Indiana’s fifth Amazon Distribution Center opened in Jeffersonville this week and officials say while the facilities begin stocking shelves they'll be keeping an eye on traffic in the area.The $150 million facility is currently employing between 600 to 800 employees on two shifts and that may increase during the holidays, said Mayor Mike Moore.“Of course this is great news for the city of Jeff to have Amazon come, but there are more issues that we’re going to be dealing with and we’re going to get a little bit more every day, find out what needs to be done," he said.Moore’s referring to the traffic issues that could arise on Highway 62 near the River Ridge Commerce Center.While the number of cars on the road will increase, police Chief Chris Grimm said it’s the 300 to 500 trucks that are more concerning. There will be an increase in state and local patrols but he asks drivers to use caution.“If they haven’t traveled this road way, they just have to be aware of the new signals, they need to be aware of the extended turning lanes, they need to be aware that there’s just a lot more traffic that travels this roadway,” he said.Mayor Moore said he expects Jeffersonville to attract more large businesses to River Ridge, but he couldn’t say whether any were close to an agreement with the city."Those decisions are made by companies with deep pockets and I’m here to help, but it’s certainly the decisions of the people that are going to spend the money to make that decision," he said.As Amazon and the Ohio River Bridges Project gets underway, Jeffersonville will be an attractive area to invest, said Moore. Although he expressed some surprise that smaller private investments like restaurants or gas stations haven't popped up to serve the new population.
An audit of Jefferson County Clerk Bobbie Holsclaw's office shows poor record keeping of charitable funds and others questionable administrative practices regarding a non-profit and employee bonuses.The report was conducted by State Auditor Adam Edelen, and it scolds the clerk for failing to properly account for funds that her office raised for charities such as the Crusade for Children and USA Cares Inc.Among its findings were that Holsclaw paid $99,200 in Christmas bonuses to employees last year. According to the clerk's office the $400 per employee bonus was an incentive for good work, but Edelen's office points out that the practice is prohibited by the Kentucky Constitution and should be stopped.Auditor spokeswoman Stephanie Steitzer says the report is not alleging any criminal activity, but does contain several recommendations to help save the taxpayer’s money."We are pointing out that there are some areas of concern where she can make—we make recommendations for improvement—again, to limit the risk to taxpayers and to herself," she says.The audit also showed Holsclaw ran a non-profit—dubbed Voter Outreach Inc.— out of her office, and found several issues and discrepancies as a result. Edelen recommends she separate the voter program from her official capacity.There was another issue regarding an employee charitable fund that raised money from employee donations, "Support Our Troops" yard signs and donations for the Crusade for Children charity. According to Edelen's report, the fund had very little documentation and no bank statements from 2010."Because of poor recordkeeping, there was difficulty determining that restricted donations were remitted intact to the charities," the report says. "There is an increased risk of not properly accounting for public funds of the clerk’s office due to the additional cash and generic receipt books used to administer these charitable contributions."In response, Holsclaw’s office denies any public funds were misused and challenged most of the findings, adding that previous audits had not found accounting problems.A county clerk spokesperson could not be reached for comment on this story.Steitzer says the report was conducted to benefit taxpayers and give the clerk's office guidance, but that Holsclaw wasn’t as helpful as they expected."I’m not sure that I would characterize Ms. Holsclaw’s office as wholly cooperative in this process," she says. "I would say there are concerns about the way audit staff was treated. We always ask and hope that clerk's and sheriff's encourage their staff to cooperate with us, because we are trying to provide a service that also helps them."The report is being referred to the Louisville Metro Ethics Commission and Jefferson County Attorney’s office to determine if a further investigation is warranted.
Kentucky Senate Republicans have established a succession plan in the case their current leader, David Williams, is appointed into an open judgeship in his district. Williams is considered a leading candidate for the open circuit court judgeship that covers his home county.Governor Steve Beshear, Williams’s main enemy in Frankfort, has the final say over who is appointed to finish the two year term. And Beshear hasn’t ruled out appointing Williams if his name shows up on the nomination list. In preparation for such a move, Republican state Senator Tom Buford says his caucus has already lined up the votes to pick the next chamber president.“Well if Senator Williams were to accept the position of circuit judge, Robert Stivers would have the votes in my opinion to become president of the Senate, yes,” Buford says.Buford says Stivers has shown the ability as majority leader to work well within the Republican caucus, as well as with the Democratic caucus in that chamber. Stivers has also been one of the leaders in the chamber on various drug issues in the past few years, including limiting pseudoephedrine amounts and last year's pill mill bill. Buford says if Stivers moves up, there will likely be battle over other leadership positions. The senator says he would assume many of the current leaders would stay in caucus leadership but may move positions. But one open position would still remain. Buford said the caucus would probably defer to Stivers's opinion on which senator to appoint to that position.
Rising natural gas prices could mean good news for the country's coal industry...but there are still likely cuts to come in Central Appalachia. That's the gist of an article from SNL Finanacial.Earlier this year, gas was at less than $3 per MMBtu, which some call the "sweet spot" for coal to gas switching. Any higher than $3, and it's not as cut and dry a decision to switch to natural gas. But now, gas futures for November are trading at slightly higher than that: at $3.459 per MMBtu.Another factor in coal's favor: a hotter-than-usual summer (where everyone cranked the AC and burned lots of coal). The stockpiles of coal at power plants are getting back down to normal levels, which means some companies could start ordering more production.But the article quotes an analyst who says, unfortunately for Central Appalachian coal producers (which includes eastern Kentucky), those factors aren't enough to jumpstart production immediately.FBR Capital Markets analyst Mitesh Thakkar estimated that coal producers still need to cut about 40 million tons of annualized production to help balance the market and keep coal stockpiles at utilities from getting too high heading into the winter. "We could see another 10 million tons of production taken out of the market by the end of the year," he said, adding that he expected more cuts to come from Central Appalachia and that about half of those cuts would be to production of metallurgical coal, used in steel production.But once those cuts happen, Thakkar thinks Appalachian metallurgical coal producers especially could be in a stronger position by the end of next year.
Senator Rand Paul has joined many of his fellow Republicans in doubting the accuracy of polls in this year’s presidential race.In recent weeks, President Barack Obama has seen his lead widen significantly in two battleground states that border Kentucky: Ohio and Virginia. Obama's lead is also widening in national polls and in other battleground states.In response, Republicans have dismissed the polls, saying they aren’t accurately reflecting changes in the country’s voting blocs since 2008.“Most of the polls are polling from 2008 data, not from 2010 data; I was part of the 2010 election. I still think it’s better than it seems according to the polls,” Paul says.Others have accused the media of skewing polls purposely in Obama's favor. Paul pointed toward Ohio, where the president's lead has been anywhere from 4 points to 10 points. In 2010, the state elected a Republican governor, senator and the GOP took control of both state legislative chambers. Paul says he believes the type of voter base that heavily elected Republicans is still in Ohio.While the polling conversation continues, tonight also marks the first debate for the presidential candidates. And while Paul says he still thinks the race is close, he believes Mitt Romney will need a strong performance tonight."I think a lot of people haven’t made their mind up watch those debates. And I think if he does well in the debates I think he has a good chance. But by no means do I think it’s over. I think the election is still too close to call,” Paul says.The debates start tonight and will continue over the next month, including next week’s vice presidential debate in Danville.
Rand Paul will once again visit the set of Comedy Central’s 'The Daily Show' tonight.Paul will tape an interview with the satirical news show to promote his new book, Government Bullies. And while politicians are often the butt of jokes on the program, Paul is looking forward to a good time.“I expect to be hilariously funny, and sarcastic and witty. We’ll see how it goes," he says. "I don’t know. He was a good interview last time I was on. He treats it as an opportunity to have a little discussion.”Paul went on the show last year to promote his first book, The Tea Party Goes to Washington. You can watch that appearance here.
Talk of the Nation host Neal Conan was in town this week for the Kentucky Author Forum, where he'll be interviewing Steven Pinker of Harvard University. Pinker is the author of The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.Neal Conan visited our studios to speak with WFPL’s Jonathan Bastian about political divisiveness, the art of the interview, and (of course!) baseball.
Bellarmine University will host a debate for voters in the Metro Council 8th District featuring Republican challenger Kirt Jacobs and Democratic incumbent Tom Owen.Owen is a three-term councilman and his seat is being challenged by Jacobs in the upcoming election. Jacobs is a local businessman who hosts "Leadership Landscape" a weekly one-on-one interview program.Earlier this year, observers speculated that the 72-year-old Owen might retire and not seek re-election, but the longtime city lawmakers says he is committed to serving a full term and though he has won previous races by wide margins, he is taking this year’s election seriously."You would know by my current jitters that I am neither complacent about my request for the voters to send me for an additional term nor am I in anyway blasé or arrogant just presuming victory," he says.Owen says a clear difference between him and Jacobs is experience: Owen has served nine years and is an inaugural member of the council.The debate is being organized by the university’s Brown Scholars and co-sponsored by the Young Democrats, Young Republicans, Political Science Club and Students for Political Awareness. It will be moderated by Dr. Lee Remington Williams, assistant professor of political science. Owen says Jacobs is a serious contender and that he is not taking the race for granted."My jitters tell me that you take every challenger seriously," says Owen. "And the voters have the perfect right to ask me the basic question: have you lost your edge? And I can tell the voters that I have not lost my edge," he says.The District 8 debate is scheduled for 6:30 Wednesday evening at Bellarmine in Pasteur Hall. It is free and open to the public.
Residents of Louisville’s Newburg and Buechel neighborhoods are protesting a planned sewage overflow basin in their area. They held a protest at City Hall today.The Metropolitan Sewer District began constructing the basin on a 40 acre site near Poplar Level Road, Jennings Lane and Produce Road six months ago. It’s designed to hold 100 million gallons of water, but will only be put to use when rain causes the city’s sanitary sewer system to overflow. Without a catch basin, the water flows untreated into area streams and the Ohio River.Residents are worried about odors and they want MSD to redesign the basin with a lid.But MSD officials say it’s not economical to cover it. Further, they say most of what ends up in the basin will be rainwater, but everything will be filtered, and MSD hasn’t had any odor complaints with similar basins.MSD has a meeting scheduled with an attorney representing the residents tomorrow. By the terms of MSD's federal consent decree, some of the basin will have to be finished by Fall 2013. The whole project is expected to be completed by the end of 2014.
Kentucky’s Blue Ribbon Tax Commission has spent months learning how the state’s tax system works, and is now beginning to hammer out proposals to reform the state’s tax code.The commission met again today in Frankfort to hear some final reports from the Beshear administration on how Kentucky’s current revenue systems work.State representative and commission member Jim Wayne says the reports served as another reminder of how far behind Kentucky has fallen.“I think what we heard today was the harsh reality that our schools are not being properly funded, that includes schools from K to 12 to the colleges and universities. And so when you don’t invest in your universities and your elementary and high schools you’re commending yourself to a very, very poor future.”Kentucky has struggled to maintain school funding in recent budgets, but while doing so has slashed many other programs to the bone.The commission has until the middle of next month to present their proposals for tax reform to the governor
Recommendations from Louisville’s Violence Prevention Task Force are being finalized, and a report will be submitted to Mayor Greg Fischer soon, but task force members say improving the city’s crime culture could take time.The 37-member workgroup has been considering how the city can reduce violence in Louisville following a series of shootings in May. The report includes a range of topics like education, health and community-building.Drafts of the proposal, which can be found on former task force chair Dr. Blain Hudson's University of Louisville website, show a range of recommendations from setting education goals to subsidizing foreclosed property to provide space for neighborhood associations in communities of need.Task force member Christopher 2X said it will take time to address some of the issues that have built up over years and the recommendations include a broad range of topics that will require further action by local city and community leaders.“Sometimes you need a push, you need a push in the direction to try to bring about positive change. And these are at least maybe small steps right now, but hopefully everybody will buy into the process at some point and then we’ll make bigger gains, said 2X.Task force member Dr. Ricky Jones is a Pan African Studies professor at U of L. He said the recommendation are a long-term effort to address the violence problem in the community.There have been 46 homicides so far this year in Louisville. Last year there were a total of 51 and 54 in 2010.2X said the city needs to do a better job at reaching youth and with communication in general.
Former Republican presidential candidate and Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee will be in Louisville this week to headline a fundraiser for state House GOP candidates.In Kentucky’s history, the GOP has held the majority in the state House for only four years and just briefly in the 1920s. This November, Republicans need to win 10 seats to gain control of the House from the Democrats, who hold a 59-to-41 majority.Last month, House GOP leaders unveiled their platform, which includes reforming the state tax code, cutting Medicaid spending and requiring each bill be read before a vote.Republican Caucus spokesman Joe Burgan says Huckabee’s appearance demonstrates how serious the GOP is about winning this fall."It really speaks to the opportunity that Republicans have this fall," he says. "The governor is coming to town because he realizes for the first time in 91 years we have the chance to take the state House and set a new course for Kentucky."Part of the reason that Republicans are confident that the feat is doable this fall is due to President Obama’s unpopularity across the state. A recent poll showed Kentucky voters choosing Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney by a huge margin this fall, and the GOP House candidates hope to grab those coattails.As Kentucky Public Radio's Kenny Colston has reported, that has drawn the attention from national political action committees as well.Burgan says the president's poor approval rating will help, but that the GOP wanted to also outline a clear agenda such as reforming the tax code and state legislative pension system if elected."Rather than just running against things, this body has put out an agenda on KentuckyHouseAgenda.com, which is an agenda that Republicans hope when they have a majority they will be able to run on, policies they will be able to put into place and change they will be able to affect," he says. "Because for 91 years the Democrats have controlled the state House."The event is scheduled for Saturday at 6 p.m., and will be hosted at the home of former U.S. Ambassador Cathy Bailey.
Jefferson County Public Schools is offering families a chance to apply for their school choices online for the first time following the school showcases, which will be held at the end of this month for middle and high schools.The move is one of several changes to the application process following the school board’s recent approval of the new student assignment plan.Further changes include moving the elementary school showcase up to Nov. 17, and requiring applications for all grade levels to be in by Jan. 11. The district is also giving families one week to decide whether to accept an elementary magnet school admission, which is less time than before.The move, said JCPS planning Director Dena Dossett, will give families a chance to adapt to their school earlier than before.It will also allow the district to process applications more efficiently, Dossett said.Following the middle and high school showcase between Oct. 26 and 27, JCPS will open up the application process to families on Oct. 29, she said.“They can register and apply from home or they can come to one of our registration sites located throughout the district and get some one on one help from a registration site or just access to computers if they don’t have any available to them," said Dossett.The district has made its middle and high school “Choices” catalog available online for parents to review. The middle and high school showcase will be at the Kentucky International Convention Center.Dossett said the elementary school "Choices" catalog will be available later this month.