October 20, 2010

Inbox — Oct. 20, 2010

Letters to the Editor

So Close, Yet So Far
In response to the article “The Great Barrier” in the Oct. 6 LEO Weekly, I would say this. Virtually everyone who lives and works in the greater Louisville area agrees that the traffic situation downtown is abysmal, and national statistics bear this fact out. I heartily approve of Steve Wiser’s plan to get the East End bridge completed (come on, Prospect people) with some fixes to Spaghetti Junction. Either we are going to live where we work, or we will have to address the myriad people who drive from Henry, Oldham and Jefferson counties to downtown Louisville or Southern Indiana, or all those Hoosiers who have to drive through downtown Louisville in order to get to work in or around Metro Louisville. An East End bridge is apparently too logical for our political leaders, though. To allow a vast minority (Prospect again) to block a much-needed bridge is asinine. Indiana has a really nice interstate already built on the Sunny Side just waiting on an East End bridge. So close, yet so far.

But we also have to weigh the greater public need of re-engineering the mess that is our downtown interstate system against “historic” homes or buildings. Do we save an old, brick house at the expense of needed updates to our transit systems? China is working on the second largest public works program in history, spending more than $1 trillion on expanding its railway network from 48,600 miles today to 68,350 miles in 2012 and 74,564 miles in 2020. But we cannot get a bridge built in Louisville, or even painted, for years, and Amtrak trains travel at a leisurely 75 mph in most areas. How quaint.

So much for American supremacy. Let’s spend a few more million dollars on Spaghetti Junction or bridge studies and impact statements over the next decade or two while getting nothing done. I heard on MSNBC recently that Amtrak may have a “high-speed” option (95 mph, which is not really “high-speed”) between Washington, D.C., and New York by 2040. Let that date sink in. Say it with me. Twenty-forty. Or 30 years from now. The optimal word being “maybe,” which in U.S. government speak means, “Don’t hold your breath.”

I honestly wonder how many Americans now wish we had that trillion dollars back that we have spent (squandered?) in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc. That’s a lot of bridges, roads, trains, busses, sewer systems, cops, firefighters, teachers … yeah.
Mark McWane, Crestwood

Asking and Telling
Some lovely articles in the Sept. 22 LEO. While “Best Place to Spot a Lesbian” surely offended, Pam Swisher one-ups it by sharing her clever insights and educated opinions on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. While she is “anti-war” (unique? Maybe so, if you’re a member of the Taliban), she guesses it’s all right if gays wanna serve openly in the military. It’s cool. I get my views on world peace and basic civil liberties for the people serving our country mixed up all of the time.

The repeal of DADT does not concern the military’s agenda. It’s about demanding that the most prominent government employer in this country respect the rights of its service members and citizens. If we are unable to win the battle for such a public and internationally known institution as the U.S. military, then we stand no chance of gaining ground elsewhere.
Sonya Sakal, Highlands

One-Liner Rhetoric
Regarding Joe Manning’s Oct. 6 thought-filled column: Like Joe, my stomach starts to sour when I hear regurgitated sound bites used in place of rational discussion. Talk about parrot punditry gone viral! Our nation is mired in one-liners and political infomercial rhetoric. This indeed can exhaust the concerned rationalist.

These days, however, one is hard-pressed to discuss any segment of the national situation intelligently. Why? One roadblock is the lack of unbiased news reporting (“fair and balanced” to coin a bloated sound bite) — one must look long and hard for unhampered/untampered-with factual accounts.

Another stumbling block to intelligent communication is the fact that real conversational skills are sadly lacking these days. One must speak and then listen — not just for the sounds of agreement, but to other points of view and their deeper origins. Every participant is operating from a different level — all levels are intrinsically valid.

I have to believe that in the depths of our being, we all have access to reason and truth. The recognition of our collective humanity needs to become a daily priority. And the din must recede so we can do this work. I am all in for a real rally to reawaken sanity. Save a seat at the table. Just make mine decaf.
Mary Vaananen, Louisville

Even Playing Field
Your reports (in the Sept. 29 LEO Weekly) on professor Ben Foster’s litigation to increase the limit on political contributions to Kentucky school board candidates are telling only the plaintiff’s side of the story, apparently because the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance lacks the resources to mount a defense, and therefore cannot tell the public the other side. Here’s why we have contribution limits in the first place.

In Buckley v. Valeo (1976), the U.S. Supreme Court upheld congressional limits on campaign contributions in federal elections for the purpose of preventing corruption. The court held that Congress could legitimately conclude that the avoidance of the appearance of improper influence “is also critical … if confidence in the system of representative government is not to be eroded to a disastrous extent.”

Many public opinion polls over the years have indicated that our citizens perceive corruption in political fundraising activities. Respondents typically deem the influence of campaign money on elections and government decisions to be a major problem. They regularly respond that campaign money causes conflicts of interest. Many express concerns that good people are discouraged from running for office by the high cost of campaigns. It is abundantly clear that public confidence has been devastated.

The real issue in the above case is the loophole in state law that allows teachers’ associations to give money to school board candidates without limit. Close that loophole and there would be no need to raise the contribution limits. Parents, taxpayers, voters and citizens are sure to like this kind of “even playing field.”
Richard Beliles, chair, Common Cause/Kentucky, Prospect

The H-Word
If you are a fanatical reader of Phillip M. Bailey’s Jerry’s kids column in LEO, you’d probably want to vote for Hal Heiner on Nov. 2. Bailey’s articles since the primary election have told you that Greg Fischer waffles, prevaricates, cross-dresses, eats bed bugs and does many worse things. Others might want to vote for Heiner because they don’t believe in global warming (which means they aren’t concerned about our carbon footprints), or they want to fire the police chief, or they want the next mayor to take charge of the JCPS school assignments, or they passionately oppose the Fairness Campaign, or they want to determine where to build the bridge (or bridges) by opinion polls, or they’ve convinced themselves that Mayor Abramson is taking kickbacks, or they intensely hate
labor unions.

Strange as it sounds, that leaves a sizeable number of folks who might still want to vote for Fischer. Many of them want to vote for something instead of against everything. This used to be called “hope,” but the h-word has apparently been banned this election cycle. So, let’s call it “positive thinking.”

These folks are thinking about jobs that support families, balanced growth and healthy neighborhoods. They figure ideas like the following are better than merely opposing everything you don’t like or don’t understand: incentives for business innovation and green jobs, community policing, rational transportation planning, quality management standards, and private-sector incentives to improve our public schools.
Tom Louderback, Highlands