Friday, February 20, 2015

Council panel to discuss improvements to nature trail

The Cemetery and City Property Committee of the Midway City Council will meeting on Monday, February 23 at 6 p.m. at City Hall to discuss improvements to the nature trail near the city park. No action will be taken, according to the notice from City Hall. All council and committee meetings are open to the public.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Committee looking at fairness ordinance hears from foe of it, hopes to hear from Rights Commission March 10

This story has been updated with a post-meeting reply and the corrected date of the next meeting.

A Midway City Council committee considering an ordinance to ban discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation wants to hear from the Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Human Rights Commission, which enforces state anti-discrimination laws and has asked for the additional, local law.

At its first meeting Thursday, the council's Finance, Ordinance and Policy Committee heard from an outspoken opponent of the ordinance: Ed Crowley, owner of Photizo Group, which he said employs 12 to 14 people at its Midway headquarters.

"I don't think we have any discrimination in this community," Crowley told the committee. "I haven't seen any surveys, any data, to see that this is an issue."

Council Member Dan Roller, chair of the committee, said legislation doesn't have to be prompted by "a major problem." Crowley replied that laws shouldn't be passed "for their own sake."

Council Member Sara Hicks said discrimination against sexual preference and gender identity "may not be as easy to discern" as that against people whose minority status is apparent, especially because some may "live in a hidden state for fear of discrimination."

Ed Crowley
Crowley said, "That's pretty much an impossible point to argue."

Hicks replied, "It will be good to hear from the Human Rights Commission because certainly if anyone has heard of what's going on it would be them."

Midway's representative on the commission, Helen Rentch, said in a letter to The Woodford Sun this week, "We recognize there has been prejudice against folks based on their sexual orientation or gender identification and that some have been subjected to discrimination historically as well as recently, and that they are at risk every day because of this prejudice."

Rentch said the commission has asked all three governing bodies to pass the ordinance. Mayor Grayson Vandegrift has said he proposed it at the commission's suggestion. Vandegrift did not attend the meeting. Roller said the mayor didn't want to influence the committee "one way or the other."

Council Member Bruce Southworth, the other member of the committee, asked, "Are we taking up something here that should be a state issue or a federal issue?" Roller replied that the city has an anti-smoking law, something the state legislature has declined to pass. Southworth countered that only seven Kentucky cities have passed what gay-rights advocates call "fairness ordinances."

Roller said, and Southworth acknowledged, that there is "hate speech" against gays and that is an indication that there could be discrimination.

Earlier, Crowley said that if he had two people who were equally qualified and one was gay, and he hired the other one, "I'll probably get sued." Roller asked if gays are more likely to sue than any other protected group, and Crowley replied, "Based on what I've seen in other parts of the country, very probably."

After Crowley left the meeting, and the committee was in general discussion, Roller asked, "If I say I have a Christian-owned business," does that mean its employees must be Christians, or that it doesn't do business with Jews and Muslims? He acknowledged later that he was referring to Crowley's statement to the Midway Messenger that his business is "Christian-based." Crowley has not responded to an email from the Messenger asking what he meant by that phrase.

Crowley replied in an email Feb. 22: "Being a Christian-based business means that we operate on a 'servant leadership' principles by following Christ's example," and noted the charitable contributions mentioned in the recent Messenger story about his company.

"This does not mean that we only hire Christians," Crowley wrote. "We choose our staff based on who is best qualified for the job. We actually have a pretty diverse crowd working for our company both in terms of ages, religious practices, ethnicity, and gender. In terms of locations, I guess the only thing that influences our location relative to being Christian based is that part of servant leadership is being a good steward of our resources and the resources of this planet. That is partially why we chose our current location, it's in a former distiller that has been renovated for business/commercial use. We think using existing buildings is a good use of resources, in addition to making it kind of a unique place to work."

Crowley asked, "Please do not make this about religion. I realize that makes for sensationalist journalism, but it's not accurate. Not once have I put forth my religious beliefs as a reason for fighting this."

The committee is scheduled to hold its next meeting at 3 p.m. Tuesday, March 10 at City Hall. All council and committee meetings are open to the public.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Kentucky American warns, advises customers about possibility of burst pipes in homes during record cold

With record cold approaching, Kentucky American Water Co. is warning customers of possible outages due to frozen lines in areas that don’t normally see that kind of bitter cold. Here are excerpts from a Kentucky American news release:

Water pipes burst in cold weather because freezing water expands. The space inside a pipe is limited, so when water freezes it takes up more space, potentially causing a burst pipe.

Burst pipes may not be known until above-freezing temperatures return. “When pipes freeze, often customers are not aware of where breaks have actually occurred until the weather warms up enough to allow the water to thaw,” said Keith Cartier, the company's operations director. “That is when the location of burst pipes may first become evident, so people should always be on the lookout for water leaks once above-freezing temperatures arrive. Leaks can get out of control and do a lot of damage quickly, so vigilance is key.”

These problems are preventable by evaluating areas of vulnerability throughout the home. Here is advice from Kentucky American:
• Know where the main water shut-off to your home or business is located, and mark it so it can easily be found in case of emergency. This is one of the most important things you can do to be prepared.
• Search your house for un-insulated pipes, especially in unheated areas. Check attics, crawl spaces, and outside walls. Consider wrapping pipes with insulation sleeves. Another option is electric heating tape, but follow manufacturers’ instructions carefully to avoid a fire hazard.
• Seal cracks and holes in outside walls and foundations with caulking to keep cold air away from pipes, especially where exterior water faucets, cable TV or phone lines go through the walls.
• Make certain that the water to outside faucets is shut off inside your house (via a turnoff valve), and that the lines are drained. Place insulating caps over outside faucets to keep cold air from direct contact. Don’t forget to disconnect and drain garden hoses!
• When below-freezing temperatures are forecast, keep a slow trickle of water flowing through faucets that are supplied by pipes running through an unheated or unprotected space. A steady stream of water about the size of a pencil lead can keep water from freezing. The cost of the amount of water used is miniscule compared to the cost of a major plumbing repair or restoring areas damaged by a leak.
• Keep cabinet doors at all sink locations open to allow warm air to circulate around pipes.
• If your home is heated by a hot-water radiator, bleed the valves by opening them slightly. Close them when water appears.
• Drain and shut off entirely the water to any unoccupied residence such as a summer or vacation home. A loss of power during a winter storm could cause pipes to freeze. If you intend to leave a property entirely without heat, have the water turned off at the water main, and drain all water from pipes and fixtures to prevent the possibility of damage.
• Set the thermostat no lower than 55 degrees if you’re going out of town. Although you may be able to get away with a lower temperature, this setting is considered to be safe for pipes.
• Consider wrapping your water heater in an insulation blanket. While not really at danger for freezing, this can lower your heating bills.

Church at Faywood puts 'open and affirming' policy for gay, lesbian and transgendered people into its by-laws

By Kacie Kelly
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

At the northeastern tip of Woodford County in the Faywood community is New Union Christian Church. This church went viral when its “open and affirming” policy welcoming all forms of sexual orientation and gender expression hit social media platforms.

New Union Christian Church, by congregational law, now welcomes all gay, lesbian, and transgendered individuals. One might think that with an issue this controversial – at least in some places -- a step such as this would take much deliberation and consideration, but that is not the case for this church at the eastern tip of the Midway census tract.

New Union Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
“Everyone is welcome here. . . . We’ve been operating on that policy for a while,” says New Union minister Nancy Jo Kemper.

The church is a part of the Disciples of Christ denomination, which was established in the Lexington area in the 1830s because people did not like how exclusive other churches were. The Disciples of Christ faith is “a movement of unity in a fragmented and broken world,” said Kemper, who was executive director of the Kentucky Council of Churches from 1991 to 2009.

New Union “extends hospitality to all,” as the church states in its by-laws, which now say the church will not discriminate in employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Because Kemper has “been saying it from the pulpit for years now,” she was able to catch the attention of Caleb Ritchie, an openly gay graduate of Transylvania University. Today, he is a member of New Union Christian Church. Kemper and Ritchie met at Transylvania while serving in Kentucky ministry.

The social media swirl around the open and affirming policy meant a lot to Ritchie. He grew up in Georgetown, where he didn't have positive experiences growing up. “Other churches will not say that they are against it,” he said, “but it turns out later that you find out how they really feel about it.” He said some even “try a heterosexual conversion process,” so he is happy to have found sanctuary at New Union.

Caleb isn’t the only person excited about this. When the congregation voted to pass the policy, “It was unanimous,” said Kemper.

Congregation member Laura Wolfrom said, “It’s always been that way I think. It’s just official now.”

New Union is “an unusual little church,” said Kemper. “Most of our members are 50 and up.” She said it was “surprising” to see such a progressive and liberal church with an older demographic in such a rural area.

However, this unusual little church has big ambition. Ritchie and Kemper both believe this act will set an example. For Ritchie, it is a sign of hope. “The world needs hope,” Kemper said from the pulpit at a recent Sunday service.

In an interview, she said, “We hope it will help Woodford County pass a fairness law.” Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift has proposed a fairness ordinance for the city.

Committee will start considering fairness ordinance in meeting at 3 p.m. Thursday at City Hall

The Finance, Ordinance and Policy Committee of the Midway City Council will meet Thursday, Feb. 19, at 3 p.m. at City Hall to begin discussing a fairness ordinance proposed by Mayor Grayson Vandegrift. The meeting notice from City Hall says no action will be taken. The ordinance was on the agenda for Monday night's council meeting, which was canceled due to heavy snow.

Vandegrift said he proposed the ordinance at the behest of the Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Human Rights Commission. The commission also recommended to Versailles and the county "that they extend human rights protection to people in our community who are also lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, with regard to employment, housing and public accommodations," Helen Roach Rentch, Midway's representative on the commission, wrote in a letter to The Woodford Sun this week.

"We recognize there has been prejudice against folks based on their sexual orientation or gender identification and that some have been subjected to discrimination historically as well as recently, and that they are at risk every day because of this prejudice," Rentch wrote. "I believe it is past time for this acknowledgment. I know we in Woodford County love having this as our home. To me it is important that we be an open and welcoming community that celebrates the uniqueness of each human being; that we be vigilant to provide our citizens with the security which enables them to enjoy the benefits of our society; and be vigilant to protect from oppression or denial of the right to full citizenship."

Rentch concluded, "I am pleased the mayor of Midway has stepped forward in asking the city council for a fairness ordinance. I urge the council to explore the issue, Midway residents to speak up, and then for us to join our mayor in stepping forward together."

Monday, February 16, 2015

Heavy snow forces closing of City Hall at noon, cancellation of city council meetings this evening

Due to the heavy snow Mayor Grayson Vandegrift has canceled the city council's special meeting at
4 p.m. today and the regular council meeting at 5:30. Also, City Hall will be close at noon today.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Mayor Vandegrift proposes 'fairness ordinance' to protect gays, transgender people from discrimination

By Anthony Pendleton
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications
This story has been updated, with information gathered by UK student Paige Hobbs.

Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift wants Midway to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Under the “fairness ordinance” proposed by the mayor, businesses with more than seven employees and commercial landlords would not be allowed to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender people.

Vandegrift said there’s not a draft of the ordinance yet, though he will “make it official” at Monday night's city council meeting by asking the Ordinance, Policy and Finance Committee to begin working on one.

Vandegrift, who was on the council for two years before becoming mayor Jan. 1, said the idea came from the Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Human Rights Commission, which approached him about a countywide ordinance. “I had heard about fairness ordinances, but like most people, I didn’t really know exactly what they were.”

Vandegrift said the commission “explained it more to me – what the fairness ordinance is – and it sort of opened my eyes, because I, like most everybody else I’ve talked to, already thought that everyone was protected under some state or federal law.”

Under federal and state laws, employers cannot discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability. A 1978 federal law prohibits discrimination against federal employees based on conduct or attributes that don't affect their performance, such as marital status, and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has interpreted that to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

However, there is no federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation for citizens, and no federal law prohibits discrimination against federal employees or citizens based on gender identity.

“Now I see why it’s called a fairness ordinance,” Vandegrift said, “because it’s unfair to protect everybody else but not protect everybody. I think Midway should have a discussion about it. And there’s gonna be a lot of discussion.”

One who has already entered the discussion is Ed Crowley, owner of Photizo Group, who has identified his firm as "a Christian-based company." He said he sees no need for the ordinance because he has never heard of such discrimination in Midway. "I think it really caters to a specific community. What it does for businesses like mine is open us up to litigation."

Vandegrift said, “I don’t think he’s fully grasping this. I think he assumes that somehow we’re giving gays special protection. We’re not. We’re just saying ‘let’s level the playing field.’ . . . I think his fears are because he’s an employer, but I’m an employer of over eight people. I have a restaurant. This affects me, too. I don’t see a problem with it.”

Council Member Kaye Nita Gallagher said she was unaware of any discrimination in Midway, but strongly supports the proposal. "With the way society is today, I think everyone should have the same rights," she wrote in response to questions emailed by the Midway Messenger.

Other council members did not respond to the email.

Vandegrift said that once the committee drafts the ordinance, “We’re gonna have a public forum over it. And if we need to have a second public forum, we’ll have a second one.”

Midway would be only the eighth Kentucky city with a fairness ordinance. Those with them are Louisville, Lexington, Covington, Frankfort, Danville, Morehead and Vicco, a tiny town in Perry County. The most recent one is Danville's; the Berea City Council voted 5-3 against one in October.

“Other places have passed these ordinances and the sky hasn’t fallen,” Vandegrift said. “I think the one thing that … people commonly think this has to deal with is marriage equality. And it has absolutely nothing to do with marriage equality. We don’t have the authority, nor do we even want to weigh in on that issue.”

The city council meeting begins at 5:30 Monday. Council members are also scheduled to have a special meeting at 4 p.m., to get training on their Kindle devices, which they use to get city information.