Covering the Trinity Threat

Let’s not make light of the evolving situation at Trinity High School, where classes were canceled today because of some mysterious “obscure threat.”

School officials are doing their best to control media coverage, and plan to hold  a press conference in about two hours, at 4 p.m. President Rob Mullen has not disclosed any details of the threat, and TV stations and the C-J have generally stuck with the story that classes were canceled after a threat came to light on Thursday.

But if you take a look at the coverage, as I did, you would notice that only WHAS-TV is providing additional details, revealing that the threat stems from a note found in a classroom Thursday that said there would be a shooting on Friday during fourth period.  We got a similar tip here at the V.V. None of the other media has those details in its coverage.

The C-J is covering the 4 p.m. press conference live online, and it’s likely to be a big story tonight.  Let’s hope there’s nothing to it.

A Move in the Right Direction for Homeless

Here’s some positive fallout from the State Auditor’s investigation of policies in the Metro Housing Department — the Mayor is making some changes in the way federal monies are used to get “homeless people off the streets, back to work and into safe housing.”

There is $9.2 million in funding available for this purpose, and after meeting with the heads of non-profit agency heads who work with the homeless, Abramson announced today that the new approach will make $1.5 million more available, and it will be used to hire an additional 20 case managers to help the homeless. See, new jobs!

After the agencies held a press conference last week complaining about lax policies in getting funding, the Mayor agreed to meet with them and make changes. Some grants were delayed by as much as six months in getting to agencies because of simple incompetence in the Housing Department.

Abramson said he’ll designate another $750K in the next budget for homeless assistance grants, a move that will appease leftover resentment from the agencies.

“Using this existing committee of non-profit agencies, the process can be streamlined and the decisions can be made by those who know the challenges the homeless providers face,” said Tina Heavrin, director of the city’s Housing and Family Services Dept.

It’s News Because It’s Weird Edition

A Trinity Mystery: Anybody want to take a shot at guessing what the big security issue is at Trinity? The high school is closed, and officials say they’ll have news for the public on this “obscure threat” by 4 p.m.  I’m betting that whatever it is won’t stay secret that long. [C-J]

Billy’s Slide: Maybe Billy Clyde Gillispie is just another one of those coaches who doesn’t handle losing well. When he was rude to ESPN’s Jeanine Edwards in a sideline interview (twice), we thought it might have been a sexist thing, and it was pretty embarrassing. Now he’s giving grief to play-by-play man Tom Leach for having the nerve to question the way he benched his best player. [Eric Crawford]

Now This Will Help Tourism: The state House has approved a measure to allow alcohol sales in state parks, opening up a whole new revenue stream and making the parks more attractive to all sorts of groups. For the parks in dry counties, it will require a local option election. Can you imagine a dry county where the only place to get alcohol is the state park? [WFPL]

That’s A Reach: That was Fox 41’s Bill Lamb’s reaction to a demand by local NAACP officials that he take a stand against a New York Post cartoon that’s being called racist.  Here’s the NAACP logic – Lamb is a Fox affiliate, and Fox is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., which also own the NY Post. Lamb, who was out of town, said, “This has nothing to do with me or the station.  I don’t feel an automatic obligation to get involved in somebody else’s battle.” But he said he would consider the request.

Nunn’s Defense: A 29-year-old woman claims that Steve Nunn, an official in the state’s Health and Family Services division, verbally and physically abused her. So the state put him on leave without pay until the case is resolved.  Nunn says he’s innocent, and so does his ex-wife. He’s worked on domestic violence protection issues in the past.  The woman claims Nunn hit her in the face at her home. [WHAS-TV]

Bad News for Bikers: If you’re on a bike and somebody hits you with their car, and a police officer doesn’t see it, you’re still screwed. Police won’t be arresting the driver. That’s because HB 88 died in Frankfort yesterday  [Barry’s Bike Blog]

Get ‘Em All in One Place: There’s a new anti-Jerry Abramson group on Facebook, organized by frequent V.V. commenter Steve Magruder. Now Jerry can keep track of his enemies, of which nearly 400 have already signed up. [Facebook]

Back to the Ethics Ordinance Drawing Board

There was plenty of drama late yesterday afternoon as the Democratic and Republican caucuses of the Metro Council met. The topic – the proposed ethics ordinance. The result – no agreement on ethics legislation.

One source told me that the Republican members were as upset as they’ve ever been over any issue. For several weeks, members Ken Fleming and David Tandy (the Dem. MC president), working with the law firm Goldberg & Simpson, had come up with amendments to the ordnance that both thought would be acceptable to Dems on the Council.

But Dem caucus members had concerns about the new document. It didn’t show what was changed. It was unclear, according to the Dems, exactly who was covered. Political activity, such as the sending of e-mails on political issues (call it the Doug Hawkins caveat), wasn’t clear enough. Dems still don’t like the fact that any bumpkin could file a complaint, and Dems don’t want ethics complaints floating around in the media based on near-anonymous complaints.

So Councilwoman Marianne Butler came up with a new proposal and presented to the caucus at 4. It was a re-write of the current ordinance, with rules on filing complaints adapted from the state personnel  code. That document was distributed to the Metro Council at 5:15.  But she didn’t introduce or act on it last night.

When it came up in the full meeting, Fleming withdrew his sponsorship and the measure died. Butler may introduce her version at the next Council meeting. Republicans are upset that their ordinance, which they worked so long to finalize, was so easily defeated. And they don’t like the new Butler version.

They say it doesn’t include the following key points:

Requirements that all ethics complaints be given a hearing within 90 days of being filed.

Requirements the Ethics Commission to appear before the Metro Council and report any reasons for a delay in the hearing process.

Requirements to expand the number of Metro employees covered to include more management level positions and anyone with the ability to make purchases of $10,000 or more.

Requirements that 2/3 of the council to approve any appointment to the ethics commission.

Requirements that Metro utilizes technology to increase transparency and makes it easier for the general public to access documents via the web.

New stronger definitions regarding what is considered a conflict of interest.

New stronger, more consistent and universal definition of “family member” when dealing with contracts, employment or other activities.

Talking Ethics and Other Late Breaking News

Ethically-challenged: If you’re wondering what your favorite Metro Council member has been up to, it’s likely to be ethics-related. At tonight’s Metro Council meeting, the long-awaited Ethics ordinance could be passed, Or maybe not. Chances are they won’t agree. We’ll have something on it soon.

Today’s Bad Gannett News: One day after Gannett slashed its shareholder dividend by 90 percent, Moody’s downgraded its credit rating. The official term for Gannett stock: Junk. [Wash. Biz Journal]

Miss the Job Jam: Francene’s big shindig at Bellarmine Saturday was a big hit, with more than 400 people showing up to learn the basics of the job-search process. Now you can watch it on KET’s website. [KET]

Speaking of Her: Francene is among those who don’t think it would be so bad if kids have to go to school in June to make up for missed days from the ice storm. I don’t know if she or Jake make the more compelling argument against waiving the days, as the legislature voted to do. [LEO, Page One]

Learn Some History: There’s a great profile of the late civil rights organizer Anne Braden of Louisville on the Concrete Loop, an annoying website. But the story’s worth reading. [Concrete Loop]

Political Rumoring: Oh,boy that Jake is turning up some great political rumors — including the possibility that both Dan Seum and Doug Hawkins are going to be getting serious opposition when they run for re-election in 2010. We love this stuff. [Page One]

Crossing the Line:  I used to work at a private business that was constantly pushing religion on employees. Nothing wrong with that. But we draw the line when city employees use official e-mail accounts to drum up interest in religion. Hal Heiner assistant Stephen Ott doesn’t have a problem with promoting an Easter discussion group at City Hall. [Page One]

Otter Creek Could Re-Open This Summer

The fallout from the ice storm continues at Otter Creek Park.

When the power went out at the Conference Center, it got cold. And when it got cold, the pipes burst. And when the pipes burst, water ruined the carpeting and drywall. Workers have been out at the Park the last few weeks making repairs.

Rather than just leave the place in shambles, Metro Parks is spending about $9,000 to fix it, according to Parks spokesperson Jason Cissell, who added that five weddings scheduled this spring will bring in enough revenue ($10K) to cover the costs.

But the bigger picture is that the fix-up has to take place to make the Park presentable enough that it will get responses to a Request for Proposal being released in the next two weeks. Metro Parks is hopeful that an organization will come in and operate the park on at least a revenue-neutral basis to the city’s budget. Cissell said it would be nice, though, if an operator could return a dividend.

“Our main goal is to provide recreational activities at no cost to the taxpayer,” he said.

Sounds like a tall order for any operator. Cissell said Metro Parks has heard from 15 parties interested in seeing the RFP, and has gone out and researched a half-dozen firms who operate concessions at parks throughout the U.S. The RFP will be a hefty document, with details of the park’s various long-term plans and details of the facilities.

But it will be up to the operator to figure out a way to make money, presumably through lodge and cabin rentals, concessions and activity fees. Fans of the park are hopeful. If a proposal requires modest changes, the park could re-open under a new operator as early as this summer.

Can King Jerry Do No Wrong?

Talk about desperation. After losing an eight-year battle with the firefighters union, Mayor Jerry Abramson has instructed his crack legal team to attempt one final act of desperation to avoid paying the millions owed to firefighters in back pay. He’s using the ancient concept of “sovereign immunity” in Jefferson Circuit Court in an attempt to get the award thrown out.

Paying the bill could effectively clean out the city’s rainy day fund, which many Metro Council members advocated using to shore up the city’s budget. There’s at least $17.6 million at stake, and that number is likely to climb.

Sovereign immunity is simply a declaration that the government can’t be sued, a concept dating to the Middle Ages. It’s actually kind of funny in this case, given King Jerry’s whole “Mayor for Life” status. From Wikipedia:

Generally speaking it is the doctrine that the sovereign or state cannot commit a legal wrong and is immune from civil suit or criminal prosecution; hence the saying, the king (or queen) can do no wrong. In many cases, governments have waived this immunity to allow for suits; in some cases, an individual may technically appear as defendant on the state’s behalf.

Wanna Write for ‘Ville Voice Eats?

Wanna write for ‘Ville Voice Eats?

Here’s your chance! We’re in a position to bring in a new writer/set of writers.

Want to be a contributor? Here are the requirements: you cannot receive kickbacks, compensation or preferential treatment when writing and reviewing. You must be creative, must be able to write and must have a desire to eat as much as the rest of us. And it’d help if you’re not afraid to pig out in all areas of the city.

You’ll even get to appear on television on occasion.

Get in touch with Jake for more details.

Chuck Olmstead Update – He’s Stable

Got a call from Chuck Olmstead’s family spokesperson this morning who wanted to share news that he is in stable condition.

Keep sending your cards and well wishes:

Chuck Olmstead
c/o WHAS11
520 West Chestnut
Louisville, KY 40202

And keep Chuck and his family in your thoughts and prayers.

We’ll let you know more as we know more.

Thunder Hits the Road

Here we are, 20 years into coming up with themes for Thunder over Louisville, and organizers are just now using “Thunder Road” for the first time. Today the Derby Festival announced its theme would be built around road trips in Americana, and all sorts of road trip songs will be included.

Of course, the finale will have to feature the Springsteen classic, considered one of the top rock and roll songs of all time. I know you’re already humming lines from it, like — “You ain’t a beauty but hey you’re alright.”  It’s one of those songs that you can hear over and over and never get tired of it.

Thunder #20 isn’t immune to the economic crisis, though, and organizers say that they’re reducing the cost of production by about 10 percent, which they say won’t be noticed by the general public. Sponsor sales are flat, though McDonald’s, UPS Airlines, Horseshoe Casino, E.ON US and Meijer are back on board.

And in media news — the merry-go-round of getting the rights to produce the spectacle on TV falls to WHAS-TV, after being on WDRB-TV the last two years. We’ll find out for you what plans the station has for the show, which has been produced at considerable expense in HD by Fox41. The exclusive radio partner is 106.9 WVEZ.

Thunder is April 18.  So anyone want to help Wayne Hettinger and the gang out? Submit your favorite road songs in the comments section.