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UK’s Donations for Citations program lets students pay parking tickets with donations

31 Mar

The University of Kentucky will allow students to waive a parking citation in exchange of a donation of non-perishable food and personal care items to Big Blue Pantry, which helps students experiencing food insecurity.

The pilot program, Donations for Citations — running from Monday, Feb. 29 to Friday, March 11 — seeks to raise awareness of Big Blue Pantry and to increase stock for the summer.

Manning Kulis, student director of Big Blue Pantry, said teaming up with UK Parking and Transportation Services for the drive is a huge boost for the organization.

“Overall, the Donations for Citations program is going to be a tremendous help for the Big Blue Pantry,” Kulis said. “This is the time in the semester where we don’t have as many donors, drives or people interested in helping out. Though the pantry isn’t under-stocked currently, it’s always good to have a variety of foods.”

Students may donate 10 non-perishable food items or 5 personal care items to waive one ticket of up to $25.

The Big Blue Pantry will accept canned goods, pasta, peanut butter, oatmeal and cereal as well as shampoo, hand soap, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, toothpaste, shaving cream, razors, tampons and other household items.

“In the first week, Donations for Citations has yielded over 500 pounds of food for Big Blue Pantry and two bins of personal care items. That equates to 85 citations, which represents a combination of students and employees,” said Chrissie Tune, UK Parking and Transportation Services Marketing Coordinator.

There are, however, a few stipulations for those wanting to substitute a donation for a citation.

In order for students to qualify to have a ticket waived they must pay off all other unpaid parking citations. In addition, only regular parking citations can be waived — egregious violations like impoundment, immobilization, parking in handicap spots or fire lanes and improper use of parking permits cannot be waived.

“The stipulations aren’t designed to make the program overly complicated, but rather to have Donations for Citations benefit Big Blue Pantry as much as possible while still following best practices for this type of program,” Tune said.

Tune also said Donations for Citations decided on the minimum required donations after looking at how other schools and agencies structured their programs.  

Those interested in donating may visit Big Blue Pantry in rooms 23-25 in the basement of Whitehall Building on UK’s campus.

Lexington’s oldest skyscraper to house 21c Museum Hotel

31 Mar

Lexington’s 21c Museum Hotel — a combination boutique hotel, contemporary art museum and locally-sourced restaurant — will host a ribbon cutting ceremony and party on Monday to celebrate its grand opening.

The hotel, located downtown in the 100-year-old Fayette National Bank Building at 167 Main St., will feature 88 rooms including five unique suites with costs starting at $179 per night.

Jennifer Davis, 21c Lexington’s director of sales and marketing, said the 7,000 square feet of exhibition space and the chef-driven restaurant make 21c Lexington more than a place to just spend the night.

“21c is a union of hospitality, design and culinary creativity — all anchored by a multi-venue contemporary art museum with exhibitions, interactive site-specific art installations and a full roster of cultural programming,” Davis said.

The museum, open 365 days a year to the public and free of charge, will exhibit contemporary art organized primarily from the 21c collection of over 2,000 works, which includes paintings, sculptures, photography, performances and other digital art.

The curated exhibitions, which rotate every six-to-nine months, will be woven through the entirety of the building giving guests and visitors the opportunity to discover art at every turn; in the lobby, the restaurant and bar, the elevators, the hallways and even on the sidewalk. 21c Lexington will also work with the local art community to offer free events open to the public including artist lectures, poetry readings, live performances and film screenings. For $5 per session, 21c will offer Yoga with Art in its galleries.

Lockbox, 21c Lexington’s restaurant, is headed by executive chef Jonathan Searle, and will focus on local, high-quality ingredients from around the Bluegrass with the price of entrees varying from $15-32.

Searle began his culinary career in Lexington at Bourbon n’ Toulouse and Bellini’s before moving to 21c Louisville’s Proof on Main, which Bon Appetit’s chose as one of the “10 Best Hotels for Food Lovers.”

“His menu at Lockbox will highlight simple ingredients with a nod to Kentucky’s rich Southern heritage and Lexington’s own cultural and agricultural identities,” Davis said.

Davis said the building’s design is also reason enough for visiting.

The 15-story building, Lexington’s first skyscraper, was originally designed by New York-based architects McKim, Mead & White, famous for the Brooklyn Museum and Pennsylvania Station. When New York-based architects Deborah Berke Partners began construction on 21c Lexington in June 2014, they embraced the building’s original features to create a sense of contrast.

“The modern design is combined with the restoration of the building’s Ionic Order exterior columns, marbled walls, Tennessee Pink marble flooring and vaulted ceilings with ornamental plaster patterns,” Davis said. “With our first property just up the road in Louisville, we’ve had eyes on Lexington for a while. With active arts, culture and educational communities, a burgeoning culinary scene and proximity to horse farms and The Kentucky Bourbon Trail, Lexington is a natural fit for the brand.”

The 21c Lexington ribbon cutting and open house will begin at 3 p.m. on Monday followed by a museum tour at 4 p.m. and a party at 8 p.m.

New community radio station coming to Lexington

31 Mar

A new public radio station, WLXL-LPFM/95.7, is going live in the next few weeks and seeks to bring locally driven, community radio — programming produced, broadcasted and operated by local volunteers — to Lexington’s airwaves.

Headed by Lexington Community Radio, the station will function under the Federal Communications Commission designation of Low Power FM (LPFM), which means it must be non-profit, must issue public safety PSAs every hour and it cannot interfere with commercial station’s signals.

“The LPFM designation fosters diversity on the public airwaves, redistributing attention away from national commercial conglomerates,” according to Lexington Community Radio’s website, spearheaded by local advocate and activist, Debra Hensley. 

Hap Houlihan, General Manager of Lexington Community Radio, said that Lexington needs community radio because it offers a broad spectrum of programming that is often creative, unique and transformative.

Houlihan also points out that since the 1980s, commercial radio stations are more and more similar to each other — to the point that it can be hard to tell the difference between them.

“They have fewer live DJs, others are completely automated, and they tend to only play very popular music,” Houlihan said. “Community radio stations move away from that same old, same old mentality.”

Ultimately, the programming is up to the volunteer staff, but WLXL wants to have a wide variety of productions.

“We hope to have all kinds of educational shows, informational shows, talk shows, maybe even public forums and entertainment too,” Houlihan said. “And of course, a radio station wouldn’t be a radio station without at least some music.”

Programming on WLXL will prioritize music not commonly heard on commercial radio stations. They also plan to reintroduce radio dramas similar to CBS Radio’s “Mystery Theater.”

Similar community radio projects have been hugely successful and popular in other cities across the U.S., Houlihan said.

Houlihan also noted the different ways that WLXL has the potential to be a positive force in the Lexington community.

One way, he points out, is that volunteer-operated radio stations give people opportunities to experience broadcasting with almost no barrier of entry. This is especially important to low-income individuals who would otherwise have trouble affording the technology required to do radio.

Some of these individuals, Houlihan says, will probably end up making careers out of broadcasting.

On top of that, Latino volunteers at WLXL are already planning Spanish-language focused broadcasts that will help break down the language and cultural barriers that many Latino immigrants face.

If all goes according to plan, these are just a couple ways that WLXL will help Lexington, Houlihan said.

On Tuesday, Lexington Community Radio held a successful test of the station’s capabilities and now only need 36 hours a week of programming to satisfy all the requirements to hit the airwaves.

They hope to have WLXL live in late August or early September and plan to launch another similar local station, WXLU, in the near future.

To celebrate the WLXL launch, Lexington Community Radio is holding a scavenger hunt on Sept. 19 through Lexington’s North End. All are welcome and the last stop of the hunt features a party with prizes, food trucks, and music.

As for what you can expect once the station finally launches, Houlihan has an idea.

“You’re going to hear locally originated programming that’s going to smell and taste a lot more like Lexington than what you are used to hearing.”

Broadband in the Bluegrass? Lexington hosts Fiber for the New Economy conference

31 Mar

Can Kentucky transform its coal culture economy to become “Silicon Holler?” Lexington is set to host the Fiber for the New Economy Conference  September 15-18. Prior regional conference host sites have included Chicago, IL and Springfield, MA.  The conference will focus on a 12-state region (Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia).

Technology is an economic development driver and the conference focuses on “the relationship between broadband, economic development, and job creation.”

Speakers at the conference include elected officials, economic development professionals, industry leaders, city planners, educators and broadband activists. Up for discussion will be how Lexington can become the next American gigabit city with broadband up to 100-times faster than current speeds.

The experts will specifically focus on KentuckyWired — a statewide, open-access broadband network that would connect all of Kentucky to a fiber-optic infrastructure of high-speed Internet service.

On Thursday, September 17, at 12:15, there is a session devoted to “Lexington: The Next Gigabit City – How we’re making it happen and  The Kentucky Wired Story.”

In August, Governor Steve Beshear signed an executive order giving the green light to launch construction of KentuckyWired with hopes it will be completed in three years.

KentuckyWired will provide the “middle mile” of the new broadband network while the “last mile” will be left to communities or Internet service providers to connect directly to homes.

“Consider the KentuckyWired project to be similar to building a highway through the state, and then local communities will build out the roads leading from the highway to neighborhoods and businesses,” said Deputy Secretary of the Finance and Administration Cabinet Steve Rucker at KentuckyWired’s kickoff event in Hazard. “We need our communities to make plans now for building those ‘last miles’ to citizens.”

Construction, maintenance and operation of the 3,000 mile fiber network will be managed through a 30-year public-private-partnership (P3) led by Australian-based investment firm Macquarie Capital.

Gov. Beshear’s executive order created the Kentucky Communications Network Authority (KCNA) governing board to oversee the project in the public’s interest.

The fiber P3 agreement is the largest in the country and is estimated to cost $324 million. The General Assembly allocated $30 million in the 2014 legislative session and $23.5 million in federal funds have been appropriated.

The private partners will fund the rest and will hire Kentuckians as at least 60 percent of their employees.

“Kentucky’s Internet speed and accessibility have lagged behind the rest of the nation far too long,” Gov. Beshear said at the December announcement of KentuckyWired. “This partnership puts us on the path to propel the commonwealth forward in education, economic development, health care, public safety and much more.”

In 2012, Akamai’s State of the Internet Report found that Kentucky had the third slowest Internet connection speeds in the U.S. Another different study by Blue Fire Broadband found that Kentucky ranks 39th in price per Megabyte per second at $3.95 Mbps.

According to Internet metric company Ookla, the average download speed in Lexington is at 16.2 Mbps compared to the U.S. average of 37.1 Mbps — ranking in the middle of the pack of Kentucky cities.

Mayor Jim Gray has long said it is a priority for Lexington to make the digital leap into the elite class of gigabit cities. Prior to his tenure, his predecessor, Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry stressed the Three H platform, “Healthcare, Horses, and High Technology.” 

“Every city is in a competitive chase for talent and investment and jobs,” says Gray. “It is essential just to stay competitive.”

Gray points to the denseness of Lexington and its status as a university city as major reasons it needs better broadband speeds.

“Lexington is a university city, with a highly educated workforce that can leverage greater bandwidth speeds to create new technologies, new ideas and new markets,” Gray said.

Internet problems are even worse in Eastern Kentucky where 23 percent of people don’t have access to broadband and 30 percent don’t have access that meets FCC standards.

Strengthening Our Appalachian Region (SOAR), a government initiative to diversify the Eastern Kentucky economy, sees KentuckyWired as an opportunity for restoration in Coal Country.

“Today’s businesses require round-the-clock availability to markets around the world. Every inventory record, product order and accounting system demands strong Internet service in order to communicate with customers, suppliers and headquarters,” said Jared Arnett, executive director of SOAR, at the Hazard event. “Spotty, overpriced Internet service repels new business and stifles entrepreneurship. KentuckyWired is bringing fiber to our communities, and it can’t get here fast enough. It’s a literal economic lifeline.”

The construction of KentuckyWired will start in the 73 counties that are part of SOAR and will eventually make its way to all 120 counties.

“Access to high-speed, broadband Internet resources is vital to students, teachers, business people and commerce,” said Bob King, president of the Council on Post Secondary Education. “High-speed access eliminates physical, geographic and academic isolation and will open up the SOAR region to the world.”

As for affordability, the fiber network will be “open access” — meaning communities, partnerships, private companies or other groups all have access to offer the “last mile” to homes and businesses to ensure a competitive environment.

“A high-speed, open access network positions Kentucky to provide competitive 21st century Internet services to homes and businesses, which will rapidly increase the state’s capacity for long-term economic growth and give the users greater choice among service providers and product platforms,” said Nick Butcher, head of North American Infrastructure at Macquarie Capital.

Last week, it was announced that Google Fiber is looking at Louisville (Google Fiber offers speeds up to 1,000 Mbps compared to Louisville’s current 11.9 Mbps average).

Louisville is only in “exploratory” status, but by September 11, Louisville mayor Greg Fischer had convened a Google Fiber infrastructure meeting at Metro Hall and had announced more details about the Google Fiber options via Periscope.

PRHBTN 2015 in Lexington

31 Mar

The fifth annual street art festival PRHBTN is back and with it comes world-renowned artists transforming Lexington’s blank walls into distinctive murals.

armuyama2

Along with murals, PRHBTN has a concert featuring local electronic DJs and an event focused on local street artists. The concert is at 9:30 p.m. on October 9 at Cosmic Charlie’s while the art event is 12-9 p.m. on October 10 with live painting, food and drinks in the Lexington Distillery District.

According to prhbtn.com, “PRHBTN is an annual celebration of art forms that have been criminalized, marginalized, and under-appreciated in the mainstream, featuring public murals alongside an exhibition of street art works in a space that complements the raw, powerful nature of the message and artistry of each piece.”

Through local funding, PRHBTN has commissioned artists from across the globe to alter Lexington’s landscape into something much more unique.

Brazilian Eduardo Kobra’s wildly popular Lincoln mural on the back of the Kentucky Theater from 2013’s PRHBTN is now an iconic image of Lexington.

mural

But last year’s festival had some controversy when French artist MTO, famous for his giant works of celebrities and athletes, spray painted an enormous 75’ x 270’ mural on the Pepper Distillery Warehouse that some said glorified gang symbolism.

This year’s event brings street artists from Portugal, Italy and New York.

MrDheo and Pariz One, a collective from Portugal known as Armu-Yama, completed a mural on the back wall of The Chase Tap Room and Brewing Company at 266 Jefferson Street.

Another Portuguese artist, Odeith, spray painted a mural of Jazz great Louis Armstrong on the south wall of Lighthouse Ministries at 185 Elm Tree Lane.

The New York-based duo Sheryo and The Yok’s mural is in progress at Oneness Boutique at 431 Jersey Street.

louis2

And Italian artist HiTNES is finishing his mural on the LexPark Garage at 350 Short Street.

PRHBTN encourages the public to view in progress murals as the painters work and to buy prints on sale at the mural locations from the artists.

A celebration of Odeith’s Louis Armstrong mural will be Monday, October 12 at 6 p.m. at Lighthouse Ministries.

Breakfast to raise funds for Bluegrass Double Dollars

31 Mar

Kentucky food writer and advocate Rona Roberts will host a public breakfast on Saturday, November 7:  “Carbs & Caffeine for Bluegrass Double Dollars.” The breakfast is a fundraiser for Bluegrass Double Dollars, a program allowing SNAP (food stamp) recipients to double their purchasing power for buying locally grown produce at three locations: Good Foods Co-op, Lexington Farmers Market and Lexington Market East End.

Bluegrass Double Dollars seeks to improve health outcomes of those who have difficulty accessing and affording healthy food, while also boosting local farm income. As a public-private partnership, the program is partly funded by the United States Department of Agriculture but requires that communities invest in building necessary funds.bluegrass double dollars

This is where community supporters like Roberts come in. As a long-time writer on Kentucky food and local food systems for her blog, Savoring Kentucky, she said a thriving local food scene is a must:

“It’s basic homeland security. If we can feed ourselves—and we definitely can—we are safer and healthier. The self-reliance and resilience that we will gain from learning how to grow our food and feed all our neighbors means we can weather economic ups and downs, and even thrive when the larger, industrial-scale food system runs into trouble of any kind.”

On top of building a robust local food economy, Bluegrass Double Dollars offers healthy and affordable options to SNAP recipients, a group likely to be more obese and less healthy than the national average.

SNAP users who make a purchase of at least $10 at the Lexington Farmers’ Market or Good Foods Co-op will receive a voucher for $10. SNAP users who make a purchase of at least $5 at Lexington Market East End will receive a $5 voucher. The vouchers can then be used toward buying locally produced fruits and vegetables.

For those interested in attending the fundraiser, “Carbs & Caffeine for Bluegrass Double Dollars,” click here for details.

Roberts’ breakfast will feature different sorghum varieties from national championship sorghum-maker Country Rock (Woodford County) and several different coffees from local roaster Magic Beans, as well as different styles of biscuits. Sorghum is a vital part of Kentucky’s rich culinary tradition.

“Fun, good smells, good tastes, and a direct connection to a taste that is utterly Kentucky: freshly made sorghum, Kentucky butter, homemade biscuits, and exquisite coffee,” will be on the menu Roberts says.

Kentucky Proud Store opens on Palumbo

31 Mar

“When we started selling cheese at the Farmer’s Markets a few years ago, our customers were all ‘foodies.’ We have seen a huge shift in the past couple of years to soccer moms and people who just want better food and are willing to pay a little more to support local producers. That trend is growing every day.”

This is the pitch from Boone Creek Creamery’s Ed Puterbaugh, who’s opened a Kentucky Proud store on Palumbo Drive.

Puterbaugh is spearheading the effort to push Lexingtonians to eat local. “Local foods are better quality, and generally free of all the chemicals that you find in factory made products,” Puterbaugh said. “Once customers taste our cheese and Kentucky Proud products, the difference is obvious.”

5 Ed In Pot

Puterbaugh also said the Kentucky Proud Store will carry items found nowhere else in the area.

“I have a special affection for really small, unknown companies, so the store has lots of things that you might not see anywhere else,” Puterbaugh said.

The Kentucky Proud Store will also benefit from business and tours that the cheese-making Boone Creek Creamery draws in. Last month alone, the cheese facility hosted 70 tours.

“We do nine farmer’s markets every weekend and lots of regional shows so we have a great relationship with local producers. Consequently I have a deep appreciation for local food and Kentucky Proud. Because of the tours that come through here, I wanted to offer Kentucky Proud and support those local producers.”

Puterbaugh said the Kentucky Proud Store is just another positive step in strengthening Lexington’s burgeoning local food scene.

The official grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony is slated for Monday, November 30 at 2 p.m.

The event will begin with a tour of the Boone Creek Creamery cheese making facility followed by a reception featuring Kentucky Proud food items.

Syria and the myth of humanitarian intervention

4 May

If you watched the news recently, you will have noticed the ongoing drumbeat in favor of military intervention in Syria. From Fox News to MSNBC to CNN there is a singular voice that intervention is the right action. Many politicians from both sides of the aisle also endors action against the Assad regime. What the media and politicians don’t seem to care about is that a mere 9% of Americans – 25% if chemical weapons have been used which is not a shut case as of yet – are in favor of a military intervention in Syria compared to 60% who oppose it outright. Those inside the beltway keep telling you it’s in our “national interest.”

In order to understand US intervention in Syria we must first understand the term “national interest” because it is often the justification for military action. And let’s get it straight that our primary reason for intervention is certainly not for the Syrian people. To believe that, you would have to overlook a vast history of American interventions and how nations – especially superpowers – operate. Indeed, it is political science 101 that nations act in accordance with their own “national interest.”

 

So this brings us to defining the term. When those in power talk about “national interest” or “American interests”, whose interests are they referring to? Is it yours or mine? Not likely. Nobody is claiming that Syria poses any kind of national security threat to our country, so what are we gaining? The answer: nothing. The people who do gain, however, are the war profiteers. In the case of Syria, tomahawk cruise missile makers Raytheon could see a huge payday if military action is initiated. “National interest” almost invariably boils down to business, economic, and strategic interests. You might be saying, “No, that’s too cynical, we must act in the interests of others sometimes.” Maybe, but those cases are few and far between. Here are some examples of past intervention on behalf of corporate interests. In 1953, the CIA and Britain worked in unison to help overthrow the democratically elected leader of Iran because he wanted to nationalize the country’s oil industry. The CIA also helped overthrow the elected president of Guatemala on behalf of United Fruit Company in 1954. During the Iraq War, private companies were able to rack up a profit of $138 billion with Halliburton alone making $39.5 billion. There are dozens of these cases and we shouldn’t be surprised. US companies wield an enormous amount of influence over the government and routinely get rewarded with favorable domestic policy. It would be naive to believe this doesn’t also extend to foreign policy.

 

The simple point is that our government rarely, if ever, acts with humanitarian goals in mind. If we are “The World’s Police Force,” it is a force corrupted to the core. In 1933, General Smedley Butler had this to say on intervention and his career in the marines:

“I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.

 

During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”

 

Conor Friedersdorf also points out that if our intentions are truly humanitarian then we could find many better ways to intervene rather than dropping bombs:

“The U.S. government could spend millions helping Syrian refugees. It could help pay for tsunami-warning systems across the Indian Ocean, or spend more funding the development of a malaria vaccine, or stop dumping agricultural commodities on poor countries in a way that stunts their economic development. There is no shortage of humanitarian suffering for us to address, if that’s how we want to spend our money, and I am fine with spending more of it helping people. But injecting bombs and cruise missiles into a civil war probably isn’t the most cost effective way to help people. It is certainly the sort of humanitarian assistance most likely to make us bitter enemies, which inevitably happens when you pick a side and start killing some of the people on it.”

 

A piece in Mcclatchy also notes the moral opportunism and hypocrisy behind American foreign policy. The article describes how using American intelligence, Saddam Hussein used mustard gas and sarin against Iran in 1988. Mcclatchy explains the reactions at the time from the US:

“Members of Congress, too, would publicly chide Iraq over chemical weapons, while fighting against more vigorous action that might impinge on U.S. businesses, as when farm-state lawmakers in 1990 challenged efforts to stop Iraq’s use of U.S. credit guarantees to buy U.S. farm products. ‘I understand the blood pressure behind this,’ Republican Pat Roberts, now a Kansas senator but then a member of the House of Representatives, said during one 1990 House debate. But he added, ‘we do sell to Iraq about a million tons of wheat and 450,000 tons of rice, (so) I wonder who we’re hurting here.’”

The Reagan and Bush Administrations denounced Iraq’s use of chemical weapons as well but still viewed Saddam as someone they could use and work with so they did nothing else. The Mcclatchy piece sums up this moral selectivity perfectly:

“History, though, offers a harsher perspective. From Iraq and Syria, to Rwanda and Armenia, morality as a motive in U.S. foreign policy is more contingent than absolute. ‘It’s quite selective. The government knew of the fact that Iraq was using chemical weapons, and did not deter them,’ Joyce Battle, an analyst at the National Security Archive, a nonpartisan research center, said in an interview Tuesday. ‘But when it’s thought to be in U.S. interests, the government will adopt a moralistic stand when it wants to justify its policies.’”

 

Our hypocrisy also comes to the fore when you take into account that we used both white phosphorus and depleted uranium heavily in Iraq. Many people see this as the cause of Iraq’s abnormally high cancer rates and birth defects.

 

So to be in favor of intervention in Syria as a humanitarian effort is utterly misguided. Humanitarian intervention might be argued for as some conceptual goalpost but in current reality it doesn’t exist. Yes, Bashar al-Assad is a negative force in the world and I am most certainly not defending him. But any action taken by our military will not be a pure humanitarian endeavor. It never is.

This is not to mention all the other caveats that we should be concerned about. That support from the international community will be tough to come by. That any strike will also antagonize relations between Israel and Iran as well as our relations with China and Russia. And that it will almost inevitably serve to destabilize the Middle East even more than it already has. Simply put, there is a lot that could go wrong. And judging by past bombing campaigns, it almost always does.

 

And as a side note, we just sold Saudi Arabia $641 million worth of cluster bombs which we and 105 other countries just condemned Syria for using in May.

UK fans ‘rowdy’ after Final Four disappointment

4 May

After the final buzzer sounded and the University of Kentucky’s dream of perfection was abruptly ended by the Wisconsin Badgers, throngs of angry fans streamed into the streets of downtown Lexington while the police made sure nothing got too out of hand.

UK men’s basketball lost 71-64 to Wisconsin Saturday night in a Final Four upset that left many fans in varying states of anger, sadness, and disbelief. Fans took to State Street yelling expletive-laced chants, throwing beer bottles into the streets and lighting a few couches on fire.

“My night is ruined,” UK senior Anna Bickers said. “I’m going home.”

Another fan said he was going to the bars “to drink his sorrows away and forget what happened.”

Some of the fans were not as peaceful and dejected, however.

According to Sherelle Roberts, the Public Information Officer for the Lexington Police Department, the force made 31 arrests on the night mostly having to do with public intoxication and disorderly conduct. She added that there were no arrests made for vandalism.

Roberts pointed out that the crowd on Saturday night was much different than the crowd after the Notre Dame victory the week before.

“The Elite Eight crowd was much more celebratory,” Roberts said. “There were less people [Saturday], but they were much more rowdy.”

Roberts would not say if the situation was harder to control for the police, just that it posed a different challenge.

She stated that units were assembled from the Lexington Police Department, the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, the University of Kentucky police and the Kentucky State Police.

Roberts said she could not say exactly how many cops were dispatched because it could jeopardize their strategic plans in the future when dealing with similar situations.

Susan Straub, the Director of Communications for the Mayor’s Office, said that the total cost to control the fallout of UK’s Final Four run has not be added up yet but that it would be somewhat similar to last year’s $150,000 price tag.

Much of the fan response mirrored that of the UK player’s response. The Harrison twins and Willie Cauley-Stein refused to shake the Wisconsin player’s hands after the game. Andrew Harrison was then overheard in the press conference whispering “F— that n—-“ in response to a question about Wisconsin’s Associated Press Player of the Year, Frank Kaminsky.

After the game, John Calipari tried to remind fans of the significance this team had on the college basketball landscape.

“Not only [a] historic 38-0 start,” Calipari said after the game. “But it showed that All-Americans can be selfless and servant leaders that care about others more than themselves.”

After the letdown wears off and a few days pass, maybe others will look back at the 2014-15 Cats in this light but right now, Lexington is mourning.

Homeless spend another winter fending off freezing temperatures

4 May

After a historically cold winter, Lexington’s homeless population searches for more permanent solutions to getting off the streets, and the Urban County government has struggled to find answers, leaving the homeless to rely on the good deeds of others to find shelter and escape the cold.

Susan Delph, who is 56 and currently homeless, petitioned the Council on Thursday, Feb. 12, to move forward on a plan that would build tiny houses or pods for Lexington’s homeless to move into.

The tiny houses, she said, would be a better alternative to the more conventional Tenant Services that gives needy individuals three months rent to get off the streets.

“Tenet services are not working out for us, as you know,” Delph said. “They give us three months rent but where are we going to go when that money runs out after three months? Back on the street. This is our only choice right now.”

Delph stated that most of the homeless in her community have bad credit and are in severe debt making it almost impossible for them to bounce back after they are off the streets through Tenant Services.

The better answer, in Delph’s opinion, is to build a community of tiny houses where homeless individuals would live and pay for utilities.

Delph and her homeless community have discussed plans for teaching individuals with disabilities who can’t work how to knit, weave, and sew so they can make money selling crafts. They also want to start a homeless newspaper and a coffee shop that would use its tips to help those struggling with rent.

The plans are coming slow for Delph and the other homeless members, however. Delph states that she has been to the Office of Homeless Prevention four times but has yet to hear a response.

The Office of Homeless Prevention was created in 2013 by Mayor Jim Gray to deal with Lexington’s estimated 1,500 homeless people. Gray’s goal is to end homelessness in Lexington in the next ten years.

In a WKYT piece, Herald-Leader reporter Beth Musgrave – who spent a month investigating Lexington’s homeless dilemma – said that the reason a city like Louisville has roughly the same homeless population but almost double the total population is that “they have focused resources on developing permanent housing.”

Musgrave points out that this sounds costly, but it actually saves the city money by removing the homeless from the revolving door of emergency room visits and jail stays.

Musgrave’s claim jibes with the success Utah has attained in reducing its homeless population by 78 percent over eight years, using a strategy called Housing First. Rather than getting people “housing ready” by putting them through drug treatment or into shelters, Utah simply gave them houses and a social worker to help them along – so far, it has proved to be cheaper and more effective than the alternative.

In December, the Urban County Council approved a contract that would start Lexington’s own Housing First program. Initially, it will put 20 homeless people in houses over the next three years with a case worker. The University of Kentucky will study the program and decide if it is effective.

The pace of the implementation is worrying to Delph, however, especially after witnessing the recent winter storm that rumbled through Lexington.

“We need to get these people back to where they need to be,” Delph said.

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