- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:


Jan. 28

Lexington (Kentucky) Herald-Leader on legislative leaders’ poor management:

Leadership at the Legislative Research Commission, whose staff drafts the laws we live by in Kentucky, systematically wrecked a cardinal law of management: the rule of no surprises.

A report on the LRC released late Monday describes a place where an official information vacuum gave rise to a communication maze that is “inefficient, irregular, subject to error” and doesn’t reach all employees.

Workers aren’t told what’s expected of them, how they will be evaluated, how their pay is calculated, who they report to or the goals of the organization.

Under former executive director Bobby Sherman, they rarely saw top managers, almost never had staff meetings, and didn’t know about job openings until they were filled.

The legislative leaders who oversee the LRC staff have violated the rule themselves, promising new leadership and a rapid response after sexual harassment charges laid bare endemic problems and forced Sherman’s resignation in the fall of 2013.

They quickly contracted with the National Conference of State Legislatures to analyze the agency and pledged an intense search for a new executive director.

Instead they surprised staff and public with … nothing. At least until, after pestering by this newspaper, they finally released the draft NCSL report, nine months after receiving it.

Enough. It’s time for action.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, and House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, who lead the legislative group that oversees the LRC, must begin the search for a permanent executive director and develop a strategy to improve the culture and working conditions at the LRC …

Although the LRC is unknown to many Kentuckians, there are few agencies that have such a wide-ranging impact.

The modern LRC came into being in the 1970s when legislators, tired of simply taking orders from the governor, saw the need for their own full-time, independent and professional staff.

As staff for the part-time citizen legislators, the LRC performs research on every issue the General Assembly considers, drafts the laws that govern us and provides the nuts and bolts support that keeps legislative offices functioning.

That’s why the surprises must end and the reforms begin.




Jan. 27

The Independent, Ashland, Kentucky, on utility bills:

At last some good news regarding our ever increasing utility bills. Kentucky Power customers, which includes most residential and commercial electric consumers in the Independent’s circulation area, will soon get a refund from Kentucky Power after the Public Service Commission ruled the company has been overcharging its customers.

The refund ordered by the PSC is not just pocket change. Kentucky Power was ordered to refund $13.2 million to ratepayers in unlawful fuel costs and barred the company from collecting an estimated $41 million in additional fuel costs that were to be collected through the end of May, according to Attorney General Jack Conway’s office. Its timing is sure to help Conway in his bid to win the Democratic nomination for governor, but the impetus for the ruling has little to do with politics. It was to put the brakes on Kentucky Power’s rate increases, which have soared since the company announced plans to shut down one unit of the Big Sandy Power Plan near Louisa and purchase 50 percent of the Mitchell Power Plant in Moundsville, W.Va.

The shutdown of a portion of one of the two generators at Big Sandy is supposed to occur this year. With its closing will come the loss of some of the best paying jobs in Lawrence County. In addition, it will eliminate the jobs of scores of truck drivers who earn a good living by transporting coal from the mines to the power plant. Also likely to disappear are the jobs of many coal miners in a region that already has seen scores of coal-mining jobs disappear …

The average Kentucky Power residential customer will save approximately $155 as a result of the PSC’s ruling that Kentucky Power overcharged its customers, Conway predicted. Already Kentucky Power customers are reaping the benefits of the PSC’s action in their January electric bills. One customer on KPC’s budget plan saw his bill drop from $209 in December to just less than $158 in January. Two years ago, that customer’s month budget bill was $150 a month …

Kentucky law allows electric generating utilities to bill ratepayers for the reasonable costs of fuel required to run the generating plants on a monthly basis, and those charges appear each month on a customer’s monthly bill. In last week’s order, citing joint testimony from the Office of the Attorney General and Kentucky Industrial Utility Customers (KIUC), the PSC ruled Kentucky Power violated precedent and prior orders in the process it uses to determine fuel charges for ratepayers …

It used to be that one of the relatively few advantages this part of Kentucky had over most of the rest of the country in attracting new industry was our low electricity rates. That advantage has largely disappeared with the rate hikes in recent years. We applaud Kentucky Power for refunding some of what we all have been paying for electricity, even if it did not want to do so.




Jan. 28

The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Kentucky, on Walmart’s superstore plans:

After months of discussion, controversy, public hearings and even prayer, the Louisville Metro Planning Commission faces a key vote Thursday on whether to approve plans for a Wal-Mart superstore in West Louisville at 18th Street and Broadway.

Its decision comes down to this single question: Will Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, get a pass on planning and zoning rules that apply to everyone else?

Or will the 10 members of the commission stick to the rules they routinely require other developers to meet?

Though the stakes are high, there simply is no compelling reason for the commission to change just for Wal-Mart the rules spelled out in Louisville’s Land Development Code.

Wal-Mart is demanding special permission to build a suburban, big box store 154,000 square feet in size, some 400 feet off the road, and fronted by a vast asphalt parking lot of more than 600 spaces.

It has refused to consider building an “urban Wal-Mart” - less boxy and closer to the street - even though it has done so in other cities including Washington, D.C., Chicago and Knoxville to comply with planning rules.

Louisville’s planning code requires new buildings in downtown areas and in traditional, urban neighborhoods to be built on the sidewalk with downsized parking to promote walking and cycling and improve pedestrian access. Corner sites are especially critical for enhancing the appearance and accessibility of developments.

And developers increasingly are complying with such rules - the new, $21.5 million YMCA planned directly across 18th street from the Wal-Mart site will be built at the corner of 18th and Broadway, with parking in the back. Other new businesses along Broadway ranging from drugstores to fast-food restaurants comply with the rules.

Now it’s up to Louisville to decide whether to settle for less when it comes to Wal-Mart …

Wal-Mart already is getting $2.3 million in city financial incentives for the $25 million project - $1.8 million to acquire land and a $500,000 cash grant over five years if it creates at least 225 jobs.

Many voices are urging the commission to side with Wal-Mart, citing the projected 300 jobs and economic boon of a superstore …

Yet other voices in the community, chiefly those seeking neighborhood preservation and adherence to planning guidelines, argue they have been shut out of the discussion, stonewalled when they attempted to negotiate with Wal-Mart or city officials.

They are offering a counter-proposal that would at least place smaller storefronts along the street.

But Wal-Mart apparently believes it has no need to further revise its plans.

The planning commission should decide otherwise.



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