Off The Record: And the winners for 2003 are ...

January 05, 2004|HERB BROCK

The new year has been upon us for five days. However, based on the way I'm dating checks and other materials, it's still 2003 to me. And even though the Times Square ball has dropped on the old year, I would be dropping the ball as a columnist if I didn't offer my salute.

So here are some superlative moments, comments and people of 2003 as the year played out in Danville:

Best Comment at a Public Meeting - Centre College President John Roush gets the award for what he said after Danville City Commission passed a motion thick with conditions and thin with concrete directions by Mayor John W.D. Bowling that kind of, sort of, maybe gave the go-ahead for a funding plan for a proposed downtown parking garage:

Said Roush: "That was one of the most convoluted motions I have ever heard, although I realize it was made with the best of intentions."


That comment was an ingenious combination of a slap in the face and a pat on the back. It was by far the quote of the year.

Worst Comment at a Public Meeting - Mayor Bowling may sometimes make convoluted motions but his comments often are crystal clear as to the way they reveal his intentions.

During a City Commission meeting at which the body was discussing the selection process for the new city manager, Bowling said he wanted to keep the names and other information about the candidates secret and, therefore, somehow skirt the state's open meetings law.

So, in front of God, a reporter and everybody, the mayor asked if there is a "legal way around" the state law.

What the mayor may have lacked in integrity regarding openness, he certainly made up with honesty regarding his intentions to keep the newspaper and the public away from vital public business.

Most Martyred City Employee - Steve Biven used to be city manager of Danville. While his name was in the news a lot over the last several years because of his important role in city government, it's likely Biven was not a household name in town.

That was until three of his political enemies decided to make a name for him even if he hadn't made a name for himself.

In a move about as clumsy as his handling of the process that will result in Biven's replacement sometime soon and his parking garage motion, Mayor Bowling and his allies on the commission, Chester Kavanaugh and Ryan Owens, decided early in the year to dump the longtime city manager.

A city manager serves at the pleasure of the commission. They have a right to fire him or her. But the public has a right to know why the city's most important staff member should get the ax. Biven resigned, but to this day we still have not gotten a reason why he was forced out.

Bowling & Co. did achieve their goal. They also accomplished two other things they didn't want. First, they turned Biven not just into a household name but also into a martyr. Second, their actions against Biven helped trigger ethics investigations.

Way to go, Curly, Moe and Larry.

Busiest State Government Agency - Ernie Fletcher has hit the ground running as the state's new governor, at least as it pertains to trying to tighten the state's budgetary belt. Toward that end, he's attempting to streamline the cabinet structure and has imposed a hiring freeze.

But there's one state agency he needs to keep his budget- and employee-cutting hands away from. That would be the sign-making section of the state Department of Highways. State employees get a bad rap for allegedly not doing a lot of work and doing what work they do inefficiently. That's not true, especially for the aforementioned section of highway sign-making workers.

Thanks to the Danville and Boyle County football teams and their habit of winning state football championships virtually every year, the folks making the highway signs listing those titles have been extremely busy since 1999 when Boyle won its first-ever state football title. Since then, the Rebels have added four more titles, and the Admirals have added three to their gaudy total that stretches back decades, which now stands at 10.

Busiest Security Guard - Just like state employees, security guards also are unfairly ridiculed. They've been called "rent-a-cops" and have had their law enforcement skills likened to those of the Keystone Kops. They often are portrayed as older men who do a lot more sleeping than securing.

But a security guard at the Corning plant in Harrodsburg did his profession proud by doing something that not only wiped away stereotypes but also may well have saved eight lives. He spotted an Illinois cop named Kevin Paul Crum in the parking lot of the plant and alerted authorities to Crum's suspicious behavior. When Crum was arrested, police found weapons and a piece of paper they allege constituted a plan to murder eight people, including a baby.

That guard can shine his badge with pride. Let's hope Corning provided him with a bigger badge - and a fatter billfold - for his life-saving work.

Most Infuential Local Private Person Award - The winner, hands down, is Wilma Brown of Danville.

Brown, a part-time Centre College instructor and former local educator, devoted full time in 2002 to getting the issue of allowing the sale of alcoholic beverages at larger restaurants on the ballot in Danville, and she helped counsel the pro-"moist" troops in Harrodsburg this year. In both cases, Brown battled against the odds. In both cases, her cause won out. Danville voted "yes" in 2002 and the city officially became "moist" this year, and Harrodsburg voted "yes" this year and that city's larger restaurants likely will start selling liquor by the drink early in 2004.

When folks dine this week at restaurants in Danville that now serve wine, whiskey and beer thanks to Brown's incredible grassroots campaign, they should begin their meals with a toast to the woman who made their libations legal. Chamber of commerce and tourism leaders interested in seeing growth in the local restaurant and motel business sectors should also raise their glasses to her.

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