Stu Johnson, WEKU

Reporter/Producer - Lexington

Ways to Connect

Motorists this Thanksgiving Week are apt to see congested interstate highways around Kentucky.  Holiday travel is anticipated to increase slightly for the five day period.  Triple-A spokesman Christopher Oakford says that’s been the trend in recent years.  “It’s about a one percent increase on last year, but last year was again an increase on the year before so it gradually seeing a rise or a recovery in the number of people who are choosing to travel since the economic downturn in 2008,” said Oakford.

  A Kentucky woman is making history in her new position as a church leader in Alabama.  The Reverend Debbie Wallace Padgett is making her mark on history in a couple ways.  This fall the Eastern Kentucky native became the first female Methodist Bishop in Alabama.  Padgett is also the first woman from Kentucky elected to such a position.  She believes ministerial opportunities for women are growing all the time.

Kentuckians who owe state taxes now have just two weeks to take advantage of an amnesty program.  Delinquent taxpayers can pay what they owe and avoid penalties, fees, and additional interest.  Kentucky Secretary of Finance and Administration Lori Flanery says it’s been ten years since Kentucky has offered tax amnesty.  “The amount of money that is anticipated is about 55 million dollars.  In the 2002 effort, there was actually 40 million dollars collected,” said Flanery.

Tax revenues coming into Lexington city hall seem to indicate the local economy is ‘relatively stable.’  The local unemployment rate in the six percent range, is about one percent lower than a year ago.  City Revenue Director Bill Omara says a number of taxing categories are down slightly, but service-related fees are up.  “Services category was over budget.  That’s a large category that takes into detention fees, e-m-s fees, parks fees.  Those types of fees that are general fund related,” said Omara.

Eastern Kentucky University officials are looking into an allegation of hazing.  The claim was filed against the men’s Rugby Club.  E-K-U Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Mike Reagle says officials are still trying to determine what happened.  “We have an allegation.  That is correct.  We don’t know what has happened until we talk to students who happened to be there.  But, there is an allegation that someone has made and that’s what we’re investigating at this point.” Said Reagle.

The Eastern Kentucky men’s basketball team has been tabbed pre-season to finish near the bottom of a new Ohio Valley Conference division.  E-K-U’s women’s team, meanwhile,  placed near the top of its division. The OVC is debuting its divisional format this season.  The coach and media poll puts the Colonels fifth out of six teams in the East Division. Newcomer Belmont was picked to finish first in the East.  Defending Ohio Valley Conference champion Murray State holds down the number one spot in the West Division.

This is the time of year when deer are likely to be crossing many Kentucky roadways.   There are ways to reduce the risk of car versus deer collisions.   Kentucky State Police report almost fifty percent of all vehicle collisions with deer occur between September and November.   Last year, three of these crashes involved fatalities for vehicle occupants.  Sargent  Rick Saint-Blancard says don’t think a car or truck will be able to sustain a collision with a deer.

Representatives of the Fayette County Health Department will be knocking on doors in Lexington neighborhoods this week.  The trained staff members will be conducting a survey about home and health hazards.  Communicable Disease Manager, Jessica Cobb says the 50 questions cover everything from indoor air quality to household products and lead.

Business leaders will work to plot strategies to move Kentucky arts forward late this week.  The Kentucky Arts Council is sponsoring a day long symposium this Friday in Lexington.  Representatives from the business sector will discuss how they integrate the arts in day to day and long term business plans.  Governor Beshear says ‘the arts spur community development, create jobs, and attract new businesses and educated workers.’

The college football campaigns continue this weekend with another round of key matchups.  Eastern Kentucky University rallied for a 42 to 28 victory at Tennessee Tech.  Meanwhile, the only Ohio Valley Conference team to beat the Colonels, Tennessee State lost Saturday by three to Jacksonville State.  Eastern comes home this weekend to take on Eastern Illinois.

Potential ‘write-in’ candidates have less than a week to decide if they want to enter the political frey.  The deadline to be a write-in candidate in the November sixth General Election is this Friday.  Under state law, write-in candidates for any office must file a Declaration of Intent to be a write-in and pay a statutorily prescribed fee.

A classic play with a special anniversary takes its place in the spotlight over the next two weekends.  The Actors Guild of Lexington performs ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’    It wll be performed at 7:30 Fridays and Saturdays  and two o clock  Sundays at the Actors Guild Theater off Harrodsburg Road.

Some climate specialists believe ‘tornado alley’ is shifting east…bring rougher weather to Kentucky. In response, Lexington Emergency Management Director Pat Dugger says new homes should include tornado safe rooms. "The cost of adding a tornado room into new construction is fairly minimal compared to retrofitting.  If you spread that over the cost of the houses in a subdivision, it’s really not gonna cause the price of the house to go up maybe more than 500 dollars,” said Dugger.

Creating art and selling it are two very different things.  In marketing their creations, the executive director of the Kentucky Arts Council, Lori Meadows says many artists struggle with setting a fair, but competitive price.  “Really looking at pricing, what kind of marketing that you can do as an artist that will promote the image that you want to put forward,” said Meadows.  To further their businesses, Meadows says artists must work well with buyers and galleries.

The one and only vice presidential debate is garnering a great deal of attention in central Kentucky, but its impact in the voting booth is a tougher issue to gauge.  A reporter roundtable discussion was held this morning at Centre College, home of tonight’s debate.  National Public Radio veteran reporter Don Gonyea says vice presidential debates don’t tend to move the support needle very much.  He says the debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin also attracted interest.  “And I recall it being pretty entertaining.  She had the ‘say it ain’t so Joe line and all that.  But again, it probably didn’t have any effect on the outcome.  This one I think it’s reasonable to assume the same thing going in unless, of course, something happens.  And that’s why we are all here,” said Gonyea.

A public figure with extensive state and local government experience is among those people who will help Eastern Kentucky University find a new president.  E-K-U President Doug Whitlock announced in August he would retire next summer.   Former State Senator and Richmond City Manager Ed Worley will serve on the school’s newly formed search committee.  “Are we a community with a university in it or are we a university community and there is a very distinct difference and I think who ever the next president needs to identify that this is a university community and they want to work with the community to grow this as Richmond, Madison County and Eastern Kentucky University together,” said Worley.

The Commonwealth is moving steadily toward posting more public records on the internet.  Many states already offer digitalized government records via the internet.   Mark Meyers, who’s an electronic records archivist for the Commonwealth, says many are already available on state websites.  “I mean the general public uses our records quite a bit from family history research to legal documents providing birth, death, and marriage records.  More and more records are being created electronically and being stored electronically,” said Meyers.

Lexington city leaders are supporting a unique downtown hotel project to the tune of one million dollars.  Council members decided Tuesday to spend the better part of an Urban Development Action Grant or UDAG  money toward the 21c museum hotel project.  One million dollars will be loaned to developers.  Council member Julian Beard says the city will likely be asked to participate with more financial support.

An official kick off for a one and a half million dollar fundraising campaign for a downtown Lexington landmark is scheduled this evening.  A birthday celebration is planned for the Kentucky Theater as it celebrates 90 years downtown.  Guests are encouraged to come wearing a costume in tribute to their favorite movie character or movie era.

Stu Johnson / WEKU News

Danville’s proving it takes a community to put on a vice presidential debate.’  Many eyes across the nation will be focused on Centre College for Thursday’s meeting between the vice presidential candidates.   Not that long ago, Main Street was where people gathered to talk politics.  Today, much of the conversation is electronic, but, in downtown Danville, first person politics is still practiced.  Brenda Willoughby heads the ‘Heart of Danville Main Street Program.  “You won’t see vacant buildings.  You will see artwork and flags and ribbons and we’re encouraging all the residents in the surrounding and in the businesses to do window displays,” said Willoughby.

Governor Beshear is hoping media representatives from all around the world will spread the word about Kentucky initiatives.  The governor is hosting a media reception Thursday night just prior to the vice presidential debate at Centre College.  More than three thousand media reps from the United States and 40 other countries have received credentials for the debate.

A number of economic and social factors have made treatment beyond the reach of more mentally ill Kentuckians.  Kelly Gunning with the Lexington Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness says insurance companies through managed care are increasingly unwilling to fund mental health care.  “As the federal budgets and state budgets and the local budgets dry up, there’s this natural shrinking of available community based resources,” said Gunning.

A power outage during a 1976 Presidential Debate is still remembered by organizers of this year’s vice presidential debate.  A power loss in that meeting between Gerry Ford and Jimmy Carter helped lead to the creation of the Commission on Presidential Debates.  In 2012, the media’s digital technology demands even more electricity.  So, Centre College Vice President Richard Trollinger says portable generators will be their primary power source.

An outbreak of meningitis in states neighboring Kentucky is also attracting attention in the Commonwealth.   The meningitis cases appear to be tied to contaminated steroid injections, with the biggest outbreak in the Nashville area.   University of Kentucky Infectious Disease Pharmacy Specialist Craig Martin says no shipments of the tainted drug came to Kentucky.  He says these cases of meningitis should not raise red flags about the potential for contamination in other oral medications for example.

Photo by Barry Sigman / The Marshall Tucker Band

The art of the politician and the artistry of Kentucky’s musicians are on display next week in Danville. Thursday, Centre College hosts the nation’s vice presidential debate.  And on Centre’s main lawn, will be the debate festival.  Unlike the debate itself, organizer Steve Hoffman says the festival’s open to everyone.  They’ll gather to watch the debate, but, there’s also entertainment.   Hoffman says the celebration begins Thursday at noon.

Some musicians at Eastern Kentucky University hope to make it more of a home for Mountain and Bluegrass music.  Biology professor Bob Frederick thinks E-K-U can do a better job of recruiting and retaining students if it did more to embrace Appalachian culture.  “It just struck me that this would be a unique way for a certain group of students to find a niche that might help them cope with the day to day rigors of being a student and maybe being an outlet for them,” said Frederick.

Hoping to make the Kentucky Horse Park into a major convention center, officials are asking Lexington city leaders for help.   Two years ago this week, Lexington was playing host to the World Equestrian Games. Horse Park Director John Nicholson says the international event pumped more than 200 million dollars into the region’s economy.  The longtime director says high gasoline prices, 85-million dollars in improvements and the state’s fiscal crisis then put a financial strain on the horse park.  Now, Nicholson says state officials want the park to become self sufficient.  Still, he told council members he’s not looking for a handout.

The establishment of new homeless shelters in Lexington would be impacted by a proposed change in zoning law.  The amendment impacts all new adult day care centers which would include those serving the disabled and seniors.   Council member Chris Ford says it’s important to balance community interests.  “We want to make sure that we get it right to the benefit of all constituencies, you know, the impacted less fortunate in our community as well as neighbor and business interests,” said Ford.