How to Get Involved in the Midterm Elections

How to Get Involved in the Midterm Elections

By Taylor Forns, M.D.

As inconceivable as it may seem right now, the dog days of summer will soon be drawing to a close as we inch nearer to a great autumn tradition.

No, I’m not talking about football. But if you want to learn more about the upcoming season for your Cards or Cats, I recommend you check out the great local media coverage we are privy to here in the Commonwealth.

The fall ritual I’m referring to is the fast-approaching election season.

Young people have long been unreliable voters. In 2016, Kentucky voters 34 and younger had a 47.9% turnout rate, well below the 59.1% average of all voters. In the 2014 midterm the numbers are much worse, as only 26.1% came out to the polls compared to the 45.9% total. Voting is the single most important constitutional right we have as American citizens…if we don’t like our government, we have the power to vote to change it, so use that power!

This past presidential election cycle has certainly spurred me to take a more active role in the election process outside of simply voting. If you, too, are thinking about becoming more involved in the upcoming midterm elections, I’m here to give you a few ideas of different ways to get involved.

My first piece of advice would be to register! It’s hard to affect change within a democratic system if you mute your own voice by not being a registered voter. It’s an easy and painless process here in Kentucky: all you have to do is visit the Secretary of State’s website and fill out the simple form the State Board of Elections offers.

Once you’ve registered to vote, you can really start to rev your political engine. Perhaps the most organic way to influence others during an election is to volunteer for a campaign. Be it a national election, a state primary, or even a mayoral race, any campaign adviser will say the most important thing for a campaign, other than many willing donors, is a plethora of volunteers.

There are many roles for volunteers on the campaign trail that fit the busy schedules of nearly everybody, which means you can get involved even if you work long hours. Just reach out to a candidate’s team, and they will find a way to utilize your skills.

But what if you don’t know for whom to vote? How can you even know what a candidate truly believes? This is where your own research comes into play. My biggest belief is that reading local news tells me a lot about candidates and their views. For example, if you live in Mercer County, it makes sense to read a publication local to Mercer County that explains how a candidate’s plan will affect those that live in the area instead of how it might affect people living in Lexington or Louisville.

Another great avenue to learn more about candidates is to attend campaign events. Many times, candidates will field questions, giving you a perfect opportunity to ask about the issues that matter most to you. When you are able to have a frank and honest conversation with a candidate in settings like these, you can develop an informed opinion about all the candidates.

Now that you have a few more tools to be engaged during this year’s election cycle, I challenge you to put them to use. Register if you have not already registered. Do your due diligence when researching and learning about candidates. Volunteer for a campaign, go door-to-door, make phone calls. If you want to see a change in your world, be the start of that change and do something about it.

But most importantly, vote. Maybe you’ll get a cool “I Just Voted” sticker to post on your Instagram.

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The Bottom Line on Bourbon Tariffs

The Bottom Line on Bourbon Tariffs

Things have been heating up this summer —literally with these hot days and between the bourbon industry and Washington D.C.

In case you have not heard, Trump’s trade war is hitting a little too close to home for a lot of us here in Kentucky.

Let me break it down for you…

Trump is slapping the European Union, Canada and Mexico with 25% tariffs on imported steel and 10% on aluminum. Now the EU is stating that they are going to put tariffs on U.S. imports which includes bourbon.

In recent years, bourbon hasn’t only been booming across the United States but also has taken off overseas. In 2010, National Bourbon Day reported that export sales were increasing rapidly and up 286% in France alone. From 2011 – 2015 premium bourbons rose 28.8% over in the EU. As you can see a lot of the bourbon boom over the past few decades have included the overseas sales.

Now that you are up to speed, let’s check out what that means for our bourbon state. “Kentucky produces 95 percent of the world’s bourbon, an industry that employs 17,500 in the state with an annual payroll of $800 million, according to the distillers association.”

With bourbon taking years to make and Europeans being still fairly new to the bourbon drinking club, distilleries are worried that with the increase of the price will significantly decrease the bourbon drinkers over time and once the bourbon that is now in the barrel is ready the demand will not be there. This means small craft distilleries might not make it or will have to cut their staff.  The big players (think Jim Beam, Makers Mark, etc) should be able to make it through this but are concerned that there might be some layoffs in the future. Not only is this affecting the EU but also Canada and Mexico. Since bourbon has to be made in the United States, there is no option to consider moving the distilleries somewhere else (what a nightmare that would be!).

Only time will tell what is going to happen and the effects it will have here in Kentucky.  In the meantime, I know I will continue to support the bourbon industry (aka just keep drinking) & hope for the best.

Conservation & Preservation: State Nature Preserves

Conservation & Preservation: State Nature Preserves

Hello all!

How is everyone? Long time no see!  I want to first apologize for my absence from blog writing.  For the past couple of months, writing and finishing a dissertation has consumed my life.  But, I am back to talk to you about environmental issues and awareness.  The first blog I wrote for Friends of Limestone was on conservation and preservation.  More specifically, I discussed some ways the state of Kentucky practices conservation and preservation.  Now that I am back writing blogs for you, I want to build off that blog and discuss more practices of conservation and preservation in the state of Kentucky.  We will begin with State Nature Preserves!

State Nature Preserves are/is:

  • A geographic area preserved by the state of Kentucky.
  • Not unique to Kentucky but exist all across the U.S!
  • Preserved for natural significance, scientific/educational purposes, and/or to protect rare species/natural environment.
  • Open to the public to visit and explore
    • However, some are not open to the public

Kentucky has a total of 58 State Nature Preserves.  33 of which are open to the public.  Here’s a version of the map seen above showing the location of all State Nature Preserves in the state of Kentucky.  So, go exploring! For the purposes of this blog, I want to showcase three in Jefferson County and around the city of Louisville.  I believe sometimes we can feel detached from nature while living within urban locales.  So, I have chosen State Nature Preserves in Louisville and Jefferson County to show how we are never detached from the natural environment; it is all around us!

State Nature Preserve #1 Six Mile Island

  • Became a State Nature Preserve in 1979
  • Located in the Ohio River
  • It is an 81-acre island
  • Kentucky protected Six Mile Island, so researchers and individuals could study the ecology of river islands.
  • It is open to the public and accessible by boat
  • People use it to study and bird watch

State Nature Preserve #2 Beargrass Creek

  • Became a State Nature Preserve in 1982
  • Located close to Jo Creason Park and Louisville Zoological gardens
  • It is 41 acres
  • Kentucky protected Beargrass Creek for recreation and nature education.
  • It is open to the public and very accessible
  • People us it to study, hike, and bird watch.

State Nature Preserve #3 Blackacre

  • Became a State Nature Preserve in 1979
  • Located near Jefferstown
  • It is 175 acres
  • Kentucky protected Blackacre for environmental education
  • It is open to the public but limited
    • Weekdays 3 p.m. to dusk
    • Weekends dawn to dusk
    • So plan accordingly!

State Natural Preserves serve as just another conservation and preservation initiative the state of Kentucky is doing to protect our natural environment.  Has anyone explored the State Nature Preserves in their local area? What about others throughout the state of Kentucky? What about across the country? Let me know! What did you do? What was your experience like? I am curious because I, myself, have never been to a State Natural Preserve.  Maybe this weekend?

Until next time!

Cheers,

Dr. Adam Sizemore

Expanded Gaming in Kentucky: A Winning Bet

Expanded Gaming in Kentucky: A Winning Bet

By Taylor Forns, Friends of Limestone Chief Development Officer

 

The first Saturday in May. For 144 years, this has been a day of pride for Kentuckians as the entire country tunes in for the Run for the Roses. The majesty, the pageantry, the spectacle of the day is always something to behold.

As I reflect back on this year’s Kentucky Derby, I am drawn to the social and political influences of the race. Though the world’s most famous horse race takes place in Kentucky, the state government refuses to allow gambling on anything other than horse racing. With the Supreme Court’s recent decision allowing states to legalize sports gambling, I could not help but think about the current climate surrounding expanded gaming in the Commonwealth.

In 2017, people wagered $139 million on the Kentucky Derby alone, a horse race that lasts two minutes. Imagine the economic impact that would have on Kentucky if we didn’t have that cash coming into the system. Now imagine the economic impact if the Commonwealth coupled the total earnings from the horse racing industry yearly with expanded gaming in casinos and sports books. It isn’t hard to imagine that funding for many of Kentucky’s programs, including Medicaid, the failing state pension plans, and education, would receive a significant boost and ultimately lead to better outcomes for millions of Kentuckians.

The idea for expanded gaming here in Kentucky is not a novel one. Former Governor Steve Beshear was a strong advocate for it during his term as governor, and his son, Attorney General Andy Beshear, continues to push for legalization of expanded gaming to solve Kentucky’s revenue needs.

Rivals of expanded gaming do recognize its economic impact, but they believe that the “societal costs,” as Governor Matt Bevin put it in September 2017, would be too great to realize any true benefit.

Personally, I side with the idea that we live in a state where the vices of horse racing, bourbon, tobacco, and marijuana make up a large portion of the economy, so we have already paid the Pied Piper in terms of societal costs. Additionally, Kentuckians continue to leave the Commonwealth to gamble in casinos just across the Ohio River in both Indiana and Ohio. Why should we allow our dollars to continue to go to neighboring states that seem to be doing just fine with the casinos in their communities?

Not only would expanded gaming keep money within the Commonwealth, but also bringing casinos to Kentucky would create thousands of jobs, giving more citizens the chance to earn a decent wage and improve the economy. To top it all off, the sheer volume of revenue generated by expanded gaming would help to stave off tax increases to fund many of the state’s programs. To this effect, Democrats would be able to fund the myriad of state-funded programs that support Kentuckians, and Republicans would be able to make good on campaign promises to their constituents by keeping taxes low.

I don’t know about you, but I certainly did not make money on Derby day this year. My pick 6 bet lost on the first race, I didn’t hit my exacta, and I thought Mendelssohn was going to win it over Justify. Clearly, I made the wrong bets that day.

However, I have a bet that is sure to have a big payoff: legalize expanded gaming. It’s a winning bet for Kentucky.

 

Take the FOL Oaks Challenge!

Take the FOL Oaks Challenge!

The world knows about the Kentucky Derby, but it is the Kentucky Oaks that holds a special place in the hearts of Kentuckians. It has long been considered the racing day for “the People”, as locals take the opportunity to get into Churchill Downs before tourists get in for Derby day.

The Oaks first ran in 1875, over time the race has evolved from a much smaller race at the Louisville Jockey Club to an event that annually attracts over 120,000 people from all walks of life. The Oaks is more than a mile and an eighth or a garland of lilies, for Kentuckians it is a moment of a communal and unified feeling before we as a state walk become the center of the world. Where else do schools close for a horse race?

What makes the Oaks and Derby feel so Kentuckian is a unity that seems to surround the festivities. Starting on Friday, inside and outside of Churchill Downs, the Commonwealth comes together. The people set aside red & blue, political party, urban or rural, and instead start a weekend chock full of our unique Kentucky traditions.

When we started Friends of Limestone almost a year ago, one of our main reasons for doing so was to advocate for and celebrate the things that bring Kentuckians together. Indeed, FOL truly believes that we have more in common than we do differently.

With this in mind, on this Kentucky Oaks Day whether you are at the track, watching at home, or work we challenge you to talk to someone you may not see eye to eye with. Strike up a conversation about what Oaks and Derby mean to you. Share a glass of Kentucky bourbon, or just a glass of water (both of which we owe to Kentucky limestone).

From such a conversation we imagine you will find that for maybe 363 days a year you share very little in common. For two days a year, a unifying feeling takes over, making us all Kentuckians. By doing this, we as Kentuckians can show ourselves and the rest of the world, that when we come together, we are stronger than when we apart.

Here’s to hoping that the unifying nature of Oaks and Derby defines more than a weekend but also what it means to be a Kentuckian.

Join us, by taking the FOL Oaks Challenge. Share your story with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram about how Oaks and Derby bring people together.

Use the hashtag #FOLOaks to share your experience on Kentucky’s best weekend.

Not Just Juleps: Derby Party Drinks You Need to Try

Not Just Juleps: Derby Party Drinks You Need to Try

It’s not all Juleps & Lillies ..

The best week of the year is finally here! Whether you live directly in the heart of the Derby city or are celebrating from afar, you are probably gathering your mint, sugar, and bourbon in preparation of the first Saturday of May.   Not everyone loves or appreciates a good Mint Julep so I’m going to give you three recipes that are also great for Kentucky Derby parties!

Cucumber Bourbon Cocktail:

I am a sucker for anything cucumber! Something about it is so refreshing and just screams summer!

  • A shot of a Rye whiskey (this is to even out the sweetness of the honey syrup)

  • A spoonful of honey syrup (1 cup honey, 1 cup water)

  • 3 slices of cucumber

  • Lemon wedge

  • 2 Mint leaves

  • Splash of club soda

In a mixing glass, muddle the cucumber, mint, lemon wedge, and spoonful of honey syrup.  Add in the shot of bourbon, stir. Strain this into a glass full of ice. Top with club soda.  Add a cucumber slice and mint leaf for garnish! (This is also something you could easily make a large batch of to serve in a pitcher – plus it looks pretty!)

Brown Derby Cocktail:

Prior to the Mint Julep craze there was another famous drink, the Brown Derby.  I personally had never heard of this drink until last year and highly recommend it!

  • 2 oz of Bourbon (any type would do – i do not recommend a super high rye though with the grapefruit!)

  • Half a Grapefruit squeezed

  • ½ oz Honey

  • Lemon and/or Mint for garnish

This super easy drink consists of 2 steps. First, shake the bourbon, grapefruit, honey, and ice for about 20 seconds or until frosty.  Strain and pour over a chilled glass.

Blush Lily:

This is retake on the Oak’s Lily!  I wish I could say I enjoyed a good Lily during the Derby season but vodka and I aren’t friends.  So here is a mix up for all of you non-bourbon lovers.

  • Cranberry juice

  • 1 shot Vodka

  • Lime juice

  • Splash of Triple Sec

Fill a shaker with ice, half cup of cranberry juice, shot of vodka, a good squeeze of lime juice, and a splash of Triple Sec. Shake well for 20-30 seconds.  Strain into a tall glass with fresh ice!

 

Hope you enjoy these & please drink responsibly! Happy Thurby, Oaks and most of all Derby!

 

Take Action: The Primary Registration Deadline is Almost Here!

Take Action: The Primary Registration Deadline is Almost Here!

As the primaries approach, Friends of Limestone hopes to help equip young voters with all the tools they need to take action in this important step in our state’s electoral process. This is the first of several posts coming to help ensure you’re ready for the primaries!

By the time the filing deadline for running in the 2018 elections passed, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes announced an overall surge in the amount of candidates. “Nearly every race has got a challenger,” Grimes told the press. “Few incumbents are going without primaries.”

This year voters will see a record 86 women running for a seat in Frankfort, as well as over fifty educators.

Since the ballots were finalized on January 30th, these candidates have been crisscrossing the counties of the Commonwealth in the hopes of convincing us they deserve to be our leaders.

Their first tests come on May 22nd in their party primaries and your final chance to register or update your registration is this coming Monday April 23rd. 

Not registered or need to add your new address? That’s a problem. Only 12.6 percent of voters aged 17-33 voted in the 2016 primaries, and this year’s elections offer a great opportunity for young people to make an impact in our state government.

Solving this problem is easy though, thanks to Kentucky’s online voter registration.

Step 1. Visit the Kentucky online voter registration site. 

Step 2. Ensure your eligibility by answer these questions from the state.

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Step 3. Enter your social security number and date of birth.

Step 4. You’ll then be asked to enter your information if you’ve never registered or verify if you’ve previously registered.

Step 5. Now you must select a political party. You can only vote in the primary of the party you register for in Kentucky.

Step 6. Next you’ll be asked for your current address.

Step 7. Take one last look to verify your information. Remember if your info is incorrect it could prevent you from voting in the primary.

Congrats! You’re ready to vote next month!