Kentucky editorial roundup
Posted September 6
Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:
The Courier-Journal on cutting down public trees that block private billboards:
In an assault on scenic beauty and the environment, a national billboard company is looking to destroy Louisville trees they don't own so drivers can see their signs.
Outfront Media wants permission from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to remove trees from public property that the company says are blocking views of at least nine billboards around town.
A private company would be cutting into our public tree canopy that we're desperately trying to preserve and increase. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet could allow this through regulations approved in 2015.
Let that idea take root: a private company getting special privileges.
Stop the privileges for profit. Stop the tree-cutting plan.
For years, the billboard industry lobbied the Kentucky General Assembly unsuccessfully to permit cutting trees that block the view of billboards. In 2013 the industry abandoned that effort. Instead, it began negotiating regulations with the Transportation Cabinet to remove trees in a "thoughtful manner."
There's a lawsuit challenging the regulations. Scenic Kentucky, an affiliate of Scenic America, wants the rules overturned because it says the cabinet exceeded its authority.
Now the cabinet isn't saying how many trees Outfront Media has proposed cutting. Cabinet officials say the scope of the cutting can become public only after state officials have made a final decision. In other words, when it's too late for the public to weigh in.
Trees growing on public rights of way belong to all of us. Utility companies have access to the public rights of way for electric, gas, water and sewer services. These all benefit the common good.
But billboard companies? That's more than a stretch.
Trees or billboards? It's a no-brainer.
The Lexington Herald-Leader on the state of the worker on Labor Day:
It's Labor Day weekend, fire up the grill, but let's not pretend that workers have much to celebrate.
In Kentucky, schoolteachers, police officers, firefighters and other public workers are threatened with the loss of promised retirement benefits.
Not just public employees are worried, though. Pensions are at risk for 86,000 retired coal miners and 400,000-plus retired and active Teamsters, while the federal insurer that partially backs private-sector pensions is itself teetering.
About 30 percent of American workers lack access to any kind of employer-provided retirement plan, while 47 percent report they've saved less than $25,000.
The details get complicated, but the stakes are simple: In the world's richest country, the reward for a life of work should not be an impoverished old age.
The booming stock market is swelling 401(k)s and individual retirement accounts for workers in defined-contribution plans. But investment decisions are difficult for the average person and the Trump administration is not making them any easier.
An Obama-era rule would require financial advisers to put their clients' interests ahead of their own pursuit of fees and commissions when giving advice or selling investments for retirement accounts. The Trump people keep delaying enforcement of the rule, even though the courts have upheld it and, without it, savers will lose billions of dollars. Trump's delays please Wall Street brokerage houses which fear the fiduciary rule could be expanded to include non-retirement accounts and are pushing to kill it. Republicans in Congress, including Rep. Andy Barr, are eager to help them.
In Kentucky, an infusion of untraceable money is funding a campaign to drum up public support for saving pensions by ending pensions for new hires and rolling them back for others. Public employees are blamed for the state's budget woes, even though they paid for their retirements with every paycheck while a succession of governors and legislatures failed to hold up their end of the deal.
More than half of the retirees in the state and county systems receive pensions of $20,000 or less a year. A consultant hired by Gov. Matt Bevin has recommended that some of those pensions be cut by up to 32 percent.
But closing tax loopholes, including breaks for rich retirees, to raise revenue to keep pension promises and protect Kentucky's credit rating seems to be off the table.
Workers have been losing ground for a long time. Wages have stagnated as union membership plummeted. Gains from economic growth flow more lopsidedly than ever to the very wealthy few. Employers complain they can't fill jobs but aren't raising wages. Official unemployment is low, but more than 14 million Americans want a full-time job and can't get one, according to the Labor Department.
Contrary to President Donald Trump's populist campaign pledges, his tax plan would widen the wealth gap by showering the rich with tax cuts.
On this, the 123rd Labor Day, workers are losing. A widespread belief that the economy is rigged helped propel Trump into the White House but he has surrounded himself with Wall Street insiders and lobbyists who are working hard to keep it that way..
Americans who think a thriving middle is class is essential not just to the economy but also to a decent country should enjoy the holiday then get back to work demanding justice from those who represent them.
The Bowling Green Daily News on World War I monuments being restored and returned to the Rotunda of Mammoth Cave:
World War I involved trench warfare, tanks and poison gas, sometimes resulting in very bloody and costly battles.
Troops on opposing sides of the war would charge into enemy trenches that were filled with machine gun nests, resulting in many of them being wounded or killed. A lot of the fighting in the first World War was hand-to-hand combat. The war to end all wars, as it was referred to, was a painful chapter in our nation's history that cost the lives of more than 100,000 Americans. But thankfully, American and allied forces defeated the Germans and were victorious in that war.
After the war ended, monuments went up across the country to memorialize those brave souls who fought and died in that war. These monuments are a very fitting tribute to these men. In the 1920s, two monuments were erected in the Rotunda of Mammoth Cave as a tribute to these individuals. In 1922, a monument was placed in the cave that contained a list of fallen soldiers from 35 states. It was erected as part of a large American Legion Convention in Louisville. In 1929, a second monument was placed in the cave sponsored by a group called the American War Mothers. Sometime in the 1950s or early 1960s, for unknown reasons the monuments were moved deeper in the cave.
It's a shame that these monuments were largely pushed out of sight and mind for all of these decades. More recently, Mammoth Cave National Park officials decided the monuments needed to be returned to their original home, so they were removed last year and sent to be cleaned and restored at a National Park Service facility.
On Wednesday, the monuments were rededicated in the cave's Rotunda. The rededication ceremony began with a flag-raising ceremony outside the park's visitors' center. A procession of about 75 veterans, park officials and spectators then walked to the cave for an unveiling of the two monuments. The ceremony ended with the playing of taps.
It was truly a beautiful sight to see. Some of the more than 100,000 people killed in World War I never made it back to the U.S. for burial. These monuments are the closest thing they have to a burial on American soil.
We are truly glad these monuments have been restored to their rightful place at the cave's entrance and commend all of those involved in putting them back where they belong.
It was the right thing to do.