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Blog: Weekly Catch-up: Aug. 23-27, 2010

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Last week was incredibly busy, full of diverse announcements and events, so let me catch up:

On Monday, in addition to announcing the median barriers on I-65 in the Hart County-LaRue County area, I traveled to Louisville to see a house whose energy consumption and costs are being dramatically reduced through the Kentucky Weatherization Assistance Program.

It was an impressive display of what can be done.

While there, I announced that the federal government -- recognizing Kentucky's success with the weatherization program -- is releasing the remaining half of the $70 million we were awarded last year from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

We plan to improve 8,752 homes with that money, and already more than 2,600 are finished.

In the process, we're helping low-income families in this difficult economic time, we're creating jobs, we're saving the environment by cutting energy use and we're helping a Kentucky company, since we've signed a contract with GE to supply its new ultra energy-efficient water heater, made in Louisville.

On Wednesday, I traveled to Elizabethtown for yet another significant step forward in the realignment of the Fort Knox military installation.

In addition to creating thousands of jobs, the U.S. Army's transformation of Fort Knox is bringing 13,000 people to the region -- not just Army administrators and servicemen and women but also civilian contractors and of course family members for all workers.

Since 2005 the state has been working feverishly with base and local officials to improve schools, roads and other infrastructure serving those families.

Wednesday I delivered two checks totaling about $151 million.

A little over $112 million will fund four road projects designed to alleviate congestion on U.S. 31W, on which the morning commute time from Elizabethtown to Fort Knox has more than doubled.

The other $38.5 million will fund 11 projects designed to expand the capacity of the water and sewer service in the region.

The money was authorized by the General Assembly earlier this year at my request.

To me, the support of BRAC is both an opportunity and an obligation -- by taking advantage of this incredible potential for growth, Kentucky can support the mission of U.S. military installations.

On Thursday I began the day speaking -- as is tradition -- at the Kentucky Country Ham Breakfast, which is part of the Kentucky State Fair.

There I gave what some people call the State of the Commonwealth for Agriculture.

I promised farmers and other agriculture officials that I would continue to do two things: Stick up for them during this horrible economy time, and act aggressively to make sure that farming remains an integral part of Kentucky's future.

I reviewed an array of my initiatives and goals: preserving 50 percent of Master (Tobacco) Settlement Funds for farming-related investments … adding to the $71 million in Agricultural Development Funds we've invested ($50 million on direct farmer cost-share incentives, $21 million on projects ranging from farmers' markets to renewable fuel production) … various agri-energy conservation and production initiatives, including biomass projects … veterinary loan programs … the Kentucky Proud marketing initiative .. and the Kentucky Equine Health and Welfare Council.

Then I closed with a warning and a vow: We've heard a lot of political talk recently about the need to eliminate programs that provide a safety net for farmers and that help us maintain and modernize this nation's food supply.

Some people apparently think we should abandon farmers. I strongly disagree with those sentiments. This is a farm state. And as long as I am governor, we will stand up for our farm families.

Now, later Thursday, back in Frankfort, I signed a proclamation for Women's Equality Day that marked the 90th anniversary of the signing of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which finally gave women the right to vote.

Having the opportunity at various stages of my career to work alongside leaders like former Gov. Martha Layne Collins, Auditor Crit Luallen, budget director and Executive Cabinet Secretary Mary Lassiter, and former state Sen. Georgia Powers, it's stunning to me that society once shunned the skills, talents and ideas of such people -- just because they were women.

I used the occasion to announce the Commission on Women's 10-year Kentucky Women's History Project.

It has three parts: A consortium that will assemble a complete and seamless account of the contributions of women to the growth and development of Kentucky from the Suffrage movement to the 21st Century … a historical poster series that will create materials to help schools teach women's history … and the beginning of the discussion to erect two prominent statues of women in the State Capitol building.

As you know, the building currently has no statues of women, so this idea is long overdue. It's a massive undertaking that may take the entire 10 years to complete, but the time to start is now.

Friday, I traveled to the Lexington Arboretum to honor the fourth anniversary of the crash of Flight 5191, which killed 49 people.

The ceremony was a somber one. Many people there lost family in the tragedy. Jane and I lost several friends.

But it was also a hopeful day, because we broke ground for a memorial.

Sculptor Douwe Blumberg's design -- 49 metal birds rising from the ground like souls floating into the heavens -- is a gorgeous one, and the Flight 5191 Memorial Remembrance Committee has done a fabulous job under difficult circumstances.

To help, we committed $100,000 in state aviation funds toward the memorial's construction.

I look forward to the completion of this site, which will give all Kentuckians an opportunity to pay their respects and reflect on 49 lives lost too soon.

A final note: Jane and I were saddened by the death of Bob Sexton on Thursday night.

I have known Bob for years, and working with him on the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence gave me the opportunity to see firsthand how deeply he valued Kentucky and how committed he was to improving education for all our students. His passing leaves an enormous void in our state.

Many Kentuckians may not realize the revolutionary impact Bob had on shaping our state's education practices. The most fitting memorial will be for us to continue his work and continue to improve our schools.


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