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Time for Gov. Beshear to reign in health cabal

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By Ben Carlson

Column as I see ’em …
Now that he has been comfortably re-elected, perhaps Gov. Beshear will take a moment and throw a rope around those in his health cabinet who can’t seem to keep their meddling noses out of Anderson County’s business.
Our 12-person health board, which consists of the county’s CEO and members with more degrees than a thermometer is perfectly capable (these days, at least) of making decisions without interference from state health officials.
Since late summer, those officials have stuck their noses into nearly every aspect of the local board’s governance, including the acting state health director’s threat to veto a vote by the board to fire its current director.
Unbridled Spirit, Gov. Beshear? How about Unbridled Arrogance?
Want another example? Just last week the state’s acting human resource manager (what’s with all the interim titles, by the way?) stuck his nose in the health board’s decision to cut the director’s hours from full time to 22.5 each week in an all-out effort to salvage the department’s sagging finances. The move saved salary, but also fringe benefits that the department simply can no longer afford.
The interim HR guy cried foul and from the bowels of Frankfort produced so-called “guidelines” that claim the director needs at least 100 hours per month, which coincidentally requires the fringe benefits to be paid, too.
Fearing a lawsuit should it decide differently, the health board relented and gave the director the additional hours and benefits.
We’ve come to a sad pass when local officials have to make decisions based first on fear of being sued by the state, second on what’s right.
That these meddlers are so intent on meddling is disturbing, but far from surprising.
After all, the state health cabal is constructed primarily to protect the interests of its employees first, with taxpayers being somewhere down the line. The cabal, with a enabling assist from the state legislature, set up a system by which it, not local elected officials, stack health boards as it sees fit, and empowers these unelected people to create budgets and set tax rates with virtually no accountability to taxpayers.
But here in Anderson County something has gone drastically wrong, thanks to a handful of relatively new health board members unafraid to ask tough questions and make the taxpayer their top priority.
The childlike, foot-stomping response from your team, governor, would be comical if the department’s budgetary problems weren’t so dire.
That’s why, Gov. Beshear, it’s time for you to step up and tell the people to whom you’ve doled out all these temporary titles to stay in their lanes. If those on our health board need help, they’ll certainly ask for it.

Speaking of going terribly wrong, just think how much foot-stomping there’d be in Frankfort if the fiscal court disbanded the current health and library taxing districts and placed their budgets and tax rates directly under its watchful eye.
Doing just that is the overriding reason the public wants the city council and fiscal court to approve a unification study.
Although both passed resolutions back in August, which required their attorneys to draft ordinances to that effect, don’t expect those to ever see the light of day.
The city council hasn’t so much as mentioned the topic since August, and the fiscal court seems intent to continue tabling it in perpetuity, which it did again Tuesday morning.
That’s fine with me, so long as the fiscal court does the right thing and reins in the health and library taxing districts — an action no one disputes can be done.
Doing so will take a fair amount of political willpower and magistrates unafraid to tell Frankfort that it’s wrong, no matter how loud the protectionists who set up these cabals scream.

Speaking of willpower, hats off to the high school football team and its coaches for a tremendous ride to the state finals.
Winning it all would have been great, but Anderson Countians should take solace in knowing that the final score Saturday night is by no means the barometer by which this group of young men should or will be judged.
It’s easy to tell young people involved in sports that they should lose like they win, with good sportsmanship and dignity, but another thing altogether to make that happen.
Coach Mark Peach and his staff, with some obvious help from the players’ parents, accomplished that difficult task, which in the long run will make these young men better adults, parents and leaders than a state football title ever would.