Thursday, November 02, 2006

You Ain't From Around Here, Are You?

The lead post on bluegrassreport.org as this is written is about an allegation that the state Transportation Cabinet is withholding approval of a highway project in Hopkins County, waiting to see if a Republican challenger can knock off an incumbent Democrat state senator. Mark Nickolas calls it "another scummy Kentucky Republican tactic" and he feigns outrage.

By doing so, Nickolas only reaffirms his status as an outsider who has no comprehension of how Democrats have played politics with transportation projects for years in Kentucky. Time after time, Nickolas proves repeatedly that he's not from around here.

If the California Carpetbagger had any clue about Kentucky history, he'd know how roads and other infrastructure were neglected in Kentucky's Republican counties for years, primarily in the "Old 5th" counties of Hal Rogers and Tim Lee Carter.

Prior to the election of Louie Nunn, many of the state roads in southeastern and south-central Kentucky's GOP counties were gravel. After 1968, Nunn's administration paved many of these highways, but after that initial coat of asphalt, malignant neglect set in. The Democratic administrations of Ford, Carroll, Brown and Collins ignored maintenance on many of these routes and a large number of them became so riddled with potholes that they, for all intents and purposes, went back to gravel. You have to give Wallace Wilkinson, a rural conservative Democrat, credit for realizing what his predecessors had allowed to happen and getting Kentucky's rural state roads back on a sensible resurfacing schedule.

It's no coincidence that the last remaining gravel road linking Kentucky county seats ran between two Republican counties. That road was Highway 89, linking Irvine and McKee. The last portion, from the Estill-Jackson county line extending south, stayed gravel until the Nunn administration paved it.

It's also no coincidence that the parkway-building craze fostered by governors Combs and Breathitt ignored Republican counties. Again, it took a Republican (Nunn) to build the Cumberland and Daniel Boone parkways, giving staunchly GOP counties access to the rest of the world.

So those of us with long memories and keen awareness of how the Democrats have played keep-away with the Republican towns and counties for lo these many years can only chuckle with a hint of sadness at just how stupid Mark Nickolas is. If he doesn't realize that Kentucky Democrats are finally reaping the rewards of their years of arrogant control over the state's road building budget, then he's more clueless than he appears.

If the conversation the Madisonville writer reports on truly took place, then it's only fitting that the Democrats are getting a nice big dish of karma, served up with fries and a frosty dessert on the side. The Democrats are finally reaping their just rewards, and the Fletcher administration is only right to reward communities that exhibit good sense at the polling place with projects, and to punish communities that show poor sense by taking projects away and giving them to those long-neglected areas of Kentucky that could really use them.

For years, the transportation needs of rural, mostly Republican counties to the south and east of Frankfort have been ignored, while I-264 gets another lane added to it. It's nice to see that shoe on the other foot for a change.

But go ahead, Mark Nickolas, keep proving that you really don't know as much about Kentucky politics as you pretend you do. After all, we don't have a "Governor Chandler" or "Governor Richards" these days, do we?

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