Officials Celebrating in Frankfort

Gov. Beshear said he had three serious issues on his agenda at a news conference this morning. There’s the report of a woman from Kentucky suspected of having swine flu. Even more important, he announced the size of the revenue shortfall for the next fiscal year at between $818 million and $1.094 billion.

But Beshear opened the press conference in Frankfort with a little joke, recognizing WHAS-TV’s Mark Hebert was spending his last day in Frankfort as a news reporter.

“Every government official will be popping the cork on a bottle of champagne this afternoon,” Beshear said, noting that Hebert would no longer be chasing down stories in the Capitol.

Hebert tells me he’ll be working the paddock on Saturday, his last day at WHAS. He officially begins working for the University of Louisville on Monday.

Minnesota Next to Try to Outlaw Online Gambling

We’ve been telling you about the misguided attempt by Kentucky’s state government to seize domain names of sites operating online gambling. That case is currently being reviewed by the state’s Supreme Court.

Now Minnesota is attempting to censor the Internet to keep its residents from gambling. The state’s government is attempting to use a federal law that restricts the use of phone calls for wagering to force Internet Service Providers to block the sites. Minnesota wants ISPs to block access to 200 gambling sites.

The AP story quotes a lawyer from the federal Center for Democracy and Technology, who says that, basically, Minnesota’s complaint is crap, calling it “very problematic and significant misreading of the stutute.”

ISPs, wisely, have thus far ignored Minnesota’s request. The same poker groups opposed to Kentucky’s action are lining up against this one.

U of L Hiring Some Brain Docs

Here’s the latest in that neurosurgery dispute between the University of Louisville and Norton Hospital.

U of L has apparently had some success in recruiting replacements for the team of eight surgeons led by Dr. Christopher Shields, and hopes to bring them on board soon. Gov. Beshear, in a statement this morning, said he’s concerned about the effect of the dispute on U of L’s trauma care rating. Beshear acknowledged that the situation is complex, but it sure seems like it could be a lot simpler — like if U of L could speed up the hiring process on replacements. That seems to be the direction it is heading.

U of L Hospital spokesman Gary Mans sent along this statement about the situation.

We continue to move forward to assure the fulfillment of our missions of clinical care, education, and research. The University of Louisville School of Medicine”s Committee on Academic Promotion and Tenure and the other appropriate committees and offices of the School are meeting this week and next week to review and approve the appointment of new members of the faculty of the Department of Neurosurgery.

These individuals are a group of highly clinically experienced M.D. and M.D./Ph.D. board-certified neurosurgeons from outstanding academic medical centers. In addition, the Search Committee for the Chair of Neurosurgery is reviewing a group of 11 exceptional candidates for the position of professor and chairman of the department.

The candidate pool includes several sitting academic department chairs and vice-chairs. The Faculty of the School of Medicine will continue to focus upon providing outstanding care to our patients and ensuring the education of our residents-in-training and medical students. Although the NIKY neurosurgeons have resigned from the faculty, representatives of the School of Medicine are continuing discussions with Norton Healthcare regarding clinical coverage of the neurosurgical service at University Hospital.

World Watching, And It’s Raining

Looks to be soggy the rest of the week, though the latest forecast calls for a break for today’s Parade downtown. Golfer Kenny Perry and his Dad are the grand marshals. Also honored will be the U of L Lady Cards basketball team. On with the news…

Derby Coverage: The C-J and H-L feature artwork of the Derby starting gate on their front pages, with the C-J front a giant photo of Bob Baffert and his son at the post position draw.  Aside from its main Derby story, the C-J has a news feature detailing how there won’t be as many buses, rides will cost more, and Miller Transportation will be using school buses near the track. But officials still hope things go smoothly…in the rain. [Courier]

Our Belle Beat Their Belle: The score was 77.5 to 22.5, whatever that means.  Everybody had a big time at the Steamboat/Diesel Contest/Race. [Courier]

In the Times: The New York Times is here. Joe Drape writes that owners and trainers are still resistant to sharing their horses’ vet records, that the sport still has loose medical regulations and vets are concerned about overmedication of horses. It’s the increased use of legal drugs, he writes, that has vets concerned. [NY Times]

Just Hope This Affects You: Ever won big at the track? Then you know the IRS is standing by to take a portion of your winnings — on the spot. John Yarmuth is doing something about it, introducing legislation to end the practice. “It is simply unfair that a low-dollar better who hits it big walks away from the window with only 75 percent of their winnings, while a high roller that wins the same amount is not subject to the automatic withholding,” Yarmuth said. “It is also wrong to assume that horse racing fans will cheat on their taxes and unnecessary to force racetracks to act as agents of the IRS.”

Close a Street, Another One Opens: Notice you haven’t heard much about Derby cruising in the West End this year. Since the Mayor ended the madness three years ago, other events are popping up there. Check out LEO’s story. [LEO]

$2 Million Saved: City government workers get the day off tomorrow, the last involuntary furlough day of the year.  The Mayor’s Office says it’s been popular with staffers.

Never, Ever, Say Never: Rick Bozich speculates on the unthinkable — a Derby run at night.  Now that there are plans for night racing later this year, it’s only natural to think it could happen for the big race, right? The track says the idea has never come up. [Courier]

Two Events: There are dozens of parties and celebrations tonight. The biggest may be Churchill Downs’ VIP/Media Party. We’ll be at the Creative Vibrations event, benefitting the Dream Factory.

This Race Doesn’t Go to the Swift

Like the Kentucky Derby, many of those who attend the Great Steamboat Race aren’t much into the race. But this year, there’s no race. At least the winner doesn’t necessarily have to cross a line first. It’s more like a boating skills competition between the crews of the Belle of Louisville and the Belle of Cincinnati, in its first appearance as a legit competitor.

This race won’t go to the swiftest, as it always has. This time, judges will decide who wins the competition, a part of which is to see who plays the meanest calliope. Talk about breaking with tradition. The crews will be playing Tug of War for points.

The “Race” has been run every year since 1963, almost always involving the Delta Queen. But a simple race with the diesel-powered Belle of Cincinnati wouldn’t have been a fair fight for the steam-powered local vessel. So organizers decided it was a good year to pump some new life into what had become a tired event. TV coverage has even slacked off in recent years.

The Delta Queen, thanks to a federal safety ruling, is no longer cruising the Ohio.

It seems like the new competition would open the door for new ways to cheat, which is a time-honored tradition for the Wednesday of Derby Week. We’ll see. Here’s an interview with the captains.

But none of it really matters to the people who gather along the Ohio to party.

Hard Times for Ford Workers

The struggles in the auto industry are hitting home today — nearly 400 workers at Ford’s Louisville Assembly Plant are being laid off. The plant has about 1,500 employees, but many have been working only every other week as a result of an earlier union concession.

Demand for Ford Explorers is way down, and Ford recently announced it was undergoing a $500 million renovation to produce a new vehicle at the plant. Union leaders keep saying that all the laid-off workers will be needed when the renovation is done in 2011.

While the union is fighting for the jobs, most layoffs will go into effect July 1. WHAS-TV is reporting that the rotating shift plan, which saved hundreds of jobs, is being discontinued so that Ford can further trim payroll.

King Didn’t Do It

Last fall, George Unseld was re-elected in the Metro Council’s 6th District. But the bigger fight had been won the previous May, when he defeated Ken Herndon in the Democratic primary.

A key issue in the race was a homophobic flyer distributed at the 11th hour attacking Herndon. In the ensuing 24 months, Herndon and others have been trying to identify who sent the flyers, which were distributed throughout the District, which encompasses Old Louisville.

Herndon’s camp has long suspected then-Metro Council president Jim King of being involved, in part because King supported Unseld in the race. Recently, King decided he’d had enough of the accusations. So he went and used his own money and got himself polygraphed. He said he didn’t know anything about the flyer, and the polygraph proved him out, as you can read in the juicy story Jake’s written over at Page One.

So now Herndon’s going to have to start all over a find a new scapegoat.  More to come.

Derby Field Set; I Want Revenge is Your Favorite

If you’re ready to start factoring in post position and the track’s odds as you ponder your Derby picks, it’s OK to get started.

Here’s the way the field stacks up.

The favorite is I Want Revenge, 3-1, in post 13. The sentimental favorite, General Quarters, is next to him in the 12th stall, and is 20-1. Early odds have both PioneeroftheNile and Dunkirk at 4-1, and Friesan Fire is at 5-1. The rest are 15-1 or higher.

Wayne Lukas’ Flying Private is on the extreme outside (which proved not to be a problem for Big Brown last year), while West Side Bernie got the last pick and is on the rail.

Not Getting It Done

Failure must be among the toughest concepts for our Mayor to accept. But it’s the only way to describe the three-months-and-counting effort to clean up from the January ice storm.

The city is paying Flynn Brothers Contracting more than $2 million to clean up storm debris, and according to its contract, is losing $500 a day since it missed its final deadline to be done on Sunday. City crews may be putting in long hours, but the job was too big for them.

Here in Jeffersontown, we haven’t yet seen any debris picker-uppers and streets around here feature piled-up sticks in a majority of front yards. Mayoral spokesperson Kerri Richardson says the city is “making a run at” getting finished before Saturday. She said work is done in 84 percent of collection zones.

Richardson said the $500 per day penalty will be figured into the final tally when it meets with Flynn Brothers once the work is completed.

According to this morning’s C-J, Flynn is getting $200 a ton and has collected 11,730 tones of debris thus far. I’ll do the math for you — that’s $2.35 million. So the $500 a day penalty seems like a meaningful consideration, but it’s not.

Mayor Abramson’s handling of the whole thing is just more ammo for his critics. Here we are at Derby time, still trying to clean up from a storm that happened in January. That he blew a few months negotiating with city workers is at the heart of today’s problem. Once he called in contractors, it was too late to get things finished.

Happy Halfway to Derby Day

Post Draw Today: Find out which horses get which numbers at today’s post position draw for the Derby. It takes place about Noon today at the track, NOT at Fourth Street Live as it has been for several years. ESPN decided it wasn’t good TV. You can watch in online or on local TV. I Want Revenge is the likely favorite.

QB Party: NFL quarterbacks must be becoming the gold standard for Derby party guests, and today we learn that the hated Tom Brady and others are signed on to the Barnstable Brown guest list, along with Paris Hilton. She’ll be at Fourth Street Live afterward for an official after-party. [Courier]

Big Drink: Brown-Forman is displaying a 6-foot Mint Julep glass over at the track. Why they’re doing press releases on this, we don’t know. [Brown-Forman]

Worker’s Complaint: WHAS-TV’s Joe Arnold found an arena worker willing to complain about the speed-em-up pace of construction, saying things aren’t safe on the site. He says Mortenson, the construction manager, is pushing too hard to stay on schedule. [WHAS-TV]

Sypher Can Speak: Yesterday a judge told Karen Sypher she can badmouth Rick Pitino all she wants and not get in trouble with the court. But her attorney says she’ll keep it zipped. We’ll see. [Fox41]

Bill vs. Blogger: The Fox41 G.M. thinks Perez Hilton’s a “blogging bully” for roughing it up with Miss California over same-sex marriage. [Fox41]

And His Name is Really Heil: Can you believe a PRP firefighter came to work in a Klan outfit? That’s the allegation that got Capt. Robert Heil suspended without pay. Can you say “R E D N E C K”? A resident interviewed by WLKY’s Mike Petchenik said she hopes it doesn’t hurt PRP’s reputation. [WLKY]

TARC vs. Miller: Officials with TARC are (wink, wink) quick to say that the free rides they’re offering Friday night aren’t meant to infringe on Miller Transportation’s exclusive agreement to shuttle patrons around the track. Nope, the fact that Miller raised prices and is using inferior buses (compared with service TARC had provided since 1947 before a federal ruling changed things) has nothing to do with the Miller/Coors promotion of free rides on Friday. [Courier]