Saturday, March 28, 2015

An Easy One

Many things in my city commission life get complicated.  It is a relief to occasionally come across a “piece of cake”.  As the detective Hercule Poirot might intone, we should rest the little grey cells.

The easy decision I’m speaking of is to keep the “train set” intact and get local people to paint it.  If all four pieces; locomotive, tender, combine and caboose simply stay put at the floodwall, this will pay tribute to our railroad heritage.  That is the least we owe them.  By doing the job locally with a retired VMV employee in the lead, I’m certain we can paint the train for less than $10,000.  That economy is what we owe you.

I need a rest from complicated decisions; this one is just too easy to pass.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sackcloth and Ashes

Sackcloth and ashes is an old Hebrew custom, that by wearing this, sackcloth and ashes, we are saying that we are sorry and sad for things we have done wrong.  I find myself thinking that Paducah is suffering from this sackcloth and ashes syndrome in our repeatedly negative thoughts as to why our population is declining instead of growing.  More specifically we are compared to Owensboro, a city I know something about.  I was born there.

In an effort to stem this flow of sorrow and sadness I would, at the risk of being Pollyanna,  offer up a few thoughts on our less than moribund city downtown.  I am centering my attention on this area since Owensboro has gained some bit of  positive press as of late.

In the child’s game “I’m better than you are” we could offer many comparisons between our two cities.  Though not downtown, we could start with the new Owensboro hospital with its 477 beds to our two hospitals with 732 beds.  Both cities boast similar performing art centers and convention centers.  Our National Quilt Museum is their Bluegrass Music Museum, good for both cities for these one of a kind museums and festivals.

While Paducah does not have the two downtown hotels that Owensboro has, it should be noted that Owensboro had three hometown developers to get the hotels and more, well, developed.  Just because we do not have a downtown hotel now doesn’t mean this is the way it will always be.  Not to make excuses, Paducah received only a quarter of the federal dollars for its riverfront park, yet, we to are on a path to our park, built and funded in our own way. I think you could point with pride to Crounce, Ingram, and the Paducah and Louisville Railroad in their relocations downtown.  Owensboro’s Texas Gas Transmission just moved to their downtown.

I would be remiss in not mentioning several unique to Paducah places. The Maiden Alley Cinema is one of only four art house theaters in Kentucky.  Paducah is the only city in Kentucky with a UNESCO designation. How cool is that.  And then there is the National Geographic Travel top 50 cities to visit.  And did I mention that Paducah is one of a little more than 100 cities nationwide to be awarded a National Main Street City.  Add in The Market House Theater, Lower Town Arts District, Symphony Orchestra, floodwall murals, River Discovery Center, William Clark, Paducah Train Museum and the Seaman’s Church for Maritime Training Facility, and you would have an impressive list for any downtown, much less a city of 25,000 souls.

Am I happy about the status quo of no growth?  Of course not.  But I feel that Paducah and McCracken County will solve our growth problem.  In our own way and yes, in our own time.  Look, we have an enormously talented citizenry.  We accomplish much, and will continue to do so.  At this juncture I’m trying to provide some balance in our outlook. This sackcloth and ashes mentality is not productive.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Paducah's E911

Today’s Paducah Sun editorial is just wrong.  The decision I reached to have a city run E911 was not taken because it was politically easy or pleasing to the editorial board of the Paducah Sun.  The decision I reached was after months and months of thought, study and conversations with many of you. My mind is never very far away from my obligation to you.  I don’t work for the newspaper.  I work for you.  You elected me to do the best I can for you. I’m not particularly interested in what the paper has to say; they sell papers.  I have to think about what is best for the citizens of Paducah as a whole.  And yes, it is an awesome responsibility.

O.K. I have got it off my chest; here are my thoughts. 

There is an adage I learned from my dad early on--if you are going to take a risk there better be a reward.  The bigger the risk, then bigger the reward is paramount.  And never invert this business maximum.  Now, let’s apply this to an issue facing Paducah.

I have a problem with the Kentucky State Police proposal to be Paducah’s E911 dispatch.

First, Lt. Brent White of the KSP described our E911 as “high functioning and desirable,” while calling the KSP proposal a “barebones system.”  After nine months of study, why is the KSP still offering a bare bones system when that is not what we have?  Yes, this would make it less expensive, but at what risk?

At a city commission meeting White said that KSP’s call volume would double when KSP becomes our E911 provider; yet the number of dispatchers would only increase from four to six positions.  That math made no sense to me.  And neither did the response that KSP was a more efficient organization.

Bottom line for me is the KSP E911 dispatch proposal is a “fuzzy feel good.” We are looking at apples and oranges and expect to get the same service for less money.  I have made that E911 call at 4:30 A.M. with a major house fire.  I realize what a vital service E911 is to our community.

 Sorry, this risk reward ratio is backwards.  I’ll not support the KSP as our E911 provider.

Further, to be completely transparent, if the state does not increase the E911 funding by increasing the tax on cell phones from its current level, then I will support a tax to support our E911 own dispatch.

Friday, December 26, 2014

A 2014 Recap, Of Sorts

Well, the end of the year is at hand.  The end of my first term as your city commissioner is at hand.  So what am I thinking about as the year winds down?

For those of you who are old enough to remember the Ed Sullivan Show, who was that guy who kept all the plates spinning atop those pointed wooden sticks? You know, he would start one spinning, and another, and another, all the while “re-spinning” slowing plates so as not to let them fall off the sticks.  I think that might be a metaphor for the past 24 months.  Just to mention a few city plates that were spinning: a hotel, curbside recycling, E 911, the animal shelter, the “bump out” riverfront park, and of course the unexpected structural problems with City Hall.  These are the big plates that cannot come crashing down.  Fortunately, we have a cadre of talented people in City Hall.  Yes, we all have our stories, and I certainly have had mine, but at the end of the day we really have a good group. I would be particularly remiss in not thanking City Manager Jeff Pederson for taking time to have lunch with me most Tuesdays, for probably the most productive hour I spend all week.  So, thanks.

Moving into 2015, I’m thinking that we all have a real opportunity to work closely with our (largely new) county government.  While I’m at it, I have met the Paducah Economic Development guy, Scott Darnell, and he is a winner.   Already there is a better working environment between our two organizations, and that’s a good thing.

Then, there is this quiet guy in the city.  Shhh, don’t tell anyone… but it’s Jon Perkins, head of finance.  We have a lunch date, over chili, about once a quarter.  I always feel better about our finances after lunch with Jon, and it isn’t the chili that gives me that good feeling either.

My biggest surprise in elected office has been that we (the mayor, commission and department heads) don’t meet just by ourselves.  Of course I understand “sunshine” laws, with the media always in the room, and that’s O.K.  It’s just that when I was in business, I met with department heads monthly to hash it out and get those ideas flowing.  Even the crazy ideas always had a kernel of good in them.  We can’t do that like I’m used to, and I’m not convinced that we are better for it.

Lastly, I’m thinking of the conversations you and I have had about our city.  I would not change those meetings with you all (I guess I’m supposed to say “y’all” there) one bit.  So here’s the deal—for the next 24 months, you keep me informed on your thoughts, and that will keep me energized. 

Now if I can just figure how to sleep through the night…


Monday, September 29, 2014


I probably should not get into this subject, but a little introspection never hurts.  Well, maybe it only hurts a little bit. 

It was really easy when I was a candidate two years ago to defiantly proclaim that Paducah had a deep talent pool so why would we ever go out of town for a consultant.  Well, it isn’t for that consultant’s look of khaki slacks and blue blazer, I can assure you.

I was talking with my friend Charles today, and the subject of consultants came up.  “Why go out of town to hire one of those guys?” he asked.  I was on the spot with a friend and a voter.  I explained it this way.  I’m really interested in making Paducah more bicycle friendly.  That friendliness includes Paducah being a “walkable city” also.  I told him before I was a city commissioner I had read the book Walkable City by Jeff Speck.  I was really impressed with his ideas for city “bikeability” and “walkability,” and thus its appeal to a vibrant younger generation.  I will not bore you with the facts of his book, but just stay with me on this. 

Fast forward to early this year.  City Manager Jeff Pederson and I were discussing Jeff Speck.  He had read the book earlier also, and he had a plan hatched to bring Jeff Speck here, yes as a consultant.  Why did I fall into this trap of consultancy?  Simple.  In this case, I wanted a noted city planner, a walkable city, bike friendly guy, to help me get the city where I thought it should be headed.  Yes, I wanted to get some real horsepower to bolster my position.  Charles, I asked, “Wouldn’t you do the same thing?”  He got it. So whether it’s bikes and walking, theater renovation, or your favorite desire for the city, sometimes it’s O.K. to go outside and get the person who really is the recognized expert.

This doesn’t mean to simply park your brain and follow the consultant, skipping merrily behind.  It does mean being exposed to new ideas and the challenge of working through those ideas to find the ones that best fit our community.

So, as my dad shared with me as a returning college graduate, “Don’t saw yourself off” with absolutes.  Instead, be flexible.  Well, and I guess here is the punch line, if you can see your way clear to support me for another two years, I promise to lighten up on the absolutes and promise to stay the kind of commissioner you have encouraged me to be.

Oh, and before I forget, Jeff Speck isn’t the kind of consultant who wears khakis or a blue blazer.