This Week In Conversation: Kentucky’s Increasing Rate Of Youth In Foster Care Monday, Dec 2 2019 

Kentucky Youth AdvocatesMore Kentucky youth are entering the foster care system, according to a recent report by the nonprofit Kentucky Youth Advocates. That report found that a record 47 of every 1,000 Kentucky youth under age eighteen were in foster care because of abuse or neglect between 2016 and 2018. Additional Kentucky Youth Advocates data show the rate has been increasing since 2011. This week, WFPL’s In Conversation will explore why rate increased, what is being done to address it and what is ahead for child welfare in Kentucky.

Kentucky Youth Advocates reported the data in its 2019 Kentucky KIDS COUNT Data book, which reviews 17 measures for children’s well-being in every county. Republican Senator Julie Raque Adams said the increasing foster care rates were caused in part by Kentucky removing children from guardians during the opioid epidemic, and a disproportionate share of foster youth were African American. The report points to socioeconomic status, family structure, bias and structural inequities as factors in that imbalance. Raque Adams said legislators want to discuss child welfare when the legislative session starts this January because system reforms could spend state dollars more efficiently and strengthen families.

In addition to Kentucky’s record rate of foster youth, the report noted that the percentage of youth leaving foster care to be reunified with parents or guardians has decreased.

Children exiting foster care to reunification (percent)

Kentucky Youth Advocates rate of children reunified with guardians

Source: Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Department for Community Based Services

Listen to In Conversation live on 89.3 WFPL Friday at 11 a.m. or follow along with our live tweets at @WFPLnews. Call with your questions or comments at 502-814-TALK or tweet us with the hashtag #WFPLconversation. We’re also on Facebook.

Louisville Story Program Subjects Say Horse Racing Industry Has Changed Friday, Nov 29 2019 

Listen to the episode here:


The Louisville Story Program‘s newest project is a book sharing the stories of people who live near Churchill Downs or work on the track’s backside. It’s called “Better Lucky Than Good: Tall Tales And Straight Talk From The Backside Of The Track.” On WFPL’s In Conversation, the Story Program’s deputy director and two of the people profiled in the book discussed their experiences on the backside and what it was like living near the home of the Kentucky Derby.

Our guests:

  • Sylvia Arnette, proprietor of Syl’s Lounge, who grew up the neighborhood near Churchill Downs called The Hill
  • Paul Goffner, retired groom
  • Joe Manning, deputy director of the Louisville Story Program
Syl's Loung Proprietor Sylvia Arnette (left), Retired Groom Paul Goffner (center), Louisville Story Program Deputy Director Joe Manning (right)Kyeland Jackson | wfpl.org

Syl’s Lounge Proprietor Sylvia Arnette (left), Retired Groom Paul Goffner (center), Louisville Story Program Deputy Director Joe Manning (right)

Louisville Story Program Deputy Director Joe Manning said it normally takes about 18 months to complete a project, but this project took three years. Manning said the book offers honest conversation about the industry through oral histories from people who lived and breathed horse racing. 

“I don’t think that this is a puff piece by a long stretch. This is just real people talking about their lives,” Manning said. “The people in this room have lived through a remarkable and really seismic shift in racing. In the course of two generations, three generations, things have changed a lot.”

Sylvia Arnette witnessed some of those changes when she lived in “The Hill,” a traditionally black neighborhood near Churchill Downs. Arnette said she and her neighbors were enchanted by the racetrack, learning to bet on horses and working odd jobs during the Kentucky Derby to make money. Arnette said for many years Derby Day was a big event for her neighborhood and also for West End residents.

“That was an exciting day [for The Hill]. We got up bright and early waiting for the cars to come to be parked, and the people were dressed to the hilt,” Arnette said. “[In the West End] they would start [Broadway cruising] Derby Eve and they would ride up and down Broadway all night long … things have changed. It will never be the same, but it was great during those days.”

The city officially banned Derby cruising in 2006.

Retired groom Paul Goffner said the horse industry has changed both for better and for worse during his time working in it. Goffner said Churchill Downs’ backside increased the number of programs for workers and their families, but he said horses are not being trained like before.

“They’re not sitting down on them like we used to. They’re just worried about getting through,” Goffner said. “It’s all about money now — millions. You’d be surprised at the horses that they pay millions of dollars for that never make it to the races.”

Horse deaths are drawing more scrutiny on the industry. Reports of dozens of horse deaths at California’s Santa Anita track has solicited calls for reform, and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission only recently revealed details of horse deaths after an investigation by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting and a state attorney’s appeal.

Goffner worked as a groomer from the 60’s until 2011, and says he witnessed horse deaths during his time, too.

This Week In Conversation: The Louisville Story Program’s ‘Better Lucky Than Good’ Tuesday, Nov 26 2019 

More than 150,000 people fill Churchill Downs every year to watch “the most exciting two minutes in sports:” The Kentucky Derby. Attendees often learn about the traditions of the commonwealth and its love for horse racing. But a new book published by the Louisville Story Program tells some of the stories that often go unheard: the stories of those who make up the Churchill Downs backside community. 

The book, “Better Lucky Than Good: Tall Tales and Straight Talk from the Backside of the Track” includes oral histories from grooms, exercise riders, kitchen workers and others who have lived around horse racing. It took three years to finish the book, painting an in-depth portrait of workers’ passion for horses and of what it’s like to live in the shadow of Churchill Downs. 

The horse racing industry has come under more scrutiny in recent years. An investigation by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting revealed the state’s horse racing commission withholds details of horse racing deaths. After the investigation and an appeal to the state attorney general, the commission said it would release those details. The on-track deaths of dozens of thoroughbreds at California’s Santa Anita racetrack over the past year have also spurred calls for tougher restrictions on racing. 

WFPL’s In Conversation talked with participants in the Louisville Story Program’s book about their experiences, what has changed, and their thoughts on horse racing.

Our guests:

  • Sylvia Arnette, proprietor of Syl’s Lounge, who grew up the neighborhood near Churchill Downs called The Hill;
  • Paul Goffner, retired groom;
  • Joe Manning, deputy director of the Louisville Story Program.

Listen to the pre-recorded In Conversation episode on 89.3 WFPL Friday at 11 a.m.

Louisville Philanthropy Leaders See Opportunity In Changing Industry Friday, Nov 22 2019 

Listen to the episode here: 


Panelists on WFPL’s In Conversation Friday said the city’s philanthropic sector is changing, and there are new opportunities for it to grow.

Our guests:

  • Metro United Way CEO Theresa Reno-Weber
  • Gheens Foundation President Barry Allen
  • Papa John’s International Chief of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Victoria Russell 

Metro United Way CEO Theresa Reno-Weber said the economy has changed philanthropy, but the industry can adapt.

“Right now we are under a major disruption in philanthropic giving in the nonprofit space in general,” Reno-Weber said. “What I know about disruption is it also provides a huge amount of opportunity for innovation.”

Faced with a soaring state pension obligation, Louisville Metro Government leaders this year slashed millions of dollars from the city budget, including funding for some nonprofits.  That has placed pressure on philanthropies and others in the community to step up their support.  

Victoria Russell, the Chief of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for Papa John’s International, said philanthropies can innovate by being more transparent with donations people give them. Russell said younger people want that transparency, and adapting to their needs would make donating more attractive.

“To keep up with the times, how do we allow more of those opportunities for people to give to the causes that they’re passionate about? [To] elevate the causes that they’re passionate about?” Russell asked. “It’s going to be important for us to continue to follow the trends that will help continue to get people more engaged.”

Gheens Foundation President Barry Allen said these changing trends present challenges, but philanthropies are doing a better job at working together.  Allen said that could lead to more substantive change for communities in need.

“There is a desire, and actually already action on the part of grant-makers in Louisville, to come together to find more flexibility in our grant-making so we can be more collaborative,” Allen said. “We also are beginning to think more about being engaged collaboratively in public policy advocacy … so that’s encouraging to me.”

Join us next week for In Conversation as we talk about the Louisville Story Program’s newest book about Churchill Downs.

Disclosure: The Gheens Foundation has supported and continues to support projects at Louisville Public Media.

This Week In Conversation: The State Of Philanthropy In Louisville Monday, Nov 18 2019 

In a discussion of philanthropy in Louisville, WFPL’s In Conversation will ask officials about the state of philanthropic giving, how it works and how it could change the city.

One gauge for the growth of philanthropic giving is through nonprofit organizations. According to the most recent data from the Kentucky Nonprofit Network, a state association of nonprofits, nonprofits made up 9.1 percent of Kentucky’s workforce in 2015, and the industry grew to 19,009 organizations in 2016 — a 9 percent increase compared to 2012.

Data from the Chronicle Of Philanthropy, a philanthropy-focused publication from the Chronicle of Higher Education, shows more than $1.78 million was donated online in Kentucky in 2018, with a majority of those donations going to human services organizations. But that data also found that the amount of online donations and the number of nonprofits declined slightly across the nation when comparing numbers from February 2018 to those of February 2017. 

And Louisville’s budget cuts are necessitating changes for some philanthropists, cutting some nonprofits’ funds and services even as officials look to nonprofits for help.

Host Rick Howlett will ask the panel how philanthropy has changed, what obstacles may impede donations and how giving could change the city.

Our guests include: 

  • Metro United Way’s Theresa Reno-Weber
  • Barry Allen from the Gheens Foundation
  • Metro Council President David James
  • Victoria Russell of Papa John’s International 

Listen to In Conversation live on 89.3 WFPL Friday at 11 a.m. or follow along with our live tweets at @WFPLnews. Call with your questions or comments at 502-814-TALK or tweet us with the hashtag #WFPLconversation. We’re also on Facebook.

Panel Expects Partisanship, Policy Changes Following Election Friday, Nov 8 2019 

Matt Bevin sign at the Republicans' 2019 Election PartyListen to the episode:


Kentucky’s Republican party secured all but the governor’s seat during this year’s election. WFPL’s In Conversation looks back on election day and asks what’s ahead for Kentucky based on the results.

Our guests were:

  • WFPL Capitol Bureau Chief Ryland Barton
  • FiveThirtyEight Senior Writer Perry Bacon Jr.
In Conversation Host Rick Howlett (left), FiveThirtyEight Senior Writer Perry Bacon Jr. (center) and WFPL Capitol Bureau Chief Ryland Barton (right)Kyeland Jackson | wfpl.org

In Conversation Host Rick Howlett (left), FiveThirtyEight Senior Writer Perry Bacon Jr. (center) and WFPL Capitol Bureau Chief Ryland Barton (right)

Andy Beshear claimed victory in the governor’s race, but Matt Bevin will not concede. Bevin has asked for a recanvass of Tuesday’s results and claimed,without evidence, that there were irregularities during the election. His claim could result in an election contest, but WFPL Capitol Bureau Chief Ryland Barton said it is unlikely the election will shift in Bevin’s favor.

“There’s never been a recanvass that has changed the outcome of an election,” Barton said, adding that lawmakers have urged Bevin not to pursue an election contest. “[An election contest] would be a very, very controversial thing for a governor to do. But at the same time [lawmakers are] saying, ‘If the governor has any evidence, please produce it.’”

Beshear has moved forward with planning for his transition despite Bevin refusing to concede, but FiveThirtyEight Senior Writer Perry Bacon Jr. said it may be difficult for Beshear to pass policies in a Republican majority legislature.

“He’s going to write a budget proposal, the Republicans, I’m assuming, will be like, ‘Thank you, now we’ll actually pass the budget we prefer.’ So he’s going to be limited in certain ways,” Bacon said. “I do think there are some things Andy will do as governor that are important, but … he’s [got] a very rough road ahead.”

Bacon said one of those obstacles could be newly-elected Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who would have incentive to fight Beshear’s policies.

“Andy, in his four years, filed a lot of lawsuits against governor Bevin. So I assume Cameron will have some incentive and be pushed by Republicans to do the same thing,” Bacon said.

Join us next week for In Conversation as we talk about the Louisville Story Program.

This Week In Conversation: After Election Day, What’s Next For Kentucky? Monday, Nov 4 2019 

On Tuesday, November 5, Kentucky voters will help determine the course of state government for the next four years, charting a path for how education, pensions and other issues will be addressed. Friday on WFPL’s In Conversation, we will look back on the election results and discuss how they could affect the commonwealth.

Voters will elect the next governor and other state officeholders. A full voter’s guide about the seats and who is running for them is here.

Education is a hot-button topic in Kentucky, fueled by teacher protests at the Capitol, state funding cuts to higher education, and a new sweeping school safety law. The general election will also include balloting for an open seat on the school board for Jefferson County Public Schools, which makes up about 15 percent of Kentucky’s school population.  That race may have an effect on other school districts as the board’s decisions on issues like school security could become a model for the rest of the state. 

The election will also help determine how the state addresses its ailing pension systems. Republican incumbent Matt Bevin has proposed restructuring taxes and putting more money into the state’s pension funds. Democratic nominee Andy Beshear has proposed expanded gaming as a source of new revenue to help satisfy the state’s pension obligations.

We’ll talk with reporters and others about the election results, and how those results may affect the state. We also welcome your calls. 

Listen to In Conversation live on 89.3 WFPL Friday at 11 a.m. or follow along with our live tweets at @WFPLnews. Call with your questions or comments at 502-814-TALK or tweet us with the hashtag #WFPLconversation. We’re also on Facebook.

Louisville Animal Service Officials Raise Awareness Amid Expansion Friday, Nov 1 2019 

Cheese the Louisville Metro Animal Services dog licks his lips preparing to eat more havarti cheeseListen to the episode:

Louisville recently expanded services and protections for pets, opening an $11.6 million shelter, and launching an animal abuse registry that’s aimed at preventing convicted animal abusers from adopting pets. WFPL’s In Conversation spoke with officials from Louisville Metro Animal Services (LMAS) and the Kentucky Humane Society about current animal needs, the various programs they offer and what is expected of pet owners.

Our guests were:

  • Kentucky Humane Society PR & Marketing Director Andrea Blair 
  • Louisville Metro Animal Services Public Information Specialist Teeya Barnes
  • Friends of Metro Animal Services Executive Director Susanna Westerfield
  • Seven-week-old pit bull “Slugger”
Louisville Metro Animal Services Public Information Specialist Teeya Barnes (top center), Kentucky Humane Society PR & Marketing Director Andrea Blair (top left), Host Rick Howlett (left), Friends of Metro Animal Services Executive Director Susanna Westerfield (bottom right)Kyeland Jackson | wfpl.org

Louisville Metro Animal Services Public Information Specialist Teeya Barnes (top center), Kentucky Humane Society PR and Marketing Director Andrea Blair (top left), Host Rick Howlett (left), Friends of Metro Animal Services Executive Director Susanna Westerfield (bottom right)

Louisville shelters have often struggled with kennel space limitations; officials have responded by waiving fees to prevent overcrowding and asking people to foster pets in order to make room. 

Friends of Metro Animal Services Executive Director Susanna Westerfield recommends that those who are able to properly care for a pet adopt or foster one like she did. Westerfield’s organization collects donations to support Louisville Metro Animal Services and to help pay for eligible pet owners’ adoption or medical fees.

“I just walked into the shelter and received what I got, and she’s mine,” Westerfield said. “It’s great, because what happens [is] it opens up that kennel for a sick or injured pet that really needs to be there.”

LMAS spokesperson Teeya Barnes says 80 percent of their shelter dogs are pit bulls because many owners refuse to spay or neuter them. Pit bulls breed large litters, and Barnes said many people don’t want to adopt them because they are misinterpreted as being aggressive. 

“Pit bulls used to be known as the nanny dog,” Barnes said. “We have a lot of amazing pit bulls that do not match up to that bad reputation that has been put out.”

Seven-week-old pit bull "Slugger" who is up for adoptionKyeland Jackson | wfpl.org

Seven-week-old pit bull “Slugger” is up for adoption

Overall, Kentucky Humane Society PR and Marketing Director Andrea Blair says Jefferson County is a good place for stray pets and animals to be rescued because services and organizations are available. But Blair said shelters in more rural counties need help.

“Some of the shelters we work with — they’re very, very rural and they have very little option to get animals out alive,” Barnes said. “So more and more, we’re helping those rural communities. And that’s where we’re really seeing growth and where we can make the most impact.”

Join In Conversation next week as we talk about Kentucky’s election results and how they could impact the future of the state.

11/14 Will Oldham & Alanna Nash @ LFPL Thursday, Oct 31 2019 



Veteran music reporter Alanna Nash and acclaimed musician Will Oldham will be giving a talk at the Louisville Free Public Library Main Branch (301 York Street), on Thursday, November 14, at 7 p.m. for the 'In Conversation' Series. The event is free, but but reservations are needed. Register here.

Beshear Promises Change If Elected Governor Friday, Oct 25 2019 

Listen to the episode:


Democratic gubernatorial nominee and Attorney General Andy Beshear is locked in a close race with Republican incumbent Matt Bevin, according to a recent Mason-Dixon poll. With election day around the corner, WFPL’s In Conversation talked with Beshear about the race and his plans if he unseats Bevin.

Our guests were:

  • Attorney General Andy Beshear
  • WFPL Political Reporter Ryland Barton

Beshear says health care, pensions and education are important issues to Kentuckians, and many feel Bevin cannot effectively address those and other issues.

“What they’re looking for is a governor that listens more than he talks, a governor that solves more problems than he creates,” Beshear said. “They’re looking for someone that, instead of dividing us, can bring us together.”

Host Rick Howlett (Right) Attorney General Andy Beshear (Right)Kyeland Jackson | wfpl.org

Host Rick Howlett (left) with Attorney General Andy Beshear

Beshear has also been critical of Bevin’s education policies and his rhetoric toward teachers. 

Teacher protests of the state’s pension bill brought heavy criticism from Bevin, who said they broke the law. Beshear sued the Bevin administration for investigating the protests and has won support from the Kentucky teachers’ union.

On In Conversation, Beshear said if elected, he would immediately use his authority to restructure the state school board, rescind Bevin’s executive orders related to Medicaid and address inequalities in the state’s justice system, among other things. 

“We have disproportionate outcomes in our criminal justice. The numbers don’t lie, and we have to work every single day to change that,” Beshear said, adding that the state should re-evaluate incarceration laws and invest in disadvantaged communities.

Political Reporter Ryland Barton has been following the governor’s race, and says the state’s pension obligation has been a contentious topic in the state legislature. Barton said Governor Bevin has put more money into the pension system than his predecessors, and Beshear is focusing on potential new revenue to address pension needs.

“Now 15 percent of the entire discretionary state budget, the amount of money that lawmakers are dolling up between all the different parts of state government, is dedicated to the state’s pension system,” Barton said.. “[Beshear’s] proposal is to legalize casino gambling and tax it, and legalize online sports betting and all these other forms of gambling and taxing that money, to bring in more money to the state.”

WFPL asked Governor Bevin to be a guest on In Conversation, but his staff said his schedule is committed. .

Join us for In Conversation next week as we talk about Louisville Metro Animal Services’ new shelter and animal abuse registry.

Next Page »