April 24, 2007

Voter Guide 2007: first of three - Clip and Save!

The power of 10Welcome to Week 1 of LEO’s gubernatorial primary coverage. With 10 bodies in the race, it’s a chore to recall all of the names, much less glean meaningful information. For the record, they are: Democrats Steve Beshear, Gatewood Galbraith, Steve Henry, Otis Hensley, Bruce Lunsford, Jonathan Miller and Jody Richards, and Republicans Gov. Ernie Fletcher, Billy Harper and Anne Northup.Despite the gaggle, the LEO brain trust met the challenge; eight of 10 candidates visited LEO HQ (separately) to chat over a series of six questions. Starting today and running for the next two issues, we’ll summarize and print their answers, largely in their own words. We’ll offer endorsements in both races in our May 9 issue.For the record, Fletcher and Northup unfortunately declined numerous and persistent invitations to meet.We’re sticking to issues here; the rest of the talking heads can focus on scandals and personal garbage. This week’s questions concern energy and education. Specifically, here’s what we asked:• ENERGY: When it comes to U.S. energy policy, coal is clearly a central facet, and yet there are obvious problems in how it is mined and also how it’s converted. What is the future of coal in this state and beyond? Also, what are your views on mountaintop removal mining?• EDUCATION: How does No Child Left Behind impact Kentucky’s K-12 education, and what impact can a governor have? Also, with regard to higher education, there’s consensus about the importance of an educated workforce to the state’s economic future, and yet, higher ed funding cuts have led to frequent recent tuition increases. As governor, what will you do about this problem?Next week: Louisville issues, and arts/culture.Steve Beshear<DEMOCRAT>Steve BeshearBorn: Sept. 21, 1944Hometown: Dawson Springs, Ky.Favorite superhero: SupermanRunning mate: Daniel MongiardoFurther: www.stevebeshear.comENERGY: COAL, ALT FUELS, MOUNTAINTOP REMOVAL MININGWe are sitting on top of resources in this state that could help this country become energy independent. One of those resources is coal. The other group of resources is our agricultural base that can be used in the different alternative fuels that are available now. My energy policy is going to be twofold. It’s going to be based on coal and alternative fuels. Steve Beshear is going to include Kentucky being a leader in clean coal technologies. At the same time, we do our part in cleaning up emissions and in cleaning up the atmosphere. We need to be pushing the carbon sequestration process. We need to be pushing coal to liquid because, you know, right now 95 percent of our electricity is created by burning coal. We’re going to create a $60 million Kentucky Energy Fund, and we’re going to create a cabinet-level position to deal with the energy sector. That fund is going to be available for research, for demonstration projects, for all the kinds of things we need to do to further develop clean coal technology, to further make sure we put it in place. There have been occasions where the mountaintop removal process has damaged a stream and we need to make sure that that doesn’t happen. Under the present regulations, mountaintop removal is an exception to the general rule. The general rule is that you will put back the land to the approximate original contour. Only when you can justify the mountaintop removal process — there’s a higher and better use for the property — can you then not return it to the approximate original contour. There are times where level land is needed. We’ll make sure that the rules are enforced. It’s an exception and it should remain an exception.EDUCATION: NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND, K-12, HIGHER EDNo Child Left Behind has had a very negative impact on Kentucky’s K-12 system. Part of Steve Beshear was accountability and putting some testing in place. Accountability needs to be in the system. I’m hoping with this re-authorization effort that they have for No Child Left Behind that we can bring some common sense to bear on their approach.We’ve got thousands of kids that live below the federal poverty level in our state. A lot of those kids don’t get the advantage of any kind of early childhood education. When those kids hit the first grade — I saw a study the other day that indicated, when they hit the first grade, and have to compete with our children, who have had those kinds of benefits, they’ve only got about a 10 percent chance of being successful. The state funded pre-school goes down to age four. We want to push it down to age three, in cooperation with Head Start, who also provides these kinds of services.We obviously need to raise teacher pay. We need to step back up as a state and fund our Steve Beshear at the level they should be funded. We propose what we call “Kentucky First” scholarships, which would be in the form of forgivable loans. A child gets one of these loans, helps pay the tuition, goes through four years of college; then, for every year that they work in Kentucky, we’ll forgive a year of their loan. Steve Beshear I’m going to push to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot to allow expanded gaming in Kentucky. The other source of income that I’m going to tap during the first year of my administration comes from a comprehensive efficiency study of state government. Ernie Fletcher<REPUBLICAN>Did not respond.Anne Northup<REPUBLICAN>Did not respond.Gatewood Galbraith<DEMOCRAT>Gatewood GalbraithBorn: Jan. 23, 1947Hometown: Carlisle, Ky.Favorite superhero: Lech WalesaRunning mate: Mark WiremanFurther: www.gatewood.comENERGY: COAL, ALT FUELS, MOUNTAINTOP REMOVAL MININGIn 1983, when I ran for commissioner of agriculture, I was talking about hemp as a biofuel. Hemp is the number one source of energy on this planet. If we planted 6 percent of U.S. agricultural land in hemp, we wouldn’t have to import another drop of oil into this country to satisfy our energy needs. Everything you can make out of petroleum, you can make out of hemp. All petroleum is, is liquefied vegetative matter that was grown eons ago and tried to store the sun’s energy through its photosynthetic process, and that’s what we’re running around on right now.That being said, Kentucky also has a heritage and a history of mining, and that has been a tremendous boon to Kentucky for all these years. It has its costs — there is no doubt about it. The biggest plank of my environmental platform this time is to give tax incentives to existing in-state corporations to establish state environmental compliance.I’m for any mining method that produces jobs, except that I want to minimize the environmental consequences of it. If, as they say, Gatewood Galbraith destructive of too many streams, destructive of too many valleys, then we ought to put tighter regulations on it. There’s people who are smarter than I am who know how to do that. I’m against just unbridled destruction of the mountains up there. We can dictate the consequences of their environmental destruction, but as far as saying we can’t allow that form of mining, I think that would be posturing to try to get votes. I think nobody’s going to stop mountaintop removal. They’re not going to pass a law against it, so the thing is to come in on the environmental side where you can lessen the impact on it.EDUCATION: NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND, K-12, HIGHER EDEconomic development and education, as I say, are so intertwined. The reason we can’t get any high-paying jobs is that we’re defunding education — 68 percent to 60 percent, folks, is huge. That’s a billion dollars a year that we’re not adding right now. I think KERA (Kentucky Education Reform Act) and No Child Left Behind have been a disaster on this stuff. We ought to be starting remedial education in the first grade. We need to teach kids how to make change from a $10 bill in their head when they graduate high school — they can’t even do that. They don’t teach ’em government, they don’t teach ’em participation, they don’t teach ’em the American Revolution, what the constitutional form of government is supposed to be about and how it’s so different from the other form of government, and what it does for the human being, for the first time exalts human beings as the recipients of the beneficiaries of the process of government. I haven’t seen KERA do anything but overburden teachers and take money away from their ability to provide materials in the classroom. The biggest thing I would do is my “Commonwealth Incentive.” I would give every high school graduate in the state of Kentucky a $5,000 voucher for books, tuition and fees to institutions of further learning within the state of Kentucky upon graduation. When a high school graduate makes up their mind that they want to train in education, at UK, U of L, community college, truck-driving school, cosmetology school, electronics school, the state will cut a check for books, tuitions and fees to that institution. This is a much more precise way of funding further education instead of just higher education.Billy Harper<REPUBLICAN>Billy HarperBorn: Aug. 15, 1944Hometown: Paducah, Ky. Favorite superhero: Ronald ReaganRunning mate: Dick WilsonFurther: www.harperforgovernor.comENERGY: COAL, ALT FUELS, MOUNTAINTOP REMOVAL MININGCoal is a very viable alternative to using crude oil for a power source. Even though it has some negative effects like pollution and mining, economically, it is a viable source that we have to rely on, as well as a huge revenue producer for the state of Kentucky. I think eventually we will re-look at nuclear power. We almost have to. Many countries have done that. Coal makes a much bigger dollar impact. Ethanol’s important, I think, to the farming community — it provides profit and income to them Billy Harper the tobacco crops and those sorts of things. But I think coal has a bigger impact on the economy and I think, again, we can help as a state, working on research and on the gasification technology because that is not as proven, there’s still a lot of improvement to be made in the technology and the efficiency of that.I do think technology, a lot of things have allowed coal production to become more efficient and safer in terms of the miners, as well as environmental impact, what we can do to protect the environment as we move that process and obviously, the hot topic at this point is mountaintop removal, which is a very different process than we would have thought of 20 years ago. I think we have to continue to work on technology protecting the runoff during the mining process and during the reclamation process. I also think we have to work with the environmentalists, the Corps of Engineers and the coal companies after we have completed the mountaintop removal, and we have completed reclamation, let’s go back in and reconfigure the streams back to a natural habitat. We need to be very strict during the mining process.EDUCATION: NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND, K-12, HIGHER EDNo Child Left Behind, contrary to what a lot of people say, I think it was a good positive piece of legislation. And the reason I think that it is positive is, our current CATS Billy Harper testing is a viable way to look at schools, Billy Harper it was never designed to look at students. It tends to look at averages, what a school is doing and what a class is doing. No Child Left Behind makes us look at every group of students, and you break all those pieces down by different segments and deal with those with the children, and are they succeeding or are they getting passed over in the averages. Now, the bad thing about that was no funding came through for the testing. I think we need to evaluate all of that, as well as the pre-ACT testing. We need to use high tech, to where as much of the testing we can do is online and get immediate feedback. What we do is blend Billy Harper with community college, vocational school, or higher ed courses, whatever may be available in the community, so that in many cases the student, by the time they get a high school diploma or shortly thereafter, they have maybe 40 or 50 hours of college credit or maybe vocational credit that they are going towards working with their hands or a trade. Billy Harper we have already lowered the cost dramatically for their education because they are getting that during high school. I do think we’ve got to look at tuition increases and we’ve got to make education affordable. I think research institutions are important but I also think we’ve got to make each university, private or public, accountable for their costs. Steve Henry<DEMOCRAT>Steve HenryBorn: Oct. 8, 1953Hometown: Woodsville, Ky.Favorite superhero: BatmanRunning mate: Renee TrueFurther: www.henrytrueforky.comENERGY: COAL, ALT FUELS, MOUNTAINTOP REMOVAL MININGWhat I presented was a $2 million project by which we would do Bucks for Brains but also have incentive packages and tax cuts and incentivize — I was pretty proud of the fact that we incentivized Steve Henry in Hopkinsville. It’s $2 million plus a $3 million loan that’s paid for itself in four years. I want to push ethanol and biodiesel in the same manner, forming co-ops. The farmers that invested in the co-op in Hopkinsville now make about 44 cents a bushel of corn more than anybody else as part of their investment. What I’m going to do is mandate that government burns 10 percent ethanol in every vehicle. Or if it’s diesel, it’s 2 percent biodiesel in every vehicle. I’ve always been opposed to Steve Henry. We have to be cautious about it. One of the things I want to do is create tourism. If we take the top off of every mountain and ruin every stream, then it’s not really going to be very productive that way. One of the things I’ve always been very high on is water quality. They’re killing the streams and the water quality issue is pretty damaged, if you will. I think what you have to try to do is you have to try to take those areas and incentivize those Steve Henry corporations as best you can. Now, there are things that I think we ought to look at doing — considering the public’s interest in purchasing land rights to a lot of land, allowing Steve Henry to take the coal out of it — the mineral rights — but Steve Henry the land rights, so that we can control some of what happens to the actual land.EDUCATION: NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND, K-12, HIGHER EDI don’t think the governor can do all that much with No Child Left Behind, but I think what I can do is start with early childhood initiatives, much like I did with getting the junk food out of the schools. I think that if you look at the system, most would feel that the dollars that are spent are probably a little heavier on the administration side than the classroom side. You need funding resources. There is a significant amount of waste in government, just in policy. I think we’re going to have to look for a major economic impact. And so I think the gaming is probably the first thing you have to say — luckily, the gaming Steve Henry coming is very significant. I think that the most important thing I can say to the people is, “Vote your conscience.” I’m for restricting Steve Henry to only certain areas of Kentucky, where it’s a competitive issue. I’m not saying that we’re going to get everything out of gaming that we would like. I’m interested in trying to get the tuition down in higher education in many ways and trying to get math and science throughout every level of education. I think we have to incentivize it, maybe not as people want to discuss about putting merits — we’re paying one teacher more because they’re a math teacher versus somebody who’s an English teacher. But I think that we need to make sure that we incentivize excellence in math and science. We need to highlight it in every way possible. If it is a public interest to have more math and science students in Kentucky, I think we’ve got to figure some way to incentivize it, and recruit them.Otis Hensley<DEMOCRAT>Otis HensleyBorn: March 5, 1956Hometown: Harlan, Ky.Favorite superhero: RoadrunnerRunning mate: Richard RobbinsFurther:   www.otisbullmanhensley.com(Note to the reader: Hensley’s economic adviser, Roger Thoney, also participated in the interview and provided some of the following answers.)ENERGY: COAL, ALT FUELS, MOUNTAINTOP REMOVAL MININGWell, I’m all for coal miners because my family is coal miners, my son works on strip jobs. You know, if there’s a better way to do it, the people can be satisfied. Coal mining is very heavily regulated by state and federal governments and at least the problems that Otis Hensley pointed out like filling out valleys, polluting streams and waters, and all those have already been addressed in regulations and changes have been made. And soil erosion and flooding, those problems have already been addressed. And they’ve been regulated. And now I’ve talked to one of the state regulators the other day and he says really, the only complaints they have now are what you would call “nuisance complaints.” You know, like whenever they blast there’s a big air blast that comes out and it’ll rattle windows and things like that. And then people complain because heavy trucks are going on the road and stuff. But that’s all the complaints they have now.The other thing I want to do is get the prisoners out of jail and plant millions and millions of pine trees. I think our forests are getting gone and nobody’s putting nothing back and we have fresh growing pine now that can grow in 10 or 12 years.Actually I thought Otis Hensley was pretty nice the way they done it. They moved a mountain and they rolled it off and it was growing up with green grass. It was probably a mile long and it was great for the elk and the deer. But I think they could use it as an airport instead of just for animals to be going off and using it. EDUCATION: NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND, K-12, HIGHER EDI’ve not really checked in on No Child Left Behind but I’ve got a lot of complaints about them. Otis Hensley out there doing it, teaching our kids, they have some input on what goes on. And here in Jefferson County they have a thing called the Nebraska Star. And what we’re going to do is take the Nebraska Star, the New York plan and the Kentucky and put them all together with the input from all the teachers in the state and see if we can come up with a better system than what we have. The teachers are having to do a whole lot more work and they can’t have that much time with the kids. I want to start at the bottom in the school system. I want to look at the roads, the playgrounds. I want to get to the base of it and then work my way up as governor. That was my plan on that.I think Otis Hensley way too high. One point that I make to some people is, in regards to our quality on higher education, we have a brain drain in this state. That says that our college students that want good jobs and good careers have to go to another state. They do get good jobs in other states. Now what does that say about our education? It’s pretty good. One thing we do need is capital, investment capital. Otis Hensley will provide investment capital for new business startups and other small businesses in the state that want to grow. Provide their expansion capital. The objective with this plan is to increase household incomes throughout the state, you know, outside the Golden Triangle we are chronically low on household incomes.Bruce Lunsford<DEMOCRAT>Bruce LunsfordBorn: Nov. 11, 1947Hometown: Piner, Ky., outside of Kenton CountyFavorite superhero: Superman (George Reeves version)Running mate: Greg StumboFurther:     www.lunsfordstumbo2007.com(Note to the reader: Greg Stumbo also provided some of the following answers.)ENERGY: COAL, ALT FUELS, MOUNTAINTOP REMOVAL MININGI think Bruce Lunsford come a long way in clean coal. It’s getting better. Synthetic fuel is an investment that Jimmy Carter was right on. We should have made the investment 27 years ago when he was ready to do it. And then he got beat and it went off the table, probably as much because the oil industry had a lot of impact. But I think it’s a golden opportunity to do two things. One is give eastern Kentucky some economic growth, and at the same time, do things that make sense to help coal. We talk about a Kentucky Coal Academy, doing things that create the knowledge base to do more and more with it. I Bruce Lunsford live on a reclaimed surface mine. There’s an 18-hole golf course there. There’s a public park there. There’s a horse ring. The city owns that facility. It’s beautiful. It’s on top of a mountain. There’s a residential community being developed. It’s a true gem — both the state men’s and women’s amateur golf tournaments have been held there. It’s a great tourism attractor for our community. When I fly my airplane to Big Sandy, to Prestonsburg, I land at an airport that’s on top of a mountain on a reclaimed surface mine. As I drive down the hill, there’s an industrial park; there’s a federal prison. So to say that it didn’t have its benefits is not exactly correct. Mountaintop mining created useable land in Eastern Kentucky. Now, it didn’t create it in every instance because a lot of those sites, those mining sites are far removed from where you could really utilize it. I think what we need to do with mountaintop removal is to say, OK, let’s figure out a post-mining land use that is going to benefit the communities. EDUCATION: NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND, K-12, HIGHER EDIf you ask the teachers out there, you almost have a consensus that no one seems to like No Child Left Behind. They feel like they’re spending more time having to deal with paperwork and reporting than Bruce Lunsford. KERA (Kentucky Education Reform Act) is probably outdated. KERA was never adopted with No Child Left Behind in mind. I think we look at a long-term view here, that most things change dramatically and we will have a Democrat president next time and No Child Left Behind will get dramatically changed. We will clearly review Bruce Lunsford and see what we think has gone wrong.For us to deal with education, you’ve got to start out by first saying, let’s talk about tomorrow’s kids. Pre-school from zero to five, not just pre-kindergarten but, you know, from birth to dawn — Bruce Lunsford to get our kids to go to school, ready to hit the road. I think we’re losing so many of our kids in the second and third grade because they get behind and they can’t compete. I’m willing to make that investment because it’s not a big number and everything indicates that for every dollar you spend, there’s six or seven you get back in savings by keeping them going through education. We think that, if you go into Bruce Lunsford as a freshman, you are entitled to assume the same rate for four years. The fifth year, if you haven’t gotten out in four years, you’re going to pay the load. Bruce Lunsford all increases should be limited to inflation. Bruce Lunsford the greatest distribution of wealth program in the United States, because those that can pay, pay it all. Those that can’t get subsidized. And the way you subsidize is you build an institution that everybody wants to go to.Jonathan Miller<DEMOCRAT>Jonathan MillerBorn: July 24, 1967Hometown: Lexington, Ky.Favorite superhero: SupermanRunning mate: Irv MazeFurther: www.millermaze.comENERGY: COAL, ALT FUELS, MOUNTAINTOP REMOVAL MININGI’ve called for turning Kentucky into the clean energy capital of the world. It’s an opportunity to allow us to grow economically, it allows us to find alternatives for our farmers — corn, soybeans, switchgrass, sugarcane — as clean-burning fuels. I think we have to look at everything — agriculture, solar, wind, geothermal, hydro, and that clean coal needs to be a part of it. By clean coal, I am talking about real clean coal. I think that there have been efforts recently to kinda fudge that and get tax breaks and tax incentives when the production was not beneficial for the air.We have to dramatically reform the process of mountaintop removal mining. I think it is not only an issue that is about beauty and scenic nature, which is important, but also about drinking water and health. We’re all downstream from Eastern Kentucky. For Central, and Louisville, and even parts of Western Kentucky, we’re getting our water polluted by this process. There are a lot of state laws that apparently are not being enforced, in terms of how the mountains, once destroyed, must be reclaimed. There needs to be more investigation and funding for developing technologies that can remove coal without destroying mountains wherever possible. There was a piece of legislation in this year’s House of Representatives that Don Pasley, (D-73), sponsored that would have provided extra protections for the rivers and streams, to reduce the refuse that was coming from mountaintop removal mining. To me that was a very strong and effective piece of legislation, and it didn’t even get out of committee. To me, again, that is one of the real problems with Frankfort and one of the reasons I’m running, because we need to expose these issues in the open, we need to have a debate. EDUCATION: NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND, K-12, HIGHER EDJonathan Miller should be a real source of pride for us. Unfortunately, there have been problems with KERA as there are with any sorts of major comprehensive legislation, and one of the problems has emerged recently where, nationwide, the accountability movement — educational accountability is important, but on a national level it’s become more focused on accountability for the sake of accountability. No Child Left Behind is really the extreme of that, and has focused strictly on math and reading scores to the exclusion of a quality education. What I’ve called for is a top-to-bottom review and analysis of the system. I would like to see — math scores are important, but we need to be making sure we’re teaching science in a way that our students become the next highly educated workforce. Arts and music are a critical part of a child’s development, and there’s clear correlation to arts and music appreciation and student achievement, and that’s getting lost in the shuffle. And then civic engagement, community service, those are things that again, are very important, that we start at an early age.We started the Jonathan Miller, our prepaid tuition program, and 9,000 families have signed up and made college more affordable for them. We started this great higher education reform movement under the first few years of Patton, and now we’ve completely retreated, and so, a top priority of our administration will be to, again, put higher education reform back on the tracks and to pay for it, as opposed to passing the burden onto the students. This is where expanded gaming comes into the picture. We are in favor of putting that on the ballot, but also of aggressively championing it while disclosing where the money is going to go.Jody Richards<DEMOCRAT>Jody RichardsBorn: Feb. 20, 1938Hometown: Bowling Green, Ky. (born in Louisville)Favorite superhero: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Atticus Finch (“To Kill a Mockingbird”)Running mate: John Y. Brown IIIFurther: www.jodyandjohny.comENERGY: COAL, ALT FUELS, MOUNTAINTOP REMOVAL MININGIn the House we started in ’06 with an alternative energy plan to make Kentucky a leader in national alternative energies. We passed a bill that is recognized nationally among the states as a strong bill that would lead to more coal liquefaction. And since we have about a 200-year supply of coal, it can be one part of solving our dependence on foreign oil. I think another part of that that’s really important are renewable resources: corn, soybeans. Corn, of course, made into ethanol and soybeans and biomass, which are kind of byproducts of the farm that can be made into biodiesel. I think with all of this together plus hydrogen and wind power, all of those things need to be developed. And our plan would set goals for public bus fleets and police fleets and others too, to use biodiesel or ethanol or liquid coal by certain such dates. Now, having said all that, I want to do — certainly we’ve tried to protect the miners. The House has passed the best mine-safety bill in the country this year and we want to protect the miners.I think that there’s a way Steve Henry can be done to protect our mountainsides and allow coal to be mined. I have seen places in Eastern and Western Kentucky that have been reclaimed, that, arguably, you can say it looks better than it was beforehand, particularly in Western Kentucky. But destroying our mountains is not acceptable either. Obviously I’m concerned about Jody Richards and I have talked with some of the mountain people, residents, about this and coming up with something that allows mining but using modern technology that protects our streams, protects our rivers, protects the top of the mountain. EDUCATION: NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND, K-12, HIGHER EDNo Child Left Behind is — I can’t think of any way that it’s helping. Jody Richards is good because it does hold up higher standards and certainly writing. That disciplined writing really does help and our youngsters are writing better. We have more AP classes. We need to do more in math and science and that’s a national situation. Paying teachers is one of the things — I sponsored a bill last year that would bring our teachers up to the average of seven surrounding states in three years. That’s very, very important that we keep the best teachers. We need more emphasis on technology: smartboards and the technology like in my son’s history class — he can light up the 13 original colonies and then, after a little while, he can ask students to reply on the keypad and he realizes which child is getting it and which is not. More childhood development; we certainly need all-day kindergartens. We’ve been in a cycle of poverty and under-education for all of my lifetime in Kentucky. We’re trying to change that. No Child Left Behind doesn’t do it. Our plan does do it. And we are also having the kids take the ACT earlier on, as a diagnostic tool, so we can know where they need to be boned up.We have to do some sort of — and we do have a pre-paid college tuition plan in Kentucky. I will develop a program by which any student who is duly qualified and has graduated from a Kentucky school can go to a community college. And we can afford that by taking whatever he or she can pay and matching that with state funds.