We are all Ms. Akers

What do a concerned citizen, candidate for county attorney, beloved high school teacher, magistrate candidate, dedicated doctor, County Attorney of the Year, and a Judge Exec candidate have in common?

All women; all targets of a rural Kentucky newspaper editor bent on teaching them a lesson.

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In answering a recent question, I said, “Because of the tabloid focus of this newspaper and its Facebook page/comments section, I believe many (if not all) of our elected officials often remain silent or are overly cautious, when what is most needed is candor. Our newspaper is crippling this county.”

Unfortunately, you have to look no further than Editor Ben Carlson’s column last week, “Revisiting 1984 here in Lawrenceburg,” for proof of that statement.

Using phrases like “Big Brother” and “Ministry of Truth,” Mr. Carlson used his powerful position to punch down on Ms. Akers, a regular citizen who dared — dared — to speak in a Fiscal Court meeting.

He wrote, “Akers does what she usually does and wove this newspaper into her remarks. ‘Often what is printed in The Anderson News is not verified,” she said. ‘Therefore it is misleading to readers.’ Verified by who, Ms. Akers? You? The same person who during the past week had to submit several versions of an opinion piece to this newspaper…”

I do not know Ms. Akers personally, which is to say I could not tell you her address, if she is married or has children, what she does for work, etc…. But as regular attendees in Fiscal Court, we exchange the usual pleasantries. She is a kind, smart, thoughtful person. And I can tell you that when Ms. Akers speaks in court, she is respectful and prepared.

That Mr. Carlson would use his platform and endless supply of ink to make fun of a citizen for speaking in a public meeting, for writing letters to the editor, was not only beyond the pale, it was excessively vicious and cruel.

And yet, his words came as no surprise.

Mr. Carlson has honed his reputation for using his pen to punish, to teach a lesson to those who disagree with him ideologically or personally, and it is my observation that his targets are often women.

There was the county attorney’s race, in which Mr. Carlson’s overt bias against Tiffany Azzinaro was an embarrassment to journalism.

He does not like her. We get it. But regardless of political party, we are tired of being beaten over the head with his disdain for her.

There were the constant reminders this election season about those of us who changed our party registration, which Mr. Carlson could have used as an opportunity to inform the public. A professional journalist would have conducted interviews, would have come with a list of sincere, well-thought-out questions about why, and why now.

This did not happen.

There are our hardworking teachers, mostly women, whom Mr. Carlson continually disrespects, like Rebecca Potter who wrote in a letter to me last fall, “Mr. Carlson misrepresented what we teach, erroneously tying CRT to social emotional learning (SEL), which has been around for decades. Teaching our students to be kind to everyone in the classroom, regardless of race or gender, is hardly CRT. We believe every student has value. We do not tolerate racism in the classroom. We teach the truth of history, science, literature, and humanities. We teach our students how to think, not what to think.”

Ms. Potter, a beloved teacher, has left not only our school district but our town.

There was the woman doctor who dared to give her professional, medical opinion during the pandemic. This respected, local physician worked 15 years in the ER and 3 years before that in public health; went on to be the medical director for Anthem’s Healthy Woman program; is a hero who has volunteered numerous times in disaster areas. And yet Mr. Carlson, who personally disagreed with her medical opinion, wrote, “we can thank people like this authoritarian-loving doctor who, and I hope this is true, is retired.”

He continued this storyline, attacking her reputation, for weeks. He never spoke to the doctor.

There was the February 2021 headline about our former county attorney, a woman who honorably served this community for 28 years — she was Kentucky’s Outstanding County Attorney of 2017 — that read in bold, black letters, “Former county attorney’s private business reaped benefits from child support deal.”

There were no benefits reaped. Mr. Carlson said so himself, deep and hard-to-find in his subsequent column, where he wrote, “Never did the column come close to alleging wrongdoing; it was simply to inform the people who paid that rent they had done so.”

Tragically, Mr. Carlson’s disclaimer of his own front-page story is not what appears when you google the former county attorney who, along with her family, has to live with this falsehood, forever on the internet.

There was the headline last November that read, “Magistrate’s allegations fall flat: Attorney sides with Wiedo after Lewis claims ethics violations, breach of attorney-client privilege.” Everyone who heard Magistrate Lewis read her statement — including me — knew she meant that she assumed confidentiality when speaking to or writing to the court’s attorney, as anyone speaking to their attorney would.

Mr. Carlson surely knew this. But there was damage to inflict, a story to spin, newspapers to sell.

I could go on, but there is no need.

Because of the way the editor uses his newspaper, our elected officials — and especially our citizens — often remain silent. And who can blame them?

We are all Ms. Akers. And Mr. Carlson owes Ms. Akers and every citizen he enthusiastically hurts to sell newspapers, an apology.

We all went to school. We read “1984.” And what I know is this: Mr. Carlson is the powerful person George Orwell warned us about. The only Big Brother or Ministry of Truth in Anderson County is our newspaper editor.

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I am running this article as a half-page ad in The Anderson News on May 18, 2022.

It starts with, “We, the people” for a reason

A friend recently went to see a famous person give a talk. Someone in the audience raised their hand and said, I watch the news and it all just feels so overwhelming, I feel paralyzed, what can I do?

The famous person said 3 words: Run for something.

I always said I’d never run for office. Things change.

Voters go to the polls here in 9 days. This is the last ad I’m running, and I hope people will remember me in the voting booth, the only woman and most qualified (by far) in a race of 4 candidates.

It starts, “We, the people” for a reason. If you don’t run for office, other people will. There is “good trouble” to be had. I encourage you to run for something.

Doing the hard thing

In this spirited interview with Everywhere Radio, Whitney and I talk about everything from speaking truth to power to: rural life, Facebook “friends”, politics, writing, church, guns, books, and — of course — Wordle.

There was no subject off-limits. I hope you enjoy our conversation.

20 years on …

My mom died 20 years ago today, at the same age I am now. Seems impossible.

Here she is at 18, a favorite photo because it shows who she was when she was still free — before 3 cruel husbands and 3 kids, before she knew what hardness was coming — when she was still outspoken and ready to take on all comers.

I’ve been thinking lately about how we were each other’s secret keepers. There was the summer I was 12 and we secretly lived on fried potatoes and onions. There was the year and half we secretly used old cleaning rags during our periods because she could not afford Kotex or tampons. There were the years she had to secretly leave me home alone when I was in middle school while she worked graveyard shift because who could afford a babysitter? My mom was a fighter, and she raised a fighter. We made our own way and our own fun.

To honor my mom, today I will drive thru Burger King and order her favorite chicken sandwich, listen to the Bee Gees and Barbra, and stock the food pantry at church.

When I recently met my birth father, her husband for a handful of months, the one question I wanted to ask but could not bear to ask was, “Did you love my mom?”

He left her not long after this picture was taken. His loss. I loved her. I love her, still.

Why did the editor of The Anderson News send an undisclosed, private text message during a public BOZA meeting?

Opening his May 26, 2021 opinion column, Ben Carlson, Editor of The Anderson News wrote, “In my 15 years of providing news coverage of local government in your newspaper, I have never witnessed a public meeting fail so spectacularly when it comes to adhering to the state’s open meeting statutes as I did last Thursday night.”

Mr. Carlson was referring to the May BOZA (Board of Zoning Adjustments) meeting, after which the attorney for the defendants sent a letter to BOZA Chairman Jim Doss alleging violation of KRS 61.846 (1), saying he witnessed board members talking privately among themselves regarding a matter before the board.

That is not the story. This is.

While I did not attend in May, I did attend the June BOZA meeting which was held in the same, large, echoing basement of the Anderson County Extension building—not BOZA’s usual meeting place—to accommodate the expected crowd. Subject matter: the race track.

I arrived early and watched as County Clerk Jason Denny tried again and again to get microphones and speakers to work properly, which they never quite did. The meeting began anyway.

The room was nearly full. As I recall, Mr. Carlson was sitting at the front of the room on the far right, near County Attorney Robert Wiedo who serves as BOZA’s attorney. I was sitting front left, but had a hard time hearing Chairman Doss and other board members. The microphones were fading in and out, sometimes not working at all.

For these reasons, I believe board members stood up and walked to Chairman Doss, not for a private meeting, but so they could hear him and each other.

Ask yourself: Would you think you were having a private meeting while standing in front of a room full of people who are staring at you?

I do not believe there was a violation of open meetings statutes. But I do believe Mr. Carlson inserted himself personally and secretly into the procedure and needed a way to explain it.

In a brief filed in Anderson Circuit Court by David Nutgrass, the attorney representing Eddie Carey, the bottom of page 7, footnote #7 reads: “What the transcript won’t tell the Court is that the open meetings violation might never have been addressed were it not for the intervention of The Anderson News editor Ben Carlson. During the private exchange, Mr. Carlson sent a text message to the undersigned [Mr. Nutgrass] bringing to his attention the apparent violation. The undersigned brought the text message to Plaintiff’s counsel’s attention, and the two of them brought it to Mr. Wiedo’s attention in a manner than can be gleaned from the recording.”

Like any citizen, Mr. Carlson has the right to declare if he is witnessing a violation of open meeting rules, but he did not do that. He sent a secret text message which he never disclosed to the public.

Why did Mr. Carlson not stand up and say publicly—in this public meeting—“I see a possible violation occurring”?

Why did Mr. Carlson not speak publicly, right then, to County Attorney Wiedo of the alleged violation?

Why did Mr. Carlson choose to send a secret text message to one party’s attorney, who then needed to advise the other party’s attorney, who then both needed to advise Mr. Wiedo? Why not just send it to Mr. Wiedo directly?

Because Mr. Carlson did not want to be seen influencing and advising County Attorney Wiedo in how to do his job.

And Mr. Carlson never disclosed to the public—not in his opinion column with his “spectacular” outrage, not in the news story, and not in the 10 months since—that he was personally involved. Why?

Anderson County deserves better than the chairman of the board

I recently ran into someone at Kroger who wanted to talk about the race track. They said, and I’ll have to paraphrase, ‘It’s just a tractor pull like we have all the time at the park, I don’t know what the big deal is, but that Lewis woman won’t let up on it.’

This is not a subject I have ever weighed in on, but as a citizen who sometimes goes to the Board of Zoning Adjustments, and who attends every Fiscal Court meeting unless I have a conflict, I shared the basics as I understand them:

  1. No, it is not a tractor pull like we have on occasion, for a weekend, at the park. It is a dirt race track that can be operated day and night, several days a week.
  2. People who own houses in that area will be forced to tolerate the noise and the dirt, and their homes/property will likely suffer a decrease in market value.
  3. There is a wedding venue (The Barn) nearby, an established business that I have yet to hear much concern about succeeding once the track opens.
  4. That Lewis woman—aka Magistrate Meredith Lewis—represents the people of that district, and it is her job, as their elected public servant, to stand up for them.

They did not want to hear it. They waved me off and said (this is an exact quote), “It’s been all over the paper, I know what’s going on.”

Sadly, he does not know what is going on, and this conversation represents, at its core, everything that is wrong with The Anderson News (TAN).

In basic writing class, we learned how to discern the difference between the situation and the story. In the case of the race track:

The Situation: A man is building a race track. It is a new business.

The Story: This new business may bring in revenue to the county, but it may also adversely affect the livelihoods and property values of surrounding homes. The noise and dirt associated with the track could put an existing business out of business, but there is money to be made for the town. The magistrate in this district is expected by those who elected her to stand up for them. What is the full story here?

Why does the editor of TAN regularly present situations with no context, no story? Why does he so often not ask the most basic questions any unbiased journalist would ask?

Consider these two, front-page stories last week in the Feb. 23 edition of TAN, both with incendiary headlines:

FISCAL COURT RIPPED, MAGISTRATES REFERRED TO AS ‘USELESS’

  1. Only 1/3 of the article corresponds with the title. The rest of the article is about EMS hero pay and the purchase of voting machines. Why are these not in the title?
  2. Why did Ms. Blackwell feel it necessary to take time out of her day to come to Fiscal Court with this complaint? Why was she so angry? What is the full background to her story, the steps she’d already taken where she felt unheard, to get her to this point?

The Situation: Ms. Blackwell was angry and vented her frustrations at the court.

The Story: Why was she there at all? What made Ms. Blackwell feel compelled to lash out in this manner? What is the solution to her issue? If there is no solution, why? Explain this to the public.

WELLS SAYS LEWIS SHOUD STOP CAMPAIGNING FROM BEHIND BENCH

  1. Define “campaigning.”
  2. If someone is up for election, are they no longer allowed to speak publicly for fear of being accused of “campaigning?”
  3. As a regular attendee at Fiscal Court, it is my experience that Ms. Lewis often speaks in session, asking and answering questions. This is not out of character.
  4. It is notable that the most controversial issue before the court this year—the race track—is in Ms. Lewis’s district. Her constituents are often present and ask questions about the track and the pending litigation. Should Ms. Lewis remain silent?
  5. The other 5 magistrates rarely speak in session, except to make or second motions, or to indicate they are present. This is the norm.
  6. The last 8 paragraphs (eight!) have nothing to do with the meeting or the story. The editor appears to use this article as a dumping ground to list what he perceives as the many sins of Magistrate Lewis. Why?

The Situation: Magistrate Wells, our longest-serving magistrate (since 2003), “called for an end to ‘campaigning from behind the bench’” and spoke candidly to the editor after the meeting.

The Story: Magistrate Wells rarely speaks out in session. And I cannot recall a recent newspaper interview where she is quoted at length. Why now? Ms. Wells is also running for re-election. Could her comments not also be perceived as “campaigning from behind the bench?” Why was this basic, obvious question not asked by the editor?

In fact, the editor never once mentions, in his extensive article, that Magistrate Wells is running for re-election. Why?

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FINAL OBSERVATIONS

I did not speak to anyone listed above—Ms. Blackwell, Magistrate Lewis, Magistrate Wells, the owners of The Barn—for this story. I have no dog in this fight, as they say. These are simply my observations as a writer, and I find them alarming because they follow an insidious pattern.

I was disturbed by last week’s newspaper coverage, and I was disturbed by my conversation with the person at Kroger. I go to many of the meetings where the track is discussed, I read TAN every week, and I can see exactly how this person came to their conclusion: We have a newspaper editor who presents situations with no story, no context. And it is embarrassingly easy to tell whom the editor likes, whom he considers a friend or part of the club, and whom he despises.

This is not how a newspaper is supposed to work.

As a man who grew up here often says, “The most divisive thing about our town is not our politics, it is our newspaper.”

He is right. And if there is a good old boys club here, our newspaper editor is chairman of the board.

I’m running for magistrate, not homecoming queen

My ruuning shoes.

I am running for magistrate, not homecoming queen.

That is a sentence I never thought I would write at age 56, in the Year of our Lord 2022, but it was the answer to a question posed by a man I do not know—“Are you ladies running for the homecoming court?”—after he saw how many women are running for office in Anderson County.

Also of note: I am a progressive Democrat, running as a Republican in the Republican primary.

While this may shock many of you, it is no surprise my fellow Anderson Countians, even if my speaking openly about it is. Today, in the Kroger checkout line, a fellow Democrat asked what I was running for, then said she and her husband had changed their registration, too.

Several of our current elected officials used to be registered Democrats. Not anymore. The man who was my magistrate when I moved here in 2015 was a Democrat, but he lost his next race and is now a registered Republican, running against me and two other men to try and win his old seat back.

This is common here. Why is it happening?

Anderson County, which leaned Democrat a decade ago, voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump in both 2016 and 2020. The tide has not only turned, the tide often presents—if you regularly attend local public meetings as I do—as deeply conspiratorial and filled with “my own research” about CRT, masks, vaccines, election integrity, gun rights, etc.

And the tide is not so much Republican as Trumplican, an exposition of the down-ballot turmoil Trump and his Big Lie acolytes have set in motion.

I first began considering a run for magistrate or school board—the two offices where I think I could best help my community—after attending a December 18 town hall at the Anderson Library, hosted by Rep. James Tipton and Sen. Adrienne Southworth.

Approximately 20 people attended. I sat across from the man who (allegedly, accidentally) brought a handgun to one of our recent school board meetings. One woman insisted we learn more about the corrupt Dr. Fauci. A woman in back, her voice shaking, said we could get any covid medicines we wanted by going to a website and paying $30; she seemed angry that some of her family members were not listening to her medical advice. One man insisted he would not go to the hospital if he had covid, or even if he had a broken leg, that he would rather die at home. Others said, what are you doing in Frankfort to defend our freedom?!

And to most all of this, Rep. Tipton and Sen. Southworth replied with avoidance, with: Thank you, I see another hand over here, do you have a question?

I left that meeting stunned. How could elected officials listen to nonsense, some of it dangerous, for an hour and a half and say next to nothing?

I left that meeting thinking: We need normal people with the courage to call lies, lies and conspiracies, conspiracies, to run for every office.

I left that meeting thinking: Why not me? I have never run for office. Any office. Never even considered it. But here I am.

What chance do I have of winning a Republican primary? The obstacles are many. I am a proud, opinionated, outspoken progressive and will remain so. I am appalled everything Donald Trump represents. I was not born and raised in Anderson County, or even Kentucky, so I do not have a network of childhood friends or family to rally around me. I am a woman, running against three men, two of whom have already served as magistrate.

And yet, I am going to give this my best shot. I am not afraid to lose and hope I win! I am not running to espouse ideology, which has zero to do with being a magistrate. I am running because normal people who want to serve their communities should not be afraid to run.

As someone who has long-admired American Civil Rights hero John Lewis, I consider his oft-repeated quote. “Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”

And good, necessary trouble this is, even if it does not end with me wearing a Homecoming crown.

The People of Anderson County Deserve Better — Part 3

Winter Sunrise at Beaver Lake, Anderson County, Kentucky — February 9, 2022

The reason I write this newsletter is twofold: to combat misinformation and to give the people (often women) of Anderson County a voice. We should be able to rely on our local newspaper for this. Sadly, we cannot.

This past fall, when I asked Democrats and Republicans why they would not even consider running for office in this election year, I heard a common refrain: “I don’t want to deal with the newspaper.” When I asked why, they responded with some version of, “I don’t need that in my life.”

This fear is not only unfortunate, it is unhealthy and a disservice to our community. The people of Anderson County deserve better.

The newspaper editor is the most powerful person in the county. He determines what makes the news and what does not; he decides what is urgent / breaking news; he directs public discourse toward this and away from that; he can discourage citizens who fear him from participating in civic life or running for office.

And yet…

The 3 women in today’s newsletter (including me) are running for local office, and I am reminded of a Katie Couric quote: “A boat is always safe in the harbor, but that’s not what boats are built for.”


ON THE RACE FOR COUNTY ATTORNEY

Tiffany Gash Azzinaro, as posted publicly on her Facebook page, the day she filed to run for Anderson County Attorney.

When Tiffany Azzinaro filed to run for Anderson County Attorney, the editor of The Anderson News asked if she would like to submit a statement for inclusion in the following week’s newspaper. This is the statement she sent him on January 5:

The past year has been a humbling, eye opening experience for me. The old saying, “everything happens for a reason” is true, as much as I did not want to hear those words in November 2020.  

I have been blessed to experience the other side of the aisle, so to speak, in my private law practice, and while I have amazing clients, I miss public service.

While considering whether to run for County Attorney, I asked my son, Dylan, for his thoughts. “Mom, you and Dad have always said if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life,” he said. “It was never work to you at the County Attorney’s office. You love helping people. So yes.”

I have filed to run for Anderson County Attorney in the May 2022 Primary because I have a calling to serve my community. I have the support of Philip, Dylan, Carson, and my sweet mom. I believe I am the most qualified candidate for the job, and I am ready to talk with all of you about how we can make Anderson County a safe place for families and children to grow and prosper.

Thank you.

This is what the editor printed on January 12:

She will challenge incumbent County Attorney Robert Wiedo, who defeated her in the November 2020 special election when Azzinaro ran as a Democrat.

In a statement released last week, Azzinaro called the defeat a “humbling” experience and says she misses public service.

“I believe I am the most qualified candidate for the job, and I am ready to talk with all of you about how we can make Anderson County a safe place for families and children to grow and prosper,” said Azzinaro, who held the position on an interim basis following her predecessor’s two retirements.


I have questions:

  1. The editor states she held the position on an interim basis, which is technically true but egregiously misleading. Azzinaro served as Assistant County Attorney for 17 years. Is her almost-two decades of experience—as a public servant in the same office for which she is running—irrelevant?
  2. What does her predecessor’s retirement have to do with her candidacy?
  3. Azzinaro did not say that her 2020 defeat was a “humbling” experience. She said, “The past year has been a humbling, eye opening experience for me.” These are not the same thing. Why the misquote?
  4. Azzinaro sent the editor a 200 word statement. He printed 1/5 of it. If space was limited, why did he not specify, ‘Can you send me a 40 word statement?’ as is common practice?

ON THE BARN AT MCCALL SPRINGS

The Barn at McCall Springs, as posted on their public Facebook page.

On January 21, Anderson County Building Inspector Lee White sent an email to Melissa Hanks, owner of The Barn at McCall Springs, at the corner of Hwy 127 and the Blue Grass Parkway. His email reads:

I am contacting you today regarding information that has been brought to my attention.

There has been a Facebook post made from your business page (The Barn at McCall Springs Wedding and Event Venue) on December 26, 2021 stating that a second wedding barn venue is being added Summer 2022 and that you are currently booking for weddings at said venue which prompts my following questions.

Where will this second venue be located? What work is to be completed to erect a structure or is there intent to retro-fit an existing structure as took place at 2160 Harrodsburg Road? Has work already started on any structure for this use?

Be advised that no permits that would be required have been pulled with the KY Department of Housing, Buildings & Construction for any structure to be constructed/renovated, no local building/zoning location permits that will be required have been obtained, no required application for conditional use through the Board of Zoning Adjustments of said use has been obtained nor has any type of development plan been submitted for required review through the Joint planning Commission.

Once I receive your responding email regarding this subject, I can then forward you any required applications so that we can make sure to take care of the required steps to ensure compliance. Be advised if any construction has begun, all work must cease immediately until all required permits have been obtained and approvals given for the intended use.


I have questions:

  1. Is it protocol for the county Building Inspector to send detailed instruction letters like this to business owners based on a social media post someone else said they saw?
  2. Mr. White’s letter assumes that Ms. Hanks is in the process of erecting a building without having submitted the necessary permits, applications, or plans. Why the assumption? Why not stop by to see for himself, or call her?
  3. The Facebook post in question (see below) is ambiguous, at best. Why the assumption that the new venue is being built on their existing property? Or even in Anderson County?

I have never been to an event at The Barn and, while I often see her at public meetings, I do not know Melissa Hanks personally. I spoke with Ms. Hanks on February 7 because I was curious as to why she received the above letter, a letter which seemed, frankly, odd. Below are the questions I asked Ms. Hanks, along with her answers:

Are you in the process of building a second wedding venue on your existing property? “No,” she replied, “We have not confirmed nor decided on a 2nd location at this time.  We have just been in discussion. We are not sure if our 2nd location will even be in Anderson County.”

Why did you post this on your Facebook page on December 26? “We wanted to see what kind of response we would receive in regard to adding another venue,” she replied, “especially during this time of uncertainty.”

You replied to Mr. White’s email, stating that you and your husband “discussed after the first of the year to scale back and “wait out” the pandemic and rising construction prices. No construction, nor weddings have been booked at this time.” Did you receive a response from Mr. White? “Correct.” she said, “After the rise of construction costs and a rise again with the pandemic numbers we decided that it would be much smarter to wait it out and revisit it at a later date. I did not receive a response back from Mr. White. 

Why do you believe you received this email vs. a phone call asking you about the Facebook post? “I am unsure as to why I even received any correspondence from the County Judge’s office regarding something on my Facebook page,” she wrote. “The truth is, I feel that I am being targeted because I am standing up against local County officials for allowing another business to come in and devastate my business and properties in the area. It is simply disheartening to think that they would not protect all businesses and property owners in this community.”

ON RUNNING FOR COUNTY MAGISTRATE

The day I filed to run for Magistrate, with County Clerk Jason Denny.

The day after I filed to run for Anderson County Magistrate, 6th District — yes, me, an outspoken Democrat registered as a Republican — two Anderson County friends called. One said, “Have you fallen and hit your head?” The other said, “You know everybody’s going to look at your paperwork to see who signed for you, right?”

First, I did not fall and hit my head, but it sure felt like it a month earlier when I attended a December 18 town hall led by elected Republicans Rep. James Tipton and Sen. Adrienne Southworth. For an hour and a half, I listened to Anderson Countians make shocking, conspiracy-theory-laden statements, none of which were pushed back on by the two elected leaders in the room. Statements like (and I’m paraphrasing):

Don’t go to the hospital if you have covid! The hospital is a black hole where you end up on a ventilator and die.

I wouldn’t go to the hospital with a broken leg right now.

Doctors are controlled by corporations and are not able to make their own medical decisions.

If you get covid, you don’t need a doctor. Just go to abcxyz.com website and you can get the drugs you want for $30.

What are you all doing in Frankfort to make sure we have our freedom!

I left this meeting thinking, “Dear God, normal people need to be running for office,” and then thought, “Hey, I’m normal.” Thanks to Rep. Tipton and Sen. Southworth for encouraging me to run.

I picked up the papers from the County Clerk’s office before I left for our January vacation. I would be back home the day before the filing deadline. I had time to think about it.

Which brings me to question number two above: Who signed for me?

On January 24, after traveling for about 14 hours overnight, I texted two Republican friends whom I’ve barely seen since March 2020 (thanks Covid-19) who said they’d be happy to sign for me. Then I called the clerk’s office to make sure they were in my district. I got home from the airport about 3 pm, grabbed the filing papers, and drove to my friends’ office with a notary public.

There is no more significance to who signed my paperwork than that, except that they are extraordinarily nice people and I am thankful to call them friends. Not very dramatic, I know, and no tea leaves to read. Sorry.

What is notable?

  1. I am taking zero campaign contributions. I do not want to owe anyone a favor.
  2. If I win, I will donate my entire salary each year (after taxes) to local charities.
  3. I intend to write about this race — the outspoken liberal woman running for a local Republican seat — for the Lexington Herald-Leader and other news outlets. I might even do some TV. Stay tuned.

Wash, print, repeat: Questions for the Editor of The Anderson News

The newspaper editor is the most powerful person in the county. He determines what makes the news and what does not; he decides what is urgent / breaking news; he directs public discourse toward this and away from that; he can discourage citizens who fear him from participating in civic life or running for office.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Back in July, the following occurred at our Anderson County school board meeting. I wrote about it for the Herald-Leader, but here is a small portion of what happened:

A man stood up and said, “Critical race theory is nothing more than Marxism. I think it’s equity, inclusion, and diversity is what they’re calling it now, so people look up and they’re like ‘critical race theory’ is not in there. It’s remade, it’s repackaged, but it’s the same old crap.”

As the CRT conspiracy theory portion of this meeting came to a close, our school board’s vice chair added, “I would just like to say that I would like to see patriotic education taught.”

The room exploded with applause.

It should be noted that school boards around the country are already banning books. One school board recently banned Toni Morrison’s BELOVED.

This week a Tennessee school board voted to ban Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize winning, graphic novel which depicts the Holocaust in a story told to the author by his father. MAUS is, by all accounts, a literary masterpiece. The school board banned this book with a vote of 10 – 0.

The editor of The Anderson News has repeatedly used his opinion column to relay his personal views about CRT. As the basis for his column this week, our newspaper editor wrote:

You can not, in good faith, dismiss “social media diatribes” as things that “make me laugh” and insist you have “better ways to spend my time,” and then write an entire column responding to those diatribes. How can a subject be both unworthy and require a lengthy response from an editor/publisher?

Most concerning is that the editor uses an anonymous emailer as someone to respond to. This is not journalism. Newspapers do not, for good reason, publish anonymous Letters to the Editor. If a citizen has something to say in the public sphere, he/she is required to provide a name and contact information. Their letter, along with their real name, is published.

How does the editor/publisher justify using an anonymous letter as the basis to publish his personal views?

If the written exchange was worthy of the editor’s published response, the letter itself should have been published.

Later in the same column, the editor adds:

Is social media just citizens — aka people who do not have singular access to the powerful platform of their own newspaper — having a “hissy fit?” Does the editor himself not have a Facebook account, not personally use social media?


The Anderson News editor has time to write about the same subjects (like CRT) repeatedly but, inexplicably, seems to have no time to answer any of the questions which have been asked, and asked again, which are in the public interest. To wit:

Why did the editor block teachers and others from commenting on the newspaper’s Facebook page while there are often folks who post angry, inflammatory comments that are never removed?

The editor has used the phrase “local Squad and its acolytes” in his person column. Who comprises said Squad? What are their names? Are they specifically Hispanic women? Women of color? All women? All Democrats? Liberals in general? The editor needs to clarify.

Why has the editor never listed Covid-19 as the cause of any of the 59 deaths in Anderson County? Has he ever contacted any family members to ask if they would like to speak, on the record, to encourage others to be vaccinated?

Regarding masks, why did the editor choose to present exclusively the perspective of an occupational therapist but nothing from a local woman doctor board certified in public health and emergency medicine?

How does a journalist — the editor/publisher of a newspaper — make this derogatory comment about a woman doctor he has not even spoken to?

And then there is this very long list relative to the County Attorney — an office which will be contested in a primary election in less than 4 months — which have gone unanswered.

The CA stated, “During that transition period we simply had to make due [sic] and we did the best that we could.” Why did he decide not to hire, even if for a transition period only, any of the the 3 women who had working knowledge of the office?

The editor has written extensively about last year’s alleged “difficult” transition in the County Attorney’s office, but has yet to offer proof. Why has the editor never contacted the former CA to ask for documents — documents which I easily obtained with one phone call — to check the accuracy of these “difficult transition” allegations?

The current CA has yet to provide his platform to the public. As I recall, his primary focus in the special election was the Second Amendment, but gun rights do not fall within the purview of the county attorney. What is the CA’s platform within the scope of the office he currently holds and is running for again in the May primary?

In December, the following statements were made in The Anderson News by the CA. Why were no basic follow-up questions asked by the editor of the newspaper?

“When [Gov.] Beshear closed small businesses in March 2020, I noticed a few local politicians preach that ‘we are in this together,’ yet I observed good people struggling while these same politicians continued to draw their checks, completely unaffected,” and “I am sorry, but we are not all in this together and these politicians with gifted positions should do more.”

POSSIBLE FOLLOW-UP QUESTIONS:

What are the names of the “local politicians?”

Why do you believe they did not need a paycheck?

How do you know they were “completely unaffected?” Do you know them personally? Give me an example.

What do you mean by “politicians with gifted positions?”

You said they should do more. Who are “they” and how do you know what they are doing/giving?


“My business got shut down … literally,” he said. “I was told to shut the doors, send people home and go file for unemployment.”

FOLLOW-UP QUESTIONS:

You were not running a public-facing business. Why would your business get shut down?

You say you were told to shut the doors, send people home and go file for unemployment. Who told you this?


“Some people were still drawing paychecks and it wasn’t having any impact on them?”

FOLLOW-UP QUESTIONS:

You said “some people.” Are you referring to the female county attorney at the time?

Are you suggesting she should have voluntarily asked to stop receiving a paycheck?

How do you personally know the pandemic “wasn’t having any impact on” her?


“I had three months of zero income …”

FOLLOW-UP QUESTION:

You were an attorney in private practice. People had a continuing, ongoing need for legal representation during the pandemic. Why did you choose to cease doing business, taking “zero income?”

It should be noted that 100% of the responsibility here lies with the newspaper editor. Any journalist, and certainly the editor of a newspaper, would have asked these questions. An interviewee is not responsible for answering questions he is not asked.

Why did the editor not ask a single, obvious, follow-up question?

Recovery Through Help: Ex-Addict Uses His Experience to Save Others

Andrew Hager, Teri Carter, Police Chief Bryan Taylor
Photo credit: Troy Young

It was an honor to write this story. Thanks to the courageous and fiercely kind Andrew Hager, and to Police Chief Bryan Taylor and his entire department for being, as Mr. Rogers would say, the helpers.

_________________________

The Monday before Thanksgiving, I meet Andrew Hager in the parking lot of the Lawrenceburg, Kentucky Police Department on Woodford Street. It is a little after noon—sunny, cold and breezy. Chief Bryan Taylor welcomes us in and leads us to a bright, window-lit training room where we can talk in private.

The first thing Andrew tells me is this: Yesterday was the fourth anniversary of his daughter’s death from an overdose. She was 27.

“I’d like to tell you I was a good father,” he says, looking away, out the windows. “I’d like to tell you I’m in the pictures, but I wasn’t. I got the call that said, hey, you need to get to UK [hospital], and they took me into this little consolation room with just me and my daughter’s lifeless body. A lot of pain, shame, and guilt. You see, we suffer from an illness and it is so cunning.”

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