Fletcher’s absence at SG forum shows neglect of UK community

UK can rest easily knowing that we are among the highest priorities of those seeking the Commonwealth’s highest political office this November. Now please pardon me while I go laugh myself into unconsciousness.

In what may have been one of the most insulting actions toward UK by a government official since last spring’s budget, our beloved governor, Ernie Fletcher, was too busy to join his Democratic opponent, Steve Beshear, in the Student Government-sponsored forum Friday.

Fletcher is “confident that voters at UK will decide he is the right man for Kentucky,” said Jason Keller, communications director for Fletcher’s campaign, in a Kernel article Thursday.

I can’t tell you how pleased I am that the man who is too arrogant to talk to UK’s faculty, staff and students about issues important to our future is already “confident” that he has us in his pocket.

As Nate Simon, SG’s deputy chief of staff for policy, said in the Kernel article, the forum was designed to get students more involved. Our honorable governor has helped set an example against political apathy by not showing up to an important political event. Top notch.

Our bright and eager youth are willing to take the time out of our busy schedules to sit in an auditorium and listen to political discourse, but the man who expects us to re-elect him governor can’t find an hour of his time to be there with us and won’t even specify why.

Even if we accept Fletcher’s word, the only logical conclusion is that he is incompetent in time management. However, I find it much more likely that our governor is well aware of the consequences of showing up to a political event on UK’s campus, especially one where his answers to difficult questions would be placed in direct comparison with those of Steve Beshear’s.

Fletcher had no desire to answer questions about his veto of a significant number of projects for UK during the last budget session. He had no desire to address a group of students, many of whom remember his attempt to dismantle the health insurance (among other benefits) of high-school teachers that nearly led to several strikes and resulted in a teacher’s protest at the Capitol Building in Frankfort.

Fletcher knows that many of us remember his rhetoric in 2003 about improving education, only to watch him try and bleed its necessary programs dry with his veto authority for extra money.

As the WHAS-11 Political Blog pointed out in April 2006, the vast majority of Fletcher’s vetoes ($203 million worth) went to university projects in districts represented by his political rivals, but Fletcher kept millions for a Technical School in Springfield. That district, as the blog also points out, is home to one of Fletcher’s political allies, and the project wasn’t even important enough for the Council on Post-Secondary Education to support in the first place.

We’ve seen Fletcher put politics before education before, so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised.

To be perfectly honest, these are merely fringe issues. I realize that the type of politics played in Frankfort may have led to Fletcher making choices he didn’t like in order to maintain order. I don’t necessarily believe this, but I can admit it’s a possibility, and I’m even willing to give Fletcher the benefit of the doubt.

No, I’m not necessarily angry with Fletcher about his policy decisions in the past — although I felt obligated to point them out, since he didn’t see fit to show up and do it himself — but I am infuriated with him about his personal decisions in the present.

His failure to appear should be seen as nothing less than a slap in the face of every employee and student of UK. We represent one of the most significant voting blocs in the state, and every one of us should, at the very least, be demanding a better excuse than “scheduling conflict” from the man who is asking us to put him in power for another four years.

Governor Fletcher, if you’d rather not return to practicing medicine for another four years, I sincerely recommend a change of political strategy: Show a little political courage and honesty, show up for events important to both current political discussion and the education of Kentucky’s youth, and show some respect to the voters of Kentucky. We put you in office — I think it’s the least you could do.

Chad Reese is a philosophy and political science junior. E-mail

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