89.3 WFPL http://wfpl.org Louisville's NPR® News Station Fri, 22 May 2015 20:10:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.6 Kentucky State Sen. Brandon Smith Acquitted of DUI, Guilty of Speeding http://wfpl.org/kentucky-state-sen-brandon-smith-acquitted-dui-guilty-speeding/ http://wfpl.org/kentucky-state-sen-brandon-smith-acquitted-dui-guilty-speeding/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 20:08:35 +0000 http://wfpl.org/?p=37107 Republican state Sen. Brandon Smith has been acquitted of driving under the influence of alcohol. A Franklin County jury took 10 minutes to acquit the Hazard Republican on Friday following a day-long trial. They did convict him of speeding and … Read Story

]]> Republican state Sen. Brandon Smith has been acquitted of driving under the influence of alcohol.

A Franklin County jury took 10 minutes to acquit the Hazard Republican on Friday following a day-long trial. They did convict him of speeding and fined him $40.

Smith was arrested Jan. 6, the first day of the 2015 legislative session. A state trooper testified Smith smelled of alcohol and that he failed two field sobriety tests. Smith refused to take a breath test.

Smith’s defense attorneys played security camera footage from the jail, showing the jury Smith walked without assistance. A convenience store clerk testified that Smith did not appear intoxicated earlier that night.

Smith’s attorneys argued earlier this year the charges should be dropped because the state constitution says lawmakers cannot be arrested while the legislature is in session. They later withdrew that request.

]]> http://wfpl.org/kentucky-state-sen-brandon-smith-acquitted-dui-guilty-speeding/feed/ 0 Kentucky Appeals Court Rules Natural Gas Liquids Pipelines Can’t Use Eminent Domain http://wfpl.org/kentucky-court-appeals-rules-natural-gas-liquids-pipelines-cant-use-eminent-domain/ http://wfpl.org/kentucky-court-appeals-rules-natural-gas-liquids-pipelines-cant-use-eminent-domain/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 19:58:09 +0000 http://wfpl.org/?p=37104 The Kentucky Court of Appeals on Friday upheld a lower court’s decision that a natural gas liquids pipeline would not have the right of eminent domain in the commonwealth. The unanimous decision means that only utilities regulated by the Public … Read Story

]]> The Kentucky Court of Appeals on Friday upheld a lower court’s decision that a natural gas liquids pipeline would not have the right of eminent domain in the commonwealth. The unanimous decision means that only utilities regulated by the Public Service Commission can invoke eminent domain in Kentucky.

The case was filed back in December 2013, when pipeline company Williams began work in Kentucky to lay 500 miles of pipe across the state. The Bluegrass Pipeline would hook up with existing pipeline in other states, and was designed to carry natural gas liquids (NGLs) from drilling operations in the Northeast to processing plants on the Gulf of Mexico. NGLs are byproducts of natural gas drilling; they’re hydrocarbons like propane, ethane and butane, and are used in manufacturing materials like plastics.

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A grassroots resistance to the Bluegrass Pipeline grew, and many landowners expressed concerns about the pipeline crossing their property. Williams said publicly the company believed it had the power of eminent domain, but other legal experts in the commonwealth disagreed. Kentucky law on the subject was unclear.

Now, the Court of Appeals decision has cleared up the commonwealth’s eminent domain law. As Judge Janet Stumbo wrote in the unanimous opinion:

“We believe that the legislature only intended to delegate the state’s power of eminent domain to those pipeline companies that are, or will be, regulated by the PSC. In addition, the NGLs in Bluegrass’s pipeline are being transported to a facility in the Gulf of Mexico. If these NGLs are not reaching Kentucky consumers, then Bluegrass and its pipeline cannot be said to be in the public service of Kentucky. We therefore affirm the circuit court’s judgment that Bluegrass does not possess the ability to condemn property through eminent domain.”

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The Bluegrass Pipeline has since been put on hold, but this decision could affect other potential NGL pipeline projects. Kinder Morgan is exploring converting part of the existing Tennessee Gas Pipeline—which runs through 18 Kentucky counties—to carry NGLs, and this decision means the company couldn’t use eminent domain to acquire any additional land.

]]> http://wfpl.org/kentucky-court-appeals-rules-natural-gas-liquids-pipelines-cant-use-eminent-domain/feed/ 0 How a Preservation Grant Will Retell Kentucky’s LGBT History http://wfpl.org/preservation-grant-will-retell-kentuckys-lgbt-history/ http://wfpl.org/preservation-grant-will-retell-kentuckys-lgbt-history/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 18:37:10 +0000 http://wfpl.org/?p=37075 Standing outside the Henry Clay building in downtown Louisville, a small group of people on Thursday celebrated a big day for LGBT history. Members of Louisville’s Fairness Campaign, along with local and state preservationists, said they were excited because the Kentucky … Read Story

]]> Standing outside the Henry Clay building in downtown Louisville, a small group of people on Thursday celebrated a big day for LGBT history.

Members of Louisville’s Fairness Campaign, along with local and state preservationists, said they were excited because the Kentucky Heritage Council had been awarded a $25,000 grant from the National Park Service that could lead to significant changes in the recognized history of buildings such as the Henry Clay and Whiskey Row.

The small, yet competitive, grant aims to highlight the history of “under-represented communities,” said Craig Potts, executive director of the Kentucky Heritage Council.

Thirteen state preservation offices were awarded these grants, and only two of the states will focus on LGBT history. New York is the other state.

“This is a tremendous opportunity,” he added.

The grant funds will enable Kentucky preservationists and historians to delve into the history of places on the National Register of Historic Places and uncover “an LGBT connection that most people don’t know,” Potts said.

He said Kentucky has the fourth-highest number of National Historic listings in the country.

“Not one of those has a direct documented association with the LGBT community,” he said.

The grant will likely change that, at least at some historic places—like the Henry Clay on Third Street and Whiskey Row along Main Street in downtown Louisville.

The Downtowner, a building on Whiskey Row, is known as one of the first gathering places in Louisville for residents in the LGBT community, Preservation Louisville executive director Marianne Zickuhr said on a 2014 episode of Strange Fruit.

The Henry Clay has ties to the LGBT community dating back to the 1940s, said Chris Hartman, executive director of the Fairness Campaign.

Beaux Arts Bar Henry Clay Image 1947 The University of Louisville Photographic Archives

1947 Photograph of the Beaux Arts at the Henry Clay

Zickuhr said she was unaware of the grant opportunity until she met with a colleague in San Francisco, a city which is a national leader in LGBT history preservation.

Hartman said historians, preservationists and scholars will gather oral histories of historic places and examine archived arrest records to determine which Kentucky places on the national historic register have historic ties to the LGBT community.

Potts said scholars will also explore the William-Nichols Collection at the University of Louisville. It is the the third largest collection of LGBT related materials in the country.

If a history is identified and substantiated, then LGBT-specific amendments to the official historical context of the locations will be submitted to the state historic review board for approval, then on to Washington, D.C., for final approval by the National Park Service, Potts said.

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The initiative to identify historically significant places in the LGBT community will be statewide, Hartman said. He expects much of the history to be in Louisville and Lexington, but said some work is already being done to gather details on LGBT history in eastern Kentucky, too.

Hartman said the grant allows an important part of Kentucky history to be saved. It also will provide a “blueprint to preserve the history we are making today.”

“It’s easy to get lost in the historic moments we are living in,” he said, adding LGBT history is “constantly being made in Kentucky” through the passing of anti-discrimination ordinances and local plaintiffs taking their case for same-sex marriage to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We need to remember this history well, and preserve it, in the midst of everything we are doing,” he said. “This is a big step.”

]]> http://wfpl.org/preservation-grant-will-retell-kentuckys-lgbt-history/feed/ 0 Louisville Native Wendy Whelan Moves Beyond Ballet http://wfpl.org/louisville-native-wendy-whelan-moves-beyond-ballet/ http://wfpl.org/louisville-native-wendy-whelan-moves-beyond-ballet/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 17:53:23 +0000 http://wfpl.org/?p=37076 Louisville native Wendy Whelan has nearly every professional accolade possible for a ballet dancer. But now that she’s retired from the acclaimed New York City Ballet after 30 years, Whelan is seeking to expand beyond ballet. This weekend, Whelan brings … Read Story

]]> Louisville native Wendy Whelan has nearly every professional accolade possible for a ballet dancer.

But now that she’s retired from the acclaimed New York City Ballet after 30 years, Whelan is seeking to expand beyond ballet.

This weekend, Whelan brings her first post-ballet production to her hometown with “Restless Creature,” an evening of four duets that features Whelan paired with four different dancers, each of whom served as the choreographer for their duet with her.

She’s trading her pointe shoes for bare feet, and looking to find different ways of moving after so many years in the strict discipline of ballet.

“The movement is not necessarily ballet-based, but because I’m doing it and I’ve been such a longtime established ballet dancer, I’ll have a little bit of a ballet feel, but I’m really trying to explore new sides of myself as a performing artist, and therefore trying to get away from ballet, to tap new sources of movement within myself,” Whelan said.

Listen to the Full Interview

Her partners in “Restless Creature” are dancer/choreographers Kyle Abraham, Joshua Beamish, Brian Brooks, and Alejandro Cerrudo. The piece had its world premiere at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in August 2013, and the dancers have been touring with this show for the last three months.

Whelan left the New York City Ballet last year. Whelan said she was nervous about her departure, but it was the right decision at the right time.

“I had a fantastic time at the New York City Ballet,” Whelan said. “And I couldn’t have asked for more. And I left at exactly the right moment, and I’ve gone on to explore in exactly the way I want to.”

Bringing the show to Louisville is “like Christmas,” Whelan said.

“I’m so excited, and I have so many friends and family that are going to be there. They’ve never seen me do anything but ballet, so I’m excited to show them what I’m up to now,” she said.

“Restless Creature” will be performed at 8 p.m. Saturday night at the Brown Theatre. Here’s more information.

]]> http://wfpl.org/louisville-native-wendy-whelan-moves-beyond-ballet/feed/ 0 Looming Trade Deficit May Cloud Kentucky’s Sunny Economy http://wfpl.org/despite-kentuckys-sunny-economy-trade-deficit-looms/ http://wfpl.org/despite-kentuckys-sunny-economy-trade-deficit-looms/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 13:00:01 +0000 http://wfpl.org/?p=37063 This week Kentucky boasted a handful of economic achievements. Kentucky’s manufacturing sector added 1,100 jobs in April (4,700 since last year), GM announced a $439 million expansion of its Corvette factory in Bowling Green, and Kentucky’s exports were reported to … Read Story

]]> This week Kentucky boasted a handful of economic achievements.

Kentucky’s manufacturing sector added 1,100 jobs in April (4,700 since last year), GM announced a $439 million expansion of its Corvette factory in Bowling Green, and Kentucky’s exports were reported to be up 11 percent in 2015.

Plus, the unemployment rate fell to 5 percent—the lowest it’s been in 15 years.

But State Office of Employment and Training Economist Manoj Shanker warns that a continued strong dollar could squelch demand for Kentucky goods.

“So what’s helped us really, the reason we’re doing all these exports is because energy costs are low, which means the cost of making goods is lower in Kentucky and in the U.S–but what hurts us is that the dollar is strong, so it’s more difficult to export,” Shanker said.

While Kentucky and the U.S.’ economy have rallied admirably since the Great Recession, much of the rest of the world is still struggling to catch up.

Countries that haven’t made strong recoveries can’t afford to buy as many of our goods. Because their currencies aren’t as strong as the dollar, they’re able to export their goods at a much lower price than U.S. manufacturers can.

This phenomenon has led to a trade deficit in the United States—we import more than we export—which has grown to $51.4 billion according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

The trade deficit isn’t simply caused by other countries not being able to afford U.S. goods, said Jason Bailey, the executive director of the Kentucky Center for Economy Policy.

He said countries such as China and Japan artificially weaken their currencies by buying up dollar-dominated financial assets.

“Because it changes currency values it makes the dollar more expensive that makes any good that is produced by a Kentucky manufacturer more expensive in the whether they’re selling in Europe, Asia or wherever,” Bailey said.

Bailey said Kentucky is especially vulnerable to the trade deficit because the state has the eighth-largest share of factory jobs compared to total employment. Expensive workers, materials and facilities could lead manufacturers to outsource.

“It makes it cheaper for employers to just move off shore,” Bailey said. “And that’s the big thing we’ve seen happen over the last 15 years is that we’ve seen these manufacturers relocate to China, which is one of these countries that engages in currency manipulation, because then the cost of production in China becomes that much cheaper than it is in the U.S.”

The U.S. Senate is currently considering legislation that would create an international system to crack down on countries that manipulate their currencies.

]]> http://wfpl.org/despite-kentuckys-sunny-economy-trade-deficit-looms/feed/ 0 West End Poetry Opera Takes On Issues Through Art http://wfpl.org/west-end-poetry-opera-takes-issues-art/ http://wfpl.org/west-end-poetry-opera-takes-issues-art/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 11:00:02 +0000 http://wfpl.org/?p=37025 Domestic violence, religion, interactions with police, relationships between parents and children – these are just some of the issues that will be tackled Friday in Louisville through poetry, music, dance and spoken word. A group of young artists from Louisville’s West … Read Story

]]> Domestic violence, religion, interactions with police, relationships between parents and children – these are just some of the issues that will be tackled Friday in Louisville through poetry, music, dance and spoken word.

A group of young artists from Louisville’s West End bring their stories to the Kentucky Center during the West End Poetry Opera.

About 15 artists between the ages of 18 and 26 will take the stage to tell stories of their lives and the things that concern them. The project is a production of Roots and Wings, a community organization that brings together several groups working for social change.

Stacy Bailey-Ndaiye, one of the show’s co-directors, said the audience will be getting more than just a performance.

“They’re going to hear the authentic voice of young adults here in the city, talking about issues related to the West End but it’s definitely more broad than that – I mean, it’s the West End Poetry Opera – and so we’re telling the story of African-Americans, and it really is a call to action,” Bailey-Ndaiye said.

This performance is a continuation of the work begun last October with the Smoketown Poetry Opera, which was performed outdoors across the street from the Sheppard Square housing development in Smoketown.

Theo Edmonds, Bailey-Ndaiye’s co-director, hopes that this performance’s location at the Kentucky Center brings out people from all over the city.

“I suspect that the audience will be one of the most interesting cross-sections from the city of Louisville that you’ve ever seen gathered in one place,” said Edmonds.

All of the material is original, created by the artists who perform it. Brandon Harrison, a 26-year-old poet and spoken word artist who goes by “B-Shatter” onstage, said art is an ideal way to engage the younger generation in serious issues.

“We pay more attention to the artistic outlets than we do the news, or traditional school methods,” Harrison said. “Being an artistic person, it is then my job to still educate and then bring about those issues in a way that I know my generation will listen to it.”

One of Harrison’s pieces is a poem called “Dear Officer,” which imagines asking a police officer some very pointed questions about his line of work.

Do you remember drawing inside the lines of your future profession? Furthermore, did you ever think that you’d be standing outside those lines, dear officer?
I’m asking, if you’re standing from beyond the innocence you stole, just how many vacation days does one receive if the powder from your casings enters the shell of a black soul, check the tags on the black toes, who are afraid of us realizing we’re diamonds, how much does it pay to snuff out black coals, burn down black homes, how big is the bonus for sending black boys to black holes, dear officer.

Listen to Harrison Perform ‘Dear Officer’

In addition to the public performance, there is a strong component of professional development to the project. The performers and crew are learning job skills that the organizers hope will help them in their professional lives. Although this particular project is focused on the West End, Edmonds said the intention is to build something that brings the city together.

Because we look at all the attention that’s been given to West Louisville, there is a clarion call right now to integrate social and economic justice into our urban planning policies, and so we believe that this project is coming along at a very important moment for our city, and hopefully will have the intended impact, which is to be a bridge builder to a better future for all of us,” Edmonds said.

The performance at the Bomhard Theatre is sold out, but the entire show will be streamed live on a video screen in the lobby of the Kentucky Center, and will also be streamed on YouTube.

(Image via Kertis Creative)

This story has been changed to reflect that Harrison performed “Dear Officer.”

]]> http://wfpl.org/west-end-poetry-opera-takes-issues-art/feed/ 0 Lower Kentucky Unemployment Rates Should Lead to Wage Increases, Economist Says http://wfpl.org/lower-kentucky-unemployment-rates-lead-wage-increases-economist-says/ http://wfpl.org/lower-kentucky-unemployment-rates-lead-wage-increases-economist-says/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 01:32:13 +0000 http://wfpl.org/?p=37040 Kentucky’s unemployment rate has dropped once again–from 5.2 percent in March to 5 percent in April. That’s down from 7 percent in April of 2014. Manoj Shanker, an economist with the state Office of Employment and Training, said the lower … Read Story

]]> Kentucky’s unemployment rate has dropped once again–from 5.2 percent in March to 5 percent in April.

That’s down from 7 percent in April of 2014.

Manoj Shanker, an economist with the state Office of Employment and Training, said the lower unemployment rate should lead to acceleration in wage rates.

“When the market tightens, the same jobs that are paying say $8 or $9 an hour–in order to get more workers they’re going to be paying a little higher. And when they pay a little higher, then more workers enter the market,” Shanker said.

According to Shanker, wages have increased by about 2 percent since April 2014.

The largest employment sector in the state is transportation and utilities, which has gained about 6,200 positions since April 2014. Transportation and utilities jobs account for one-fifth of nonfarm employment in Kentucky.

The healthcare sector, which has grown in response to the expansion of Medicaid services in the state, added 1,600 jobs in April–that adds up to 5,000 jobs from a year ago. Healthcare accounts for about 15 percent of all nonfarm employment in Kentucky.

Kentucky’s manufacturing sector has also steadily grown, adding 1,100 jobs in April and 4,700 jobs since April 2014.

Kentucky’s civilian labor force increased by 3,590 during April. Shanker said those who worked off the grid or stopped looking for work altogether are starting to reenter the market.

“When jobs increase and wages go up, people sitting on the sidelines thinking, ‘Should we get back to look for jobs or not?’ enter the labor force,” Shanker said.

The state’s labor force has been on the decline in recent years as baby boomers have reached retirement age

The number of people employed in Kentucky increased by 4,984 in April and the number of unemployed decreased by 1,394.

The national unemployment rate is 5.4 percent. Kentucky has been below the national unemployment rate for nine months.

]]> http://wfpl.org/lower-kentucky-unemployment-rates-lead-wage-increases-economist-says/feed/ 0 Preservation Louisville’s Top 10 List of Most Endangered Places http://wfpl.org/preservation-louisvilles-top-10-list-endangered-places/ http://wfpl.org/preservation-louisvilles-top-10-list-endangered-places/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 01:27:12 +0000 http://wfpl.org/?p=37053 Louisville preservationists on Thursday released their annual list of endangered places in and around the city. The highlighted properties are what non-profit group Preservation Louisville considered to be the most at risk of being demolished or wrecked beyond repair. Preservation Louisville … Read Story

]]> Louisville preservationists on Thursday released their annual list of endangered places in and around the city.

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The highlighted properties are what non-profit group Preservation Louisville considered to be the most at risk of being demolished or wrecked beyond repair.

Preservation Louisville works to protect the architectural heritage of the community and is asking for donations to help fund the much-needed preservation work on the listed properties, which include vacant and abandoned homes, old corner store fronts and historic churches.

Here is the entire list as shown on Preservation Louisville’s website:

Vacant & Abandoned Properties

Historic Educational Buildings

Mid-Century Modern Structures

The Roscoe Goose House

roscoe_goose_web

The Ouerbacker House

Corner Store Fronts

Historic Sacred Spaces

The Peter C. Doerhoefer House

doerhoefer_webJacob Ryan | wfpl.org

Historic Old Clarksville Site

The Old Water Company Block Historic Buildings 

The group also published their annual preservation “successes” list of properties which have been renovated successfully.

Here is that list:

Crescent Hill Gate House – Louisville Water Co.
Crescent Gill Gate House

Falls City Lofts
Falls City Lofts

Hilltop Theater Building
Hilltop Theater

Family Health Center – East Broadway

Family Health Center - East Broadway

1366 S. 3rd St.

1366 S. 3rd St.

Wolf Pen Branch Mill
Wolf Pen Branch Mill 2

Holy Grale/Gralehaus
Gralehaus

Embassy Suites
Embassy Suites

Indatus
Indatus

231 N. 19th St.
231 N. 19th St.

]]> http://wfpl.org/preservation-louisvilles-top-10-list-endangered-places/feed/ 0 Expansion Coming to Bowling Green Corvette Plant http://wfpl.org/expansion-coming-bowling-green-corvette-plant/ http://wfpl.org/expansion-coming-bowling-green-corvette-plant/#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 19:08:40 +0000 http://wfpl.org/?p=37049 A major expansion is in the works at the Bowling Green Corvette Assembly Plant. General Motors announced Thursday a $439 million investment for facility upgrades, including a new paint shop. Construction will begin this summer and take about two years to … Read Story

]]>

Kentucky Lieutenant Governor Crit Luallen (left) and Corvette Assembly Plant Manager Jeff LamarcheLisa Autry | wfpl.org

Kentucky Lieutenant Governor Crit Luallen (left) and Corvette Assembly Plant Manager Jeff Lamarche

A major expansion is in the works at the Bowling Green Corvette Assembly Plant.

General Motors announced Thursday a $439 million investment for facility upgrades, including a new paint shop. Construction will begin this summer and take about two years to complete.

Plant Manager Jeff Lamarche said the investment shows GM’s commitment to the Bowling Green facility.

“It’s really clear that GM is not just committing for years ahead, but committing to the community, the plant, and the men and women here in Bowling Green,” Lamarche told WKU Public Radio. “It’s basically recognition for the great job everybody’s done.”

The new paint shop will be 450,000 square feet, almost half the size of the current assembly plant. The expansion is not expected to create any additional jobs.

Thursday’s announcement follows nearly $135 million invested in the plant over the last four years for the new seventh generation Corvette and the Performance Build Center.

Last month, GM announced it would invest $5.4 billion in its U.S. facilities over the next three years.

]]> http://wfpl.org/expansion-coming-bowling-green-corvette-plant/feed/ 0 Preservationists Get 30 Days to Save Old Louisville Water Co. Building http://wfpl.org/preservationists-get-30-days-save-old-louisville-water-co-building/ http://wfpl.org/preservationists-get-30-days-save-old-louisville-water-co-building/#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 18:22:09 +0000 http://wfpl.org/?p=37014 Preservationists have 30 days to develop a plan to save all or part of the old water company building near Third Street and Muhammad Ali Blvd in downtown Louisville, city officials said on Thursday. The two-story building, which housed the … Read Story

]]> Preservationists have 30 days to develop a plan to save all or part of the old water company building near Third Street and Muhammad Ali Blvd in downtown Louisville, city officials said on Thursday.

The two-story building, which housed the Louisville Water Co. from 1910 to 1998, is one of two historic structures remaining on the block slated for the major Omni Hotel development in the coming years.

On Thursday, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer outlined three options for preserving the old water company building. Preservationists can move the entire old water company building to another location, relocate the building’s portico, facade and 25-feet side walls, or move just the building’s portico to public land.

He said the city will provide about $1 million for the preservation effort.

The Odd Fellows Hall will not be part of the Omni Hotel development and will be demolished.

Two other structures once located on the block, the Morrissey Garage and Falls City Theater Co. building, were demolished earlier this year and crews continue to remove the final remnants of the century-old buildings.

Following the demolition of those two buildings, Marianne Zickuhr, executive director of Preservation Louisville, said she had hope the old water company building and Odd Fellows Hall (which also remains on the block) could be incorporated into the near $300-million Omni Hotel development.

What's left of the Morrissey Garage and Falls City Theater Company buildings.Jacob Ryan | wfpl.org

What’s left of the Morrissey Garage and Falls City Theater Company buildings.

But Fischer said full building incorporation for the old water company building alone would cost perhaps $6 million.

That is not feasible, he said.

Moving the building is feasible, said Craig Potts, executive director of the Kentucky Heritage Council and the state’s historic preservation officer.

But the cost of doing so would surpass the $1 million allocation the city plans to spend, he said.

Potts said the “preliminary estimate” of moving the building is roughly $816,000. That, basically, includes removing the building from its current foundation and putting it on a truck, he said. It does not include the “unknown costs” of the actual transportation—such as removing stop lights, directing traffic and replacing the building at another prepared site.

Another factor preservationists must consider over  the next 30 days  is where they could potentially move the building, Potts said.

Moving the building in its entirety will be limited to a six-block radius, Fischer said. The transport will not be able to go through underpasses or beneath skywalks, he added.

“There is not a specific city site within the six block area that is a clear option,” Potts said.

Preservationists will seek out a downtown landowner willing to voluntarily provide the plot of land necessary to relocate the building to, Potts said.

“We haven’t thought about the idea of purchasing land,” he said. “Land in downtown Louisville is very, very expensive.”

He said the Old Water Company building “has a lot of value and potential” and could “be very helpful to a site that’s underutilized,” like a parking lot.

The Jefferson County PVA assessed the near one acre-parcel of land the building currently sits on to be valued at just more than $2 million.

If a landowner volunteers a plot of land for the building, they would be given the building at not cost, Potts said. They would, however, be required to prepare the lot for the building, which means clearing the lot and laying a foundation.

“Whoever accepts the building, it’s going to take a lot of money to adaptively reuse it,” he said.

Historic preservation tax credits, which can credit up to 20 percent of the rehabilitation costs, will likely not be available for the preservation of the old water company building, Potts said.

The reason, he said, is that to qualify for preservation tax credits a building must be on the National Register of Historic Places. The old water company building is eligible for listing, but not formally listed. Also, once the building is moved, it likely would no longer be eligible for listing on the National Register, Potts added.

“That impacts the historic context for the site,” he said.

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Over the next 30 days Potts will work with local preservationists and city officials to develop “a very clear” plan regarding where the building will go and how the extra costs will be covered.

“We have to have a willing property owner,” he stressed. “There is definitely some work to be done.”

The block on which the building currently is must be cleared and ready for the Omni Development by Jan. 1, Fischer said.

If no donors come forward within the 30-day window for developing a plan to move the building, then, he said, city officials will look to move the smaller portions of the building to public land.

“Something will happen,” he said. “Minimally, the city will be moving the portico somewhere. The other opportunity, obviously, relates to the facade and side walls.”

Those options, Fischer said, are “relatively easy” and will cost in the “tens of thousands of dollars.”

Moving the building, on the other hand, will be “tricky.”

]]> http://wfpl.org/preservationists-get-30-days-save-old-louisville-water-co-building/feed/ 0 The Kickback, Fraud and Drug-Switch Claims That Ail a Louisville Pharmacy Company http://wfpl.org/the-kickback-fraud-and-drug-switch-claims-that-ail-a-louisville-pharmacy-company/ http://wfpl.org/the-kickback-fraud-and-drug-switch-claims-that-ail-a-louisville-pharmacy-company/#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 16:16:43 +0000 http://wfpl.org/?p=37019 Editor’s note: Shortly before publication, a legal case involving PharMerica settled in Wisconsin federal court. This article has been updated to reflect the latest settlement. Like no other place, American nursing homes house people with age-weakened bodies, multiple ailments and, … Read Story

]]> Editor’s note: Shortly before publication, a legal case involving PharMerica settled in Wisconsin federal court. This article has been updated to reflect the latest settlement.

Like no other place, American nursing homes house people with age-weakened bodies, multiple ailments and, often, severe mental impairment. Many are overmedicated. Many have no visitors. A third of them will die within a year of admission.

From the pharmaceutical industry’s perspective, that makes nursing homes fertile ground to sell more drugs.

The drug maker Abbott Laboratories knew that. It paid millions of dollars in “rebates” to get pharmacy companies to pump up prescriptions of an anti-seizure drug to agitated dementia patients in nursing homes, a use not approved by the Food & Drug Administration. Medicaid payments for the drug, Depakote, went on to top $7 billion. Thanks to a whistleblower lawsuit, the Justice Department caught on. Abbott pleaded guilty in 2012 to a criminal charge, settled civil kickback and fraud claims and paid $1.5 billion in fines.

The drug giant Amgen Inc. also saw a bonanza in the nursing home channel. Flashing financial incentives, it enlisted the same pharmacy companies to promote its Aranesp anemia drug for uses beyond its FDA approval. Again alerted by a whistleblower suit, the Justice Department stepped in. Amgen pleaded guilty to the crime of drug misbranding, settled civil kickback and fraud charges and paid a total of $762 million in fines.

Those two deals brought the government hammer down on the companies that hatched the sales-boosting schemes. But what happened to the folks on the receiving end of the payoffs — the two pharmacy companies accused of pocketing the money and switching nursing home patients to different drugs?

The defendant remaining in both civil cases is called PharMerica Corp., of Jeffersontown, outside Louisville. PharMerica has no retail stores, but is the second-biggest operator of nursing home pharmacies in the country. It has about 6,000 employees in 45 states, about 200 at its headquarters in a forested office park off Blankenbaker Parkway. With $1.9 billion in revenue last year, it is the 10th-biggest publicly traded company in Kentucky, according to rankings by The Lane Report.

PharMerica was formed by a merger in 2007. Before that it existed as the institutional pharmacy divisions of Kindred Healthcare, a Louisville company, and AmerisourceBergen of Chesterbrook, Pa. It hired Gregory Weishar (pronounced WISH-er) as chief executive in 2007. He has run the company ever since.

PharMerica's headquarters in the 1900 block of Campus Lane in Jeffersontown.

PharMerica’s headquarters in the 1900 block of Campus Lane in Jeffersontown.

Companies like PharMerica, and its larger competitor Cincinnati-based Omnicare Inc., occupy a strategic place in the flow of drugs to nursing home patients. Acting on behalf of the homes, they buy drugs from the pharmaceutical companies in bulk, often repack them in foil packs, or “bingo cards,” and dispense them under the supervision of employees known as consultant pharmacists. PharMerica says it has a 15 percent share of the U.S. market. It calls its performance “industry-leading.”

“PharMerica provides the right medication at the right time,” states the company’s website.

But does it? The Abbott Labs and Amgen lawsuits assert otherwise. The civil suits accuse PharMerica of giving certain drugs to nursing home patients in return for drug company kickbacks, not because they were the “right medication.” The suits were filed by drug company insiders who claim to have knowledge of payoffs disguised as “rebates” or “discounts.” PharMerica denies the claims.

Paying kickbacks appear to be standard practice in the pharmaceutical industry. The Justice Department doesn’t keep count, but kickbacks are a common theme in the many Medicare and Medicaid cases involving aggressive new-drug rollouts and off-label switcheroos.

Five additional closed cases raise further questions about PharMerica’s priorities. Since 2005, it has agreed to pay $40 million in fines to settle federal complaints. Last week, the Justice Department said PharMerica will pay $31.5 million to settle allegations that it dispensed addictive painkillers to nursing home patients without prescriptions, then falsely billed Medicare.

In that case, three PharMerica pharmacists in Wisconsin and Florida civilly accused the company of regularly dispensing painkillers, such as fentanyl patches, to nursing home patients without prescriptions from 2007 through 2009. The Justice Department took over the case in 2013, and as part of the settlement, PharMerica agreed to a five-year “corporate integrity agreement,” a probation-like deal that places burdensome compliance obligations on corporate fraudsters.

In earlier settlements, three of its Virginia pharmacies were accused in two civil suits of giving painkillers to nursing home patients without prescriptions on 1,233 occasions. Separately, it was accused of billing the Tennessee Medicaid program for more drugs than it actually dispensed. And, again in Virginia, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of Inspector General accused PharMerica of paying an exorbitant amount for a newborn pharmacy in return for the lucrative meds business of the pharmacy owner’s 25 nursing homes.

The last case was deemed so flagrant that the IG sought to ban PharMerica from federal healthcare programs for 10 years. It settled, in 2005, for a $6 million fine and a five-year corporate integrity agreement.

Sources: Court documentRyan Smith/KyCIR

Sources: Court documents

PharMerica declined to make any of its executives available for an interview with the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting. It cited the ongoing court cases, but also would not take questions about its business practices or its corporate culture.

“PharMerica is committed to outstanding compliance and the highest standards of ethical conduct, and we are diligent in ensuring that we comply with all applicable law and regulation,” the company said in a statement.

Patrick Burns, co-director of Taxpayers Against Fraud, a non-profit advocacy group in Washington, D.C., had no reservations talking about PharMerica.

Burns said the pipeline from pharmaceutical companies to nursing homes is flush with monetary incentives to promote certain drugs and to sell more of them. Ultimately, he said, drug sales greased by kickbacks at the expense of nursing home residents, Medicare and Medicaid amount to profiteering.

“That’s the perversion of the system,” Burns said. “At the end of the day, our oldest, sickest and poorest become cash cows.”

Reuben Guttman, a Washington, D.C., lawyer who represents Amgen whistleblower Frank Kurnik in his suit against Amgen, PharMerica and Omnicare, said drug companies pay kickbacks because it expedites business.

“I assume they could have done what they did by sending out the ground troops and going (nursing) home to home to home, but it was a lot easier for them to pay kickbacks to PharMerica, and PharMerica solicits kickbacks because that’s one of the ways they make money,” Guttman said. “They bonus people up and down the food chain who participate in the scheme.”

PharMerica’s involvement in the Abbott Labs-Depakote affair was rooted in a 1997 deal in which it agreed to a “therapeutic interchange program to convert prescriptions from non-Abbott drugs to Abbott drugs,” according to the initial whistleblower suit filed by former Abbott manager Thomas Spetter Jr. in 2007. Although Depakote was FDA-approved to treat seizures and bipolar mania and prevent migraines, Spetter’s suit claimed that Abbott ghost-wrote medical articles and paid medical “opinion leaders” touting Depakote’s effectiveness in treating agitation and aggression in dementia patients.

PharMerica and Omnicare helped the cause, Spetter alleged in his suit, by pitching Depakote to nursing homes and doctors through “lunch ‘n learns,” “round tables” and speaker programs. He said the pharmacy companies did “chart reviews” of nursing home patients’ drug histories to find opportunities to persuade doctors to “convert” those patients to Depakote products. He cited two occasions when PharMerica hosted dinner events, in Hawaii and California, where doctors spoke about alternative, non-FDA-approved uses of Depakote.

The government joined the case and reached a $1.5 billion out-of-court settlement with Abbott in May 2012. Of the $239 million that Abbott agreed to pay for defrauding state Medicaid programs, about $3 million went to Kentucky. PharMerica, too, is settling, according to a Dec. 4 court filing by the government. No settlement terms were disclosed, only that non-monetary issues need to be resolved by federal agencies and the states.

Pharmerica

The role PharMerica and Omnicare played as middlemen between drug companies and nursing homes was similarly depicted in the lawsuit filed by whistleblower Frank Kurnik in 2011. Kurnik was Amgen’s director of long-term and home-health care. He left the company on his own in 2013.

Amgen wanted to sell more of its anemia drug Aranesp, but Johnson & Johnson’s Procrit brand was in the way. Amgen, according to Kurnik’s suit, unleashed its marketing staff and, from 2002 to 2007, promoted Aranesp beyond its FDA approval for kidney-related anemia.

Kurnik claimed Amgen agreed to pay rebates — kickbacks, he called them — to PharMerica at rates based on the amount of Aranesp it bought. To make sure that key PharMerica decision-makers were “induced” to champion the expanded use of Aranesp, Kurnik claimed in court documents, Amgen treated them to “perks” tailored to their desires.

Two of those PharMerica employees sat on PharMerica’s Pharmacy & Therapeutics Committee, which oversaw its list of approved drugs, also known as its formulary. To curry the favor a former senior vice president and chief clinical officer, Amgen allegedly lavished her with dinner outings, typically with steak and lobster.

Another P&T Committee member “who stood to gain from kickbacks” was PharMerica’s former vice president of clinical program development and the person in charge of therapeutic interchanges, Kurnik claimed in court filings. He was paid to speak at Amgen sales meetings and was treated to golf outings paid for by Amgen, Kurnik stated.

Amgen entered its guilty plea to drug misbranding and agreed to pay $762 million in December 2012. Fourteen months later, co-defendant Omnicare — the nation’s biggest supplier of drugs to nursing homes — itself paid $4.2 million to settle kickback and Medicaid fraud charges with the Justice Department. That left PharMerica as the sole remaining defendant in the case.

AARP, which represents 38 million Americans 50 and older, denounces the practice of financially induced drug-switching.

“Such behavior is particularly troubling when the prescription drugs in question are being used in a manner that is inconsistent with the product labeling,” said Leigh Purvis, director of health services research at AARP’s Public Policy Institute. Prescribing should be based on what is clinically appropriate for a given patient, not financial incentives.”

Burns, of Taxpayers Against Fraud, said the spoils of such kickback schemes trickle down to the managers of the companies that engage in them.

“They hold on to their jobs first of all, because they met their sales quotas. They got bonuses, maybe they got stock options, because they exceeded their sales quotas,” he said. “So everybody at the end of the year is walking away with a bigger pay package because they oversold, overmedicated, took kickbacks or delivered kickbacks.”

Weishar has fared well as the chief shot-caller of an enterprise accused of being in the middle of four drug kickback schemes now being contested in federal courts. In his eight years as CEO, he has received $33.6 million in total compensation, or an average of $4.2 million a year.

Jan Scherrer, vice president of Kentuckians for Nursing Home Reform, a non-profit advocacy group in Lexington, said CEOs of companies involved in the kickback schemes should be held personally accountable.

Jan Scherrer of Kentuckians for Nursing Home Reform

Jan Scherrer, of Lexington, the vice president of Kentuckians for Nursing Home Reform

“I don’t understand why the CEOs of these companies aren’t being prosecuted. Why aren’t they being put in jail?” she said. “These are not victimless crimes. There are people in these nursing homes who are dying because they are being given these drugs.”

“It’s the same players — PharMerica and Omnicare,” Scherrer continued. “They keep doing this over and over and over, and all they get is a fine. And for them that fine is nothing more than the cost of doing business.”

Omnicare was a Kentucky company before before moving its headquarters from Covington to Cincinnati in 2012. It serves as a roadmap of what might lie ahead for PharMerica for its alleged use of kickbacks as a business tactic.

Between 2006 and 2014, Omnicare paid more than $275 million to settle civil allegations that it defrauded Medicare and Medicaid through systematic kickback programs. Three times — in 2006, 2007 and 2009 — it signed corporate integrity agreements with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. The pacts required Omnicare to establish a code of conduct, hire a chief compliance officer and pay for an annual compliance audit by an outside company.

But with six months left in its 2009 agreement, Omnicare found itself back on the feds’ carpet. In June 2014 it agreed to pay $124 million to settle civil allegations that it committed fraud by paying kickbacks to nursing homes, in the form of below-cost drug pricing, in return for their business. (PharMerica is still a defendant in the case.) Although a “material breach” of the corporate integrity agreement constituted grounds for banning Omnicare from federal health care programs, no such ban occurred.

Larry Goldberg, a former HHS assistant inspector general, said the lack of harsher action points to the government’s dilemma of being a tough watchdog.

“Often, particularly with pharmaceutical companies, although the company will engage in kickbacks and off-label marketing with respect to a certain drug or drugs, it may manufacture many others that are of significant benefit to consumers, and which may not be available elsewhere,” said Goldberg, now a partner at ADA One, a disabilities law consulting firm in Silver Spring, Md. “This is a constant tension as the government attempts to determine the most appropriate resolution in any particular case.”

States can exercise their own law enforcement options, generally on the civil, not criminal side. Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway’s office has participated in four kickback cases involving Omnicare and obtained $1.6 million in restitution for the state. It has not, however, joined any of the three kickback cases pending against PharMerica. The Abbott Labs case, said spokesman Leland Hulbert, isn’t ripe for state intervention. In the two other cases, including the Amgen case, both the government and all other states chose not to intervene.

Gregory S. Weishar

Gregory S. Weishar

Eight current and former PharMerica executives, including Weishar, and Weishar’s wife Hollis altogether donated $6,200 to the election campaign of Gov. Steve Beshear between 2009 and 2011, according to the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance. State records show no money from PharMerica employees going to Conway. A Conway spokesman said the attorney general has not received any instruction or guidance from Beshear’s office as to pursuing claims against PharMerica. Beshear’s office said it has no records reflecting any such communication.

States have further remedies in dealing with rogue pharmacies and pharmacists. State boards of pharmacies can suspend or revoke licenses. They can assess fines.

But settlements of federal lawsuits, where companies typically pay large fines without admitting to allegations, don’t appear to trigger state disciplinary actions. For example, in Virginia, where PharMerica paid $1.2 million in fines in early 2014 for dispensing painkillers without prescriptions at three locations, the company has yet to be sanctioned publicly by the state Board of Pharmacy.

In Kentucky, disciplinary actions in other states can escape notice altogether. Mike Burleson, the Kentucky Board of Pharmacy’s executive director, said he was not aware that Omnicare paid $4.2 million last year to settle claims that it accepted Amgen money in exchange for switching nursing home patients to Aranesp.

“Unless it came across our desk, I don’t know that we would have necessarily seen that,” he said. “I can’t remember that case.”

Burleson said no formal notice is given when Kentucky-licensed entities are involved in enforcement actions elsewhere. Now that he knows about the Omnicare settlements, he said he will see if the Kentucky Pharmacy Board needs to consider disciplinary actions.

Drugs

Nursing home residents rely on prescription drugs.

For the state board to punish a licensee for taking bribes to switch patients’ drugs, Burleson said, it would have to establish that the acts took place in Kentucky.

“If a company is just doing it in Texas and the region around it, probably Kentucky would not look at that necessarily unless it would have affected drugs shipped into Kentucky and we could show proof of it being changed without approval or something of that nature,” he said.

Karl Williams, a professor of pharmacy law and ethics at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, N.Y., said state pharmacy boards should be disturbed by kickback-fueled drug-switching by the corporate pharmacies they license.

“I think you have an ethical responsibility to seek the best care for your patient, and if what you’re doing is based on monetary gain, then it’s a misguided thing,” said Williams, who writes about pharmacy law for the Journal of Pharmacy Practice. “It’s the very basis for the anti-kickback law, but it’s rooted in an ethical obligation going back to Hippocrates.”

In 2011, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services proposed a new rule requiring that long-term care centers obtain their patients’ medications from an independent pharmacist, not a drug distributor. CMS dropped the idea and encouraged nursing homes to follow voluntary guidelines to prevent “inappropriate prescribing.”

PharMerica has guidelines of its own to keep its employees on the straight and narrow. Its “code of business conduct and ethics” makes it “essential” that all employees, including executives, abide by a “high standard of ethics” and transact business with “honesty and integrity to make the right decisions and take the correct actions.” Accepting steak and lobster dinners is OK if the donor or a representative joins in, according to that code. Golf outings and gifts worth more than $250 require written approval from CEO Weishar.

And if Weishar violates the company code? Enforcement falls to the audit committee of the PharMerica board of directors. Weishar, too, is a member of the board — the same board that thought enough of him to give him a three-year contract extension last year.

Burns, of Taxpayers Against Fraud, says corporations that engage in corrupt practices pay lip service to ethical guidelines.

“There are things you can do to promote integrity in a company,” he said. “They’re not actually interested in stopping fraud.”

Reporter James McNair can be reached at jmcnair@kycir.org and (502) 814-6543.

This story was reported by Louisville Public Media’s Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

]]> http://wfpl.org/the-kickback-fraud-and-drug-switch-claims-that-ail-a-louisville-pharmacy-company/feed/ 0 Sen. Rand Paul Stages ‘Filibuster’ To Protest Patriot Act http://wfpl.org/sen-rand-paul-stages-filibuster-to-protest-patriot-act/ http://wfpl.org/sen-rand-paul-stages-filibuster-to-protest-patriot-act/#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 16:03:30 +0000 http://wfpl.org?p=37015&preview_id=37015 The Kentucky senator and presidential candidate opposes the collection of bulk telephone data and other surveillance measures that the government says are needed to combat terrorism. Read Story

]]> Updated at 11:20 a.m. ET

Protesting the soon-to-expire Patriot Act, presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul held the floor of the Senate for nearly 11 hours late Wednesday in a filibuster-like speech railing against the law and the government’s continued surveillance of Americans’ phone records.

“I don’t think we’re any safer looking at every American’s records,” Paul said.

As NPR’s Ailsa Chang reports, the Senate is expected to vote this week on a House-passed bill that would prevent the government from collecting and storing phone records, but it would let the government get that data from phone companies with a court order. Paul opposes that bill or any plan that would continue surveillance of phone records.

Paul said the Patriot Act “isn’t about the vast majority of good people who work in government. It’s about preventing the bad apple — it’s about preventing the one bad person that might get into government and decide to abuse the rights of individuals.”

Congress has until June 1 to renew the law without it lapsing; Paul’s “filibuster” is unlikely to do more than possibly delay its passage in the Senate.

“There comes a time in the history of nations when fear and complacency allow power to accumulate and liberty and privacy to suffer,” the Kentucky senator said at 1:18 p.m. EDT when he took to the Senate floor. “That time is now, and I will not let the Patriot Act, the most unpatriotic of acts, go unchallenged.”

The Associated Press says he finished at 11:49 p.m., having held the podium for nearly 11 hours.

In case you’re wondering why Paul’s marathon speech wasn’t a true filibuster, NPR’s Ron Elving explains:

“Rand Paul was holding the floor for an extended period. But it wasn’t a filibuster because it was not blocking consideration of the Patriot Act renewal (House or Senate version), nor was it really delaying it in any meaningful way. He did yield for questions — which that were really speeches by other members, including Democrats like Ron Wyden of Oregon and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico — that gave him a breather now and then. It took the form of a brief filibuster, but it was really just a long speech intended to attract attention.

“A real filibuster has to have at least a chance of blocking or delaying consideration of a bill. No one does this physically anymore. It’s done as a threat to filibuster, which translates into a delay (of varying length) or the scheduling of a cloture vote. In this latter, ‘virtual filibuster’ form, the tactic has become quite common — even normative — on anything important.”

The AP says Paul’s fellow Kentuckian, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has said the Senate will move on the Patriot Act before the Memorial Day recess.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

]]> http://wfpl.org/sen-rand-paul-stages-filibuster-to-protest-patriot-act/feed/ 0 Real Change For Property Tax Process Up To Kentucky Lawmakers http://wfpl.org/real-change-for-property-tax-process-up-to-kentucky-lawmakers/ http://wfpl.org/real-change-for-property-tax-process-up-to-kentucky-lawmakers/#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 11:19:31 +0000 http://wfpl.org/?p=37003 The appeals period for the latest round of Louisville property tax assessments closes at the end of this month. Some appeals will be successful, but others will not. This means a number of Louisville property owners are facing a looming property … Read Story

]]> The appeals period for the latest round of Louisville property tax assessments closes at the end of this month. Some appeals will be successful, but others will not.

This means a number of Louisville property owners are facing a looming property tax bill this year that may be larger than years before, and possibly out of their budget.

Jefferson County Property Valuation Administrator’s Office staff said the residents have several recourses, but any significant changes will likely have to come from state lawmakers.

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butchertownProperty Values on the Rise In Crescent Hill, Butchertown, Highlands, Others

Residents in various parts of Louisville, including the Highlands and Butchertown, have reported that their property values rose by as much as 150 percent or even more.

Colleen Younger, chief of staff in the PVA’s office, said property owners will have another opportunity to appeal in July, this time to their local assessment board.

“The local board is definitely a very, very good way to go to the next level and bring more evidence and more substantiation to get your property value lowered,”

But Younger said real change to how much a tax bill can increase over one year is up to state lawmakers.

“That’s where it lies, and it would be in the hands of the lawmakers in Frankfort,” Younger said. “That’s why we have to do what we do, it’s because the constitution tells us to do that.”

Some property owners are already planning to meet with state lawmakers.

Residents can also appeal to the Kentucky Board of Tax Appeal and a circuit court if a local appeal changes. But that level of appeal requires an attorney. Younger said commercial real estate investors typically utilize that option.

Disabled or retired residents also have the option of a homestead exemption. The exemption removes $36,900 of an assessment value for homeowners 65 years or older who own and occupy the property as your primary residence prior to Jan. 1.

]]> http://wfpl.org/real-change-for-property-tax-process-up-to-kentucky-lawmakers/feed/ 0 Comer Requests A Recanvass in Republican Kentucky Gubernatorial Primary. What’s Next? http://wfpl.org/comer-requests-recanvass-republican-kentucky-gubernatorial-primary-whats-next/ http://wfpl.org/comer-requests-recanvass-republican-kentucky-gubernatorial-primary-whats-next/#comments Wed, 20 May 2015 21:43:18 +0000 http://wfpl.org/?p=36999 James Comer on Wednesday requested a recanvass of the votes cast the night before in the Republican primary for governor he lost by 83 votes to Louisville businessman Matt Bevin. The recanvass is essentially a re-tabulation of all the results … Read Story

]]> James Comer on Wednesday requested a recanvass of the votes cast the night before in the Republican primary for governor he lost by 83 votes to Louisville businessman Matt Bevin.

The recanvass is essentially a re-tabulation of all the results from each precinct. The recanvass will be conducted on May 28.

University of Kentucky election law professor Josh Douglas said the recanvass could help Comer decide if he wants to pursue a full-fledged recount.

“As long as Bevin’s lead doesn’t increase, if it stays at 83, it won’t surprise me if Comer requests the recount,” Douglas said.

In a formal recount, all counties across the state would send their election materials to a Franklin County Circuit judge to review.

Douglas said that a recount could show a swing of around 200 votes—well outside the margin of Bevin’s lead.

Recanvasses do not usually yield as many votes.

Kentucky has had two major recanvasses in the recent past: in 2010 Andy Barr requested a recanvass in his attempt to unseat Ben Chandler from his Congressional seat. Barr was down by about fewer than 700 votes and the recanvass yielded only one additional vote.

In the 2011 Republican primary for secretary of state, consultant Hilda Legg conceded to businessman Bill Johnson after picking up just six votes from a recanvass she requested.

Comer’s lawyers will be taking an especially close look at the two-thirds of Kentucky counties that use paper ballots and also scrutinizing voter eligibility. “They have lawyers on the ground on election day that were getting reports from the field. Many campaigns will have people at voting sites looking for problems,” Douglas said.

Some areas that campaigns look into are whether voters’ registration status is current, felons mistakenly being allowed to vote and voters having the correct proof of eligibility or identity.

On election night, Comer said his campaign was looking into “bizarre” results from some western Kentucky counties whose results came in late on Tuesday.

Comer officially sent the request on Wednesday afternoon to Secretary of State Allison Lundergan Grimes to conduct a recanvass.

“Both candidates and the public are entitled to confidence in election results, and I stand ready to facilitate any proceedings necessary to provide those assurances,” said Grimes in a statement earlier on Wednesday. “My office is prepared and will continue to provide updates regarding any recanvass requests we receive and the procedures being followed.”

Beyond the recanvass, Douglas speculated that given the bruising campaign, Comer will have to weigh whether a full-fledged recount would create a deeper rift within factions of state Republicans.

“I don’t know if Comer will want to take a long-term view and for the benefit of the party and for his future political chances to not do the recount or whether he got so bruised up by the media that he feels the need to do the recount as well,” Douglas said.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, Sen. Rand Paul and most of Kentucky’s congressional delegation have requested that all four Republican gubernatorial candidates join together at a “unity rally” on May 30.

Kentucky Republican Party Treasurer Cathy Bell said the event is still scheduled because the party has made a financial commitment for the event to take place at the Lexington Marriott.

]]> http://wfpl.org/comer-requests-recanvass-republican-kentucky-gubernatorial-primary-whats-next/feed/ 0 Louisville Public Transit Use Among Lowest of Large U.S. Cities http://wfpl.org/louisville-public-transit-use-among-lowest-large-u-s-cities/ http://wfpl.org/louisville-public-transit-use-among-lowest-large-u-s-cities/#comments Wed, 20 May 2015 20:08:40 +0000 http://wfpl.org/?p=36983 Louisville residents use public transportation at one of the lowest rates among the nation’s largest cities, according to new research from the University of Michigan. The study, authored by Michael Sivak from University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, examined data from … Read Story

]]> Louisville residents use public transportation at one of the lowest rates among the nation’s largest cities, according to new research from the University of Michigan.

The study, authored by Michael Sivak from University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, examined data from the U.S. Census’ 2013 American Community Survey to compare commuting habits of the 30 largest cities in the U.S.

Just 2.7 percent of Louisville residents use public transit, the study said. That is the 22nd lowest rate among the cities examined.

Several of Louisville’s peer cities—as designated by the Greater Louisville Project—were listed in the study. Indianapolis, Memphis, Nashville have lower rates of public transit use than Louisville, the study said. Oklahoma City, also a peer city, had the lowest rate of public transit use at 0.7 percent.

Louisville’s peer city with the highest use of public transit use is Charlotte, with 4.7 percent of workers, according to the study, which was first reported in Louisville by The Courier-Journal.

The lone form of public transit in Louisville is TARC, which provides bus service to nearly 47,000 riders each day across the Louisville Metro area, according to the transit authority.

TARC recently announced cuts to some of its busiest routes along Fourth Street, Broadway and Preston and Dixie Highways. The cuts come as federal grant funds diminish, Barry Barker, executive director of TARC, has previously said.

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If You Work in Downtown Louisville You Probably Drive—and You May Have Concerns About Alternatives

A 2014 study found that, among people working in downtown Louisville, about 10 percent commute via TARC.

People choose not to use TARC because they feel bus trips take too long (28.7 percent) or they feel unsafe (26.2 percent), according to the 2014 study.

Nearly half (47 percent) of the people who don’t use TARC said it’s because they need their vehicle before or after work, the 2014 study found.

The more recent study from the University of Michigan found that Louisville residents largely drive to work alone in a car, truck or van at the highest rate among the largest cities in the U.S.

Nearly 83 percent of Louisville residents commute alone in a vehicle, compared to 75 percent of Charlotte residents. New York City had the lowest rate of lone commuters (21 percent).

The cost of owning a vehicle is also a determining factor for some Louisville workers.

A 2010 American Automobile Association report found that Americans spend as much as $12,000 per year to own, operate and maintain their vehicles.

A single ride on a TARC bus is $1.75 and a monthly pass is $50, according to TARC’s website.  The 46 percent of the survey’s respondents who said they paid for parking in downtown Louisville pay an average of $56 a month.

About 8 percent of Louisville workers carpool, the University of Michigan study found—the 24th lowest carpool rate among the nation’s largest cities. Workers in Memphis carpool at the highest rate (12.8 percent).

Nearly 5 percent of Louisville workers don’t have a vehicle, according to the study. The national average for workers without access to a vehicle is 4.5 percent.

Louisville also has among the lowest rates of residents who walk (2.1 percent) or bike (0.5 percent) to work, the study said. Each of these rates were just slightly below the national average—just 2.8 percent of U.S. workers walk to work and 0.6 percent ride a bike to work.

Among peer cities, Columbus, Ohio, had the highest rates of workers walking (2.8 percent) and biking (1 percent) to work, according to the study.

But the study also said a Louisville worker’s commute is likely shorter than in other cities, the study found.

Louisville has the third shortest average commute time among the nation’s largest cities (21 minutes). Only Columbus and Oklahoma City—both peer cities—have a shorter commute.

A recent Brookings Institution report said the number of jobs located within the typical Louisville commute distance (7.6 miles) is dwindling.

Most Louisville residents who work must commute, the University of Michigan study found. Just 2.4 percent of residents work at home in Louisville—the second lowest rate among the nation’s largest cities.

Only Memphis has fewer stay-at-home workers. Portland and Austin (both with 7.1 percent) have the highest rates of residents who work from home. Among peer cities, Charlotte has the most residents (5.8 percent) who work from home.

Here are a few other interesting notes from the University of Michigan study:

  • The median age of Louisville workers is the oldest (41.7 years). Among peer cities, Columbus has the youngest crop of workers (37 percent).
  • Just about half (50.9 percent) of Louisville workers are male. Men make up 52.9 percent of the national workforce.
  • Louisville workers, on average, earn less than the average U.S. worker—$31,466 compared to $32,625 nationally.

 

 

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