Friday, March 13, 2009

Real Sustainability

I was struck by the contrast of two articles in the Courier Journal this evening and I felt as though I had to write something about what I read. One article covers the opening of a store on Frankfort Avenue called Sustain. Billed as an "eco-store", Sustain stocks items "for people and pets" and also exists to "dispense information about sustainable living". Here's an excerpt:

Among the products will be low-flow shower heads, rain barrels, handmade recycled glass dinnerware, pine needle baskets, bamboo flatware, chemical-free detergent, organic cotton towels and sheets, organic cotton baby wear, recycled soda bottle dog toys and organic cat nip.

The second article discusses the opening of a new Goodwill store in Clarksville. Goodwill provides "education, training and other support services for children and adults with disabilities". The store stocks used clothing and household items that have been donated, with the proceeds going to fund the aforementioned charitable activities. Here is an excerpt of that article:

With one hand, Pamela Elizondo pushed a heavily-laden shopping cart down the crowded aisle of the new Goodwill store in Clarksville, and with the other she pulled a large wheeled cooler.

“It’s really nice,” Elizondo, 38, said of the $3 million store that opened today on Applegate Lane. “It’s bigger, cleaner” than the old store.

But it has the same good prices, she added.

When the new 45,000-square-foot store and warehouse opened at 8 a.m., a line of shoppers extended down the sidewalk for nearly the length of the building, waiting without complaint in the cold.

When we speak about things like "sustainability" what do we really mean? Is it the purchase of a fashionable new product or is it the purchase of a necessary used product? Which one of these examples illustrates true sustainability? Is it brand-new rain barrels and foreign-made bamboo flatware or is it gently used clothing and blenders, the profits of which fund education and job training programs? To me, it looks like Sustainability = Goodwill, and in more ways than one.

Your thoughts?

Italian Eatery Expands to Southwest Louisville

Tuscany, an Italian restaurant that maintains a successful location on the Outer Loop, will soon be opening another in the space left vacant by Bearno's Pizza at 7895 Dixie Highway. The building is undergoing renovations and should be opening within the next few weeks. My good friend Trevor Hemingway at The Local Weekly had this to say about Tuscany:

Tuscany Italian Restaurant offers a taste of Italy for the South End. Chef Manuel has packed the menu full of well-prepared Italian dishes offering a wide variety at very reasonable prices. Tuscany has delicious appetizers, salads, house specialties, seafood, baked pasta, calzones, Tuscany Pizza, hot subs, traditional pasta dishes, and delectable deserts. The free cheese bread and sauce you get before your meal is the best. The kids’ menu offers a choice of spaghetti dishes, ravioli, and of course chicken nuggets and fries for the picky eaters. Tuscany’s house specialties range in price from $9.95 to $11.95. Tuscany has already become an area favorite among south end residents. Maricela, restaurant manager, says business has been very good since opening and the restaurant has received an excellent response because of the lack of Italian eateries in the area. Tuscany opens every day at 11:00 AM. They close Monday through Thursday at 10:00 PM, Friday and Saturday at 10:30 PM, and Sunday at 9:30 PM. Lunch is served, daily, from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM. Meal specials are offered daily. If you’re in the mood for great Italian cuisine, friendly service, and exceptional prices try Tuscany. The Local Weekly gives it five stars.

HERE is the menu. Enjoy!

Find A Felon Friday: 03-13-09

Jason G. Feerrar

This shocked-looking individual is wanted for: Sexual Abuse-1st Degree- Victim Under 12 Years of Age, Unlawful Transaction with Minor-2nd Degree. Imagine how shocked he will be when they get their hands on him in jail. He should be easy to catch...he's fat, short and probably can't run very fast.

7005 Dunkirk Lane
Louisville, KY 40272

***Bond To Be Set Upon Arrest***

DOB: 11-07-77

Let's Get 'Em Boys!

Debris Drop Off and Community Cleanup

Drop-off sites for storm debris will be open again this weekend from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Here are the locations:

• Hubbards Lane Public Works Facility, 595 Hubbards Lane
• Meriwether Public Works Facility, 600 Meriwether Ave.
• Behind the Southwest Government Center, 7219 Dixie Highway

And as long as we are on the subject of cleaning up, Saturday, March 28, 2009 is the date for the Southwest Pride Community Cleanup. Individuals or groups, everyone is invited. Registration begins at the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market on Dixie Highway at 8:15am and clean up begins at 9am. Work wraps up at noon, when you will be served a free lunch courtesy of Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market. Call Kathy Graham at 504-410-0335 or email for more information.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Home on Dixie Creating "Mystery" Buzz

It has stood for years, and most recently, it has stood empty. The large home located at 8601 Dixie Highway across from Target and Value City Furniture has become an interesting mystery to me and a few others. There is a discussion of the property going on over at Louisville History & Issues and the blog a pretty pickle has a few photos of the place, one of which is featured to the left.

I am interested in any facts you may have concerning the home. I know it had been divided into apartments some time ago and that it is currently boarded up, which may possibly indicate foreclosure. It is an intriguing structure, and it's location may indicate some type of historical significance. We must not allow the home to suffer the same terrible fate as that of the Nine Mile House, which was unceremoniously (and probably illegally) torn down several years ago.

If you have any information on the home, please let me know by sending an email or by contributing to one of the discussion threads on the above mentioned websites. Thanks.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

8664 And You: The Future of Transportation

Tyler Allen is electric, and if you ever get the chance to listen to him speak, listen closely. Allen fronts the group known as 8664. He went toe-to-toe with Tim Hagerty tonight at the monthly meeting of the Metro Democratic Club. Hagerty is an attorney with Frost Brown Todd, LLC (Jerry Abramson's former employer), and represents the Bridges Coalition. Hagerty is a nice guy. But Allen is clearly more enthusiastic and, in my opinion, has a better idea.

The plan to expand Spaghetti Junction will produce a highway that is 23 lanes wide at a cost of nearly $2 billion dollars. The thick slab of super-road will also encroach into a wide swath of the Butchertown neighborhood. 8664 believes the East End bridge, which was proposed decades ago, should be built along with a visionary, surface level parkway that would replace the elevated I-64 that currently cuts downtown off from the waterfront . The Bridges Coalition believes both a downtown and an East End bridge should be built along with the gigantic, expensive expansion of the junction. The Bridges Coalition also sees no problem with I-64 as is.

Tyler Allen represents what could be. Hagerty represents the status quo.

The following is a clip by 8664 that was shown at the meeting:

There has not been much discussion on this issue in Southwest Louisville, but there is a definitive need for one because, sooner or later, you will be affected by the bridges project in a way you may not like. The discussion touched lightly on the side-issue of a "tolling authority". This authority, which appears to be on a fast track in the General Assembly, would initiate tolls on roads and bridges as a way to help pay for them. The tolling authority would be appointed by the mayor, and would not only have the power to initiate tolls on any new bridges, but would have the power to initiate tolls on bridges that are currently in use that have already been paid for . How much are you willing to spend to get to Bass Pro Shops, Horseshoe Casino or Sportsdrome Speedway? We may be close to finding out. Look out for 8664 and Tyler Allen, and take a moment to consider this revolutionary, lower cost proposal.

"Double-Dip" Driskell Back For More

Retired Metro CFO Jane Driskell will receive her full retirement benefit while she earns a fresh $95,000 per year in a new job with the city. Driskell "retired" in November 2008 as CFO and was rehired yesterday, leading a new agency called the Office of Management and Budget. I only bring this up because her first assignment is to "reduce government spending". But rest easy. She told Gabe Bullard of WFPL she cannot draw a second retirement check.

Driskell earned over $110,000 per year during her stint as CFO.

My question to you: Should this be happening?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

It's Derby, Man....

During my youth, my best friend and I based our annual activity calendar on Kentucky Derby Day. Derby was the start of our outdoor party season. "Derby", as a word, also had an alternate meaning for us. "Derby" was an excuse, or rather an urge, to do something ridiculous. In the middle of September while camping in Butler County, Kentucky, someone had the bright idea to drink moonshine and go fishing in the middle of the night. While at first resisting, we relented after someone said, "It's Derby, man!". Regretful, yes, but true nonetheless.

Soon the Derby will be upon us once again, and with it, all that is good about being in Kentucky during the month of May. The Kentucky Derby Festival is cranking up the hype machine now. Tickets for Kentucky Derby Festival events can be purchased at their main office on 1001 South Third Street. Tickets for the Pegasus Parade and Wine Fest can be purchased online HERE. Get your seats now for the Great Steamboat Race, Thunder, and Pegasus Parade. Tickets for the AT&T Fashion Show, They’re Off Luncheon, Running Wild Pasta Dinner, and Wine Fest can also be purchased at the office. Office hours are Monday-Friday 9 am to 5 pm daily.

Thanks to The Local Weekly for the info. Buy some tickets. Get out of the house. Do something ridiculous. It's Derby, man.

2008 CAFR Released After Long Delay

The 2008 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for Louisville Metro Government has finally been released. It is a large .pdf file, so have patience. HERE is the report.

Here is the Mayor's introduction to the report:

Much more on this later.


- The Mayor's Community Conversation for this month will be held Monday, March 16 at Iroquois High School gym, 4615 Taylor Boulevard. The event starts at 6:30pm

- The Southwest Dream Team’s next meeting is one week from today. It will be held on Tuesday, March 17th at the Sun Valley Community Center, 6505 Bethany Ln from 12:00-1:30 and lunch will be provided. The guest speaker will be the Executive Director of TARC, Barry Barker and Planning Dept Manager Carrie Butler. The Marketing Committee will give the latest details on the March 20th banner unveiling event.

-Legendary newsman Chuck Olmstead passed away overnight.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Making The Case For The Labor Standards Ordinance

Solis Investigating Guest Worker Visas on Florida Hotel Project
by James Perks

In one of her first official acts as labor secretary, Hilda Solis has asked for a review of how Mexican sheet metal workers were given visas to work on the St. Regis Hotel project in Bal Harbour, Fla., when more than 1,000 members of the Sheet Metal Workers union (SMWIA) are out of work in the same area.

The company hired to install the heating and air conditioning ducts, CYVSA International, received approval from the state of Florida and the Bush Labor Department for visas to bring in foreign workers for seasonal work. But the visas are supposed to be granted only if there are no Americans available to do the job.

Florida ranked second in the number of jobs certified for foreign workers under one of the visa programs known as H-2B. In 2008, a total of 22,195 jobs in the state were approved for H-2B foreign workers, including 1,145 construction workers, 119 roofers, 10 electricians and six bricklayers.

Many employers want to bring in more guest workers to keep wages low, experts say. Many companies pay less than a living wage, and some force the foreign workers to live in horrid conditions and work long hours.

Solis wants to know how CYVSA could hire foreign workers when there are sheet metal workers out of work in South Florida. At a town hall meeting earlier this week, as part of the AFL-CIO Executive Council meeting in Miami, Solis said:

We are going to have to take a look at it and, hopefully, work closely with [Homeland Security Secretary Janet] Napolitano to see how we better focus so that these things don’t happen and that we avoid them [in the future]. There were before I came into my position visas that were permitted under the Bush administration that we will take a very, very close look at and [with] a very keen eye go through. But, rest assured, we will take a strong view on that.

Jim DeFede, an investigative reporter for Miami’s, describes how CYVSA, one of the largest construction companies in Mexico, manipulated the rules to ensure it could hire foreign workers. CYVSA’s action also show how the current immigration visa system favors employers, the SMWIA says.

DeFede reports that CYVSA applied to Florida for permission to use foreign labor on Sept. 30, 2008. The next day, Oct. 1 at 9:05 a.m., the state agency, following federal rules, opened a 10-day recruitment period to find U.S. workers. During those 10 days, CYVSA was required to contact the local union and place ads in the Miami Herald.

But CYVSA did not place the ads or call the union until it was near the end of the 10-day period and never said there was a deadline to apply.

The union sent resumes of unemployed sheet metal workers to the state by certified mail Oct. 10. But by the time they were mailed, the state had officially closed the recruitment period at 9:16 a.m. on Oct. 10. The state then notified the federal government that no American citizens applied for the jobs and the Department of Labor subsequently certified CYVSA’s request for foreign workers.

Larry Stewart, business manager for SMWIA Local 32, told DeFede this is not a union or nonunion issue. This is an issue that affects all workers, he said. And it is outrageous that the U.S. government and the state of Florida allowed the employer to profit by importing foreign workers when so many U.S. workers are out of work.

This story clearly illustrates why Louisville needs the Labor Standards Ordinance sponsored by Councilmen King and Blackwell. We need local jobs for local workers, not the exploitation of low-wage immigrants.

And Now, A Word From Cecil Roberts....

Cecil Roberts is the International President of the United Mine Workers of America and is one of my personal heroes. If you have ever heard him speak, you know why. You will never forget it. The following letter to the editor was printed in this morning's Courier-Journal:

It's open season on coal miners in the Kentucky legislature all of a sudden. Just two years ago, the state was among the leaders in the nation in upgrading state mine safety and health laws. But today, a concerted effort to roll back critical elements of those improvements is under way in Frankfort.

One bill would reduce the availability of fast medical care for injured miners. Another would allow dangerous levels of explosive methane to build up in mines. A third would virtually eliminate actual inspections of mines by real inspectors to ensure they are being operated safely.

Supporters of these attacks on miners' safety say they are taking these steps to help smaller mine operators, who apparently don't have the business acumen to sell coal in the current strong coal market and make money.

One thing you can say about these folks: at least they aren't trying to hide the truth of their greed. They are willing to be quite up front about their desire to put profits and production ahead of safety in Kentucky coal mines -- even if those extra profits amount to just a few bucks a month.

And those profits could come at the cost of miners' lives.

An argument in favor of these changes might be made if Kentucky mines had become completely safe all of a sudden. But that's not the case.

Despite the enhanced safety laws the state enacted in 2007 Kentucky is still among the nation's most deadly states for coal miners.

Last year, eight miners were killed on the job in Kentucky, tied for the most of any state in the nation. Since 2006, 25 miners have been killed in the state, including one this year. So far in this decade, 79 miners have died in Kentucky mines -- 26 percent of all the coal mine fatalities in the nation.

That's not a record to be proud of. You would think the state government would be doing all it could do to beef up mine safety even more than it did in 2007. Instead, some in the legislature would have the state slide backwards, and put more miners' lives at risk than even before 2007.

And that's just fine with the coal operators, who are loudly chafing at the new laws and regulations put in place at both the state and federal levels after the tragedies that struck coal mining in 2006 in Kentucky and West Virginia -- laws and regulations the UMWA was a leader in getting passed in Frankfort and Washington, D.C.

The head of the Kentucky Coal Operators Association, Bill Caylor, even went so far as to spout some nonsense about how the UMWA's insistence on safer mines means that the union somehow wants to put small mine operators out of business.

What a crock. The UMWA's only goal is to keep all miners alive and in one piece when they are at work. If a mine operator in this day and age can't or won't do that, then the truth is they shouldn't be in the coal business, whether they operate small mines or big mines.

Taking Mr. Caylor's statements to their logical conclusion, one could reason that he believes a miner working in a smaller mine doesn't deserve as much safety and health protection on the job as a miner in a larger mine. Mr. Caylor appears to be saying that putting miners' lives at greater risk in smaller mines is just another part of doing business. The UMWA rejects that view.

We have been and will remain the only voice miners have in the halls of power, standing up for better safety and health for all miners, whether they enjoy the benefits and protections of a UMWA contract or not. That's what we did after the Sago disaster in West Virginia and the Darby tragedy in Kentucky, even though the miners at both those mines were not UMWA members. We will continue to fulfill that role.

Kentucky took a bold and positive step when it upgraded mine safety and health in 2007. To roll back that legislation now will increase the risk to miners' lives and limbs. If that's a step the state's political leadership ultimately decides to take, then they must be prepared to live with the consequences. What's most scary about this is that some of them already are prepared to do just that.


International President

United Mine Workers

of America

Fairfax, Va. 22031

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Medical Experts, Housing Projects and A Retarded Senator

- Two medical "experts" disagree on a central fact of the Max Gilpin case, with one saying the prescription drug Adderall caused Max's heat stroke and another calling the link to the drug "tenuous". HERE is the link to the Courier-Journal article. The experts do agree on medical documentation that states Gilpin was not dehydrated upon his arrival to the hospital. Still no word on JCPS's "investigation". The drama continues...

- In a piece of good news, Fox41 is reporting some stimulus money will go toward finishing the demolishion job at Iroquois Homes. The housing project is one of the last remaining, and is a disgraceful mess. This area will prosper when the project is completed. The sooner, the better.

- WAVE3 has a story on Alabama Senator Richard Shelby's comments about the United States-based auto manufacturers. The Senator claims the UAW "will run those companies and run them into the ground." Yet another reason to be embarrassed to hail from Alabama. The outrageously ignorant statement came on a day when local UAW members working at Ford's two plants in Louisville voted on more contract concessions and wage giveaways to benefit the company. That's hardly "running them into the ground" if you ask me. Alabama is home to several non-union, foreign-owned auto plants.