Archive for the Labor Category

McConnell to Obama: Don’t Buy American

Posted in Economics, Elections, Kentucky News, Labor, Media, Politics on February 2, 2009 by stateofthecommonwealth

Since Barack Obama was inaugurated at the end of last month, we Kentuckians have been used to seeing our senior Senator, Mitch McConnell, grab lots of media attention as the Senate Minority Leader. (Nevermind our junior Senator, Jim Bunning, whose actions over the past month seem like what could charitably be described as a “senior moment” — link to today’s Joseph Gerth column in the Courier-Journal.)

Unfortunately for Kentucky, not all of McConnell’s time in the spotlight has been positive. Some of Mitch’s actions and comments in the public eye have been downright tone-deaf to the overall mood of the nation. Case in point, today Mitch is calling for a provision in Obama’s stimulus package that would require government to buy American iron and steel to be stripped (from the Associated Press):

The US Senate should strip a “Buy American” clause from President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan, the chamber’s top Republican said Monday amid anger at the restriction from US allies.

“I don’t think we ought to use a measure that is supposed to be timely, temporary, and targeted to set off trade wars when the entire world is experiencing a downturn in the economy,” said Senator Mitch McConnell.

Asked whether he would support trying to strip the measure from what is now roughly an 888-billion-dollar economic stimulus package, the Republican minority leader told reporters: “I think it’s a bad idea to put it in a bill like this, which is supposed to be about jump starting the economy, yes.”

The House of Representatives last week voted to require that public works projects funded by its 819-billion-dollar stimulus bill to use only US iron and steel. The Senate version extends that restriction to all manufactured goods.

McConnell’s comments came as Canada Trade Minister Stockwell Day warned that US protectionism “can only trigger retaliatory action” as he urged Obama to fight the provision.

The Republican leader also urged Obama to lean on his Democratic allies in the US Congress to accept or at least accommodate Republican ideas for how best to pull the US economy out of a paralyzing recession.

“I hope he can get through to them that the way to build this package is, indeed, to do it on a bipartisan basis, which doesn’t mean just talking to us, but including ideas that we think would work,” said McConnell.

That would include plans for government-backed, four percent fixed mortgages to qualified homebuyers, and cutting the bottom two income tax bracket rates from 15 percent to 10 percent and from 10 percent to five percent, he said.

McConnell also denounced the amount of social safety net spending in the stimulus plan and indicated Republicans would like to see fewer zeros on the overall price tag.

“We’ve been throwing figures around like it was paper money,” he said. “We all agree that we need to do something, but I don’t think we should just completely act like the amount is irrelevant.”

While Senate procedures give the minority Republicans powers to slow or stall legislation, McConnell made clear his party’s goal is not to stymie passage of a bill that might revive the US economy.

“Nobody that I know of is trying to keep a package from passing. You know, we’re not trying to prevent a package from passing. We’re trying to reform it — reformulate it — put it in a different place,” he said.

Given how the US steel industry has been decimated over the past twenty years, McConnell’s comments seem downright mean. Though to be fair to Mitch and his fellow Republicans, the only thing that kept the industry alive in the past eight years was the weak dollar. Still, we gotta wonder what Mitch is thinking here. Telling American workers that their own government shouldn’t buy their products isn’t exactly a confidence-boosting measure.

Short Friends of Otter Creek Park Interview on 84 WHAS

Posted in Development, Economics, Environment, Happenings, Kentucky News, Kentucky Small Towns, Labor, Louisville News, Media, Metro Parks, Ohio River, Otter Creek Park, Politics on January 5, 2009 by stateofthecommonwealth

(Otter Creek Park sign from

From our sister blog, Save Otter Creek Park:

84 WHAS aired a short story on Friends of Otter Creek Park this morning. You can read the story here, and listen to it here. There’s a short clip of audio in the piece from when I was interviewed by Suzanne Duvall of 84 WHAS last Friday. Obviously they couldn’t use everything, but the short bit where I point out that Otter Creek Park is one of the things that makes Louisville “unique” was nice.

Both WHAS-11 and WDRB-41 (clicking on the WDRB link will open Windows Media Player) mention the meeting tonight in news stories as well. Links courtesy the Valley Report.

And as the story points out, please don’t forget tonight’s meeting at the Southwest Government Center, 219 Dixie Hwy #106 in Southwest Louisville at 7 PM!

UPDATE: The agenda for tonight’s meeting has been posted here:

Welcome Centers to Reduce Hours, Maybe Close; Will State Parks Be Next?

Posted in Art, Economics, Kentucky News, Labor, Media, Politics, Transportation on December 16, 2008 by stateofthecommonwealth

(Picture of Marcheta Sparrow and Gov. Steve Beshear from

Here’s an interesting case in contrasting how two different local media outlets report the same story. On our lunch break, we heard a brief story on WFPL about how Kentucky’s Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet is closing Interstate Welcome Centers two days a week to save money, along with some other cuts:

Most state agencies will see four-percent cuts under Governor Beshear’s budget-balancing plan, including the Department of Travel. And that could mean the department will have to reduce hours and close all eight welcome centers two days a week, says Tourism, Arts and Heritage Secretary Marcheta Sparrow.

“I think it will have a fairly significant effect, because they’re the frontline,” says Sparrow. “They’re the people who give information on lodging and restaurants and attractions that people may see and in some cases they give our emergency information and help the traveling public.”

The cuts will also impact funding for the arts, staffing at the Kentucky Heritage Council and operating hours at the Kentucky History Center in Frankfort.

The possibility of budget cuts affecting state parks is briefly touched upon, without a direct quote from Sparrow, at the end of the story:

Secretary Sparrow does not believe the cuts will require closure of any state parks, but says if the situation grows worse, that could change.

We thought we’d see how the story is being reported elsewhere, since any possible closure of state parks would be a pretty big deal.

Over at the good ol’ Courier-Journal, however, the same facts are treated much differently in their story, beginning with the headline Parks predicts closings, layoffs without tax hike:

Some state parks would be closed and about 300 employees would be laid off next year if the state doesn’t get more revenue from the Gov. Steve Beshear’s proposed increase in the cigarette tax, a state official said this morning.

Marcheta Sparrow, secretary of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, said she did not know how many parks might be closed if Beshear’s proposal to increase the cigarette tax from 30 cents to $1 per pack is rejected by lawmakers.

“It could be rather significant,” Sparrow said of the closings. Kentucky has 52 state parks, and 17 of them are resort parks.

Strange that WFPL eschewed reporting on Sparrow’s remarks about the proposed cigarette tax increase entirely. Though perhaps it is stranger still that Sparrow would comment on the proposed increase considering it’s just a proposition, and the legislation isn’t even in session yet.

Additionally, the C-J’s story outlines more cuts:

She said hours at the Berea Artisan Center, Kentucky History Center in Frankfort, and state welcome centers on interstate highways will be reduced. She said there will be reduced funds and technical assistance for artists through the Kentucky Arts Council, and she said there is a “strong” chance that 10 scholarships will be cut from the Governor’s School for the Arts, a summer program for gifted high school students.

UPDATE, 12/17/08: The Courier-Journal is running a story with an even bleaker headline this morning: Budget Crunch May Force Several KY. Parks to Close.

Rep. Yarmuth Assigned to Ways & Means

Posted in Development, Economics, Kentucky News, Labor, Louisville News, Politics on December 11, 2008 by stateofthecommonwealth

(Photo of Rep. John Yarmuth from – site appears to be inactive.)

This just in, from Business First:

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, has been selected to serve on the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee for the 111th Congress.

The committee oversees health care, retirement security, tax policy, trade and child welfare matters.

The committee “will be the front line for many of the tough challenges that confront our nation in the coming years,” Yarmuth said in a news release. “I look forward to working for solutions that will revitalize our economy, provide affordable health care to all Americans, bolster retirement security and ensure that every child in America has the opportunity to succeed.”

This could be interesting news for Kentucky businesses. Stay tuned.

UPDATE, 12/12/08: Here’s the Courier-Journal‘s story: Yarmuth Named to Key Committee.

Save Otter Creek Park Blog Now Active!

Posted in Development, Economics, Environment, Kentucky News, Labor, Louisville News, Media, Metro Parks, Ohio River, Otter Creek Park, Politics, State of StateoftheCommonwealth on December 8, 2008 by stateofthecommonwealth

One of the goals discussed among many participants at yesterday’s meeting in Otter Creek Park was the goal of keeping the public informed on any developments pertaining to the park and its closure on January 1st, 2008. While the Facebook group Save Otter Creek Park has grown by leaps and bounds in the past week, it was obvious that many of the participants in yesterday’s meeting don’t use Facebook — nor should efforts to help save the park be limited to one social-networking activity. With that in mind, the Save Otter Creek Park blog has been created, at the following URL:

The purpose of the Save Otter Creek Park blog is to help keep the concerned citizens of Louisville, Jefferson County, Meade County, Hardin County, Fort Knox, Radcliff, Brandenburg, Vine Grove and the greater Kentuckiana area informed and updated concerning current events involving the announcement by Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson that Otter Creek Park will close indefinitely on January 1, 2008.

We here at State of the Commonwealth will be helping with administration and content at Save Otter Creek Park, but we can’t do it alone. If you’d like to contribute to the blog, please contact us at with any tips, news updates, comments, suggestions, ideas and memories concerning Otter Creek Park and local efforts to keep it open. Thanks!

Otter Creek Park Meeting/Rally a Success

Posted in Development, Economics, Environment, Happenings, Kentucky News, Labor, Louisville News, Media, Metro Parks, Ohio River, Otter Creek Park, Politics on December 8, 2008 by stateofthecommonwealth

Well, Sunday’s meeting in Otter Creek Park was at least a success in terms of both turnout and media coverage, but the park is still closing January 1st, with an uncertain future beyond that date. An estimated 475 signatures were signed for a statement drafted by Jason Flickner of Kentucky Waterways Alliance that urges Mayor Jerry Abramson to work as diligently as possible, especially with other interested local, state and federal government agencies or other groups, to keep the park open.

WHAS, Fox41, and WAVE all aired coverage of the rally. Here’s the story filed at

It may be the last campfire the Bryant family ever builds in Otter Creek Park.

For 30 years, Jimmy Bryant has been bringing his family to this park. It’s a tradition that’s about to end.

His daughter Brandi Cruse remembers all of the campfires she used to sit around here as a child and says she wants her three year old daughter Aya to have the same memories and experiences, but now she won’t.

It’s a thought that brings Brandi to tears.

Thousands of other people have built memories in Otter Creek Park as well — hiking on the miles of trails, biking through the woods, and seeing wildlife at almost every turn.

Bill Butler has been coming here every week since he was 13 years old.

He says the thought of not being able to come to this park anymore keeps him up at night.

He remembers, “When it happened, I couldn’t even sleep that night. It really hurt me bad, and it still hurts me to think I can never come back out here again to this park. It’s been part of my life for 65 years and now it’s gone.”

The city of Louisville has owned and operated the 2600 acre park since 1949. The problem is, it costs about [$500,000] a year to keep this park open, and right now the city of Louisville just doesn’t have that money.

So on Sunday, about 250 people got together in the park to hold a rally to try and convince the city of Louisville to keep Otter Creek open.

They made signs, handed out flyers and signed petitions.

The group hopes it will continue to come to the park for many years to come.

Right now, Otter Creek Park is scheduled to close on January 1st.

Of course, that news story doesn’t tell the whole story. As noted above, 475 signatures were collected, conflicting with the report of 250 people. That said, even if there were only 250 people (we didn’t count), that’s still pretty decent considering it was a pretty cold afternoon. Additionally, that story (and others like it) don’t really tell much about who showed up. We saw a diverse crowd of people and interests: campers, fishers, mountain bikers; people from Louisville (East Enders, Southwest Louisvillians, Highlanders, etc.), Hardin Countians, Meade Countians, OCP employees. And a few Camp Piomingo alumni (like us!). All of us had many reasons to be there, but all agreed on one thing: closing the park will be a huge blow not only to Louisville, but to the surrounding region as well.

There also seemed to be a consensus that further steps need to be taken by OCP supporters. Check State of the Commonwealth, as well as the Facebook group Save Otter Creek Park, for future updates. We also strongly encourage you to contact Louisville Metro government officials, if you haven’t already:

Mayor’s Office
Metro Hall / 4th Floor
527 W. Jefferson St.
Louisville, KY 40202
(502) 574-2003

Metro Council
601 W. Jefferson St.
Louisville, KY 40202
(502) 574-1100
Address postal mail to individual Councilmember. – This site links to individual Councilmembers.

After the rally dispersed, we went walking around the Van Buren and North Point areas of the park, and took a few pictures (we didn’t take any at the rally). You can see them on our Flickr page here.

Big Box Reuse Author Coming to Louisville, Bardstown

Posted in Art, Development, Drink, Economics, Environment, Happenings, Kentucky Small Towns, Labor, Louisville News, Media, Politics, Transportation on December 3, 2008 by stateofthecommonwealth

(above image of Julia Christensen’s Big Box Reuse from

We got scooped on it by Consuming Louisville, but we still wanted to inform you that our good friend and Bardstown native Julia Christensen will be in both Louisville and Bardstown this weekend to talk about her book Big Box Reuse (which we told you about back in October). Julia’s presenting a free opening of photographs from the book at the Green Building Gallery this Friday, December 5th from 5 to 9 PM. Here’s an excerpt from the press release:

In her book Big Box Reuse , and accompanying photographic exhibition, Julia Christensen takes us on a road trip across America to look at what becomes of the spaces superstores leave behind when they move out. These warehouse-like buildings have found their place in the built landscape since the first Wal-Mart, Kmart and Target stores opened in 1962.

Since the spring of 2004, Christensen has driven over 75,000 miles, visiting converted “big boxes” and meeting the people who are transforming these massive shells into useful structures for their community. She has documented what happened to the structures, the parking lots, and the surrounding communities. She has found out who wanted to reuse the buildings, why and how. What Christensen has discovered is that examining the big box building provides a wealth of information that will help us steer the future of our landscape with more informed decision-making processes. Among the things Big Box Reuse points out: despite the harmful construction of the big box, reuse is a powerful tool in the fight against the increasing dangers of sprawl. For every building that is reused, a new one does not go up; a monumental victory, as the National Trust for Historic Preservation recently indicated the energy used to destroy older buildings in addition to the energy used to build new ones could power the entire state of California for 10 years (LA Times, October 2008).

She’ll also be speaking and signing books tomorrow (that’s Thursday, December 4th) at the Glassworks Building at 6 PM as part of the Sustainable City Series. This event is free but space is limited; you can reserve a space here.

Last but not least, Julia will be in Bardstown on Saturday, December 6th for a book signing at Bardstown Booksellers starting at 2 PM.

For more information, visit the Big Box Reuse site at