Letters to the Editor

Letters to the editor: Dec. 4

Gratz Park in happier times found youngsters splashing in the fountain in May 2007.
Gratz Park in happier times found youngsters splashing in the fountain in May 2007.

For-profit colleges are bargain for taxpayers

A Nov. 27 article, "Kentucky pays millions in scholarships to for-profit colleges," defies logic — and the facts — by implying that Kentucky's "for-profit" career colleges receive more state aid than public institutions.

The article ignores the billions of dollars in direct subsidies public institutions receive. A Kentucky student attending a private career college received, on average, $153 in state appropriations in 2009-10. Students attending the Kentucky Community and Technical College System received an average $1,665 that same year while students at Kentucky's four-year public colleges reaped $8,672 each in taxpayer subsidies.

The article also makes much of the fact that 8 percent of state funding under these aid programs goes to for-profit college "businesses." I would point out that private businesses that run hospitals and grocery stores receive billions in taxpayer funds through programs such as Medicaid and food stamps. The state spends public funds that go directly to private businesses on a regular basis.

Other claims in the article require clarification or correction. While Ohio did eliminate state grants for career college students in 2009 due to budgetary concerns, it has begun to restore funding for those grants.

Students choosing a career college get, at best, less than one-tenth of the funding their counterparts at a public college get from the state, even though they are also taxpayers. Students should have the right to use this assistance to attend the college that meets their educational needs and career goals.

Candace Bensel

Executive director, Kentucky Association of Career Colleges and Schools


A Republican star is born

While post-election headlines suggested a big victory for Kentucky Democrats, the real story is the birth of a formidable GOP candidate and the beginning of another gubernatorial contest.

Agriculture Commissioner-elect James Comer is the only real hope for the state GOP. Todd P'Pool flamed out in his race for attorney general and is cursed with an awful name for a politician. Former Secretary of State Trey Grayson was exposed in his primary with Rand Paul. All the Republican eggs are in Comer's basket.

Republicans would be wise — and something tells me they will be — to cultivate Comer to make a play for governor in 2015. The appeal Comer has with moderates, even Democrats, is a massive threat.

The Democratic Party let a fox in the henhouse as many local Democratic office-holders cast their lot with Comer. They were supportive of him and disappointed in Democrat Bob Farmer. By basically conceding the race, they created a GOP candidate who will be very difficult to beat in four years. It's hard to argue Comer wasn't better for the job, but politically it is a dangerous result for the KDP.

In four years, Lt. Gov.-elect Jerry Abramson will want his turn at the governorship. Attorney General Jack Conway may feel it's his time. And a candidate might get in hoping those two will beat up on each other, a la Wallace Wilkinson in 1987.

The Democratic primary could be hotly contested while the Republicans should already know Comer is their guy.

Seth Sparks


Death penalty costly, wrong

Quakers believe that because there is that of God in everyone, nobody is beyond redemption. The death penalty cuts short the opportunity for repentance.

We have read "that it hath been said, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth ... but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." Similarly, when asked about a specific death penalty case, Jesus answered: "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her."

Practical considerations include the financial costs of the death penalty in a time of budget crisis. The Dallas Morning News calculated a $1.3 million savings every time the death penalty is not sought. The greatest savings are in spending differences before and during trial, not post-conviction.

The Economist, in its March 12, 2009 edition, identified Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico and New Hampshire plus at least 12 other states as considering abolition with a shift in debate "from morality to cost."

Ed Monahan, head of the state Department of Public Advocacy, described Kentucky spending $100 million to maintain a death penalty system that has executed three people since 1976. Former Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice Joseph Lambert said "it's impossible to streamline death-penalty legislation to justify the cost."

Lexington Friends Meeting (Quakers) has consistently opposed the death penalty on moral grounds. The numbers prove it makes sense to abolish the death penalty for economic reasons as well. The death penalty simply cannot be seen as a good use of taxpayer dollars.

Thomas MarcoClaire Carpenter

Co-Clerks, Lexington Friends Meeting

Richmond needs fairness

A Nov. 23 article by Jim Warren, "Richmond commission gets reports on extending fairness protections to gays," reports that only three cities in Kentucky offer fairness protection to lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender residents. It is baffling that the Army is able to change its policy for fairness to this population but in Kentucky we are not able to come together to do the same.

It is not about supporting LGBT lifestyle or changing religious beliefs about same sex marriage. It is about getting rid of prejudice and hatred. Research shows that renters become subjected to eviction and experience bias such as hostility, property damage and physical violence more often once their sexual orientation becomes known. Maybe if laws were to reflect intolerance for discrimination, landlords and others would be less likely to discriminate.

We cannot change people's race and we cannot change their sexual orientation. What we can do is put a stop to the hate, right here, right now, in Kentucky. Richmond can start the process by partnering with the Lexington Fair Housing Council and enacting legislation that will ensure housing protections for LGBT families. These individuals are people with mothers, children who have feelings and deserve fair housing policy focused on equality. Change will not take place until we the people speak up and demand it. We are called to "love our neighbors as ourselves," and we cannot do this without including this population in fair housing policy.

Shirley Ziser


Danny Jude


Fix Medicare formula

As a practicing physician of 30 years, I'd like to suggest a starting point for reducing the federal budget. Congress should repeal the sustainable growth rate formula, which determines the Medicare reimbursement rates for physicians.

Because it doesn't factor in the rising cost of health care, the SGR formula has been fatally flawed since it was instituted in 1997, and the result has required more than a decade of voodoo budgeting to repeatedly "fix" the formula.

Every year, Congress has passed a short- term fix to SGR, which delays immediate pain while making the situation worse in the long term. In 2005, a permanent SGR fix would have cost $50 billion. Today, it would cost $300 billion, but in just five years, that price tag will double to $600 billion if Congress fails to act.

This uncertainty surrounding SGR is one of the reasons fewer physicians are accepting Medicare patients, a problem that will only continue to grow. Repealing SGR would ease some of these access issues and allow physicians to invest more in their practices, including hiring additional employees. So, for the sake of our economy and our nation's fiscal health, I say to Congress, now is the time to show some leadership and repeal the SGR.

William T. Betz

Senior Associate Dean for Osteopathic Medical Education, University of Pikeville

A plea for Perkins

I am saddened to hear that Perkins Restaurant might have to close due to Southland Christian Church wanting to raise the rent some $6,000 a month. Not only would our community lose a good restaurant, but the many employees of the restaurant will be out of a job.

I worked for Perkins Restaurant for several years as a server. The owner always treated me fairly, and was very supportive when I was going through some difficult times. I know many of the employees and their families. These are good, hardworking people who don't deserve to be put out of work.

It is my understanding that Southland has come to the aid of many a family in need. Now is the time for the church to step up and take care of the families who are literally in their back yard.

Laura Brackett


Take Occupy to Washington

In their recent column, Kalle Lasn and Micah White, the self-described originators of Occupy Wall Street, omitted a few details, like naked anti-Semitism, damaged small businesses, hypodermic needles, rapes and death. One of your earlier headlines referred to the occupiers as "campers." Real campers do poop outdoors; they just don't call it "speech."

So the movement began with the self-immolation of the fruit cart vendor in Tunisia? But he was protesting an oppressive, hyper-regulatory government, crony capitalism and the elite, ruling plutocracy. Wall Street may have been out of control, but it was Washington that set the rules, refereed the game, bought the paper and wrote the checks. Occupy should be marching on Washington with the Tea Party.

I stopped by the protest in downtown Lexington and picked up a flyer. Xerox made that paper possible. Like nearly all companies, Xerox began inside the head of a 99 percenter. Chester Carlson created the first duplicates in his kitchen using electrically-charged paper and ink in 1938. Xerox is now a Fortune 500 company which employs 136,000 people and is headed by Ursula Burns, a black woman who grew up in a New York housing project.

To occupy something is to take what does not belong to you. It is an act of aggression. The authors promise more violence when it is warm enough to be outraged again. In the meantime, we can consider the character of the greedy Chester Carlson and those who use, yet mock, his gift.

Cameron S. Schaeffer


Too many humans

David Lam ("The bomb that fizzled: Quality of life has improved as population keeps exploding," Nov. 6) does the public a great disservice by putting a shiny, happy face on the arrival of the 7 billionth human, the last billion added in 12 short years.

He says "We may never get much above the 10 billion projected for 2100," without any apparent concern. Being an economist, he zeroes in on increased food production, better education and decreased poverty with loads of supporting statistics.

Meanwhile, news headlines from this year show "monster" increases in global-warming carbon dioxide, the deterioration of the oceans that "alarms scientists" and a "push to save the big cats."

Global warming's effects remain uncertain (except for extreme weather), but marine scientists reported "shocking findings" and called for "urgent measures" to curb carbon emissions, reduce over-fishing and pollution, lest these cumulative effects threaten the oceans with catastrophe "unprecedented in human history."

Derek Joubert, founder of the Big Cat Initiative says we're seeing the effects of 7 billion people on the planet and that at present rates, we'll lose the big cats in 10 to 15 years. Birds, God's little messengers of hope and joy, are seeing huge drops in populations almost across the board because we're removing their living quarters.

Lam's one-dimensional research focuses solely on human prospects for the future without a thought for our fellow creatures. Seems the Bible had a story about a great flood and trying to save two of everything.

John Scott


Amen, Nikky Finney

To the Herald-Leader for placement of Nikky Finney's National Book Award for Poetry front and center on the Nov. 19 front page — thank you.

And to Finney for her wisdom in declaring, "I really hunger for a community that cherishes the arts as much as it does athletics" — amen, sister, amen.

Robin Carrington

Mount Sterling

Not just a walk in the park

A recent letter from a visitor, "A seat in Gratz Park," expressed concern about the lack of benches in the park. At Gratz Park in the summer of 1897, Jacob S. Harris watched for three hours from the bushes as his pretty young wife received the immoral attention of pension attorney Thomas H. Merritt. Harris left and returned with a firearm procured from a friend. He crept up behind the park bench, and, as the unarmed Merritt attempted to flee, Harris shot him twice in the back.

Harris, the father of two young children, was acquitted by Judge Gray Falconer with the opinion that a man had a right to defend his family honor against the predations of a destroyer. The judge's opinion, delivered via newsprint to readers across the nation, received widespread community support.

This tragic case illustrates conclusively the corrupting influence of park benches. Perhaps the city of Lexington has greater regard for the honor of young women than the temporary comfort of a weary traveler.

Jacob M. Harris