KFTC Blog

KFTC's birthday! 35 years of Action for Justice

Posted by: KFTC Staff on August 17, 2016

It was 35 years ago today – August 17, 1981 – that a group of 26 people from 12 counties meeting in Hazard agreed to officially form a new organization – KFTC, then known as the Kentucky Fair Tax Coalition. 

"People, especially in eastern Kentucky, were getting to know each other. All around the region there was a loose network of people who had worked together with each other in various ways over the past 15 years or so. What we didn't have in those days was a structured connection between us. There was a no interlocking of these community-level efforts, until KFTC."  
–  Herb E. Smith, Letcher County

According to the book Making History: The First Ten Years of KFTC:

"We just knew that it made sense to work together across county lines because the problems we faced were similar and needed to be addressed on the state or national level," said Gladys Maynard, who was representing the Concerned Citizens of Martin County and became KFTC's first chairperson.

This Hazard meeting was not the first meeting of this group of people who were coming together from across eastern Kentucky, with supporters from other parts of Kentucky. The group had met on several prior occasions to explore the possibilities of working together on common issues. Shared concerns included the quality of (or lack of) community services and public education in eastern Kentucky counties where coal was mined (which suffered from gross inequalities in the tax system), the rights of landowners and mining-related water quality problems.

Many of the people involved were organizing in their respective home counties around these and related issues. The decision to launch a new organization was based on the understanding that the issues were all related and shared a common underlying root cause: "the inequality of life with a single dominant industry – coal – that was not contributing its fair share."

We've made a lot of history since, and still are. Thanks to everyone who is part of KFTC's story!

Help KFTC meet a 35th birthday match, and we’ll send you a gift.

One KFTC member feels so strongly that Sustaining Givers are important to KFTC's future that she's offering a special birthday gift.

In honor of KFTC's 35th birthday, this generous member will match all new or increased Sustaining Giver pledges in 2016, up to $35,000.

Your Sustaining Gift will go twice as far and help us meet our match! And we'll send you a perk to say thanks!

Click here to become a Sustaining Giver and choose your perk today.

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Attica Scott: emerging state leader moving Kentucky forward

Posted by: Your KFTC Sis Serena Owen on August 14, 2016

July 17 was a great day. Not because it was 80 with pretty blue skies, but because I had the honor and opportunity to converse with Kentucky State Representative-Elect Attica Scott. I experienced firsthand her bright personality during our interview, sunny spirit and clear confidence when she met constituents during our tour of District 41. I saw her thunder advocacy skills during KFTC's Preserving Kentucky Medicaid ad hoc meeting, and personable professionalism to the highest degree! Yes, I'm a fan!

I'm also pretty spontaneous. So of course we began our conversation with a "celebration" of Attica Scott's victory on being our state's first African-American woman elected to Kentucky's legislature since 2000!

Despite weather challenges, Rowan food booth a success

Posted by: Annie Adams on August 10, 2016

The Rowan County KFTC chapter members held their annual fundraiser at the Old Time Music Festival, which took place at Jaycee Farm in Morehead on July 29 and 30. This was the seventh year the chapter worked the festival.

No longer the sole food vendor, the chapter worked to differentiate itself by offering a Kentucky Proud menu. The hamburgers and hot dogs were from Chop Shop, a local meat store that gave the chapter a good deal on its excellent products. Corn was purchased from the local famers market. The admittedly limited beverage menu was comprised of the “Kentucky Original,” Ale-8-One (diet and regular) and water.

Central Kentucky KFTC hosts #Kentucky Trivia

Posted by: Staff on July 18, 2016

The Central Kentucky Chapter of KFTC hosted their first installment of #KentuckyTrivia on Wednesday, June 29 at the West Sixth Brewery Green Room in Lexington. Kentucky Trivia, CKY

In partnership with Kentucky For Kentucky and West Sixth Brewery, KFTC members organized and created a fun space to learn and celebrate the best of these United States. Trivia hosts and KFTC members Chuck Clenney (also with Lexington Community Radio) and Meredith Wadlington kept the event lively and fun."This event was Kentucky edutainment at it's finest! It was so much fun hosting and we all learned a lot and, even though there was only 1 winning team, I think we all won in the end,” Clenney said.

Why "Black Lives Matter" matters

Posted by: KFTC on July 15, 2016

We are Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, a community of more than 10,000 people – Kentuckians – inspired by a vision, building New Power and a brighter future for all of us. For 35 years, we've been organizing for a just society, a fair economy, a healthy environment, new safe energy and an honest democracy.

We believe Black Lives Matter. We also believe that all lives matter; we've built an organization and a resume of accomplishments based on that principle. Together we act on that belief every day. We are motivated by our aspirational vision statement where we describe ourselves as "working for a day when Kentuckians – and all people – enjoy a better quality of life."

Like much of the country, we are devastated over the violence of the past two weeks. The deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by police shootings followed by the shooting deaths of five policemen in Dallas – Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael J. Smith, Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa – leave us heartsick. Words can't express the sorrow we feel for all the devastated families. We see the fear and anger that ripples out from the violence.

Though we are motivated by the fundamental truth that everyone matters, we know it is often necessary to focus our attention more clearly if we want to generate an intention and commitment to act, if we wish to create change.

As an organization founded in Eastern Kentucky by Eastern Kentuckians, we have made the case for 35 years that Appalachian people and communities have value and deserve respect – that we matter. As an organization with members all across Kentucky, we frequently remind allies and adversaries that rural people matter. Dismissed or disrespected in some national conversations, we sometimes have to declare firmly that Kentuckians matter.

Each of these and similar declarations of our community's value have been necessary. None of them detract from the truth that other lives matter too. None of them have generated a backlash against our members or our organization. And none of these ideas of our particular place in our shared humanity have been publicly rejected. Until last week.

Last Thursday, after the police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota, one of our staff made and displayed a Black Lives Matter poster in a window above our office. It was a personal gesture of solidarity and grief, intended to make the ongoing tragedies of black lives taken in full view, somehow less invisible. 

Then, after the shootings in Dallas, the backlash against KFTC over the poster was immediate and intense. The animosity and threat expressed toward us is but a small fraction of that experienced by people of color and others working for racial justice, but the intimidation intended was real and felt. Most of the vitriol is flowing through unaccountable social media, but some of the intimidation is more traditional. All of it is disappointing. 

Much of the vocal reaction and one small act of vandalism, sought specifically to use the phrase All Lives Matter to erase the message of Black Lives Matter. That only strengthens our resolve to remember and remind ourselves of the importance of Black Lives Matter.

“Black Lives Matter” matters because it focuses our attention on an urgent, immediate and centuries-old crisis. Violence against black people – state sanctioned or ignored – is so prevalent in our nation and across our history that we seem to have somehow accepted it as inevitable, even as we bear witness to example after example of gut-wrenching, deadly assaults. Perhaps we are numbed by the repetition, but our inaction looks like indifference … or complicity.

We are all witness to this tragedy, even if we try to look away. Each death, regardless of how distant, hits close to home and diminishes us all. And we are all responsible for creating the solutions that can put an end to the violence. But we can't solve the problem if we can't even bring ourselves to acknowledge it exists.

At KFTC, we recognize that we are – all of us – bound together. We believe that we can build a bright future together. Overcoming racism and halting the spiraling cycle of violence is but one of the challenges we all face, but it is a big one. Surely we can find the compassion to recognize – and the commitment to declare – the clear, simple, essential truth that Black Lives Matter. That will be a start.

Participate in direct action at the RNC & DNC w/ KFTC next month in Cleveland and Philly!

Posted by: Carissa Lenfert on June 20, 2016

 Kentuckians For the Commonwealth is sending three members to a series of actions at the Republican National Convention (RNC) and Democratic National Convention (DNC) next month. Our friends at Grassroots Global Justice (GGJ) are organizing a delegation of folks from grassroots groups across the country to be at the RNC and DNC and help speak up for racial, environmental, and economic justice through a series of actions. The event is called "It Takes Roots to Change the System: The People's Caravan." It is a call to action to confront the moment we are in and stand united and strong together. If you are interested in being a part of The People's Caravan with KFTC, see below for more details and a link to apply.

The Magic of the Open Mic Debates Series

Posted by: Kevin Cowherd on June 17, 2016

I know what you are thinking. “Really, what’s so magical about a couple of debates?”  Yes, we are only talking about 2 events and yes, the combined attendance was less than 100 people. However, the ideation and implementation of the Open Mic Debate Series is the beginning of something powerful.

Regarding Ideation, the focus of the May 17th Kentucky Primary was completely consumed by the U.S. Presidential race.  There was an anticipation of a typical low voter turnout for the state.  One way to combat this challenge is to remind people that local politics matter!  So many people are so consumed by the Presidential race that they neglect all the other offices and candidates that will appear on their ballot.  This lack of awareness of local races seems to be a factor in low voter turnout.  Therefore, maybe the key to increasing voter turnout is to better inform voters of local races that impact them more directly than the Presidency.

Successful and fun Shelby County KFTC Pie Auction & Chapter Annual Meeting

Posted by: Lisa Aug on June 17, 2016

Our fourth annual Pie Auction raised almost $1,000 for the Shelby Chapter. Sixteen pies, cakes and other edible goodies plus a hand-made summer garden wreath brought $810 plus another $155 in donations.  Two dozen members plus guests filled the Talon Winery Tasting Room, where samples of wines were also available. $965 made this our most successful pie auction yet.  The Talon Winery venue is a special draw, being a lovely building with country views yet conveniently located. Champion Fundraising Coordinator Ann Ellerkamp praised the Talon Winery staff for their help.

Our Work, In The Age of The Comment Section

Posted by: Tanya Torp, KFTC Vice Chairperson on June 8, 2016

No siren did ever so charm the ear of the listener as the listening ear has charmed the soul of the siren.

-Henry Taylor

My fingers were on the keyboard typing furiously. I would read a response, feel my blood pressure going up, and fire off another well thought out, reasoned, intelligent and passionate response to what I thought was ridiculous, reactionary, garbage. I was right. They were wrong. And, by golly, I was going to prove it.

But, after an hour, all I found was exhaustion, disappointment, anger and a feeling of hopelessness. How on earth had this conversation devolved into one of vitriol and fumes rather than substance and true discourse with someone I actually liked? Furthermore, how had I allowed myself to get to a point where I was staring at a screen, exasperated and sad, just plain sad, for the state of our world?

Bringing the budget home: Higher ed

Posted by: KFTC Staff on June 8, 2016

Kentucky’s state colleges and universities are reeling from Governor Matt Bevin’s unilaterally imposed 2 percent late fiscal year budget cut, and in the face of 4.5 percent budget cuts as of July 1, and another 4.5 percent cut again next year. (The state’s fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30.)

Here are some impacts so far:

  • Morehead State University’s employees are on unpaid furlough for five days, and 65 positions have been cut.

  • The University of Kentucky is expecting to lay off 90 staff. UK also is rolling back its subsidies for county extension agents’ benefits. County governments, if they can, will be expected to make up the difference.  

  • Eastern Kentucky University is implanting a 5 percent tuition increase, a hiring freeze and reducing employee benefits.

  • Murray State University is eliminating 42 positions.

  • Northern Kentucky University is eliminating 105 positions.

  • And the Kentucky Community and Technical College system is losing 506 positions across the state.

Prisons won’t fuel innovation economy in eastern Kentucky

Posted by: Ada Smith on June 5, 2016

June 6 is the first Innovation Summit hosted by SOAR [Shaping Our Appalachian Region]. It’s a milestone for eastern Kentucky to have a state and federal platform that is focused on creative avenues for economic growth. In fact, innovation is the bedrock to our country’s 21st century economy and frankly eastern Kentucky has a lot to prove if we are to compete.

Support from the federal government has gone a long way in helping our region contribute to this country’s innovation boom. Unfortunately, that money has been slow in coming, or is being wasted on other things. For example, Congress, with the help of Congressman Hal Rogers, recently allocated $444 million to Letcher County – but the money won’t be spent on innovation or community-driven solutions. It will be spent on bringing a federal prison here.

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