Local News

Gannett CEO’s $37.1 Million Retirement Draws Criticism

Gannett CEO Craig Dubow is stepping down due to medical issues. Dubow oversaw roughly 20,000 layoffs at Gannett media outlets, including the Courier-Journal. That’s a fact several media critics have found particularly unsavory in light of news that Dubow will receive $37.1 million in retirement and disability pay.

“…news like this makes you despair,” writes Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic. “Does Craig Dubow actually believe he’s worth $37 million? How much does a man need to live comfortably? How much can Craig Dubow eat?”

Poynter quotes Paid Content’s David Kaplan on the issue:

“Can anyone argue that Gannett newspapers and journalism are better today, and that news consumers are better served? … As revenue fell, and stock prices tanked, and product quality deteriorated, they rewarded themselves huge pay raises and bonuses.”

The leader on this news has been the Gannett Blog, which has updates and analysis galore on Dubow and all things Gannett.

Local News

Local High School Booster Club Audited

IRS officials are investigating the Fern Creek High School Booster Club.

About $500,000 previously recorded in the club’s books is unaccounted for. It’s unclear whether the missing money was embezzled or if a bookkeeping error is to blame.

Attorney Charles Adkins says it will be difficult to determine where the money could have gone because of the lack of experience and continuity in the organization.

“These problems arise, especially in booster clubs, because they don’t have a continuity of leadership,” he says. “You have a parent who joins a booster club when their child is at a school, and that parent may be elected or asked to serve in a leadership position of the organization and these parents generally are not trained and don’t always have the skills to properly manage or account for all the money a booster club brings in.”

According to Adkins the main sources of revenue for the club were bingo and charitable gaming, which he says can be a “mine field” for a volunteer driven organization. The IRS has not released its final report and has been asked to conduct audits on individual members of the group. The non-profit association faces possible criminal charges and a revocation of their tax-exempt status if the IRS determines that foul play was involved.

JCPS has no ties to the booster club and cannot regulate its actions.

Local News Politics

Kentucky to Seek More Race to the Top Dollars

Kentucky will once again compete for federal Race to the Top dollars for education.

The money is part of an effort to funnel $500 million in early learning programs. Grants of $50 to $100 million will be awarded later this year, and today, state officials announced they will apply for funds.

The state previously changed education assessment standards to compete for prior Race to the Top grants. The new grants may not require such strong action.

“Given that the governor’s Transforming Education in Kentucky Task Force has early childhood education as one of its main priorities in its final report, I would think that this is something we as a state agency and also lawmakers and policymakers are going to be looking very closely at,” says Department of Education spokeswoman Lisa Gross.

Kentucky did not receive any money in the previous round of federal grants. Gross says it’s yet not clear what the state will have to do or prove to qualify for the funds, but details are expected later this summer.

Local News

Largest U Of L Fundraising Campaign Officially Kicks Off Wednesday

The public launch of the largest fundraising campaign in University of Louisville’s history is Wednesday.

The “Charting our Course” campaign began silently three years ago. During the silent phase, U of L officials raised about 360 million dollars toward the campaign’s 750 million dollar goal. Vice president of university advancement Keith Inman says the quiet start is common for large fundraising efforts.

“Typically what you try to do in campaigns is, obviously you want to get it organized, you want to get some momentum going, and classically you try to announce when you’re close to 50% of the goal,” he says.

The campaign is more than twice as large as the university’s previous drive in the 90s.

“We’ve had two previous campaigns: one in the 80s, the Challenge for Excellence which raised about $62 million; and then the bicentennial campaign in the mid-90s which raised over $350 million,” he says.

Inman says the money is necessary to offset cuts in funding from the state.

“We’re certainly hopeful that we can increase the number of scholarships available and help the students not be the bearer of all that burden,” he says.

U of L has had to raise tuition in recent years to offset budget cuts. About 330 million dollars of the money raised in the new campaign will go toward academic programs, equipment and scholarships.

Arts and Humanities Environment In-Depth News Local News

Fake Cash as Art and Source for Helping New Orleans

A national artist is heading a project to legitimize counterfeit one hundred dollar bills made by schoolchildren. It’s an effort to get money to clean up lead-contaminated soil in New Orleans. This week, the artist was in Louisville to collect bills made by Kentucky students. This is a story from WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer.

“Please take your seats,” art teacher Kristine Larson tells one of her fifth grade classes.

Last August, she had all the fourth and fifth graders she teaches at Whitney Young Elementary School in Louisville’s West End make currency. Each decorated a template of a one hundred dollar bill, including Dakota Roberts.

“I got to show my artistic ability on a $100 bill,” he says. “And I tried to draw what a real $100 bill would look like. But I don’t really see $100 bills everyday, so I just tried my best.”

Dakota drew his self portrait and his dog for the Fundred Dollar Bill Project. It includes students nationwide who are making these fundreds for a $300 million exchange with Congress to fund a related-effort called Operation Paydirt. That’s the amount scientists say is needed to clean up vast amounts of lead-tainted soil in New Orleans. Larson reminds the students about the project.

“You remembered one of the problems — lead damage?” Larson asks them.  “Not only is that bad for their soil to grow things, but remember it said that there were some behavior problems and then there could be birth defects.”

Studies find lead, when ingested by children, can cause serious physical and neurological damage, manifesting itself in learning disabilities and violent behavior. High levels are often found in cities where lead was in paint on older houses or leaded gas seeped into soil.

Larson learned of this project from a teachers’ magazine and found lesson plans online covering math, civics, geography and more. But she says the project offers a larger lesson.

“I think our kids really got the idea that this was something on their level that they could actually be a part of collectively across the whole country,” she says. “And I just applaud Mel Chin for this idea. It’s just absolutely ingenious.”

Mel Chin is the conceptual artist who dreamed up this way to help New Orleans after his visit there following Hurricane Katrina. He says New Orleans stunned him.

“As a creative, you come in and perhaps you think you can do something, and I pride myself in that,” he says.  “But I felt the magnitude was so intense that something big had to happen.”

Then he thought about his talks with residents and scientists about lead contamination. The solution?

“You need money. Don’t have money?” he says. “Let’s make money. OK. You need science. OK. Let’s bring the science in. Let’s do this. Alright?”

The project includes leading scientists. And besides calling upon his own creativity, it’s a new chapter in the field of conceptual art, which isn’t about creating objects but communicating ideas. Notable conceptual art has focused on money. Marcel Duchamp made fake checks and other financial documents, and Andy Warhol’s work featured bills and dollar signs. But University of Chicago economist David Galenson, who studies the nature of creativity, says Chin’s idea breaks new ground.

“The distinctive thing here is that Mel Chin is putting this to social uses,” he says,  “rather than simply just trying to enhance his own reputation.”

Chin brushes off suggestions that this is his project. He says the artists here are the nation’s children helping kids in New Orleans.

Now, his main endeavor is collecting their fundreds. And that brings him to the 21C Museum Hotel where art teachers and students meet him and the project’s armored truck to hand over nearly 2,000 fundreds. Chin addresses the crowd.

“And we do not think it is audacious to believe that human expression is valuable,” he tells them. “We don’t think it’s extravagant that the creativity of others need to be protects and preserved.”

Chin says the project has about 10 percent of the 3 million fundreds needed, so, he’s working to reach more teachers to find more children to participate while trying convince members of Congress to support the project. From Louisville, the truck rolls on to Bowling Green, Nashville, Asheville and then Baltimore where Chin will speak at the National Art Educators Association’s national convention (pdf).

State of Affairs

Let's Talk Money!

Wednesday, Setember 16, 2009
Let’s Talk Money!
With the economy’s downturn and Wall Street scandals, it might feel like the financial world is beyond your control. But you can at least take charge of your own budget and learn to use your money wisely – whether you have a lot or just a little. Your grandma may have taught you that it’s rude to discuss money, but on Wednesday we’ll bend the rules. Join us as nationally-syndicated Washington Post columnist Michelle Singletary answers your money questions.

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State of Affairs

Mind of the Market: Our Relationship with Money

Thursday, January 1, 2009
Mind of the Market: Our Relationship with Money
Would you rather be the least rich person in a posh neighborhood, or the richest person in a poor neighborhood? Studies have shown that for most people, the amount of money they have isn’t as important as the fact that they have more than other people have. Our attitudes, and (often irrational) behavior about money can be traced to our evolutionary roots – back to a time when brand loyalty meant sticking with the safety of your own tribe. Tune in this Thursday when we learn more about our sometimes dysfunctional, always emotional relationship with money. Today’s show is an archive edition so we’re unable to take calls this hour.

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Looking for an older episode? Browse the State of Affairs Audio Archive.

Local News

Many Kentucky Banks Unharmed

Conservative business practices have protected most Kentucky banks from being damaged by the Wall Street financial crisis. That means they’re able and willing to extend credit to eligible customers.

When high risk mortgages became more common nationwide, Kentucky banks generally avoided the trend. Kentucky Bankers Association General Counsel Debra Stamper says the current financial crisis caused by risky loans hasn’t changed the way banks do business in the Commonwealth.

“As I understand it from talking to banks, they have not significantly tightened or changed their underwriting standards for loans, which means if you were a good credit risk for them two years ago, you’d be a good credit risk for them now and they’d be happy to make you a loan,” she says.

But Stamper says further fiscal downturns could hurt consumer confidence and, in the worst case, cause runs on banks.

Local News

Red Cross Seeks Funds, Blood

The American Red Cross is in need of funding and blood following an active disaster season.

The Louisville chapter has one day’s worth of blood left in its banks and is organizing drives for this week. The chapter is also spending money from the national natural disaster relief fund. Chapter head Brian Quail says this year’s wildfires and hurricanes have left that fund nearly empty.

“The natural disaster relief fund at this time is in a negative position and the American Red Cross has been borrowing money to be able to provide its mission critical services across the country,” says Quail.

The Red Cross will set up a shelter at the Louisville Gardens Thursday for those displaced from last Sunday’s storm.

Local News

Officials Hope Ryder Cup Promotes Understanding, Spurs Tourism

With thousands of foreign visitors in town this week for the Ryder Cup, the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau is hoping to avoid cultural misunderstandings.

About eight thousand international visitors are expected in Louisville for the golf competition. Bureau President Jim Wood says most of the guests are European and probably have visited the U.S. before.

“The foreign visitors all are English speaking so there shouldn’t be any worries with the foreign visitors coming in,” he says. “You’re talking about England, Ireland, Scotland all coming in to Louisville.”

The bureau has held meetings for hospitality professionals to prepare them for the influx of different cultures. Wood says most of the foreign visitors will come from Europe, but he expects to see other parts of the world represented as well.

While the jump in tourism is expected to generate dollars and Euros for Louisville, local officials are also hoping for positive reviews from the press.

Wood says more than one thousand media outlets will cover the competition between the best golfers from the U.S. and Europe, and the visiting journalists could help spur tourism after the golfers go home.

“In our case we hope that the travel writers, well the sports writers, that are in town will put a positive spin that they had a great experience here with Kentucky bourbon, with Kentucky food, with Kentucky hospitality, with what Louisville has to offer in general,” says Wood.

The Ryder cup will be held at Valhalla Golf Club.