The Richmond Register


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 Read previously published columns at

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