June 17, 2009

Inbox — June 17, 2009

Letters to the Editor

Trainer: Bring On Slots

I am a thoroughbred horse trainer. I don’t live in Kentucky, but I spend a good amount of time in your fine state throughout the year and it’s here where I have enjoyed some of the proudest, grandest moments of my life. As I watch racing in your state diminish, I am shocked at the lack of interest or concern on the part of legislators in the Bluegrass — the “Horse Capitol” of the world.

This is an industry that generates over $4 billion in your state and brings in another $9 billion in tourism. That’s not including the hundreds of millions of dollars from the Kentucky Horse Park and events such as the Kentucky Derby. Racing in your state directly or indirectly employs more than 100,000 workers. That translates into hundreds of thousands of people and their families who depend on it for a living. Over the past several years, I have seen many of our wealthiest horse owners leave my home state of California for Kentucky. They bring to the commonwealth a multitude of resources. How can you allow an industry of this magnitude to fail?

The world is ever changing. Horse racing is no exception. What once worked for an industry must be tweaked or, in some cases, totally revamped. Alternative gaming (i.e. slots) in neighboring states is killing racing in Kentucky. That is fact. Millions of dollars are being spent in areas, which, in many cases, are just a stone’s throw away from Kentucky soil. While there is much work to be done within our industry, lawmakers have the power to give it a fighting chance. As stewards of the state’s economy, it is their duty. Horse racing has been good to Kentucky.

Time is of the essence. If the legislature doesn’t act swiftly, Kentucky will not resemble the state you or your children grew up in. Pristine horse property will be abandoned, or worse yet, replaced by concrete. Once viable, thriving communities will shrink or vanish as their economies disappear. The state will find itself supporting many of the hundred-thousand hardworking men and women who will be left with no way to support their families. Public works projects will suffer as tax dollars wither away. And then there’s the challenge of caring for the 320,000 displaced racehorses.

Rich in history and steeped in tradition, Kentucky has long been the bastion of thoroughbred racing in America. It should be looked upon not only with a sense of great pride, but as a vital and irreplaceable staple of your economy. Racing is not asking for a handout, but simply the tools to compete in a changing, highly competitive market. I urge you to call your senators and representatives. Let them know you value your state’s signature industry. It is fighting for survival. What will you do to help?

Bob Baffert, Arcadia, Calif.

Triggering Heresy

Regarding Phillip M. Bailey’s “Piece be with you” (LEO Weekly, June 10): Completely insensitive are but a few of the words I have for the Rev. Ken Pagano of the New Bethel (Assemblies of God) Church in encouraging church members to bring firearms to church on June 27. This comes less than three weeks after Dr. George Tiller was gunned down by an anti-choice terrorist while ushering in his church.

Rev. Pagano can quote the Old Testament all he wants, but the fact remains that for the first 300 years of the Christian faith, followers of Jesus were pacifists. Taking the Book of Revelation literally is also very absurd. There are at least four different ways of interpreting of the last book in the Bible — the preterit, the historical, the futurist and the idealist or symbolic.

To equate the Christian faith as some form of American Triumphantism borders on heresy in my opinion.

Richard Clark, Salem, Ind.

Miffed at TIFs

Regarding Phillip M. Bailey’s “Honey, I shrunk the Metro” (LEO Weekly, June 3): The article merits a sequel. The proposed Louisville Metro $828 million budget with its $25 million shortfall may not tell the entire story of how democratic oversight of the people’s tax money has shrunk in Louisville. For example, the 7.1 percent allocation for Capital Projects & Debt provided by the Office of the Mayor (the pie chart graphic in the article) seems very low until one realizes that much of the real debt is hidden in the TIF (Tax Increment Financing) Districts. If I understand what a TIF District is, in the real world of Metro Louisville, the real estate taxes collected from these areas do not go into the general revenue fund but are earmarked as a “subsidy” for the private, for-profit firms that have “partnered” with the Abramson administration to build most of downtown Louisville.

How much more revenue would Louisville Metro government have in 2009 had Jerry Abramson not created all those TIF Districts that have drained a great amount of real estate tax revenue from the general fund? How have these TIF Districts performed for the people of Louisville — as opposed to be merely a subsidy for the likes of Cordish?

Hopefully, LEO will revisit the issue of public sector revenue sourcing and whether — as Jonathan Meador wrote in the Oct. 15, 2008 LEO — we have blown our future in a “less-than-perfect timing of our TIF-fueled, financially challenged shot for the moon.”

David Eugene Blank, Highlands