Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Jobless rate falls locally

Todd County's jobless rate has fell from 11.8 percent in February to 11.4 percent in March.

It might mean that, at least locally, the amount of layoffs could slow down.

While that may seem like good news, the state workforce development cabinet is quick to point out that all 120 counties had higher unemployment than in March of 2008.

Todd County's unemployment this time last year was only 7.1 percent.

Ironically, the large unemployment numbers right now are nothing compared to when we lost all the factories a few years ago. Because of the lack of industry here right now, the number of unemployed workers are probably coming from Hopkinsville, Clarksville and Russellville.

One point I always try to make about unemployment is that when it runs out you go off the grid if you don't have a job and even though you aren't employed you aren't counted by the state. In a few months the numbers could be a lot lower but just as many people could still be out of a job.

Posted by Ryan

Monday, April 20, 2009

Environmentalist still part-time

Although things are looking up for the finances of the Todd County Health Department, it is still notable that the environmentalist, Malcolm Rust, is still a part-time employee.

Rust is the only employee to have his time reduced even though a workforce reduction plan called for other workforce "reduction" options.

Strange that he is the only employee not working full time and this point is never brought up in health board meetings ....

The health department has been quite the scandal den the last few years, but if you attend health board meetings (except for the one last year where the state came down and fussed at the board about how the money is spent) you'd think things at the health department was hunky-dory.

No mention of firings and a two-state doctor shopping investigation, no mention of the illegal meeting they had with the state in closed session last year, no mention of the state putting pressure on the local office to pass inspection on a Mennonite school which had an injunction against it...

The list goes on and on.

De-Nial seems to be a river in Todd County as well.

Posted by Ryan

Monday, April 13, 2009

Should the Amish be made to donate?

The Amish/Mennonite communities here in Todd County have made their annual donation/bribe to Todd County.

In many counties across the state, the communities have donated the money in lieu of taxes for their use of county roads.

The pay this time was $9,022. County Treasurer Tammy Robertson said the payment was a lot more than in the past.

In past years the payment has been an average of $7,500.

Why was it more this year? Who knows?

The whole idea is like a payoff in some mobster movie. We (the Amish) give you money so you don't push the state government for a tax on tractors and buggies that travel the road.

I know Todd County is hard up for money right now, but the fiscal court should give the money back though you can't blame them if they don't.

Also, you can't blame the ones who came up with the idea of "a donation" as a way to keep the peace.

In Todd County the idea of a tractor and buggy tax has never been very popular because of all the farmers who have to run their tractors from farm-to-farm across county and state roads, but the tide is turning in many communities across the state and the Amish/Mennonite communities are trying keep that issue at bay as long as possible.

The only problem is that as Todd County shifts to large farm operations from small family farms, the equipment — for liability reasons — is often hauled by trailer from farm to farm.

Also, Todd County is in the midst of a change that will push more and more of its population away from traditional farming and more toward technical/industrial jobs. That will result in a whole lot less sympathy for tractors going half the speed of cars on roads that are used to transport workers to and from their jobs each day.

Another, almost as troubling, aspect of more and more Amish/Mennonite families moving here is that when communities grow (especially if that growth is rapid) zoning laws and subdivisions can cause tremendous problems for the Amish/Mennonite way of life.

Urban sprawl (basically unchecked growth) could be lethal for farmers and Amish/Mennonites who aren't afforded some sort of agriculture-friendly zoning.

Larger farming operations tend to make their own zoning — at least until the price of land is worth more than the farmer could make farming and they sell out.

With a huge industrial operation, Hemlock Semiconductor, just yards south of the Todd County line we all need to wake up to the possibility that life may soon change here and change fast.

The first victims are often small farmers (which is what most of the Amish and Mennonites who live here are). If you don't think this is a real possibility then look at current land prices. We are in the middle of a huge economic recession, but land prices in Todd County have continued to climb.

Most land in south Todd is more expensive than ever because of speculation of growth. On the flip side, land in north Todd is also around $4,000 to $5,000 an acre because some Amish are paying an inflated price in an area that seems — at least for a generation or so — insulated from rampant growth.

The problem will be when Todd County sees so much growth that it flips from a mostly rural agri-based economy to a technical service economy. Even then the government that will be in place will no longer be comprised of mostly farmers, the government will be similar to Clarksville's which is mostly comprised of business owners and activist citizens.

That type of government will protect the ones who put them in office and not the farmer.

Already the Todd County Fiscal Court has heard numerous complaints about the Amish and Mennonites on roads and the horse droppings that come as part of their transportation.

As one member of the Amish community told me recently, "(The Amish) might have to eventually move out West where there is lots of land and not as many people."

He sighed and told me he liked living here and how this was a great place to raise a family. To the Amish man it would be sad for he or his family to move because of new laws or pressure from land developers.

I told him it would be more than sad, it would be tragic.

Times are changing and it is a shame that those who might suffer most can't change because of their religious beliefs. Also, it seems that the small farmer and his way of life might also be just as much at risk.

The state needs to come up with a sticker/plate system for all of the tractors and buggies that travel on roads. It shouldn't be near as expensive (maybe $15 or $20) as an automobile or truck, but it would be fair and would give the Amish and Mennonite community a clear stake on the roads of Kentucky and Todd County.

After all, even if it is paid on a volunteer basis, the United States has moved past any group having to make a payment for some sort of protection that, ironically, the county wouldn't have control over in the first place.

Also, the sticker/plates would go a long way toward having families who have lived here for several generations to accept that the Amish and Mennonite communities are now part of Todd County and should be accepted as such.

There is no reason for the Amish/Mennonite community to pay a "donation" as long as the law of the land doesn't make them.

There is also no reason for the counties across the state to accept the donations when all that would be necessary are steps to protect those who seek a rural life (farmers included).

And until those laws are put in place there is no reason for the government to accept money that is not theirs and for the Amish/Mennonites to give the money as part of a false hope that the laws won't change.

By Ryan

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Dan Miller dies

Got word this morning that Dan Miller, longtime anchor for Channel 4 (WSMV) in Nashville, died walking near the course at The Master's:

Here's the report from WSMV's Web site:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Longtime WSMV-TV anchor Dan Miller died Wednesday night of a heart attack at the age of 64 in his hometown of Augusta, Ga.
Miller was in Augusta to watch practice rounds of the Masters Golf Tournament with fellow friends and longtime co-workers Terry Bulger and Rudy Kalis.
Services have not been planned at this time

Miller, to me, was the better newsman of all of the old time anchors in Nashville. Chris Clark was more popular, but Miller always seemed to do more with a whole lot less resources.

Posted by Ryan

Monday, April 06, 2009

Stimulus and broadband

In a recent story in the (Louisville) Courier-Journal, Todd County was ranked in the bottom 10 counties in the state with broadband access.

The story implied that soon all of the lower ranking counties could be getting some stimulus money for rural broadband. The problem is how the $7.2 billion is divided up. The Standard did a story on this a few months ago and the money is not going to magically fall out of the sky.

Actually, without some serious pull from U.S. Rep Ed Whitfield there might be little cash coming our way.

Also, in a graphic, the C-J said Todd County had 68 percent of households with broadband service available. That is a laughable number, obviously given by someone like ConnectKentucky — a lobbyist group that counts the expensive satellite service, the number for affordable broadband is most likely the inverse of that number (40 percent at best.)

We'll say it here first: There is no way 7 out of 10 homes in Todd County have Internet availability. No way.

Sure, the so-called experts that live and work in the Golden Triangle like to say there is availability here, but they aren't the ones having to pay for satellite packages that will drain the "working" poors' home budget.

How do we know this? Ask the school system and see how many students with take-home laptops can afford high-speed service through satellite. Then ask the school system what the options are for most of the people who live outside of the cities or service lines for cable and AT&T and see how many have no affordable options despite their children having a $1,200 laptop given to them to use.

Where is the sense of urgency?

It is lost in someone trying to figure out how to make money off of what should be based on a taxed system like roads, bridges and other infrastructures.

There are somethings you shouldn't try to make a dollar off of, and rural broadband is one of them.