Kentucky voters should have had say on casinos
Whether you are Republican, Democrat, independent, conservative, liberal, or moderate, one thing is now perfectly clear: Senate President David Williams has single-handedly denied Kentucky's citizens the right to decide whether or not they wish to have casino gambling.
It is also clear that moderate Republicans in the Senate who supported the citizen's right to vote on this issue tucked their tails and slinked back into the shadows rather than defy the "Burkesville Bully."
It is a truly sad day for the citizens of Kentucky when one spiteful, bitter person can so completely control the fate of an entire state.
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Since it is highly unlikely the voters in Williams' district will have the backbone to kick this elected dictator out of office, it seems our only hope is that voters in the districts of those who failed to stand up for the citizens will have the courage to replace them with some who believe this really is a government of the people, by the people and for the people.
The vote on a casino gambling amendment by that august body we call the Kentucky Senate brought to mind a few quotes:
The Senate essentially said: "The will of the people be damned, no vote on casino gambling."
Founder Thomas Jefferson: "The will of the people is the only legitimate foundation of any government, and to protect its free expression should be our first object."
British philosopher John Stuart Mill: "The will of the people, moreover, practically means the will of the most numerous or the most active part of the people; the majority, or those who succeed in making themselves accepted as the majority; type people, consequently, may desire to oppress a part of their number; and precautions are as much needed against this as against any other abuse of power."
French poet and essayist Paul Valery: "Politics is the art of preventing people from taking part in affairs which properly concern them."
Once again, Senate President David Williams and his followers have shot down the gambling bill that would have helped the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
Williams has proven himself nothing more than an obstructionist like U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell. He does nothing for the good of Kentucky and anything he can to stop Kentucky from moving forward.
The people of his district need to vote him out of office. We need people in office that will work for the good of Kentucky, and that does not describe Williams.
I have mixed feelings about casino gambling. Allowing horse racing tracks or even off-track betting facilities owned by horse racing tracks would allow these places to be competitive with out-of-state casinos. We already allow gambling on the lottery and bingo. We allow people the freedom to do other risky things like smoke, own guns and drink alcohol.
On the other hand, I had a friend who used to spend his nightly paycheck on lottery tickets, another friend that put her husband in bankruptcy by spending money at the Indiana casinos outside of Cincinnati.
I am greatly insulted, however, that a small group of politicians is arrogantly still blocking the right of the people of this state from voting on this issue. It is the ultimate case of the "tail wagging the dog" and should not be tolerated.
Abuse of authority
Recent actions by House Speaker Greg Stumbo to intimidate the president and board of trustees of Morehead State University for their opposition to making the University of Pikeville a state-supported institution are reprehensible.
Using the Freedom of Information Act to request records for their expenses for the past five years is an abuse of authority. This is still a country where free speech is to be cherished. It is anathema to the process of open government for an elected official to try to use this type of coercion to silence public debate.
As a retired faculty member and administrator at the University of Kentucky, I am deeply concerned about the UPike proposal. We have gone through a period of stagnant budgets for nearly a decade, undermining all efforts to achieve Top 20 status in research and causing tuition increases that compromise the ability of students and their families to afford higher education. This hidden tax increase compromises every facet of advancing the goals and the economy of our state.
Gov. Steve Beshear has remained silent about, thereby tacitly supporting, Stumbo's outlandish attempts at coercion. It reflects poorly on his leadership of the state and the Democratic Party.
While Beshear will not stand for re-election, Democrats and Republications at all levels of government must still be tested before the electorate. The ballot box is the final source for political power and our last, best defense against tyranny.
Waste of money
Taxpayers were paying $179,900 a year for Britain to promote Kentucky. The company hired posted a Web site filled with a lot of errors, yet no one here has checked the site in the past four years?
Have we even begun to have enough visitors from Britain to pay for this Web site? How many other countries do we offer this money to? Yet another blow to the taxpayer.
Unwise cut in funding
Gov. Steve Beshear's budget proposes to reduce funding for the Department of Aging and Independent Living by 6 percent. This is a false economy. A few dollars saved today will result in big costs to taxpayers tomorrow.
Programs supported by our taxes and administered through DAIL enable us to keep older adults at home by providing meals and in-home services.
As of June 2011, 19,101 eligible persons were still underserved or on waiting lists. The reduction would increase this number to over 21,000 within a year, at a time when we are expecting a 28 percent increase in the number of Kentuckians over 60 by 2020.
A series of cuts over the past three years have meant there is no longer room for belt tightening through staffing cuts and improved operating efficiency.
The irony is that the proposed reductions will not save the state anything. Nursing home care costs an average of $67,000 per year in contrast to $10,000 a year to keep people in their homes by providing supportive services.
The large majority of persons in nursing homes are on Medicaid. Kentucky pays 30 cents toward every Medicaid dollar, which means the state would pay $20,100 for each person who moves to a nursing home. And this does not count the 70 percent of Medicaid the taxpayer will pay indirectly through federal taxes.
The Institute on Aging urges the leaders and members of both chambers of the legislature to fund these vital programs for older adults at their current levels.
Graham D. Rowles and Harold Laswell
Chair and vice chair Kentucky Institute on Aging
(This letter was signed by eight others.)
Break school monopoly
Charter schools are not the answer, but they are the start of the answer.
The answer is competition. Give vouchers to parents and let them choose the schools to which to send their kids.
Allow private and public schools to compete for students. Competition will make all schools better: competition for teachers, competition for students, competition for the money that accompanies the students.
Monopoly creates mediocrity; competition creates higher quality at lower costs.
Eliminate the detailed mandates and administration from state and federal education experts. Encourage principals and their teachers to create their own educational environment and allow experimentation and the sharing of best practices.
Do not force students to stay in school until age 18. Continue to allow them to drop out at age 16. If they have not shown ability and desire for education and prefer to move on after being forced to be educated for 10 years, another two years won't change that.
Changing the dropout age to 18 will add more chaos to the classrooms, harm the learning environment and increase the cost of our already too costly educational system.
Finally, until the broken education system is proven to be fixed, do not fund pre-K for all.
Test results indicate that the longer kids are in school the worse their test scores compare with other benchmarks in this and other countries. Putting kids into a broken system earlier simply makes no sense.
Poor story placement
Tell us how Herald-Leader editors decided that the murder of Kentucky native Lt. Col. John D. Loftis in Afghanistan was relegated to the bottom of page two under neighbor complaints about the Lyric Theatre, while first lady Jane Beshear's silly tax boo-boo gets a half-page column starting on the front page.
I think I know. Loftis was murdered as a result of the inexcusable repeated apologies of this administration to our enemies.
It isn't enough for President Barack Obama to cut hazard duty pay nor drastically increase TriCare costs for officers and enlisted but not unionized civilian employees, he needs to write a three-page apology to those who sanction the murder of our finest.
It's easy to tell the loyalties of this editorial board.
Go ahead, cover for Obama. Push the silly story about Beshear and maybe no one will pay attention to the disaster of the past three years.
See Act of Valor and you'll find yourself both amazed at the "damn few" who defend our freedom and disgusted with the antics of this president and first lady claiming the military's achievement and experience as their own.
Be thou at peace, Lt. Col. Loftis. Your sacrifice will not be forgotten.