Give veterans a better chance at firefighter jobs
I support the Urban County Government's decision to fill the vacancies in the fire department by hiring 25 new recruits.
We cannot afford to be below strength for such vital services.
However, as a member of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of American, I was disappointed to read that the department would be hiring recruits from an eligibility list created two years ago.
What about all of the returning combat veterans from Central Kentucky who were deployed to war zones when that list was being created?
It seems to me that those returning veterans who have experience in combat and perhaps some as combat medics would make excellent applicants. I understand veterans do receive priority points on their application when they apply, and that is commendable. But those points don't really matter much if you can't even apply.
I urge the department leadership and Mayor Jim Gray to work together on this issue. Make the recruit process transparent and open to all veterans. With this generation of young people returning from war daily by the thousands, we owe them a fair shot at what few jobs we do have available.
Warrior for ethics
Thank you for your insightful Jan. 29 story about Richard Beliles and his work for Common Cause. I'd say you caught the essence of his character perfectly.
He is indeed gentlemanly and unfailingly respectful of others, even when he is filing ethics complaints against them. I think of him as the Archibald Cox of Kentucky.
His current effort to advance partial-public funding of our election campaigns for state judges intends to keep our judges free and clear of big-money influence and partisan politics. This is not merely theoretical. It's already a real problem.
Three years ago, voters in Jefferson County witnessed a free-wheeling campaign for district judgeship that featured slick ads, sound bites and big spending. That particular campaign was admonished for its misleading ads and fined for the biggest violation of state campaign laws in recent history.
Surely, we do not want our state judges to campaign like candidates for Congress. Beliles is calling our public officials to do the right thing, once more.
Thanks to reporter John Cheves for an excellent Jan. 29 article about Richard Beliles, chairman of the Kentucky chapter of Common Cause. His and his group's efforts to curb the excessive influence of money on government and to promote fair elections should be appreciated by the citizens of Kentucky.
I am particularly appreciative of his quiet, unwavering, weekly protests in the governor's foyer of mountaintop removal coal mining, a practice I find abominable.
Beliles' future reward will surely be in heaven while the people responsible for this destruction will have to wait to find out if there is a reward for destroying nature and people's lives.
Sad to say, all Kentuckians will pay dearly for this practice.
Carol B. Dillion
Can you promote a law known to cause addiction to some people?
A recent letter writer asked this about the potential ills of expanded gaming.
While a legitimate concern, reliance on this as a reason to stop casino gaming from entering Kentucky is ludicrous in its failure to acknowledge our state's history with tobacco production and consumption.
Perhaps the writer is consistent in his views by also being anti-tobacco. However, in a state that has been slow to reject tobacco economics — despite the health horrors tobacco use inflicts upon its addicts, who commonly began in youth — the argument of addiction and social cost ring hollow.
The reality is that many Kentucky citizens like to gamble. It is sound economics for Kentucky to capture and benefit from the dollars fleeing our state in search of a slot machine. I'm not a fan of casino gaming. But I know a lot of people who enjoy it. Let them do it close to home. It'll also cut down on the costs associated with car wrecks, air pollution and wear and tear on highway pavement.
Rebecca E. Weems
Push fairer redistricting
Citizens of Fayette County have now experienced the effects of partisan redistricting and are crying foul. However, Kentucky has a history of shaping districts that favor one party or the other, including the 1982 relocation of GOP Sen. Jon Ackerman's suburban Louisville district to the Tennessee border by a Democratic-led Senate.
In 2000, Democrat Daniel Mongiardo's Eastern Kentucky district was moved to the area between Cincinnati and Lexington.
These and similar situations do not improve the political climate nor do they serve the voters of Kentucky.
The League of Women Voters has spent almost a century fighting first for the right to vote and then for voter protection. The LWV of Moore County in North Carolina has worked hard over the past year to successfully achieve a fair basis for redistricting in that state.
The Texas LWV urged the Justice Department not to accept that state legislature's original redistricting plans. The U.S. Supreme Court has ordered the San Antonio court to develop another set of redistricting plans.
In Kentucky, the league continues the work of registering, educating and advocating for voters. The league reminds legislators that partisan politics, as evidenced in the recently developed plans, infringe upon citizens' rights and work against the good of the commonwealth. The league encourages all citizens to write, call, email or visit elected officials to protest the detrimental effects of such partisan actions. The League will continue to work for a better system of redistricting. Active voter participation can hasten the needed change.
Lexington League of Women Voters
Win for democracy
I am so proud of our citizens who stood behind Sen. Kathy Stein and this horrible redistricting.
I am proud of Stein for standing firm, as she always does. I want to thank Judge Phillip Shepherd for his fair and just ruling.
This is a real victory for democracy. Standing for democracy is a constant struggle and I hope our legislators will go back and do it right this time.
I vote, I care and I am watching, and I am not watching alone.
Ad positive, not political
So Karl Rove is complaining that Chrysler's Super Bowl ad was political. You have to be kidding. Rove has made his living making negative attacks on political opponents. He currently has three different organizations funded by wealthy conservatives that churn out negative attack ads that typically distort the truth in an attempt to influence elections in favor of conservatives.
It was a positive ad about the current success of Chrysler. The ad didn't even mention that the economic policies of the liberal Obama administration saved Chrysler from bankruptcy by giving it a bridge loan during the financial crisis precipitated by the economic policies of the conservative Bush/Cheney administration.
For Rove, it was too much to think that someone may actually realize that the saving of Chrysler was something liberals had done that was good for America.
This is the antithesis of his negative ads. I can see why he is worried. If this catches on and people expect to see ads about positive achievements, rather than negative ads using half truths to slander the political opposition, then Rove and his three organizations will be out of business.
Other side of liberty
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is attempting to paint a picture of itself as the vanguard of religious liberty as it recoils from the prospect of including birth control in employees' health plans. But that is a complete mischaracterization of the debate.
Religious employers who mostly serve and employ people of that faith —such as Roman Catholic churches — are already exempt. However, the bishops want Catholic hospitals, colleges and social-service agencies to be exempt, too.
But what the Obama administration is proposing wouldn't be an attack on religion — unless the bishops interpret the First Amendment as giving them the right to infringe on their employees' right to freedom of religion.
Sixty-five percent of Catholic women ignore their church and use birth control. Should the bishops be able to force them or their employees who aren't even Roman Catholic to follow Catholic teachings? Now that would be a direct attack on religion.
Are we advocating a return to the time of the Inquisition when unyielding bishops and their quislings could force their religion on everyone else?
Unless we are, then it is President Barack Obama who is protecting freedom of conscience, and the Roman Catholic bishops who are attacking religious freedom.
Church must adjust
By demanding an exemption from the Affordable Health Care Act's mandate to include birth control in employee health care packages, the Catholic Church is confusing its ecclesiastical and secular roles.
Law grants the church autonomy in running its ecclesiastical affairs; priests and nuns are exempt from this part of the law. But employees of its schools, hospitals and charitable organizations — nurses, lay teachers, etc. — are not and shouldn't be.
This does not infringe on the church's First Amendment right to preach against birth control and does not force Catholics to practice birth control; it is a protection of the rights of employees, none of whom are under any moral or legal burden to be Catholic.
Money for Catholic hospitals comes largely from commercial transactions such as patient fees, school tuition and private charitable donations — publicly regulated funds from Catholics and non-Catholics alike — not private church money.
If the church insists it cannot operate in the secular world without compromising its moral principles, what is the choice? That the secular world change, forcing many employees to do without legally mandated health care?
The church argues that its good works are for society's benefit. Yes, but how long would this last without its secular, non-Catholic work force?
Curious that this flap occurs shortly before a national election. Many of the bishops driving the issue are conservatives appointed by Pope John Paul II; time bombs with long fuses. Remember in Mark 2:23 Jesus says: the Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
Move UK to E. Ky.
I read with disdain the Feb. 6 column by a University of Kentucky chemistry professor in opposition to the establishment of a state university at the University of Pikeville.
Why in the world would a teacher be opposed to allowing a segment of the population educational opportunities that the rest of the state has enjoyed forever?
The reason: selfishness.
But let me address a couple of his flimsy points:
■ Sparse population: Pike County has a larger population than Calloway, Franklin, Madison and Rowan counties that do contain state universities.
■ Credits easily transfer from Prestonsburg Community College: Yes, credits do transfer but for people with limited to nonexistent resources it's tougher to transfer. It's much easier to commute to a school close to home.
The state has an obligation to educate its citizens. To target coal severance tax revenue to fund UPike is like using taxes on bourbon to fund UK. It's time the state did what's right.
Herald-Leader columnist Tom Eblen opposed state support, saying he was aware Eastern Kentucky was "underserved" (read, ignored) in the area of higher education. There are three state universities within a 30-mile radius of Lexington.
In the interest of fairness, and without the state taking on extra expense, we should move UK to Eastern Kentucky. Faculty at UK would then learn what the rest of the state is like.
The recent, however temporary, decision of the Susan B. Komen Foundation to alter its funding criteria in a way that made Planned Parenthood ineligible for grants was a blatant right-wing subterfuge to reduce access to abortion.
Based on preposterous criteria, reminiscent of the McCarthy era, that they would not fund an organization under examination by any federal, state or local government, the Komen Foundation announced it was ending grant funding to Planned Parenthood because it was the subject of a witch hunt by a member of Congress.
Planned Parenthood provides breast cancer screenings to many women who otherwise would not be able to obtain them.
The plan was the work of the Komen Foundation's vice president of public policy Karen Handel, who had openly called for ending funding of Planned Parenthood because some of its offices perform abortions.
This politically motivated act, which was blatantly anti-women, led to Handel's resignation. It was an essential step to distance the organization from inappropriate, partisan influence and to realign with its real mission — the care of women suffering from a terrible disease.
Let the teachers vote
Your Feb., 1 editorial urged the General Assembly to raise the dropout age to 18. Apparently lacking a logical argument, you dive into a vortex of circular reasoning to support this bad idea.
You cite the Gates Foundation Report that found that 74 percent of dropouts wished they had stayed in school. Well, duh! I would imagine that about 50 percent of folks wish they hadn't married their first spouse. I sure wish I had bought a bunch of Apple stock years ago.
Then you note that 38 percent of dropouts say that they had too much freedom and not enough rules. Well, double-duh? Forcing young folks with a proven indifference to education to attend another two years will, at the very best, disrupt classrooms and hinder those who want an education.
Take an honest, secret ballot of our public high school teachers. Not the administrative staff, not the consultants, not the KEA administrators but teachers who will have to cope with these captive students. If they think this is a worthy proposal, I will urge my senator to support it.