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April 10, 2007

City Strobe

It’s time to Step It Up, LouisvilleIt may surprise you to learn that here in Kentucky we get 95 percent of our electricity from coal-fired power plants. The state ranks third in the nation in coal production, accounting for roughly one-tenth of the output of the entire United States and a quarter of what’s mined east of the Mississippi River. Almost one-third of the coalmines in America can be found in the Bluegrass State. We have the lowest electricity prices in the country.And we have some of the dirtiest, most toxic air in the country — the 25th dirtiest, according to a study by the American Lung Association last year.And we drive a lot, and neither city nor state government has shown much meaningful interest in expanding public transit; they’re set instead on a two-bridges project that will only encourage more driving and more traffic jams in places like I-65’s “hospital curve,” which won’t be expanded to fit with the expected traffic increase.Think all that’s connected? Hmm …This Saturday, Louisville (and 1,314 other cities, counties, neighborhoods and nursing homes) takes part in “Step It Up 2007,” a campaign sparked by environmentalist and author Bill McKibben that’s designed to call attention not only to global warming but to what the U.S. government can do to help reverse its nefarious effects — for instance, McKibben has called for Congress to pass a law that would cut carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050. Under the national umbrella, the events — a total grassroots effort driven largely by the campaign’s Web site, www.stepitup2007.org — will constitute the largest demonstration on global warming in American history.In Louisville, things start up around 2 p.m. in front of the Mazzoli Federal Building, 600 Martin Luther King Jr. Place, which faces Chestnut Street between 6th and 7th. U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-3, is set to speak, and organizers have invited U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning, although it seems unlikely that two people who have refused to tell Courier-Journal environmental reporter James Bruggers whether they think global warming is caused by human pollution from burning fossil fuels will show up for a party like this.The event is also a coming out for the Louisville Climate Action Network, an organizer of Saturday’s rally that hopes to establish a more cohesive local environmental campaign. There are 13 other Step It Up events planned across Kentucky, including some in Lexington, Frankfort and Bowling Green. —Stephen GeorgeDog law is still dog law is still dog law is still … getting suedWhen Council Democrats were able to pound the controversial dog ordinance through on a near-party line vote at the end of a nine-hour meeting in December, they said there would be an official, ongoing review of the law to assure some of its unintended consequences — for which the city is now being sued — would not remain. On Thursday, the Council enacted several minor changes to the ordinance as well as a big one, to reenact the whole thing, suggesting to some that the vetting process is done and taken care of. Democrats thought that would nullify the first of two lawsuits currently pertaining to the ordinance, which says the way the ordinance was enacted the first time violates the open meetings law. Republicans, many of whom oppose certain parts of the ordinance that strip rights from pet owners, argued heavily against that (weird) logic; none of them voted to reenact it. —Stephen GeorgeAt least somebody’s talking about separation of church and stateAlex Thomas, a Mount Washington Middle School student, delivered a book report recently about the best book he’d read this year. He chose the Book of Acts in the Bible. “This book is nonfiction,” he wrote. “It’s mostly about a man named Paul as he travels thousands of miles risking his life to tell people about Jesus and the good news he has to offer.” His teacher videotaped Thomas reading the thing, as had been done with the other students. They were going to show the reports on the school’s closed circuit TV network. When principal Denise Allen found out they’d be broadcasting a particularized religious message over public school equipment to a captive audience, however, she put a stop to it. Not just Thomas’s report, but all of them, so as not to discriminate against the young Christian. Of course, Thomas and his mother argue they’re being persecuted for their faith — why Thomas is not in a private Christian school, where the Supreme Court and established American law would allow him to preach to whomever he wanted without jeopardizing the teachers, the school and its influx of public funds, nobody knows. Perhaps most striking, however, is Thomas’s tagging of the book as nonfiction. Somebody get an English teacher out to Bullitt County … stat! —Stephen GeorgeBusiness: Make Louisville GreenIt should go without saying that most area small businesses don’t have the wallets to “go green” on a whim. Simply changing the light bulbs is one thing, but installing solar roofs, localizing product lines, composting food waste and using alternative means of transportation are quite another. That’s why Webster University and the Louisville-based Sustainable Business Networks are trying to help connect the dots, because reinventing the wheel is, well, unnecessary. They’re holding a conference Monday to help Louisville businesses and nonprofits interested in going green connect with other businesses already green or, in most cases, employing one or two green elements that can be swapped and shared. The hope, organizer David Silverman said, is to foster interconnectedness among local business, to create what he calls a “sustainable ecology” of services all geared toward environmental stewardship in the business community. “We’re pulling together folks from a variety of businesses and sectors essentially to say, hey, here is the green business sector, the local business sector, and that in itself counts, not just alternative energy or solar or whatever,” Silverman said. Panelists include Gary Heine of Heine Brothers Coffee, which sells only fair trade and organic coffee and manages a large-scale composting operation; Mary Clark of Rainbow Blossom; James Linton of Expressions of You coffeehouse; Jim Shields of Commonwealth Computer Recycling; Emma Kuhl of the Green Building Council; and a representative of the local business association Keep Louisville Weird, which Silverman hopes can help lead a charge to make Louisville green. Things get started at 11:45 a.m. Monday and will also include consumer education about how to buy green. Call 896-1835 to reserve a spot (the conference is free) or visit www.sustainablelouisville.net for more info. —Stephen GeorgeGet a daily update of City Strobe at The Lip: LEO’s News Blog, www.leoweekly.com. Contact the writer at citystrobe@leoweekly.com