The Kentucky Board of Education and Commissioner Terry Holliday are reviewing public comments given this week on changes to the state’s restraint and seclusion policy for misbehaving students.Most of the speakers attending Tuesday’s public hearing were in opposition to the policy change. It would allow for restraint and seclusion only in situations of an imminent threats or personal harm.Those in opposition say it’s too vague and constrictive in situations that often require quick decisions.The changes were developed by a task force that used recommendations provided by the federal government earlier this year. It includes annual training for all school staff.Board chair David Karem told WFPL despite some opposition by several superintendents there needs to be a stronger statewide policy in place.“It’s [Kentucky] a unified system of common schools across the state and on restraints there aught to be, from my perspective, a statewide policy," he said.Karem didn’t say what changes—if any—are likely., but the board could open it up for modifications or send it to a subcommittee for review. He said that Commissioner Holliday may decide to make tweaks to the policy, but that it's unlikely any state-wide policy would satisfy everyone.The public comment period ends Monday.To watch the public hearing click here.
The founder of Louisville-based USA Harvest is charged in federal court with mail fraud, money laundering and filing false income tax returns. Stan Curtis is accused of stealing more than $183,000 in donations he solicited for the charity, which collects and distributes food for the needy. He’s also charged with failing to report the money as income with the IRS, along with more than $370,000 in travel expenses he allegedly charged to USA Harvest. In a press release, the U.S. Attorney says the alleged crimes took place from late 2005 through 2008. Curtis is charged in a seven-count felony bill of information rather than an indictment, which could mean a plea agreement is in the works. According to its website, USA Harvest was founded in 1989 in Louisville as Kentucky Harvest and now has more than 125,000 volunteers nationwide. The U.S. Attorney says none of the charities Curtis has been associated with, USA Harvest, Kentucky Harvest and Blessings in a Backpack, have been accused of wrongdoing or impropriety. The charges against Curtis carry a maximum sentence of 52 years in prison and fines of more than $1.1 million. Curtis had not commented publicly on the charges as of Wednesday afternoon. Here is the press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office: LOUISVILLE, Ky. – USA Harvest founder, Hugh “Stan” Curtis was charged in a seven-count felony Information today, with mail fraud, money laundering and filing false income tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service, announced David J. Hale, United States Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky. According to the Information, filed in U.S. District Court today, from September 2005 through September 2007, defendant Curtis, 63, of Louisville, Kentucky, allegedly stole $183,354 in donations that he solicited on behalf of USA Harvest, a non-profit, I.R.C. 501 (c) organization. Of these stolen donations, Curtis deposited $164,620 into his personal account and personally cashed donation checks totaling $18,734 – and thereafter used the funds for his personal benefit. The $164,620 includes an August 29, 2007, donation for $20,000 from Play Like the Pros, LLC and a September 5, 2007, donation for $25,000 from Richemont North America, Inc. In addition, Curtis did not report the $183,354 as income with the Internal Revenue Service. Further, from 2005 through 2008, it is alleged in the Information, that defendant Curtis failed to report to the Internal Revenue Service approximately $553,891.67 in personal income he received from USA Harvest. The amount includes the $183,354 in stolen donations and $370,537.67 in personal travel expenses that he charged to USA Harvest. More particularly, Curtis used approximately $370,537.67 in USA Harvest funds to pay for personal meals, personal entertainment expenses, and personal travel. In addition, Curtis fraudulently deducted approximately $353,165 in unreimbursed USA Harvest travel expenses on his 2005 through 2007 returns. Counts four through seven of the Information charge Curtis with filing false returns with the Internal Revenue Service. In 2005, Curtis failed to report approximately $160,549.56 in income and falsely deducted approximately $134,623 in unreimbursed travel expenses from USA Harvest on his 2005 federal income tax return filed on April 15, 2006. For the year 2006 Curtis failed to report approximately $217,085.18 income and falsely deducted approximately $130,739 in unreimbursed travel expenses from USA Harvest on his 2006 federal income tax return filed on May 9, 2007. For the year 2007 Curtis failed to report approximately $97,264.48 and falsely deducted approximately $87,803 in unreimbursed travel expenses from USA Harvest on his federal income tax return filed on April 15, 2008. For the year 2008 Curtis failed to report approximately $78,992.45 in income from USA Harvest on his 2008 federal income tax return filed on October 16, 2009. The return was filed by Curtis and signed under the penalty of perjury. None of the charities Curtis has been associated with – USA Harvest, Kentucky Harvest, and Blessings In A Backpack – have been accused of any wrongdoing or impropriety. The only charitable organization to have suffered any loss as a result of the conduct charged in the Information, was USA Harvest. At sentencing, Curtis faces a combined maximum term of 52 years in prison, a combined maximum fine of $1,150,000, and a three-year term of supervised release. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Bryan Calhoun and was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations Division.
A.T. Simpson Jr., an associate professor at Bellarmine University, will teach a condensed version of his Music in the Black Church course through the Louisville Free Public Library next month. The course will explore traditional African music, American folk music, European classical music and American pop music, and will touch on everything from traditional Negro spirituals to hip hop. “There’s so much stuff out there and Louisville has such a rich tradition of black churches,” Simpson said. Students in the course will observe how the black church is portrayed in popular media by listening to music recordings, watching movie and television clips and experiencing the live in-class performances Simpson has scheduled with local musicians. “We talk about the musical component in the black church. We talk about its history and its varying periods, its stylistic kinds of categories. We sort of watch it evolve over 100 or so years,” Simpson said. Simpson says he designed Music in the Black Church Short Course to be an introduction to the topic, but will tailor it to suit the expertise and interests of students it attracts. Library Short Courses are taught like college courses by professors and experts in their fields, for an hour and a half each week. They are free and open to anyone. Music in the Black Church is being offered on four Tuesdays, starting October 9, from 5:45 -7:15 p.m. To register, call 574-1635.
Louisville Gas and Electric has withdrawn its permit application for an additional coal ash landfill at its Cane Run plant.Coal ash, its storage and its tendency to blow onto neighboring properties have all been headaches for LG&E at Cane Run and the company is planning on phasing it out to build a natural gas facility.The landfill application, which has been pending since January 2010, was dropped due to the slated natural gas facility and to the building of an earthen wall that allows the existing landfill to hold more coal ash.“If we had not gone forward with the natural gas plant, we would have also had to build the extra landfill. But, being as that the natural gas plant will be online in 2015, we will have enough space there in the existing landfill if we add this wall,” Whelan said.LG&E announced in May that they would be trying to maximize landfill capacity by building the earthen wall."It’s kind of like a retaining wall that you see along the highways. That will not change the size or footprint of the existing landfill, but it will help us use the space better," Whelan said.The wall will be added to incrementally and as needed.LG&E expects to save $54 million by withdrawing the permit for the new landfill, which would have been built at Cane Run near the proposed plot for the natural gas facility.
WFPL held its second Jefferson County Board of Education debate this week, featuring three of the five candidates vying for the open District 4 seat.Candidates Eric Bullock, Chuck Haddaway and Lloyd "Chip" White discussed what student achievement means to them, and how the school board might develop the strongest structures to assure student achievement for all JCPS students.Candidates Melissa "Missy" Smith and Chester Flake were unable to attend.Stephen "Steve" Ryan withdrew from the race this week.WFPL will hold its final debate for District 7 next Tuesday at 6:30 pm at 619 South Fourth Street. The debate is free and open to the public.
Louisville's annual IdeaFestival draws top thinkers to the city. Ideally, it gets people talking about the city as well. This year's festival did just that, but the most recent chatter isn't entirely flattering.A piece in today's New York Times examines Louisville in the wake of the IdeaFestival. There's a lot of praise in the article, especially for the waterfront and the city's post-war architecture. But the kind words vanish when the writer turns to the downtown portion of the Ohio River Bridges Project, which would add more lanes of highway to the city's urban core. As for the notion that expanding the interstate tangle and adding the sister bridge next to the Kennedy might bring more people and jobs into the city, I can only say that 40 years after the interstates supposedly started pumping life into Louisville’s downtown, the streets here looked pretty empty to me, especially at night.Maybe that’s an outsider’s misperception. But removing the highways, or downscaling them, might turn downtown and its adjacent neighborhoods, including the riverfront, into more attractive places. And where highways have come down in other cities, property values have gone up. What brings life to a city are attractions, services, homes and walkable streets.The piece also argues for improved public transportation, pointing out that for all its beauty, Waterfront Park is all but inaccessible without a car. Criticisms of Louisville's downtown highway system in national publications aren't new. Interstate 65 makes a cameo in Jane Jacobs's influential 1961 book "The Death and Life of Great American Cities." While discussing the shoe market that once thrived on Market Street, Jacobs quotes Courier-Journal writer Grady Clay (also a renowned urbanist), who foretells the market's decline at the hands of the incoming interstate. "The biggest threat, in fact, is the expressway which will cut diagonally across," says Clay. "Nobody at City Hall seems at all concerned about it. I hope to stir up some interest" The New York Times piece closes by asking why the city should repeat the same mistakes it made with interstates decades ago. We see traffic problems today and ask how to ease them. But it’s better to think first about what kind of city streets and neighborhoods a city wants, what kind of waterfront it should have and how mass transit could change things. You can read the entire article here.
Every season, performing arts companies take on a group of young up-and-comers who will work, and learn, with the pros. The Louisville Ballet calls them trainees. At Actors Theatre of Louisville, they’re apprentices. Kentucky Opera has studio artists. They’re in residence at a professional company for the first time, understudying for the stars and taking on small roles while learning the ins and outs of the business. In the new series "The Big Break," we’ll go inside the Ballet, Actors Theatre and the Opera through the eyes of three developing artists in residence. Claire Horrocks, Samantha Beach and Brad Raymond are keeping audio diaries, and every Thursday, we’ll air excerpts from the secret lives of understudies, told in their own voices. Horrocks, 22, is a trainee with the Louisville Ballet. She grew up in Los Angeles dancing both ballet and jazz, but went on to study ballet performance at the University of Oklahoma.“Ballet had been something that I really loved because it was a process. It was never something you were perfect at and you never would be perfect, but every day you would go to class and try to be better than you were the day before,” says Horrocks.She even went tour with the Rockettes between high school and college. At a diminutive five feet and one full inch, she danced in the ensemble (Horrocks has a talent for being cast in bird roles), not on the Rockette line. “It was during those four months performing with them as an ensemble member that I realized ballet is my biggest passion and that’s what I wanted to pursue,” she says. "So I went to school and now I'm living my dream."You’ll see Horrocks on the Louisville Ballet stage during the holidays, dancing in “The Nutcracker.”Actors Theatre acting apprentice Beach just graduated from Northwestern University. Her first taste of the stage happened at church, during the annual holiday play.“I was asked to be a sheep. It wasn’t a traditional pageant, but I was a sheep." says Beach. "And I had so much fun doing it that I asked my mom when I could be used again and she started finding me more opportunities.”Beach majored in drama, but minored in creative writing. She wants to be a triple threat—an actor, a playwright and a director. Through Halloween, she works on "Dracula," understudying the role of Lucy while working on the crew.“I feel most comfortable in drama," says Beach. "I want to take some improv classes and start to expand my comedic skills. I love contemporary new plays. That’s one of the main reasons why I wanted to be at Actors Theatre, because they do so much new work.” Kentucky Opera studio artist Raymond is a tenor. He's 30—opera singers don’t hit full voice maturity until age 27, so their developmental period is longer than dancers and actors. He got his start in a second grade talent show his parents enrolled him in to combat his early stage fright.“I wrote this kind of a rap for my school, about the principal and stuff. ‘When I get on the yellow bus, I go to a school that is made for us,’" says Raymond with a laugh. Raymond is done with school now—he just finished his doctorate at the University of Texas. He fell in love with performing, and later came to love opera for its full, rich sound."It’s a manly thing to do. Singing might not seem manly to people, but operatic singing is so strong and virile,” says Raymond. "You put your whole body into it." This week, Raymond is singing the role of evil henchman Spoletta in Puccini's “Tosca.” He has a fantastic maniacal laugh. Up next for Raymond is The Tempter/Abbott in Benjamin Britten's "The Prodigal Son," October 4-5.
Fundraising numbers in the race for Kentucky's Third Congressional District seat have been wildly uneven. Accountant Brooks Wicker raised $2,600 during the second quarter, compared to the $184,000 raised by his opponent, three-term incumbent John Yarmuth. Campaign budgets aren't the only thing vastly different about the candidates; on Monday, October 8th, we'll find out their positions on health care reform, unemployment, tax cuts, and more. The debate starts at 6pm in our performance studio at 619 S 4th Street.To be part of our studio audience, please reserve a spot by calling 502-814-6500 or send us an email. Our space is limited to 70 people, and each person will be allowed to reserve up to two seats. If you can't join us, tune in for a live broadcast of the debate, or stream it online.
As the world's population becomes increasingly urbanized, a new nonprofit has been formed to make sure Louisville handles the changes appropriately.City Collaborative describes itself as "an independent design and research laboratory advancing new ideas and developing actionable solutions for cities, their regions and communities." The organization ties together urban-minded organizations and individuals and will have several areas of focus. One will be holding public events to help people explore the city. That includes the upcoming CycLOUvia, when Bardstown Road will be closed to automobile traffic.The group will also help citizens and officials learn more about how the city works.“Looking at web analytics, web maps, making policy briefs around things that might help government make the right decisions," says Patrick Smith of the MapGrapher blog. "Really helping engage the public more in a way that's a really meaningful engagement, working with citizen groups, working with individuals to make sure their voice is heard in a lot of the processes.”The collaborative's director is Branden Klayko, author of the Broken Sidewalk blog.“As we return to the city, we just want to make sure the city is prepared to see the influx of new development, new people and new businesses," says Klayko. "We want to help shape that dialogue and make sure the city's going in the right direction.”The collaborative is not affiliated with Metro Government, though its formation coincides with increased thinking about city issues. Mayor Greg Fischer recently launched his Vision Louisville planning initiative.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer is among several municipal leaders from across the country pushing Congress to act now to address the upcoming fiscal cliff.Several measures will take effect or expire at the end of the year, and if Congress doesn't act, $100 billion in spending cuts and $380 billion in tax increases will hit simultaneously. The U.S. Conference of Mayors, of which Fischer is a member, has sent congressional leadership a letter urging them to act.From the letter:The impending sequestration process mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) is perhaps the biggest threat to our metro economies, which represent over 90 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), nearly 90 percent of all wage and salary income, 86 percent of the nation’s employment, and 94 percent of future economic growth. These automatic across-the-board cuts in defense and non-defense programs are estimated to reduce the nation’s GDP by $215 billion, decrease personal workforce earnings by $109.4 billion and cost well over 2 million jobs in only the first year. As recently as August 22, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) updated its Budget and Economic Outlook for FY 2012 to FY 2022, warning that failure to alter the currently scheduled federal tax and spending policy changes would “lead to economic conditions in 2013 that will probably be considered a recession.”The mayors do not support a single solution, but encourage bipartisan action.A Fischer spokesman says the mayor doesn't personally have a preferred solution, and declined to weigh in on whether Congress should let the Bush-era tax cuts on wealthy Americans expire.
A central Kentucky health official says a case of human West Nile virus has been confirmed in Bourbon County. Bourbon County Health Department Director Tom Skeen told the Lexington Herald-Leader it's thought that the person contracted the mosquito-borne illness out of state, although he didn't believe it was in Texas. That state has reported 1,225 cases and 50 deaths as of last week, the largest outbreak in years. Many of the cases are in the Dallas area. Skeen said the recent Kentucky case was confirmed last week by Bourbon Community Hospital in Paris. He said the patient is apparently doing well after taking antibiotics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Kentucky has reported no deaths this year but six other West Nile cases: two in Jefferson County and one each in Henry, Kenton, Laurel and Wayne counties.
An anti-abortion activist who filed for Congress so he could run TV ads supporting his cause plans to air an especially graphic ad showing a dismembered fetus on nine stations. Andrew Beacham is running in Kentucky's 2nd District but not with the intention of winning. Instead, he simply wants to use his candidacy as a bully pulpit. Beacham is a supporter of longtime anti-abortion leader Randall Terry, the Operation Rescue founder who used his unsuccessful run in the Democratic presidential primary this year as a platform to attack abortion. In his ad (warning: graphic content), Beacham charges that President Barack Obama is giving money to Planned Parenthood "to murder babies." Puffing a cigar, Beacham says: "You vote for Obama, the real question is, what are you smoking?" Beacham, an Independent, is one of four candidates who have filed for the congressional seat now held by Republican Brett Guthrie, who is seeking re-election. The ads are scheduled to begin running Wednesday.
As Kentucky officials continue to implement the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, doctors are preparing for a rush of new patients in every sector of the health care industry.Seven Counties Services CEO Tony Zipple says at least 25 percent of uninsured Americans have behavioral issues that need attention. And once the Affordable Care Act takes effect, he's expecting to see a flood of newly-insured patients seeking treatments.More patients means a higher demand for doctors. And Zipple says the state needs to act to recruit enough professionals before the flood begins.“[We're] probably in pretty good shape in most areas, although there are some focus places where there are shortages, even in the urban areas of the right kinds of professionals. And as you get out into rural areas it’s going to be even tougher," he says. “I think that this is maybe the most important opportunity to reinforce safety net services in the Commonwealth of Kentucky in 50 years. And there is so much riding on this as a state, that we really want to make sure we get it right.”Zipple says he's working with lawmakers to make sure the plans offered in the state's health insurance exchange properly cover mental health care.
WFPL is hosting a debate tonight for candidates vying for Jefferson County Board of Education's District 4 seat.There are five candidates competing to replace retiring board member Joe Hardesty, who oversaw the southwestern Jefferson County region for the past 20 years.Stephen "Steve" Ryan announced his withdraw from the race Monday evening, leaving Lloyd "Chip" White, Chuck Haddaway, Melissa "Missy" Smith, Chester Flake and Eric Bullock in the race.The debate takes place at WFPL studios located at 619 S. Fourth St in downtown Louisville at 6:30 pm. The event is free and open to the public.