Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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February 21, 2014

RONNIE ELLIS: It’s still the people’s house

FRANKFORT — Those who spend little time in Kentucky’s capitol and who read columns by cynics who cover it should be forgiven their disillusionment about how the people’s business is conducted.

Hoyt Bowen, my Shakespeare professor at Western Kentucky University, used to peer at his students from beneath his marvelously mobile eyebrows and intone: “All generalizations are false” – (deliberate pause) – “including THIS one.”

That’s true of generalizations about politicians and government too. Yes, the cynicism and naked ambition of politicians are on display here daily. But there are those who come here with a genuine desire to do the people’s business and to do good.

These are the days when floods of ordinary people come to the General Assembly to ask their elected representatives for help, to stand with the common people against powerful corporations who want to seize their property for a pipeline or to show compassion for the vulnerable or for those who have paid for their mistakes and seek to re-enter society as full citizens, including the right to vote.

Almost daily you’ll see folks from the Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, smiles on their faces despite the knowledge of how they are sometimes viewed by those lawmakers beholden to corporate interests. They’re packing their folders of facts and data; they patiently wait for an opportunity to testify on a bill and often go home disappointed after a powerful committee chairman manages the agenda so that time runs out before the environmentalists or social justice advocates can speak.

You’ll see older folks in AARP T-shirts, waiting to plead with their representative or senator not to allow giant telecommunications companies to take away their land-based telephone lines and other advocates for nursing home residents or those with disabilities. Around the next corner in the annex hallway one encounters eager young persons, full of idealism, come to the halls of power to argue for social justice or more funding for higher education.

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