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Letters to the Editor 8-11-17
Annual FRYSC Ready-Fest

Dear Editor,
Tuesday, July 25, 2017 was a special day for many students from Johnson County. The annual FRYSC Ready-Fest was hosted by Johnson County’s and Paintsville’s Family Resource and Youth Service Center Directors, along with local community businesses and organizations. Over 500 students and their families stopped by the Highland Church of Christ Life Center to enjoy conversations with some very kind community members as well as have the opportunity to pick up some school supplies and health care items.
Events like the ReadyFest bring everyone together for the good of our children. We would like to thank everyone who set up a table at the Readyfest, along with those who donated school supplies and hygiene items. It was so great to see our local business, churches, and other programs work together to make sure that students receive the items needed to have a great school year. Special thanks go to the FRYSC directors and to the Highland Church of Christ for hosting the event. We appreciate everyone who helped with his successful event.

Thank you,
Shauna Patton
Johnson County Schools
FRYSC Liaison

Letters to the Editor 8-2-17
Dear Editor,

On Sunday July 23rd at 6:36 am I made a call to Johnson/Paintsville 911, I informed them that I had almost been struck by a vehicle that I believe was being operated by a driver under the influence. I gave a description of the vehicle, manner in which it was being operated, the vehicle location and direction. Due to fearing for the lives of others on the road I followed the vehicle on US 460. I watched as the vehicle kept swerving from one lane to another, almost striking a rock cliff, and narrowly missed hitting two vehicles head on. 
I called dispatch once again at 6:43 a.m. and updated the vehicles location, while continuing to follow the vehicle. At 6:51 a.m. the vehicle turned onto 825 and I contacted 911 once again, asking for an ETA for a responding Deputy.
I was informed by the dispatcher that the only deputy on duty was on Lake Detail and that no one was coming to get this danger off the road. After making a complaint to Gary McClure (Emergency Management) I was informed that Dispatch can only pull Deputies off “Lake Detail” for “Domestic Violence and accidents with major injury.” I was very surprised to hear this, and it makes me wonder, why for 25 minutes of following this immediate danger was the call not forwarded to another agency? From my understanding Paintsville Police department has coextensive jurisdiction and can answer complaints in the county.
If this is so why could they not have responded? An maybe even more important, why has the Sheriffs Dept. scheduled a Deputy to work a detail with no coverage for the citizens in the County? This type of incident undermines the relationship between the citizens and the public servants. If the citizens believe 911 calls will go unanswered then it’s only a matter of time when they simply stop calling. Why call if nothing is going to happen? Why tell an Officer about drug activity across the street?
When Citizens start asking themselves those questions, that is when you have failed them. We have wonderful Officers, Deputies and Dispatchers in this area who work so hard for little pay and little to no recognition. However, 911 calls that go unanswered with a clear danger to public safety is unacceptable. I hope this letter does not anger but rather shows an issue that needs addressed. I fully believe the Elected and Appointed Officials we have will do everything they can to prevent this from happening in the future.     

Justin Blanton
Paintsville, Ky.

Letters to the Editor 7-28-17
Trail Town

Dear Editor,
I am enjoying the articles in the Herald and the discussions online about the efforts to get Paintsville designated as a Trail Town. It looks like great progress is being made by enthusiastic folks in the area. It is encouraging to see the people in Paintsville and Johnson County working together as well as all the counties in the region forming coalitions for the benefit of all the people in Eastern Kentucky. The area has begun to look forward, not backward.
The “ Pints on Paint Craft Beer Festival” is another great way to attract people to Paintsville and Johnson County. Having become a “wet” city only a few years ago such a festival could never have happened in prior years. The recent extension of alcohol sales in Paintsville to include Sundays will allow for the establishment of sports bars—where Sunday sales are a major part of their revenues.
Downtown Paintsville remains ripe for revitalization with most of the original structures still intact—albeit somewhat worse for wear. The Sipp Theatre is becoming a venue again and can serve as a focal point for downtown. The downtown has a few restaurants, but it is still in need of a few nice restaurants that are of a quality that will satisfy the “special occasion” experience that locals seek out in Huntington and Lexington. Specialty shops that provide unique items and service can thrive in spite of a Super Walmart in the area.
Even though I have not lived in Paintsville since I graduated from PHS in 1957, the positive influence that Paintsville had on me remains. I am very happy to see that the current residents are continuing the spirit of Paintsville established by our parents and grandparents of years past.

Larry Marsh, Paintsville High School Class of 1957
Frederick, Maryland

Letters to the Editor 7-19-17
National Debt

Dear Editor,
Our national debt is $19,849,797,859,667.97 and counting.  According to the U.S. Treasury, 2016 interest payments on our debt cost taxpayers $432,649,652,901.12 or, in rounded numbers, $36 billion per month or $1,185 million per day or $49 million per hour.  In other words, the con job that Democrats and Republicans alike have perpetrated against Americans for decades cost 432 billion tax dollars in 2016.
Imagine, the payment for interest on our national debt for one day could provide health care from birth to death for most of America’s 321 million citizens.  The cost of interest for less than seven hours of the one day could deposit $1 million in an interest-bearing account for each citizen to use for basic health care.  The interest payment ($864 million) for the rest of the first day could create an interest-bearing, catastrophic, health-care account, which would be accessible to individual citizens if needed.  Simple!
Such a plan would eliminate the excuse that hospitals and doctors use to justify inflated prices to compensate for citizens unable to pay (e.g., $2 for an aspirin tablet).  The plan would also eliminate Washington bureaucrats and the insurance companies that made over $15 billion in profit on human sickness in 2016.
Reason, responsible conduct by our elected politicians, and one day’s interest payment on our national debt could eliminate the complex health-care problem.  Now, consider what could be done with the interest payment for the rest of the month.  The 50 states and U.S. Territories could replace old bridges, pave highways, build new schools, and have money left over for contingencies.  That leaves 11 months of interest payments.  What if that money could stay in the households that earned it fair and square?
Sir Winston Churchill inspired my concluding statement.  Never have so many been conned for so long by so few.

Shafter Bailey
Lexington, KY

Letters to the Editor 7-14-17

Dear Editor,
Kentucky: Ranked #1 for Wrong Health Reasons
What I am referring to, sadly, are the horrible chronic diseases and premature deaths caused by Kentuckians using tobacco products.
Per Capita, Kentucky ranks #1 in cigarette consumption of all 50 states and leads the nation in lung cancer deaths. One-third of all cancer deaths in Kentucky are related to tobacco. The No. 1 killer of women is heart attack and stroke and of men, cancer; most are attributable to tobacco. Kentucky leads the nation by far in pregnant women who smoke (26.5% vs 10.7%).
The main groups of people that fare worst with tobacco smoking are kids and adolescents, pregnant women, and populations with low education and low income. Children and adolescents have immature brain function which predisposes some adolescents to substance abuse and addiction beyond nicotine. The vaping of nicotine by our youth is being successfully marketed by big tobacco companies and will lead to a whole new generation of nicotine addicts who may not smoke yet. Adolescents say that marijuana and prescription drugs can be easily obtained, even easier than alcohol; once again, raising a red flag of other substance addictions beyond nicotine.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking before or during pregnancy is the single most prevalent cause of illness and death among mothers and infants. Infants exposed to second-hand smoke in addition to respiratory infections are more likely to suffer from ear infections, asthma, failure to thrive, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Plus, anyone smoking around an infant can pose all the previously mentioned problems and health problems to other family members. There are also great financial costs associated with smoking in pregnancy. The direct medical costs of a complicated birth are estimated to be 66% higher in smokers. In Kentucky, smoking is attributed to 4.35% of the total neonatal expenditures (about $10 million per year).
Our poorly educated and lower socio-economical populations tend to have a higher prevalence of smoking. Unfortunately, this group may likely have no or inadequate health insurance and may procrastinate with their own healthcare.
How do we encourage those who smoke to quit? What can we do to discourage or prevent our population from starting smoking? Many states have addressed these problems with varying success. We know the initiatives that tend to be effective.
Smoke-free communities and workplaces: Kentucky has 24 smoke-free, community-wide ordinances or regulations in 10 of 120 Kentucky counties
Increasing a cigarette tax by greater than $1 per pack
Continue to fund anti-smoking education and counseling programs
Helping smokers quit: Recently our legislature passed Senate Bill 89. This bill requires private insurances and Medicaid to fund smoking cessation medications and counseling with no prior authorization required.
Non-smokers tend to live 13-14 years longer than smokers (Michigan Smoke-Free Community). Many employers like smoke-free workplaces because their employees are healthier and have less absenteeism.
Increasing the cigarette tax on a pack of cigarettes by greater than $1 is very effective in reducing and preventing smoking in adolescents, pregnant women and low income populations. Any reduction below $1 increase can and will be counteracted by cigarette companies. Big tobacco in the past has offered discounts and coupons (i.e. 2 for 1 pricing). The increase of the state excise tax by greater than $1 can generate $266-$332 million additional funds to the state as revenue yearly.
The Kentucky legislature is preparing to go to a special session in the next few months to consider tax reform and our underfunded pension programs. We have a golden opportunity to initiate programs that would benefit Kentuckians in many ways. The increased cigarette tax on a package of cigarettes greater than $1 will discourage smoking kids, pregnant women and lower income populations that have the most damaging effects from cigarette smoking. New revenue sources of around $300 million per year would be a good start for those underfunded pensions of state workers and retired teachers.
Preventing those children and adolescents who would progress from nicotine addiction to other more dangerous and lethal addictions makes perfect sense.
Medical cost savings from decreased tobacco use and diseases will help the state’s coffers; most importantly improve the health of our citizens.
Our tobacco farmers will not significantly suffer because nearly 70 percent of burley tobacco is shipped overseas where 20 percent of the world’s population smokes. States that have significantly increased cigarette taxes have noticed a slow and gradual decrease in cigarette consumption. The total revenue does not drop precipitously because of the increased tax per cigarette package.
This increase in tax results in a somewhat sustainable endeavor. Again, the most important reason to raise the cigarette tax by greater than $1 is for health reasons. Other nicotine delivery systems should also be taxed for reasons previously mentioned.
We are at a pivotal time in Kentucky history where are able to make a huge difference by saving lives and strengthening our economy.

Dr. Patrick J. Withrow
Co-Chair of the Kentucky Chapter of American College of Cardiology’s advocacy committee and the director of outreach for Baptist Health Paducah.

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