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August 25, 2010

Inbox — Aug. 25, 2010

Letters to the Editor

Correction
A music review in our Aug. 11 edition incorrectly identified Ginger Baker as having played with Deep Purple. LEO regrets the error.

Moving On
I am responding to the article by Jonathan Meador about Metro Animal Services (MAS) in the July 28 LEO Weekly. Metro Animal Services has been repeatedly berated in the media ever since the flooding in August ’09. Some of the criticism is warranted, but conditions have changed and improved since the departure of the former executive director Dr. Gilles Meloche in December ’09. MAS is now under the direction of “interim” director Wayne Zelinsky until a new mayor is elected and a new Metro administration in place.

There is good news at MAS. While under Meloche’s leadership, MAS was shut off from other animal welfare groups. Since his departure, Zelinsky has implemented improved policies and procedures. MAS has entered into partnerships with other animal welfare groups to reduce the overcrowding and euthanasia rates by letting these groups take some of the animals and place them up for adoption through their own avenues and resources. Even though the Kentucky Humane Society (KHS) is a private, nonprofit organization, KHS is taking an average of 70 dogs per month from MAS. Our primary objective is to save these pets. Ironically, the city demands we be charged a “pull fee” for taking these animals. Several other animal rescue group volunteers also are pitching in to improve the outcome for companion animals that are homeless and housed at MAS.

This division of government has been woefully ignored by every administration. Perhaps the next administration will look at MAS as a community service and help our citizens control pet overpopulation. Innovative measures must be taken to keep pets out of the shelter and in good homes. Strong spay/neuter incentives must be offered, including financial assistance for owners who cannot afford it. Animal welfare groups in this community are eager to help, but a strong, well-operated and well-funded MAS division must be the foundation.

Both Greg Fischer and Hal Heiner, leading candidates for mayor, recognize MAS is an embarrassment to our community, and each has met with representatives from the various animal welfare groups. Animal welfare groups are asking the mayor elect, and our council representatives, to make this a priority for the next administration and to dedicate the funding and resources to MAS to improve this vital community service.
Patti Swope, Crescent Hill

Chalking Speech
Where was the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky? If I read the Steve Shaw article on “folk hero” Stu Noland’s arrest correctly (LEO Weekly, Aug. 4), I wonder if it is not too late for the ACLU to get involved. If chalking a sidewalk is not covered by the criminal mischief ordinance (as opposed to use of oil paint, acid and/or indelible ink), why did no one suggest an intentional muzzling of legitimate First Amendment-protected free speech? It appears Noland is a “public figure,” known for his opposition to the costly and apparently unneeded second downtown bridge that would destroy Waterfront Park.

If Noland can be harassed so easily for legally exercising his First Amendment rights, then perhaps it is time for many more of us to start chalking the sidewalks. How about chalking the slogan: “No rethinking the second downtown bridge by either Greg Fischer or Hal Heiner, No vote from us for either!” Or how about “No rethinking bridges, No vote” for short? This is good old-fashioned democratic pressure. The mayoral race appears to be close, and a hypothetical “write-in” vote for Tyler Allen (just presented as a hypothetical example) could be decisive. ACLU of Kentucky, please take note.
David Eugene Blank, Highlands

Restorative Justice
Two current news stories in Kentucky may seem unconnected, but together they point to a better commonwealth: State government has appointed a commission to recommend ways to control spiraling costs from the state’s bulging prison population, and former Louisville police officer McKenzie Mattingly hopes to meet with the family of Michael Newby, whom he fatally shot in 2004 during an undercover drug buy.

The concept of “restorative justice” — also known as victim-offender mediation — includes face-to-face meetings, and that can work far beyond the example of Mattingly and Newby’s family. In criminal justice, the meetings allow both parties in a crime to express and explain themselves and, in many cases, work out a plan to restore the peace of the victim or survivors.

It has proven remarkably successful at helping victims heal and offenders develop more accountability by understanding the humanity of the people they have hurt (instead of hearing the case described as “Kentucky versus so-and-so”).

Employing restorative justice as an alternative to prison could relieve overcrowding and, since about half of prisoners in the country are nonviolent offenders (and nearly three-quarters of new admissions to state prisons in 2003 were convicted of nonviolent crimes, according to Human Rights Watch), it could allow us to reserve prisons for the violent. This would reduce the need for their early parole, so the restorative way could help prevent violent crime, too.

Legislators at all levels need to hear from people about this, so look up all you can on restorative justice and contact them.
George Morrison, Cherokee Triangle

Distorting Free Speech
I have a couple questions for Tom Louderback in response to his Aug. 4 letter about political advertising. First, I note that Louderback says political advertising “distorts the issues” or “lies” and that money spent on those ads is “the power to deceive people.” If Louderback has discerned the truth of those ads, does he think that others cannot do so as well?

Secondly, even if we assume all ads are deceptive, can he be sure they do not promote the “discovery and spread of political truth” that Justice Brandeis wanted? Can it not also be the case that the truth can be found amid the various untruths put out by different partisans?

Thirdly, is the Louderback standard that if one must pay, it is not speech? Would it also be that books or films sold on political subjects are not speech?

Fourthly, how does Louderback propose “discussion that is open to everyone” be carried out? After all, doesn’t discussion have two parts — the speaker and an audience? If that is the case, I would suggest the closest one could possibly come to that might be the blogosphere, where almost anyone can write almost anything and almost anyone can read it. This being the case, what is the harm in political entities paying to get their message out, and don’t they have a right to get their message out in the most effective way they can?
Rich Mills, Shawnee

Animal Rights
When some people hear the term “animal rights,” they think it means animals should have the same rights as humans, be allowed to run free and to vote. Of course, that’s ridiculous. It simply means that all domesticated animals should have the right to food, shelter and water, should not be caged, chained or tied-up for long periods of time, should be protected from extreme heat and cold, should be provided medical care when necessary, and should not be abandoned or beaten. Many states have laws that protect pets from some of these abuses but exempt farm animals. If people treated their pets the way factory farmers treat their animals, they would be fined and/or serve jail time.

If one person abuses an animal, it is considered cruelty, but if an industry abuses them, it is condoned and defended by otherwise intelligent people. So if farm animals were afforded these “rights,” what would it mean? No, it doesn’t mean we would all have to become vegetarians. It just means that factory farms would need to change the way they operate. Their current practices are described on www.factoryfarming.com.

The clash over these animals is about economics. The farmers say crowding pays, anesthetics are too expensive, and how they handle their animals and the stress level on them is irrelevant. This was the same reasoning plantation owners used to justify slavery. However, Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves despite the economic effect.

Lincoln has been quoted as saying, “I’m in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of the whole human being.” There won’t be a civil war to free these animals, but it is time for us to become “whole human beings” by supporting changes in the law to allow some relief for these animals.
Harold R. Wilson, Corydon, Ind.