Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Stein Considering Options to Retain District Seat

In light of a controversial redistricting plan, State Sen. Kathy Stein, D-Lexington, is weighing several options after being drawn out of her district.

The Democratic-controlled House approved new legislative maps Thursday, which originated in the Republican-controlled Senate and moves Stein’s downtown Lexington district to northeastern Kentucky, leaving her without a seat for two years.

The bill now goes to Governor Steve Beshear, who is being pressured by Stein’s supporters to veto the legislation. The governor is expected to sign the legislation, but his office is releasing a statement on the redistricting bill later today.

Stein says she will not move to seek re-election, but is mulling different courses of action, including a lawsuit or running for her old House seat.

“It hadn’t quite been 24 hours and there are a lot of options, some of them are still occurring to me and I’m hearing from friends. And I’m going to have to sit down and discuss the many options. I’m concerned that the people in downtown Lexington will not have a person there who knows the district as I do,” she says.

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Kentucky Continues Auto Sector Business Growth

Kentucky officials expect to continue its partnership with Argonne National Laboratories when it opens facilities in Lexington later this year to develop rechargeable car battery technology.

“It fits in very well with where we understand where Toyota and Ford Motor want to move with future vehicles,” said Len Peters, secretary of the Energy and Environment Cabinet.

Last week, Gov. Steve Beshear, joined by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, visited the Detroit Auto Show and met with Ford executives. While Ford’s $1.2 billion investment at the Louisville Assembly Plant is being called one of the best economic development deals of 2011 by trade magazine Business Facilities, Kentucky has made further efforts to become a leader in the automotive industry with its decision to extend operations with U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratories.

Local News Next Louisville Politics

Louisville-Lexington Partnership Board Named

The economic partnership between Louisville and Lexington will be led by a 21-member board of business executives, university presidents and economic development officials.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Lexington Mayor Jim Gray named the board of the Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement, or BEAM, this afternoon.

BEAM is meant to foster a regional economic around manufacturing. The board includes executives from GE, Ford, UPS, Toyota and other companies with local interests. The leaders of the Louisville, Lexington and Southern Indiana chambers of commerce also sit on the board, as do the presidents of U of L and UK.

The head of the Lexington Urban League is on the board, along with former KET journalist and host Al Smith. There are no labor representatives on the board.

The two mayors are also members. They led the first board meeting, which was convened after the board members were named. Former Louisville Arena Authority Chair Jim Host is leading BEAM.

Local News Next Louisville Politics

BEAM Board Will Be Named Today

The partnership between Louisville and Lexington known as BEAM—the Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement—will begin to take shape soon. This afternoon, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Lexington Mayor Jim Gray will announce the BEAM board and lead the first board meeting.

BEAM has a goal—to attract businesses and jobs to Kentucky, mostly in the manufacturing sector.

BEAM also has money and support. Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Brookings Institution are both helping, and the Louisville Metro Council has passed a resolution endorsing the idea.

BEAM doesn’t yet have a definitive plan. That will be for the board to determine.

The Louisville Metro Council has approved a resolution supporting BEAM. President Jim King says he doesn’t think it’s premature to endorse a plan before the details are worked out.

“I’d like to see this become the template for future partnerships between Louisville and Lexington so that we can have a true regional economy. When businesses are looking to locate in Kentucky, they don’t care about what county you’re in or what city you’re in,” he says. “If we don’t have it, Lexington does and vice versa. I think it would be smart for us to try to collaborate with them in those situations,” he says.

Every member of the council was a co-sponsor of the legislation. A similar measure has been introduced in the Lexington council.

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Community Dedicates Flight 5191 Memorial

by Brenna Angel, Kentucky Public Radio

Hundreds of people gathered at the University of Kentucky Arboretum this morning to remember the 49 lives lost when Comair Flight 5191 crashed at Blue Grass Airport in Lexington.

The five year anniversary ceremony included the dedication of a sculpture of 49 silver birds flying upward.

“If a memorial can make you appreciate life, this is that memorial. If a memorial can help you find peace, this is that memorial. If a memorial can be uplifting, this is that memorial,” said Matthew Snoddy, a member of the Flight 5191 Memorial Commission.

The victims’ names are etched in granite at the base of the sculpture. The piece was the work of artist Douwe Blumberg.

“Seeing this in person and to know it’s been done so tastefully, it really is just an incredible piece of artwork,” said Jason Bizzack, who lost his mom Carole in the crash.

National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Deborah Hersman attended today’s ceremony. She was the lead federal investigator five years ago, and says aviation is safer because of lessons learned from Comair Flight 5191.

A fundraising effort is still underway to establish a Flight 5191 Memorial maintenance fund.

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Libyan Expatriate in Lexington Shares His Thoughts on Revolution

by Ron Smith, Kentucky Public Radio

Ibrahim El Bakoush has no words to describe his feelings amid rebel gains in his homeland.  He’s been away from Libya for 32 years, and he’s spent much of that time waiting for the Gadhafi regime to fall.

“I’ve always heard about people who say I cannot describe my feeling, now I’m experiencing that,” he says. “I cannot describe my feeling, my jubilation, the happiness. It’s beyond explanation.”

Rebels have gained control of most parts of Tripoli. But El Bakoush says victory didn’t come this week. Rather, it came months ago when the Libyan people decided to take control of their lives.

“To me victory is the day, that day people decided to have the [uprising] because you’re controlled by fear, and once you break that fear you’re victorious, regardless of what’s the outcome,” he says.

El Bakoush says he has no worries about the future of his country after Gaddafi is gone. He hopes Libyans will rebuild their nation with qualified people, and not those whose first loyalty is to a dictator.

Local News Next Louisville Politics

Mayors Discuss Super Region Study

The initial planning for a super region between Louisville and Lexington has begun.

The Brookings Institution is helping the cities put together a plan for an economic partnership centered around manufacturing jobs. In particular, it will look at how best to lure more auto industry jobs to Louisville, Lexington or nearby cities.

In the past, business leaders and Greater Louisville Inc. officials have said the state tax code hampers business.

“We have a lot of strengths already,” says Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer of the existing manufacturing infrastructure in the cities. “Can our state tax codes be improved? Sure. But that’s a minor element for the overall plan.”

The plan is being compared to Louisville’s previous effort to become a logistics hub around UPS. But Business Facilities magazine recently did not rank Louisville as of the country’s “top ten logistics cities” that are poised to see continued prosperity in shipping and distribution.

“Regardless of if we’re top ten or number eleven, we play a central role in the economy of our country and having success with our super region economic development plan is going to accelerate that even further,” says Fischer.

The study will cost $250,000 and will be paid for through private donations. Bloomberg Philanthropies recently awarded Louisville a $4.8 million grant in part to help with the super region development.

The region will be called the Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement, or BEAM.

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USPS to Conduct Area Efficiency Studies

By Alan Lytle, Kentucky Public Radio

The U.S. Postal Service is conducting a study of the efficiency of its Louisville and Lexington hubs.

Spokesman David Walton says the study will determine whether some of the duties handled in the Lexington Processing and Distribution Center could be performed more efficiently at the Louisville facility. The USPS is doing similar studies in many other cities.

“Sometimes they have these studies and they say, hey, it’s not going to be worth it to proceed. In other cases they do,” says Walton ” Once we do reach that point, though, if we do decide to move ahead we will have a public meeting where we can get our stakeholders and customers’ comments. We’d like to hear from them because that is very much a part of this study.”

Walton says the Postal Service is on track to lose 6 billion dollars this year so examining all forms of consolidation is necessary.

“We have to do this because to have redundant processes going on at plants it’s really not much of a cost savings,” he says “so, if we can do the same thing in the Louisville plant that we are doing in Lexington, we’re going to go for it.”

The USPS is still trying to overcome the effects of the economic recession, and the agency projects another 6 billion dollar loss this fiscal year. The service is also considering closing some branches.
Walton says a public meeting will be held before any consolidations occur.

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Four Indicted in Lottery Fraud Investigation

A grand jury today indicted four individuals in Louisville and Lexington on charges of lottery fraud.

The indictments are part of an undercover investigation by the Kentucky Lottery Corporation. KLC personnel visited various lottery retailers and presented tickets that, when scanned at a lottery terminal, would instruct the store clerk to award a prize.

KLC president Arch Gleason says there was reason to suspect certain retailers.

“The 33 locations that were visited for the integrity testing” Gleason says “were locations which were identified because previously there had been either or a complaint by a player concerning dealings at those locations or there had been through our computer system identified claims by those individuals.”

The indicted individuals told the undercover KLC employees the winning tickets were not, in fact, winners but later submitted them for payment from the Lottery Corporation.

The four individuals were owners or clerks at three retail locations, including a mother and son. None of them have been arrested and their arraignments will be Tuesday, July 5.

Commonwealth’s Attorney David Stengel says “KRS Statutes governing the Lottery, specify felony offenses and give specific penalties if those laws are broken, the indictments returned today reflect those statutes and guarantee the integrity of the lottery.”

Stengel also says these class B felony offenses carry a 10 to 20 year prison sentence and players should contact the KLC Security department with any concerns regarding prizes.

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Lexington-Native Rapper Garners National Attention

Lexington Native Khaled Ahmed Muammar is garnering national attention for his rap anthem for Libyan rebels.

His father was imprisoned under Moammar Ghadaffi in the 1970’s.  He eventually made his way to America and settled in Lexington, KY.

Khaled often dreamed of bringing down Ghaddafi as a kid and is now getting those feelings out through his music. His Libyan anthem “Can’t Take Our Freedom” has been featured in several national news outlets, including Here & Now from WBUR in Boston.

“I get messages from all over the world, we can’t wait to see you in concert, we can’t wait to see you perform in Libya,” Khaled toldWBUR’s Here & Now. “And you know, if that happens it happens. But I’m in awe of those people. I’m going to be walking around getting everybody else’s autographs.”