Best Of 2017: Capitol Reporter Ryland Barton On Henry Clay, Panhandling And Busing
This year, Kentucky Public Radio Capitol Reporter Ryland Barton covered everything from the General Assembly to the state’s unfolding pension crisis and sexual harassment scandals. Here are some of his favorite stories of 2017.
My ears perked up when President Trump mentioned Henry Clay's sweeping infrastructure plan, the “American System,” during a rally in Louisville this spring. I'm a big fan of the Great Statesman and when Trump came to Cincinnati to tout his own infrastructure initiative later in the year, it provided a great opportunity to compare modern times to those of the mid-1800s.
Every Kentucky Derby demands a new set of journalistic musings on how horse racing has changed over the last couple of centuries, but this year we had some financial documents to reveal new facets of the story. According to Churchill Downs' SEC filings, the company now only gets about 25 percent of its profits from its racetracks, yet the company’s stock is trading near an all-time high due to online gaming.
After the Kentucky Supreme Court struck down Lexington's ban on panhandling, the city's homeless community almost immediately increased its presence on street corners and medians. Local businesses didn't like it, putting pressure on the city to find a new policy that would have a similar effect. This was a great example of how state government has real and immediate impacts on people's lives.
Louisville's busing program has been in place for decades as an attempt to desegregate the city's highly segregated neighborhoods. The policy has been under fire for decades and with Republicans in control of the legislature for the first time in state history, it looked like the state might be able to pass a law to preempt Louisville's policy. Louisvillians on both sides of this issue are very passionate; the measure was thwarted after an uproar.
This was a tragic story of a Kentucky man and his family who were swept up in President Trump's executive order that banned entry of refugees into the U.S. Lodrige Mutabazi had moved to the U.S. a little more than a year before this story, but he was still awaiting the arrival of his wife and a young son who was born after he left the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Honorable mention: Attorney General Beshear Appeals Expungement Made Under New State Law
This story gets to the heart of a controversy in Kentucky's new felony expungement law. The law allows people to have low-level felonies cleared from their records after they pay a fine and pass a good-behavior period. Multiple felonies can be cleared if they arose from a "single incident," but it's unclear how an incident is defined.
In this case, the attorney general challenged a judge's ruling that granted expungements of five felony convictions that took place over four days in 1978. The man who was convicted of the crimes says he’s been turned away from several jobs over the years because of his record, but hasn’t had more than a traffic violation. He said the system is unforgiving to young people in similar situations.
For more of WFPL’s Best of 2017, click here.