Pulling together again, awesome!

I'm just saying . . .  James Cook - Times Editor

I'm just saying . . . James Cook - Times Editor

With the sudden closing of Stanton Elementary due to a bat situation, which we can discuss that issue another day, the Powell County School System and the community knew there was going to be a problem. But not for long.
As we often do in this county, we pulled together and in a matter of a few days a plan to help temporarily was worked out. Other schools jumped in and helped make the SES students and staff feel welcome. Students at the other schools made them feel comfortable Local churches jumped in and helped without hesitation.
That is what friends, family and a community does – help each other.
The most amazing thing I saw was all the “positive” comments in the social media. Usually there is a small percentage that just wants to complain, but in this case it seems like most people understood the problem and want to help.
Sure we may not agree on politics, issues, sports teams or even what to eat. But we can also take care of those who need it. Let’s keep it up.
That is why I love this county and why I am proud to tell people I’m from Powell County!
I’m just saying . . .

I’m just saying: Time is fleeting, but friendships can last forever

I'm just saying . . .  James Cook - Times Editor

I'm just saying . . . James Cook - Times Editor

I know it has been a while since I have written a column. It has been quite hectic and I wanted to give some other opinions a chance to be expressed.
However, after a few calls, a few “Hey, can I talk to you’s” in the stores and a few questions about whether or not I was still employed here, I figured I had better write something. But instead of a silly look at recent happenings, like that awesome opening of the Obamacare Health Care website or the parties bickering like children in the school yard about who was tagged in freeze tag, I decided  to write about something different.
In recent weeks there have been people who I have known for years, pass away. I considered them friends. They came along in a time in my life when I needed their friendship and that has lasted all of these years.
Bill Mize was one of a kind. He was like a father figure, giving advice and listening to problems not only of his own children, but for me as well. When my daughter was born, it was him and his wife, Darnell, who sort of took my wife under their wings and welcomed my daughter like she was a grandchild of theirs.
There was not a time I can think of when Bill didn’t ask about my daughter and wife, whenever he saw me. That may be at Kroger, where he would sneak up on us, or at the flea market or at a yard sale. He loved to go to yard sales and the flea market. He would tell me about the great bargains he would find. He looked at things like what others wanted to get of differently. He took those items and made them into something for somebody, if he didn’t store it up for a while.
That was they way he made me feel at a time when I was unsure if I was of any value. A new wife, new baby, low paying job and entering a chapter in adulthood I was very unsure of. But Bill, and Darnell, seemed to be the right people at the right time to step in and offer that advice we needed.
Bill worked for us at the Times for a short while, before he was diagnosed with his illness. I knew he could do a good job and he did. He hated to leave and I hated to see him go. Like many others in our lives, we didn’t see each other a lot, as we went about our daily business. But there has always been and will always be a a certain respect I hold for him. We will miss him.
Then just last week I got word late Thursday that an umpiring mentor and friend of over 30 years, Jimmy Chadwick, had suffered a stroke. I was not able to get to UK on Friday but I received word again that day that Jimmy had passed away. I was at a loss for words.
I met Jimmy as he umpired games when I played high school baseball. Later he ended up becoming a friend and we umpired many, many games together over the years. When we wasn’t doing that we would hang out at the radio station or even broadcast some games together.
Back then we thought Faith Hill wasn’t bad as a singer, but man she was cute.
You could not hang out with Jimmy and be depressed. He always had a funny story or a joke to tell. No game I ever umpired with him was boring and in fact I learned a lot from him. Don’t get me started on the radio broadcasts. If it wasn’t for him, back in those days, his friendship kept me out of trouble I was heading for and into more productive things.
Jimmy helped me at a low point in my life to not take life too seriously, laugh a little, even if its at myself.
Over the past 10 years or so we didn’t see each other as much. He got into professional wrestling and loved it. He spent time with his youngest son and when I did see him he would talk about his love for his boy. sadly, the last few times I got to see him we were passing each other in the hallways at St. Joseph Mount Sterling on those occasions we both had tests to be run.
Earlier this year we sat together at a basketball game and just talked about sports and families. Of course, we spent a lot of time joking and having fun, laughing at the officials and some of the plays on the floor. It was like old times.
Now that he’s gone, there be no more “balk” calls coming from out of the blue at Kroger, or  elbow strikes to the head as he snuck up on me just about anywhere. I will miss my friend, a lot.
Take some time today, tomorrow, anytime, to reach out to an old friend and just let them know that they mean something to you. One day you won’t be able to and you’ll wish you could. I do now.
I’m just saying . . .

Guest column: Domestic Violence is a topic that needs awareness

By
TERESA MEANS
Guest Columnist

As many of you know who I am in the county. What you may not know is where I come from; you don’t truly know me, as a person. I have a purple ribbon tattoo on my right hand. When someone sees it they say, “oh is that cancer awareness:” I say no it is domestic violence awareness; which normally leads to the remark, “Why, did somebody beat you up?” My response is simple. No, someone stole my life.
My counselor use to tell me to put a dot on my right hand to remind me of something, because I would forget easily. Well, this is a reminder of who I am, where I have been, and where I want to go with my life. Everyone has a story. I want to share a very small portion of my story.
My mission is simple. I want to take what turned into a horrible situation in my life into a positive experience that people would be inspired by. I hope it would make a difference for the better and bring awareness in my community.
I was a part of the vicious cycle called domestic violence beginning when I was born, as the witness of DV and a victim of child abuse, before being taken away from my biological family. I always said I’d never become a victim or expose my children to that. I was always a strong person who always defended myself and others around me. Then I too fell into the cycle of domestic violence. I’ve been around domestic violence for more than three decades. As a child, a teenager and as an adult I’ve experienced Domestic Violence. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, girls and women between the ages of 16 and 24 are at greatest risk of becoming domestic violence victims, and experience abuse at a rate three times greater than other groups.
I first started this column a couple of weeks ago, but after seeing so much breast cancer awareness in the media I decided to reword my column. It became clear to me that with all the awareness of this serious disease called breast cancer, the awareness of domestic violence has once again been “covered up,” a term used by domestic violence victims frequently. Since last week I felt a need to change a few other things in the column as well before submitting it, due to the last weeks Clay City Times, on the front page was a story of a domestic violence situation here in our county, our small community.
October is not only Breast Cancer Awareness month it is also Domestic Violence Awareness month. It is about coming together as advocates and victims sharing stories of survival. It is to bring awareness to those around us, before it is too late. This October, Be Alert. Stay Aware. Empower. Encourage. Awareness and education as well as prevention and reporting will decrease the Domestic Violence and we can stop this and hopefully cease DV from existence.
You may be asking yourself, “What exactly is domestic violence?” According to the U.S. Department of Justice, domestic violence may include:
Physical abuse such as slapping, kicking, hitting, shoving, or other physical force.
• Sexual abuse including rape, sexual assault, forced prostitution, or interfering with birth control.
• Emotional abuse such as shouting, name-calling, humiliation, constant criticism, or harming the victim’s relationship with her or his children.
• Psychological abuse including threats to harm the victims’ family, friends, children, co-workers, or pets, isolation, mind games, destruction of victims’ property, or stalking.
• Economic abuse such as controlling the victim’s money, withholding money for basic needs, interfering with school or job, or damaging the victim’s credit.
Rita Smith is executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which also claims October as its awareness-raising month.  She states, “It is any wonder that, even though domestic violence affects many more women and families, breast cancer is the issue we’ve all come to associate with October? Every year 232,340 women are diagnosed with invasive breast cancer; 1.3 million are assaulted by their husbands or boyfriends. One in eight women will suffer from breast cancer in her lifetime. One in four will experience domestic violence. Good luck finding that statistic on a yogurt lid this month.” She also proclaimed that the anti-domestic-violence movement staked its claim to October way back in 1981.
I agree with Smith, domestic violence awareness deserves as much attention as breast cancer awareness but it is impossible to promote it the way that the breast cancer awareness is promoted. The NCADV does not have the funds to do so. My heart goes out to all of those with breast cancer, who is suffering, who have survived it and who will be a victim as well. It saddens too that there are so many women getting physically, mentally, sexually and verbally abused every 5 seconds of every day and are unaware of all of the options out there.
The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports 1200 deaths and 2 million injuries to women from intimate partner violence each year in the U.S. On average, 3 women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends each day in this country. 15.5 million U.S. children live in families in which partner violence occurred at least once in the past year, and 7 million children live in families in which severe partner violence occurred.
This month is about awareness but it is also about celebration. It is about taking a moment to look back and remember that with every good day and every bad day, you’re still a survivor. You are still alive. Sadly, many victims did not make it. I am proud to say that I am a survivor. I was able to take the stand against the violence that I had endured by someone I loved at one time. I have shared my story and it has set me free. I want renew my fight against domestic violence. Together, we as survivors can eliminate domestic violence from homes even in our community. We need to ensure that our children grow up in healthy, peaceful home.
“According to the Children of Domestic Violence (CDV.org) website, approximately 275 million children experience domestic violence worldwide annually; of those, 5 million experience it in the United States each year and over 40 million adults in the United States grew up in homes where there was domestic violence.” Most cases of domestic violence are never reported to the police; therefore there are far greater numbers than what is shown.
Reflecting back to the first time I had truly told my story and spoken up was at the Clark County Courthouse October 28, 2009. There was an annual residents rally against domestic violence called “Take back the night,” I was chosen to be the guest speaker. I told my story about being a domestic violence victim for the first time. I received a standing ovation. I felt it set me free. “Since I have broken free and gained strength from my embarrassed silence I have begun sharing my story with pretty much everyone. I now know that the only way we can help and protect each other is through awareness. It is a big key piece.”
My audience was nearly 200 people in attendance at the rally, Including Public officials, Mayor Ed Burtner, Circuit Clerk Paula Joslin, District Judge Earl-Ray Neal and Clark County Attorney Brian Thomas as well as local law enforcement, just to name a few. At the time I was a 23-year-old single mother of three. I only identified myself as “Teresa,” because I was still very scared to let others know my full name. I tried to put my experience into words but often broke down in tears as I talked about the effect of my relationships had on me and my 8-year-old daughter.
I told the story of how I had walked away from my abuser for good on Nov. 11, 2007, living in different domestic violence shelters trying to put my life back together. I am here now six years later as a survivor. I have told my story to many, it has set me free, I want my story to encourage others and bring awareness to others here in our small community.
Bringing back horrific memories of several years ago, the thought of leaving scared me to death. Even though I was truly miserable for so long already, I kind of just chose to accept that was my life and dealt with it. I would always “cover it up” and make excuses. I thought if I stayed I would have a chance to fight back, but if I had left I couldn’t ever tell what was going to happen. It is like the saying, “Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer.” Violence was all I had known in my relationships. Nobody really knew what I was going through. I kept silent. Abuse thrives in silence. Abusers isolate you and make you feel as if you have no other choice than to stay with them. I had to suffer alone, as many others do.
I said enough was enough and I had to seek help for the sake of my children. My abuser continued stalking me for the next couple of years. Those days eventually ended in 2009. I am a survivor and still alive today. I broke the cycle. I am free. I am a mother of 4 children and I finally married the man I’ve always dreamed and prayed for. I married my best friend; a man that I know would never hurt me or my children. I wouldn’t say I have a “perfect” life or marriage, but I do have true love, support, security and a loving father for all 4 of my children.
I didn’t think I’d ever make it this far, when I would sit and cry in spouse abuse shelters. Now I look back and say thank you Lord for the strength, knowledge, and blessings I have received to achieve my dreams. Things are still hard for all of us given abuse causes illnesses such as PTSD, Depression and other physical and mental illnesses. Domestic Violence can result with long term emotional scars. Abuse destroys people, families, and children; it does not just affect the victim.
All that have suffered abuse, we need to find the strength to stand up. I chose to leave, give up everything, go in hiding, and have no material things but the bare necessities and my children. It was very hard being so young, being alone; being broke, my kids resenting me, being scared for my life 24/7, not having any stability, my children and I with different health issues. These are all the things women are so scared to go through. I was too, but I did it. Today I realized leaving even in my fear and comfort of thinking that was going to be my norm was the best thing I could have done for my kids and self. I’m grateful to God that I had a new start.
It will be hard. You will feel lonely. You will be broke. You will be confused, but it is worth it in the end. You can gain anything back… But your life or the life of your family! I am still getting use to the words love and trust. I am still trying to break boundaries I have set for my own safety, as well as the safety of my children. I am still getting use to looking up when I walk. I am still getting use to going places alone. Every new day gets easier; you might take one step back but you have to remind yourself to step forward. I stabilized myself by finding a job, going back to school and even setting boundaries to gain independence with the guidance of God. I once gave up on him, but he never gives up on me. I hope that I inspire at least one person. Give them hope.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, domestic violence is the leading cause of homelessness among women and children in the U.S.  Without help, girls who witness domestic violence are more vulnerable to abuse as teens and adults. Also, without help, boys who witness domestic violence are far more likely to become abusers of their partners and/or children as adults, thus continuing the cycle of violence in the next generation. Domestic violence costs more than $37 billion a year in law enforcement involvement, legal work, medical and mental health treatment, and lost productivity at companies. This is why we should raise awareness! These are not just statistics they are real, they are facts. Witnessing violence between one’s parents or caretakers is the strongest risk factor of transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next. Those who experience domestic violence are more likely to participate in binge drinking, fighting and/or smoking, and are at an increased risk of suffering from mental illness.
You can also help by donations. Very rarely are their donations made to the domestic violence programs and shelters. It saddens me that people do not donate to this cause as much as others.  I have had to live in two shelters. The first time I lived in a spouse abuse shelter we didn’t have a stove. We all used a microwave for all meals. That is where I learned to cook eggs in a microwave. There were so many women and children piled in one huge room with bunks. We had one shower and had to take turns using it. With my daughter being so young, she hated it.
I want to encourage you to donate to this cause too. The shelters need food donations, clothes donations etc. Many women and kids had to pack up and leave with just the clothes they are wearing. They have to start all over with their entire life, if they do finally find the way out! I was a single mom with 2 kids and had to leave behind all I had worked so hard for on, not one, but two different occasions. We had nothing but what the shelter provided for us. My kids had to be in the hospital for a while and it was the shelter that made sure our needs were met and they got the medication they needed. Please support the fight against domestic violence and support those survivors, they have had to work hard and find the strength to leave. Now you can help them gain their stolen life back.
No matter how big or small, abuse is abuse and it is still an unspeakable crime. Domestic violence can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion or gender. It affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels. There is help for both the victim and the perpetrator. You just have to make the choice to receive the help. If you or someone you know is in an abusive situation, there is hope. No one deserves to live with emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, 85% of domestic violence victims are women. Historically, females have most often been victimized by someone they knew. However, that does not mean men are not victims, there are men suffering from DV as well. You are not alone. If you feel that you are a perpetrator and you want to get help because you do love your partner, you need to before it is too late.

• Office of the Attorney General, Office of Victims Advocacy (800) 372-2551 or (502) 696-5312
• National Domestic Violence Hotline (800) 799-SAFE (7233)
• Cabinet for Health and Family Services Abuse Hotline  (800) 752-6200
• Division of Child Abuse & Domestic Violence Services  (502) 564-9433
• Kentucky Domestic Violence Association (502) 209-5382 (for a listing of domestic violence shelters across the state)
• Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs (866) 375-2727 or (502) 226-2704

Never miss an opportunity to care

I'm just saying . . .  James Cook - Times Editor

I'm just saying . . . James Cook - Times Editor

I know it has been a few weeks since I have written a column and to be honest had it not been for another computer failure I probably would not have had time to write one this week. But while I wait for it to come back up (I hope) I wanted to get a few things off my chest and to honor a few people.
First I wanted to thank my wife for putting up with me for the past 17 years. Sometimes I feel sorry for you and I’m sure many of you do too. I mean really, it ain’t easy being married to me. But she has been there, through good and bad, all this time. Thanks Christina for being there and loving me. I need to say that more often (so do some of you to your spouses too.)
• A couple of weeks ago Tonja Puckett lost her battle with cancer. I have known Tonja since high school; she was a couple years older than me.
I got to see her hard work and determination as she played basketball for the Lady Pirates. Later I got to see it again as she played women’s softball. And even later I witnessed her determination as we worked together at the EZ Stop.
Tonia was not one to run from a tough situation or back down. She didn’t in her last battle either. Just this past spring I got to see her a few times at some of her daughter’s softball games. I can see a lot of her determination in her daughter as well.
Tonja and I may not have always seen eye-to-eye, strong willed people rarely do. But I believe we respected each other enough to realize that we both were going to do what we believed was right.
I will miss her jokes, I will miss her hard-headedness, but most importantly I will miss that smile and look of accomplishment when she completed a task or won. She was a true competitor and quite a special person. Rest easy Tonja, rest easy.
• Earlier last week we lost another person that not only was important to many of us, but probably scared us some too. At least he may have if you are over 35 and have a driver’s license.
Benny Bryant, the long time driver’s license examiner, passed away. He had a long and distinguished career. He was a state police officer, a detective and even a teacher. But his job as license examiner probably affected many of us.
I remember when I went for my driver’s test. He was stern and serious, he meant business. I was sweating bullets, he was cool and collected. Which in his occupation he had to have nerves of steel.
As I followed his every command and listened to his advice, and the tapping of his pencil on the rear-view mirror, I just knew I was going to fail. But I didn’t.
I was excited, he was still serious, but a little smile came across his face, just a little one.
“If I were you I wouldn’t get pulled over too much,” he said. “You don’t have a lot of points to lose. You passed.”
Benny was one of a kind and I believe he actually made our roads a little safer. His style back then, when we could get a license after having a permit 30 days, scared some of the wilder drivers into waiting a while.
Later in life he ran a shop in Slade and I visited up there a time or two. I usually missed him though. But I’m sure if he had seen me he probably would have reminded me to keep checking that mirror. He will be missed and remembered for years to come.
• Then last Friday as I was heading out of town I got the news about Fern Brewer, She had passed away in her sleep. Fern was one of a kind, the good kind.
I have known her since I was a teenager and I was umpiring Little League baseball. Her son and grandson were involved in the game back then. Her husband, Railroad John, and I would talk a little about the game.
But in recent years, after she had retired from a 28 year teaching career, I had the chance to really get to talk to her. You could find her in the summer and early fall underneath a tent selling vegetables, mums and pumpkins. Her smile was always there, infectious, as she withstood the heat all day long or the cool temperatures.
Occasionally she would come into our office. When she was there she would talk about how much she loved the paper and reading Sarah’s and my columns. We would thank her. Then she would ask about Sarah’s boys and of course my daughter and wife. She would talk about her kids, grandkids and how things were going in general.
Last Thursday she stopped in for a short spell. As she was ready to leave she didn’t seem to be as talkative, but she did tell me and our owner, Teresa Hatfield-Barger, how much she liked the paper.
I noticed that she seemed to be walking a little slower and asked if she was doing OK. She said yes and gave me that smile. If I had only known, maybe I would have taken the time to tell her how much we enjoyed hearing her compliments and seeing that smile. It brightened our days.
If only . . .
But that opportunity is gone. I will never be able to tell these three people how much I felt about them and respected them.
Don’t miss an opportunity. If you feel respect or love for anyone, let them know every time you see them. Life is short and time is shorter. Never miss an opportunity to pick up someone’s spirit or show them how important they are. You never know how that may make them feel and you never know if you’ll get that chance again.
I’m just saying . . .

Good news on county road dispute; getting down to business

By James Anderson, Powell County Judge Executive

The regular meeting of the Powell County Fiscal was held Tuesday, Sept. 10 with all members of the court being present.  The fifteen items on the agenda were discussed in just over an hours’ time.
Opening up the business portion there were three items that fell under old business.  The first of the three was a couple updates on the new animal shelter.  Last meeting there had been some discussion of some equipment needed and modifications made to address some things the architect had overlooked.  Most of these issues were in relation to the lack of exhaust fans and air flow.  The court was made aware the installation of new exhaust fans are nearly complete and looked as if they were going to adequately address the problems.
The second update in regards to the new animal shelter was an update on the efforts between Friends of Powell County Pets and the Powell Fiscal Court in reaching an agreement on a new management model for the new shelter.  We are looking into the possibility of having this group be able to manage the shelter itself which should allow our animal control officer to have more time to dedicate to enforcing our animal ordinances.  Currently he has to devote much of his time to the daily responsibilities that come with the shelter which limits the time he can dedicate to his other duties.  This agreement should also allow the public much more access to the shelter by adding additional staffing which will be at no additional cost to the county as it will be handled by F.O.P.C.P. ,  and should also allow for higher numbers of our animals to be placed into caring homes.  If we are successful in reaching this agreement it should be a positive for every person and animal and involved.
The county road issue with United States Forest Service was revisited as well.  This was done in order to bring the court up on some additional findings that support our case.  This information is in the form of a publication of Kentucky Road Surveys that was done as required by congress.  This book both in language and maps further prove the roads the USFS disregard as county roads were and are Powell County Roads.  Another thing that this books shows is that evidently our USFS ranger district not only has no regard for local or state laws but also chooses to ignore federal authority as well.  In light of all the information provided and in looking at ways to rectify the wrongs inflicted on us by USFS I shared with the magistrates a copy of KRS 178.115.  I asked them to read over as I may potentially ask for a vote in the next month or so to pass a resolution to reopen some of the roads closed by the USFS.
The final subject to come up in old business was discussion on what steps we still needed to take to wrap up the redistricting matter.  Most of this work had been completed in the first two thirds of 2011 and had then been hold and until the State had something finalized.  Now that that’s been completed we are able to complete our process.  There was some discussion on what all had been completed and what still needed done.  We hope to have everything finalized in next few weeks.
To open up the new business portion I read a proclamation proclaiming Sept. 17-23, 2013 as Constitution Week in order to reaffirm the ideals the Framers of the Constitution had in 1787.  I think this is also an appropriate time to thank and remember all of our service men and women who have since served to protect us and our constitution.  I would also ask that each of us remember our leaders and U.S.A. in their prayers daily and to thank God for the blessing of living in such a wonderful country.
Next, Coroner Hondo Hearne came before the court to present the Powell County Mass Fatality incident Plan.  This is a plan that lays out what and how we would handle a mass casualty incident within our boundaries.  We hope this is something we will never have to deal with but feel confident that with Mr. Hearne and this plan, we would be able to handle it.  This plan was voted on and accepted by the court.
An additional part time employee was the next item addressed.  Last month I had made the court aware of the increased need for some additional staffing at transfer station as recycling had increased significantly and would continue to do so as we work to convert the old animal shelter into a recycling center that will enable us to take many more items.  The court voted to approve this part time employee.  The excess in recycling receipts has allowed us to add this employee at no additional expense to the tax payers.
The next four items pertained to resolutions and agreements allowing me to handle paper work that will be coming through to provide funding for projects.  These projects will be for road work, additional projects in the Nada area to renovate homes and one to upgrade our radio tower equipment that is near thirty years old.
The court also had two more tax rates at this meeting.  The first was the acknowledgement of receipt of the Powell County Health Department.  Next the court voted to accept the compensating rate for the county tax rate which will be 10.1.
To close out the meeting the court acknowledged the Powell County Tourism Board’s audit and voted to approve Ambulance Director Brinton Epperson’s employee changes.
I would like to again thank each of you for taking the time to keep up with what’s going on with your local government and encourage anyone who has questions, concerns or ideas to feel welcome to contact me at any time.

Bringing Congress to the Bluegrass to hear cost of Obamacare

By Congressman Andy Barr

As the U.S. House of Representatives prepared to vote on Obamacare in March of 2010, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “[w]e have to pass the bill so you can find out what’s in it.”
Now, almost three and a half years later, Kentucky’s working families are still trying to understand this 2,700-page law, but they are already beginning to feel its devastating effects.  Sold as a means of improving access to health care while reducing its costs, Obamacare has done precisely the opposite, while continuing to destroy jobs and increase our federal budget deficit.
While Ms. Pelosi’s statement speaks volumes regarding why it’s necessary to fully repeal Obamacare before we can achieve genuine and lasting health care reform.  Obamacare arose from a “Washington knows best” mentality, which believes that “top down,” federally imposed solutions are the only answer for our nation’s challenges – and it shows what happens when legislators and bureaucrats become enamored with their own grand schemes without asking for input from the people who will endure the consequences.
That’s why I believed it was so important to bring the House subcommittee responsible for investigating Obamacare’s impact to Kentucky.  Congressman Phil Roe, M.D. (TN-01), Chairman of the Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee of the Education and Workforce Committee, held an official field hearing in Lexington to examine the health care challenges facing workers and employers in the Bluegrass State. I was glad to bring this official hearing to the Sixth District as part of my accessibility initiative.
Fellow Kentucky Congressmen Brett Guthrie and John Yarmuth also attended the hearing where Kentuckians described the harmful consequences Obamacare is imposing on workplaces.  The Subcommittee heard from regional small business leaders, health care advocates, and other citizens – hopefully returning to Washington with a better sense of the challenges and imperatives ahead.
Lexington’s Joe Bologna highlighted the uncertainty that Obamacare has created for small business owners like him, who are already doing everything they can to provide affordable health care coverage for their employees.  John Humkey, President and Founder of Employee Benefit Associates, observed that Obamacare is leading to “significant premium increases that will force employers in Kentucky” and elsewhere “to radically change the way they provide benefits to their employees or in extreme cases . . . drop health insurance altogether.”
John McPhearson, who serves as Chief Executive Officer for Lectrodryer in Richmond, testified that Obamacare arbitrarily picks “winners and losers,” with some citizens having to pay for the health care of others without regard to healthy lifestyle choices or other conduct that impacts health care costs.  Mr. McPhearson also warned that Obamacare’s mandated health care plans could become “the de facto plans offered by the health care [insurance] companies,” causing “overall coverage [to] deteriorate” for Lectrodryer’s employees.
The evidence from across America shows that the concerns expressed during our hearing are not unique.  Confronted with new costs and regulations they cannot afford in a fragile economy, our nation’s small businesses have put any plans to expand and hire new workers indefinitely on hold, while cutting the hours and pay of current employees to avoid the expensive coverage requirements which Obamacare places on employers having 50 or more full-time employees.
Had Obamacare’s authors consulted people like Joe Bologna, John Humkey, and John McPhearson, they would have realized that putting people out of work is no way to improve access to health care in Kentucky.  What happens to those who fall between the cracks – people who lose their jobs, but aren’t eligible for the federal subsidies, which are supposed to help them buy health insurance?  They pay a tax!
We heard testimony during our hearing about the obstacles Kentuckians endure in obtaining quality health care.  Whether these problems arise from a preexisting condition or a family’s inability to afford insurance, we have a moral duty to fix them.  Yet, we can do so most effectively by engaging the feedback of consumers, doctors, employers, insurance experts, and hospital administrators instead of relying on ideological theories.  This approach involves incremental and systematic change instead of a massive overhaul – but doesn’t it make sense to build upon what works instead of breaking our health care system altogether?
Common sense measures such as authorizing insurance providers to compete across state lines and allowing small businesses to form association health plans could significantly decrease premiums, while supplementing tax break for employer-provided health insurance with supplemental individual and family tax credits would make that insurance more affordable.  Medical liability reform and the expansion of Medical Savings Accounts would help bring spiraling health care costs under control; the latter by placing patients back in charge of their non-catastrophic health care bills.
You deserve a chance to participate in health care reform, instead of having to “find out what’s in it” after the fact.

I’m just saying: Who has the reins on your life?

James Cook, Times Editor

James Cook, Times Editor

It is hard to believe that summer is gone, at least on the calendar. Seems like only yesterday I put my jacket away and now I’m getting it ready for the upcoming season. Time really flies, especially when you do this job.
But the weather this season has been quite a surprise. A mild winter was enjoyed by all, but the monsoon summer has created problems none of us like. But it all has to be part of God’s plan, so we just pray about it, handle it and move on.
Other things recently have caught me by surprise as well.
I can remember when my daughter was hooked on Hannah Montana. She watched the show everyday, even recorded episodes so she could watch them over and over.
You should have seen her face when I handed her two tickets to the Hannah Montana Concert at Rupp Arena a few years back. They were a birthday present. She nearly tackled me. She and her mother went, ran into a few other Powell Countians and enjoyed themselves. She talked about it forever.
The she began to grow up and Hannah Montana did too.
Maybe too much . . . for Hannah that is.
Miley Cyrus, the Disney sensation known as Hannah Montanna, has decided to enter the grown up world of music. Her father, who had some success with a song once, and her mother have helped her move forward. But after seeing the footage of the MTV Video Awards someone must have turned the reigns loose.
Cyrus’ performance was quite inappropriate for television during prime time, no matter if it was cable or not. It is quite obvious that the little girl has grown up, but still seeks attention like a small child would – by doing something outrageous to get it.
Now it is hard to really shock me. I mean after working several years in the legal system, as well as in the corrections field, then add this job which I have done for a total of 20 years (off and on) and nothing really surprises you. But when it comes to people, their actions and reactions, I guess you need to expect the unexpected.
Some people do not agree with the items I write here. I expect that as I do not shy away from many tough topics. And yes, this is my opinion column. Opinions, as I was once told, are a dime a dozen.
I will occassionaly have people call or write me about a column and totally disagree. That is their God-given right and maybe I am wrong sometimes. In fact I am sure I have been in the past.
Some of those communications try to give me a lesson in “how things really are.” Ok, I will play that game too.
In fact I don’t mind it. I may learn somethig from the other person’s opinion. But when I voice or pen mine I try not to make it personal. Too bad many others do not.
They will bring in “facts” that they feel I missed. Maybe I did not get those “facts”, but many times I did and I understand the real facts perfectly. Sometimes they have a good point and then . . .
It amazes me how some people depend on others opinions to develop their beliefs. I believe we need to search fo the truth ourselves, but that is another column for another day.
Let me get focused again.
I try not to get personal. I see a personal attack in a dicussion as the last ditch effort of a person who feels either they have been attacked, their family or heros have been attacked or just someone who loves to take a shot. I used to be that way, in fact I got pretty good at it and didn’t even have to have  a dog in the fight so to speak.
But I have learned to try to remain calm, do my job and know that not every one agrees with me. But I also know that if I trust God to lead me, ask for His help on how to write things and deal with issues, He will take care of me. Basically I have learned to let him take the reins.
If we lose control of our lives as we try to control our thoughts, our emotions and our own lives, then we will strike out at others and do things that are basicaly surprising. Better to let God have control then to go through life like a wild horse with no one controlling the reigns.
I’m just saying . . .

P.S.-Thanks to Sarah for helping this past weekend. And to Whitney in Irvine, good luck, we’ll miss you.

I’m just saying: Here comes the curve again

James Cook, Times Editor

James Cook, Times Editor

It never fails that just when I think I can figure things out, someone throws me the proverbial curve. If you played baseball with me, or saw me play (back in the day) then you know that I may hit it, but rather weakly.
In other words, it caught me by surprise.
If you ever want to face a challenge of trying to figure out why things happen the way they do, just follow me. Or better yet, just look around you and pay attention.
In recent weeks I have seen, heard or read about some things that puzzle me.
What, you may ask?  Well thanks for asking. Let me give you a few snippets.
•I am totally bamboozled by the fact that the school lunches that I enjoyed are now, according to the Obama Administration, bad for you. So they have decided to make schools feed kids a “more healthy” selection.
So last year they had a lot of healthy foods, but the kids really didn’t like it. Based on what my daughter’s friends and several parents have relayed to me recently, the meals this year are worse.
Now to be fair, I have not tried one and I may do so soon. Also my daughter has not said much to me about it, but I know she has been packing her lunch lately. I guess I could take that as a sign.
I’m not saying that the local food service people are wrong, but the feds may be. What good does it do to force meals on kids that they will not eat? I mean you purchase the food, prepare it and then watch as kids throw it away.
I understand there is an obesity problem in America. Believe me, I, of all people, know all about this. And yes something needs to be done. How about more physical education classes for all grades. Seems like, the best I can remember, when we had it every year and ate some of the best school pizza’s, chili, burgers, dumplings, etc (you get the idea) the obesity problem was not as bad.
Just something to think about. Maybe we should all write the feds in charge and let them know that since some kids only decent hot meal of the day may be at school, then why make it something they cannot or will not eat? Just an idea. And to Laura Young and her staff, keep doing the best you can, no one is blaming you for bad decisions coming from above.
•I was curious and I should have asked this at the Clay City Council meeting this past week, but I got wrapped up in another issue. Last week around Tuesday I guess is when I noticed it, the Ice Cream Social flags were flying on the poles in Clay City. Now they are nice and decorative. A lot of time and money has gone into them. I have no problem with them at all.
But just a few days before there was a Welcome Home Veterans Rally held at the AmVets Post and city park. An event that brought in quite a few visitors. But I did not see one U.S. flag flying from the poles lining Clay City’s Main Street.
I know we have them; they go up for Memorial Day and July 4, especially July 4. It would have been nice to fly them that weekend to honor those who have given us the freedom to hold an ice cream social, fair, rally or any public event.
Just something to think about for next year.
•I read yesterday about three teenagers who were sitting on a porch in a quiet Oklahoma neighborhood when they saw a jogger go by. The 15, 16 and 17 year old were apparently bored and came up with a plan. So they got into a car, followed the jogger and then one of them pulled out a gun. They shot the jogger in the back as he ran, doing absolutely nothing to nobody.
People nearby tried to help the jogger, but he died. Police were given the license plate number and the boys were found. One has already admitted to the crime.
Now we know things as senseless as this happen all the time. So what could possibly surprise me, a former corrections officer and reporter who has seen and heard just about everything? The boy’s reason.
He told police they did it because they were bored. They wanted something to do and he alleged that they wanted to do more. Police say they may have stopped a spree killing by catching the boys so quick.
In a town like ours where kids really have not much to do, we need to make sure we keep them not only busy with activities but also that our community stays engaged with our youth. That includes standing up for what is right and our churches reaching out to each and every person they can.
A little smile, a kind word and even a simple church activity or community event could make a difference in someone’s life. Are we not supposed to reach out and help others? I believe God would want us to and who knows, it may be just what is needed to change a life.
I’m just saying . . .

I’m just saying: Things I learned on vacation

James Cook, Times Editor

James Cook, Times Editor

Well I’d like to say it’s good to be back and I guess it really is, but . . .
Last week my family and I went on a much needed vacation. I had not had one in six years and the week in a hospital two years ago does not count  as a vacation.
My daughter and I got to see the ocean for the first time. That’s right, the first time. I know, I am probably behind in life, but it is what it is.
I loved it and was trying to find a way to stay, but I came on back. While I was gone I did learn a few things. So I thought I would share them with you.
• I can function without a watch on my arm to let me know if I need to be somewhere. In fact, like softball and baseball, time is not a factor when your on vacation. I loved that.
• Casual dress for dinner can be a pair of khaki shorts and you fit right in. Especially at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. The “Cheeseburger in Paradise” lived up to it’s name.
• For someone who is not a big fan of water, the sight of the ocean was both awe inspiring and down right scary. I have never seen that much water. The fact that a wave rolled me pretty good did not help to improve my dislike for the wet stuff.
• People everywhere are basically the same. You have courteous ones, selfish ones and some who really need a lot of prayer. I met a few of each at Pigeon Forge on my way back home.
• Did you know that no matter what the item is if there is a sale people will knock you down to get to it. That I learned at Tennessee’s Tax Free Weekend.
• I learned that God’s beauty is not just in the eye of the beholder, but it is everywhere. Whether it is the sands and ocean around Myrtle Beach or the Appalachian Mountains in Tennessee or even the beauty of the Red River Gorge, I loved seeing His handiwork.
• Vacations are great and I thank my wife and daughter, along with our guest, Krista, for making it a great week. But the work waiting for me when I returned quickly slapped me back into reality. But I wouldn’t change a thing.
• It seems that when you are in place where no one knows you one can become a little bolder. I watched my daughter and her friend do just that last week. I loved seeing her come out of her shell, but as she is about to turn 17 I hope I haven’t missed too many chances to make memories like we did last week. And if she is going to get bolder I may need to go on Spring Break with her when she is in college.
I’m just saying . . .

I’m just saying: Feelings and opinions, everyone has them

James Cook, Times Editor

James Cook, Times Editor

I know that when it comes to feelings and emotions we not only have them, we also believe ours to be the ones that need to be addressed. That is just human nature. Self-preservation, looking out for yourself, etc., etc.
I understand all of that and I have been in positions where I had to be reminded of that. Everyone has an opinion, a thought, a feeling about every subject. So if we are to be a civilized people we need to not only address that, we need to listen and take others thoughts into consideration. Even if they are wrong.
No I’m not trying to be an elitist, I’ve been wrong about things too. Mainly, like just about everybody, I reacted without having all the information. Or I stepped out based on my own belief and no matter what the facts indicated, my thoughts and feelings had to be right.
It was because of those decisions I often got myself in trouble.
Each and everyday we have to make literally thousands of decisions, many without even giving it much thought. None of us give it a second thought about where we are going to sit on the couch, tonight, what plate we use for supper or whether or not we will want to use a fork or spoon or our hands. Many of those decisions are automatic, almost as automatic as breathing.
But how we react to things that happen around us, how we react to others thoughts and feelings is a choice we consciously make. We can’t blame that on “that’s just the way I am” or “they caused it.” No one, let me repeat this, NO ONE unless they have mind control over you or maybe holding a gun to you (even then that’s questionable) can make you do anything.
No, we choose to act the way we do if we are of sound mind. Drugs, disease or some other medical or mental condition can alter that. But for most of us, we choose how we wish to react.
Protests, vandalism and violence are choices
Recently a trial, which to be honest with you I wondered why it became a national issue when there are similar trials like it with similar issues going on everyday somewhere in America, got a lot of people’s attention.
Regardless of where you stand on the issue I believe everyone’s opinion and feelings should be heard, but only if you can be civil about it.
I mean really, sports figures asking the jury to kill themselves or betting the defendant won’t make it a year, protests leading to looting and burning the flag, none of that makes any sense and it does not raise any of the issues that need to be addressed. Instead it sidetracks the real issues so that kind of stupidity can be dealt with.
Sure, maybe it was an important issue to some and it should be to our society, but there is more than one issue involved in that tragic case. It is not just a one-sided event, there are always more than one-side to everything and always problems that lead to other issues.
In the grand scheme of life, we all have issues that are important to us. Some of those will also be important to others because of how we choose to act or portray ourselves.
A few years back I did not believe that too much. That was until I was forced to listen to a group of people who had some problems that had led them to a bad place in life. As I listened to their problems I began to see that though it may not seem like an issue to me, it was to them. And vice versa, my problems, though major to me, were insignificant to others.
I felt ashamed of how I had acted. I had alienated people because I was not willing to allow the fact that everyone has problems. I am not, nor have I ever been the center of the universe. No matter, even today, how much I may write or speak my opinion is one of many voices that make up our community, our state and our nation.
We have to be able to speak out and listen to others while realizing that at the end of the day we all live on this big rock called Earth.
The Bible tells us in several places to be slow to anger, listen to each other and try to see things not only from their point of view but also see things with and our fellowman with love.
We may not always agree and things may not seem fair to some. In my business, and as a former umpire/referee, I realize that everything I do, write and say will not make everyone happy. I used to joke about trying to keep at least 51 percent of the people happy. But in fact, if we cannot be civil enough or mature enough to agree to disagree without resorting to threats, violence or other forms of primeval retribution where is our society going?
God will be the final judge on everything we do and on everybody. That does not mean we can do what we want and roll the dice so to speak. But it does mean that those who think they are always right, never wrong, they know it all, no one else’s opinion, thoughts or feelings matter, may need to take a second look at their own life.
If we would just try to understand we may not agree but everyone has a right to their feelings, thoughts and opinions, we can move forward instead of always looking back.
I’m just saying . . .