Archive for November, 2008

Unsurprisingly, Kentucky’s Unemployment Rate Rises In October

Posted in Economics, Kentucky News, Labor on November 24, 2008 by stateofthecommonwealth

(Once again we’re swiping this classic image by Margaret Bourke-White from www.masters-of-photography.com)

Business First of Louisville is reporting this afternoon that Kentucky’s unemployment rate rose to 6.8 percent, up from 5.4 percent a year ago. This comes as no big shock considering the overall beating the U.S. economy has taken over the past few months. That said, there is a miniscule bit of slightly better news in the story:

However, October’s unemployment rate declined from 7.1 percent in September.

The U.S. seasonally adjusted unemployment increased to 6.5 percent in October, from 6.1 percent in September.

“Retrenchment by consumers, weakness in the automobile industry and fallout from the housing and financial crises continued to weight on Kentucky’s economy in October 2008,” OET chief labor market analyst Justine Detzel said in a news release. “The manufacturing, construction and trade, transportation and utilities sectors were particularly hit hard.”

According to OET statistics, the largest growth area has been the government sector, which includes public education, public administration and state-owned hospitals. It gained 2,700 positions between September and October, and 10,000 jobs between October 2007 and October 2008.

The largest decline has come in the manufacturing sector, which lost 4,400 jobs in October, and has lost 15,500 jobs between September 2007 and October 2008, the OET said in the release.

While a .3 percent improvement from September isn’t phenomenal, it’s about all one could hope for right now.

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Suffocating Swift Swine Smell Suspended?

Posted in Development, Environment, Food, Louisville News on November 19, 2008 by stateofthecommonwealth

(Railroad tracks by the Swift Plant by Jeff in Dayton from www.skyscrapercity.com)

Ah, we love alliterations this week. Anyway, the Courier-Journal is reporting this afternoon that the Swift Meat Packaging Plant in Butchertown has been fined by the Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control Board, and will install new equipment to help suppress the malodorous, uh, odor:

Swift & Co. will spend at least $250,000 on new equipment and procedures to control odors pork processing plant in Butchertown.

An order approved today by the Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control Board also requires Swift to pay a $47,800 fine. The order addresses alleged odor violations and other violations at the plant at 1200 Story Ave. before Oct. 2.

The fine was too small, Butchertown residents and business owners said.

“For years Swift has been allowed to walk all over the tax paying citizen of Louisville, spewing into the air their noxious and harmful odors,” Andrew Cornelius, president of the Butchertown Neighborhood Association, said in a letter read by former neighborhood association Segrest at today’s public hearing on the order, held at the pollution control district’s offices at 850 Barret Ave.

Mark Prussian, chief executive officer of the Eye Care Institute on Story Avenue, said he has spent about $10,000 in three years to install air scrubbers at the entrance and take other measures to combat the odor from Swift. He also said the fine “doesn’t mean anything.”

The aim of the order is to keep the odor contained on the Swift property, and more improvements could be required if these don’t work, Terri Phelps, the district’s enforcement manager, said at the hearing.

Dennis Conniff, an attorney representing Swift, said the company has already been making improvements and that it’s required to arrange for a third-party assessment of the effectiveness of the measures taken under the order.

The company must apply for a construction permit by Dec. 22 to make several improvements, and installation of some new equipment and procedures is required within 180 days after the permit is issued.

All we can say is it’s about freakin’ time. Sometimes we smell the plant all the way by our house in Schnitzelburg.

Louisville Label Lets Loose Nimrod Workman

Posted in Appalachia, Film, Kentucky Small Towns, Music on November 18, 2008 by stateofthecommonwealth

A new Louisville-based record label called Twos & Fews (run by one of our favorite Louisville people, Mr. Nathan Salsburg) lets loose its first release today, an album of archival recordings of one Nimrod Workman. We’ll let Nate tell it in his own words:

That album is of the coal miner, union activist, and traditional singer Nimrod Workman, and is entitled “I Want to Go Where Things Are Beautiful.” It’s an hour of unaccompanied ballads, lyric songs, play party pieces, and religious singing, recorded in 1982 by Mike Seeger (Pete’s half-brother) when Nimrod was 87 years old. It gives Workman (who died at 99 in 1994) his first LP in thirty years, and his first ever CD solo release.

You might have seen Nimrod at the beginning of Barbara Kopple’s “Harlan County USA,” or in Alan Lomax’s American Patchwork films “Appalachian Journey” or “Dreams & Songs of the Noble Old.” Or, like most, you have never heard of him. Well… his ain’t party music, but you might find it rewarding, challenging, and beautiful. It’s been an honor and a privilege to put this record together, and if you can bear it in these trying times to do something so anachronistic as to shell out money for music, I’d be thrilled if you’d give Nimrod Workman a chance.

For more info:

http://www.dragcity.com/catalog/records/dc379.html
http://roothogordie.wordpress.com/2008/10/14/nimrod-workman/
http://www.knoxvoice.com/arts/street-cred/better-stuff/

You can listen to some of the songs available on I Want to Go Where Things Are Beautiful at the Twos & Fews myspace site, linked above. You can (and should!) purchase the album at all finer record stores as well as online.

More Condos for East Market

Posted in Development, Economics, Labor, Louisville News on November 17, 2008 by stateofthecommonwealth

(Map of the proposed condo site, from the C-J.)

This morning brings some positive development news amid the gloom of the pre-winter recession, as local developers are proposing a new condominium building on East Market Street (from the Courier-Journal):

A rezoning request to develop 16 condominiums and ground-level retail space in a four-story historic building at 415 E. Market St. will get a hearing this week.

Mincat LLC, headed by investor John Gray, expects to spend about $2 million to renovate the brick and limestone structure that dates to 1845 and was the original home of J. Bacon & Sons Dry Goods. It was the Bacon’s store through the early 1900s.

More recently the building, which Mincat bought in 2006, housed Debrovy’s, a manufacturer of tarps, awnings and other canvas products that recently moved to a site on South Seventh Street.

The Metro Louisville Planning Commission has scheduled a public hearing for 1 p.m. Thursday on Mincat’s request for a change from industrial to commercial zoning on the .38-acre tract on the north side of Market between Preston and Jackson streets…

Despite the depressed economy, Gray said he believes the market for the condos is strong. He noted that the site is a block from Louisville Slugger Field and near Waterfront Park in an area where housing and other new development have been hopping.

He said the primary market for the units will be young professionals. The units, most of which will be lofts, will sell for $225,000 to about $400,000 for several penthouses.

The site, Gray said, “is easy to get in and out and is near the interstate.”

The plans call for 11 parking spaces in an existing basement and nine surface parking spaces next to the building.

Gray said David, Benjamin and Larry Levine, members of the family that long operated the Fashion Shops of Kentucky chain of clothing stores, are partners with him in the condo venture.

The developers plan at least two retail tenants on the ground floor, or a total of about 3,000 square feet of commercial space, Gray said.

Documents filed with the commission indicate that the developers intend to restore the building’s façade and do not intend to apply for historic tax-credit financing, even though the building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Gray said work would start soon after zoning is approved and that it would take about a year to complete the project.

It sounds like an interesting project, in a building with historic significance, but given the slowed pace of development downtown in the past few months, we can’t help but be somewhat skeptical, while still hoping for the best.

UPDATE: Broken Sidewalk had a story about this development back in October, complete with photos. Check it out here: http://brokensidewalk.com/2008/10/06/development-watch-bacon-debrovy-lofts-coming-soon/.

RUDE WEIRDO and DRUNKDRIVER at Cahoot’s This Wednesday!

Posted in Art, Drink, Happenings, Music, State of StateoftheCommonwealth on November 10, 2008 by stateofthecommonwealth

This Wednesday, November 12th, we are promoting yet another fun night of wild and crazy music, this time at Cahoot’s, 1047 Bardstown Road. Louisville’s RUDE WEIRDO is teaming up with New York’s newcomers DRUNKDRIVER for some debauchery and good times. Here’s what we wrote about both in a press release:

Louisville’s RUDE WEIRDO are a return to classic, three-piece, three-chord punk. Consisting of Eric Ronay, Dave Bird and Tony Bailey, these veterans of “the scene, man” really throw it down. The first time I saw them (with an almost entirely different lineup, with the exception of bassplayer/singer Ronay), they covered Agent Orange. They’ve released a compact disc on Louisville Lip Records, and hopefully more good things are coming soon.

New York’s DRUNKDRIVER are yet another trio, this time with a singer (Michael Berdan), guitarist (Kristy Greene), and drummer (Jeremy Villalobos). They’ve been playing shows in the Northeast for about a year now, alongside and opening for the likes of Pink Reason, Pissed Jeans, Eat Skull, Psychedelic Horseshit, and many other socially maladjusted types. Parts Unknown Records of Tom’s River, NJ is releasing their first LP, Born Pregnant, any minute now. Oh and for those of you scoring at home, DRUNKDRIVER drummer Jeremy Villalobos used to be a member of the defunct Los Angeles hardcore band Wives — the two other members of Wives now operate as No Age (on Sub Pop Records). Villalobos is also in the NYC hardcore band Cutter, and he and Berdan also have a power electronics side project called Whip and the Body. You can read an amusing interview with DRUNKDRIVER here at the Agit Reader, based out of Columbus, Ohio: http://www.agitreader.com/primitivefutures/drunkdriver.html.

The show starts at 10 PM, and costs $5. Additionally, it won’t conflict time-wise with the Grails/Sapat/Vampire Squid show at Skull Alley (1017 E. Broadway, 7 PM, $7), so if you can, you should go to that too!

UPDATE, 11/11: Here’s a flier for that Grails/Sapat/Vampire Squid show…

This Is Our New Favorite Web Site:

Posted in Louisville News, Media, Sports on November 10, 2008 by stateofthecommonwealth

http://firekragthorpenow.com

Much in the vein of another one of our favorites, Fire Joe Morgan, comes Fire Kragthorpe Now. We especially like the desperation of the “now” in the title. Not that firing Kragthorpe, say, today will prevent the Cards from losing their last two games to Cincinnati and West Virginia, but we do appreciate the sentiment.

UPDATE: That great Kragthorpe image from http://www.sportsargumentwiki.com/index.php?title=Louisville_Cardinals has been axed. Boo.

Commuter Rail Coming to Louisville?

Posted in Development, Economics, Kentucky News, Labor, Louisville News, Transportation on November 7, 2008 by stateofthecommonwealth

(C-J‘s illustration of the rail route.)

Unfortunately, it’s not likely to occur very quickly, especially with the economy as it is right now. But the Courier-Journal is reporting this morning that a number of local government officials will be on board a 100-passenger train run from Louisville to Elizabethtown tomorrow, and that the ride might be a spur to push for commuter rail for the South End:

Louisville’s light-rail movement faded about four years ago, but traditional train service may be getting a fresh look.

Elected officials from Jefferson, Hardin and Meade counties are among 100 passengers who plan to take a leisurely three-hour, round-trip train ride between Louisville and Cecilia, Ky., just west of Elizabethtown, tomorrow.

Mass transit supporters view the trip on the Paducah & Louisville Railway, which runs roughly along Dixie Highway and through Fort Knox, as the first step toward establishing a passenger rail system between Louisville and the growing Army post.

“My hope is that we can build some critical mass in terms of support and possibly do some sort of analysis of what it would cost to put commuter (rail) cars on that line,” said Jim King, president of Louisville’s Metro Council.

The Transit Authority of River City and council members have been discussing commuter rail for months. Tomorrow’s excursion is intended to draw attention to the possibility of passenger service and start gauging whether local leaders want to go forward.

If they do, the next step would be a study outlining the costs — and feasibility — of the project.

While the demonstration trip is scheduled to take 90 minutes one way at 35 mph, actual commuter trains could reach speeds up to 60 mph, said A.V. “Tony” Reck, the railway’s president and CEO. The trip takes 45 minutes to an hour by car.

“We certainly have an interest in expanding rail,” said Barry Barker, TARC’s executive director. He estimates it would cost $50 million to $75 million to create a commuter rail line, with operating costs of at least $4 million annually.

Under Barker’s scenario, a commuter rail line would cost substantially less than the city’s light-rail project, which was suspended in 2004 with a price tag of $661 million…

Tomorrow’s demonstration run is the brainchild of two groups — the nonprofit Coalition for the Advancement of Regional Transportation and the Kentucky-Indiana Rail Advocates — and has the financial backing of local governments.

Metro Council members contributed $4,000 from their discretionary accounts, and other cities and counties added $900, said John Owen, a community activist organizing the project. The money will cover liability insurance for the trip.

“If Louisville is going to be a top-notch city, $4,000 is a minimal investment for something that could be ripe for the future,” he said.

Metro Council member Vicki Aubrey Welch said using existing rail lines would avoid some of the expense of light rail, which would have required new construction and buying property.

“We’re just thinking in ways that other communities have already and emulate what they’ve done,” she said…

In the Louisville area, the expansion of Fort Knox could help the commuter rail project, supporters say. As part of the military’s national base realignment plan, the base is preparing for a $950 million construction boom and more than $300 million in new payroll.

In all, about 6,000 military and civilian employees and contractors are expected to move to the Fort Knox area by 2011, said Brad Richardson, executive director of the One Knox economic development group.

Richardson said a commuter rail line could serve new residents who want to live in Louisville, for example, and work at Fort Knox. A rail line would also give Hardin County residents new access to Louisville’s health care, shopping and other attractions.

Of course, there’s one big caveat at the end of the article:

The Paducah & Louisville Railway is supplying two cars and the engineers for tomorrow’s demonstration run, Reck said. But he said his company isn’t planning on investing in a commuter rail project.

“Let’s face it. There’s not a passenger system in the world that makes money. … All of them take some sort of government subsidy,” he said.