OK, Read This First, then Start the Weekend

We’re on the patio at the Gardiner Lane Heine Bros. because, well, it was impossible to stay indoors any longer. Join us at the Dan Dry photo exhibit at the ArtXP Gallery in Butchertown tonight. Meanwhile, here’s some stuff to end the week on….

Posing for Vogue: Fashion photographers for magazines like Vogue are probably always shooting girls named Rachel, but it was a little bit different for photog Stephen Klein at Churchill Downs today. He did a photo shoot with 3-year-old Rachel Alexandra, winner of the Kentucky Oaks and Preakness. The shots will appear in the August issue. [Blood-horse]

Flagging Kindred: The local hospital company has experienced a minor P.R. explosion this week because one employee asked another to take down an American flag at a Texas office. The offended American called in to Francene’s show today, and everybody gave Kindred some grief. The local office sent confusing press releases, eventually reprimanding the rogue staffer. See a pic of her. [Francene]

Live Track Blog: Ever covered a track meet as a journalist? I have, and it’s not pretty. So I’m feeling for Jody Demling of the C-J, who’s doing a live blog from the NCAA Regional Track Meet at Cardinal Park.  [Demling]

Somebody Call Wayside: Jeffersontown’s largest hotel, currently known as the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center, is up for foreclosure auction in August with a lender seeking at least $9 million. Biz First touts it as potentially “one of the largest Louisville-area foreclosures in recent memory.” That must have been written before the $10 million bid by Wayside Christian Mission for Hotel Louisville. [Biz First]

An Idea for Budget Cuts: Do we really need a homeland security office in Kentucky, one which sends out press releases letting us know that Thomas Preston, the state’s director, is attending the Army’s War College? [press release]

An Online Kentucky Experience: Lookie here. First Lady Jane Beshear has launched a website called the Kentucky Experience. It’s geared to visitors to the 2010 Equestrian Games. [Page One]

It’s a Sell-Out: Forget those plans to go to Patterson Stadium for that NCAA baseball game tonight between U of L and Indiana. They’re already sold out. Try again tomorrow.

Beshear Calls Special Session

Here’s this week’s big Friday at 4:30 story — Gov. Steve Beshear has called for a special session to deal with the predicted $996 million shortfall in the next fiscal year budget.  The session will begin June 15.

That anticipated report from the state’s economic forecasters is just as bad as politicians were predicting —  nearly twice last year’s deficit.  Gov. Beshear is expected to begin calling lawmakers this weekend.

Will he finally embrace the need for slots?

First out of the gate with a statement is House Speaker Greg Stumbo:

Today’s forecast should not be a surprise, given the extended downturn in the nation’s economy.  The main hope is that economic conditions are beginning to improve and we can now begin the long, slow climb back to prosperity.  Fortunately, the federal stimulus money will help cushion the impact of this deficit, though no one should expect the next two years to be easy.  Our goal in the House is to continue doing all we can to maintain essential health services and education spending, and we will try to do just that during the special session.  As I have said before, now is not the time to raise taxes on Kentucky’s working families; just as they have had to tighten their belts, so will we as a state.

Smart-Aleck Responses to Budget Highlights

Just for fun, let’s take a look at the official highlights of the Mayor’s budget, accompanied by our own editorial comments.

Preserves basic services despite rising costs and declining revenues
Anticipates 1.4 percent decrease in General Fund revenues

Predicting future revenue is risky, as we learned the hard way. Last year’s decrease was 2 percent, so this means the Mayor thinks things are getting better. Let’s hope he’s not wrong again.

Creates about 3,000 private-sector jobs to stimulate the local economy with capital investments in roads, sidewalks, public housing, parks.
Leverages $109 million in federal, state and private dollars with $8.2 million in local tax dollars

The federal stimulus money to the rescue.

Continues reducing the size of government
Eliminates 528 positions, including 119 filled and 409 vacant jobs
Brings net reduction of government positions since merger to 1,600 jobs

It is about time that local government stopped claiming that avoiding layoffs was some kind of moral victory.

Devotes largest share of revenue to police department to keep citizens safe
Provides $152 million for police, about 30 percent of General Fund budget
Maintain current strength of police force with two recruit classes
Invests $5.6 million in new police cars, body armor, in-car computers, cameras and other equipment

Even Jerry knows that public safety is the last thing to cut. And the city’s lost battle on take-home cars is showing up in this budget.

Read the Rest after the Jump…

Read moreSmart-Aleck Responses to Budget Highlights

Opposition Fires Volley in Slots Issue

Let’s be clear on this. Most people in Kentucky won’t really be affected if a few of the state’s racetracks offer slot machines as a way to gamble. It’s one of those issues, like watching certain shows on TV, that you can choose to ignore if you want.

But opponents of slots aren’t going to allow state government to pass slots legislation without a fight. Yesterday, Kent Ostrander of the Family Foundation made the media rounds threatening to sue before the first slot machine is installed at Churchill Downs.

Meanwhile, KEEP is putting on the pressure with a statewide ad campaign. There are dire predictions for the horse racing industry. A forecasting group is expected to announce today that there will a $1 billion state budget deficit. Really dramatic cuts are coming, and they will include layoffs.

The state is running out of options, given the absolute refusal to raise taxes.   We’ve been talking about this for 15 years, and haven’t really made any progress. It’s time for the state to do something.

Getting a Late Start

Sorry for the late start, but wasn’t everybody up late watching Southern Belles to hear Kellie’s so-called matchmaking business customers describe what kind of sex they wanted? Sorry, our local sources say the business was fake, fake, fake. They had to give Kellie something to do for the show. Yes, we had to throw up.

First Interview with Mrs. Crockett: Max Gilpin’s mom spoke out in an interview with WAVE’s Connie Leonard. It’s now nine months since the PRP football player died. JCPS is still investigating.  [WAVE]

Youth Football Controversy: Looks like the most powerful pre-high school football teams in the region are being shut out of competition. The Hikes Point Lobos have long dominated teams from J-town, Fern Creek, Eastern and others, but all those teams have jumped to a new league that doesn’t want the Lobos, because they recruit the best players. Kyle Draper looks into it. [WHAS-TV]

The Dog-catcher Speaks: Gilles Meloche didn’t exactly agree to an interview, but Fox41’s Bennett Heaberle tracked him down at a public event so he could deny any wrongdoing at Metro Animal Services. The city is spending $1.6 million on a new pet adoption center, even as the department is being audited. [Fox41]

Union Watching, Calls Jerry a Snake: A Teamsters union leader called Jerry Abramson a snake. And said that the union will be watching and picketing the Mayor’s every move after some Teamsters members were laid off. [WLKY]

Inside Sources Say: Gus Goldsmith has been in close contact with Tim and Nina Moseley of Wayside Christian Mission for months, and the deal to have them buy the hotel at Second and Broadway is part of an elaborate plan to make both Goldsmith and Wayside money.  One theory is that JCTC will spend $12 million to buy the property it wants for parking from Wayside, which would pocket an easy $2 million.

In Non-Layoff News…

We’re sorry for the 119 folks losing their jobs in Metro Government, but still think that layoffs should have been an option taken a while ago…

Flagged: There’s been so much national buzz about the Kindred Hospital in Texas, in which an employee was asked to remove an American flag from her workspace, that the Louisville-based company finally sent out a statement reassuring the world that the company loves America and the dispute was over the size of the sign. [press release]

Disputing Dan’s Numbers: Dan Mongiardo released internal polling showing him way ahead of Jack Conway in a Democratic primary for Senate, which is about a year away. Turns out they only polled Mongiardo’s family members.  Just kidding, but it was a really small sample. [Page One]

How to Make a Million Dollars: Ever heard that joke about how to make a million? First, you get a million dollars…  That seems to be the idea behind the Affordable Housing Trust Fund that the Mayor has been sitting on for a year. The mil set aside for seed money will now likely be used to set up a non-profit organization whose mission, other than funding affordable housing projects, will be to raise money through grants, a task which doesn’t belong in government. [Courier]

Talk to Ed: Tonight is the debut of Ed Springston’s radio show on WKJK 1080-AM. Ed’s not a professional broadcaster, but we’re certain his rants on city government and the South End will be entertaining. [Springston]

Carbon Film News: Check out the this enviro-friendly film event coming to the Green Building June 10. It’s a documentary by Kentucky native Peter Byck. [Page One]

What’s It Take?: What laws do you have to break in Metro Government’s planning division to get yourself fired?  The e-mail trail shows Charles Cash, the city’s planning director, organized an illegal meeting. [V.V.]

Layoffs Coming to Metro Government

During the budget crises of the last year or two, as Metro Government has repeatedly cut back services, closed parks and instituted hiring and salary freezes, the one area that seemed to be off-limits to the budget ax was personnel. Mayor Abramson made several budget announcements in which he was able to say, proudly — the good news is there are no layoffs.

Those days are over.

Abramson’s new budget calls for significant cuts, based on estimates of a 2 percent revenue decline in the current year and a forecast 1.4 percent drop next year. So 528 positions are coming off the payroll, including 119 people who will lose their government jobs on July 1. The other positions are open and won’t be filled. Cuts to his and senior staff salaries remain in place.

There will be four new furlough days (yet to be determined) and there will be cutbacks in street sweeping and junk pickup. Fees for construction permits and alcohol licenses are going up. And if you get locked up, the booking fee at the jail goes up from $25 to $35.

Departments most affected by personnel cuts, in order, are Neighborhoods, Parks, Human Resources and Housing. Police and Public Safety expenses, which make up 56 percent of the Metro budget, will see only a slight decrease.

Secret of Secret Meeting Revealed

As you know, we’ve been following the case of the Javanon Soccer Club’s building in the East End. When the Board of Zoning Adjustments held a secret, illegal meeting (a clear violation of the state’s Open Meetings law) prior to its April 20 meeting, it was hard to get answers from officials about how the meeting was called.

So the V.V. filed an open records request, and reported that according to one of the e-mails sent by Javanon attorney Bill Bardenwerper, it certainly appeared that Bardenwerper suggested the meeting. Still, there was no documentation that Planning Director Charles Cash or Codes and Regulations Director Bill Schreck were involved in setting up the meeting.

Yesterday, however, we received an additional set of e-mails that make it clear who authorized the illegal meeting on the illegal building, and why County Attorney Mike O’Connell insisted that the decisions made in the April 20 meeting be re-heard.

From an April 13 response to Bardenwerper’s request, Cash wrote:

“For once, as much as I hate to admit it, I’ll have to say that I agree with Bill Bardenwerper.

I believe we should have a pre-meeting with the Board (possibly in two smaller groups to avoid the public notice question) to clarify their role public/performance.”

Schreck responded moments later, writing simply “I agree.”

So Cash obviously knew meeting in advance was wrong, and suggested that there might be a way to get around the public notice requirement. All at the suggestion of Bardenwerper.

We asked Connie Ewing, the Planning Department’s Public Information specialist, why these incriminating e-mails were not included in the original request, and she said they were originally excluded by the county attorney’s office citing attorney/client privilege. She said the county attorney reconsidered and released the e-mails.

Bill Patteson, spokesman for O’Connell, said the Planning Department had not previously submitted the e-mails in question for review.

Arena Contractor Likely to be Cited

Officials with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration are meeting today with executives from the downtown arena’s general contractor, Mortenson Construction, and Wilhelm Construction, the subcontractor blamed for the April 27 mishap on the site.

The meeting is expected to set the groundwork for a final report on the concrete accident, and Wilhelm will receive at least one serious citation from OSHA, according to a source familiar with the project. In most cases, OSHA citations also result in fines.

The “serious” designation is the least serious of the three types of citations leveled by OSHA — the others are “willful” and for repeated “willful” infractions.

The meeting comes on the heels of activity at the site reported yesterday by Joe Arnold of WHAS-TV, which included documentation of an on-site meeting of all construction personnel about safety on the site.  Mortenson also released a detailed letter, sent to Arena Authority chair Jim Host, about the safety meeting.

In it, Mortenson cited the media attention as a distraction and a “safety issue in and of itself.”

Really? So the construction managers think it would be safer at the site if the media weren’t covering their mistakes?

A section of the letter dealt primarily with options for workers to report safety concerns. Unsaid, but obvious, was the suggestion that workers NOT take their safety concerns to media. One worker who did just that, Charlie Molen, was laid off shortly after appearing in a WHAS-TV report.

It is not certain when OSHA will release the results of its investigation to the media.

The Honeymoon is Definitely Over

The Party is Over: Remember when basketball coaches were given a free pass by fans at least until their first loss? The news of the day isn’t good for John Calipari, who sure sounds guilty of impropriety at Memphis. And Billy Clyde wants $6 million from the school. Billy Reed has all you need to know. [BillyReedSays]

Riding for Cancer with Papa John: We were having lunch at Calistoga last week when John Schnatter walked in to tape this spot for Norton Cancer Institute’s Ride to Conquer Cancer. The ride is in September, from the ‘Ville to Lexington and back.  [YouTube]

The Offer Better Be Good: Schnatter’s ground-breaking promotion involves finding his old Camaro and a virtual road trip. But you have to use a webcam to play, so those better be really good coupons. [Papa Johns]

Across The Street: WAVE’s story on the Wayside/Hotel Louisville controversy includes interviews with JCTC about their intentions to buy the property, which were blocked by the most recent General Assembly. [WAVE]

Javanon Argument Lacks Logic: A C-J letter writer will get no argument that the soccer program attracts nice people who do great things. But that’s not the problem. The leader of the group knew what he was doing, knew how to skirt zoning requirements, and knew the incompetent leadership on the Planning Commission wouldn’t catch him. Ali Ahmadi (yes, it’s really all about him)  just didn’t plan for neighborhood opposition. [Courier]

JCPS Report is Late: Isn’t it just strange that an academic organization like JPCS can’t get a simple report on a student’s death completed in nine months? Max Gilpin’s parents are upset, and so are we. Should we hold Sheldon Berman responsible? [Courier]

Our Guilty Pleasure: OK, so the second episode of Southern Belles is tonight. We can’t wait. And Shea, our choice for least likable, reveals in her blog that since the show she’s lost weight with the help of a personal trainer. But she wants readers to think she’s still with Jeff, the guy she dragged off to Chicago to shop for wedding rings. That relationship is long over, but apparently she can’t ruin the show’s storyline. [Shea]