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Back Issues

Volume 5 Issue 2

Framing the Issue

Our exploding prison population:

What can be done to reverse the trends?

Volume 5 Issue 1

"We the People"

Town Meeting underscores need for meaningful public participation in major community decisions

Volume 4 Issue 9

Framing the Issue

Where should we build the arena?

Developers push for suburban sites, citizens group promotes downtown

by Rodney Berry

Volume 4 Issue 6

Results of Public Forum:

Saving the Executive Inn: What, if anything, should the community do?


Volume 4 Issue 4

Framing the Issue

Saving the Executive Inn

What, if anything, should our community do?

by Rodney Berry

Volume 3 Issue 6

Editor's Notes:

Beyond convincing

The task of political strategists is to influence elections, not to educate voters…we must develop more effective ways to inform and educate the public.

School Choice and Special Needs

Does a school choice bill to be considered in the upcoming state legislature reflect a commendable effort to address deficiencies in public school special education, or are proponents overselling the benefits in order to open the door for private school vouchers?

The Influence of the Pulpit:

Pastors warned of political restrictions

Do local churches try to make a difference at the voting booth during election time, and if so, how far do they go?

Framing the Issue:

Prenatal Care for the Poor

Is our community positioned to meet the need?

Ninety percent of pregnant women in Owensboro-Daviess County receive prenatal care in the first trimester, which is six percent more than the national average. With the recent reduction in prenatal services at the health department, should we be concerned about our capacity to sustain this vital service?

Citizens Speak: Leaders Respond

Summaries of citizen views from four community forums: Waging a Living, Coal-Fired Power Plants, Immigration, and Riverfront (youth forum).

The Tracker: Data of Interest

Religion, ethics and politics: What do Americans really believe?



Volume 3 Issue 5

Editor's Notes:

The public should shape private investment along the riverfront

The following column was distributed as a “Special Bulletin” to our mailing list in advance of this publication. Responses received by August 25 follow the column.

Framing the Issue:

Should OMHS build a new hospital?

In an Aug. 16 presentation to the Owensboro Rotary Club, Jeff Barber, president and chief executive officer of Owensboro Medical Health System (OMHS), acknowledged that the hospital faces a critical strategic decision: Do we build a new facility or expand and renovate the existing one?

Undoing 50 years of being “off the map”

Increasing the awareness of Owensboro

One has to be going to Owensboro. It is not on the way to a major destination. Many lifelong Kentuckians cannot even find Owensboro on a map. Owensboro’s relative isolation and lack of visibility is a notorious shortcoming. If, however, our community can unite behind the following goals we can undo 50 years of missed opportunities and thereby greatly enhance Owensboro’s public image and self-esteem.

Investments in Education:

Communities, regions and states take initiative to boost college enrollment

Preparing students for the “global workplace” is topping agendas of business leaders everywhere, and concerned citizens in Owensboro and Daviess County are considering bold new strategies -- including paying at least part of students’ college costs.

Citizens Speak: Leaders Respond

Forum participants support a different direction on energy

Volume 3 Issue 4

Editor's Notes:

On the proposed riverwalk connecting downtown and English Park

Following a June 22 public presentation on the next phase of the Riverfront Master Plan, this column (“Special Bulletin”) was circulated electronically to various foundation lists of citizens who may have a keen interest in this issue. Readers were invited to respond. Those received by June 30 follow the column.

Framing the Issue:

Coal-fired Power Plants

An economic opportunity or a threat to the health and livability of our region?

Through the years, abundant coal reserves and good river access resulted in a concentration of coal-fired power plants being constructed in this region. Concerns over U.S. dependence on foreign oil and rising gasoline prices have led to proposals to expand coal production and build more power plants. Taking these steps could improve our economic position and create jobs but threaten environmental quality.

Owensboro's Wal-Mart Presence:

Economic boon or bad for business?

Wal-Mart is big, and almost everything said for or against the giant in our midst comes down to just that. Wal-Mart is the largest retail business in Owensboro, with two Supercenters and a Sam’s Club, where customers who pay a membership fee can buy groceries and other items in bulk. The three stores employ 617 full-time and 323 part-time workers altogether.

Merger in Owensboro:

An Ongoing Conversation

When considering merging Owensboro and Daviess County governments, attitudes range from apathy to outrage. Some residents remember the rancor that characterized the previous merger attempt in 1990, while many others – perhaps most, judging by a recent Messenger-Inquirer article – wonder what the big deal is all about. They’re just not interested.


Geary Court residents grateful for Boulware article

Thank you for Carrie Blackham’s well written article pertaining to the Boulware Mission expansion and my neighborhood.

Citizens Speak: Leaders Respond

Mercury forum raises concerns

Volume 3 Issue 3

Boulware sets sights on larger facility, expanded services

Homeless mission renovating former convent

From the front steps of the former Passionist convent on Benita Avenue, it is easy to see the signs lining the lawns along adjacent Geary Court stating, “No to Boulware.”

From my perspective:

Health care: The single payer vision

America has wonderful hospitals, clinics, and doctors. We conduct brilliant research. But there is a missing link: access to health services.


More to the story on youth dental problem

When the Public Life Foundation addressed the plight of children in need of dental care in the January 2006 issue of Public Life Advocate in the article, “Dental Care for poor youth ‘a huge, huge need’ ” by Benjamin Hoak, we found much to support about the issues presented. However, there were some errors in the information presented that we feel misrepresent the Owensboro Public Schools.

Framing the Issue:

Dental care for disadvantaged youth

Local options for expanded services

As dental care and dental insurance costs rise, employers and individual policy owners cancel policies, take their chances, and more low-income people postpone treatment until conditions are serious. Children are particularly vulnerable. How should a compassionate community respond?

Longfellow School

Citizens react to possible demolition of hilltop landmark

For many Owensboro residents of a certain age, these opening lines of Longfellow School’s fight song stir memories of childhood when they were full of promise, running up the hill to a building that must have seemed enormous.

Editor's Notes:

Our Higher Education Challenge

With 42 out of 100 adults age 25-34 with bachelor’s degrees or higher, Lexington-Fayette County is Kentucky’s best educated community. By comparison, only 19 out of 100 Owensboro-Daviess County adults of that age have college degrees. To match Lexington-Fayette County, we would need more than twice as many college graduates of that age – 4,828, compared to the 2,138 we have now.

Citizens Speak: Leaders Respond

Chamber/community push tech center funding; Gov. Fletcher vetoes

Volume 3 Issue 2

Prepared for college, prepared for life?

Remedial programs, higher expectations and creative partnerships key to education gains in Owensboro-Daviess County

As business leaders express dismay that the U.S. workforce is losing its competitive edge in technology and the sciences, increasing numbers of educators and concerned citizens point an accusing finger at American high schools. Scores on the federal government’s report card for public schools, the National Assessment of Educational Progress or NAEP, show that American students make rapid gains in elementary school, slow a bit in middle school and stall in senior high.

From my perspective:

Laments of a Smoker

A lot of people want me to stop smoking cigarettes. My mother would like for me to stop (although she says little about it) because, I suspect, she would like to think I will live at least as long as she has. She just turned 80, and never smoked cigarettes herself. She has been exposed over the long-term to secondhand smoke generated by my father, my grandfather, my step-father, and until recently, me. I don’t smoke in the house anymore.

Framing the Issue:

What about fairness?

Local tax structure has many inequities

There are differences in government services from one area to another, but most people do not notice the difference. Is such a disparity justified? Is this right? Is this fair?

Raising Wages

Helping the poor and ramifications of minimum wage mandates

The Kentucky General Assembly recently considered raising the state’s minimum wage from the current $5.15 to $6 this year and $6.50 next year, but some economists say that’s not the best way to help low-income families and individuals. Poverty should be attacked from various angles, they say, including higher wages, the federal Earned Income Tax Credit and support services.

Editor's Notes:

Dialog is long overdue

Public is largely uninformed about local governments and school systems

As the city-county government unification task force prepares its March 20 final report, some members are perplexed that the public has shown little interest in its work. Only a handful of non-members attended any of the bi-weekly open meetings since the group was named more than a year ago.

Citizens Speak: Leaders Respond

Forum participants share views about the state budget

Volume 3 Issue 1

Dental care for poor youth "a huge, huge need"

Low Medicaid reimbursements and lack of insurance complicate access

According to a Kentucky Youth Advocates study based on data from 2004, 10,780 children in Daviess County under the age of 21 were eligible for Medicaid or KCHIP (the Kentucky Children’s Health Insurance Program). Of that number, only 3,440, or 32 percent, received any dental care. More than two-thirds of eligible patients went untreated. The study reveals similar numbers across the state – only 33 percent of Medicaid- or KCHIP-eligible recipients under 21 receiving dental care.

Framing the Issue:

The State Budget

The state legislature has convened, and once again the battle lines are drawn between those who have pledged not to raise taxes and who want to shrink government, and those who claim that we are under-funded and unprepared to meet increasing needs in education, health care and other vital services.

Being gay in Owensboro

Gay or lesbian people living here have to come to a great compromise with their own personalities. They must project a false persona with all people at all times. It’s a mixture of denial, of self-protection, and it is absolutely necessary for them to do this. It takes a tremendous toll on their spirits,” says Rev. Michael Erwin of New Hope United Church of Christ.

Editor's Notes:

Public dialogue and the smoking ordinance

Daviess County government’s recent action on a smoking ordinance serves as a valuable case study in grassroots democracy. The initiative was rooted in growing concerns over the dangers of secondhand smoke and sparked by sporadic regulatory successes across the nation and state, most recently in Lexington, Louisville and Georgetown.

Citizens Speak: Leaders Respond

Leib report documents citizen support of baseball stadium

Volume 2 Issue 6

Community needs, deserves more higher education

The Sept. 21 release of sobering statistics about Owensboro-Daviess County's low educational attainment struck a nerve throughout the community. Despite research that documents how economic development is tied to the education level of the workforce, some local educators and community leaders responded defensively or indifferently to the report. We shared these reactions with the researcher and author of the study, William Chance, Ph.D., and allowed him an opportunity to clarify points, findings, recommendations, and to respond to those who say "it can't be done."

Framing the Issue:

How should we pay for the hurricanes?

After the Gulf Coast received direct hits from three major hurricanes within two months, the government was hit with the daunting task of rebuilding cities and restoring livelihoods. But where does the money come from?

Peace, Justice and the Courts

The following speech was delivered on Sept. 10, 2005, at the annual meeting of the Owensboro-Daviess County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Editor's Notes:

Academics can give OHS distinction

As an alum and parent of two sons who benefited from Owensboro High School cross country, track, music and theater programs, my innate impulse is to heartily endorse the ambitious athletic and fine arts building plan for the OHS campus and its Shifley Park satellite recently authorized by the Owensboro Board of Education.

On closer scrutiny, however, the proposal raises questions that warrant public dialogue.

Citizens Speak: Leaders Respond

Majority favor smoking restrictions

Volume 2 Issue 5

Framing the Issue:

What will work along the riverfront?

As alluring as a $40 million gift for our riverfront may be, if a substantial amount of private sector investment does not occur as a complement to the ambitious Riverfront Master Plan, or if incompatible private investments occur that impede the ability to appropriately develop the riverfront, the project will fall tragically short of its potential. What kind of private investment will best complement this astonishing public (taxpayer) investment? What has the best chance of success? What vision and strategy should our community embrace? We examine several options.

Minority role models:

A lifeline to stability and success

Frank Posey of Owensboro has had many role models. When he was a boy, Joe Lewis, Jackie Robinson and Nat King Cole caught his attention. As he got older, it was his mother and grandmother who taught him about life and what to expect growing up as an African-American in a small rural Kentucky town. As a young man, he would sit for hours and listen while a black doctor gave advice on hard lessons learned.

Ten keys to an energized downtown

As a downtown resident and lifelong downtown advocate, it is gratifying to observe the progress occurring in downtown Owensboro and the prospects of even more exciting possibilities. With unprecedented ($40 million) federal government support for the riverfront and major new anchors targeted for downtown, these are exciting times for our community.

Editor's Notes:

Making sense of public input

Viewed from an airplane, it is even more deplorable. The plush green of the Appalachian Mountains ends abruptly, exposing a gray, moon-like surface. Now there are only twisting haul roads and rubble, a vast lifeless plateau. It goes on for miles. There are no longer valleys between the mountains. Everything that isn’t coal from what was atop the oldest and most diverse broadleaf forest in North America has been blasted apart and shoved over the side, clogging and polluting streams, dispersing wildlife, dismissing an ecosystem.

Citizens Speak: Leaders Respond

Citizens encourage additional forums on unification


Volume 2 Issue 4

How do we grow from here?

Owensboro-Daviess County leaders regroup, redefine, and recharge toward a more effective economic development mechanism

Owensboro lags behind other similar-sized Kentucky cities on some economic development measures, an Advocate examination has revealed. Owensboro is at a chronic disadvantage in attracting large manufacturers because it is not located near a major interstate and is too far from such major cities as Nashville, Cincinnati, and Lexington to get much “spin-off” business from their big companies. Thus it can’t rely on the traditional economic development strategies that are still working reasonably well for communities such as Bowling Green and Hopkinsville.

Framing the Issue:

Care for the Uninsured:

Examining local options to meet the growing need

While public officials, insurance and drug companies, doctors and hospitals wrestle with state and national strategies to provide health care for the growing number of uninsured Americans, we examine steps that can be taken at the local level to get more people the care they need.

The Changing Face of Owensboro:

Immigration trends challenge us

Language instruction, socialization, humanitarian assistance, and cultural exchanges are among the steps needed to embrace diversity in our community

Only about 1,000 people in Daviess County are foreign born, according to the 2000 U.S. Census, which provides the latest figures available. That’s about one percent of the total population and the majority of those immigrants moved here from Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa. Still, that number – 915 to be exact -- has almost tripled since 1990, when the census identified only 352 foreign-born people who settled here.

Editor's Notes:

Toward the greater good

Viewed from an airplane, it is even more deplorable. The plush green of the Appalachian Mountains ends abruptly, exposing a gray, moon-like surface. Now there are only twisting haul roads and rubble, a vast lifeless plateau. It goes on for miles. There are no longer valleys between the mountains. Everything that isn’t coal from what was atop the oldest and most diverse broadleaf forest in North America has been blasted apart and shoved over the side, clogging and polluting streams, dispersing wildlife, dismissing an ecosystem.

Citizens Speak: Leaders Respond

Citizens share views on Social Security reform; Baseball stadium ranks highest on projects survey


Volume 2 Issue 3

Framing the Issue:

Big Dreams, Big Decisions

A citizen guide to prioritizing proposed community projects

The look and feel of Owensboro and Daviess County could well be enriched in the years ahead. Public officials, community leaders, financial experts, organizational boards, a variety of committees, and private fundraisers all are wrestling with ways to build ambitious community projects now under consideration. The Public Life Advocate offers a guide to help citizens assess, prioritize, and have an informed voice in decisions concerning the largest of these substantial public investments.

School nurse program grows but has serious needs

In March 1992, the Green River District Health Department saw a need to become more involved in school health. It began the school nurse program in Owensboro Public Schools at Estes and Foust elementary schools because of their high population of students from low-income families.

Under-employed in Owensboro

How two families cope

Recently the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce identified low-wage jobs as a growing concern in the state and the nation. Nearly one in five people in our region hold jobs, which generally pay between minimum wage of $5.15 per hour and $8 an hour.

Plodding through their plight:

Single mothers juggle work,
school & Family

The challenges for single mothers in Owensboro and Daviess County can be overwhelming - especially for hte 60 percent of them who have young children and are living in poverty.

Editor's Notes:

Major initiatives warrant a public process

Public officials, members of governing boards, committees, and task forces: Opportunities are at hand – opportunities to make wise decisions, build good will, and enrich our sense of community.

Citizens Speak: Leaders Respond

Residents shape Old Germantown redevelopment; Residents share faith traditions; Report on City-County Unification Test Forum

Volume 2 Issue 2

The Medical Malpractice Debate

VA hospital model demonstrates that Honesty is the best policy

While physicians, insurance companies, consumer advocates, and trial attorneys place the blame on one another for high malpractice insurance costs, a Lexington hospital’s full disclosure policy significantly lowered its liability costs and may be a model to replicate.

Framing the Issue:

Strengthening Social Security

Ideology or Economics? Modest Adjustments or Massive Overhaul? Will the debate dwell on higher returns and private control of retirement funds or effective and fiscally responsible steps to balance the books?

CHCA Takes Five

Advocacy group targets five issues in '05

CHCA was created following a health needs assessment in 2000 initiated by the Public Life Foundation and completed by Ireson and others at UK. It revealed that health care access, costs and associated problems were a major concern of citizens in the region.

Editor's Notes:

Rwanda horror should change us

A few weeks ago, my wife and I joined our Sunday School class to view the film, Hotel Rwanda. A gripping, horrific story of international indifference and personal heroism amid the 1994 genocide in that African country, the film left us stunned and perplexed as to why our government – why all of us – did not do more to stop the killing. It’s hard to fathom such a slaughter.

Citizens Speak: Leaders Respond

Residents shape Old Germantown redevelopment; Residents share faith traditions; Report on City-County Unification Test Forum

The following issues of the Advocate are not available for online viewing but can be downloaded and viewed with Adobe Reader.
January 2005 - Volume 2, Issue 1

Framing the Issue: One County, Three Governments Advocate Volume 2 Issue 1 Cover
Since the governments of Lexington and Fayette County, Kentucky consolidated in 1973, there has been sporadic, growing interest in a comparable restructuring in Owensboro-Daviess County. Community leaders pointed to consolidation as a means to increased efficiency, fairness, and economic development.

Citizens Embrace Community Vision:
PRIDE Workshops Examine 29 Concepts

For more than three years, local citizens have mobilized in impressive fashion to promote higher standards and greater public input in matters that affect the aesthetic appeal of our community. PRIDE, now 500 members strong, has become a force to be reckoned with.

Is Our Democracy Threatened?
The Task Force on Inequality and American Democracy, formed under the auspices of the 14,000-member American Political Science Association, was charged to review and assess the health and functioning of U.S. democracy in a time of rising inequality. The task force carefully surveyed the evidence about three important, interlinked areas of concern: citizen participation, government responsiveness, and patterns of public policy-making and their consequences.

November 2004 - Volume 1, Issue 6

And the Poor Get Poorer Volume 1 Issue 6 Cover
An umbrella organization has been formed to address the financial needs of people living in poverty and the so-called working poor in Daviess County. The purpose of the Owensboro-Daviess
County Asset Building Coalition is to coordinate
the services of existing agencies which offer financial help to low-income families and encourage the development of new services where necessary.

Panther Creek (or Ditch?)
To maximize crop yield and improve drainage, an increasing number of farmers, landowners, and agri-business interests take it upon themselves – and have pressured our Daviess County govern-ment – to dredge, channelize and straighten many tributaries in our
area, including Panther Creek.

Framing the Issue: What Should County Government Do With Its Excess Downtown Property?
In October, 2000, Daviess County Fiscal Court took advantage of an opportunity to purchase properties near the courthouse owned by Al Arnold. The County paid the appraised value, $485,000, with surplus cash. The justification: the need for additional public and employee parking; future expansion of county government office space.

October 2004 - Volume 1, Issue 5

Unexpected ObligationsVolume 1 Issue 5 Cover
When parents are drug addicted, experts say, child neglect or even abuse often follows. The family can implode. And extended family members – most often grandparents – wind up raising young children at a time when their own health and energy levels are no longer equal to the stresses of caring for children in crisis.

Presidential candidatesHealth Care Plans
Along with concerns over national security and the state of the economy, health care issues are among the most disturbing to Americans: our poor state of health compared to other industrialized nations; unaffordable care, insurance, and prescription drugs; the growing number of uninsured and underinsured (most of whom are working).

Framing the Issue: Maximizing Riverfront Property: Which is the Best Strategy?
With funds flowing from Washington, the Owensboro Riverfront Master Plan is coming together incrementally. But leaders acknowledge that it will take more than these public sector investments to fulfill the dream. Private investment is vital, and how to bring that about is the question.

September 2004 - Volume 1, Issue 4

Volume 1 Issue 4 CoverOur Budget-Busting Jail
At least $1 million of county government’s $1.4 million deficit is due to the Daviess County Detention Center. The Advocate examines how we got in the mess we’re in and how we might get out of it.

Kids with Adult Problems
The last time her mother got pregnant, Lena was angry – already this 11-year-old Foust Elementary School student was caring for three brothers and sisters. One more would mean even less time for homework, much less extracurricular activities or fun with friends.

Framing the Issue: Should the Library Board have the Authority to levy Taxes?
Opponents of the proposal to build a new Daviess County Public Library say it’s not about the value of the library or the latest tax increase proposal, but the authority of a non-elected body to levy taxes. Library supporters say it’s about keeping politics out of this vital community institution. To help readers come to judgment, we set forth the case each side offers.

August 2004 - Volume 1, Issue 3

Volume 1 Issue 3 CoverOur Wheel of Progress: Balancing the spokes in economic development
The strategies that we set in motion toward a stronger employment base in Owensboro-Daviess County serve as spokes in our wheel of progress. Are we well-prepared for the road ahead?
The Advocate examines the issue that tops all others in surveys and political campaigns: the need for
better paying jobs. It’s time to get past the political rhetoric and engage in substantive dialogue on this
key community challenge.

Coping with substance abuse:
The effects of addiction on family members
As community leaders deal with the problem of substance abuse in Daviess County, they necessarily focus on the numbers of alcoholics and addicts needing treatment and the resources required to meet the challenge. However experts say it’s also important to remember that substance abuse wreaks havoc in the addict’s immediate family and often can lead to emotional and financial ruin on successive generations.

Framing the Issue: Should we pass a clean air ordinance?
While the link between tobacco use and disease appears to be a debate of the past, communities – including our own – are now wrestling with how far regulations should go to protect the nonsmoking majority from the dangers of secondhand smoke.

July 2004 - Volume 1, Issue 2

Volume 1 Issue 2 CoverMerger 1990: Fragmentation, Distortion and Disconnect Between Citizens and the Public-Private Elite
If you think discussions on the “casino issue” or a local occupational tax are sometimes heated, just ask Owensboroans what they remember regarding the vote on consolidated government in the fall of 1990. Ah yes, a classic struggle between the Hatfields and the McCoys, the North versus the South, Owensboro Catholic versus Owensboro High, the Cats versus the Cards, the city versus the county. Will the same thing happen if merger is proposed again? Or will the divisive dynamics of 1990 give way to a more thoughtful approach?

Midwives: A Community Resource We Want to Lose?
During the past nine months, this community has puzzlingly
restructured a system of health care for pregnant women that

• worked well for almost seven years
• brought hundreds of healthy babies to at-risk mothers, and
• cost taxpayers thousands of dollars less than the system that replaced it.

The change left two certified nurse midwives unemployed and
two others overqualified for the limited duties they still perform
in four counties served by the Green River District Health

Framing the Issue: County-Wide Occupational Tax Proposal
As our community grows, demand for county government
services is up, while sources of revenue are mostly down.
One possible solution: a county-wide occupational tax.

June 2004 - Volume 1, Issue 1

Volume 1 Issue 1 CoverSubstance Abuse: Seeking common ground toward a community solution
The debate over using money from the hospital reorganization to prevent and treat substance abuse has raised questions about the size of Daviess County’s problem,what’s being done about it,and what else might help.

Framing the Issue: Our Public Library - Is it time for a larger, new facility?
The Daviess County Library Board of Trustees
released preliminary design plans for a new
Frederica Street facility on May 19, 2004. To
finance the project, a library tax increase is
required and will likely be considered in July or
August 2004. This will coincide with the decision
to swap properties with Owensboro Public
Schools, owners of the site preferred by the
library board. To help citizens come to an
informed judgment about the proposal, the Public
Life Foundation offers the following issue brief.

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