Sarah and Gwen: the Two-Headed Monster

This blog is about everything involving Lexington, KY or anything else we feel like yapping about.

Friday, February 29, 2008


In 2004, I was angry with the Kentucky Democratic Party. More than angry: furious, disappointed, frustrated - you name it.

Unlike the majority of people, I voted regularly, kept track of the bills before the KY General Assembly and contacted my reps about them, and wrote the paper about good and bad bills. These were all things a good citizen should do, but despite my efforts I was ignored by my own party. The desires of the Religious Right, who rarely voted Democrat, were always more important.

Years of frustration came to a head in 2004 with the Anti-Marriage Amendment. Under pressure from the Religious Right, the Democrats allowed the bill to come to the floor of the House and voted en masse to send it to the voters. The number of responses I got from my phone calls and handwritten letters could be counted on one hand. I guarantee you that Jody Richards and Rocky Adkins were not among them. I meant nothing to my own party.

Since had just started, I looked up the gatherings of KY Democrats and my wife and I made plans to attend a meeting. Writing and calling my reps wasn't enough. I wanted to see if a change could be made in the party itself.

Two meetings had been scheduled for the same night. We opted for the one that took place in the public library. When we got there, I rapidly became confused. Instead of people yakking about the upcoming presidential election or the fall elections, someone stood at the front with a flow chart showing the process for reorganization and the election of delegates to the state and national Democratic Party conventions.

During my time in college, I studied Ancient Greek, Latin, French, and German. I had no idea what these people were talking about.

"Do you understand what they're saying?" I asked my wife.

"Of course." Well, duh, she was a political science major. At that time, I could have told you more about Athenian politics than Kentucky politics, and more about Roman law than American law.

We made plans to show up for our precinct election. A member of the New Grassroots in Louisville had emailed me the proper form to fill out so we could officially file election results.

The election was very short; Gwen and I were the only people that showed up for our precinct. Since neither of us qualified as a youth, we decided that Gwen should be the precinct person. Thus began our dive into the deep end of the pool.

2004 ended rather badly, of course. I learned just how many people in Kentucky thought that I threatened their marriage and the American Way. Bush was re-elected. The KY House (un?)expectedly lost several races to Republicans. I am proud to say that no one who voted against the amendment lost in November. As a member of Change For Kentucky, I worked like a dog to help several of them keep their seats, and I believe my help was a factor in that.

Later, I learned how much of a difference in my own precinct we had made, simply by walking our streets and meeting our neighbors. Other progressives across the state learned the same, and we began to have some victories. In 2006, I helped gay-friendly candidates join the city council, and in Louisville, Horne supporters reunited behind Yarmuth after the primary and sent him to DC instead of Anne Northup. In 2007, I and others worked hard to keep Stan Lee out of the Attorney General seat. These were great accomplishments. Several members of Change For Kentucky, a group originally viewed with mistrust by the old hands, became members of their Democratic county committees and the State Central Committee.

The time has come again to elect precinct people and reorganize the state party. Precinct committees are the base of the party. They volunteer to spread election material, phonebank, and plant yard signs. They also elect county committee leadership and delegates to the state convention, where the leaders for the state party are elected.

To change the party, you must change its makeup. Attend a training session in March and show up to represent your precinct on April 5th. This is the most effective thing you can do to get your party to listen to you. This is how you can give progressives a greater voice in the Kentucky Democratic Party.


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Lexington: KDP Reorganization and Convention Training

(Central KY Area) KDP Reorganization and Convention Training

Starting March 3, the Kentucky Democratic Party is conducting training and orientation sessions across the Commonwealth for the upcoming 2008 Party Reorganization & Conventions.

From the election of Precinct Leaders to the election of our State Central Committee and selection of Delegates to the National Convention, these trainings are designed to familiarize Democrats on the steps necessary to become more involved in the Kentucky Democratic Party.

Trainings are free and open to the public, and we encourage ALL Democrats to attend and help the KDP Turn Kentucky Blue in 2008.
Time: Saturday, March 15 at 10:00 AM
Duration: 1 hour
Host: Amanda Flanary
Contact Phone: 502-695-4828
Location: The Springs Inn (Lexington, KY) 2020 Harrodsburg Road Lexington, KY 40503


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Constitutional Amendment We Need Most

I must apologize to Kathy Stein, Mary Lou Marzian, Ruth Ann Palumbo, and Ernesto Scorsone, along with any other politicos who are really interested in putting the welfare of Kentuckians first, because they would be punished along with the rest of the Kentucky General @ss. However, this is the constitutional amendment I would most like to see on November's ballot:
SB 161/LM/AA (BR 145) - T. Jensen, R. Stivers II, B. Leeper
AN ACT proposing an amendment to Sections 36 and 42 of the Constitution of Kentucky relating to legislative sessions.
Propose an amendment to Sections 36 and 42 of the Kentucky Constitution to repeal annual sessions; provide ballot language for submission to voters.

The wording on the ballot:
"Are you in favor of repealing annual legislative sessions for the General Assembly and allowing the General Assembly to convene in regular session during even-numbered years for no more than sixty legislative days and to meet in odd-numbered years for no more than ten legislative days only for the purposes of electing legislative leaders, adopting rules of procedure, and organizing committees?"

Unlike the proposed gambling amendment, I think this would have an immediate and guaranteed benefit for the people of Kentucky. Having annual sessions has not hastened the finalization of budgets or meeting the needs of Kentuckians. It has merely doubled the number of harmful, hot-button bills proposed.

The only complaint that I have about this amendment is that it does not go far enough. The KY General Assembly should only meet during odd years. 50% of the time, there would be no election , since the year following a presidential election is always a non-voting year. This would greatly cut down on the bills sponsored to attract donations or the support of voter blocs.

Imagine years in which the gay community was not attacked, in which women's reproduction was left alone, in which no one tried to force prayer into the public schools. Imagine years in which corporate handouts weren't given to King Coal, HMOs, or the construction industry while ignoring the needs of Kentucky's large, aging, lower-income population. Imagine politicians having to run on their record, rather than the bills they introduce to voters with short memories.

Me, I imagine fewer years in which I would need to scan proposed legislation for ones that hurt Kentuckians.

It's a shame.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Once upon a time...

Democrats were supposed to be the party that cared about the poor. Not in Kentucky.

House Bill 447, sponsored by Susan Westrom, is specifically set up to prevent communities from passing affordable housing guidelines. legislative body or fiscal court shall adopt an ordinance or other land use regulation or impose as a condition of issuing a building permit, any requirement that has the effect of establishing the maximum sales price for a privately constructed residential housing unit or residential building lot or parcel, or that requires a housing unit or residential building lot or parcel to be designated for sale to any particular class or group of purchasers.

Let me clarify what "affordable housing" is: homes and apartments for people who don't have big incomes. It's not just about affordable housing, though. Co-sponsor Bob Damron makes that clear in his words to the Herald-Leader:

"The market ought to establish what type of housing will be in the development as opposed to a city mandating that you should have to have medium- or low-income (housing) in a development that also has large homes or expensive homes," Damron said. "If you're an individual and you built a home at $250,000, why should the city come in and mandate the houses on the next street be $75,000 to $100,000? That impacts the value of your home."

Let me translate again: rich people shouldn't have to deal with poor people living one street over from them. In 2004, Westrom mailed out flyers that criticized her opponent for living in a gated community and being out of touch with his neighbors. Her views have changed since then, apparently.

This sort of gentrification is going on in Florida at the moment. Hotels are turning into condos and timeshares, and houses are being torn down for McMansions. In Clearwater, the local businesses are suffering because tourists can't find hotel rooms and are detouring around this traditional hotspot. It's just as well, though, since the McDonald's employees would have to drive in from another county.

Westrom's bill does permit communities to set up incentives for builders to create affordable housing, but these will cost the cities money, either up front or in lost revenue. And the one thing that is clear in Kentucky is that money is short everywhere. I am appalled at the short-sighted selfishness of this bill, especially since I volunteered for Westrom in 2004. My only comfort is this: with the housing bubble popped, housing prices may soon become "affordable" for everyone.

Got a comment for Susan Westrom or Bob Damron? Call 1-800-372-7181 to leave a message.

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Newest Pretext to Force Christian Prayer Into the Schools

DINO Bob Damron, et alii panderers, are making another run at injecting religion into the schools. This is one of the reasons I voted 'No' on the constitutional amendment allowing the KY General Assembly to meet every year. The state seems to run more quietly when these folks aren't in session.

The ploy this time is to get the kids to recite the Lord's Prayer in class under the guise of understanding the American forefathers. Thus, they will have "American = Christian" (specifically Protestant Christian) stamped into their minds early on. Why do I suspect that they won't be re-enacting any Native American rituals, which would certainly be an important part of our country's history as well? Perhaps they should also include some African religious instruction, which would give the pupils a greater understanding of how the slaves brought here felt when they were forced to give up their faith. That'd really ram the message home, wouldn't it?

HB 460 (BR 27) - R. Adams, K. Hall, J. Comer Jr, R. Damron, J. Stewart III, A. Wuchner

AN ACT relating to schools.
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky:

Section 1. KRS 158.175 is amended to read as follows:

(1) As a continuation of the policy of teaching our country's history and as an affirmation of the freedom of religion in this country, the board of education of a local school district may authorize the recitation of the traditional Lord's prayer and the pledge of allegiance to the flag in public elementary schools. Pupil participation in the recitation of the prayer and pledge of allegiance shall be voluntary. Pupils shall be reminded that this Lord's prayer is the prayer our pilgrim fathers recited when they came to this country in their search for freedom. Pupils shall be informed that these exercises are not meant to influence an individual's personal religious beliefs in any manner. The exercises shall be conducted so that pupils shall learn of our great freedoms, including the freedom of religion symbolized by the recitation of the Lord's prayer.
(2) The board of education of each school district shall establish a policy and develop procedures whereby the pupils in each elementary and secondary school may participate in the pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United States at the commencement of each school day.
(3) The Kentucky Board of Education shall develop a program of instruction relating to the flag of the United States of America, including instruction in etiquette, the correct use and display of the flag, and other patriotic exercises as may be related. This program of instruction shall be provided to each public school for use in its course of instruction. The program of instruction, at a minimum, shall include the provisions of 4 U.S.C. secs. 1 to 3 and 4 U.S.C. secs. 5 to 9.
(4) The board of education of each local school district may purchase or otherwise acquire and provide for display in each classroom copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, and other documents the local board deems significant to the history of Kentucky and the United States.
(5) At the commencement of the first class of each day in all public schools, the teacher in charge of the room shall [originally may] announce that a moment of silence or reflection not to exceed two (2) minutes [originally one (1) minute] in duration shall be observed.

Note that the proposed law also enforces reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, which will probably NOT be the original one without the 'Under God' phrase. Somehow, I think the later version will be used. I guess our buddies in the House don't want the kids to get confused about what religious freedom really means.

The real fun should start, though, when the Catholic kids start using different words in the middle of the Lord's Prayer. Back in the Bad Old Days, Catholic kids got punished for using the 'wrong' words during classroom prayer. Today, they'll just get points off until they start using the American version. And they'll get the message, too.

Interested in complaining? Call 1-800-372-7181 to leave a message.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Before my wife and I get into any further discussion of Kentucky politics, I wish to make a disclosure.

We gamble. Not only do we visit the riverboats in Indiana, we have visited casinos in Canada and Florida. We also own a small amount of stock (less than $300) in Dover Downs, a casino/race track combo in Delaware.

We do not belong to KEEP, and we made no donations to Beshear with gambling in mind. My wife and I volunteered for Beshear because we thought he would make a better governor than Ernie Fletcher.

We also believe that gambling will not solve all of Kentucky’s problems. However, we would be as happy losing our money at Kentucky slots as we are losing it in Indiana ones. It would also help make up some of the deficit in the state budget. Raising taxes on tobacco would help, too, but that’s a sacred cow in this state.

I am making this disclosure for two reasons:

1) Expanded gambling is probably going to come up in future political discussions, and anti-gambling folks should not waste their time in trying to recruit us; and

2) We do not want to be accused of having a secret bias. Up front: we like gambling. It’s fun, and the ratio of lost money/time playing is certainly no worse than trying to buy tickets to a movie and the equivalent amount of soda (our favorite casinos offer free soft drinks) in the theater. Then again, we play penny slots.

Just an FYI,

Sarah G