Jonathan Meador

Frankfort Bureau Chief

Jonathan is the Frankfort bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.

Meador worked previously as a staff writer for the Nashville Scene and LEO Weekly. Recently, he co-authored, along with R.G. Dunlop of the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, an investigation into sexual harassment complaints against State Rep. John Arnold which led to Arnold’s resignation. His work has been honored with several awards from the Louisville Society of Professional Journalists.

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Politics
9:35 am
Tue July 29, 2014

Dainty: A Democratic Pit Stop In Louisville on the Road to Fancy Farm

Attorney General Jack Conway played Dainty on Monday.

Originally published on Tue July 29, 2014 7:24 am

On the road to this weekend's Fancy Farm political picnic, there are detours.

One is the Dainty contest, a unique annual sports event in Louisville’s Schnitzelburg neighborhood that draws local and statewide politicians.

In the run up to Fancy Farm, the Dainty has served as a kind of roadside attraction. Candidates rub elbows with prospective voters in an attempt to energize the base in one of Kentucky's most solidly working-class Democratic strongholds.

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Politics
1:19 pm
Mon July 28, 2014

Fancy Farm Chairman Thinks 2014 Edition Could See Largest Crowd Ever

Will Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer announce a run for the governor's office at Fancy Farm?
Credit Kentucky Dept. of Agriculture

This Saturday the 134th annual Fancy Farm political picnic will feature thousands of pounds of barbecue, and even spicier political rhetoric. In addition, the event’s chairman anticipates this year’s political gathering to be the largest ever.

Mark Wilson and his wife, Lori, have directed the political happenings at the Fancy Farm picnic for the past eight years. Mark anticipates this year’s crowd will be the largest since 1992, when Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate Al Gore spoke at the event. 

“It’s a ballpark, 15 to 20,000. And that’s what we anticipate this year, the same type of crowd. 

A lifelong congregant of the stump speech mecca’s St. Jerome Catholic parish, where the event is held alongside raffles and bingo, Wilson says local and state officeholders, as well as both of Kentucky’s U.S. Senators, will be present at Fancy Farm.

He says he anticipates Kentucky Agricultural Commissioner James Comer to keep with a tried and true Fancy Farm tradition and announce his rumored gubernatorial candidacy. 

“There’s speculation that he’s going to announce his intentions to run for governor on the Republican side of the aisle, and we think there’s a very good possibility he will make that announcement on our political platform on Saturday.”

Wilson says the event will also feature its other signature offering: Several thousand pounds of barbeque mutton, chicken, and pork to aid the digestion of what could be the biggest Fancy Farm ever.

Regional
7:26 pm
Sun July 27, 2014

General Burnside Island State Park to Lead Way For Park Privatization in Kentucky

General Burnside Island State Park
Credit Commonwealth of Kentucky

The Kentucky Department of Parks is poised to allow private corporations to develop at, or even operate aspects of, state parks, and expansion of previous efforts permitting commercial activity.

Parks Commissioner Elaine Walker suggested to a state legislative committee Thursday that General Burnside State Park, a 400-acre park 10 miles south of Somerset, could serve "as a potential pilot" for the effort.

Walker briefed the committee on the park system's fiscal outlook amid efforts to control growing operating costs—which have prompted some lawmakers to consider privatization efforts on their own—and offered a broad outline of the department's plans.

"I'm not sure I'm a big fan of the term 'privatization,'" Walker said. "What we're looking at is public-private partnership."

Walker said that the department is in the process of drafting a request for proposals from private companies to build and operate commercial facilities, including a new lodge. The requests could potentially include permitting a company to take over Burnside Island's 18-hole golf course and to perform maintenance duties, Walker said.

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Politics
3:56 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

Beshear Says Mountain Parkway Expansion Still Possible, Despite Highway Trust Fund Problems

The Mountain Parkway runs from I-64, east of Winchester, southeast to a junction with U.S. Route 460 near Salyersville.
Credit Kentucky Transportation Cabinet

Gov. Steve Beshear says that despite a lagging federal response to fixing the insolvent Federal Highway Trust Fund, the state will still pursue an expansion of Eastern Kentucky’s Mountain Parkway.

The governor says he hopes that the U.S. Senate will pass legislation passed by the House that will patch up the rapidly depleting fund through March.

“The Mountain Parkway project will continue as originally passed by the legislature in our transportation budget, and at least at this point, it’s not going to be affected adversely by any action or lack of action," Beshear said.

But the Mountain Parkway is slated to be largely paid for with federal highway reimbursement funds, and is a key component of the “Shaping Our Appalachian Region,” or SOAR, initiative championed by Beshear to revitalize the Eastern Kentucky economy.

The highway trust fund has been used to help states pay for road projects since the 1950s by collecting a gas tax, but it has spent more than it has taken in for nearly 20 years.

Regional
5:23 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

$1.3 Billion In State Contracts Not Unusual, Says Lawmaker

State Sen. Sara Beth Gregory of Monticello
Credit Kentucky LRC

Amid a $91 million state revenue shortfall, the Kentucky legislature’s Government Contract  Review Committee approved $1.3 billion worth of contracts this month. Outgoing Republican Sen. Sara Beth Gregory is a co-chair of the committee. She says the high dollar figure comes at the beginning of a new fiscal year, when  large numbers of contracts are typically renewed -- about 1,700 contracts in July alone.

But Gregory says that there are still contracts that creep into the committee that warrant more scrutiny from the public and the media.

 “It is somewhat surprising how much is overseen by this committee and how much comes before this committee or has the potential to come before this committee with relatively little press coverage,” said Gregory.

Gregory  says  the committee’s decisions can be overruled by the secretary of the finance cabinet, and that the best they can do is try to draw attention to contracts that award more money than they should.

The Legislative Ethics Commission reports that despite a reduction in contracts for the 2013-2014 fiscal year, the amount swelled to $3.4 billion from 2007 to 2011.

Regional
5:46 pm
Mon July 21, 2014

Alltech Expanding To Pikeville Hoping to Play Role In Revitalizing E. Kentucky

Alltech is investing about $24 million in a new Eastern Kentucky facility to help shore up economic development in the area.

Touted by Gov. Steve Beshear and Kentucky Congressman Hal Rogers, the development will expand Alltech’s distillery operations on a 380-acre reclaimed surface mine, and will grow to include aquaculture fish farms and an  egg laying operation.

Deirdre Lyons is director of corporate image for Alltech. She says Eastern Kentucky brings back memories  of her native homeland.

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Regional
4:55 pm
Fri July 18, 2014

Anti-Smoking Campaign Gears Up for 2015 Push

Anti-smoking advocates are gearing up for another push to pass a statewide smoking ban with a statewide tour leading up to August’s Fancy Farm political picnic.

The Smoke-Free Coalition announced that it will make several stops across Kentucky to rally supporters and engage legislators to help pass a statewide smoking ban during the 2015 General Assembly.

A previous effort sponsored by Lexington Democrat Rep. Susan Westrom died in the House amid speculation that tobacco lobbying and election year concerns contributed to its demise.

Kentucky is one of 26 states that lacks a statewide smoking ban, which polls show has a plurality of support in the state.

The tour begins July 28 in Ashland and features stops in Campbellsville and Bowling Green July 31 and Owensboro Aug. 1.

Regional
6:13 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

Beshear Cuts Kentucky Budget to Balance $90.9-Million Shortfall

Gov. Steve Beshear

Gov. Steve Beshear issued a pair of executive orders this week reducing state spending levels to plug a $90.9-million hole in Kentucky's budget.

The Office of the State Budget Director announced the shortfall last week, which is due largely to an unexpected $63-million decline in income related to capital gains. 

Beshear's cuts cover the $90.9-million gap.

In a statement released Wednesday night, Beshear said the state was "somewhat limited" in its approach to filling the budget hole.

“But as in previous reductions, two goals guided our decisions—to take steps to make government as efficient and as lean as possible, and to protect as best we can the core services that offer help and hope to our people and represent important long-term investments in Kentucky’s future: education, health care and public safety," Beshear said in the released statement.

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Regional
6:56 pm
Wed July 16, 2014

Letcher County Farmer's Market Designated USDA “Summer Feeding” Site, Becoming First in State

An Eastern Kentucky farmer’s market has become the first in the state to be  designated a “Summer Feeding Site” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

As part of a joint effort led by the Community Farm Alliance, the program will provide farm-to-table meals free of charge to children under the age of 18  during summer break.

The program also aims to shore up business among local farmers by providing them with a steady source of income, and to improve community health.

According to U.S. Census data, about a quarter of Letcher County’s 23,600 residents live below the federal poverty line.

The CFA will celebrate the announcement July 26.

Regional
6:42 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

Kentucky Retirement Systems Pension Seeks to Dismiss Ft. Wright Lawsuit

The troubled Kentucky Retirement Systems pension is firing back at a lawsuit filed by a small Northern Kentucky town over what it alleges are “high risk investments” made by KRS.

In June, the city of Ft. Wright -- population 5,700 -- filed a civil suit against KRS over risky investments into Wall Street hedge funds with public money, seeking $50 million to cover the losses and to divorce its city and county employees from the state system.

KRS fired back with a motion last week claiming that the city lacks the proper legal standing to do so, and is asking Kenton Circuit Court to dismiss the claim.

Specifically, KRS argues that the types of alternative investments it makes into hedge funds are allowed by state law, and that circuit court is an improper venue for the suit because it is an administrative agency.

KRS’ motion will be heard Monday in Kenton Circuit Court.

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