- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:

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June 28

Lexington Herald-Leader on the National Mining Association’s opposition to U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers’ RECLAIM Act:

A lot of Kentuckians and West Virginians plaster their vehicles and bodies with “Friends of Coal.” But the friendship is not mutual, as an industry group is proving by trying to sabotage U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers’ RECLAIM Act.

Rogers’ legislation would put unemployed miners back to work reclaiming abandoned mine sites by spending proceeds from an industry fee in communities where the money, by law, is owed. That is, places where health and safety are at risk from the damage left by mining.

Repeat: The $1 billion in outlays over five years proposed by Rogers is part of a $2.5 billion fund that has been collected from coal companies and is owed to states and tribes across the country, especially in Appalachia where the profitable coal reserves are tapped out and the danger from abandoned mines is most extensive.

Rogers’ bill cleared its first hurdle Tuesday, approval by the House Committee on Natural Resources, but had to overcome opposition from the National Mining Association, an industry group made up of coal companies and related interests, including the Kentucky Coal Association.

In a June 22 letter, National Mining Association President and CEO Hal Quinn urged Congress to defeat Republican Rogers’ RECLAIM Act.

The industry wants an overhaul of the 40-year-old abandoned mine lands program and an end to the fee of 28 cents a ton on surface-mined coal and 12 cents a ton on coal mined underground to restore damage from mining that predated a 1977 federal law. (For reference, per-ton coal prices range from $11.55 in the Power River basin to $52.55 in Central Appalachia.)

Because Rogers’ bill does not deliver what the industry wants, Quinn is urging its defeat, while acknowledging that the point of the bill (or, as he put it, the “ostensible purpose”) is to promote “economic revitalization and diversification of distressed coal mining communities.”

Because it can’t have what it wants, the industry insists that money owed to desperate coal regions must sit idle. Is that any way to treat a friend?

The RECLAIM Act encourages partnerships that link sites that will be reclaimed to plans for economic development.

The committee approved a friendly amendment by Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., guaranteeing the public a chance to collaborate and participate in the economic planning.

Grassroots groups in Kentucky and surrounding states have worked for years to build support for RECLAIM in Congress and in local courthouses and city halls.

Since Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signed on as a sponsor in March, this should be the Congress when all that hard work pays off.

Online: https://www.kentucky.com/

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July 2

Daily News of Bowling Green on the life and death of Downing Museum founder Jerry E. Baker:

Out of everything Jerry E. Baker achieved in his life, his profound generosity and willingness to share his success are the most laudable.

Baker, who founded the Downing Museum and the nearly 115-acre Baker Arboretum that surrounds it, died June 22, 2017. He was 86 years old.

In life, Baker was best known for the arboretum and art museum he created on his property at 4801 Morgantown Road. Walk past the arboretum’s manicured conifer trees or tour the museum’s display of the largest collection of the late Joe Downing’s art, and you’ll begin to grasp the breadth of Baker’s altruism.

In April 2006, Baker made a $15 million gift to Western Kentucky University including his home, art collection and arboretum - at the time the single largest gift by an individual to a public university in Kentucky. Baker continued adding to that gift, bringing it to $17 million. Following his death, Baker’s assets go to the Baker Foundation with WKU as the beneficiary. WKU will maintain the museum and arboretum through the support of the foundation.

John Paul Blair, WKU’s interim vice president for development and alumni relations, put it best when he described the depth of Baker’s generosity and legacy.

“His impact will go on forever as a result,” he said.

“No one has given more to WKU in our history financially than Jerry Baker.”

Baker’s life stands as an example for all of us. He shows us that, although everyone might not have his means, we can all give what we have to each other so we can all get to a better place.

When Blair recalls the character of Baker’s brand of giving, he remembers when Baker donated $100,000 to establish a scholarship for WKU’s women’s basketball program. At a reception before a basketball game, Blair said he asked Baker about his love for women’s basketball.

“I asked Jerry if he was a regular attender of the Lady Topper games, and he told me it was his first one,” Blair said, adding Baker made the donation to support a friend.

That unselfish generosity toward our friends is something we should all try to emulate in our daily lives.

Too often, we strive for success in our careers for our own sake. Baker never kept his success to himself.

After graduating in 1951 from Bowling Green Business University, which would later become part of WKU, he was drafted into the U.S. Air Force to fight in the Korean War. After returning home, he worked with a Louisville accounting firm for a year and went to work with his father at his newly purchased company - Southern Welding Supply.

The company’s industrial gases supplied cylinders used by medical offices, hospitals and industries, according to Baker’s obituary. Baker bought out his father in 1971 and then expanded the company into other Kentucky counties. He sold the company in 1986 to Airgas, which quickly became one of the largest distributors in the country. Baker remained on the board at Airgas as a regional executive in various roles until he retired in 2010.

Baker could have lived a more comfortable life and chosen to keep his well-earned success to himself. But that wasn’t the man he was. Instead, he created an arboretum and museum to share his passions with the public.

That gift to WKU is only part of his decades-long support of WKU and other local organizations. Other contributions include professorships in horticulture and music, as well as scholarships in horticulture, music, dance, art and athletics.

Baker’s story shows us that we all have something to contribute, no matter the size or our backgrounds, to make the lives around us better.

That lesson, as much as his beautiful arboretum and museum, will stand as his legacy.

Online: https://www.bgdailynews.com/

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June 30

The Courier-Journal of Louisville on how a city ordinance affects food trucks:

Louisville is proud of being a foodie town. Food trucks are part of that scene and add to the vibe the city is desperately seeking.

A city ordinance puts food trucks at a competitive disadvantage.

It’s time for Louisville to revisit the ordinance governing food trucks.

The city now prevents food trucks from operating within 150 feet of a bricks-and-mortar restaurant if the mobile business sells main featured items like those offered in restaurants. That’s a competitive disadvantage for the food trucks.

A traditional restaurant shouldn’t need to worry about the competition if it is offering great food and great service.

That limit, especially in downtown, makes it difficult, if not impossible for a food truck operator to succeed.

The current ordinance should be repealed and modified.

Two food-truck operators have filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging Louisville’s ordinance. There are no protections for a competing restaurant to open near an existing establishment.

Let’s be realistic, a food truck must not be squatting outside the front door of a restaurant. There must be rules of the road, so to speak. Operators already must be licensed, insured, adhere to restaurant health regulations, and follow other location restrictions, like not operating too closely to residential areas.

San Antonio and El Paso, Texas, repealed similar location protections of restaurants after the Institute for Justice challenged the restriction. That group is behind the Louisville lawsuit and cases in Baltimore and Chicago.

We so want to be hip and thriving like Austin, Texas. Food trucks were on the scene in Austin, a place renowned for its vibe, years before arriving in Louisville. Food trucks in Austin can’t be located within 20 feet of traditional restaurants and enforcement is complaint driven.

Look there for guidance.

Use #foodtrucksfairshake

Online: https://www.courier-journal.com/

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