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February 6, 2007

No reprimand in sight for MSD

Government accountability is about as low as the temperature around here right now: In light of a jury decision that MSD and its executive director violated state law by laying off an employee and a contractor who reported what they believed to be ethical and legal transgressions within the agency to the Kentucky Attorney General, the Mayor — who appointed both MSD’s Board of Directors and its chief — won’t do anything at all.“The Mayor is pleased with the leadership of MSD and the progress they have made, and the court case hasn’t changed that,” Chad Carlton, spokesman for Mayor Jerry Abramson, wrote in an e-mail response to LEO last week. Read: MSD executive director Bud Schardein’s job is safe.MSD spent well over a quarter of a million dollars of ratepayer money defending actions that turned out to violate state law, which raises the question about what it might take to actually shake up the Old White Boys network in the Metro. But MSD is not in the clear yet. A spokeswoman for Attorney General Greg Stumbo said his office has two open investigations relating to MSD: One concerning a plan to increase capacity at its Floyds Fork Wastewater Treatment Plant, which may contravene Kentucky Administrative Regulations; and two, the complaint filed by ex-employee Sarah Lynn Cunningham in May 2004 alleging political patronage on a capital project. The latter was the subject of the recently decided lawsuit. Additionally, state Sen. Dan Seum (R-38) said last week that he’s considering proposing legislation to provide more governmental oversight for MSD — perhaps creating a more diverse group to appoint its Board members than just the Mayor — though there is nothing concrete right now. —Stephen GeorgeWage against the machineThe United States Senate — new and improved, with 2 percent fewer stingy, rich, white guys — passed a bill to increase the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour. But unlike the House bill, which was as pure and simple as the smile on a part-time Wal-Mart greeter’s face, the Senate bill came with an unsightly blemish: $8.3 billion in tax cuts for business. Because hey, we can’t give the workers a boost without greasing the palms of those who fund the campaigns, right?Now, the House and Senate must reconcile the two bills, in what is sure to be an arm-twisting negotiation of near Aaron Sorkin proportions. Complicating matters is a constitutional precedent that mandates that all American legislation be so convoluted that robber barons come out with the biggest piece of the pie. By the time it’s done, the measure might well include new seat warmers for all corporate jets. Whatever the outcome, both chambers agree on the basics of the wage increase, and President Bush has said he’ll sign it. Assuming Congress doesn’t completely blow it, minimum wage workers will see their pay rise, starting 60 days after the president signs the bill into law. But if you’re a minimum-wage worker, don’t rush out and buy that new Lexus yet. The wage will increase in 70-cent increments over the next two years. —Jim WelpWho’s your dog(ma) in this fight?From the Sweet Jesus! beat: Almost 2,000 people showed up last Sunday for a rally at the Evangel World Prayer Center to support Zionism, the contentious Jewish political movement largely responsible for the creation of Israel and supporter of the continued Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories like the West Bank, Gaza and Golan Heights.The occupation, of course, violates the boundaries established by the United Nations in 1947, which partitioned the former Palestine into a half-Jewish, half-Arab state. Zionists have continued to argue, despite historical evidence, that Palestine was a “country without a nation” when the Jews arrived en masse.Evangel, the religiopolitical movement, has decided to shift some of its weight behind the Zionists in the Israel-Palestine conflict. It’s an apparent revision of focus for the doomsday crowd, from converting every non-believer walking the streets to simply converting those who aren’t Muslim to a firm belief that Palestinians should be stripped of their land in Jerusalem. Awesome. They even got a native Palestinian whose conversion to Christianity opened his eyes to the righteousness of Jews over Arabs to give the keynote speech, in which he delivered this lovely, peacemaking line: “Do not choose Jerusalem for the Arabs.” Double awesome. In keeping with tradition, those “Christians” of Evangel retained the most radical viewpoints — these are the people who believe the Rapture is nigh, which absolves them of any responsibility to, say, preserve the Earth. Conversely, Jewish speakers and some attendees evoked the need for a two-state solution, putting first and foremost the real, human issue at hand in this gruesome conflict: how to get Israelis and Palestinians to stop killing each other. —Stephen GeorgeSurge suppressorThree and a half years after President Bush’s infamous Mission Accomplished declaration, the world got a true sign of the imminent end of the Iraq war when Sen. Mitch McConnell set a timeline for stopping the madness within the next nine months. Naturally, McConnell is one of the last Bushies to come to terms with what the American people have known for a couple of years: The war is lost.McConnell said Bush’s urge to surge has “six to nine months to succeed” or “we’ll have to go in a new direction.” The McConnell awakening is significant because the Senate Minority Leader has supported Bush consistently since time immemorial. And because when Mitch McConnell hints the war should end, Cindy Sheehan’s work is pretty much done. Why the sudden turnaround? ’08, baby. That’s when McConnell will have to defend his performance to voters, many of whom are tired of seeing such a powerful senator squander his leadership position supporting failed Bush policies and taking dancing orders from his corporate puppeteers.It’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for Anne Northup. McConnell’s flip-flop on setting a timeline sounded an awful lot like Northup’s heat-of-the-moment diss of Donald Rumsfeld during last year’s loss to U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth. Northup was slammed for being hypocritical, whereas McConnell was widely praised for being “politically shrewd” for standing up to Bush. Can McConnell have his yellowcake and eat it too? Only ’08 voters know for sure. Meanwhile, with the dead in Iraq piling up, the Senate took decisive action: It spent the week arguing about how to word a non-binding resolution declaring that President Bush is a doody-head and that his surge plan is yucky. —Jim WelpFind your daily dose of Strobe at The Lip: LEO’s News Blog, www.leoweekly.com. Make peace with the writers at citystrobe@leoweekly.com