Inbox — Nov.18, 2009

Letters to the Editor

Nov 18, 2009 at 6:00 am

To conserve and protect?

You succeeded in uncovering some of the twisted truths of River Fields’ strategies on important community issues for the last 5-6 years. It was not until the final route for the East End Bridge was announced about 10 years ago that River Fields and other downtown leaders began to talk about a downtown bridge.

Subsequently, when the design/route for the downtown bridge and the redesigned interchange (Spaghetti Junction) were published, a lot of citizens were seriously alarmed and surprised.

River Fields started out — and always was — a conservation and river edge protection organization. Until recently they claimed as their letterhead logo “guardian of the river” — ironic, considering their lack of protection regarding the impact of the expanded interchange on the “entry” to our city and Waterfront Park.

8664 has proposed, via a ground-level boulevard from I-65 to 15th Street, a 21st-century way to rethink transportation and regenerate large areas west of downtown and the waterfront. This vision overlaps with major recommendations of a Brookings Institution report to the city.

Even though I own property along River Road corridor near the approved East End Bridge approach, I cannot endure the thought of our riverfront and downtown being buried under more concrete and traffic when it took 40 years to revive the Main Street activity, riverfront and downtown reinvestment.

Edie Bingham, member of River Fields, Glenview

Fair Facts

The facts regarding the Henderson Fairness Ordinance as reported by the LEO’s Fairness cover story (Oct. 21 issue) and reiterated by a response in last week’s LEO are flat-out wrong. I was there; in fact, I co-chaired the campaign. The following are the facts:

In the summer of 1999, members of the Henderson Fairness chapter met with City Commissioners Michelle Deep and Sonny Ward and Mayor Joan Hoffman, and shared with them personal stories of discrimination based on sexual orientation. They said they would firmly support an ordinance to prohibit this type of discrimination.

When the campaign went public with its request for the law, a firestorm ensued. What followed were months of newspaper headlines, TV news stories and vicious letters to the editor. There were two public hearings at which Fairness speakers matched the opposition’s speakers until 2 a.m.

Commissioners Deep and Ward and Mayor Hoffman stood firm in their conviction that discrimination based on sexual orientation was wrong and should be illegal. The two other commissioners disagreed. When the vote finally came, the ordinance passed 3 votes to 2.

In November 2000, all four commission seats were on the ballot. Commissioner Ward had informed Henderson Fairness prior to our push for the ordinance that he would not seek another term. We were unable to find another candidate to fill his post. We organized, and Commissioner Deep was re-elected to the relief of Fairness supporters across the state. But, because we were unable to run a supportive candidate, we lost a critical vote on the commission, and the ordinance was quietly repealed in 2001 after nearly two years on the books.

Now, my opinion: Setting the facts in order is important, especially when our elected officials make tough stands. Public servants Michelle Deep, Sonny Ward and Joan Hoffman deserve to be remembered for their integrity. Through all of the heat, I never saw a hint of doubt in their eyes or fear on their faces. I feel working with them during that time was an honor.

Katherine Hope Goodman, former co-chair, Henderson Fairness Campaign, Old Louisville

The Great Gary Stewart

Thank you for your article on Gary Stewart and the origins of country music (LEO Weekly, Nov. 4). I grew up listening to country music in a small Illinois town in the 1970s. Gary Stewart was and is one of my favorite artists, and I appreciate that there is someone out there who recognizes his talent and influence on what is now being called “Americana” music.

In 1976, a friend and I discovered the Out of Hand album in the $1 bin in a record store, and what we heard changed our lives. You never heard anything like “Honky Tonkin’” or “Sweet Country Red.” We were both hooked, and as soon as we got money, we bought every Gary Stewart album we could find! During our youth, we spent our free time road-tripping on country roads and singing his songs at the top of our lungs.

I moved from Illinois to north Florida in 1983, but I kept listening to Gary, and when I would go back home, my friends and I would get together for one more road trip — and yes, Gary Stewart would be blaring away. Since then I have moved to Louisville and am engaged to a lady from Letcher County. I’ve traveled Route 805 and those same roads — from Hazard to Jenkins, Isom and Whitesburg — you traveled to get to Gary’s birthplace, even though we didn’t know exactly where he lived. You can almost feel the spirit of his music in the hollers and ridges in the area.

I didn’t learn that Gary committed suicide until a couple of years ago, but when I did hear, I cried, and even though I drink very little these days, I took a shot of whiskey and played “I Still Can’t Believe You’re Gone” and knew that a legend had passed. Thanks for your article. Hopefully people will read it and wonder who this troubled man was and search for him and his music, so that it might live on in places other than the hearts of the few people who still listen to him. There has never been a talent like Gary Stewart.

Jim Morgan, Corydon, Ind.

Name Dropped

I appreciate the space given to the late, great, star-crossed Gary Stewart (LEO Weekly, Nov. 4), but I must take issue on a number of statements Jonathan Ashley made regarding some of Stewart’s country music forebears. First, I assume it was just an editorial oversight that identified Merle Haggard as a “predecessor” to Lefty Frizell. But I’d like clear up the details put forth regarding the biography and career of Magoffin County’s Buell Kazee. He wasn’t born at the foot of Burton Fork, a mountain, but at the head of Burton’s Fork, a creek. Nor was he anything close to being one of the most “successful folk musicians of the ’20s and ’30s.”

Although he did cut nearly 50 sides — only, by the way, between 1927 and 1929 (he didn’t record or perform in the 1930s) — the most one of his records ever sold was 15,000 copies. That might sound like a lot, especially by today’s standards, but it barely compares to the hundreds of thousands of records sold by some of his contemporaries, like Jimmie Rodgers, Uncle Dave Macon and the Carter Family. Besides, as Charles K. Wolfe has noted, he received no royalties and only received a flat fee of at most $75 per record — one of the reasons why he ultimately hung up music to seek success in the pulpit.

Despite this, however, he remains a deeply influential figure of the hillbilly recording era, and he’s championed — not forgotten — by serious fans of traditional country music and by the best of its historians, like Wolfe and Bill Malone, whose praise of Gary Stewart Ashley mentions later in his piece. If he rarely hears Kazee’s name-dropped by anyone “discussing seminal figures in folk and country” music, Ashley is listening to the wrong people drop names.

Nathan Salsburg, Clifton

Pretty in Pink

Francene misdirects her ire in her column lambasting the Susan G. Komen pink ribbon campaign (LEO Weekly, Nov. 4). I understand the sentiment of being fed up with commercialization, but I question the value in choosing breast cancer. Why not sports replays being brought to you by movies about robots? Why not using the president’s image to hock debt relief services? But cancer?

I take breast cancer awareness personally. In 1985, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was 9 years old. I didn’t understand what was going on, but I didn’t want to tell anyone something was wrong with my mom’s left breast. God only knows how she felt.

The article seems willfully ignorant of the value of awareness and that it increases prevention and treatment. And maybe it makes women with cancer, moms with cancer and kids whose moms have cancer feel like they’re not alone.

I only had to type three words — “breast cancer stigma” — in a Google search to find the first article was about how many women in rural Mexico are ashamed of having breast cancer and are not seeking treatment due to the shame. We are lucky in America. We have campaigns raising awareness about things like cancer and AIDS, removing or reducing the stigma attached to those illnesses. I bet those campaigns save lives. But you can’t conjure up fake outrage and fill space in a column about that.

John Young, Clifton