Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:
The Independent, Ashland, Kentucky, on tourism has greater impact on economy than most think:
It's certainly good news that a new report by Kentucky's Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet has found the economic impact of tourism grew by 5.2 percent in eastern Kentucky in 2012, outpacing the overall statewide growth rate. However, we would be more excited about the report if we had more confidence in how tourism spending is calculated by state government.
For example, when construction workers and others stay in area motels while temporarily working in the area, most people would not consider such people as "tourists," but that's what they are. They may not spend any time visiting local attractions, playing golf or hiking trails while in the area, but they may see a show at the Paramounts Arts Center if they can get tickets, or go to the movie. That makes them tourists, and on any given night, out-of-town workers fill most of the hotel and motel rooms in this corner of the state.
But we also know that most of those attending shows at the Paramount, going to movies and dining in restaurants live here. They don't think of themselves as tourists, and since it is impossible to tell out-of-towners from local residents by simply looking at spending numbers, it is virtually impossible to accurately calculate tourism spending.
Nevertheless, since most of us who live here do not consider northeast Kentucky as a place to vacation like Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Branson, Missouri, and Orlando, Florida, are, we tend to underestimate the impact or tourism on the area economy. But we can think of a number of attractions that bring people from other areas to this region, maybe not for a week's vacation but at least for a night or two. Here are just a few. ...
The annual holiday display in Central Park has been going on enough years that many of us tend to take it for granted. But many people who do not live in this community annually schedule a trip to Ashland at Christmas just to see the lights in the park. And Ashland's Christmas Parade is still the region's best. ...
The Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet's report said tourism spending increased by more than $19 million in the Kentucky Appalachian Region to $384 million in 2012. In our immediate area, only Boyd County experienced a decline in tourism spending in 2012, and it was slight, from $172 million to $169 million.
When he became mayor of Ashland in January, Chuck Charles said his vision for the city was to make Ashland as "destination city" — a place where people would plan to spend the bulk of their vacation, and not just a night or two on the way to somewhere else. As the former long-time president of Summer Motion, Charles knows what it takes to attract people to the city. If anyone can make Ashland a "destination city," it is Chuck Charles.
The Courier-Journal on lifting secrecy from adult death cases:
Four years after the deaths of two severely disabled Kentucky men in state care, the public is no closer to understanding the circumstances of those deaths.
Nor do the public and advocates who care about the welfare of vulnerable adults have any assurance the men were well-treated and their deaths, while supposedly from natural causes, have been fully investigated by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
That's because the cabinet — which managed the lives and affairs of both men — has complete control over all the records of their lives and deaths in state care and has doggedly refused to release them, citing confidentiality and a desire not to "offend the dignity of the private individuals."
In doing so, the cabinet exhibits the same stubborn persistence it has displayed in seeking to keep secret details of child abuse deaths and injuries, despite repeated court rulings that such information relating to children must be disclosed under state open records law.
Now, unfortunately, the state Court of Appeals has affirmed the right of the cabinet to withhold information in adult cases after the Council on Developmental Disabilities, a non-profit advocacy agency for people with disabilities, filed suit seeking to learn details of the 2009 deaths of the two men.
This is not idle curiosity or a desire to delve into the private lives of Richard Tardy, a blind and profoundly disabled man who died at age 61, and Gary Farris, also profoundly disabled, who died at 59. ...
The cabinet currently has about 3,500 wards of the state and workers average about 74 cases each.
And guardianship ends the moment the client dies, meaning there is no one left outside the cabinet to question what happened to the individuals, whether they received proper care, or demand information about them.
That leaves no one to explain what happened except the cabinet — and it's not talking.
Donovan Fornwalt, the Council's executive director, said his agency is concerned the state human services cabinet clings to its "culture of secrecy" to protect itself and its employees at the expense of vulnerable people it is supposed to protect. ...
The Council, which is considering an appeal, should ask the state Supreme Court to decide.
The lives of the many adults who are wards of the state are too important — just as the many Kentucky children who have died or been critically injured by abusive adults.
As in the child abuse cases, the cabinet's "trust me" argument isn't enough. The public needs to know how these two men and lived and died, as well as how well we as a state are meeting our obligations to the most vulnerable citizens among us.
Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader on Medicaid expansion right for state, now Gov. Beshear must make it all work:
Kentucky can't waste any chance to improve the health of its people. If you doubt it, study the map below. Women 75 and younger in much of Kentucky are living shorter lives than in the past.
Rural women in other states are experiencing similar shortened life spans, according to University of Wisconsin researchers, though the decline is especially pronounced here. How could this happen in the world's richest country where per capita spending on health care exceeds all others by far?
We could trot out other depressing indicators — from frequency of diabetes to tooth decay — to explain why Gov. Steve Beshear made the right choice — the only choice, really — by expanding Medicaid. ...
Beshear's economic analysis shows that though state government will have to pay 10 percent of the cost by 2020, the Medicaid expansion will pump $15.6 billion into the state's economy by then, add 17,000 jobs and end up putting more tax revenue into state coffers than it takes out. (If the predictions don't pan out, the expansion can be scaled back or ended.)
All this is made possible by the Affordable Care Act, the reform that Republicans dubbed Obamacare and that they love to hate.
By next year, for the first time, all Kentuckians could have access to affordable health care. No wonder Beshear choked up making the announcement. ...
Small hospitals must change, says rural health expert Dr. Wayne Myers, from sick houses to centers of health.
More prosaically, Beshear must fix his managed care Medicaid. The administration seems to be making quick headway on the promises Beshear made when he vetoed a bill that would have clamped down on the private contractors.
But if privatized Medicaid still has weak provider networks and persistent payment delays when 300,000 new patients come on board next year, it will be a disaster.
One thing is certain: The profit-driven companies that are managing Medicaid can't and won't provide the leadership demanded by this potentially transformational moment.
Republicans in Congress and the legislature will keep sniping and threatening to withhold funding. They also should think of their constituents, Kentuckians who are suffering more and dying sooner than they should have to.