dozen or so players and two large dogs hurried back and forth across the old tennis courts.  The dogs, unfortunately, did not play polo.  Instead, they barked raucously at the young children who’d wandered over from the playground, in part to tease the dogs but also to watch the players circling the court on their bicycles, chasing a small ball with their homemade mallets.  Occasionally, a player would cruise past where I sat taking notes and whack their mallet up against the chain link fence.

Within just a few minutes, I witnessed my first collision.  The player toppled sideways off his seat then struggled to climb back on while still holding onto his groin.  Continue reading »

Apr 042012

Our man in Amsterdam

By Michael Marchman

An inspiring and very promising movement is taking shape in the Netherlands. And it is one from which unions, workers, and students in the US and around the world might be able to learn. University students and faculty members, who are fighting cuts to higher education, have joined with blue-collar workers, specifically cleaners and caterers, who are in a heated battle with their employers over deteriorating wages and working conditions.

The movement is being built around a strike by the Dutch cleaners union, FNV Bondgenoten, which is now in its twelfth week. The cleaners provide contracted custodial services for large companies, such as the Dutch electronics giant Philips, and a range of public institutions, including government ministries, universities, Schiphol International Airport, and Dutch Railways. Continue reading »

Apr 042012

Automated technology and job displacement

By Nishaan Sandhu 

 Automated technology is becoming more common in nearly every venue of the world marketplace. Supermarket U-Scans, automated bank tellers, and computerized technical support systems serve as time savers for some while inspiring strings of expletives for others.

The isolating nature of U-Scan and other computerized customer service results in major job losses, a huge impact on the economy, and a significant decrease in everyday social interactions.  Instead of saving labor for the benefit of the workers, technology continues to drive the wedge between the ultra-wealthy and the growing ranks of the poor.

The corporate bottom line: no workers comp necessary for broken U-Scans. Photo by Captain Comannokers.

When discussing the unemployment rate that remains at a high level, it seems much easier to become passionately angered by offshoring or job displacement than to recognize how our nation’s motto of “I want it fast and I want it now!” actually takes away jobs.  Let’s take a moment and think, what is the real price of this modern day convenience we call U-Scan?   Continue reading »