Letters to the Editor
Our K-12 public education system spends $11,334 per student each year, which is twice the amount other nations spend per student, and our student achievement is 29, 22, and 20 nations down from the top nation in math, science, and reading respectively. Such mediocrity does irreparable damage to children and their futures, especially poor children.
The correctable wrong above is one of several tax-financed, atrocious wrongs that would justify demonstrative condemnation in public, but demonstrators repeatedly waste their constitutional privilege on trivial matters like the release of President Trump’s tax forms.
For example, if those forms were released, would they reverse the downward trend in education achievement for children who must depend on we adults to act responsibly on their behalf? Would they stop one hungry child from crying? Would they eliminate petty ideological differences that ensure mediocrity and juvenile-like conduct in our elected representatives?
The foregoing questions identify only a small sampling of many such problems that have waited decades for remedies. Where are the placards and voices of concern? “And the beat goes on, la de da de de,” sang the late Sonny and extant Cher in 1967, meaning times change but they stay the same. In 2017, our politicians in Congress continue to prove them right.
The Johnson County Middle School Student Council would like to say a special thank you to B&W TV and Appliance and to Paintsville Lowe’s for their generous donations to help decorate for our 8th grade dance. You helped us create a marvelous experience for our students. Thank you!
Letters to the Editor
Promises made. Promises kept?
Save the Coal Miners’ Health and Pension Funds
“Which side are you on?” asked Florence Reece of Harlan County, Kentucky in the song she wrote in 1931--a song made famous by Woody Guthrie. The question demands decisiveness; complacency was unacceptable to Ms. Reece in the midst of violent reprisals against the coal miners who were fighting against destitution wages and deadly working conditions in the region.
It is an apt question today for Senator Mitch McConnell. Violence may not be ever-present but desperation is all too common in coal country. Is Senator McConnell on the side of the coal miners, or not? A moment of truth is approaching on April 28.
After years of bloody conflicts between workers and mine owners in the 1930s and 40s, a national strike in 1946 lead to the government seizure of the coal industry. On May 29, 1946, the Secretary of the Interior, Julius Krug, and the UMWA President, John Lewis, entered into an agreement to keep the mines in operation. Included in that agreement was the creation of two funds—one for healthcare and one for pensions—to be funded by mine operator royalties and payroll deductions.
Today, tens of thousands of miners and their families in several states, including Kentucky, are about to lose those healthcare and pension benefits. The healthcare fund will run out of money on April 28, 2017, and the demise of the pension fund is not far behind.
After 1946, Congress extended the assurances in the Krug-Lewis agreement through legislation. According to a November 21, 2016 letter from a bipartisan group of Senators to Congressional leadership, “While the  agreement itself was not drafted in perpetuity, Congress essentially codified the promises made in that agreement by subsequently passing the Coal Act [in 1992]. The Coal Act and its 2006 amendments re-committed the government to the health and retirement security of our nation’s miners and their families.”
That letter was sent to Senator McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan in support of The Miners Protection Act, a bill with significant support from both Democrats and Republicans, sponsored by Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. The bill would shore up both the miners’ healthcare fund and the pension fund, and would require no new tax payer money to fund it. It is paid for by redirecting excess funds from an already appropriated $490 million per annum that is sitting in the Abandoned Mine Land Fund (AML).
Despite a strong bipartisan vote from the Senate Finance Committee in 2016, Mitch McConnell refused to bring The Miners Protection Act to a vote of the full Senate in 2016, and extended the life of the healthcare fund for only 4 months—until April 28, 2017. In January, Senator McConnell filed a competing bill that would address only the healthcare fund, not the pension fund, and that attaches gratuitous strings regarding environmental regulations.
If the pension fund is allowed to become insolvent, it will devastate the retired miners and their widows who rely on those pensions for life’s basic necessities. The loss of that money will also be a big blow to the economy of the coal communities where those pensioners live.
The promises made by our government to coal miners came from the recognition that the miners’ difficult, hazardous work was indispensable to our national growth. President Truman, in a November 15, 1946 statement, pointed out that coal production was vital to the success of every other major industry in our country —railroads, utilities, steel mills—as well as to the wellbeing of average citizens who used coal to heat their homes.
The calamitous consequences of the loss of healthcare benefits is even more stark now that there is a shocking resurgence of the most dangerous kind of black lung disease—a terrible and totally preventable occupational hazard of coal mining. From 1998 to 2012, the government agency in charge of tracking it found 154 cases of the disease. Since 2012 the prevalence has jumped dramatically. From January 2015 to August 2016, there were 60 cases reported from one small Eastern Kentucky clinic alone.
The Republican arguments against The Miners Protection Act, represent cynical, “divide and conquer” tactics. In November, Senator McConnell seemed to question why the bill would help the unionized coal miners, rather than all coal miners, as though keeping the promises made to unionized miners would in any way hurt non-union miners—it would not.
And recently, some legislators have said that advocates cannot have both The Miners Protection Act and The RECLAIM Act, which also is an important bill that would help create jobs for people in communities struggling with the decline of coal. The RECLAIM act would redirect funds from a different part of the AML Fund for accelerated strategic restoration of abandoned mine land to encourage long-term economic development projects. It has a counterpart in the House, co-sponsored by Rep. Hal Rogers and a bipartisan group of representatives. Both the Miners Protection Act and the RECLAIM Act deserve support from Senator McConnell because neither requires additional tax payer funds, and both will help sustain retired miners, their widows and families, as well as out-of-work miners, and the coal communities in which they live.
Whatever the past miscalculations or imperfect structuring of the healthcare and pension funds over the past 70 years, a promise was made to the coal miners by our government, we all benefitted from their labor, and we must keep that promise. We cannot condemn people to abject suffering and poverty by allowing their healthcare and pension funds to implode because it has become complicated or unwieldy.
A bi-partisan group of Senators agrees that the healthcare and pension funds can and should be saved by implementing The Miners Protection Act. So should Senator McConnell. Which side is he on?
Indivisible Kentucky, Jobs With Justice, Anti-Racist Action (a Kentucky nonprofit)
Letters to the Editor
On Feb. 21, 2017, a loaded coal truck driving on U.S. 23 toward Prestonsburg or Pikeville hit a driver in a red Toyota Camry, knocking the driver into a sign, where they spun into oncoming traffic and finally went into the ditch. The coal truck driver just kept on going. He didn’t know if he had killed the occupant of the car or not. Hit, then ran.
There was a lady who stopped to help the victim, but her name is unknown. The accident occurred on the Johnson/Floyd County line at East Point.
Anyone who witnessed the accident or has any information as to who the driver of the coal truck was or the company, please contact (606) 793-2835.
I wanted to express my concern over the article published about Sheriff Price’s alleged conduct. I am from the area but haven’t lived there in years and have no support or affiliation with either the sheriff or the victim. My concern is with the content of the article. I would hope the victim gave explicit permission to reprint the allegations, however, even with such consent the level of details provided are disturbing. I am in no way defending the sheriff, but I would have been hesitant to publish such details for a few reasons: 1. the victim’s privacy and 2. until there is an investigation these are merely allegations. Just publishing this story with these details gives small towns a lot to talk about and given the victim’s history with the town, the allegations may be false. I am disappointed in the Herald’s reporting of the case. I think an article would’ve been fine highlighting the types of behaviors alleged but the level of detail is disturbing on many levels.
Leslie Faith Lyte
Letters to the Editor
Kentucky has the opportunity to lead the world with foreign policy assistance through to production and export of coal to China. One of North Korea’s main exports is coal and China is their main customer. America should sanction North Korea by negotiating with China to stop buying North Korean coal and buy Kentucky coal instead.
This new arrangement further opens the way for more Chinese companies to look closer at Kentucky economically. Now that Kentucky is open for business thanks to Governor Bevin and our new Republican-led legislature, we should reach out with even more foreign trade.
The increased sale of Kentucky coal to China will also offset many of the hardships suffered by our fellow Kentuckians under previous Democrat rule. Of course Liberals and the bitter media will oppose relief for our working families, but that’s okay, they’re no longer in power.
We have the ability to greatly increase our exchange with major global partners such as China, Japan, and the rest of Asia. Kentucky coal can help lead the way and be our great cost-effective energy ambassador to both growing and established economies. Kentucky is ready for more international trade, and the world is ready for Kentucky coal.
Letters to the Editor
As sheriff, I have always believed part of our success is community involvement. If the community feels they are part of the solution then they are more of a part of the sheriff’s office.
On Friday, April 14 our office partnered with the Paintsville United Baptist Church on a project we had been working toward for about a year.
Thanks to community donations we provided over 60 Easter outfits to children that may not have otherwise had one. People have been bringing in outfits since last May. This community project was so successful we will continue doing it each year.
Pastor Rowland provided an Easter Children’s program and a pizza dinner. Levid Rodriguez was an outstanding Easter Bunny. Leroy and Lisa Johnson, Lucinda Castle and the church’s women’s auxiliary all made the event go smoothly by working with the parents and ensuring the outfits were the right size.
Thanks to all that were involved.
Sheriff Dwayne Price