Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Louisville Needs to Pull it Together

The Big Four Bridge -- a source of much pride and enjoyment for Louisville -- became a murder scene last night, Memorial Day.  Four people were shot, and one man has died.

The shootings occurred at 9:30, early enough that many people were enjoying the beautiful weather. After all, Mayor Greg Fisher told us we were supposed to get out and exercise this weekend, specifically, hike, bike and paddle at Waterfront Park.

Now those who go to the bridge to get in their steps as an effort to improve their health have to worry about getting shot.

I am starting to sympathize with those parents who hesitate to allow their children to come downtown. There is no doubt that the violence is increasing, and now it appears that is spreading geographically -- not that it was ever acceptable when its radius was smaller.

The Pegasus Institute has been studying the problem of violence here and solutions that have worked for comparable cities like Cincinnati. They will be releasing their recommendations shortly. I look forward to what they have to say, but remain concerned that the Fisher administration lacks the ability to implement the recommendations.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

RIP, Jim Bunning

Former Sen. Jim Bunnings has passed away. He was a big presence on the baseball field and the U.S. Senate. He was an important part of Kentucky's transformation into a red state. He gave many Republicans their first brake in working on a political campaign or his office.

Our prayers go out to his family.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Just Heartbreaking

I've written before about Louisville's escalating murder rate under Mayor Greg Fisher's watch. The latest victim was only seven years old -- eating cake at the kitchen table Sunday evening. The bullet came through the window, apparently part of a fight in the backyard next door.

Fisher is a nice guy and fairly pro-business for a Democrat. But he is out of his league when it comes to the gang violence and heroin epidemic that threaten to wipe out all the positive changes Louisville has attained in the last 20 years.

The little boy's name:  Dequante Hobbs. He lived in the Russell neighborhood and was a second grader at Wellington Elementary, no doubt looking forward to summer vacation starting in just days.

Prayers for peace for his family, repose for his soul, and justice for his murderer.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Mueller Should Investigate This, Too

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller, who has been appointed as Special Counsel in the Russian investigation should also get to the bottom or why Sen. Rand Paul was surveilled by the Obama administration.

Two reporters have told Paul that they have seen classified information in which his named was unmasked. That means Paul -- a sitting U.S. Senator -- was spyed upon by the executive branch probably by the NSA.

And how is it that two reporters saw this?

The whole thing stinks.

My C-J Column on Good Economic News in KY

Reprinted with permission of the Courier-Journal:

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin and the new Republican majority in the House must be getting tired of all the winning since the Kentucky General Assembly’s transformational session in January. So much winning. It’s becoming difficult to keep track of all the good news.
For example, last week, Apple announced that it will invest $200 million in the Corning plant in Harrodsburg that makes the Gorilla Glass for iPhones. The money will be used for research and development. Although it is unclear how many new jobs will result, at the very least it secures the future for the Harrodsburg facility. It cannot be a bad thing for a major corporation to spend $200 million in one’s state.
Three weeks ago, Braidy Industries announced that it is building a $1.3 billion aluminum rolling plant in Greenup County, near the Kentucky-West Virginia border. The facility will hire 550 employees with average salary of $70,000. Another 1,000 workers will be needed to build the factory.
In January, Amazon announced that its $1.4 billion expansion at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) airport will result in 2,700 jobs. That’s the largest single investment in Northern Kentucky ever.
Toyota – which supports 30,000 jobs in Kentucky – last month announced that it is investing an additional $1.3 billion in its Georgetown, Kentucky plant.
It’s a refreshing and dramatic change from past announcements of plants closing and Kentucky losing out to neighboring states year after year when Democrats controlled Frankfort.
The Bevin administration and the Republicans in the legislature deserve credit. This January marked the first time in nearly a century that Republicans have controlled the House. Republicans immediately passed right to work as well as other legislation to make the Commonwealth more business friendly. Tax reform is slated to follow.
Right to work laws allow employees to join a union if they so desire but prevent unions from forcing them to join. Kentucky was the last state in the South, and 27th in the country to pass right to work.
The importance of these legislative initiatives cannot be overstated. Braidy Industries CEO Craig Bouchard said that Kentucky’s passage of right to work contributed to the decision to build the Greenup County facility.
“If Kentucky was not a right-to-work state, you wouldn’t have gotten on the list because it’s so important to us,” Bouchard said.
More Bridget Bush columns
The Braidy Industries facility, in particular, is an answer to prayer. Those jobs pay, on average, $70,000 in a county where the median income is $45,400. The new facility would have been good news anywhere, but the fact that it is locating in an area so desperate for jobs is cause for rejoicing. That part of Appalachia has twice the unemployment rate of the rest of the state.
Five hundred Kentuckians in Eastern Kentucky now will have an opportunity to work. Moreover, Bouchard envisions an employee-friendly facility with daycare, a fitness center, and healthy dining services. And Braidy is coordinating with local community colleges to arrange the training and internships that will transition to a career.
The Braidy Industries announcement makes me think of J.D. Vance’s powerful book "Hillbilly Elegy: a Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis." Vance traces his family’s migration from Breathitt County, Kentucky to Middletown, Ohio, in pursuit of factory jobs in what eventually became the rust belt. He portrays poverty and addiction with a rawness that is almost painful to read.
The saddest part of "Hillbilly Elegy" is the sense of hopelessness and helplessness – the feeling that nothing can improve.
Vance’s family grappled with substance abuse and divorce. Although a job is no guarantee of happiness, to the unemployed, it at least offers hope that life can get better, that hard work can be rewarded and lead to independence. It’s a way to provide the most basic needs for those we love.  A job confers dignity.
All the recent announcements about economic development represent much more than an increase in tax revenue. Lives will change as a result of these new jobs. The ripple effect will be more than economic.
Kentucky is still a poor state with many problems. However, passage of right to work and other laws to improve the business climate (plus strategic use of tax incentives) has allowed Kentucky to compete for jobs that previously would have gone to other states. Case in point:  Braidy Industries picked Kentucky over Indiana.
Kentucky Republicans ran on a specific platform. They are following through on their campaign promises with a sense of urgency and focus.  Announcements of new jobs are becoming commonplace. Some will say it’s a coincidence. No matter; let’s keep those coincidences coming.