Happy Veterans Day, when it’s less forgivable not to do something we should do throughout the year: thank them for their service and sacrifice. It warms my bypassed heart that our deep debt of gratitude is messaging more meaningfully. Businesses, seemingly in unprecedented numbers, are offering discounts to the selfless souls who protect the land of the free. Most of us, likewise, can offer more than lip service. So ask what you can do for those who’ve done so much for our country. And buy local first from the stores that show good values by giving good values to our invaluable defenders.
This is also an opportune time to thank the medical professionals who spearhead a culture of care at the current Zorn Avenue hospital — and those who are fighting to unlock the landlocked, gridlocked Midlands sliver (at I-264 and Old Brownsboro Road) as the site of a sprawling new VA medical center. It was selected after a costly, all-out campaign by an investment group led by developer Jonathan Blue to unload the vacant property for $3 million more than its fair market value. The process was subverted by misinformation and intimidation, according to a recent Sept. 17 review by the VA Office of Inspector General and news reports.
We already know we were screwed, Blued and tattooed. We have yet to learn how thoroughly. An ongoing congressional probe should reveal the full magnitude of this scandal and further erode public confidence in the integrity of a process designating a historic tract immediately southeast of an infamously snarled interchange.
Feeble efforts to smear the opposition as NIMBYs don’t resonate. In the past three years, I’ve come to admire citizens of committed Midlands opposition groups, all of whom have close ties to veterans and are giving generously of their time and energy to ensure that our soldiers have clear access to magnificent medical facilities. They’re focused on diagnosing and treating a chronically corrupt VA. Some have put their comfortable lives on hold to move a monstrosity-in-the-making while armchair warriors hassle them via turd of mouse and keyboard.
To be okay with the Midlands site assumes that the current level of congestion is acceptable and would remain acceptable until — and long after — the completion of the proposed $1 billion mega-project. Many motorists whose backyards are miles away know that projections of acceptability are batshit crazy. State Sen. Julie Raque Adams (R-36) of Lyndon, who chairs the Senate Health & Welfare Committee, harbors grave reservations of Midlands. During the regular session last winter, she told me on the Senate floor that she uses the interchange routinely — and that it’s already too congested.
Growth is busting out all over the East End. With the completion of the bridge between Prospect, Kentucky and Utica, Indiana, there will be steroidal sprawl. About six miles east of Midlands, an elementary school recently named Norton Commons is emerging to accommodate (and promote) the wildly popular neighborhood of the same name. Strip malls near Holiday Manor, the shopping center adjacent to Midlands, are becoming more dense. The area is destined to become too dense for the proposed VAMC to succeed.
Metro Councilwoman Angela Leet (R-7), an environmental engineer, has earned her rising-star status and encouragement to seek higher office. Seldom do freshmen officeholders show the leadership and expertise to profoundly influence such a critical issue.
As a consequence of her Metro Council resolution, the VA last month capitulated on its steadfast refusal not to commission a voluminous, in-depth Environmental Impact Statement. It will focus on the Midlands site and the Factory Lane site (east of I-265), which is owned by the St. Joseph Catholic Orphans Society. “The EIS will also evaluate the impacts associated with the No Action alternative,” according to an Oct. 30 release. Presumably, that means the VA still intends to vacate the Zorn Avenue site against the wishes of 63 percent of veterans surveyed.
The federal delegation seems to be at odds with the Republican women who hold municipal and state offices. Both U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth (D-3rd) and U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) have urged moving forward with the Midlands project, where construction is delayed for at least two more years.
It’s bad politics and bad policy. Too many potential findings, including “historic and/or prehistoric resources,” according to a 2010 alert from the state historic preservation officer, could scuttle the site.