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The Lip: LEO's News Blog

The Lip is the third eye of the Louisville Eccentric Observer's news desk, which naturally endeavors to report and assess the issues and politics of Louisville, Ky. The Lip is updated all the time, so keep your eyes open (yeah, go ahead and bookmark it). Send any correspondence to The News Desk.

Mayor announces seed money for Housing fund

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Louisville is on its way to getting an affordable housing trust fund.

In a press conference this morning, Mayor Abramson announced the culmination of an 8-month effort by the task force he appointed to study the creation of a local fund, which would provide money to low-income Louisvillians looking to become homeowners. The fund could also be used to provide rental assistance or to stave off foreclosure in some cases.

Abramson is contributing $1 million in one-time revenue to seed the fund; the money is about one-third of a windfall from back taxes the city is owed. The seed money will be used, Abramson said, to attract private sector and nonprofit contributions to build and solidify the fund. In addition, Abramson said the city plans to lobby Frankfort lawmakers next year to pass enabling legislation that would give the Metro Council authority to implement renewable, public revenue streams.

There is a state-based affordable housing trust fund, though money from it is spread among 120 counties. The fund raises around $2 million a year.

"I think it's an excellent first step," Cathy Hinko, director of the Metropolitan Housing Coalition, said Wednesday. Hinko was on Abramson's task force, which also included representatives of banks, developers and other nonprofit housing groups. "[Abramson] is very clear that this is seed money from a non-recurring source and that he is committed to finding some sort of source for it, and we hope he means a dedicated public source."

The Louisville Metro Family Services Department will administer the fund. Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh (D-9) is expected to introduce an ordinance at next week's Metro Council meeting establishing a commission, appointed by the mayor and approved by the Council, that would set up the parameters of the fund. The mayor also said he would include funding for it in subsequent city budgets.

An Abramson spokesperson said they expect the fund to be operational some time next year, though that depends largely on how responsive Frankfort lawmakers are to allowing Louisville its own fund. (Stephen George)
posted by The Lip: LEO's News Blog, 3:20 PM | link | 0 comments |  

Olbermann strikes again!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

MSNBC host Keith Olbermann took aim at Secretary of State Rice in a special comment last night on "Countdown". He filleted her for comparing Saddam Hussein to Adolf Hitler. Check it. (Stephen George)
posted by The Lip: LEO's News Blog, 11:44 AM | link | 0 comments |  

KY Baptist Homes changes name; still bigoted

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Well, this is pretty interesting. Kentucky Baptist Homes, a state- and donor-funded organization that provides social services to all kinds of at-risk people (so long as they're not homosexual), is changing its name to Sunrise Children's Services. The organization is still involved in a federal lawsuit that stems from its firing a woman, Alicia Pedreira, for being a lesbian. The organization has stood fast in its defense that gay people stand on the outside of the "Christian lifestyle" — perhaps not the same one that implores us to love our neighbors and so forth.

The problem, though, isn't as much the blatant bigotry of Kentucky Baptist Homes (er, Sunrise) but that it receives a healthy chunk of funding from the state, which sparked the lawsuit that questions whether the state can effectively sponsor bigotry on the grounds of religion, or faith-based initiatives.

Seems like a pretty good time for a PR move for Kentucky Baptist Homes. Perhaps they could start by disavowing themselves of such discrimination. (Stephen George)
posted by The Lip: LEO's News Blog, 1:26 PM | link | 1 comments |  

Seum bill would increase MSD oversight

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Making good on what he told LEO a couple weeks ago, state Sen. Dan Seum filed a bill Friday that would increase government oversight of the Metropolitan Sewer District by requiring a nine-member Board of Directors to be appointed by Louisville's mayor, the Governor and the Metro Council. Each would appoint three members. Now, the law allows the mayor to appoint both the Board and MSD's director. (Read the bill here.)

Seum filed the bill in response to a jury verdict saying MSD violated the state Whistleblower statute by laying off an employee and contractor who'd reported potential ethical and legal transgressions within the agency to the Attorney General in May 2004.

A spokesman for the mayor told LEO that there would be no consequences for MSD director Bud Schardein, who was implicated in the case and was ultimately responsible for the layoffs. Seum told LEO the case illustrates the need for additional oversight at the agency. (Stephen George)
posted by The Lip: LEO's News Blog, 1:56 PM | link | 0 comments |  

Best car company in the world?

Monday, February 19, 2007

Fascinating piece in the NY Times magazine this week on Toyota, the Japanese auto company poised to takeover the American market in what experts pretty much agree will be a dash of time.

The piece highlights the company's philosophy, based largely in a Japanese tradition that seems antithetical to the way Ford, GM and others have behaved in a fluctuating market where the car-buying public is becoming increasingly selective. Toyota has been responsive to its customer base and consistently angles toward progress, rather than relying on, well, anything.

For example, two decades ago, Toyota decided to pour money into R&D for its successful Prius hybrid based on a few crucial questions: Will the price of gas rise or fall in the short term? Will the availability of oil rise or fall in the short term? Will carbon emissions cause serious harm to the environment in the short term? The company answered those questions differently than Ford and GM, who have kept the focus on large trucks and SUVs, and Toyota's market value is now more than that of GM, Ford, Nissan, Daimler-Chrysler and Honda combined. Extraordinary.

Now, Toyota has one of the best reputations for quality in the auto industry. As the article says, innovation in the way you do business often delivers a greater impact than than the products you make. (Stephen George)
posted by The Lip: LEO's News Blog, 10:29 AM | link | 0 comments |  

On Capitol Hill

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

LEO's News Desk is on a field trip to Washington D.C. this week and will be blogging intermittently throughout. Hopefully more often than not... (Stephen George)
posted by The Lip: LEO's News Blog, 12:02 AM | link | 2 comments |  

Guest Commentary from State Rep. Jim Wayne

Monday, February 05, 2007

A "State of the Commonwealth" speech you won't hear, but should
By Rep. Jim Wayne

I've sat through 11 State of the Commonwealth speeches during my time in the Kentucky House of Representatives, and I'll hear another one Tuesday night when Gov. Ernie Fletcher gives his in the House chamber. Frankly, they are all starting to sound the same, with carefully worded sound bites, statistics that paint the rosiest possible picture of an administration's successes and a closing that strikes an optimistic note and calls on everyone to work toward a shared vision.

All that's well and good. But there's so much left out. Imagine if one of the voiceless people in our state -- one of the 680,000 citizens living in poverty -- gave the speech instead of the governor. It might sound something like this:

Governor Fletcher, constitutional officers, legislators, justices and my fellow Kentuckians...

I'm here tonight to report on the State of the Commonwealth, on behalf of some forgotten Kentuckians.

The State of our Commonwealth is troubling. I fear it's not going to get better without serious changes in the mindset and policies of our leaders. And though I haven't seen any signs of those changes yet, my hope that they will come endures.

I am a wife, mother and full time worker. I make $10 an hour, which is about $17,000 a year after taxes. I think that means I live below the poverty line. I have three sons, ages 16, 13 and 7. We live in an older neighborhood filled with drugs, violence, prostitution and fear.

My life is tough. I pay $700 a month for rent and utilities. I've been on the waiting list for a Section 8 housing subsidy for 7 years. I hear the number of families on the waiting list is larger than the number of families living in Section 8 homes. I don’t expect to get a rent subsidy before my youngest child is out of high school.

I completed my GED three years ago. It helped me get a better job. I planned to go to the local community college to get an associates degree, but cannot find time or money to do so. Tuition at state colleges and universities has gone up 40% since I got my GED. I would need $250 a month in tuition. Impossible.

My kids’ schools? You can check the rankings. Last year they got some of the lowest performance scores in the state. Why do we herd all the poor kids together into the same failed schools and expect teachers and principals to perform miracles? My boys are smart; but they aren’t even learning the basics. I am holding my breath to see if my oldest will stay in school. So many of his classmates have already dropped out and are on the streets, dealing in drugs, drinking, idle and headed for trouble. I fear I will not be able to keep my boys from that sorry life.

I dream of them going to college. But if they hate school now, what hope do they have of ever getting out of this poor neighborhood? Will they end up in the Army only to be killed in some foreign land in a senseless war? Or end up on drugs or in prison? Or simply working and struggling like me, with fading hope for the future?

What about their dad, you ask. I know where he is, but I don’t bother him. He is mentally ill and wasting away in another end of the neighborhood. The wait for him to get help at the mental health clinic is so long that he just gives up.

I work until 5:30, or 6, come home and fix supper and am exhausted. The boys are here alone after school. I worry about that. Who's coming into the house? Is the oldest one having sex? Is he using protection? What if I am a grandmother before my time? Are they drinking when I am gone? Doing drugs?

My mother and sister live down the street. Mother is widowed, has diabetes and is confused a lot these days. She tries to take care of my sister, who is mentally retarded, but she needs help. I try to make sure they eat well. Meals on Wheels come three times a week. I worry about them all the time. As her mind and health get worse will they have to come live with me? I couldn’t handle that too.

My 13 year old car is a gas guzzler that needs new tires and new brakes. If it won’t start, as happens some mornings, I take the bus to work. That adds 30 minutes each way, making me late, which my boss doesn’t like. I wish they’d use some of the money for new roads and bridges to make a better bus system or fast train for people like me. That way I wouldn’t need a car and I could feed my family. At the end of the month I don’t have enough for groceries so I go to the food pantry at one of the churches to make do. I just swallow my pride and do it.

All our clothes are bought used from the Goodwill Thrift Store. But when the boys need shoes I spring for new ones. I don’t want them wearing someone else’s shoes. That’s where I draw the line.

I think it is wonderful the boys have KCHIP health insurance. I take them to the neighborhood health clinic when they get sick. They are healthy, thank God, but I know if they ever need good medical care they can get it. If I make more money, though, they will lose the coverage. My boss doesn’t give us health insurance. I pray I don’t need to go to the hospital. I read somewhere a half million Kentuckians are like me…no insurance.

What is my future? I try not to think about it. I am just trying to get through one day at a time. I do have a wish list. Not that anyone with power wants to listen. I wish poor people had good schools for their kids, really good schools, just like the people with money have. I have heard that schooling is the great equalizer in our country. If that is true, would the people in the rich neighborhoods tolerate what I tolerate?

I wish everyone could live in a decent home. If I had enough money to buy a house, I could deduct my mortgage interest and property taxes. If I ever get a Section 8 voucher, I’ll cap my housing costs at 30% of what I take home every month (instead of the 50% I pay now). But Washington has actually cut the number of vouchers available (maybe to pay for this senseless war?). It would be nice to know my retarded sister could move to a group home when mother can no longer care for her.

I wish we had a health program for everybody, not just the poor. I don’t have a lot of incentive to make more money, because my family would lose its insurance.

I wish we’d put a lot more money into busses and trains for public transportation, like they do in Europe and Japan.

I wish we had better funded mental health treatment programs. That would make it more likely for my husband to get help and maybe hold a job and help support and raise his kids.

We need more police on the streets. And I mean that literally, walking our streets and meeting the neighbors and making friends with young people. The odds are pretty good trouble will find my boys. I think about that at night, exhausted by work, yet sleeping only fitfully with my worries.

In this State of the Commonwealth speech, I've tried to give you a glimpse of what life is like in many corners of Kentucky hidden to you. But it's going to take more than a glimpse. It's going to take a long hard look and a long term commitment -- and leaders with both backbone and vision -- to find and implement policies that will change this life, my life, the life of thousands of forgotten Kentuckians I represent here, for the better.

Then and only then will some governor be able to stand up in this chamber and report to Kentuckians truthfully that the State of our Commonwealth -- for all its citizens -- is strong. Until that day, remember: Rosy sound bites tell just part of the truth, and the future remains closed for those whose voices are heard here too seldom.

Rep. Jim Wayne has served in the Kentucky General Assembly since 1991, representing the state's 35th House District in Louisville.
posted by The Lip: LEO's News Blog, 2:27 PM | link | 0 comments |  

Louisville artist pulls public art project in wake of arrests

Friday, February 02, 2007

Louisville artist Jeffrey Scott Holland has decided to remove his "Project Egg" public art installation from the state of Massachusetts in light of the recent arrests of two men for placing promotional boxes for the Cartoon Network's Aqua Teen Hunger Force show in various "sensitive" places. The boxes were reported to police to be potential bombs, and the police responded as if it were some kind of terrorist threat.

"In the wake of the ludicrous and Orwellian response of Boston city officials to the Aqua Teen Hunger Force ad campaign, I have been deeply morally appalled at the behavior and statements of Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Assistant Attorney General John Grossman, claiming that lightboxes such as those used in the Aqua Teen Hunger Force ad campaign were no longer appropriate in a 'post 9/11 world,' and that the 'hoax' perpetrators 'clearly intended' the lightboxes to be mistaken for bombs,"
Holland wrote in a statement issued Friday.

Holland's piece involved placing green Easter eggs in various public places across a number of American cities. He said the Boston response to the promos will have a "chilling effect" on public art of all kinds. "I will not give these men further fuel in their drive to present themselves as intelligent and valiant fighters of 'potential' terrorism in the name of national security, which is the real hoax being perpetrated here." (Stephen George)
posted by The Lip: LEO's News Blog, 10:14 AM | link | 2 comments |  

Survival of the richest

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The day after President Bush made a surprise visit to the New York Stock Exchange to call for transparency and good governance in America's highest corporate echelons (wonder why he felt that was necessary?), Exxon reported it has just registered largest profit in U.S. history. Funny how news items can sometimes debunk each other. (Stephen George)
posted by The Lip: LEO's News Blog, 11:01 AM | link | 0 comments |