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Local News

Berea Shooting Suspect Arrested in Jefferson County

A suspect in a double-shooting in Berea is in custody after being captured in Louisville.

Police were seeking 27-year-old Matt Denholm after one shooting victim was was found dead and another injured in a Berea apartment complex. Denholm was arrested in Jeffersontown and charges are pending.

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Local News Politics

Fairness Group Says Berea Protections Would Not Be Costly

The group Bereans for Fairness has released a set of predictions about what would happen if the city banned discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.

The Berea City Council is considering creating a human rights commission and tasking it with enforcing a fairness law. Berea would become the fourth Kentucky city to do so, following Louisville, Lexington and Covington.

Opponents of the measure, including the city’s mayor, often cite the difficulty and cost of enforcing such regulations. But the Bereans for Fairness report looks at existing enforcement and concludes that a Berea Human Rights Commission would not be very busy with LGBT cases. It estimates that there would be one complaint every two years, with one out of every ten requiring an administrative hearing. Given that, the report concludes that enforcement would cost about $750 per year.

The Mayor of Berea did not return a request for comment.

To see the report, click here.

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Local News Politics

Berea Mayor’s Opposition Won’t Stop Push for Fairness Law

The head of the Louisville Fairness Campaign says the Mayor of Berea’s opposition to a fairness ordinance in that city won’t stop the efforts to expand protections in Kentucky.

The Fairness Campaign is trying to get small cities to pass laws blocking discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Director Chris Hartman says that could tip public opinion in favor of a statewide law.

Berea is close. The city council is debating whether to create a human rights commission to enforce current anti-discrimination laws. The next step is to expand protections for LGBT residents. But the mayor opposes the expansion, arguing that the commission would not be able to enforce a law that doesn’t exist on a statewide level.

“You know it took almost a decade to pass the law here in Louisville once the Fairness Campaign was founded,” says Hartman. “We’ve been at this in Berea for only a handful of months. It would’ve been wonderful had the ordinance passed within the first month or the first two months but we’re not naive here.”

The group Bereans for Fairness will release a report on the potential benefits of a fairness ordinance this week.

“There is certainly the potential that a combined Madison County ordinance could come to the fore at some point in time,” says Hartman. “So there are many options, all of which will be fully explored.”

Currently, only Louisville, Lexington and Covington have fairness laws.

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Environment Local News

Berea Plans Small-Scale Solar Farm

Customers of Berea Municipal Utilities will soon have the option to invest in a small solar farm.

The Berea Solar Farm won’t be a moneymaker for investors. A 25-year lease for one panel will cost about $700. The average residential customer uses an average of 600 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month, and a single panel would provide about one-twentieth of that energy.

If electricity prices increase by about five percent each year, like they have in the past, it will take 23 years for investors to recoup their money.

Steve Boyce is the chair of the utility’s advisory board. He says the real appeal of the farm is the chance for energy-conscious people to start generating their power from renewable sources.

“They like the idea of being able to be part of a local community effort, to take some real responsibility for generating the energy that we use,” he said.

Boyce says becoming a partner in the Berea Solar Farm will end up costing about $3 per watt—cheaper than the costs of installing an individual residential system.

“It’s pretty expensive at this point to install a rooftop system that would generate some significant portion of the electricity that you would use in a typical home,” he said.

Lessees will see a credit on their utility bills for the electricity generated by their panel. Boyce says the utility company is still trying to figure out the best place for the panels, but he expects them to be up and running in the next 10 weeks.

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Local News Politics

Fairness Campaign Director Confident Berea Will Pass Anti-Discrimination Law

The Berea, Kentucky City Council will meet tomorrow. No discussion of two pending anti-discrimination laws is on the agenda, but gay rights activists say the panel is moving closer to passing measures protecting LGBT residents.

The Louisville Fairness Campaign has been instrumental in supporting an ordinance that would make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in Berea. Last month, a proposal for a city Human Rights Commission was introduced but it did not include any language saying the commission would investigate discrimination against LGBT residents.

“The human rights commission [bill] has been written with the ability to adopt sexual orientation and gender identity sexual orientation protections if…when the City of Berea does,” says Fairness Campaign director Chris Hartman. “They would actually be unable to just write sexual orientation and gender identity protections into the human rights commission formation itself, I believe. They would still have to be two stand-alone bills.”

Hartman is confident the fairness ordinance will be introduced soon. The Fairness Campaign plans to continue supporting similar measures in small cities to tip public opinion toward a statewide law.

“The only way to pass a statewide law is to garner grassroots support at the local level,” says Hartman. “Then and only then will state representatives from those areas be compelled to vote for an anti-discrimination fairness law that covers the entire state.

But another LGBT group is against the plan. Jordan Palmer of the Kentucky Equality Federation says city laws put extra stress on local governments to enforce the measures.

“Whereas if it’s a law that encompasses the entire commonwealth it goes through the Kentucky Coalition on Human Rights and that’s an independent state agency that’s heavily funded,” he says. “We continue to focus our efforts on a state level with the Kentucky House and Senate instead of the local level.”

Only Louisville, Lexington and Covington have fairness laws.

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Local News Uncategorized

After Months, Berea Still Taking “First Step” on Human Rights Commission

Despite months of meetings on a proposed fairness ordinance and human rights commission, members of the Berea city council still say they’re taking the “first step” on the issue.

In May, the council first considered passing an ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and creating a commission to educate the public. A subcommittee was formed to research and inform the rest of the council on the two ideas.

Some expected the council would vote on the ordinance last month, but that didn’t happen. Instead, the subcommittee held two public forums and about eight meetings.  Tuesday night, the subcommittee will present their findings on a human rights commission to the council.  But committee member Truman Fields says there will not be a vote on whether to actually form the commission.

“We’re getting a lot of material, talked to a lot of people,” Fields said. “We’re going to do something pretty soon.  No, I don’t think we’re going too slow.”

The council will only discuss the human rights commission Tuesday. Two such discussions are required before a vote on an ordinance.

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Local News Uncategorized

Berea Delays Making Decision on Fairness Ordinance

On Tuesday night, the Berea City Council announced it will take longer than expected to come to a decision about the possibility of a city fairness ordinance.  The council has held public forums on the ordinance, which would prohibit discrimination in the workplace and housing market due to sexual orientation and gender identity.

“It’s a very serious issue,” says Diane Kerby, who serves on the council.  “One that deserves as much time as it needs to make sure that we’re making the right decision and that we consider all the various comments and support.”

Chris Hartman’s Fairness Campaign has lobbied for the ordinance.  Although the decision will be delayed, he says he isn’t dismayed by the announcement.

“I’m not concerned that it’s not going to happen,” he says.  “Certainly I want the city to be certain that they’re moving in the right direction.  It’s just the legislative process sometimes takes longer than I’d like.”

Kerby characterizes the public’s opinion as split, with passionate voices on both sides.  She says the council will put off making a decision for as long as necessary and will use this time to consult legal experts.

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Uncategorized

Berea Could Become the Fourth Kentucky City With a Fairness Ordinance

On Tuesday night, the Berea City Council will hold the second and final public hearing on an ordinance that would protect gay and transgender individuals from discrimination in housing and employment.  After the forum, the council will decide whether or not they will take a vote on the ordinance.

The Fairness Campaign has been working for months to see the measure passed. Chris Hartman is the group’s director.

“We feel extraordinarily positive about the progress in Berea,” he said.   “Just last Thursday, local supporters — business leaders, religious leaders, students, teachers, everyone — came out to show that support to get that ordinance passed there.”

Berea would join Lexington, Louisville, and Covington as cities that have fairness ordinances. If the council decides to take the bill to a vote, it will most likely occur within a month.

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Local News Noise & Notes

Berea Residents Debate Fairness Law at Public Forum

A number of residents gathered Tuesday night to sound off on a not-yet-drafted fairness ordinance being considered by the Berea City Council. The measure will extend civil rights protections to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered residents.

In Kentucky, only Louisville, Lexington and Covington currently have laws banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing and employment.

Several opponents came to the meeting, saying there are no examples of discrimination against LGBT residents and the law is a political agenda that extends “special rights” to certain groups.

Louisville Fairness Campaign Director Chris Hartman says the public forum showed there is still discrimination against LGBT residents in parts of the state and the legislation is necessary.

“If there were no intolerance in Berea, anyone who says that was not at the meeting last night because there was plenty of hate, vitriol and intolerance being spewed in that meeting. There always is when these debates come up. We are not looking for special rights…we’re looking for equal rights, we’re looking for fairness,” he says.

The committee made up of three council members will hold two more public forums before deciding whether to bring the measure before the full city council.

On WFPL’s Here and Now, we interviewed Hartman about the fairness movement in Berea, other smaller cities and statewide.

Audio MP3
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Here and Now Local News

Wednesday Here and Now

Here’s what we have planned for today at 1pm: Senate Democrats are proposing an end to tax breaks for the five biggest oil companies as a way to help bring down the deficit. It’s not going to help gas prices, but it will bring in about $21 billion over ten years. Republicans oppose it.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will soon allow the ordination of gay and lesbian clergy. A majority of the denomination’s regional governing bodies has agreed to lift the requirement that unmarried clergy remain celibate. We’ll spend a few minutes with Cynthia Bolbach, the Moderator of the 219th General Assembly.

The Berea City Council held a public forum last night to consider amending a local ordinance that would extend civil rights protections to residents based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. Only Louisville, Lexington and Covington have those laws on the books in Kentucky. We’ll find out what happened.

And we’ll speak with National Book Award finalist Gail Mazur. Her latest collection of poems, Figures In A Landscape, was written as her husband, the artist Michael Mazur, was dying.

Here and Now starts at 1pm.