Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:
The Bowling Green Daily News on the recent approval of federal funding for a new nursing home for military veterans:
More than a decade of diligent work and patient waiting will soon be rewarded for the local, state and federal leaders who have pursued one of southcentral Kentucky’s top priorities: the establishment of a nursing home for military veterans.
Those leaders are celebrating the recent approval by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs of $19.5 million in federal funding for the building of the Bowling Green Veterans Center. Aside from actual construction, this approval was the final major hurdle to clear in order for the facility to become a brick-and-mortar reality.
The total price tag for the facility is $30 million, and advocates such as Ray Biggerstaff – who was a captain of a medevac unit during the Vietnam War and later spent 30 years teaching in the Department of Health and Safety at Western Kentucky University – previously worked to secure $10.5 million from the Kentucky General Assembly. That left a balance of $19.5 million, which had to be approved by the VA.
That federal approval was slightly delayed, however, after a 20-acre tract in the Kentucky Transpark that was initially donated to the cause by the Inter-Modal Transportation Authority proved inadequate. So, in February, the ITA donated a different site – 25 acres behind the Crown Holdings Inc. aluminum can manufacturing plant being built on Mizpah Road. This new site checked off all the VA’s boxes, paving the way for the approval letter from the VA that was issued late last month.
Fully funded at long last, construction of the facility could begin in the spring of 2022 and continue into 2023, according to Mark Bowman, executive director of the Office of Kentucky Veterans Centers. Originally envisioned as a 90-bed facility, the Bowling Green center will most likely be scaled back to 60 beds, Bowman said. He expects it to have up to 140 employees and be built to allow a future expansion.
The local advocate group – which, along with Biggerstaff, also included area veterans such as the late Robert Spiller, Bill Lytle and Danny Young, among others – spent years navigating the bureaucratic maze and working through political and geographic squabbles. Their collective efforts are commendable, and their achievements are nothing short of historic for this region. Credit is also due to all the state legislators who helped secure Kentucky’s portion of the construction cost, as well as the $2.5 million for design and pre-construction work that was approved just more than a year ago.
The Bowling Green nursing facility will be Kentucky’s fifth veterans nursing home, joining locations in Hazard, Wilmore, Hanson and Radcliff.
A few years ago, a study commissioned by the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs determined that a 20-county area surrounding Bowling Green had the highest need for such a facility, with about 40,000 veterans living in southcentral Kentucky.
Once complete and operational, the nursing home will help close a serious gap in services available to veterans in our region. It will be a source of tremendous pride for southcentral Kentucky for decades to come, and it will benefit hundreds of area veterans who deserve access to exceptional care right here in their own community.
The News-Enterprise on helping retiring veterans reenter the workforce:
The retiring soldier or Army officer is a talent-rich resource our local communities cherish.
Typically, they have many productive work years ahead. Keeping their talents here helps the local labor pool, which in turn fuels the economy and builds success for all.
In recent years, many formal programs have been established on post and off to prepare soon-to-retire soldiers for their transition into the local economy.
Most of their skills and abilities easily translate but the challenges, expectations and work environments may seem odd or unfamiliar after a regimented life of service and duty.
Elizabethtown Community and Technical College has been awarded a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to support expansion of the Advanced Manufacturing Army Career Skills Program. This is the latest in a string of efforts to help ECTC provide premier services for soldiers heading into the private sector.
Through a partnership with Fort Knox, the career skills program offers training to transitioning soldiers so they are certified to begin careers in computer-aided drafting and design, electrical technology, and engineering and electronics technology. The three-year Advanced Technological Education grant allows ECTC to add a robotics and automation certification pathway.
Another key component is the grant will support a career skills program coordinator to facilitate recruitment and retention.
One of the issues often is transitioning soldiers do not know what services are available or how to access them. The elements of creating a first-class system to serve soldiers must include a robust recruitment element.
Congratulations and thanks go out to ECTC professors Tim Cordova and Brent Doty for working through the National Science Foundation’s Mentor Connect program to learn how to access the NSF grant.
“The grant allows us to provide an even higher level of service to our military community and our region’s advanced manufacturing employers,” said Doty, who teaches computer-aided drafting and design.
“We’re very excited about the opportunities ahead for CSP participants and their future employers,” Cordova said.
There’s clearly reason for this excitement.
This grant and effective use of the money will impact lives on a personal level while benefiting local business and industry professionally and economically. That’s a praiseworthy mission.
The State Journal on a new law that expands early and absentee voting:
Wednesday was “a good day for democracy,” according to Gov. Andy Beshear, who signed a measure to expand early voting in the state in a rare collaboration between the Democratic governor, the bill’s GOP sponsors in the legislature and Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams. We couldn’t agree more.
The legislation, which is considered Kentucky’s most significant election law update in more than 100 years, adds three days of early in-person voting — one of which is a Saturday — prior to Election Day. It also enables counties to institute voting centers that offer any registered voter an opportunity to cast a ballot regardless of their precinct.
“This new law represents an important first step to preserve and protect every individual’s right to make their voice heard by casting their ballots in a secure and convenient manner on the date and time that works best for them,” Beshear said.
The new law also allows for widespread mail-in absentee balloting via an online portal where residents can request a mail ballot — something the state prohibited before the coronavirus pandemic unless a voter could claim advanced age, illness, a disability or was temporarily residing out of the state.
Not only are the sweeping election law changes now in tune with the times, but they offer more opportunities for voters to perform their civic duty during a time when states across the country are pushing for more restrictions in the wake of the 2020 election, after which former President Donald Trump baselessly claimed that fraud caused his defeat.
“While other states are caught up in partisan division, here in Kentucky we’re leading the nation in making it both easier to vote and harder to cheat,” Adams said.
Unlike Georgia, where new voting laws have come under intense public scrutiny and drawn criticism from some of the state’s largest corporate residents, Kentucky’s new election laws are proof that the two parties can put politics aside in order to work together for the greater good of the people.
“While some states have stepped in a different direction, I’m really proud of Kentucky,” Beshear added.
We commend our elected leaders for seeing past party lines to make voting more accessible.