Kentucky editorial roundup

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Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:

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April 23

The Independent, Ashland, Ky., on Pullin being commended for moves to benefit AK Steel:

It took some last-minute political maneuvering by State Rep. Tanya Pullin, D-South Shore, and some skilled wheeling and dealing to prevent a bill important to AK Steel in Ashland from ending up on the scrapheap of the 2014 Kentucky General Assembly.

House Bill 483 was not even viewed as controversial and was expected to breeze through both the House of Representatives and the Senate with little or no opposition. After all, the intent of the bill was to extend for another two years incentives provided to AK Steel by the Kentucky Industrial Revitalization Act of 2004. If HB 483 had failed to be approved, the incentives would have expired in July.

Things seemed to be going as expected for HB 483 in the early days of the General Assembly with this region's entire House delegation — House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins, State Rep. Kevin Sinnette, D-Ashland, and Rep. Jill York, R-Grayson — joining Pullin in co-sponsoring the bill. State Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, pledged to steer this bill through the Senate.

The bill was approved by the House without a dissenting vote and sent to the Senate. But then some senators apparent concluded HB 483 was so popular no legislator would have the political courage to vote against it. Thus, they took advantage of that popularity by adding to the bill a much more controversial amendment that included incentives for proposed nuclear power plants in western Kentucky.

All's well that ends well, we suppose, but there is no reason why this rather routine bill nearly became a victim of the political games some legislators continue to play in Frankfort. Fortunately, the political skills of Tanya Pullin and the united support of area legislators saved the incentives that have encouraged investment at AK Steel for a decade from suddenly ending.

Online:

http://www.dailyindependent.com

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April 27

Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader on Rupp Arena Arts and Entertainment District:

Public and private sentiment about the proposed Rupp Arena Arts and Entertainment District has been on a roller coaster these last few months, roaring to highs when a futuristic design was showcased in January and sinking this month under confusion and disappointment as the Kentucky Senate — bothered by the University of Kentucky's silence and other uncertainties — passed on appropriating a critical $80 million for the project.

We continue to support Mayor Jim Gray's aspirational and inspirational vision to transform a blank box with acres of nearby parking into a vibrant urban center. Yet it is past time for a full public vetting of the financing of this complex and expensive project. Fortunately, the Urban County Council is preparing to do just that June 23 at 6 p.m.

Council members scheduled the meeting last week after they were asked to approve $40 million in bonds for the project. Noting that the city has put up most of the money to date, the council felt it was time to get a more complete view before the city antes up again.

So far, discussion has focused on the Rupp Arena portion of the project, and most of the information has come from the mayor's office and project manager Frank Butler. The council should expand the discussion and the sources.

A lot of the work on the Rupp reinvention has been nuts-and-bolts stuff comprehensible mostly to experts: studies, designs, contract negotiations, number crunching.

The state's being asked to contribute $80 million to this project and the city $40 million. Plus, the city would be on the hook if arena and convention center earnings fall short and don't meet the debt payments.

The time has come for all the key players in this project to appear before the council and explain in terms we can all understand where the money will come from and what this project can do for our community and our state.

Online:

http://www.kentucky.com

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April 24

The Courier-Journal, Louisville, on inmate's death:

In the final weeks of his life, James Embry, known to the Kentucky Corrections Department as Inmate #171356, began a rapid slide into despair.

Locked in solitary confinement at the Kentucky State Penitentiary at Eddyville — initially at his own request — Mr. Embry grew increasingly anxious, despondent and suicidal.

His pleas for anxiety and paranoia medication were denied. He refused to come out of his cell to shower or to exercise.

He stopped eating.

And as prison medical staff looked on, he slowly died of starvation.

Embry, 57, who stood 6 feet tall and weighed 170 pounds just four months before his death, weighed 120 pounds after he was found dead in his cell on Jan. 13 — hours after a nursing supervisor refused a nurse's request that he be moved to the infirmary.

He had no visits from family or friends during his six years in prison and was buried in an inmate cemetery on the grounds.

His death, detailed this week by Brett Barrouquere with The Associated Press, should shock the conscience of Kentucky.

But more than that, it should shock the state into action.

Members of the General Assembly, charged with oversight of prisons, should demand a full accounting from top state corrections officials including Kentucky Corrections Commissioner LaDonna Thompson and Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary J. Michael Brown.

The death of Mr. Embry has prompted a flurry of action by corrections officials.

An investigation and report by the department provides a detailed account of what went wrong in Mr. Embry's final days, the repeated missed opportunities to help him, and how staff supposed to be in charge of his health care presided over his breakdown and death.

The prison doctor has been fired. The state is in the process of firing a prison psychologist and her associate.

Corrections has produced an "action plan" to address instances where officials failed to follow policy, to improve medical procedures and to tighten oversight to ensure compliance. Corrections officials have been directed to analyze inmates' mental health needs and how such inmates are housed.

And corrections officials have asked Attorney General Jack Conway's office to review the matter to determine whether further action is warranted.

But legislators should look more deeply into how Kentucky treats all its approximately 12,000 prison inmates, particularly those with mental health problems.

Lawmakers and state officials must make every effort to ensure such a failure doesn't happen again.

Online:

http://www.courier-journal.com

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