Louisville Arena Drama – Overspending, Corruption?

A Louisville contracting company president claims the Louisville Arena Authority is spending at least $1 million more than necessary to demolish two buildings on the arena site. Furthermore, it claims the Authority ignored the only bid from a qualified local contractor in favor of a Cincinnati company.

In January, the Authority announced it would pay O’Rourke Wrecking Company, of Cincinnati, $2.8 million to demolish the LG&E power substation and the Riverview Square building. Jon Davies, president of CRS Demolition of Louisville, says his company put in a bid to demolish the buildings for $1.6 million, but wasn’t even interviewed by Authority managers.

Davies said the bids were supposed to be considered on a point system — with 50 points for the amount in the bid, 10 for minority participation, 30 for qualifications and 10 for time frame. Davies said that based on that criteria, CRS would have had 100 points.

Another company, Dore and Associates of Michigan, submitted a bid that was less than O’Rourke’s, at$2.6 million.

Davies said he has been pitching the story to local media outlets, including the Courier-Journal, which he said has shown little interest in the story.

BARACK OSAMA IS PRESIDENT OF EVERYWHERE UPDATE!!11!

Import everything from China. Learn to further screw the economy and small business everywhere. China is the answer. So is India. Outsource, outsource, outsource. [Business First]

Louisville’s smoking ban has improved air quality 97% since it went into effect. Imagine that. No smoke to choke you and give you cancer means the air is cleaner. Wow. [C-J]

See? Barack really is the president of everywhere. Or at least Wisconsin. And every other state. [BGR]

Gov. Steve Beshear’s budget recommends a 58 percent cut for school safety programs, and the news couldn’t have come at a worse time. Ouch. [C-J]

Steve Beshear’s Chief of Staff Jim Cauley is taking heat from hardcore Beshear supporters these days. Talk of kingmaking, student newspapers in Connecticut, Democratic Party anarchy, third party emergence. Ruh ro. [The Rural Democrat]

The scary gays are taking over our schools! All the more reason for school vouchers, religious proselytization in public schools, killing public schools, bankrupting teachers, teaching creationism as fact, killing teachers, making it impossible to further education by slashing educational budgets, etc. [C-J]

Uncle Steve’s casino legislation got an overhaul and a cut to nine locations, down from twelve. Woops. Joni stuck it to the man. [H-L]

527 groups/Beshear slush funds now have stricter reporting guidelines in Kentucky. The runoff is dead. And Kentucky will probably vote for pretzeldent on Super Tuesday in a few years. [C-J]

Breaking: Hebert Has Pension Plan Details

Mark Hebert has snagged a copy of Steve Beshear’s pension plan. It’s likely to be unsettling for some.

A draft of Governor Beshear’s plan to overhaul and financially stabilize Kentucky’s public employee retirement systems has been obtained by WHAS 11 News.

The draft summary shows new state and county employees will have to work longer and contribute more of their pay to get full retirement benefits. The plan would take effect July 1st and only impact new employees.

All new workers will have to put in 30 years before retiring (hazardous duty folks will do 25), everyone – including teachers – will contribute an additional 1% of their salary into the retirement system to pay for health care. And all retirees are only guaranteed a 1.5% cost of living increase each year. Many now receive 5%

Look for full details to be released Thursday.

12 Casinos, 7 at Racetracks. $$$$

Here’s the question Governor Beshear wants you to vote on come November:

“Are you in favor of increasing state financial support for elementary and secondary education, expanding health care for senior citizens, children and others, support for local governments, and combating drug and alcohol abuse and other important programs by permitting the General Assembly to authorize up to five casinos subject to approval of the voters in the city or county where the casino is located; and up to seven casinos licenses for existing horse racing associations, all of which will be subject to the approval of a state agency created to oversee casino gaming.”

Thoughts? Misleading? Honest enough?

Will the magical money start rolling in? Who wants to start a casino with us?

Read about the rest of the deal at PolWatchers.

Could Budget Cuts Result in Deaths?

In a flash of reality, the Herald-Leader’s Sarah Vos has begun to wake Kentuckians up to the nightmare they face. While most are aware of looming educational budget cuts and the inevitable degradation of services we have come to expect, things like health care and assistance for those less fortunate take position on the back burner. It’s those very things that are on their way to hell here in the Bluegrass.

Cabinet officials painted a bleak picture of the Health and Human Services budget Wednesday, telling lawmakers that cuts proposed by Gov. Steve Beshear would lead to fewer Meals on Wheels and elimination of programs at the state’s 14 community mental health centers.

The cuts discussed Wednesday will destroy some programs and leave people without places to go, Rep. Jimmie Lee, D-Elizabethtown, said after the hearing.

“We can’t take these individuals and put them in storage,” he said. “If they don’t receive these services, some of them will actually die.”

Meals on Wheels is screwed, mental health centers are suffering and people could literally die. Gloom and doom, sure, but it’s a reality we all need to face. Instead of screwing around in Frankfort all session long, maybe our legislators could try to, you know, do something other than argue about gambling. And maybe Governor Steve Beshear could show some leadership in solving the budget crisis by working with said legislature to avoid serious cuts. But we’re not holding our breath.

CYA 2008: Education & Student Aid Damage Control

Mere days after Governor Steve Beshear delivered the gloom and doom news of his budget cuts for state universities, days after University of Kentucky President Lee Todd sent out a damning email and only one day after six state university presidents testified in Frankfort, the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority sent out a blast of its “Financial Aid Tip of the Month” preaching wonders of student financial aid, the CAP program and KEES scholarships.

Perhaps the best known program is the merit-based Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (KEES). Students at certified Kentucky high schools earn college scholarships based on their yearly grade point average and their best ACT score. Home school graduates and GED recipients earn awards based on their ACT score.

Students do not have to apply for a KEES award. If they attend a participating Kentucky college, KHEAA will automatically send the scholarship money after the school reports that they are attending classes. KEES awards may also be used at some out-of-state colleges, but only if the school is in a state that participates in the Academic Common Market and the student is pursuing an approved major not available in Kentucky.

Classic CYA, no? Bad news hits on Tuesday with Beshear’s budget address. KEES funding cuts catapult the entire state into a living nightmare. Lee Todd sends this message (PDF link). Everyone hauls ass to Frankfort to bitch & moan. Then we’re all blessed with a blast straight out of the CYA playbook.

On a somewhat related note: We’ve heard through the grapevine (okay, via Facebook) that University of Louisville students and faculty are planning protests and sit-ins in opposition to upcoming budget cuts. References here and here on Facebook.

Wouldn’t it be a complete nightmare for the current administration and higher education in general if every university in the state cancelled classes in favor of standing up for the most important insurance policy we have for the future– education?

Not the Bold Leadership We Ordered

Gov. Steve Beshear‘s budget address may have been a wake-up call for those who didn’t think things were as bad as they seemed. For others, it may have been a realization that the bold leadership Beshear campaigned on was nothing but campaign rhetoric.

There will be a $165 million cut in spending next year, and it will hit most areas of the state, save K-12 education and Medicaid. Higher education may have been the hardest hit.

U of L chief James Ramsey told the C-J: “. . . it’s going to be impossible for us to continue to move forward, and the question becomes will we be able to keep from backsliding.” UK’s Lee Todd said it will create a $50 million shortfall. Of note, this comes the day after Todd hired a VP of diversity for $210,000 a year.

But Beshear’s speech was full of those sorts of contradictions. Drastically cut spending here, but make up for it with a questionable expenditure there.

Beshear presented nothing bold last night. He preserved the funding for public schools, but said there would be no raises for teachers. And he authorized 2 percent raises (not much, but more than teachers are getting) for state employees, and said nothing about cuts to the state work force. He preserved $6 million for the Louisville Zoo and many other capital projects, and put money into the Bucks for Brains programs, but told University presidents to get by with less.

Read moreNot the Bold Leadership We Ordered