Issue October 16, 2007

Erosia

LEO welcomes letters that are brief (250 words max) and thoughtful. Ad hominem attacks will be ignored, and we need your name and a daytime phone number. Send snail mail to EROSIA, 640 S. Fourth St., Louisville, Ky. 40202. Fax to 895-9779 or e-mail to leo@leoweekly.com. We may edit for length, grammar and clarity.

Look to the Legislature
Candidates for Kentucky governor continue to trade barbs and raise questions about the other’s ethical standards and purported lapses, ratcheting up the issue of ethics in these dwindling days of the election. Lost in the debate, however, is the fact that there is an opportunity within the legislative process to address these very issues.

To that end, I, along with House Speaker Jody Richards, are pre-filing two bills to strengthen the ethical standards of Kentucky’s elected officials.
One bill would ensure governors and other statewide elected officers could not raise legal defense funds from persons who do business with state government. And it would require names of donors to come to light well in advance of elections.

Voters deserve to know this basic fact so they can evaluate whether there is a conflict of interest or undue influence from special interests before they go to the polls.
The other would allow a vote amending the Kentucky Constitution to prohibit governors from pardoning themselves, and would stipulate that governors could not pardon individuals unless they had been formally charged or convicted of a crime.

The amendment would prohibit blanket pardons of persons who had not been charged with a crime, and would require the individual seeking a pardon to apply for the reprieve.
Any change to the governor’s pardoning power would have to be approved by Kentucky voters; if the measure passes the General Assembly next year, the referendum would be decided as part of the 2008 General Election ballot.

There is no intrinsic right of a governor to issue pardons. That’s a power that’s been granted by the citizens of this Commonwealth, and the citizens have a right to refine that power if they feel it’s being abused.
Taken together, both bills would help restore the public’s confidence in our elected officials, and ensure that justice is meted out fairly.
Rep. Darryl Owens, D-43, Louisville


Wet/Dry Responsibility

The television media portrayed councilwoman Mary Woolridge as trying to get control of outraged citizens she claimed were not from her district and were brought there by liquor store owners (regarding the wet/dry vote in the West End). They failed to report that Woolridge caused the outburst. Announcements sent did not inform the constituents there would be no discussions.

The speaker was introduced; everyone was told he could take as much time as he needed. When a woman in the audience asked why we couldn’t speak, Woolridge called an officer to remove the woman from the meeting. Others began to ask why. Woolridge shouted, “I am the councilperson, I set the agenda, and I said no comments.” This is what caused the outbursts and the walkouts.

I am not in favor of a wet/dry vote. These establishments have been around for years and established within the laws that govern liquor sales. They hire people from the neighborhoods where they are located.

Woolridge said she has received calls from her constituents concerning loitering and suspected illegal activity. I am not saying she hasn’t received calls, but at what point should people take the responsibility for what goes on in their neighborhoods? There are laws against loitering. Why aren’t the police called? Eventually the offenders will move on; if you see suspicious activity, call the police. People engaged in illegal activities don’t want to be around police.

Liquor stores are not the problem. We all know, Woolridge included, that it’s the use and sale of illegal drugs. Are Woolridge and her constituents afraid to tackle the real problem?
I am not in favor of any new liquor stores opening in our district, but I am not in favor of taking someone’s livelihood. What worked for Cheri Bryant Hamilton may be political suicide for Mary Woolridge.
Marsha Bailey, Coalition for the Homeless, Louisville

An Invisible Privilege

Usually I read the columns of Ricky L. Jones purely for comic relief, but sometimes he almost finds a way to stumble onto the truth. In Jones’ Sept. 26 LEO column, he discussed the “invisible privilege” (paraphrasing here) that white people have in our society. That reminded me of something discussed in the now infamous Bill O’Reilly broadcast about race. At one point, O’Reilly mentioned that many people see the exploits of black people like Michael Vick, O.J., numerous rap stars, the Jena 6, etc., and then make the assumption that all black people must act the same way. And I don’t doubt that there are many people out there who do think that way (including, sadly, some of my close friends). O’Reilly and his guests noted that the exploits of these high-profile people often overshadow the daily lives of the masses of all black people. And again, that is probably also true.

On the flip side of all that, though, is the fact that I’ve never known of anyone who sees the exploits of people like Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, etc., and then suggests that all white people, or even all white women, must behave the same way. Therein lies the “invisible privilege.” Many people still quickly group all blacks together into one narrow set of values and behaviors based on what they see and hear, but do not do the same for all whites. So on this issue, intentionally or not, Jones actually got it right.

However, then he concludes by writing something completely absurd when he noted, “By the way, O.J. was set up.” Jones should know that whether or not that is true is irrelevant. It was still O.J. who broke into the hotel room, and therefore, committed a crime in doing so. Marion Barry was supposedly once set up as well, but it was still Barry who was caught smoking crack in another infamous hotel room. Defending O.J.’s actions makes me seriously question Jones’ self-proclaimed “intellectual” status, and it certainly makes me wonder if he will ever really get it right on a consistent basis.
Rick Robbins, Sellersburg

Easy Riders

I would like add a few thoughts to the dialog regarding bicycle use, starting with a brief response to the Sept. 26 “Peddling Common Sense” Erosia letter; it was interesting, but illogical.

It is true that bicyclists do not pay road taxes (assuming those persons do not own cars). However, bicycles have an infinitesimal effect on the roads they ride upon. Bicycling has the lowest impact on infrastructure of any vehicular traffic; road repairs cannot seriously be called a response to them.

We know that bicycles have very low environmental impact and are quiet, space conserving and extremely efficient. What, then, allows the attitude that the car driver is entitled to road exclusivity? That is, what benefit can the driver say he or she is giving to the community, thereby granting them supremacy of the pavement? By what does the driver earn his or her pride?

In many parts of the world, bicyclists — not to mention pedestrians, scooter riders and motorcyclists — are respected. They are not cursed when lane-splitting up to the front of the stalled pack; they are veritably expected to “filter” through the larger grains and help keep traffic moving. A more progressive attitude here toward transportation — as a communal and not strictly personal act — might suit us better.

I am not an avid bicyclist; I own one and ride sometimes, but not with the commitment of our many bicycle commuters. I travel mostly by motorbike, so I do have to be constantly prepared for inattentive drivers, as bicyclists do. I also have to deal with rain and cold, heat and fumes, dangerous road conditions, etc.
But in the end, I’m still burning up that sweet oil. So, whenever I see a bicycle rider ahead, I give him a wide berth. I can spare a few seconds for my non-motorized brethren because, as soon as I’ve passed, I can resume my prior speed. No problem.

Please, Louisville, show those who are giving more of themselves on the road a little love. As falsely poetic as it may sound, they are saving our world a bit each day. Hubris behind the steering wheel will get us nowhere.
Jeff Blanchard, Louisville

Summer Blues
I attended the Iraq Summer event at Bellarmine University. A letter, in the Oct. 3 LEO, expressed that “… many speakers spoke of the suffering of the Iraqi people and our obligations to them,” responding to Lucinda Marshall’s column of Sept. 19 in which the writer had complained about the lack of coverage of the plight of the Iraqis. The only mention of the Iraqi people I heard during the Iraq Summer event was that the Iraqis had suffered 40,000 deaths since March 2003. The Lancet (a prestigious British medical journal) figure is 600,000 Iraqi deaths. I was surprised to hear such a low Iraqi casualty figure. I was still in shock from witnessing those 700-800 people standing and pledging their allegiance to the flag at the beginning of the Democratic Party meeting … oops … I mean the Iraq Summer event. I was led to believe this event was an anti-war rally.

Another surprise for me was the statement that the big winners of this war have been Halliburton and Iran. The only thing Iran may “win” from this war is a “shock and awe” campaign dropped on them by the U.S. military.  
Call me a purist, but I can’t support Iraq Summer’s attempts to end the war while promoting such dishonesty about the reality of that war. I can’t support a Democratic Party whose top three candidates say they can’t have all the troops out of Iraq by 2013. We are living in very disturbing times in a country whose executive branch is out of control, checks and balances are long gone and the opposition party keeps voting the money to carry out unlawful war and occupation. I don’t pretend to know what the answer is. I do know that blindly supporting the Democrats is not the answer.   
Nancy Jakubiak, Clarksville

Penny For Your Thoughts

Each year in Louisville, many of our homeless brothers and sisters are assaulted, raped and killed. Most of these crimes go unsolved. We have an affordable housing shortage in Louisville. There are many wrecks caused by aggressive and/or careless drivers here in our hometown, probably on a daily basis. And yet, what are our city’s leaders doing? Considering a ban on “aggressive” panhandling. Is this really a problem?

Who has been hurt by panhandlers? What are the homeless costing us by asking, “Can you spare a quarter?” Are we really going to curtail free speech rights merely because we find panhandling unpleasant? I live, work, walk and play downtown. I’m out on our streets every day, at all hours of the day. Do I get asked for money? Daily. But is it a real problem, one that requires we create a law taking away free speech rights from a segment of our population? No!

Before our leaders start taking away our liberties, they have to demonstrate why in the world this law is even needed in the first place. If they can’t offer any reason better than, “They’re scary,” or, “It makes me feel uncomfortable,” then they need to set aside this law and try to deal with some of our serious problems.
Crimes against the homeless and mentally ill, aggressive and irresponsible driving, housing shortages … THESE are real problems that ought to be dealt with. Not, “Buddy, can you spare a dime?”
Dan Trabue, Louisville