Saturday, June 29, 2013

Midway trustee, husband give $500,000 to college

Midway College Trustee Jan Hunter and her husband, Dick, have donated $500,000 to the college for new President John Marsden to use as he sees fit. She said in a news release, "This gift reflects our belief in the leadership of the new president and the new board chair," Donna Moore. "Our gift is unrestricted but is to be called the Marsden Initiative. The gift is to be used at the discretion of Dr. Marsden to support the needs of the institution. We trust and support his leadership and in just the short time I've known him I believe in the direction he is taking the College."

Marsden said, "This gift to the college is significant monetarily and in the spirit in which it has been given. It demonstrates a strong belief in the new direction we are setting for the college. I anticipate the funds to be used in a variety of ways but all will be directly tied to supporting the educational experiences of our students."

Moore said, "The Hunters' gift reflects the support that our entire Board of Trustees has for Dr. Marsden. He has proven quickly to be an effective leader for the campus. He works quickly, seeks input from across campus communities and always puts the good of the institution and its students first in his decision-making process."

The release said Marsden is working on a new strategic plan for the college, "has instituted a new budgeting process and is building his leadership team," searching for a vice president of advancement and a new chief financial officer, the post from which Lyen Crews recently resigned.

Hunter, of San Diego, has been a trustee since November 2000. She and her husband own Hunter Industries Inc., which manufactures irrigation systems. For more on the company, from Bloomberg Business Week, click here.

Friday, June 28, 2013

James Kay wins special election; carries all but three Woodford County precincts, including both in Midway

UPDATE, July 31: Tom Loftus of The Courier-Journal reports that $631,000 was spent on the election by the three campaigns, the two parties and allied committees.

James Kay
Democrat James Kay II won Tuesday's special election for state representative with 44 percent of the vote over Republican Lyen Crews, who got 34 percent, and independent John-Mark Hack, with 22 percent.

The district comprises all of Woodford County, eastern Franklin County and some western Fayette County precincts. Crews carried the Fayette section and the Big Sink Firehouse, Paddock Church and Mortonsville Southside Church precincts in Woodford. In his 2010 race against Democratic incumbent Carl Rollins, he carried them and the two Huntertown precincts. All three candidates are from Versailles. Here is the county-by-county vote, as reported by cn|2:


Kay carried both Midway precincts, but won the county precinct very narrowly, with 68 votes (38.6 percent) to 66 for Crews (37.5 percent) and 42 (23.9 percent) for Hack. In the 2010 election against Democrat Carl Rollins, Crews got 151 votes, or 41.4 percent.

Kay ran strongly in the city precinct, getting 195 votes, or 52.7 percent of the total. Crews got 93, or 25.48 percent; Hack received 82, or 22.47 percent. In 2010, Crews got 33 percent. At the time, he was business vice president of Midway College, but Rollins lives in Midway.

Rollins resigned the seat in order to head the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority. Kay will serve the remainder of his term, which runs through the end of 2014. His first legislative session will be a special one, called by Gov. Steve Beshear for Aug. 19 to draw new legislative and judicial districts.

The election will be one of the topics discussed tonight on KET's "Comment on Kentucky," starting at 8 p.m.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Candidates in Tuesday election disagree on abortion, death penalty, felons' voting rights, coalfields

The candidates in the June 25 special election for state representative from the 56th District debated qualifications and issue positions last night in the only public forum of the race, at Midway College.

From left: Crews, Hack, Kay (Lexington Herald-Leader photo montage)
Among the issues discussed, but not mentioned in the Midway Messenger's earlier story on the race, were abortion and the death penalty.

Republican Lyen Crews, who answered both questions first, simply said he is "pro-life" and believes that "Life begins at conception, period." Democrat James Kay said he had prayed about the issue and "I don't feel comfortable giving the government the ability to make that decision," which should be between the woman, God, her family and her doctor. Independent John-Mark Hack said "I believe in the sanctity of all life" but "can't see government telling half of the population what they can do with their bodies." He said faith communities need to do a better job of preventing unwanted pregnancies and encouraging young people to take responsibility for their actions.

Crews said he believes the death penalty is "fair and just," but Kay said it "seriously needs to be looked at." He said he would pray about it and ask constituents how they felt. Hack asked him, "Are you for it or against it?" Kay said he needed time to think about it. Hack then said the penalty is not fair and just, because innocent people have been executed, and one of those is too many. He said he strongly supports the penalty of life without parole.

The candidates also disagreed on whether felons who have served their sentences should automatically have their voting rights restored, as all other states do. Kay said they should. Crews said he favors keeping the current system, in which felons apply to the governor for restoration of rights. Hack said that system favors the well-connected, and restoring civil rights is one of the best ways to re-integrate felons back into society and keep them from committing more crimes.

The two-hour forum, sponsored by the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce and Woodford Tomorrow, touched on several other issues. In each case below, the answers are reported in the order the candidates gave them.

What initiatives would they take for education? Kay said preschool preparation is vital to Kentucky's future. Hack, who answered last, said he places a high value on vocational and technical education, and said the political parties have over-emphasized the value of college. He also said the state needs to de-emphasize its new, standard curriculum, and look at consolidating school districts to reduce bureaucracy. Crews said schools have too much bureaucracy, and should not tell teachers how to teach. Asked afterward of he was referring to the new "Common Core" national standards that Kentucky was first to adopt, he said they are "a good suggestion" but should not be required.

What about the use of coal severance-tax money for redoing Rupp Arena? Hack called it "wholly inappropriate" and said it was an example of a "closed process" controlled by the two political parties. "We have an opportunity to send a shock wave through that system. Crews said all coal severance-tax money should stay in the coal counties, and Kay agreed.

How would they address high unemployment in the coal industry? Hack said, "Reality is a difficult thing to face sometimes," but big coal companies are investing elsewhere, so the state must think about "transforming the coalfields to break loose from the chains of an extractive economy." Crews said the coal industry in Eastern Kentucky is dying because of President Obama's policies. "we have to balance mining with environmental issues," he said. Kay said the state should invest in the children of the coalfields so they can have skills to get the best jobs.

What about the proposed western bypass of Versailles? Crews said the need for it must be shown, and said the state should stop adding projects until it has money to fulfill its current commitments. He noted that Gov. Steve Beshear has expanded Medicaid; however, that is funded by different taxes and fees than road projects. Kay said the project "needs to be looked at," noting traffic problems downtown, and said farmland needs to be protected but the community needs to be kept safe. Hack said there has already been a $250,000 study of the project, which he has read. He said one of his highest priorities is farmland preservation, but he would also consider safety and business concerns.

What two factors would most influence their votes on legislation? Crews said constituents' opinions and his own principles. Kay said he would work to hear constituents' voices, and said Crews would vote for a "right to work" law even if it "were roundly rejected in this district." Hack said, "I'll actually read bills," as well as staying in touch with constituents, and favors posting the budget for at least 48 hours before final passage.

What would they hope to say they have accomplished that would deserve re-election in 2014? Kay said a balanced budget (which is required by law), fighting for students and teachers, and no cuts in education. Crews said he would work for jobs, a more business-friendly environment and a better educational system. Hack said the only issues the legislature can afford to address in 2014 are a review of all state spending and liabilities such as pensions, and comprehensive tax reform.

For a text-and-video report on the forum from cn|2, click here.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2013/06/18/2683378/two-media-outlets-pull-tv-ad-critical.html#storylink=cpy

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Francisco's Farm festival Saturday, Sunday at Equus Run

The 10th annual Francisco's Farm Arts Festival will be held this weekend at Equus Run Vineyards, east of Midway at 1280 Moores Mill Rd., along South Elkhorn Creek.

The festival will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, June 22, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, June 23. Admission is $10 per vehicle.

This is the third year Equus Run has hosted the regionally acclaimed arts festival, which was formerly at Midway College. Owner Cynthia Bohn says she expects as many as 10,000 people to attend.

Equus Run produces the festival in conjunction with the Lexington Art League and Midway Renaissance. For more information go to EquusRunVineyards.com or http://www.lexingtonartleague.org/franciscos-farm-arts-festival.html.

The festival is named for the site of Midway, which was a farm owned by Col. John Francisco. Equus Run was the subject of Tom Eblen's column in the Lexington Herald-Leader Monday.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Three from Versailles seek state House seat in June 25 special election, have three different stands on casinos

By Megan Smiddie and Al Cross
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

On June 25, voters in Woodford County, eastern Franklin County and parts of western Fayette County will decide in a special election who will replace former state Rep. Carl Rollins in the 56th District.

From left: Kay, Hack and Crews at Woodford Co. Farm Bureau forum
The candidates are Republican Lyen Crews, Democrat James Kay and independent John-Mark Hack, all of Versailles. They will meet in their only public forum Tuesday, June 18 from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Anne Hart Raymond Building at Midway College.

Hack, 46, was once a Democrat but is seeking Republican votes with some of his issue positions, such as opposition to casino gambling and a return to biennial legislative sessions.

Hack is co-owner of the Marksbury Farm Market in Garrard County and is the founder of the new Local Food Association.

Hack’s top priority is tax reform. “It is the only issue we can afford to focus on,” he said in an interview.

Kay, 30, is a lawyer in Versailles and has been an aide to House Democratic leaders. He is supported by Rollins, who resigned to head the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority.

“I’m the candidate that is going to stand up for the education system and state workers, like my mom,” who works for the General Assembly, Kay said. “Not just for them, but for what’s right.”

The district has many state employees, is well educated and has one of the state’s highest income levels, so voter turnout is expected to be larger than in most special elections, perhaps 20 percent.

Crews recently resigned as vice president of financial and business affairs at Midway College to accept a finance position with eCampus online textbooks in Lexington. He ran against Rollins in 2010 election and lost by about 5 percent of the vote.

“With my experience in health care, education, being a CPA, my experience with finance, I am uniquely qualified to hold this position,” he said in an interview.

Crews is hoping to give Republicans a head start on taking control of the House in next year’s elections. Currently, Democrats hold the House majority, 54-45, plus Rollins’ vacancy, while Republicans hold the Senate 23-14, plus one independent who caucuses with Republicans.

Democrats hold the majority of voter registration in the 56th District with 18,125. Republicans have 10,256, and 2,219 people are registered as independents or members of other parties. For a larger map of the district, click here.

Because the parties are close in the House, both and their allies are pouring money into the election. One Republican group has reported spending $140,538; the Democratic group that is expected to play a leading role on that side has yet to report any spending, but a report is due soon.

Education, tax reform and the horse industry are just a few topics being debated in the race. One major difference among the candidate is expansion of gambling to help support the equine industry. Kay supports the idea, Crews is for putting it on the ballot, and Hack is outright opposed.

“I do not support bringing predatory, addictive, machine-based gambling to Kentucky,” Hack said at a Farm Bureau forum. “If purse sizes are the real concern, we can look at other solutions,” such as a surcharge on all Kentucky motel and hotel bills, with a line on the bill saying it’s for the Thoroughbred industry.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, for whom Kay once worked, has said gambling could be expanded without a constitutional amendment, but Crews says would like to see it put it to a vote.

“I am strongly in favor of an amendment put on the ballot for the people to decide,” he said in an interview, “and when we craft the language for that amendment, the horse industry has to be very much a part of that discussion.”

An issue all the candidates were able to agree on, at least generally, was tax reform.

“Our tax system is outdated, inadequate and unfair,” Kay said in an interview with the Midway Messenger. “We need to reform it to help fund public education and a tax system that will invite businesses to come into Kentucky.”

Crews agreed that the tax system was “antiquated,” and added that it needs to be reformed. “I support tax reform that will lower rates, broaden the tax base, and encourage business development within our state – thus producing greater overall tax revenue,” he said.

But he added, “The people of the Commonwealth should not be burdened with additional taxes. Kentucky must learn to live within its means, and this can be accomplished by eliminating wasteful spending, opposing policies that are hostile to business, and ultimately ensuring that Kentucky provides an environment that is friendly and attractive to businesses.”

Hack said, “I favor a tax code that is fair, just and progressive. . . . There needs to be a comprehensive reform of the tax system, spending priorities and the pension system.”

But he said that before passing any tax reform, government spending needs to be assessed. “We have a spending problem in Frankfort, and we have a spending problem in government in general,” said Hack.

Crews said he also believes there is a spending problem and wants to implement a “No Budget, No Pay” policy that would require legislators to go without pay when their failure to pass a budget results in a special session of the General Assembly. Hack also favors such a measure.

Click on image for larger version
Another issue that separated the candidates at the forum was the merit system, in which state employees are hired and promoted based on their ability to perform a job, rather than on their political connections.

Both Crews and Kay agreed that the merit system was good. Crews said that the merit system was important, because it protects employees from partisan changes. Kay agreed that the merit system was a safeguard. “The merit system is valuable because it prevents partisan employees without fear of political retribution,” he said.

Hack said the merit system is a good start, but there needs to be something “that further protects dedicated public employees from abuses prevalent from recent governors.”

He said he would like to find a way to stop the practice known as “burrowing,” in which political appointees gain merit-system protection near the end of an administration by transferring from political to career jobs without going through a fully competitive application process. “These political appointees make their way into the merit system so they can latch onto the state, and this causes a high degree of uncertainty,” Hack said in the interview.

At the forum, Hack said he hired 22 people at the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy and insisted they all be non-merit. “The merit system can hamper productivity,” he said. “An over-reliance on the merit system can make some people less productive than they might otherwise be.”

While the candidates have different opinions on how to solve the issues in Kentucky, they have some common ground, agreeing that the education system was not broken, but has room for improvement.

Hack said at the forum that “the public education system is capable of producing outstanding students,” but is too “test-centric” and is “bloated and top-heavy,” both at the state Department of Education and local districts. “We have almost 200 school districts with independent administration across Kentucky who have six-figure salary employees, who may or may not have an impact on the way our children learn,” he said in the interview.

Hack said Kentucky should invest in community-based schools, or charter schools, to stop district administration salaries from “ballooning” and “the quality of our education from going down.”

“I believe that charter schools offer us an opportunity at catalyzing the kind of innovation we need in the public-school system,” he said.

As chairman of the House Education Committee, Rollins was perhaps the leading legislative opponent of charter schools, and Kay also disagrees with the idea. “Charter schools should not even be a topic until we can take care of our public schools and ensure our children a good education to prepare them for the future,” said Kay. “We went from being ranked 34th in the nation in education to 10th in just the last few years. We’re doing something right.” Kay referred to the Quality Counts survey of the states’ education performance, taken each year by Education Week magazine.

Crews said at the forum that while working for Midway College, “Each year I watched as students come in less and less prepared.” He added that he found that the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 wasn’t as good as people thought it would be and the legislature doesn’t need to be telling teachers what, how and when to teach. “One of the main reasons I am running is because I want to ensure that our children get the effective public education that they deserve,” he said in the interview. “I believe that we can do that by empowering our teachers and making sure our tax-funded resources actually make it into the classroom.”

Crews is also for charter schools. “Because public charter schools must abide by the tenets and projected student achievements outlined in their charter contract, there is a greater degree of accountability,” he said.

As the outsider in the race, Hack is running against the legislature, calling for repeal of the 2000 constitutional amendment that began annual sessions, an end to “full-time pensions for part-time legislators,” making all public pension payments public records, and turning legislative redistricting over to an independent, non-partisan commission.

Hack’s proposals drew varying agreements and disagreements from his opponents.

Crews said legislators shouldn’t have pensions at all, and agrees that any public employee’s pension should be a public record.

Kay said legislators should be in the same pension system with state employees, and legislative salaries and pensions should be set by an independent body. As for making all public pensions public, “It’s something maybe I’d consider, but I’d want to hear from the state employees first.”

Crews and Kay said they favor keeping annual sessions, to keep legislation current, but they disagreed on the idea of an independent redistricting commission. Crews said he doubts that a truly nonpartisan commission could be created, and “I think it’s the responsibility of the legislature to do it, and the legislature is accountable to its constituents.”

Kay said he supports the idea because partisanship has prevented passage of a current redistricting plan, and he thinks a nonpartisan commission is possible. “I have a little bit more faith in people,” he said.

For a look at the race from a statewide perspective, by Ronnie Ellis of Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., click here.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Committee to finalize anti-noise ordinance Monday morning; then council will meet, instead of June 17

The Midway City Council will hold a special meeting Monday, June 10 at 9 a.m. to handle business that would otherwise have been dealt with at the regular meeting on June 17, which has been canceled.

The agenda includes amendment of the alcohol ordinance to allow sales on election days, including the June 25 election to fill the unexpired term of Carl Rollins of Midway as state representative. The state law prohibiting alcohol sales on election days was repealed by the legislature this year, but the ban is also included in the local ordinance.

Also on Monday morning, at 8:00, the council's Cemetery, City Property and Ordinance/Policy Committee will meet to discuss a policy for benches at the cemetery and to finalize the proposed Ordinance Relating to Prohibiting and Controlling Noise Disturbances.

Both meetings will be held at City Hall. All council and committee meetings are open to the public.