Kevin Willis

News Director

Kevin is the News Director at WKU Public Radio.  He has been with the station since 1999, and was previously the Assistant News Director, and also served as local host of Morning Edition.  He is a broadcast journalism graduate of WKU, and has won numerous awards for his reporting and feature production.  Kevin grew up in Radcliff, Kentucky and currently lives in Glasgow.

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Arts & Culture
2:23 pm
Fri June 28, 2013

Work Continues to Save Downing Paintings Damaged in Museum Fire

A Joe Downing work

The job of determining how many paintings can be saved following a fire at a Bowling Green art museum continues.

An estimated 90 percent of the Joe Downing paintings housed at the estate of Jerry Baker are not seriously damaged. But WKU President Gary Ransdell told faculty and staff in an email this morning that nearly all of the paintings sustained smoke damage.

Dr. Ransdell said WKU Planning, Design, and Construction staff members are working with restoration experts and insurance professionals to start the recovery process for the museum building and the art.

Downing is a Hart County native who is one of only a few Americans that have an exhibit shown at the Louvre in Paris, France. He lived most of his adult life in France and was inspired by the natural beauty of the French countryside. He died in 2007 at his country home in the town of Menerbes.

WKU Art Department Head Brent Oglesbee says Downing’s work stands out because of its unique style, and use of color and pattern.

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Regional
12:54 pm
Wed June 26, 2013

Minter: Supreme Court Decision Does Not Impact Kentucky Law on Same-Sex Marriage

The U.S. Supreme Court has declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

The U.S. Supreme's Court ruling Wednesday striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act does not impact Kentucky laws regarding the definition of marriage. Kentucky voters in 2004 approved an amendment to the state constitution defining a marriage as being between one man and one woman.

WKU constitutional law scholar Patty Minter says the Supreme Court's decision on DOMA concerns those in same-sex marriages being able to receive the same federal benefits as those in heterosexual marriages.

"It does not affect the definition of marriage in Kentucky, and it does not require the state of Kentucky to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. It also has no impact on civil unions anywhere in the 50 states," Dr. Minter told WKU Public Radio.

Dr. Minter, a WKU History Professor, says those wanting same-sex marriage in Kentucky would likely have to get a referendum on the ballot that would repeal the 2004 state amendment.

"Or you would need another case at the U.S. Supreme Court--one that rendered all of those state marriage amendments to be moot. They would also be rendered moot if you passed a federal amendment to the Constitution that mandated that marriage rights could not be abridged based on status.

Agriculture
1:24 pm
Thu June 20, 2013

U.S. House Adds Hemp Measure, but Ultimately Votes Down Farm Bill

Industrial hemp production is legal in most countries, but not in the U.S.

For industrial hemp supporters, Thursday’s farm bill vote in the U.S. House is a case of good news and bad news.

The good news: a bi-partisan amendment passed a floor vote and was added to the $940 billion farm bill package.

The bad news: that farm bill was ultimately voted down, with 195 House members voting in favor, and 234 voting against.

The hemp amendment was co-sponsored by Kentucky’s Fourth District Representative Thomas Massie, and would allow colleges and universities to grow and cultivate hemp for academic and agricultural research purposes. It would apply to states where industrial hemp growth has been legalized.

Nineteen states have passed pro-hemp legislation, while nine others—including Kentucky—have removed certain barriers to the crop’s production.

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner and Monroe County native James Comer recently led a delegation to Washington D.C. to lobby lawmakers and White House officials on behalf of hemp legalization.

Education
2:52 pm
Wed June 19, 2013

Simpson County School Leader Supports Increased Dropout Age, Set to Lead State Group

The incoming president of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents says he fully backs efforts to increase the state's dropout age to 18.

Simpson County Superintendent Jim Flynn told WKU Public Radio he thinks some kids drop out because they know they aren't going to college. But Flynn believes the state is starting to do a better of identifying ways to help those not going into postsecondary education.

"Now that the state is focusing on multiple pathways into career and college readiness, it gives some students that may feel a little left out when the focus was simply on college readiness and proficiency only," says Flynn.

Flynn takes over as head of the state's Association of School Superintendents at the group's summer meeting this week in Bowling Green.

Future of Education Funding?

Flynn is hopeful that the state's improving economic outlook will boost chances for increased education funding.

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Education
12:57 pm
Wed June 19, 2013

WKU Board of Regents Set to Vote on $393.9 Million Budget Friday

Credit Kevin Willis

The WKU Board of Regents will vote on the school’s next budget at a meeting Friday afternoon. The nearly $394 million spending plan for 2013-14 is a 1.4 percent increase over last year’s budget.

If approved, 46 percent of the revenue used to run WKU would come from tuition and student fees. Only 18 percent of the proposed budget comes from state funding.

The budget vote comes after several tumultuous months on the WKU campus. In April, the Council on Postsecondary Education rejected President Gary Ransdell’s request for a 5 percent tuition increase, granting just a 3 percent hike. Ransdell told WKU faculty and staff that the decision meant the school was going to have to cut jobs.

However, within a few weeks of that announcement, Ransdell said WKU Vice-Presidents had come up with enough ways to cut costs and shift personnel that nobody on campus would lose their job.

The WKU Board of Regents meets Friday, June 21, at 12:30 p.m. in the Cornelius A. Martin Regents Room in the Mass Media and Technology Hall.

You can see the complete agenda for Friday's meeting here.

Business
1:46 pm
Tue June 18, 2013

USDA Grant to Help Small Businesses Grow in Southeastern Kentucky

An economic development organization based in Pulaski County is receiving federal grant money to help aspiring small business owners get a leg up.

The nearly $71,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will go to The Southeast Kentucky Economic Development Corporation in Somerset. The U.S.D.A's Doug O'Brien told WKU Public Radio the grant will provide technical assistance to entrepreneurs in southern and southeastern Kentucky.

"Many times a small business can be just one person, or a couple of people who really see an opportunity in that part of the country. But maybe they haven't been through the rigors of the small business cycle of budgeting, or how to deal with their workforce needs," said O'Brien.

The Southeast Kentucky Economic Development Corporation serves the counties of Adair, Casey, Clinton, Cumberland, Garrard, Green, Jackson, Knox, Laurel, Lincoln, McCreary, Metcalfe, Monroe, Pulaski, Rockcastle, Russell, Wayne, and Whitley.

Regional
9:40 am
Tue June 11, 2013

Bowling Green Set to Become Home to Plane, Piloted by WKU Grad, that Raided Libya in 1986

Arnie Franklin (WKU '66), standing next to an F-111 that took part in the 1986 U.S. air raid on Libya
Credit Kevin Willis

WKU graduate Arnie Franklin discusses the 1986 air raid on Libya, and the addition of an F-111 to the Aviation Heritage Park in Bowling Green.

An airplane with an amazing local connection will make its public debut at the Bowling Green’s Aviation Heritage Park on Saturday, June 8. The F-111 joining the park took part in the 1986 U.S. air raid against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in Libya—a raid led by a WKU graduate and native of south-central Kentucky.

Sitting in a hangar near the Bowling Green Regional Airport is a plane known  as the “Warhorse” because of its many years of service. If you didn’t know any better, you might assume this relic from the military’s not-too-distant past could take off and fly right now.

Not having an engine keeps this bird on the ground, but it sure looks nice.

For Arnie Franklin, seeing this F-111 look just the way it did back in 1986 brings forward a flood of memories.

“It brings all of those emotions that I remember from that mission back to the forefront, and even though it was 27 years ago, in a lot of ways it seems like it was yesterday," Franklin told WKU Public Radio.

This is the story of a Kentucky pilot, a war plane, and a mission.

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Politics
9:16 am
Wed June 5, 2013

Yonts Hoping Beshear Calls Special Session on Redistricting this Fall

Rep. Brent Yonts (D-Greenville)
Credit Kentucky LRC

The chairman of the State Government Committee in the Kentucky House says he's not sure when Governor Beshear will call lawmakers back to Frankfort for a special session.

Muhlenberg County Democrat Brent Yonts says the governor informed him at the conclusion of this year's regular session that he wanted lawmakers to figure out a solution to legislative redistricting before January.

"I'm hoping it will not be in July or August when most of us are traveling a lot," Yonts told WKU Public Radio. "If it's going to happen, I hope it's early September or possibly in June. But he hasn't communicated to me exactly when it's going to happen."

Governor Beshear recently said he is considering a special session sometime in the fall. Kentucky's legislative boundaries have to be redrawn to reflect the most recent U.S. Census data.

Earlier this year the House passed new maps that were rejected by the Senate. Now the state is facing two lawsuits alleging lawmakers have been negligent in not getting new boundaries drawn.

Business
8:25 am
Tue June 4, 2013

Coal Miners Rallying in Henderson, Want Full Pay and Benefits Restored

A planned protest by the United Mine Workers of America Tuesday in Henderson is expected to attract at least 30 busloads of supporters from around the midwest and Appalachian regions.

Protesters are angry about Patriot Coal Corporation's move to end its contract and reduce wages and benefits for active union members. Several lawmakers, including Greenville Democratic Rep. Brent Yonts, will speak at the rally Tuesday morning at the Henderson County Courthouse.

"The main points I'm going to talk about deal with the tragedy of the thousands of these coal miners who have given their sweat, blood, and souls producing energy for this country, and are now having the rugs pulled out from under them in their retirement years," says the Muhlenberg County Democrat.

Sen. Dorsey Ridley will also speak at Tuesday's rally. He represents coal counties such as Henderson, Union and Webster, and says coal executives shouldn't be allowed to shirk their responsibilities when it comes to giving current and former workers what is owed to them.

"It's the responsibility of those who are in power to take care of those who work for them," says Ridley. "Promises were made, and promises need to be kept. Period."

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Regional
8:25 am
Mon June 3, 2013

Mammoth Cave Planning to Continue 5% Budget Cut Next Fiscal Year

Mammoth Cave is one of Kentucky's most popular tourist attractions.

Mammoth Cave National Park is preparing to continue current budget cuts into the next fiscal year. The popular southern Kentucky attraction has let many full-time and seasonal positions go unfilled due to the cuts.

Mammoth Cave National Park Superintendent Sarah Craighead tells WKU Public Radio the government has informed all national parks to not expect any relief from the hit they took earlier this year from the sequestration.

"We are currently being told to plan to carry forward the cuts that we took this year, so as we start our budget effort we will plan on continuing that five-percent reduction in our budget," said Craighead. "We haven't been given any additional information regarding next year's budget."

Mammoth Cave has left several full-time positions go unfilled as part of their budget reduction, including the park electrician. Superintendent Craighead says the park is relying more on volunteer help than it normally would, and is asking for volunteers to help the park maintain its many hiking trails.

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