Auditor report on Bluegrass outlines stunning cronyism
In 79 pages of language discreet and tone measured, the Kentucky Auditor's report of Bluegrass Regional MH/MR Board Inc. paints a picture of mendacity in search of an abiding legal authority to assuage the impression of maleficence.
Founding CEO Joy Toy apparently built it and milked it, rewarding his efforts and those of his intimate administrative circle with a golden parachute of nearly $3 million.
The report suggests a host of recommendations to the community-based volunteer board of directors; none of the recommendations include a course in public-health administration.
By midpoint in the document, the reader is experiencing a kind of brain freeze akin to carpel tunnel syndrome associated with ice cream scooper's wrist. There are so many dips — double, triple and quadruple — into discretionary funds of six and five digits in scope.
The report has something for everyone's taste: nepotism, cronyism, real estate sleight-of-hand acquisition under the nose of the Cabinet for Families and Children, undocumented five-figure expense accounts, a shell agency and six-figure lobbyist spending for works unspecified.
As a social worker clinician in the Crisis Stabilization Unit at Eastern State Hospital, my personal shocker was that hospital operations maintained a $20 million cash-on-hand fund. I had to purchase — out of my own pocket and on sale — composition notebooks for clients to use for journaling and worksheets of client coping exercises, so as not to be accused of exploiting resources in these times of economic austerity.
Who'd have thunk?
No corporate tax break
The Blue Ribbon Commission's report on taxation reform has now been sent to the governor. A Dec. 18 article stated that "some of the most controversial proposals include raising taxes on pensions" but that "to help offset some of these increases, the commission proposed cutting $100 million a year from corporate income taxes."
Well let me state that the prospect of GE, Toyota, Ford and other corporations getting a big tax cut does not make me feel one bit better.
Many large corporations pay little or no state or federal income tax anyhow, and since Kentucky already ranks 4th out of the 15 states that the commission benchmarked us against in competitiveness, I question the need for this tax giveaway.
The commission projects that the changes it is recommending would raise $690 million and that the changes in the taxation of retiree pensions would constitute $480 million — or 70 percent — of the total.
If retirees disagree with these changes, I suggest they email or write the governor and elected state representatives and let them know.
Punishment too harsh
Regarding the young man who spread the rumor of violence at Henry Clay High School, I am deeply concerned that he is facing the serious criminal charge of terroristic threatening.
Certainly he needs to face the consequences of his actions. He must be made aware of the profound impact of this misguided and inappropriate act.
However, it was a mistake made by a young, developing mind. To charge him criminally will have a profoundly negative impact on his life. He should not have to pay for this mistake for the rest of his life.
A restorative-justice approach could be used in which he would be held accountable for his actions, and have the opportunity to make appropriate amends not only to Henry Clay but to the greater Lexington community, yet still have a future.
Such an approach could involve a conference with the student, his parents/guardians, school officials, law enforcement and any others who were impacted. The young man could be provided an opportunity to apologize. In addition, school administration, police and others could relay to him how his actions affected them.
Ideally, this kid would understand the impact of his actions. This approach could be very powerful, and ultimately much more of a deterrent than would the scar of a criminal record.
Innovator aided Ky.
Lacy B. Herrmann might not be a household name in Kentucky, but you have seen the results of his behind-the-scenes efforts if you have visited the Kentucky Horse Park, driven on Kentucky highways, sent your children to a Fayette County public school or flown out of Blue Grass Airport.
Those development projects, and many more, were made possible in part by Churchill Tax-Free Fund of Kentucky, a pioneering investment entity Herrmann set up in 1987. It is the second-oldest municipal bond fund in Kentucky. Herrmann, a venture capitalist and entrepreneur, passed away recently in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y. at the age of 83.
In 1984, he founded Aquila Management Corporation, sponsor of several tax-free mutual funds used by government agencies around the country to finance construction of everything from highways to hospitals. Herrmann wasn't the first to see the win-win potential of tax-free municipal bond funds, but he found a niche when he made sure his funds are overseen by local trustees, officers and portfolio managers. He also established the practice of holding annual shareholder meetings.
Fund investors generally pay no federal or state taxes on income from these investments.
Offering such tax breaks is a way for county and state governments to spur growth and improve infrastructure that could not be paid for with cash on hand, and also save taxpayers money because such bonds pay lower interest and still attract investors.
Herrmann's legacy lives on with the firm's continued contributions to economic development and quality of life in Kentucky.
Thomas A. Christopher
Chairman of the board, Churchill Tax-Free Fund of Kentucky
New York, N.Y.
Gun panel will go bust
Though he's done nothing about guns during the last four years (except send hundreds to Mexico, currently unaccounted for), President Barack Obama held the usual press conference, which induced the predictable next-day result: gun stores selling more guns than ever.
This fear-mongering from the White House is good for little more than that.
People don't trust government much in the first place, and have no desire to be at its mercy, in the second place. People with good sense understand that the problem is with people, not with guns.
The TV networks are among the guiltiest participants in fomenting unrest by sensationalizing mass murders to a degree unimaginable. It's practically a 24/7 thing among the cable outfits. It's no wonder there are copycat killings as these murderers gain far more than a paltry 15 minutes of fame.
Now the president has appointed yet another commission to study the problem and has even appointed the vice president to whip it into shape, sort of like telling a sailor to try spitting into the wind.
Besides, the recommendations of various commissions mean nothing to the president. For Obama, it's as if his Bowles-Simpson commission, concerning this country's sad state of financial affairs, never had a meeting.
This new commission will meet and eat, produce a document and everyone will have a warm-fuzzy feeling. The president will pay no attention to it. Life will go on; sadly for many, but it will go on. Nothing much will change the statistics.
NRA's weak response
We should have known when it took the National Rifle Association a week to formulate a response to the Sandy Hook tragedy, their promised "meaningful contribution" would not be sincere, but merely their usual ranting, defensive flummery of an untenable, asinine position.
NRA leader Wayne LaPierre can't, in one breath, glibly blame the entertainment industry for this country's gun violence and then, in the next, proffer an improbably bad Wild West scenario of a gun-toting good guy blowing away the bad guy without any collateral damage. What Hollywood fantasy is he living?
The fact is, this country has access to a vast array of weaponry and ammunition no private citizen needs or should have.
Just like the Republican Party, the NRA's truculent intransigence toward any reasonable or sane stance may well make them obsolete. We can only hope.
Charles Edward Pogue
Clay's legacy as example
I appreciated your reporting recently that Transylvania University will now house the Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship and focus in the future on Kentucky high school students.
It is ironic, however, that the U.S. Senate desk once used by Clay, known in history as the "Great Compromiser" for his skills in debate and diplomacy, is now occupied by Sen. Rand Paul, the great uncompromiser who prides himself on oppositional defiance and inflexible political positions.
In his maiden speech to a nearly empty U.S. Senate chamber in early 2011, Paul even besmirched Clay's personal legacy and largely ignored Clay's many achievements, which included preserving the union for decades before the Civil War.
Paul's odd sense of history would be comparable to a newly elected Virginia senator criticizing Thomas Jefferson or George Washington.
Best wishes to Transylvania as it educates Kentucky teenagers in the art of political compromise. Perhaps the next generation will produce another U.S. senator from Kentucky, like Henry Clay, of whom all Americans can be proud.
GOP held hostage
The Republican Party, now dominated by Tea Partiers, has allowed itself to be held hostage far too long by Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform and the National Rifle Association.
Greed is killing America. Greed and lust for political power exhibited by the two aforementioned bullying organizations are harming our country and hurting the GOP's chances of ever becoming a majority party again.
Like recent unsuccessful Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, neither the ATR nor the NRA are concerned about the well-being of all Americans.
They are controlling entities who are able to dictate their narrow-minded agendas by raising huge amounts of money from super wealthy benefactors. For them, plutocracy is the preferred form of government.
Weak-kneed politicians of either party who allow themselves to be bullied by ATR and the NRA are unworthy of holding office. Solutions to fiscal and gun violence problems can only be found when independent-thinking, courageous statesmen/women work together for the common good rather than for greedy lobbyists, gun manufacturers, gun sellers.
Paul L. Whiteley Sr.