Stu Johnson, WEKU

Reporter/Producer - Lexington

Ways to Connect

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.

Again, the incumbent in southeast Kentucky’s fifth congressional district skipped last night’s debate on Kentucky Educational Television.  Host Bill Goodman opened the segment on the fifth district race by explaining only one candidate was in studio.  “Republican U.S. Representative Harold ‘Hal’ Rogers was invited, but is not participating,” said Goodman.  Republican Hal Rogers, who head the House Appropriations Committee, has held the fifth district seat since 1981.  Democrat Kenneth Stepp is once again challenging the powerful Republican.

It’s an ‘all hands on deck’ situation at Centre College as the Danville school prepares for its second Vice Presidential Debate.  The one and only vice presidential get-together is one week from this Thursday.  Student Government Association President Patrick Cho says they’ve put out a call for help.  “The reaction from students has been, how can I help?   And a lot of these jobs are not very glamorous.  They’re checking ID’s and all the rest of it.  Still, students really want to be involved,” said Cho.

Simply counting crimes is not enough.   A study by a Centre College economics professor says we should also count their cost.  So often, Economist Dave Anderson says crime statistics focus on the number of murders, thefts, and burglaries, for instance.  But, Anderson says the real costs associated with crime go far beyond the number of criminal acts.  Some crimes have been on the decline, but that numbers tells only part of the story.

Late night or early morning travel in downtown Lexington this week could present a few challenges.  Temporary lane closures are planned along Main and Vine streets Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  The closures are being done to accommodate striping work.  The lane shut downs will run from ten p.m. until six a.m. all three days.

The weekend schedule doesn’t get any easier for two area college football teams.  Eastern Kentucky University came from behind to win 28 to 16 over Tennessee Martin Saturday.  The Colonels travel back to the Volunteer state this weekend to battle Tennessee State.  The Tigers are undefeated at five and oh.  The University of Kentucky, coming off a 21 point loss to South Carolina, stay home to host Mississippi State.  The Bulldogs come to Commonwealth without a loss.

In preparation for the vice presidential debate, Centre College yesterday tested their telecommunications system.  It will be in high demand on October 11th when the school hosts its second debate.   Students were invited into the media center, where they hooked up their smart phones, laptops, and similar devices to the internet.  Pottinger Professor of History Clarence Wyatt says such preparations are vital.  “In 2000 we got our media center up and running early.  There were some people on campus who wondered why we needed to take their space that early, but we wanted to make sure that all of that worked because that’s the heart of the story,” said Wyatt.

Presidential political polling is in full gear right now.  One high profile national poll shows President Obama with a ten point lead over challenge Mit Romney in some key background states.  Centre College Political Scientist, Ben Knoll says it’s important to get a read from many polls.  “The important thing is not to look at any one poll, but to look at an average of many, many, many polls.  Even by reputable polling industries, the chances of any one poll being 100 percent accurate is very small.  But, the chances go up the more and more polls that are done,” said Knoll.

A proposed law that makes littering a civil violation will go before Lexington’s full council for a vote.  By making it a civil violation, Patricia Knight, who chairs “Keep Lexington Beautiful,” says the city could prosecute more litter bugs.  “People make the choice to litter, they should take the responsibility for it,” said Knight.   Knight says most littering cases currently don’t result in punishment.  She says the change would ease criminal prosecutions, but not eliminate them altogether.

The advisory board tasked with overseeing Kentucky's health insurance exchange is set to have its first meeting Thursday.  The 19-member board is made up of public officials, insurance executives, doctors and consumer groups. The agenda is short, focusing mainly on organizational tasks like forming subcommittees. The board is also getting an overview of the exchange from Executive Director Carrie Banahan. The exchange will offer Kentuckians an online marketplace to compare and buy health plans, and one of the panel's first tasks will be to choose a vendor to help set up the system.

17 members have been named to a panel to help ensure state agencies meet policies related to the reporting of child abuse and neglect.  The group will investigate child fatalities and near fatalities determined to be the result of child abuse or neglect.    Members of the Child Fatality and Near Fatality External Review Panel will meet quarterly.  They will examine official records and case records.  The group will also analyze medical, psychosocial, and legal circumstances of children to identity conditions which contribute to death or serious injury.

One of Kentucky’s first regional substance abuse treatment centers will benefit from a quarter million dollar grant.  The Trilogy Recovery Center for Women opened in the fall of 2008.  Recovery Kentucky is a program aimed at helping Kentuckians recover from substance abuse and prevent chronic homelessness by offering long term care housing centers.  The Hopkinsville Trilogy Recovery Center provides peer support, addiction counseling, health and daily living education, and job training.

More than two thousand absentee ballots have been sent to Kentuckians in military service and other voters overseas.   With the presidential election less than six weeks away, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes says it’s important to allow for time and distance.  “The process of receiving, filling out, and returning an absentee ballot, whether you are in the middle east or here in the United States, it can take weeks, especially for those active duty military members that I saw,” said Lundergan Grimes.

A move to exempt the Bluegrass Airport from a tax that funds mandatory sewer improvements has failed.  Officials at Bluegrass Airport believe Lexington should give the facility a tax break.  They want their runways, taxi ways, and ramps exempted from the city’s storm water management fee.  The fee, which is paid by public and private entities, will finance a half billion dollars in sanitary and storm water sewer improvements.  Airport officials argue these are public surfaces, much like roadways.  Vice Mayor Linda Gorton, who chaired the storm water management task force, says an exemption would set a bad precedent

Kentucky’s adventure tourism effort is traveling down a new trail.  Ground was broken Tuesday on the Dawkins Line project in eastern Kentucky.  The trail, which runs along a former railroad line, is expected to attract hikers, horseback riders, and cyclists.  It’s a 36 mile trek that travels through Johnson, Magoffin, and Breathitt counties.  Work is underway for the first phase of the project.  It spans 18 miles from Hagerhill in Johnson County to Royalton in Magoffin County.