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Date: 12-11-2017

Op-Ed 

Rebounding slow and steady

By Jeff Vanderbeck
Appalachian News-Express

The move away from coal has been a slow and arduous task. But it’s happening. While coal is seeing slight upticks in production, it won’t be what it was, and the number of people needed in the mines has dwindled.

The announcement next week will tell folks about a battery manufacturer that plans to locate a production facility in Pikeville, I’m assuming at Marion Branch, as there is a meeting next Friday for a big job announcement.

Pikeville has been leading the region in small but steady job opportunities with the restaurants and retail outlets opening. The university opened the optometry school and the hospital is once again expanding. All this growth is the culmination of many years of planning, vision and cooperation. Even Coal Run has seen some business growth, with more on the horizon.

The cooperation between the officials of Pikeville and the county is now more necessary than ever. Their gesture in Tuesday’s meeting was a humbling one for them as they voted to approve the measure to use coal severance money to pay for the core drilling at Pikeville’s Kentucky Enterprise Industrial Park. Their approval shows their willingness to work with others who are creating jobs. 

The money was awarded and set in place but needed final approval from legislators and the county judge. Three of the four legislators showed leadership by sending their letters of approval well in advance to the state to release the coal severance money for this project. And now that the fiscal court is on board, the project can move along more harmoniously. 

The better news is this approval may eventually lower our taxes. These manufacturing jobs should generate more than $400 million in payroll that will be subject to the occupational tax. And because the industrial park is in the county school district, the school system will benefit as well, potentially lowering the school tax.

Within three years, the plant should be in full operation. In the meantime, the people in this and surrounding communities should gear up for a sustainable source of jobs. You can expect people who are out of work to have the opportunity to obtain gainful employment. You can expect that the housing market will get significantly better. You can expect some of the mom-and-pop stores to reappear to support the newly-expected workforce.

The announcement will be made next Friday and that should be formal, official and a day for celebration. But, caution needs to be exercised. While the county had little to do with this deal, they need to work with the city and start to foster better relationships.

In the last fiscal court meeting, Chuck Sexton, the president of ONE East Kentucky, addressed the court and explained the importance of working together and how many opportunities are on the table for this region. And how Pikeville is and being considered by many other companies.

The Pikeville city commissioners, mayor and city manager have worked tirelessly to get this deal. The Pikeville city commissioners make less than $4,000 a year and the mayor makes less than $5,000 a year. Coal Run’s mayor makes about $9,000 and is responsible for his own taxes. The magistrates make 10-12 times as much and need to consider following Pikeville and Coal Run’s lead.

The magistrates have taken a lot of heat over their salaries. Former Pikeville city manager took a lot of heat over his salary, but he was a producer. The deal is partly because of his hard work and fortunately, the replacement city manager, Phillip Elswick carried the ball across the goal line, making their salaries worth the expense.

With good leadership, this could be the start of many more positive announcements of jobs coming to the region.

 

DECEMBER 11, 2017

HOW TO HAVE A MERRY CHRISTMAS

By Dr. Glenn Mollette

Christmas is the most depressing time of the year for many people. New Year's Eve is another difficult time.

There are lots of reasons why depression and suicide rates soar during these holidays. Feeling alone, financial distress, health issues, family problems and the list can actually be long.

Here are some quick tips for you. Keep this column handy for reference over the next two weeks.


Plan to be connected to people during these holidays. Even if it's sitting on the sofa making telephone calls all day at least you are talking and hearing people. Actually this is a good idea anyway. Make a long list and call people and wish them a Merry Christmas or a Happy New Year.

Or, divide your list and call some one holiday and the rest on New Year's Eve. Too many people sit back with the attitude, "Well, they haven't called me."

Don't worry about that because we are talking about your self-preservation here. Have people in your home whether it's family or people in your neighborhood. Have them for just coffee and a cookie. Better yet, if you have family, relax and just roll with the holiday punches.

There is absolutely nothing else to do on Christmas.

Your local convenient store or truck stop might be open but that's it. Enjoy and love the people you might be around - it's only once a year that you are truly stuck all day with them. You can survive it.


Do not fuss about anything. Be nice to everybody. Let the stupid things that people say to you roll off your back. Smile and act like you are having a wonderful time even if some relative is driving you crazy. Just laugh and have fun.

Keep it simple. Don't overspend your bank account. Don't rack up a big credit card debt. Let other people help you with any cooking, kitchen details and clean up. Share the joy with other people. Most people are happy to chip in and it makes them and you feel better.


Allow yourself plenty of time. My wife starts cooking Christmas dinner two weeks early. She makes something and then puts it in the freezer. If she makes one thing every day we normally end up with enough food for the neighborhood. There was a time when she tried to do it all on one day. This drove her and all of us crazy. Last minute cooking, shopping and leaving home late to travel a long trip is all nerve racking and takes some of the fun out of the holiday.


Help one or two people along the way. No one person can save the world but you never know when your assistance might be a miracle for someone.

Years ago a man had tied up all of his money into a house when suddenly he lost his job and had no way to keep the house. The bank secured everything he owned and there were zero dollars available to do anything. He didn't know what he was going to do including buy groceries or even find another place to rent. A financially secure man in the town heard about the plight of the other guy and called him into his office one week before Christmas to announce to him he was going to buy his house from him. The man was overwhelmed with joy and was able to eventually secure another place to live, another job and move forward with his life. However for some time he lived each day feeling and knowing that his life and family were in severe peril.

He told me once that what happened was truly a life saving miracle.

You probably aren't in the position to just buy somebody's house in order to financially save him or her. However, maybe a good word, a small financial gift, or even trying to help somebody find a job might be miracle life saving acts that you might give to someone.

Christmas only comes once a year if we are blessed to see and enjoy the day.

Be thankful. Give thanks to God Almighty for His blessings. Don't give ugly gestures to people on the highway. Be nice to Republicans and Democrats and Independents and all other parties - at least on Christmas.

We need more joy, smiles and happiness in America. Do your part. You are one person. If every person contributes we can truly all have a more Merry Christmas.

###


Dr. Glenn Mollette is President of Newburgh Theological Seminary, Newburgh, Indiana and his syndicated column is read in all 50 states.

READ HIS NEW BOOK - UNCOMMON SENSE

 

Date: 12-07-2017 - COURIER-JOURNAL

Most House Republicans ask Gov. Bevin to hold off on calling special session in 2017

GOP House members ask Gov. Bevin not to call special session on pensions this year.GOP House members ask Gov. Bevin not to call special session on pensions this year. 

FRANKFORT, Ky. — A large majority of Gov. Matt Bevin's fellow Republicans in the Kentucky House sent the governor a letter Wednesday asking that he not call the special legislative session on pension reform before the year's end.

House Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne said the letter "said that we were committed to solving the pension crisis and were working diligently, but there was no desire to do that during special session."

House Majority Leader Jonathan Shell said he at least 45 members of the House GOP caucus signed the letter during a retreat of the caucus on Wednesday. There are 64 members of the caucus, but eight of them could not attend Wednesday's retreat, Shell said.

Gov. Matt Bevin has promised all year that he would call a special session before the end of 2017 to pass a comprehensive reform plan to put the state on course to resolve its pension debts of more than $40 billion. But even as available time for such a session has just about expired, Bevin has held fast to that promise.

Osborne, a Prospect Republican, said that he met with Bevin on Tuesday when the governor again "expressed his desire to still have a special session this year and deal with this issue this year."

Bevin's office did not immediately respond to an email requesting a response to the letter from the House Republicans.

Bevin proposed a pension reform bill in October, but it was met with strong resistance from teachers, other parts of the public education community, and advocacy groups representing government employees and retirees.

That bill, which among many other things, called for transitioning public employees from traditional pension plans for 401(k)-like plans, won the backing of most senators but never came close to getting the votes it needs to pass the House.

Since then, House leaders have worked to craft a revised bill in consultation with their counterparts in the Senate. Osborne said while significant progress has been made in those discussions, the House and Senate leaders have not yet arrived at a final revised bill.

Shell, a Lancaster Republican, said most members of the GOP caucus are concerned about whether there is enough time to have any revised bill "scored" for its fiscal impact or time to hear public reaction.

"We've been working towards getting a pension fix. And that's the goal. That's what we want to do. It's just that our members are not comfortable right now under the information that we have," Shell said.

But what if the governor, who has exclusive authority to call a special session, calls a special session for later this month anyway? "We'll have to deal with that accordingly as to what our caucus feels like they want to do," Shell said.

Rep. Jill York, R-Grayson, said she signed the letter. "I'm able to look at a calendar and realize that there's information that we still need on any and all of the proposals that are afloat out there," York said.

Rep. Bart Rowland, R-Tompkinsville, gave similar reasons for signing the letter. Rowland noted the regular legislative session begins Jan. 2 when he said the House could immediately take up pension reform. That, he said, would also avoid the cost of a special session — about $65,000 per day.

By Tom Loftus
The Courier-Journal