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December 4, 2007

City Strobe

Pride goeth before produceRemember those “Kentucky Proud” ads featuring the comical acting stylings of Rick Pitino and Tubby Smith alongside some Kentucky produce? Remember how those ads were entertaining because the two men had about as much in common with family farming as Pop Tarts and Lunchables? And remember how the ads weren’t a gross misuse of political power because neither man was agriculture commissioner nor had aspirations to be governor? Well, that’s all over.Last week, Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer, R-Hoops Country, unveiled the new Kentucky Proud campaign, which stars, um, Richie Farmer. The commish appears with former UK basketball stars John Pelphrey, Deron Feldhaus and Sean Woods — a foursome known to UK fans as “The Backstreet Boys.” No, wait, they’re called the Unforgettables, partly for their unforgettable performance in the weeks leading up to a famous last-second jumper by Duke’s Christian Laettner. (What, too soon?)The mustachioed Farmer, a rising cadet in the Republican Party, denies the ads are a promotional tool for his future political ambitions. In fact, the department intentionally delayed the rollout until after Farmer’s re-election this year, proving that the ads are a promotional tool for his future political ambitions.The Kentucky Proud ads (not to be confused with the Kentuckiana Pride Festival, which isn’t quite as gay) promote Kentucky-grown products, including produce, fish, meat and, now, the mustachioed Farmer. Unlike last year’s ads, this year’s ads offer nothing to entice U of L fans, unless you include the inevitable subliminal memory of Laettner, which might just be fuzzy enough to sell some local melons. —Jim WelpA taxing dilemmaLast month’s overwhelming defeat for a proposed library tax left Metro government in a quandary: How to modernize the library system in a city where the majority of citizens hate books? The voters’ dramatic reenactment of the movie “Idiocracy” left no doubt that a tax is untenable. And yet, libraries are grossly outdated, overburdened and what Library Director Craig Buthod (pronounced “Eeyore”) described as “Oh, bother.”The vote left the Metro Council with only one option: to snipe at each other through the media. But that got old. So now the council is pledging to find a way to fund the library’s master plan through a complex system that involves using tax money without using the word “tax” — a plan that’s remarkably easier to implement in a society that doesn’t read. Council Republicans Hal Heiner and Ellen Call and Democrats Tina Ward-Pugh and Jim King comprise the bipartisan team that’s pledged to come up with a plan. The plan will rely heavily on a clever trick of capitalism known as “bonds,” which is a form of revenue-generating magic that doesn’t impact taxpayers in much the same way calories don’t count when you eat leftover lo mein noodles over the sink at midnight. The foursome promised to have a workable plan by the middle of next month, but cautioned that any bond funding would take a couple of years to jumpstart, a period during which citizens are encouraged to “watch a lot of TV and maybe visit Borders and put the books back on the shelves after reading them.” —JWPanhandling ordinance tabled againThe Metro Council’s public safety committee again tabled a proposal to combat so-called aggressive panhandling last week, amid further questions about police enforcement and the likelihood of sending more people into overcrowded Jefferson County jails. The committee, which seemed poised a few weeks ago to pass for a full council vote the proposed amendment to the current panhandling ordinance, pulled back after testimony from LMPD Major Ozzy Gibson, whose first district includes downtown, and an announcement from the mayor’s office that it was creating a commission to study overcrowding in Metro Corrections. That raised the obvious questions about how rational passing another law with potential jail time might be, according to Tony Hyatt, communications director of the Democratic caucus. The public safety committee meets again next week. —Stephen George8664 committee wants traffic modeling An ad hoc committee of the Metro Council moved about an inch closer Monday night to securing the next piece of legitimacy for 8664, the proposed alternative to the Ohio River Bridges Project that in part calls for replacing a riverfront stretch of I-64 with a land-level boulevard. The five-person committee, chaired by Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh, D-9, heard testimony from Harold Tull, director of transportation for the Kentuckiana Regional Planning and Development Agency, on how to have traffic modeling conducted for 8664 — the exact same modeling done for the Bridges Project. Shockingly, it appears the process for getting such information from the regional planning agency is excessively difficult — and possibly prohibitive, even though the Bridges Project appears to have had no problems doing such modeling.Tull said one of the 18 members of the transportation policy committee — made up mostly of local governments (Shively and Louisville Metro have equal voting power, to give an idea of how out-of-balance this thing is) — would have to propose that KIPDA’s software be used to analyze 8664’s effect on area roads. The likely source of that proposal, the committee learned, would be Mayor Abramson, a staunch Bridges Project partisan who has engaged with some local business leaders and The Courier-Journal in publicly trashing the alternative plan numerous times. Ward-Pugh said she would ask the Jefferson County attorney’s office about other options. —SGContact the writers at citystrobe@leoweekly.com