Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:
The Lexington Herald-Leader on the federal coronavirus relief package and regulating horse racing in Kentucky:
For the next few weeks, reporters will be scrutinizing all the goodies that got snuck into the year-end spending bill which includes too little for federal COVID relief and too much for bizarre pet projects for lawmakers, like $35 million for sex abstinence programs, $2.4 billion for “Space Force” and yet another tax break for those suffering, down-trodden race horse owners.
One of these additions, however, is good for Kentucky, not because it’s graft or grift, but because it will bring a much-needed level of regulation and oversight to horse racing, which has been plagued by a series of doping scandals and the racetrack deaths of far too many horses in the past few years.
The Horse Racing Integrity Act, was first introduced by U.S. Rep. Andy Barr six years ago, and finally embraced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, after Churchill Downs joined Keeneland, the Jockey Club and other major racing groups. In the end, McConnell made sure the bill was part of the larger legislation.
HISA would end the state-controlled fiefdoms of various state racing oversight groups and develop a federal anti-doping and racetrack safety program aimed at lessening race track medications. The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) will be in charge of standardizing all doping and medication rules for tracks.
This is a huge step for the industry, which was signing its own death warrant with willful ignorance about the extent of over-medication and doping that many believe was leading to equine breakdowns and deaths. The sport’s most major players, the tracks, long resisted federal oversight, but they finally bowed to the inevitable. Most tracks have already started initiatives to ban race day medication, which has long been required in the rest of the world.
The bill is not perfect. According to Animal Welfare Action President Wayne Pacelle, the legislation leaves out crucial language on soring, and other practices used on Tennessee Walking Horses.
“Congress rightly took action to unwind cheating and doping in Thoroughbred racing, and this is the first Congressional reform focused on the safety of the human and non-human athletes involved in the sport,” Pacelle said. “But in a massive fumble, lawmakers threw up their hands after some animal welfare, veterinary, and horse industry groups raised irrational and specious concerns about the compromise measure to ban horse soring in America.”
But this bill is crucial to save horse racing, and the Kentucky breeding industry that supplies it. The deaths of at least 50 horses at Santa Anita since 2018 led to renewed calls to outlaw horse racing altogether.
Instead, HISA will bring more integrity, more safety, and hopefully more fans to one of our state’s signature industries.
The Daily News on a former college basketball coach in Kentucky who recently died:
There’s one word that sums up John Oldham, the beloved former Western Kentucky University men’s basketball coach who recently died at age 97 – integrity.
No other test of character encapsulates that fact more than when Oldham led WKU to the 1971 NCAA Final Four. During that time, with an all-Black starting lineup, Oldham supported his players, even when he was receiving threatening letters and police had to regularly check under his car to make sure it was safe before he left E.A. Diddle Arena.
Early that season, an injury created an opening in the team’s starting lineup and Oldham chose to start an all-Black group of five players. Among them was Clarence Glover, who recently shared the story with Daily News reporter Jared MacDonald.
“He received mail, threats on his life, different type of things. Even was called in by one member of the board of regents in regard to him going to start five players of color,” Glover told the Daily News last month after Oldham’s death.
When Oldham was called in, Glover said, “he offered his resignation because he said that he was not starting players because of the color of their skin, he was starting the players he thought he could win with. He told the university that he would resign, but he would not change.”
Oldham held the line. No resignation was accepted, and WKU went on to reach the men’s basketball Final Four that year for its first and only time in history.
All the while, Oldham let his players focus on playing.
“The other coaches may have known this. We did not. He did not place the burden on us. He kept it upon himself. I think that was the integrity he had as a person, as a human being, that he would shoulder that type of burden,” Glover said.
Oldham, who was named Coach of the Year of the Ohio Valley Conference four times, continued to show integrity throughout his career, going on to become WKU’s athletics director from 1971-86. Under his leadership, WKU won six OVC All-Sports Championships and one Sun Belt Conference All-Sports Championship.
Oldham has the admiration of former WKU President Gary Ransdell, who called him an “absolute gentleman” who succeeded Coach Ed Diddle after a coaching stint at Tennessee Tech University “with class and style.”
“To come back home and succeed at Diddle must have been exhilarating and a bit daunting, and I admire the way he did that so successfully and wrote his own chapter in our university’s history book,” Ransdell recently told the Daily News.
Despite his well-earned prestige, Oldham kept his feet on the ground, said Gary West, who was Oldham’s chief fundraiser as head of the Hilltopper 100 Club, now named the Hilltopper Athletic Foundation.
“He did everything with not a lot of drama, with ease. He let everybody else get the credit,” West said. “He was so comfortable within himself that he was an amazing guy to work for.”
The News-Enterprise on drawing new districts in Kentucky:
The League of Women Voters of Kentucky is getting out front on an issue that should be of keen interest to all Kentucky voters.
The League released maps this week that it says demonstrates how boundaries of Kentucky’s legislative districts can be drawn to which makes the boundaries more compact and, best of all, fair.
“We’re doing this now to show our fellow Kentuckians what simpler, fairer maps can look like and to encourage broad citizen involvement in next year’s redistricting work,” Fran Wagner, LWVKY president, said in a statement issued Monday.
Every 10 years upon release of the U.S. Census figures all states redraw boundaries for federal and state legislative districts. It’s supposed to ensure the principle of fair representation for all. Unfortunately, it often becomes a tool of self-interest for current legislators and particularly the party in power.
That’s how the 16th largest city in the state – Radcliff – was sliced and subdivided into multiple districts, diluting its impact and influence in favor of rural areas in adjacent counties.
Similarly, it explains how a House district once serving a big part of northern Hardin County was reshaped a decade ago to take in all of Grayson County with a little geographic finger stretching across the center of Hardin County. It’s no coincidence that the district, drawn by Democrats then in power, extended just far enough to encompass the residency of a Republican incumbent with a reputation for straight talk.
It’s also explains how a legislator in Monroe County, which sits just north of the Tennessee border, can be asked to represent a handful of Hardin County precincts that struggle to find their representative’s hometown on a map.
The League’s map reflects census analysis and projections. The real numbers won’t be available until early next year and this issue likely will not be studied by the legislature until 2022.
But it’s map should fuel discussions and, hopefully, alert voters to pressure their legislators for fairness and equity in the process.
State Sen. Dennis Parrett has a history as a champion for objectivity and doing what’s right on this issue. He’s suggested an independent panel to create a first draft of these all-important district boundaries. Hopefully, similar voices of reason will rise up and accept his challenge.
During the COVID pandemic, Gov. Andy Beshear frequently has denounced the partisan nature of politics and says he finished with such gamesmanship. He certainly could prove it by embracing the League’s work and endorsing a new approach to this process.
The maps drawn by the League are available for download at lwvky.org.
“We really want citizen comments on these maps,” Wagner said. “We’ll be doing another set when the 2020 Census data is released, and ideas we hear now will help us to draw better maps then.”
To leave comments, send an email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization which promotes the informed and active participation of citizens in government.
If politicians are willing to put fairness ahead of self-interest for once, this campaign would fulfill the League’s noble goals.
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