The Richmond Register

Viewpoints

February 4, 2013

Calling fouls on sour sweetheart deals and secret Senate meetings

Though there always are those fighting for — and against — liberty throughout Kentucky, these two candidates finish on top of the latest edition of the Bluegrass Beacon’s “Liberty Lovers and Losers.”

Liberty Lover: Louisville entrepreneur Denis Frankenberger

While downtown Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center is popular with sports fans who pile in to watch University of Louisville Cardinal basketball, even these enthusiasts recognize a blatant foul when they see one.

That’s why Frankenberger spent about 1,200 hours combing through the arena’s ugly financial records and bizarre lease agreement with the U of L Athletic Association, the arena’s primary tenant.

This will not endear Frankenberger, who published his results in a report entitled “Billion Dollar Basketball,” to the good graces of those who have expended much effort to paint rosy pictures about this boondoggle’s true fiscal condition.

But there are only so many positive ways to say that this arena:

• Has lost $1 million per month since opening in October 2010

• Operates under a lease scheme that’s “the most expensive in the U.S. whose primary tenant is not a professional sports team.”

• Has already confiscated more than $75 million in upfront cash from taxpayers statewide and could get up to $265 million in Taxpayer Increment Financing (TIF) revenues for the project during the next few years.

Meanwhile, there are indications that arena officials soon will approach the city of Louisville for a bailout to, as director Jim King puts it, “prevent a debt service payment default on the authority’s outstanding bonds.”

But Louisville taxpayers, who already subsidize the arena to the tune of up to $10 million annually, should send a one-word message to their council members: “Enough!”

Liberty Losers: Kentucky Senate leadership

It’s ironic that the full state Senate recently met behind closed doors to discuss state government’s least-transparent policy: Kentucky’s retirement funds.  

Not only are taxpayers not allowed to know how many pensions politicians receive, apparently they no longer are welcomed at those legislators’ important discussions about how to fix the system.

Yet at center stage of the secret meeting was the leftwing, Washington, D.C.-based Pew Center on the States, which should make citizens very wary.

The Pew folks doubtless were much more comfortable behind closed doors than having their presentation — including their responses to legislators’ questions about the group’s “solutions” — open and available for reporting by the press, as well as criticism and direct response from those who can see right through their big-government, big-spending and politically cautious facade.

The Senate President’s office described the meeting as being between “the Majority and Minority caucuses … at the invitation of Senator Damon Thayer to discuss pension reform.”

So, while this is a slap in the face of citizens who understand how state government works (most, for example, know that the goofy description of “the Majority and Minority caucuses” means the entire Senate), it also raises glaring questions about why the need now exists to hold a secret meeting about the taxpayer-funded pensions system.

The statement explained that senators “wished to have an open discussion with legislators asking questions and making suggestions outside the filter of gotcha politics.”

This is an elitist attitude. How does it feel to know that your senator believes that you, the taxpayer, should be denied access to a meeting of the full Senate because you are incapable of differentiating between meaningful discussion and someone playing to the cameras for pure political gain?

The Kentucky Senate is not an exclusive fraternity where you can only enter if you know the secret handshake and mysterious code. It’s an elected body, whose members’ first and primary responsibility is to their constituents.

It may be easier to horse trade behind closed doors, but it’s also wrong.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com. Read previously published columns at www.freedomkentucky.org/bluegrassbeacon.

1
Text Only
Viewpoints
  • 06.29 CrystalFarewell.jpg Starting over at Head Start

    All I ever wanted to be was a journalist. Having worked on my high school and college newspapers, I knew it was the career for me.
    I love talking to people, listening to their stories, being creative every day and experiencing new things. But as you know, news happens outside the hours of 9 to 5, and my job here at the Register rarely stayed within that time frame.

    June 29, 2014 2 Photos

  • Ike Adams They don’t make strawberries as they did back in the old days

    I’m not inclined to go through my archives at the moment, but it almost feels like the column I’m about to write has almost become an annual thing over the years.
    At least I know for sure that that this is not the first time that memories of picking strawberries there on Blair Branch on hot days in June has triggered this keyboard about this time of year.
    I grew up on a little subsistence, hillside farm deep in the mountains of eastern Kentucky, among the coalfields near the Virginia line.

    June 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ike Adams Baby boomers have let technology rob their grandchildren of the joys of youth

    When I was growing up, it was not uncommon to see fathers and sons along creek banks fishing together or in the woods hunting squirrels or pitching horse shoes or even shooting marbles late in the afternoon in the cool hours before dark.
    Dads were teaching kids to play the games they grew up with. Little girls, learned from mothers,how to skip rope, play with jacks or play hopscotch.

    June 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ronnie-Ellis.jpg No Lincoln or Douglas in this debate

    Remember the famous slap-down in the 1988 vice presidential debate when Republican Dan Quayle compared his youth and limited government experience to those of John Kennedy’s when Kennedy ran for president?
    His Democratic opponent, Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, acidly replied: “I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”

    June 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ronnie-Ellis.jpg Senate campaign already in full bloom

    Any hope for a respite in the U.S. Senate campaign following Tuesday’s primary disappeared immediately.
    Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes came out swinging in victory speeches which sounded like campaign kickoffs.
    McConnell commended Matt Bevin on “a tough (primary) race” and appealed to Bevin supporters to unite behind his re-election bid. That will be hard for Bevin and those who backed him.

    May 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jim Waters.JPG ‘Taxpayer-eaters’ meet ‘self-serving politician-eaters’

    What some candidates could gain in this year’s election – beyond just winning office – is a stark reminder of how wrong political leaders were when declaring last year they had adequately addressed Kentucky’s public-pension crisis.
    Instead, legislators with serious courage deficiencies failed to agree on reforms beyond what they believe are “politically feasible.”

    May 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ike Adams Step Out, Step up for Diabetes Association

    Six weeks ago when I wrote here announcing the 2014 Edition of Team TKO’s American Diabetes Association, Step Out Walk Team, several dozen of you readers sent generous donations to sponsor grandson Tyler Kane Ochs (TKO) and me in the walk that takes place, rain or shine, in the mud or not, at Keeneland on the morning of May 31.
    Another several dozen of you either called, emailed or dropped a card in regular mail and asked that I remind you again “after the holidays” (Easter and Mother’s Day).

    May 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ronnie-Ellis.jpg Hitting the campaign trail

    The most watched race in the country ? the battle for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Mitch McConnell ? has so far produced a bevy of charges and not much substance.
    We haven’t seen that much of McConnell or his likely Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes out on the campaign trail.
    McConnell’s primary opponent Matt Bevin has been much more active and visible, but his performance hasn’t enhanced his chances.

    May 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • The case of the scary black cat

    If Margie didn’t believe that black cats were the harbinger of bad luck, she certainly believed it when a black cat brushed against her leg while she was leaning over a large trash can burning garbage one late afternoon.
    Startled by the sudden appearance of the feline, Margie opened her mouth wide and let out a blood-curdling scream that could have awakened Count Dracula himself.

    May 10, 2014

  • Ike Adams Basking in the spring sunshine

    If you had asked me, as recently as two weeks ago, to make a list of things I expected to see on the first Monday in May of 2014, two of the things that I actually did see would not have been on the list, even if you’d required that it contain at least 500 items.
    I’d have been a bit skeptical about Ralph’s purple asparagus and his gorgeous snowball bush, both of which came through most admirably. And I would have had my doubts about the poppies that have been in our back yard for several generations and the bearded German Iris that Jeanette Todd gave us more than two decades ago. It faithfully stuns us there at the corner of the front porch every spring, but there they were, basking in absolute glory as the sun set Monday afternoon.

    May 8, 2014 1 Photo