The Mighty In Other News…2016 Year in Review Friday, Dec 30 2016 

Well, well, well, 2016. We can call you a lot of things, but boring isn’t one of them. Nyquist was the favorite for your 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby, and for good reason, it turns out. He won. Lexington’s Chris Stapleton took home a couple of Grammy awards for “Best Country Album of the […]

Fischer’s Concerns About New VA Hospital Location: Why Now? Friday, Dec 16 2016 

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has publicly weighed in on the proposed location of the new Veterans Affairs hospital.

In his letter, submitted to the VA as part of the agency’s public comment process, Fischer raises concerns about the project’s land use, impact on traffic and accessibility via public transportation. Fischer mentions other potential “worthy” locations for the project but stops short of saying what those locations might be.

“This has transpired over years, so there’s not going to be any kind of snap decision,” he said at a news conference Friday. “What our role as the city is, is to give them all the information we have, we were invited to do that — just like the public was — as a response to this [Environmental Impact Statement] they put out, and we wanted to put forth what we knew so this project could move forward as quickly as possible. If they want to look at new locations, we are happy to assist them with that.”

The public comment period on the VA’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project has been extended until Jan. 11. But the entire project has been in the planning stages for years.

This is the first time Fischer has shared an opinion on the new VA Hospital in writing. So why now? And where else might the hospital go?

Former Mayor Involved

Louisville Metro government weighed in on the site of the future VA hospital back in 2010.

Then-Mayor Jerry Abramson and former University of Louisville President James Ramsey wanted the new hospital downtown, next to University Hospital. They cited its proximity to transportation, hotels and restaurants, as well as three nearby helipads for emergencies.

But by 2012, the federal government switched course and began eyeing the site off of Brownsboro Road. The VA purchased the site in 2012 for nearly $13 million (though the Office of Inspector General concluded the agency may have overpaid by more than $3 million for the property). And, as required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), it issued a draft environmental assessment of the site in 2014.

More than a year later, the VA decided to conduct a more thorough environmental review.

The Brownsboro Road site is favored by Louisville’s congressional representatives; Sen. Mitch McConnell has been a proponent, and Congressman John Yarmuth has said that changing the location could delay the project another decade.

But attorney Randy Strobo — who is representing the small cities of Crossgate and Northfield — said there were multiple problems with the way the federal government went about evaluating the site, starting with buying the site as early as it did in the first place.

“In our opinion the NEPA process has to be completed first, before they purchase the property,” Strobo said.

Under federal law, the VA also had to conduct an EIS for several different scenarios: the “preferred alternative” (on Brownsboro Road), the St. Joseph site east of I-265, and the “no action alternative,” which provides a baseline.

“The St. Joseph site’s already been purchased. It’s being developed right now, so that site is already kind of off the table,” Strobo said. “So in reality, they really didn’t evaluate any alternatives. They evaluated the no alternative, which means if they do nothing, what’s it going to look like, and the preferred alternative. Nothing else.”

Other Sites?

While Fischer declined to name other sites in the city that might be optimal for the VA Hospital, other groups have named locations in the West End — in particular, the sites where two high-profile projects were canceled recently: the now-defunct Foodport at 30th Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard, or the canceled Walmart at 18th Street and Broadway.

The VA only considered “greenfield” — or previously undeveloped — sites in its analysis. And Strobo said that means some otherwise viable sites weren’t even considered.

“Because most of those sites are brownfields sites, or sites where there’s going to be a little bit more work to clean up and develop the property,” he said. “So you’re already eliminating everything basically west of Ninth Street.”

The VA is accepting comments until Jan. 11. At that point, the agency will finalize the EIS and decide whether to move forward with the project as planned, or study additional sites.

McConnell, Differing With Trump, Says He Has ‘Highest Confidence’ In Intel Agencies Monday, Dec 12 2016 

Donald Trump may have run into the first example of how the equal branches of government work — and he’s not even president yet.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, the man who controls the agenda in the upper chamber, differed with Trump in a Monday morning press conference, saying he believes Russian involvement in the U.S. election needs to be investigated.

He added, “I have the highest confidence in the intelligence community, and especially the Central Intelligence Agency.”

President-elect Trump has dismissed a CIA report that Russians not only were responsible for hacking during the election but also were trying to sway the electorate with those releases to install Trump as president.

In a remarkable two-sentence statement Friday, the Trump transition team undercut U.S. intelligence, harking back to Iraq — without addressing the merits of the evidence:

“These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.’ “

The Democratic National Committee was hacked during the election, as was Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. Those emails were then posted to WikiLeaks. Trump was told by intelligence briefers before the election that Russian actors were responsible.

Trump repeatedly refused to accept that. And he now says he does not and will not accept the traditionally daily intelligence briefings, calling them “repetitive.” He said Vice President-elect Mike Pence will take the briefing instead.

McConnell seemed to condemn the leak of the CIA assessment, however. He noted that the director of National intelligence released a statement before the election saying that the Russian government directed recent email compromises in the U.S. political system.

He noted that statement was the unclassified assessment that was appropriate for public disclosure.

“Anything else is irresponsible, likely illegal, and potentially for partisan gain,” McConnell said, adding, “This simply cannot be a partisan issue.”

He continued, noting that the Senate Intelligence Committee “is more than capable of conducting a complete review of this matter.”

McConnell expressed the expectation that when the Obama administration completes its review, the director of National Intelligence will provide “additional information released to the public in a responsible manner.”

He also endorsed Arizona Sen. John McCain’s desire to investigate vulnerabilities to cyberattacks in the Senate Armed Services Committee.

McConnell also was asked about Trump’s Cabinet appointments and whether he thinks they will pass muster with the senators. The Senate majority leader said he thinks they are mostly very well-qualified and will pass, but he would not comment specifically on the possible nomination of Exxon-Mobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state. McConnell noted only that he had given his view on Russia.

“Let me speak for myself: The Russians are not our friends,” McConnell said.

Tillerson was awarded the Russian “Order of Friendship” in 2013 by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

In Other News… Forecastle lineup, McConnell bids Biden and Reid farewell, Jackson picks up awards, Twitter cancels Lawrence Friday, Dec 9 2016 

mcconnell-reid

All Aboard: Your Forecastle Festival just announced its 2017 lineup this week, says Billboard, Yahoo Music, Paste and Consequence of Sound. Your headliners this year include LCD Soundsystem, Weezer, Odesza, alongside PJ Harvey, Run the Jewels, Vince Staples, Kentucky’s own Cage the Elephant and Louisville’s own Teddy Abrams (and friends). Is it still too early […]

During Louisville Visit, McConnell Thanks Rural Voters For Republican Victories Sunday, Dec 4 2016 

At a Kentucky Farm Bureau event on Saturday, Sen. Mitch McConnell thanked rural voters for helping Republicans take control of the state House of Representatives and White House during elections last month.

McConnell said he was “proud to be the leader of a party that cares about rural America” and that Democrats have neglected rural interests.

“All across rural America, there’s a sea of red. Because our friends on the other side have become an urban-oriented party,” McConnell said.

Trump won 66 percent of the vote in Kentucky while Clinton got 29 percent, winning a majority of votes in only the two most populous Kentucky counties.

In state house races, Republicans turned a 53-47 Democratic majority in the chamber into a 64-36 GOP advantage on Election Day.

The contests were a sea change in Kentucky politics, toppling the last legislative chamber in the South controlled by Democrats. The GOP now has control of both legislative chambers and the governor’s mansion for the first time in state history.

McConnell facetiously thanked President Obama for the Republican victories.

“Thanks to president Obama, there are more Republicans in elected office in America at all levels — local, state, Congress and now the White House — than at any time in 100 years,” McConnell said.

McConnell said the Senate would move to repeal the Affordable Care Act at the beginning of 2017 and a replacement would be developed while the old version is “phased out.” He said current enrollees would not lose healthcare coverage.

McConnell also said he hoped “America will still be in the trading business” after both parties bashed free trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership during this year’s presidential campaigns.

“Every trade agreement is not necessarily a loser, but it’s a complicated subject and it was a huge issue in the campaign and as a practical matter, we will not be doing any trade agreements any time soon,” he said. “I think it requires explaining to the American people that there are actually a lot of winners in these trade agreements too and of course American agriculture is an example of that.”

The Kentucky Farm Bureau and American Farm Bureau Federation are in favor of the TPP agreement, which would create a free trade area spanning 12 countries from China to Chile.

Trump campaigned on scrapping and renegotiating U.S. trade agreements like TPP and NAFTA, which includes Canada and Mexico.

McConnell Will Lead Senate GOP Wednesday, Nov 16 2016 

Senate Republicans re-elected Mitch McConnell of Kentucky on Wednesday to be majority leader next year, keeping the respected legislative tactician at the forefront when the new Congress begins working on Donald Trump’s agenda.

McConnell is widely popular among his GOP colleagues and his selection was never in doubt.

The 74-year-old has a genteel manner but has proven to be a coolly effective leader. He enraged Democrats by refusing to let the Senate consider President Barack Obama’s nomination of federal judge Merrick Garland to fill a Supreme Court vacancy last February. That paid dividends, when Trump was elected president.

McConnell was Senate minority leader for eight years before becoming majority leader when the GOP took control in 2015.

He distanced himself from Trump during the campaign, but says he’s ready to work with him.

In Other News… McConnell and Lawrence on President-elect Trump; Martha and Snoop; goodnight, Leonard Cohen Saturday, Nov 12 2016 

Donald Trump | Photo via Creative Commons

Trumped: On late Tuesday night/early Wednesday morning, Donald J. Trump was elected as the 45th president of the United States of America, says The New York Times. Republicans also retained control of the House and Senate. But the real victory of the night went to a man whose name didn’t even appear on the ballot: […]

McConnell: Anti-Trump Protests No Cause For Alarm Friday, Nov 11 2016 

U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell said he’s not concerned about the protests across the country that were sparked by the election of Donald Trump as the next president.

The senator told reporters on Friday that he doesn’t think anyone should be “unduly alarmed” by the anti-Trump protests that have erupted around the country since Election Day.

On Thursday night, hundreds of people peacefully protested Trump’s election in downtown Louisville. The group chanted, marched and held signs disavowing the president-elect that many have called misogynistic, racist and homophobic.

McConnell was asked about it during a news conference Friday at the University of Louisville.

“Going back to the beginning of this country, we’ve had pretty open ability to complain about whatever you want to and it’s about as American as apple pie,” he said. “People are free to express themselves and I don’t think we ought to be unduly alarmed by it.”

McConnell also talked about his Thursday meeting with President-elect Trump in Washington.

One of Trump’s first expected actions when he takes office in January will be to nominate someone to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court. McConnell wouldn’t say if he’s advocating for a particular candidate.

“President Trump will make a selection and the Senate will act on it expeditiously,” said McConnell.

McConnell said he also expects a major overhaul of the tax system next year, and that he asked Trump to move swiftly in approving construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

McConnell: Trump Win Proves Country Ready To ‘Try Something New’ Wednesday, Nov 9 2016 

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky says he spoke to Donald Trump Wednesday and congratulated the president-elect on his victory in Tuesday’s election. Republicans also maintained their majorities in the House and Senate.

McConnell says Trump’s victory came in a “stunning” election.

“And clearly an indication that the American people would like to try something new,” he says. “And I know the speaker shares my view that we would like to see the country go in a different direction and intend to work with him to change the course for America.”

McConnell says he expects Trump to act quickly in nominating someone to fill the Supreme Court vacancy and to initiate the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

“I would be shocked if we didn’t move forward to keep our commitment to the American people,” says McConnell. “It was the single worst piece of legislation among many bad pieces of legislation passed during the first two years of the Obama presidency. The sooner we can go in a different direction, the better.”

Trump has pledged throughout his campaign to lead the effort to dismantle the law known as Obamacare if elected.

McConnell says he congratulated Trump and running mate Mike Pence on their victory in a phone conversation Wednesday.

The featured image is of U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell at Fancy Farm in 2016. 

In Other News… McConnell speaks on Trump, Oliver on JCPS, Seelbach cocktail swerve, Lawrence/Aronofsky saga Friday, Nov 4 2016 

Trump McConnell

  Bottom of the Ninth: A few weeks back, we talked about Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s vow of silence when it came to the presidential election, refusing to answer questions or offer any statement on GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump. The thought was Mr. Trump was too toxic to discuss and Sen. McConnell’s […]

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