In a historic vote, the Louisville Metro Council rejected Mayor Greg Fischer’s veto of the landmarks ordinance by an 18-to-7 vote.The legislation was aimed at changing several provisions of the way the city designates historic sites and structures. Among the amendments was a change to allow a majority of council members to halt a decision made by the Landmarks Commission for further review.The mayoral veto was the second in Fischer's administration, and was the first to be rejected by the council since city and county governments merged.For months, council members held public forums and debated the measure until it passed last week. But Fischer vetoed the bill at the urging of preservationists, who argued the amendments favor developers and endanger the city's heritage. In a letter to city lawmakers, the mayor said council members were overstepping their bounds and politicizing the process.Councilman Kelly Downard, R-16, voted for the ordinance and stood against the veto. He says the mayor admitted there were problems in the landmarks process and the council needed to step in due to a lack of oversight."We’re being told that the fabric of our heritage will be permanently diminished by providing oversight by this council. However, a review of the facts makes this seem a bit of a contradiction," he says. "Even the mayor in his veto message admits the Bauer site might have been a mistake. Oversight was needed, but it wasn’t there."Critics of the bill highlighted that the council could approve or reject the mayor's appointments to the Landmarks Commission. In a letter to council members, the group Neighborhood Planning & Preservation, Inc. said the public forums showed the vast majority of constituents were opposed to the changes and that a work group assigned to review the measure was not transparent."Initiating change without justification, suppressing public opinion, ignoring conflict of interest, and misleading the public about it all demonstrate why many object to the amendment," the letter read.Before the vote, lawmakers traded sharp jabs about their support and opposition to the mayor's decision to block the ordinance.Councilman Tom Owen, D-8, supported the mayor’s veto and has spoken out against the amendments since February. He says the landmarks process has worked for 40 years, and he compared the changes to a "wet blanket" that will politicize the city’s heritage."Why is it a wet blanket? Because as the landmarks commission negotiates and meets with owners who might be resistant to a local landmark designation, for the foreseeable future there will always be a the shadow of the political trump card that can be played by this council," he says.In the end, however, a majority of council Democrats and Republicans joined together and stood against the Fischer administration, with some citing the bipartisan agreement among lawmakers over Fischer's "arm twisting" and "power play.""When they formed this government for the merger it bothered me sometimes that we have a mayor that has quite a bit of power," says Councilman Bob Henderson, D-14. "When you see both sides of the aisle come together like I've seen here, it's hard to say it doesn't count. I'm going to go against the mayor."Other changes to the landmarks ordinance require that at least 101 of the necessary 200 signatures to start the historic designation process come from the council district in which the building resides or a one-mile radius surrounding the site. It also increased how many residents and area business close to the historic structure who are notified about the process."I'm disappointed in the council’s action, but now is the time to move forward and work together—Landmarks Commission, council, and my administration—to implement the new law in such a way that will continue to preserve our rich history," Fischer said in a statement.
A month after a fare increase took effect, the Transit Authority of River City will alter several of its routes, effective Sunday.Five routes will be eliminated and ten more will be altered. These cuts and more were proposed this spring after TARC saw a drop in revenue. After a flood of public comments, TARC instituted a rate increase but held off on changing some routes.Most of TARC's money comes from the city occupational tax, and while officials were considering what routes to change, revenue increased. Also, TARC's diesel fuel bill dropped, and the authority was able to avoid deeper cuts in service.With uncertain day-to-day funding, TARC has taken to seeking more federal assistance to replace buses. About ten percent of the fleet will be replaced in the coming year thanks to grants from Washington, D.C.
The peak viewing period for the annual Perseid meteor shower occurs this weekend. Dozens of meteors may be visible to the naked eye at certain times. They're the result of Earth passing through a debris field from the Swift-Tuttle comet.Eastern Kentucky University physics professor Marco Ciocca says it’s not the only time meteors and other space material make their mark over Kentucky. “On any given day there is all kind of stuff falling from the sky. It falls all the time. We see very few, because the majority burn before we can see anything and especially if they fall during the day. Astronomers say the best time to see the Perseid shower is between midnight and dawn.
In the Indiana Senate race, Democratic Congressman Joe Donnelly has released a poll showing a statistical tie with Republican State Treasurer Richard Mourdock in the fall election.The internal survey of 601 likely voters shows Donnelly leading by 1 percentage point with 44 percent over Mourdock at 40 percent and Libertarian Andrew Horning with 4 percent. Indiana is leaning Republican in the presidential race and will likely go to Mitt Romney in the presidential race, but the Senate contest is gaining national attention for its competitiveness.Donnelly says the race will be competitive and close until November, but that his polling shows voters are exhausted with partisan bickering in Congress."You know it is about as close to a tie ballgame as you can get. And what that’s about is the people of Indiana just want solutions. They don’t want people fighting or being extremely partisan. We want more jobs and more opportunity, and people to work together," he says. "And that’s why I think we’ve been successful to this point because we’re talking about issues."The polls memorandum points out that Donnelly also has a high favorable rating in the state and that Mourdock is having trouble with independent voters.Donnelly has actively ran to the middle in this race, courting former supporter of longtime Sen. Dick Lugar, R-In., and the campaign is also set to hold a fundraiser hosted by former Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, who retired in 2010.Other polls have shown Mourdock up by a 2-point margin, which is also within the margin of error, but trailing Donnelly among moderates by 27 percentage points. Thus far, the congressman has run TV ads pounding his GOP rival for ties with the Tea Party.Mourdock deputy campaign manager Brose McVey says the Donnelly polls only reveals that those negative attacks are working. "After $1 million dollars in negative TV ads against Richard Mourdock in the general election, we are pleased with where we are in this race. Given how important Joe Donnelly's election is to Harry Reid and the president, it is no wonder they are pulling out all stops," he says. "But, no amount of money can change the fact that Rep Donnelly's has voted for most of the [resident's job-killing agenda. The fact remains, Hoosiers are joining Dick Lugar and Mitt Romney and rallying behind Mourdock's plan to improve the economy."But Donnelly told WFPL that the tie is because Hoosiers are putting common sense above ideology in this year’s election."What I think it’s about is just people in Indiana saying we want our representative to be representative of us back home. Just go do the work. Work hard. Work non-stop. Come home and let us know what’s going on. They haven’t seen that with Mr. Mourdock when he has been so extreme and has been so Tea Party in so many of his views,” he says.
Kentucky Republicans are ramping up their campaign to take control of the state house in this year's elections. The GOP has latched on to House Speaker Greg Stumbo's declaration that he will vote for President Barack Obama this fall.Republicans are circulating video of the comments and asking for donations, but money isn't the main goal.“This is 100 percent about getting Greg Stumbo’s own words out to the public," says party spokesman Joe Burgan. "It’s one thing for Greg to stand in a room of Democrats in Western Kentucky and say he supports President Obama. It’s another for every Kentuckian in this commonwealth to find out where Greg stands on this issue and who he will be supporting this November.”The GOP currently controls the state senate, and taking the House is a long-held Republican goal.A spokesman for Stumbo says the speaker was attending a funeral and couldn’t be reached for comment.
Kentucky is number one on a list of the states with the most toxic air pollution from power plants.The Natural Resources Defense Council analyzed the data self-reported by industries in the Toxic Release Inventory, which is managed by the federal government. The most recent data is from 2010, and that year, Kentucky’s power plants emitted more than 40 million pounds of toxic air pollution. This gives the state the dubious honor of being ranked number one in the nation.“The first thing Kentucky has failed to do, relative to the states that have seem the most dramatic improvement, is adopt any kind of state law or regulation that requires substantial reductions in mercury or toxic pollution from the power sector,” said John Walke, the air director of the NRDC.The 20 states profiled in the NRDC’s report—dubbed the “Toxic Twenty”—account for 92 percent of the nation’s electric sector toxic air pollution. But they also just account for 62 percent of the United States’ electricity generation.In Kentucky, nearly 80 percent of the state’s air pollution comes from power plants that burn coal and oil. The three most polluting plants are the Paradise Fossil Plant in western Kentucky, the Big Sandy plant in eastern Kentucky and the Mill Creek Generating Station in Louisville.Walke says the fact that most of Kentucky’s pollution is caused by power plants is both a problem and a solution “Cleaning up toxic pollution from power plants will benefit Kentucky residents to a greater degree than almost any other state in the union,” he said.There is hope that Kentucky’s air pollution will be greatly reduced in future years. In the face of new federal air pollution regulations, the state’s power plants will be forced to install new pollution controls by 2016. The operators of the Big Sandy plant also recently announced they were reconsidering an earlier decision to burn coal at the site.Here's the NRDC's full list:The states on the "Toxic 20" list (from worst to best) are:KentuckyOhioPennsylvaniaIndianaWest VirginiaFloridaMichiganNorth CarolinaGeorgiaTexasTennesseeVirginiaSouth CarolinaAlabamaMissouriIllinoisMississippiWisconsinMarylandDelaware
Comparing Papa John's pizza to "the ass of a raccoon that drowned in your birdbath" political satirist Stephen Colbert mocked founder and CEO John Schnatter for his opposition to the Affordable Care Act.Schnatter, who is a well-known Republican fundraiser, said President Obama's health care overhaul will increase the cost of pizza and hurt business. Since then, he has been criticized for being a cheapskate and mistreating employees, with threats of a boycott by Democratic activists.Watch below:The Colbert ReportGet More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Political Humor & Satire Blog,Video ArchiveBut local GOP officials and candidates, such as congressional challenger Brooks Wicker, have defended Schnatter's comments as standing up to the law that will hurt businesses still recovering from the recession.Papa John's sent WHAS political editor Joe Arnold the following statement.From WHAS-11:We certainly understand the importance of healthcare to our customers, our employees, small business owners and their employees. As a publicly traded company, we were responding to a direct question from an analyst on our quarterly financial conference call about the anticipated costs of complying with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. When certain business costs increase – such as fuel, ingredients or employee healthcare – there is an impact to the price of products and services. The vast majority of Papa John's restaurants are owned by small business people, each of whom will be impacted in different ways by costs associated with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Papa John’s remains fully committed to providing our customers with better ingredients and better pizza at the best value.
While Kentucky students as a whole made small gains in graduation rates during the 2010-2011 school year, Jefferson County Public Schools students fell slightly backwards in most major categories.In all major categories--including gender and race-- JCPS continues to fall at least 7 percentage points behind the state. This has been consistent with the four previous years the Kentucky Department of Education has provided.The JCPS total graduation rate dropped from 69.3 percent in 2010 data to 67.8 percent in 2011 bringing the number closer to its 2008 rate of 67.7.For females, the highest performing group in JCPS, the number dropped to 73.7 in 2011 from 74.7 percent the previous year. JCPS females still fall behind the state’s female rate of 81.8.For males, the 2011 rate fell to 62.4 in 2011 from 64.1 in 2010. The district’s white students were the highest performing at 71.8 percent in 2011, falling from 73.4 the previous year, but still fell well behind the state’s 79.1 percent.Other data provided by the Kentucky Department of EducationWhite:2011: 71.82010: 73.42011 (KY): 79.1African American students were the lowest performing of the race group:2011: 62.7 percent2010: 64.2 percentJCPS Hispanic students made no gain, the state’s rate jumped:2011: 73.22010: 73.32011 (KY): 83.62010 (KY): 74.7Asian:2011: 90.92010: 98.42011 (KY): 98.12010 (KY): 100
Amy Harder of the National Journal has a story out today about the United Mine Workers of America, and the union's reluctance to back either presidential candidate this year.Harder went to Fairmont, West Virginia and spoke with UMWA official (and Democratic member of the state House of Delegates) Mike Caputo."Our members count on coal-fired power plants and burning of coal to keep jobs,” Caputo said. “We’re a very Democratic union and we try to listen to the rank and file. They’ve sent a clear message that they’re not supportive of the environmental rules that are being put in place.”Caputo pointed out that many of the biggest EPA rules, including one finalized last December to control mercury and other air toxic pollution from coal plants, were first enacted under Republican administrations, including President George H.W. Bush.“A lot of our members don’t realize that,” Caputo said. “But whoever is in charge is going to get blamed.”But Caputo also says for coal miners, Romney's record isn't much better. The UMWA endorsed President Obama in 2008.
It's official: last month's heat wave (which cooked Louisville as well as most other states in the region) was the hottest ever on record in the continental U.S. According to an Associated Press story, this beats the record set during the Dust Bowl in the 1930s.And climate change could be at least partially responsible. AP reporter Seth Borenstein looks at the U.S. Climate Extreme Index, which is a measurement developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. The index for this past July was 37 percent. The average is 20 percent.For the first seven months of the year, the extreme index was 46 percent, beating the old record from 1934. This year's extreme index was heavily driven by high temperatures both day and night, which is unusual, Crouch said."This would not have happened in the absence of human-caused climate change," said Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann.Crouch and Kevin Trenberth, climate analysis chief of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said what's happening is a double whammy of weather and climate change. They point to long-term higher night temperatures from global warming and the short-term effect of localized heat and drought that spike daytime temperatures.Drought is a major player because in the summer "if it is wet, it tends to be cool, while if it is dry, it tends to be hot," Trenberth said.In Kentucky, statewide, this wasn't quite a record year. It was second to July 1901. But this year's January through July period was the hottest on record in the state.
A diverse pool of candidates has filed for Jefferson County’s three open school board seats. The most recent is local radio host Tom Mitchell, who plans on running an anti-student assignment campaign, according to reports by the Courier-Journal.As the deadline to file nears--Aug. 14--some are hoping interest in the races increases. That idea was included in former Courier-Journal editor David Hawpe's opening speech at the Louisville Forum Wednesday afternoon."In my humble opinion, no institution has as much impact on the quality of life in this community as Jefferson County Public Schools," he said.But Hawpe said he’s disappointed by the lack of local interest in Jefferson County school board races."Down through the years a few board members have been impressive and effective public servants. But in my view, the number major civic figures on the board has been pitifully small," he said.This year, four are vying for Larry Hujo's District 7 seat covering eastern parts of the county; two are competing for Steve Imhoff's District 2 (after one candidate dropped out), and two have filed for Joe Hardesty's District 4 seat in southwestern Jefferson County.The candidates range from concerned parents to prominent public figures and former JCPS staff.But getting people interested in past Jefferson County school board races has been difficult and that can be seen in the amount of money going into the races, said Hawpe.He argues tens of thousands of dollars may go toward a school board race while it's not uncommon for state political races to rake in over $150,000.Most of the money being spent in Jefferson County school board races comes from the Jefferson County Teachers Association, said Hawpe.“The teacher’s association does spend large amounts of money but that’s about the only large spending that goes on in a school board race," he said.This dwarfs personal contributions. While Hawpe said the JCTA doesn’t always get its way, it is a major factor in school board races.JCTA president Brent McKim told WFPL it’s too early to back any of the eight candidates vying for seats because the deadline to file is days away. The union is expected to meet August 29th to decide which of the candidates, if any, it will back.
A political action committee founded by former Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont Governor Howard Dean is backing Shelli Yoder in Indiana’s Ninth Congressional District race.Democracy for America unveiled six key races for Congress on Wednesday that the organization will focus on in the 2012 election. The PAC is aimed at building a dozen "progressive powerhouse" in the House and this is the first crop attempting to give Democratic challengers a booster in their general election bids.Yoder is challenging Republican incumbent Todd Young, but has struggled to keep face with the GOP freshman's fundraising totals.She says it is an honor to receive Dean’s support and she hopes it will give her campaign a boost."We are continuing to work hard and we’re doing everything we can to win back this seat. I think that the 9th District, folks weren’t really paying attention to the race. But in the last few weeks we’ve certainly have work as hard as we can making sure that voters feel like they will have a voice and an opportunity to gain back that voice come November 6," he says.Dean’s PAC has agreed to help raise an additional $20,000 in small donations from its national membership and make a contribution of $5,000. The group will also commit its members to help Yoder get out the vote on Election Day.Yoder is a former Miss Indiana and a political newcomer who had an upset victory in the Democratic primary. In at least check her campaign had around $73,000 in cash on hand, compared to the nearly $900,000 in Young’s coffers.Thus far, her campaign has tried to gain attention by crisscrossing the southern Indiana area while challenging Young to 13 different debates across counties in the district.Yoder says her campaign will be meeting with Young's late next week to negotiate the details, but that this announcement is a "game changer" for her bid."I would hope that in hearing the news that people can also celebrate, regardless of where you fall on party lines, and you can say, ‘Wow. This is exciting to know that the American people once again have a say in democracy and not just the dollar bill,'” she says.The Young campaign declined to comment for this story.
Former Indiana Supreme Court Justice Randall Shepard will lead a task force looking into the state of legal education across America.The panel was appointed by the American Bar Association. Shepard says it will examine the way schools prepare their students to practice law, and the economic state of the profession."We are at the moment graduating more people from law schools than there are law-related jobs in the country," Shepard told WFPL. "And while part of that may have to do with the current state of the economy, not everyone’s convinced that this will all go back to the days of yore when the recession is over."Shepard says the panel will hold a series of public hearings and at least one conference to hear from law school students, faculty and administrators.Shepard retired from the Indiana Supreme Court earlier this year after a 27-year career on the bench and has since joined Indiana University’s Public Policy Institute.The legal education task force is expected to complete its work in 2014.