Protect firefighters, who protect all of us
As a retired firefighter I suppose I am a little biased about how the government treats those who put their lives on the line every day. But what is about to go down starting January 1 tops all I have seen. This mayor and council are about to put hundreds of families of firefighters and police officers (and scores of hundreds of civilian workers' families) in extreme financial and psychological peril.
This government has shown its ineptness over the last several years in managing the health insurance program for its employees and now wants to fix it by putting the entire mess on the backs of firefighters. A family that survives from payday to payday now will have to come up with an extra $800 to $1,000 per month.
Council members Kevin Stinnett, Bill Farmer and others showed a little sense and compassion at a recent Tuesday meeting, but by the time Thursday night's voting came around, it was very obvious that the honorable mayor had rubber-hosed them into submission. Where was this mayor when this deficit started and continued to grow? Was he not in a very high position of authority and responsibility? Where was his voice of reason then?
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Do not do this to these families, you council members. This is a problem that should be shared by all, the politicians' constituents as well as the employees, over at least a three-year period.
Ronald P. O'Bryan
A Nov. 2 editorial praising the "wise decision" of the city council to approve additional medical benefits for city employees is an excellent example of how we collaborate with government to get ourselves into unmanageable financial stress.
You should have written an editorial with the headline, "Council continues largess for city employees, but fails to tell us who will pay for it."
For a governing body to spend money on anything — health benefits, police protection, whatever — without specifying who will pay for it is better described as a shyster's trick.
You were not so flummoxed that you failed to ask "what cost" the council's action might require. However, I'm puzzled that you didn't mention the obvious answer, that the cost is the cost of the promised benefits for employees plus the cost of interest the longer the payment is delayed. The more relevant question is, "Who will pay the cost?" Here are some options:
■ Reduce current services; for example, provide less police or fire protection or repair fewer potholes.
■ Raise the city occupational tax.
■ Take the money from interest being paid on bonds issued by the city. Most of the bond holders are rich and don't need the interest they are making off the city anyway.
The council's decision was not wise. It is more accurately described as pandering to a constituency in order to buy their votes in the next election which, if repeated long enough, will force our grandchildren to pay the costs of these unfunded benefits.
J. Robert Ross
Cut city golf fat
Recently, the Lexington city council has deliberated about how to respond to city employees — including firefighters, police and corrections officers — who are dismayed at the prospect of doubled health care premiums next year.
Responding to protests, the council chose to budget an additional $1.9 million to provide higher health care subsidies to hold down costs for city employees. Commenting on the council's decision, Mayor Jim Gray was quoted in this paper as saying, "There's no fat in our budget. We've been considering options to improve health insurance, but we are going to have to cut someplace to pay for those changes."
We have a suggestion about where the mayor can cut the fat.
Every year, the city budget expects to lose more than $1 million operating five golf courses. Despite an incredible abundance of local, privately-owned, daily-fee golf courses (about two dozen) that do not require support from Lexington's general fund, the city continues to prioritize golf course operation over the city's other needs.
It is convenient that this year's budgeted loss on golf — $1.4 million — approaches the sum needed to pay for health insurance. But the golf courses also present the city with assets which could be sold or leased to create additional revenue for the city.
You can read more about public golf course operation on our Web site at bit.ly/LexGolf.
It's time for the city's leaders to stop losing $1 million each year on golf and direct those resources to higher priorities.
Kentucky Club for Growth
Ignore Wall St., bank locally
After Congress passed the Credit Card Bill of Rights in 2009, my large Wall Street bank, which accepted a bailout from the government, nearly doubled the interest rate on my credit card. This irked me so much I started looking for a new bank.
First I looked at a monthly statement and identified all the automatic deposits and debits and printed off the forms necessary to switch accounts. If I couldn't find it, I called the customer service department. I then looked at the various options available at local community banks' Web sites. I picked out a couple and went to talk to them.
When I picked one, I opened an account and as the bills were paid from my old account, I sent in the appropriate form to get them switched to my new bank, and also switched my automatic deposits.
It does take a little effort identifying all your automatic deposits and debits and planning the move, but the community banks want your business and they are more than happy to assist you in any way they can.
So don't believe the reporters in the corporate news media who want you to be nice little "sheeple" and accept whatever fees the Wall Street banks determine are necessary to keep their bonuses high, and don't expect Congress to take your side. It's up to you to take action. If enough people take their business elsewhere, who are they going to gouge?
Is anyone else offended by the triumphant smirks on senators Mitch McConnell and Jon Kyl on their success in blocking the plan to repair this nation's infrastructure?
Do you suppose the senators feel that we don't need repairs? Or perhaps it is uplifting the middle class that they find unnecessary.
In 2009, Kentucky was No. 1 in deaths from child abuse and neglect. At least half the deaths occurred after the Cabinet for Health and Family Services had at least some involvement with the families.
Yet, the cabinet has refused to release the case files of those child victims with whom it had contact, and possibly took inadequate steps to protect.
The Louisville Courier-Journal and Lexington Herald-Leader are to be commended for sticking with the legal fight to force the record release. Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd twice has ordered the release and it now appears the cabinet will comply.
By refusing to acknowledge its mistakes or seek help to change — something the cabinet asks of abusive and neglectful parents — the cabinet itself has behaved like a perpetrator.
If the cabinet opens itself up to public scrutiny and accepts help to address its shortcomings, the babies and children who have died with open case files will not have died in vain.
Teach your children
Have parents forgotten they set the example for their children? Before the University of Kentucky versus Mississippi State football game, the announcer asked crowd members to stand and remove their hats as the national anthem was played by the UK band. Two men with four children, perhaps 10 to 13 years old, were sitting in front of my wife and me.
As the anthem was played one of the men only stood well after the playing had begun. The other did stand but didn't remove his baseball cap and continued to stuff pizza into his face throughout the anthem. And this was on a day when 13 American soldiers were killed in Afghanistan.
It's tragic enough when grown-ups are crude and disrespectful, but to be such jerks in the presence of their children is inexcusable. I am thankful for the brave men and women who serve our country, even to the point of sacrificing their lives. Too bad that moron didn't choke on the pizza.
Vote for the big picture
In the 2010 elections, we voted for the Republican candidates on the promise of a jobs program. To date, they have not created one bill to create jobs that could be implemented immediately. They have, however, passed countless resolutions that are pure propaganda pieces, bills to eliminate regulations that were implemented to protect the air we breathe and the water we drink, and prevent a repeat of the Wall Street-banking-mortgage collapse we are still working our way out of.
To vote for the pro-life candidates no matter what else they stand for is simply throwing away your vote. The Republicans had control of the Congress, Supreme Court and the presidency from 2000 through 2006, and did not repeal Roe vs. Wade then, nor will they do it now.
No doubt abortion is a horrific procedure for all concerned. But it has been going on since the beginning of mankind and will not be stopped by a law. We need better means of contraception, family planning and education.
As a registered Republican, I can honestly say my party is no longer the party of Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Eisenhower or even Reagan. Before I am a Republican, I am a God-fearing, Bible-believing Christian, and that is how I will vote.
Our nation needs us to be active in electing the officials who represent us, the whole nation. With only 10 percent of registered voters participating in the 2010 election, is it any wonder our country's recovery is being held hostage by a few?
On, on to the couch
In days of old, before the installation of the electronic scoreboard and ring of lights in Commonwealth Stadium, there were three excellent reasons to attend a UK football game:
1. Participate in a live sporting event with enthusiastic fellow UK Wildcats fans.
2. Enjoy the world class Wildcats Marching Band, cheerleaders and UK dance team shows without interruption.
3. Avoid the constant barrage of commercials that one is subject to when watching football games on TV.
Unfortunately the third reason no longer pertains. So in the future I will watch UK play from the comfort of my home, remote in hand with the mute button at the ready.
Step 1: create jobs
Thomas L. Friedman's Oct. 5 commentary, "Political gamesmanship more important than job crisis," should be a mandatory read for our elected officials, Democrats and Republicans alike. To make it simple for these people, it's this: without jobs, people can't buy; without demand businesses can't invest or may close; without a healthy growing economy there is a continuing loss of jobs. Seems like a death spiral to me.
As Friedman stated, Barack Obama is in charge and needs to take the lead, but the GOP's agenda is to make sure Obama fails regardless of the consequences to the American people.
To Obama's credit, he has put something on the table to provide immediate help to workers even if it is but a drop in the bucket. The GOP has offered nothing except a rollback of regulations promulgated to protect the consumer against another financial meltdown and protect the environment. Elimination of outdated and unneeded regulations will help in the long term but not in the short term.
Like most Americans, I think Republicans are responsible for most of the mess we are in. They need to step up and do something positive instead of just saying no to everything to make sure Obama fails. It is inconceivable to me that our elected officials would place the 2012 election ahead of the well-being of the American people and the economy. If they let the economy continue to slide, we should fire them all.
No pass on parking
As a resident of Oldham Avenue I am required to purchase a parking pass to legally park on my street and avoid being ticketed. With this parking pass comes stipulations such as where you can park, how you can park and who can use the pass. In the past 10 months I have received more than a few parking violations from the infamous LexPark.
After the purchase of my parking permit, I learned that the pass is only legal for one area of my street. Apparently I am only allowed to park in sector 9. The only problem is that Oldham's street parking tends to be very limited. So parking out of your sector is usually your only choice, but in doing so you run the risk of getting caught by the LexPark employees who are more than excited to print you a ticket.
Last spring I walked out to my car, noticed yet another blue and white LexPark ticket gracing the windshield of my vehicle. The ticket literally read parked more than five inches from the curb. I want to know what measuring device the LexPark people use to measure; my car was not protruding from the curb. Nonetheless I paid another LexPark ticket. You can't park in front of your own driveway either on Oldham nor can you place your parking pass in another car.
I think LexPark putting parking restrictions on residential streets is ridiculous; the constant ticketing of the permanent residents parking in front of their own homes has become a nuisance and a bother.
The pits of politics
I had a friend recently tell me a story about a famous horse trainer who had problems with his health.
It all came down to his deodorant. It contained aluminum, which was affecting his brain.
I was wondering if our political leaders need to stop wearing that kind of antiperspirant also.