For updates on Friday regarding the train derailment in southwestern Jefferson County, go here.Update 7 p.m.: The fire is still burning at the train derailment site in southwestern Jefferson County and the evacuation of a 1.2 mile radius endures. Crews are off-loading styrene monomer from a car the site Thursday night, said Jody Duncan, a MetroSafe spokeswoman.Duncan said air restrictions near the site have been lifted, but river traffic is still on hold.Update 4:34 p.m.: So far, no signs of air or water surface contamination because of the chemical spills, a state environmental official told WFPL. Here's more.Update: 3:37 p.m. The shelter-in-place warning for a five mile radius of the train derailment site has been lifted, MetroSafe said.The evacuation for a 1.2 mile radius of the site is still in place, however.Update 1:15 p.m.: Here are five things to know about hydrogen fluoride.And, from Tuesday, here are five things to know about butadiene. Update 12:10 p.m.: P&L Railway has opened an outreach center at VFW Post 1181, 6518 Blevins Gap Road, to make reimbursements to people affected by the train derailment and fire. Here's the news release:The P&L Railway Outreach Center is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, and is located at VFW Post 1181, located at 6518 Blevins Gap Road. The center is set up to make reimbursements as a result of the derailment and fire for the following:• Expenses incurred for food and lodging by residents evacuated from their homes• Lost wages of displaced workers• Lost sales for businesses located within the evacuated area• Additional commuting expenses incurred as a result of the road closureClaimants are asked to bring in photo ID, proof of residence (such as a utility bill), receipts, and as necessary, a letter from their employer on company letterhead confirming employment.Evacuated residents also are eligible for an “inconvenience payment” of $100 per adult and $50 per child per day, in addition to documented expenses.For more information, call (731) 225-6808.Update 10:25 a.m.: Authorities said Thursday morning that they expect the fire at the train derailment site in southwestern Jefferson County to continue to burn at least into the afternoon as the precautionary evacuation and shelter-in-place order to remain in place. An entire car of the chemical butadiene leaked into the environment; the car that was thought to be empty ignited yesterday, apparently from the residual butadiene.Three workers were injured and were transported to University Hospital. One remains in critical condition, but two are categorized as in "fair condition."Crews have dammed a ditch to keep run-off chemical from reaching the Salt River, but EPA On-Scene Coordinator Art Smith says he's not sure where water being put onto the ablaze tanker will flow. Smith says there's been continuous air monitoring, and no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) have been detected outside the footprint of the derailment site. "There's no doubt this is a contaminated site," Smith said during a news conference. He says soil and water cleanup will likely be necessary, but it will wait until the fire is put out and all the chemicals are stabilized. There are still cars of butadiene, sodium hydroxide, hydrogen fluoride, styrene monomer and methyl isobutyl ketone that need to be stabilized and drained.Pleasure Ridge Park Fire Chief Vincent Smith also said that crews gave authorities incorrect information about chemicals at the derailment site.Update 7:30 a.m. Thursday: A tanker car is still ablaze Thursday morning at the train derailment site in southwestern Jefferson County, the morning after three workers were critically injured when their equipment ignited a fire in a car that had totally leaked the flammable chemical butadiene, a MetroSafe spokeswoman said.(Read WFPL's story from Wednesday regarding the fire.)The evacuation of people within a 1.2 mile radius of the site -- at Dixie Highway and Katherine Station Road, near West Point, Ky. -- is still in effect, as is a shelter-in-place warning for people within a five-mile radius, said Jody Duncan, the MetroSafe spokeswoman.The evacuation and shelter-in-place warning will be in effect at least as long as the fire burns, Duncan said. Authorities believe the fire is being fueled by residual butadiene in the tanker, Duncan said, and intend to let the fire burn out itself to get rid of the fuel source.WFPL will have more as this story develops.CSX inspectors will survey the site once day breaks to help determine the next steps, she said.Tankers carrying hydrogen fluoride -- another dangerous chemical -- are cool too the touch and authorities believe they are not in immediate risk of fire, Duncan said.
There are competitive races this year for the U.S. House, but five of Kentucky's six races have heavy favorites the week before the election. The SixthThis rematch between Democratic Rep. Ben Chandler and Republican attorney Andy Barr was suppose to be easier for Chandler than the 2010 campaign, which he won by less than 700 votes.But the campaign has turned nasty over coal issues and independent polling has been non-existent. Both campaign claim they are ahead and will win on Nov. 6.In 2010, the race went into a recanvass, where totals are double checked. This year, the campaign could go into a full recount.The FourthRepublican Thomas Massie is a near shoo-in to replace the retired Geoff Davis. But Democratic candidate Bill Adkins is trying to change that.The Fourth District is heavily Republican and Massie did most of his heavy lifting in a big GOP primary. Since then, most of the campaign staff has moved on and Massie’s campaign has been pretty quiet. But the district is considered a Republican stronghold and Massie’s the one with the (R) next to his name on the ballot.The ThirdRep. John Yarmuth is fielding a challenge from Republican accountant Brooks Wicker, but the match-up doesn’t appear to be a close one.Wicker has been ignored by his local party and national Republican organizations and has criticized them for doing so. Yarmuth agreed to multiple debates with Wicker, despite a fundraising and name ID advantages, but Wicker’s campaign didn’t get a boost from them.Yarmuth is running only one TV ad for the whole campaign and with days left, is sending fundraising pitches out for other candidates instead of himself.The SecondRep. Brett Guthrie is facing a perennial Democratic candidate and a third party candidate that doesn’t even live in Kentucky. Guthrie’s biggest task is introducing himself to the new voters he’s received thanks to redistricting, but that task won’t be put to the test in 2012.The First and Fifth:Rep. Ed Whitfield of the First District has a rematch with a Democrat he easily beat in 2010. Rep. Hal Rogers of the Fifth District is doing the same. Both men will be in Congress for another two years, at the very least.
Update 7:30 p.m.: Authorities have still not suppressed the fire, said Jody Duncan, a MetroSafe spokeswoman. Once the fire is suppressed, authorities will investigate the scene to decide whether to lift the shelter-in-place and evacuation orders.Meanwhile, Duncan provided updated information on the condition of the three workers hospitalized in the fire. One is in "extremely" critical condition, one is "seriously" critical and the other is listed as critical, Duncan said.The workers were wearing respirators when the fire began, which may have helped keep their injuries from being even worse, she noted.Update 6:30 p.m.: P&L Railway has released a statement saying the company will "cooperate fully with an investigation" into the derailment and fire. Further, the company is opening an outreach center for displaced residents who are "seeking reimbursement for lodging, food, lost work days and travel expenses."The full statement from P&L:Our thoughts and prayers are with the injured workers and their families. Paducah & Louisville is prepared to support them in any way possible.We also are prepared to support those who live in the area and have been directly impacted by helping to secure lodging and attending to other immediate needs. To that end, Paducah & Louisville Railway will open at 8 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 1, an outreach center at VFW Post 1181, 6518 Blevins Gap Road (off Dixie Highway) for displaced residents seeking reimbursement for lodging, food, lost work days and travel expenses. Photo identification and receipts are necessary. For more information, call 731-225-6808. The outreach center will remain open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily until further notice. Paducah & Louisville continues to work with first responders and to cooperate fully with an investigation into both Monday’s derailment and today’s flash fire. We deeply appreciate the work of all agencies. Our actions since the derailment include cleanup of materials that were lost in the derailment, and air monitoring to ensure safe air quality. The flash fire today occurred during recovery operations that included lifting and removing the derailed cars. We will re-assess the recovery efforts today and work with first responders to determine the next steps. More information will be provided as available.4:50 p.m.: A shelter for people displaced by the evacuation order has been established at Stuart Middle School, 4601 Valley Station Road, MetroSafe said. A temporary shelter for displaced animals has been set up at Metro Animal Services' Manslick Road location.Another shelter is being set up at Muldraugh Elementary School, 202 Wendell Street, Muldraugh, Ky., according to the Louisville Chapter of the American Red Cross.Update 3:20 p.m.: Authorities are now evacuating people within 1.2 miles of the derailment site, MetroSafe said.The evacuation and shelter-in-place order are precautionary, said Jody Duncan, MetroSafe spokeswoman. Also, one of the injured workers is in critical condition, Duncan said. Of the two other injured workers, one is in fair condition and one is in stable condition.Update 2:40 p.m.: A shelter-in-place has been issued for a five-mile radius of the derailment site -- near the intersection of Dixie Highway and Katherine Station Road in southwestern Jefferson County, MetroSafe said.People are advised to close all windows and doors, bring pets inside and turn off heating and air conditioning systems.Three contract workers were injured and transported -- likely to University Hospital -- in a fire at the site Wednesday, said Jody Duncan, a MetroSafe spokeswoman. Two others who were near the fire declined to go to a hospital, she said.The workers were using equipment which appears to have ignited residual butadiene at the site, Duncan said. Thousands of gallons of the explosive chemical spilled after the derailment.Earlier: At least two contract workers will be transported to a hospital Wednesday after a fire near the wreckage site of the train derailment in southwestern Jefferson County, said a spokeswoman for Louisville-Jefferson County EMA/MetroSafe.The fire did not happen in the wrecked cars that contain dangerous materials, said Jody Duncan, the MetroSafe spokeswoman. It's unclear whether the workers were injured, and unknown how serious any injuries may be.It's also unclear if the incident will affect plans to stabilize two cars containing hydrogen fluoride.Earlier: A new shelter-in-place warning and Level-3 Hazmat situation will likely be ordered Wednesday near the site of a train derailment in southwestern Jefferson County as a precaution, because contractor are planning to stabilize two cars containing the dangerous chemical hydrogen fluoride.The shelter-in-place warning may cover as many as five miles, said Doug Hamilton, the executive director of Louisville-Jefferson County EMA/MetroSafe.Two cars in the wreckage from the Monday morning derailment contain hydrogen fluoride, Hamilton said. Authorities believe that the hydrogen fluoride did not leak.But contractors aren't certain how the wrecked cars will hold up when they're stabilized -- leading to the precautionary emergency measures, Hamilton said."We do not know where the damage may be," he said of the cars.Of hydrogen fluoride, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said:Breathing hydrogen fluoride can burn lung tissue and cause swelling and fluid accumulation in the lungs (pulmonary edema). Skin contact with hydrogen fluoride may cause severe burns that develop after several hours and form skin ulcers.The evacuation of homes near the derailment is still in place. The workers will move the two cars containing hydrogen fluoride from a ravine and place them upright, Hamilton said. Off-loading the hydrogen chemical should not pose the same risks as moving the cars. About 75 people are at the derailment site working on the clean-up; R.J. Corman Railroad Group is the contractor.An emergency response bus from Louisville Metro Emergency Medical Services will also be at the site for what Hamilton called "an abundance of caution."Louisville area hospitals will be notified that the work is being done, so they can prepare for potential patients suffering hydrogen fluoride exposure, Hamilton said.
The Kentucky Finance and Administration Cabinet has reached out to Louisville businessman Ed Hart's group -- Kentucky Kingdom Redevelopment Company -- to "discuss its proposal for reopening Kentucky Kingdom," according to a press release.The group, comprised of four local investors, is the only known applicant in the state's request for proposals process.According to the statement, the general counsel for the finance cabinet reached out to Kentucky Kingdom Redevelopment Company "to answer some questions the state has about KKRC’s response to its Request for Proposals for reopening Kentucky Kingdom."A meeting between Finance and Administration Cabinet officials and KKRC is being arranged for next week.“We appreciate the opportunity to sit down with state officials to discuss our proposal," said Hart in a statement.The statement further said, “Because of the sensitive nature of the discussions, KKRC will not make any comment about the negotiations while they are ongoing. We don’t want to say or do anything that could jeopardize our goal of reopening Kentucky Kingdom.”(Read a timeline of Kentucky Kingdom's history.)
Alpha Natural Resources will close one of its coal mines in Eastern Kentucky.The company will close the Still House Branch Mine in Cumberland in Eastern Kentucky. Forty miners will lose their jobs, and another 40 will be reassigned to other coal mines. Alpha spokesman Rick Nida says there are several factors that went into the decision to close the mine.“That includes coal-fired power plants closing, competition from low-priced natural gas, high rail rates,” he said. “All of those things combine to make it economically non-competitive.”This is only the latest round in a series of mine layoffs. Alpha slowed production at 10 mines in Kentucky and West Virginia in February, which left more than 150 miners without jobs. The company closed several Kentucky mines and slowed production at others in June, laying off 650 workers.Alpha posted a net loss of $2.2 billion in the second quarter of this year, compared with $50 million during the same period last year.
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Gov. Steve Beshear says it's "too early to speculate" on whether the departure of Senate President David Williams will improve the chances of getting the Legislature to pass a constitutional amendment to legalize casino gambling.Williams, an opponent of casino gambling, is resigning later this week to become a circuit judge in southern Kentucky.Beshear told reporters Wednesday that he's hopeful lawmakers may approve a constitutional amendment after the Legislature convenes in January.If lawmakers approved a constitutional amendment during the next session, Beshear said it would then be placed on the ballot in 2014 for voters to ratify or reject.
The campaign for control of the state House has taken a nasty turn, with radio and TV ads being pulled because of inaccuracies.Republicans have successfully knocked radio ads attacking their candidates off the air in the Bardstown and Mayfield areas. And they are working on getting TV ads in Lexington pulled down as well.The areas where the ads were pulled are considered hot spots for state legislative races, where either the GOP or Democrats are hoping to win seats. Ads by all three active Democratic groups, the Kentucky Democratic Party, House Democratic Caucus and the outside group Kentucky Family Values have been contested or pulled down.Kentucky Family Values was responsible for the Mayfield area ad, while the KDP is running the ad in Bardstown. The House Democratic Caucus is responsible for the TV ad in Lexington Republicans are confident they will get pulled down.GOP spokesman Joe Burgan said the fact the ads got taken off the air shows Democrats are desperate. “The things say in their ads, they are not factual, they are fabrications and they have been caught, they have been caught in a lie and these radio stations have pulled their ads down because they will not run lies,” Burgan said.But the state Democratic Party said their ad is back on the air and their claims about avoiding taxes aren’t lies against GOP state Rep. David Floyd."A hundred lawyers writing a hundred threats to radio stations doesn't change the fact that David Floyd owes over $4,000 in local taxes and he has a business registered at a ski lodge registered in Wyoming," KDP spokesman Matt Erwin says. Republicans are hoping for a net gain of 10 seats to gain control of the state House on Election Day.
Louisville Gas and Electric has been issued another citation for coal ash violations at its Cane Run Power Station in southwest Louisville.The Notice of Violation is for only one incident--on September 13, residents living near the plant reported seeing clouds of ash spewing from LG&E's sludge processing plant for five minutes. The company reported an equipment malfunction.The proposed penalty for the violation is $10,000, but if the company and the Air Pollution Control District reach a settlement, it might be settled for less. The notice of violation also requires the company to submit records explaining why it took so long to shut the machine down once it began malfunctioning, and how upgraded controls planned to be installed next month will keep a similar incident from happening in the future.For the past two years, the plant's neighbors have been reporting fugitive coal ash leaving the plant's landfill and contaminating their homes. A year ago, LG&E was fined $26,000 a year ago for several incidences, but eventually settled for a smaller amount. And in July, the company was fined $24,000 for additional coal ash violations.The coal-fired power plant is set to be retired and replaced with natural gas. LG&E announced earlier this month that it would shut the plant down by May 2015--eight months earlier than originally planned.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A forensic pathologist says an autopsy shows a Kentucky judge's death was linked to tainted steroid shots at a Tennessee clinic.George Nichols II performed the autopsy of Eddie Lovelace's body at the request of the judge's family.Nichols said Wednesday the seemingly routine shots Lovelace received for neck and back pain contained a fungus. Nichols said the fungus caused a blood vessel infection, which in turn caused a stroke and Lovelace's eventual death.Lovelace was a longtime circuit judge in southern Kentucky who died Sept. 17 at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn.He had received the injections at Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgery Center in Nashville.The tainted injections have been blamed for 28 deaths and 363 illnesses nationwide.The injections were made by a Massachusetts specialty pharmacy.
As Sandy continues to batter most of the northeast, people have jumped to conclusions about what caused--or didn't cause-- the storm. Predictably, President Bill Clinton and environmental activist Bill McKibben have both used the storm to highlight the importance of action on climate change, while Fox News host Sean Hannity interviewed meteorologist Joe Bastardi, who rejects current science that suggests climate change is real and exacerbated by human activity.But whether Sandy was caused—or made worse—by a gradual human-induced warming of the planet isn’t quite as simple.When I interviewed NASA climatologist Gavin Schmidt last month, his take was that climate change (while real, and happening) can really only be measured when looking at trends, like average monthly temperatures. Extreme weather events like tornadoes are trickier, he said, because there’s really no way of knowing whether they did happen before, but weren’t accurately recorded.The more thoughtful media coverage of the links between Sandy and climate change tends to agree. The concensus? Sandy may have been made worse by climate change, but there’s not really concrete evidence to suggest that the storm was caused by climate change.From the New York Times’ Green blog:But in interviews on Tuesday, several climate scientists made some initial points. A likely contributor to the intensity of Sandy, they said, was that surface temperatures in the western Atlantic Ocean were remarkably high just ahead of the storm — in places, about five degrees Fahrenheit higher than normal for this time of year. In fact, part of the ocean was warmer than it would normally be in September, when accumulated summer heat tends to peak.Kevin E. Trenberth, a scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., said that natural variability very likely accounted for the bulk of that temperature extreme. And many of Sandy’s odd features derived from its origin as a “hybrid” storm — a merger of several weather systems, including a hurricane and a midlatitude storm that had earlier dumped snow in Colorado.“My view is that a lot of this is chance,” Dr. Trenberth said. “It relates to weather, and the juxtaposition of weather systems. A hybrid storm is certainly one which is always in the cards and it’s one we’ve always worried about.”But, he added, human-induced global warming has been raising the overall temperature of the surface ocean, by about one degree Fahrenheit since the 1970s. So global warming very likely contributed a notable fraction of the energy on which the storm thrived — perhaps as much as 10 percent, he said.And NPR agrees:Here the waters get muddied. There is a hierarchy of weather events which scientists feel they understand well enough for establishing climate change links. Global temperature rises and extreme heat rank high on that list, but Hurricanes rank low. As the IPCC special report on extreme events put it "There is low confidence in any observed long-term (i.e., 40 years or more) increases in tropical cyclone activity (i.e., intensity, frequency, duration), after accounting for past changes in observing capabilities."The reasons for "low confidence" are manifold. Some part of the caution comes from the complexity of the problem, and some part comes from the lack of good data before the satellite era (about 1970). Thus, many climate scientists will not want to go out on a limb for hurricanes. They just don't have the tools to make strong inferences.Climate change is complicated, and so is its role in huge storms like this one. But at the very least, there's a chance Sandy will convince one or both of the presidential candidates that climate change is worth discussing before the election next week.
Jefferson County Public Schools is facing several issues that school board members will have to tackle in coming years, from the student assignment plan to improving student achievement. With some incumbents choosing not to seek re-election, the JCPS board will have new faces. Here's a look at where those potential new board members stand on key issuesClick here to listen to full audio from WFPL's District 2 debate.Click here to listen to full audio from WFPL's District 4 debate.Click here to listen to full audio from WFPL's District 7 debate.(Note: Unsure of your district? Louisville Metro has this website to help you figure it out.)DISTRICT 2 CANDIDATESElizabeth Berfield is a former librarian turned stay-at-home mother of two. Berfield says she wants to share her experience and knowledge with the community. She wants diversity for her children.How to improve student achievement: Berfield says the focus shouldn’t be limited to common-core standards, and that critical thinking and other subjects like history and creative thinking needs to be front and center too.Student assignment plan: Berfield believes in compromise with regards to the neighborhood schools issue. She believes that keeping younger children closer to home is a good idea, to have a local option. But she believes that there could be challenges like school capacity, but she doesn’t think middle and high school should be subject to attend a neighborhood school.School budget/taxing: Berfield likes the cuts Superintendent Donna Hargens has made to her central administration. She says she still thinks “there are some very inflated salaries within our school system.” Berfield believes that there are still administrative cuts that could be considered, as well as cuts in transportation and encouraging carpools._____________________________________________________Phil Haming, lifelong Louisville resident and father of five. Haming says his primary platform is neighborhood schools which he hopes will save money to reduced class size and hire more teachers.How to improve student achievement: Haming says it begins at the elementary level and says if nothing else, the busing plan should not apply to elementary schools.Student assignment plan: Haming says parents could be involved more in their child’s education if JCPS would resort back to neighborhood schools. He further says it would be a gradual change and he would want cooperation among schools so they could collaborate in some ways, like theater, etc.School budget/taxing: Haming believes that cuts to transportation could be significant if JCPS resorts back to neighborhood schools. He believes there could be further cuts to administrative staff salaries and that the school board needs to do a better job negotiating with the teacher’s union on some salaries for school staff._____________________________________________________David Jones Jr. is a businessman with an interest in education. He’s a parent of two former JCPS students and says his background and involvement with various entities will serve him well as a board member.How to improve student achievement: Jones says he supports the common core standards implementation this last year and it will be able to “measure to the proper level.” He says you must have leadership at the district level and in each school to ensure successful students.Student assignment plan: Jones understands why people like neighborhood schools, but there are challenges. He says his concerns include overcrowding at popular schools, and there would be a cost to having to rebuild new schools due to population shifts westward. Jones says many families value the current school choice they have.School budget/taxing: Jones says the central office would be the first place to look for cuts and says JCPS has an “old fashioned enterprise that needs to be reformed.” He believes his business experience gives him the best shot at creating those reforms._____________________________________________________George Tolhurst says he’s a victim of the public school system and says he’s running a campaign on neighborhood schools. He says the district has been going downhill for the past 70 years.How to improve student achievement: Tolhurst says teaching basic requirements that can be related to real life including reading and writing. Further he says school need a testing program and teacher evaluations, possibly twice a year, that are free from the union. He says “we need to overhaul the entire system.”Student assignment plan: Tolhust sees no negative impacts to neighborhood schools and says new school wouldn’t have to be built. He says transportation costs could be cut and parents would be responsible for making sure their child go to school.School budget/taxing: Tolhurst says we need to cut the waste and the cut needs to be transparent. _____________________________________________________DISTRICT 4 CANDIDATES Eric Bullock grew up in Jefferson County his whole life and has a recent graduate from JCPS. He volunteered at Butler High School and is a photographer for the football team. He says he can offer fresh ideasHow to improve student achievement: Bullock supports the partnerships with various businesses, like the one with UPS. He’s also interested in supporting more trade education, like automotive repair, in schools. Bullock says student athletes should be challenged more and the bar is set too low for them academically. Further, he thinks the higher performing students should tutor or work with some lower performing students/student athletes to balance the pace of the classroom.Student assignment plan: Bullock wants to bring the option of neighborhood schools back, partly to increase parent involvement. He says for certain students, parent involvement through local school choice could bring test scores up. Further he thinks JCPS can still achieve diversity in schools by allowing parents to choose if they want their child to attend the school closest to them. School budget/taxing: Bullock says he would have looked to administrative and transportation cuts before approving any tax increase. He would not make any cuts directly affecting classroom spending. Bullock thinks that everything should be on the table with regards to transportation cuts and there could be small efficiencies in routes and maintenance costs._____________________________________________________Chuck Haddaway was a Metro Council candidate in District 12. He’s a parent and is on the SBDM at Carter Traditional elementary and family resource center at Okolona Elementary. Haddaway also serves on state boards and Kentucky League of Cities.How to improve student achievement: Haddaway supports preparing students for career. He says any student should be able to excel in any school across the district. He wants to focus on graduation rates and part of that is supporting the new state assessment, including the common core standards.Student assignment plan: Haddaway supports the recent changes to the JCPS student assignment plan but wants to continue to monitor it. He says it needs more time to see if it will be successful. Further he feels like parents have options around the district, but all the schools need to offer a good program.School budget/taxing: Haddaway says he doesn’t like new taxes, but he trusts that the board were efficient and conflicted with the decision to continue to raise taxes. He further feels like more cuts in administration could happen._____________________________________________________Lloyd “Chip” White is a product of JCPS and has five children. He has been a foster parent to nearly a dozen children and all have been through the JCPS system. White says he’s wanted to run for school board for a while but he’s respected the job Hardesty has done, which is why he hasn’t run.How to improve student achievement: White calls his District 4 a working class area. He says he’s heard a variety of opinions in his area, but says not everyone has to go to college to have a good career and students need to be prepared for this. White supports preparing students for careers as well as college and he wants to work with the business community in partnerships. White commends the work by Superintendent Donna Hargens preparing parents for the changing statewide assessments.Student assignment plan: White supports the recent changes to the JCPS student assignment plan but wants to continue to monitor it. He says he is concerned with diversity and wants to see it in schools and says diversity in schools can improve student achievement. White says the neighborhood schools choice makes more sense in elementary, but not in high schools.School budget/taxing: White says he would not want to second guess the board’s decision to raise taxes this year without having access to the same information they had. However, when asked hypothetically if there were cuts needed where would they come from, White says there are a lot of areas where JCPS could look, but he would still need more information before making any decision._____________________________________________________Melissa “Missy” Smith is a mother of two and has volunteered in JCPS schools for the past six years, every Friday. She says she sees frustration from both students and staff within the schools.How to improve student achievement: Smith’s priorities include closing the achievement gap. She further says the district needs to do a better job at keeping the interest level high for all students, including those who are gifted and talented. Smith says she would like to see more opportunities for those students.Student assignment plan: Smith supports the current student assignment plan and says a neighborhood schools approach wouldn’t work.School budget/taxing: Smith supports the recent tax increase by the JCPS board. She says the board could have approved a greater tax hike but chose not to. Smith acknowledges there has been less revenue coming into the district through various streams and the district needs to fill that financial void somehow, although she says she doesn’t like paying taxes._____________________________________________________Chester Flake is a father of three and retired Ford employee and former union representative.How to improve student achievement: Flake says the turnaround decisions made by the board for the district’s lowest performing schools is an appropriate response. Flake does not support incentives for teachers who perform at higher rates based on student test results.Student assignment plan: Flake’s number one issue is ending the JCPS student assignment plan. He calls busing reverse discrimination.School budget/taxing: Flake does not support raising taxes and says that the district should do a better job at managing its current funds._____________________________________________________DISTRICT 7 CANDIDATES Marty Bell has spent several years in different capacities at Jefferson County Public Schools. He most recently retired as Chief Operations Officer with Greater Clark County Schools. Bell says he believes he can be a large contributor to the policy making side.How to improve student achievement: Bell says more parents need to be involved and it could help to increase their involvement in the School Based Decision Making Councils most JCPS schools have. Bell says the right teachers need to get into the right schools. He says JCPS has a high number of good teachers and the key to turning around schools is collaboratively teaching. Bell says JCPS has the data available to view results by classroom to eliminate the excuses in specific classrooms.Student assignment plan: Bell does not support reverting back to neighborhood schools and says he supports the plan recently adopted by JCPS, which he says is more neighborhood friendly. Bell says he believes diversity increases student achievement. Further, he says neighborhood schools would overcrowd certain schools and could eliminate parental choice.School budget/taxing: Bell supports the recent tax increase approved by JCPS, but he thinks that the state’s funding formula should be looked at because dollars in JCPS are leaving the county for other areas in the state. But he further says every single dollar should relate back to student achievement and it should be proved. He believes JCPS has the data to do this._____________________________________________________Chris Brady is a current parent to two young JCPS students. He wants to make sure all students have the tools to succeed in life. He’s currently a technology consultant for Norton Healthcare. Brady has also been a substitute teacher for JCPS. He says that he brings a fresh perspective that hasn’t been compromised by working in the school system.How to improve student achievement: Brady says that strong leadership in schools, including administration, is likely to improve student achievement. He says that JCPS must provide the environment to teach. Brady says the teacher’s union has compromised some with regards to supporting poor performing schools and how teachers are transferred through schools. Brady believes in teacher incentives that aren’t always monetary. Student assignment plan: Brady says the issue of student achievement goes beyond reverting back to neighborhood schools. There are other issues, he says, such as the homeless population in JCPS. He supports the family resource centers in schools and says several issues that affect student achievement likely don’t fall in the purview of the school district. He supports recent changes to the JCPS student assignment plan.School budget/taxing: Brady supports the recent tax increase supported by the school board. He says cuts from the state have forced Jefferson County residents to step up. Brady says things like text books and other resources are crucial to student achievement. Brady says that the state’s funding formula needs to be reconsidered._____________________________________________________Chris Fell is a father of two and is running a neighborhood’s school campaign. Fell was part of the lawsuit challenging the JCPS student assignment plan. He home-schooled his daughter after being a “victim” of the JCPS student assignment plan. Fell’s says JCPS should never be trailing the state in student achievement. How to improve student achievement: Fell supports neighborhood schools as the main way to better student achievement. He further says JCPS should be tracking data from every teacher and class for evaluation to figure where resources should be directed. He also supports giving incentives to teachers for good teachers and supports sending the best teachers to the poorest performing schools.Student assignment plan: Fell supports neighborhood schools and is a strong anti-bullying proponent. He has formed a parent support group for bullying, which isn’t limited to students. Fell says bullying is a national issue and it continues to increase.School budget/taxing: Fell does not support the tax increase that the JCPS recently approved. Fell argues that a majority of the budget goes towards the student assignment plan. He says by eliminating the current student assignment plan, the money saved on having to bus students could be used for a variety of other areas in the district. _____________________________________________________Jonathan Robertson is a lifelong resident of Jefferson County and has two children and is a graduate of Jeffersontown High School. Robertson says the goals of giving equal opportunity in schools isn’t being met.How to improve student achievement: Robertson also says that charter schools are a good option, but he acknowledges that studies on the subject do go both ways. He says studies show paying teachers more results in keeping better teachers. Robertson says the teacher’s union is preventing negotiations that would support better performing teachers.Student assignment plan: Robertson says that neighborhood schools is essential for parent involvement. School budget/taxing: Robertson does not support the recent tax increase approved by the board. He says the everyone needs to tighten their belts and the residents shouldn’t have the burden put on them. Robertson says the board needs to make cuts, and he cites the new assistant principals hired at most elementary school. He would like to see technology help cut down on costs._____________________________________________________James Sexton has spent nearly 40 years in JCPS and has worked as a principal, teacher and counselor among other jobs within the school system. He is currently the teacher of Greater Clark Middle/High School in southern Indiana. How to improve student achievement: Sexton believes that neighborhood schools are very important to the district’s success. He further believes that JCPS must eliminate the talent drain, with both students and teachers. Sexton says the state isn’t aware of what’s going on in the district, and believes that transferring teachers out of poor performing schools, as mandated, isn’t helping.Student assignment plan: Sexton argues that JCPS has a talent drain and that students are leaving the district for neighboring counties and private schools. He says that to achieve the growth, JCPS needs to keep students and neighborhood schools are essential to this.School budget/taxing: Sexton does not believes in new taxes. He thinks that there could be further administration cuts and says he would vote to not increase taxes in the future.
The Louisville Waste Management District has passed a resolution adopting a new five-year solid waste management plan. The plan now goes to the state for approval.The plan sets a vision for the county--one that includes more recycling and less landfilling of trash. With help from a Bloomberg Philanthropies grant, the county plans to increase the recycling rate to 50 percent of all waste in three years and to 90 percent in 30 years. The plan also proposes a ban on plastic bags for use with yard waste, because plastic contaminates the yard waste and makes it impossible to compost. Solid Waste Advisory Board member Sarah Lynn Cunningham says although the public is under the impression that the yard waste is composted, in reality almost all of it goes into the landfill to be used for daily cover.When I reported on the issue last month, Metro Public Works estimated 70 percent of the yard waste ends up in the landfill because of contamination. Metro Government pays Waste Management $31 a ton to haul away the yard waste, for a cost of nearly $1.4 million over the last four fiscal years.If plastic bags weren't used for yard waste, at least one form of contamination would be avoided. In a first step to implement that goal, the district’s board drafted an ordinance. The measure requires yard waste to be placed in either reusable containers, paper bags or certified compostable bags. The board has the authority to pass the ordinance itself, but is first seeking input from Metro Council members and the Mayor.
The Kentucky Commission on Tax Reform is planning to ask for an extension.That's according to commission chair and Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson, who says there are too many options for reforming the state tax code to fully consider by the November 15th deadline.“I think at our next meeting unless we solve the whole thing in five hours I’ll probably ask the group to give me the authority to request of the governor an extension of time and I feel very confident we’ll be able to get that,” says Abramson, adding that the final report could be complete by mid-December.“You know we are moving in the right direction. We just need some more time,” he says. “Everybody is working hard and we’ve been listening, we’ve been traveling, we’ve been learning, and now here we go…this is the big time.”But the likelihood that the issue will be taken up in the next legislative session in January is remote.“This is non-budget session…it’s called a short session, and to bring up any financial matters, you need a super-majority. You know, issues of taxes have winners and losers and generally speaking we’ll be doing well if we can get majority rather than a super-majority,” he says.Tax reform legislation has traditionally failed in the General Assembly.The next commission meeting is on November 8.
The Indiana Court of Appeals has thrown out a deal between the Indiana Finance Authority and a company that wants to sell synthetic gas to the state's utility customers.From The Associated Press:The court ruled Tuesday that the deal should not include certain industrial customers, so the Finance Authority and Indiana Gasification must amend the contract and seek new approval by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.Finance Authority attorney Andrew Kienle says it hopes to get a new deal done by the end of the year. Indiana Gasification spokesman Mike Murphy says the company believes the ruling clears the way for its proposed coal-gasification plant in Rockport.Consumer attorney Jerry Polk predicts more fighting over the deal. His clients oppose the deal.I reported on this plant earlier this year, when the public comment period ended in January. At the time, experts were conflicted about using coal to create synthetic gas.Industry experts say coal gasification is a viable technology, and a way to use coal in a cleaner—and sometimes more versatile—way.Jim Neathery of UK’s Center for Applied Energy Research says the technology has been available for decades. He says sometimes it makes sense to convert coal to gas, because people use gas to heat their homes, and the infrastructure already exists to transport the fuel.“It makes a lot more in sense in terms of the environment too,” he said. “You’re able to clean the coal while you’re converting it to get a natural gas that meets standards of any home in the United States by gasifying it.”But environmental groups say using coal to create synthetic gas still releases excess carbon dioxide, and thus isn't good for the environment. And with low natural gas prices, the economic question is whether it's a better investment to build a natural gas plant or spend billions to build a plant to create synthetic gas.