Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:
Courier-Journal, Louisville, Kentucky, on a slave's legacy:
Had his master not "allowed" him to learn to read, Kentucky slave Elijah P. Marrs could not have become a teacher.
And had he not become a teacher, he likely would not have gone on, after serving with the Union army during the Civil War, to help found in 1879 what would become Simmons College in Louisville and serve as its first president.
Now a replica of his Civil War uniform stands in the lobby of the historically black college which Tuesday celebrated a significant expansion of its physical campus in downtown Louisville as well as an expansion of its academic programs.
Simmons College struggled over the years, for a time operated by the University of Louisville as its segregated "Municipal College for the Colored," according to a school history. But it has undergone a dramatic revival since St. Stephen Baptist Church purchased the original campus at Seventh and Kentucky streets in 1996 under the direction of senior pastor, Dr. Kevin Cosby.
Dr. Cosby, also president of what's now Simmons College of Kentucky, outlined his vision in a Courier-Journal Forum piece Sunday, in which he notes that the school is about to receive long-sought designation as an Historically Black College and University from the U.S. Department of Education.
But this week's news centered around the grand opening of the college's new building at Fourth and Kentucky streets, expanding its campus eastward.
Purchase of a building that once housed the Sons of the American Revolution was made possible through a $3 million grant from the J. Graham Brown Foundation and expansion of academic programs, through $2 million from the Gheens Foundation.
At a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday, Simmons College board member Barbara Sexton Smith observed "there is no freedom without education."
That was true for Elijah Marrs and remains true for the young people Dr. Cosby expects will receive college degrees from Simmons as it carries the vision of its founders into another century.
Herald-Leader, Lexington, Kentucky, on coal mining:
General environmental permits are for small, routine disturbances or discharges that pose little risk to the public and that require the same basic precautions: controlling runoff from excavating a small site, for example, or disposing of dry- cleaning chemicals.
Kentucky is seeking to renew its general permit for the coal industry — including mountaintop surface mines that disturb hundreds of acres, pollute streams already impaired by earlier mining and threaten aquatic life and human health.
The state is proposing to tighten some permitting rules to protect water and hoping to appease the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, while loosening other rules.
A more fundamental question is whether there even should be a general permit for surface mining.
Individual permits allow greater scrutiny of mining plans and impacts and — very important — much more public involvement in permitting decisions.
At a time when so many people — including Gov. Steve Beshear and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers — are working so hard to create new economic opportunities in Eastern Kentucky, protecting the region's water and other natural assets, its livability, small towns and people is more important than ever.
What happens on the front end of the permitting process is all-important in Kentucky because the state cannot be counted on to enforce permit conditions against the coal industry.
And the EPA has a duty to protect water and the future, even if it means vetoing coal's general permit in Kentucky.
The Daily News, Bowling Green, Kentucky, on youth smoking:
Clearly, cigarettes and other tobacco products are unhealthy.
More adults are starting to realize this, as evidenced by the declining number of smokers across the nation.
Kentucky has always ranked poorly compared to other states in the percentage of its residents using tobacco, mainly cigarettes.
These numbers have been especially high for high school students.
In 2011, Kentucky ranked No. 1 in cigarette use among high school students, according to statistics from the mid-July U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Youth Risk Behavior Survey report.
Our state's high school students fared much better in 2013 statistics, which ranked Kentucky sixth among surveyed states for high school cigarette use. In 2013, the survey showed 17.9 percent of Kentucky high school students reported they smoked. That's down from 24.1 percent in 2011.
Although a problem still exists, the report shows a lot of progress has been made in getting through to these students that tobacco use is harmful. Awareness about the dangers of tobacco use has probably been a key component in lowering this number.
Kentucky should also be proud. The state set a goal through the Healthy Kentuckians 2020 program to reduce high school cigarette smoking to a 19 percent participation rate. In 2013, the national high school smoking rate was 15.7 percent.
Kentucky still has a way to go. There are still too many youths who smoke. This shouldn't be tolerated in our schools.
While there's work to be done, these statistics show progress has been made to combat smoking. Through awareness and programs such the 100 Percent Tobacco Free School policy, more kids are kicking the habit.
We encourage all school districts in the state to initiate smoke free campuses for the sake of our kids.
Not all high school students will kick the habit, but if more and more do, our commonwealth will reap the benefits of a healthier population.