You might recall that Camp Jean is where we found our senior rescue, Abigail. They plucked her out of an overflowing shelter where she was scared, skinny, shy and deaf, with heart worms and hookworms. Today, Abigail is the happiest, sweetest dog in our house (don’t tell our other dogs ;).
And here is Grady last night post-surgery, all tucked in and loved.
Thank you thank you thank you for your support of this incredible organization here in my little Kentucky town. It takes all of us.
In his June 13 opinion column, Editor Ben Carlson of The Anderson News opined on agritourism and Chris and Melissa Hanks’s wedding venue.
These are the facts:
The Hanks’s Conditional Use Permit, dated 6/15/17, describes their business as: Event & Wedding Barn, Agri-Tourism Building in an I-1 (Light Industrial) Zoning District.
The permit reads, during discussion, “Chairman Olszowy recommended that the application be amended to a request for agri-tourism use in an I-1 zoning district. He stated that agri-tourism encompassed many uses,” and then “a motion was made by Jeff Sauer, seconded by Jim Doss, to grant the conditional use permit to allow an agri-tourism use in an I-1 zoning district.”
Fast forward to April 21, 2022. The Fiscal Court’s Agritourism Committee held a meeting. I attended this public meeting and recall a lengthy discussion about agritourism in general and committee members drafting suggested parking language.
The official minutes bear this out, reading, in part: “under Agritourism Parking we want to add 1) For purposes permitted by right under the agricultural district, parking facilities may be located on a grass or gravel lot. 2) For uses permitted under special use permit parking may be either gravel or paved as determined by the Planning Commission.”
Based on these facts, there are obvious questions.
For The Anderson News editor: What was the purpose of your June 13 column? What was newsworthy?
For the Fiscal Court: Has official language been prepared by an attorney? When will this be on the court’s agenda for a vote?
For our citizens: If this were your business, would you be inclined to spend thousands of dollars to pave your parking lot — after years of having it be a non-issue — knowing the rule could change, literally, any day?
Last night I talked to Progress Kentucky about running for local office, this country’s addiction to guns, the January 6 committee, and what happens when small town churches insert themselves into politics.
You can listen by clicking here or on the image below. Conversation starts at the 33 min mark.
**** My column for Sunday, July 10, print edition ***
The day before Roe v. Wade was overturned, I opened the door to a funeral home in Missouri and locked eyes with the man who molested me when I was a teenager. He was holding court by the guest book, so I slipped around back and spent the next hour, until he left, hugging and comforting friends, skirting the funeral parlor like an animal avoiding a known predator.
In recent days, a ten year-old rape victim in Ohio had to be sent out-of-state for an abortion because Ohio law would force her to give birth. Is this what parents dream of for their daughters? In Mississippi, House Speaker Philip Gunn declared that abortion is unacceptable, even if the victim is twelve and impregnated by her father or uncle, citing his “personal beliefs.”
When no one else she encouraged to run for county office stepped up, Teri Carter took her own advice and ran. Her campaign taught her more than she wanted to learn about the state of American democracy.
On March 14, the Anderson County school superintendent asked a sheriff’s deputy to remove me from a school board meeting. Why? I was politely reading letters from frustrated teachers who desperately wanted our board to understand the untenable reality of life in the classroom, and I had spoken too long.
I am not a teacher in our school system. I am just a taxpaying citizen who offered to protect teachers’ identities while reading their letters aloud into the public record. When the chairman tried to stop me, stating I had gone well-over the time limit for public comments (which I had), I reminded him of the man who often spoke at length in these meetings and was always allowed to finish, a man who was recently banned for wearing a gun in this room.
I kept reading. I could feel the tension rise. As the deputy entered the room, I stopped on my own and returned to my seat.
You have likely seen the video of Sen. Ted Cruz being berated in a restaurant about his response to the Uvalde school shooting. If so, I’m guessing you have also heard friends and seen people on social media insisting we all do the same. Time to stop being polite! We need to give elected officials a piece of our mind in airports and restaurants! Stop obeying the rules and make a scene!
I get it. We are all still enraged — at least I hope we are — about the massacre in Uvalde. We need to DO something. But is ranting on Facebook or Twitter about what you would do if you saw Sen. Cruz — or McConnell, Paul, Massie — in a restaurant, realistic?
I have never given a politician a piece of my mind during dinner, but I am known for being outspoken. I have gone to our school board multiple times to tell them things they do not want to hear. This spring, I ran ads in our local newspaper asking questions of a county attorney candidate that our newspaper editor, inexplicably, refused to ask. I openly question the actions and intent of public officials in my town. And here is what I can tell you: it comes at a personal cost.
Maybe it works differently in urban America, in big, crowded cities where it is easier to feel as anonymous in person as you do online. But I live in small-town, rural Kentucky where it is not only seen as an impolite, personal affront to confront/question someone in power, but in a place deeply rooted in gun culture where many of the people you are criticizing, and the group that agrees with them, are likely carrying guns.
Case in point: The man who often spoke too long and carried a gun into our school board meeting last fall? The majority of citizens who commented publicly sided with him.
When I watch the Ted Cruz confrontation video, I admit, I cheer inside. I think about how he deserves it. But here are the realities: Are you ready to be on video, maybe multiple videos, that will be widely circulated on social media? What happens when his supporters (with guns?) find out your name and where you live? Are you ready to be contacted by the press for a statement, to be on TV news? Could you lose your job? What will your neighbors, who may disagree with you, think? Are you ready to be confronted in public, in return?
The day after I was almost removed from the school board meeting for doing nothing more than respectfully reading too long, I extended my hand in good faith. It’s a small town. I know the superintendent and the people on our board. I like some of them a great deal. So I sent an email offering to talk to them privately about the teachers’ letters/concerns.
The superintendent responded with an email that began, “I have spoken with the board attorney.” There would be no more talking. We have not spoken since.
I recently ran into a school board member on the town green. He seemed to not recognize me. When I jokingly said as much, he replied with a flat, unsmiling stare, “I recognize you,” and turned to talk to someone else.
This is what happens when you publicly speak truth to power.
The tragedy in Uvalde is overwhelming. We remain furious. We want to scream at cowards like Sen. Cruz, but the reality is that we won’t. The cost is too high. So, what ARE we going to do? What is our plan, your plan?
How are we going to get guns out of the hands of men who not only kill our kids, but silence the rest of us with the knowledge that they are the ones with the guns?
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.
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.
I am running this article as a half-page ad in The Anderson News on May 18, 2022.