Louisville Courier-Journal, July 24, 2017
Article originally posted to the Louisville Business First web site http://www.bizjournals.com/louisville/print-edition/2014/11/21/minimum-wage-hike-let-s-think-this-through.html?page=all
Minimum wage hike — let’s think this through
Luke B. Schmidt
As the president of a small management-consulting firm, I have followed with interest recent discussion in the community about raising the minimum wage.
To begin with, I think that it is fair to say that each of us as employers, employees or consumers want to see that workers are fairly compensated. It goes back to the old saying: “an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.”
But recent interest on the part of some Louisville Metro Council members in raising the minimum wage in Louisville raises several red flags. It would be easy for the council to pass minimum wage legislation, but there would be several ramifications, including:
Is it really government’s place to dictate to business what workers should be paid? The answer is NO.
Our country operates on the free enterprise system, meaning that government should stay out of the way when it comes to everyday operating issues. Government’s role is to ensure a safe workplace and a competitive marketplace.
Raising the minimum wage would only make Louisville even less competitive with surrounding counties — in both states.
Louisville Metro would transform into an island unto itself and would become a less competitive marketplace when compared to surrounding counties. Retail prices would go up in Jefferson County and could surpass retail prices in surrounding counties, thereby putting local merchants at a real competitive disadvantage.
Raising the minimum wage would result in businesses passing along this added cost to customers. This would affect my consulting firm and every business in Jefferson County.
It most likely would result in some of my company’s local purchases for goods and services being diverted to merchants outside Jefferson County or to the Internet.
The purpose of the minimum wage is to serve as an entry-level wage or a part-time wage, not a full-time wage. The goal should be to get full-time workers up and beyond the minimum wage as quickly as possible.
Focusing on raising the local minimum wage misses the point entirely.
The focus should be on what can be done to improve the climate for creating new jobs — not only in Jefferson County but all of Kentucky.
Here are three things that government can do to create really good jobs going forward:
1. Pass right to work legislation. Kentucky is the only state in the Southeast and one of several in the Midwest that does not have this legislation, which has proven to be a magnet for big-time industrial development. (Read: new high-paying jobs.)
2. Pass meaningful tax reform. The change needs to be more than just a line in the tax code here and a line in the tax code there. Comprehensive, overall reform is required. Kentucky needs a competitive tax system that generates meaningful revenue to fund appropriate government programs/services but doesn’t send potential new business/industrial investment to Tennessee.
3. Pass LIFT, or local-option sales tax, legislation. This would give local voters a say in funding special projects in all 120 counties — projects that would create lots of new construction jobs.
In many respects, Kentucky is no longer (and hasn’t been for quite a while) competitive with most of our surrounding states. Look at the rate of growth, jobs, population, etc., in Kentucky and then compare it with Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Rather than focus on a small piece of the puzzle, let’s focus on big steps that will create thousands of new, high-paying jobs in Kentucky — and Jefferson County. It’s time for bold leadership!
Luke B. Schmidt is president of L.B. Schmidt & Associates LLC, a Louisville-based full service international management consulting firm.
Article originally posted to the (Somerset) Commonwealth-Journal’s web site http://www.somerset-kentucky.com/local/x1768000277/Tone-of-SPCU-report-is-positive
by Chris Harris Commonwealth Journal Fri Jan 24, 2014, 05:29 PM EST
Somerset — Around 140 people attended Thursday night’s public unveiling of a $35,000 study designed to determine the feasibility of a united city-county government here in Pulaski County.
The tone of the presentation was overwhelmingly positive toward the idea that the area could benefit from a merging of local governments, focusing on several communities — including Athens, Ga., Butte, Mont., and Lexington and Louisville, Ky. — that apparently benefited from a similar unification.
“I think this community is at a real crossroads,” announced Luke Schmidt, president of Louisville firm L.B. Schmidt & Associates, and the man who conducted the study and presented it Thursday at the Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce “Business After Hours” event at The Center for Rural Development.
“You have a lot of great things here, a very good quality of life,” he continued. “… I think you have a real question to ask yourselves, and that is: Do we want to take our good local government and make it great? Do we want to bring new opportunities for growth and development and new jobs into the community that we might not get otherwise, unless we consider a change in … government?
“My recommendation to the community is, I think unified government, if it’s carefully crafted, carefully considered, and properly implemented … can, in fact, bring some benefits to the community,” he added. “If you draft a poorly-drafted plan, it won’t work. But if you really get involved, stay on it, and take the time and put together a really good plan, I think the opportunity exists to really move this community to the next level.”
Schmidt specified that this is because it gives the community “the ability to speak with one voice” in Frankfort and Washington; because clashes between local governments — and as Schmidt alluded to multiple times, the Pulaski County government and City of Somerset have had their share over the last year, particularly over occupational tax distribution — can potentially drive away businesses looking to locate here; and becoming the third-largest community in the state in terms of population.
Schmidt said that he saw only two disadvantages to a merger: the loss of USDA loans due to population thresholds (which would take place if the city reached second-class status with a population of 20,000 — which, Schmidt said, has been a stated goal of Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler anyway), and potential loss of community identity, which Schmidt also downplayed, as “it’s not like the complexion of the community will just dry up and disappear,” as he put it.
The results of the study are available at www.spcunited.com. SPCU (Somerset-Pulaski County United) is the group made up of numerous local citizens and businesspersons who pushed for the feasibility study to take place.
The study was just research; any unification of local governments would have to be voted upon by Pulaski County citizens, and the process could take years if it ever gets off the ground at all. Schmidt stressed that without participation by the City of Somerset, the plan wouldn’t work.
To date, Mayor Eddie Girdler and the Somerset City Council have been resistant to working with those conducting the study.
Pat Bourne was one councilor who attended the Thursday meeting. He said he hadn’t “established an opinion” on the matter but was just there as a citizen to learn more.
“It didn’t tell me anything that I hadn’t already thought of,” he said of the presentation. “I don’t know where this thing’s going or if they’re going to continue doing research on it or not.”
Bill Leslie of the Burnside City Council was in attendance too. He didn’t expect a unified government situation to ever transpire given Somerset’s opposition, nor did he think it was a good idea for his own city.
“No, I don’t,” he said when asked if he thought unified government would be in Burnside’s best interests. “We would lose our identity as Burnside. … We have these individual forms of government because that’s what we chose. If we’re going to merge, why not merge all the states? Do away with all local governments? No, that’s not the way to do it.”
Other officials had a more favorable reaction, particularly those representing the county government. The Pulaski County Fiscal Court, unlike the Somerset City Council, opted to help fund a third of the cost of the study.
“I think personally that we need to look into bettering our county,” said Fifth District Magistrate Mike Strunk. “… I think we need to look into (the merger plan) more. From what I heard tonight, yeah, I think it could be the best thing for our county.”
“My take as a magistrate is that I feel like we owe it to the county to look into this,” said Third District Magistrate Glenn Maxey. “… We have talked to these people a couple of times before. (The presentation) did shed light on a couple of different things I didn’t realize, like some of the cities that had gone into (a similar situation).”
Judge-Executive Barty Bullock was present Thursday night and said a lot of “good questions” were asked and answered.
“I think as elected officials, it’s our responsibility to look at every option to see if there’s something out there that’s better for the people of the county,” he said. “It’s something I can’t do or the mayor can’t do on his own. It has to go to a public vote. We as officials would abide by whatever the people vote for.”
Tiffany Bourne, Community Development Director with the county government, said that streamlining government would create less competition over financial resources.
“It is hard enough to compete with other counties and states for grant money without having to compete with our local cities,” she said. “No matter who the voice is, we need to speak as one voice.”
Bobby Clue, executive director of the Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce, said that Schmidt’s presentation was “solid” and provided a lot of good information.
“The jury’s still out as far as we’re concerned,” he said. “We (the Chamber) are going to go back and meet as a board and we’re going to truly review what we’ve seen tonight. As soon as we do that, hopefully we’ll be able to come up with some conclusions on how we truly feel about united government.”
Clue said that having lived in Lexington, which merged with Fayette County decades ago, he saw lots of positives and very few negatives in that community. He noted that it’s difficult to tell if all of the developments Schmidt pointed out that occurred in other unified communities happened because of a merger similar to what’s being proposed in Pulaski County.
“We’re cautiously optimistic,” he said.
Numerous other individuals not in a public office of some kind also came to the meeting to hear what Schmidt had to say, and came away with a collectively mixed reaction.
Patty Ping of Childers Financial Services was all for the plan she heard about on Thursday night.
“I think it’s a great thing, long overdue,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of waste, a lot of repetition (in government). It would make things much simpler for us as citizens with what they’re trying to do to draw in industry and keep the population here, and even bring in new population. … I think (the study) was very informative, especially if you have an open mind.”
Ross Rutt, director of operations for Blackboard Student Services, didn’t share the same optimism.
“My biggest issue is that I think the priority of the county is job growth … and I just don’t see where any unified government at this point in time shows any data that it would improve net job adds,” he said. “My concern is that I see a lot of folks as public officials, representatives of the community organizing around this as opposed to job growth and that just sort of perplexes me. … I believe from an efficiency perspective (the plan) makes sense. I just believe that if we really want to improve our community, it’s going to be about focusing on really bringing some real jobs in. That’s what’s driving the issues with our community, like drug use and poverty.”
Real estate appraiser John Haney said that a unified government could be a “great step forward” for the community, and that the presentation raised a lot of intriguing questions for him.
“(The study) didn’t sway me either way,” he said. “My opinion has been that I’ve been on board with the merger or the prospect of looking into it since Day 1.”
According to Dave Weddle of Wellhead Energy Systems — the man whose Progress Somerset group successfully led a drive to make Somerset “wet” with alcohol sales in 2012 — it’s all just speculation unless Somerset city leaders indicate that they’re on board.
“It’s really impractical to do this without Somerset being fully engaged in the unification process,” he said. “… You’d have to assume that if the city (voting base) comes back and keeps things as they are (in the upcoming election), that would be a strong point on them saying they’re happy with the way things are.
“I think any place that doesn’t look at change every day … will probably fall behind,” added Weddle. “There are real, positive attributes to looking (at a unified government plan), but again, the devil is in the details.”
Article originally posted to WYMT-TV web site http://www.wkyt.com/wymt/home/headlines/Unified-Government-Study-released-in-Pulaski-County-241772741.html
The Pulaski County Unified Government Study Findings Presentation was held Thursday at the Center for Rural Development in Somerset. The study was commissioned by “Somerset-Pulaski County United” and the Pulaski County Fiscal Court and was conducted by a Louisville-based consulting firm.
A study to explore a unified government in Pulaski County that was the topic of conversation in Somerset Thursday, but what exactly is a “unified government” anyway?
“It’s essentially a merger of two or more local governments. Instead of having, say four cities and one county government. In theory, a combined or unified government could consolidate all of those governments into one streamlined government,” said Luke Schmidt of L.B. Schmidt & Associates, LLC, the firm that conducted the study.
And that was the theory presented to dozens of community members. More specifically, organizers say the goal was to explain how such a government could be implemented in the future.
“We just want to educate the community on what the possibilities are for economic development and opportunity in Pulaski county and Somerset,” said Brook Ping of Somerset – Pulaski County United.
But not everyone in the area supports the idea of unifying municipal governments. The city of Somerset elected not to participate in the study, its mayor saying such a path would have negative consequences.
“It’s not in the best interest of our citizens, or voters of Somerset, to take our resources and the efforts we’ve made and to virtually give them away to the county,” said Eddie Girdler, mayor of Somerset.
But organizers behind the study say this presentation should not be misinterpreted as a vote of support for a unified government, but merely as a starting point to begin the conversation.
Article originally posted to the (Somerset) Commonwealth Journal web site http://www.somerset-kentucky.com/local/x1767997925/SPCU-Study-stresses-plan-isn-t-political-foresees-Somerset-as-third-largest-city-in-state
SPCU study stresses plan isn’t political; foresees Somerset as third largest city in state
by Bill Mardis Commonwealth Journal Thu Jan 23, 2014, 07:38 PM EST
Somerset — Unifying governments in Pulaski County is a citizen-driven opportunity to streamline government through unification and is not involved in politics.
This was the central theme of a study released late yesterday to the Commonwealth Journal, and then to the public at a Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce “Business After Hours” event at The Center for Rural Development.
The 10-month study, commissioned by Somerset-Pulaski County United (SPCU), a group of about 150 civic and business leaders, was conducted by Luke Schmidt, president of Louisville-based consulting firm L.B. Schmidt & Associates.
“Neither SPCU nor locally elected officials, only voters can approve or reject unification,” Schmidt emphasized from the start. “We have never said … we will never say existing governments in Pulaski County are bad, nor does the study reflect negativity,” he insisted.
The study insists unification presents an opportunity to build a bigger and better community. “The opportunity exists to make good local government great with everyone focused on a common purpose –– to grow the community and create new jobs,” Schmidt said. “For communities that have unified, not one has dissolved its unified government to return to the former form of duplicative government, he related.
“This study provides a foundation for SPCU as we begin to consider both the positives and negatives that might accrue to our community if the community wishes to unify the various local governments, said SPCU chairman Brook Ping. “It is an educational process,” he added.
Unified governments in the county would dissolve city boundaries and create one government for the entire county. The exception is Eubank which straddles the Pulaski-Lincoln county line and by state law is not eligible to participate in a unified government. Schmidt said Eubank could enter into an interlocal agreement and be a participating city with unified governments.
The sense of community would remain … Nancy would be Nancy, Science Hill would be Science Hill, Burnside would be Burnside, both Ping and Schmidt emphasized.
At present, Pulaski County has 56 local government jurisdictions providing services to 63,000 people. Greater Pulaski County has an additional 32 boards and commissions for a total of 88 government-related entities, the study noted.
Annually, it costs $27.7 million in general fund revenues and a workforce of 581 employees to provide local government services in all of Pulaski County, the study pointed out. Somerset, with its current population of 11,296, is the 33rd largest city in Kentucky. Unified, with a population of more than 63,000, Somerset, now a third-class city, would be the third largest city in the state, qualifying for 2nd-class status.
Typically, no public workers from unifying jurisdictions are laid off as the result of merger. The work force is reduced by normal attrition, the study says.
“No one is saying unified governments will save money, only that money will be spent more efficiently,” said Schmidt.
Unification will not move school boundaries; it will not change local option areas, and with combined budgets, tax rates usually stay the same, Schmidt pointed out.
Schmidt and Ping explained that the unified government law in Kentucky has been modified to allow individual cities to remain unchanged.
“For example,” Schmidt said, “If voters in Science Hill rejected unification the city would not change. If voters in Somerset and unincorporated areas voted against the plan, unification is dead,” he noted.
“The most important part of the study, and perhaps the hardest part, will be for all citizens to begin thinking, not only outside the box, but also outside of traditional boundary lines,” said Schmidt. “The opportunity exists to build a bigger and better community,” he added. Economic development officials in unified communities confirm that having one central government is much more attractive to business and industrial clients considering investing in a community, the study said.
Somerset and Ferguson already have opted out of the plan and “ … without Somerset unification won’t work,” Schmidt conceded.
According to law, to start a unification process, Pulaski Fiscal Court, Somerset City Council and governing bodies of Burnside, Ferguson and Science Hill by ordinance would create an official Unified Government Commission made up of between 20 and 40 members to plan a structure for a unified city-county government.
Pulaski Fiscal Court would appoint half the members of a Unified Government Commission and the remaining members would be appointed by participating cities, prorated on population.
Any type of merged governments must be approved by voters of Pulaski County. Ping has said several times that unification is a slow process and successful merger could take up to four years
Article originally posted to the (Somerset) Commonwealth Journal web site http://www.somerset-kentucky.com/newslive/x1427970087/Unified-government-plan-to-be-unveiled
Public invited to hear results of SPCU study at Center tonight
by Bill Mardis Commonwealth Journal Wed Jan 22, 2014, 05:59 PM EST
Article originally posted to the (Somerset) Commonwealth Journal’s web site http://www.somerset-kentucky.com/local/x1427967744/Results-of-unified-government-study-to-be-released-this-week
By Bill Mardis
Somerset — Findings in a 10-month study of feasibility of unified local governments in Pulaski County will be presented at 6 p.m. Thursday, January 23 at The Center for Rural Development. Elected officials, candidates for public office and the public are urged to attend the Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce-sponsored event in a “Chamber after Hours” format.
Luke B. Schmidt, president of Louisville-based consulting firm L.B. Schmidt & Associates, LLC, will make a formal presentation on the study’s findings, according to Brook Ping, chair of Somerset-Pulaski County United (SPCU), a group of about 150 local business and community leaders.
“Release of the study’s findings has become a much-anticipated community event,” said Ping. “SPCU’s focus during this entire endeavor has simply been to learn more about the potential benefits that unified government might offer our community. SPCU’s mission is to improve our community and to improve economic development opportunities and this study represents our first step down this path for a better future,” Ping emphasized.
None of the study’s findings has been released up to now. However, a news release from SPCU said a broad base of the study includes an analysis of existing governmental structures in Pulaski County, an examination of select community unified government structures in the United States and an overview of how to form unified governments in Kentucky and Pulaski County.
SPCU has emphasized from the onset that the $35,000 study will not advocate unification of city and county governments; only determine the feasibility of unified governments. They have pointed out that Somerset, with its current population of 11,296, is the 33rd largest city in Kentucky. Unified, with a population of more than 63,000, Somerset, now a third-class city, would be the third largest city in the state, qualifying for 2nd-class status.
Ping pointed out that unification, if approved by voters, is a slow-moving procedure. He estimated it would take at least four years.
“Lots of questions have been raised about unified government and what it might mean to the community,” said Schmidt. “Our presentation will begin to answer these questions with real data about the current form of government in Pulaski County, contrasted with how communities with unified governments operate. Clearly, opportunities exist to take Pulaski County’s good government and perhaps make it even better,” he commented.
Unifying governments requires several steps and the law is designed to make it difficult to merge in order to ensure considerable thought goes into developing the formal plan of unified government (also known as the charter), Schmidt stated.
Schmidt at the chamber forum will address what happens when merger occurs, including such things as what happens to jobs currently held by public workers; what impact does merger have on the sale of alcoholic beverages, school districts and utilities; and, will tax rates go up or down?
“The most important thing for everyone to keep in mind at this point is that unified government, if it does indeed occur, is a long way down the road,” Schmidt repeated. “In the end, only voters, not SPCU nor locally elected officials, can approve or reject unification,” he emphasized.
“For now, we invite everyone in the community –– the general public, elected officials and potential future candidates for public office –– to join us at The Center as we embark on what most likely will be an extensive community dialogue on the future of local government in Pulaski County,” Schmidt concluded.
A major stumbling block is Somerset’s refusal to participate in the study. Somerset City Council has directed its legal department to obtain whatever help necessary to protect the existence and boundaries of the city. Ferguson City Council also has adopted a resolution opting out of the study. Pulaski Fiscal Court has cooperated, paying about $12,000 as its share of the study’s cost. Other cities in the county generally have taken a wait-and-see attitude.
Unified governments in the county would dissolve city boundaries and create one government for the entire county. The exception is Eubank which straddles the Pulaski-Lincoln county line and by state law is not eligible to participate in a unified government.
According to law, Pulaski Fiscal Court, Somerset City Council and governing bodies of Burnside, Ferguson and Science Hill by ordinance would create an official Unified Government Commission made up of between 20 and 40 members to plan a structure for a unified city-county government. Somerset and Ferguson apparently would not participate and, according to Schmidt, “would not have a seat at the table.”
Pulaski Fiscal Court would appoint half the members of a Unified Government Commission and the remaining members would be appointed by participating cities, prorated on population. It is not clear at this point how lack of participation by Somerset, the largest city in the county, would affect the unification process.
Any type of merged governments must be approved by voters of Pulaski County.
The following Letter to the Editor was originally published in the (Somerset) Commonwealth Journal on August 24, 2013:
I read with interest the article in last Sunday’s Commonwealth Journal concerning the ongoing unified government study in Pulaski County. I was particularly interested in comments made by Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler that seemed to imply that as the project consultant that I have been harassing him and the City.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Let me begin by first stating that I have nothing but the highest regard for Mayor Girdler. Somerset is a progressive city with lots of good things going for it. I fully respect the fact that the City Council earlier this summer passed a resolution indicating that the City does not wish to consider unifying with any of its neighbors, no matter what the potential benefits of such unification might bring to the City and its residents.
As project consultant, I made it clear early on that one of the most important parts of the study is to learn more about how each of the existing government jurisdictions operates. To that end, I have now met with the mayors of each city in the county, with the exception of Mayor Girdler, plus Pulaski County Judge/Executive Barty Bullock. I now have a better understanding of how each community is organized, a little bit of the history of each and most importantly, some of the things which are very important to each community, again with the exception of Somerset.
When I started this part of the study, I sent a letter to each mayor, including Mayor Girdler, requesting an appointment. I followed this up with a telephone call to each. Mayor Girdler never returned any of my calls. I stopped by his office on two occasions when I was in Somerset, each time asking his assistant for just “five minutes” to speak with the mayor, with the hope of scheduling an appointment that if for no other reason would allow him the opportunity to share with me why he is so opposed to this study and the opportunity to learn more about how unified government works, and, to see if there are any benefits to be gained for the community (the study has not been completed, so we don’t know yet if there will be any benefits). While he was out of town during one of these times, his assistant refused to announce my request to the mayor the other time.
I did receive a one paragraph letter from the mayor, in which he indicated that he would not meet with me, nor would he allow any city staff member to meet with me. He did indicate in his letter that some of the information that I was interested in obtaining would be available through an Open Records request.
Consequently, having tried every other approach to meet with the mayor, I did file an Open Records request of him (since I never got past his assistant’s desk, I was unaware of the procedure of submitting such requests to the city clerk).
In closing, throughout my career I have worked with elected officials on all levels – state, federal and local – going back to 1980. I have worked with local officials – successfully – all over the United States in communities like Hennepin County, Minnesota (Minneapolis), Philadelphia, Campbellsville, Ky., etc., on a variety of issues. While
we might not always agree, in every instance the relationships have been productive, professional and mutually respectful. I have no doubt that this will be the case with Mayor Girdler when our paths do cross in the future.
In closing, I appreciate the opportunities that I have had thus far to learn more about how Greater Pulaski County works. My invitation to Mayor Girdler stands: I would welcome the opportunity to begin an open and candid discussion of all of these issues with him.
Luke B. Schmidt
L.B. Schmidt & Associates, LLC
6316 Innisbrook Drive
Prospect, Ky. 40059
The Food with Wine Coalition (FWWC) is a non profit organization which was established by the Kentucky Grocers Association (now known as the Kentucky Grocers Association & the Kentucky Association of Convenience Stores) for the purpose of educating and informing Kentucky’s thought leaders about the benefits of revising existing state law to allow grocery stores to sell wine in wet and moist counties. At present, 34 states allow grocery stores to sell wine. Six of seven of Kentucky’s border states allow grocery stores to sell wine.
Lifestyles have changed and wine has become a healthy part of a balanced diet when consumed in moderation. Across Kentucky, consumers are asking grocery store managers to sell wine to pair with the food that they are purchasing for dinner. There are three compelling reasons why the law should be changed:
- Expands consumer choice and competition in the wine marketplace
- Supports Kentucky’s farm families by expanding the number of sales outlets for Kentucky-produced wine and increases the demand for Kentucky-grown grapes
- Adds much needed tax revenue to the coffers of the Commonwealth without raising taxes
The FWWC retained Luke Schmidt and L.B. Schmidt & Associates, LLC for the purpose of developing and directing the project.
As consultant to the FWWC, Luke Schmidt provided the following services to the Coalition:
- Designed project scope and established goals
- Managed the Coalition; scheduled meetings, established Agendas and conducted meetings and teleconferences
- Developed collateral support materials such as one-pagers, project brochure, project promotional video, Web site, etc.
- Distributed collateral materials
- Conducted outreach to key writers and editorial boards to all daily newspapers, key news talk radio stations and television stations; secured editorial support; served as the spokesperson for the Coalition; developed list of regional grocery industry spokespersons
- Developed PR campaign strategy with press releases, op-ed articles; solicit/secure talk radio, television and other media opportunities
- Started outreach to key local chambers of commerce, The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and built support for the issue
- Developed and maintained the link with the agriculture community, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and the Kentucky’s grape and wine industry
- Coordinated outreach to the Governor’s Office and Members of the General Assembly
- Coordinated legislation development and sponsorship
The FWWC positioned itself to lead the discussion on this issue. Luke Schmidt led the development of various collateral materials which were used to support the Coalition’s position, including a new logo.
The Coalition developed a Web site which contains a wealth of information on the issue. In addition, Luke Schmidt led the development of the Coalition’s promotional video . The Coalition also produced a project brochure which was distributed to industry and legislative representatives.
The Coalition also produced a general one-pager, along with an economic impact one-pager, both of which were distributed to Members of the Kentucky General Assembly and were also distributed with press releases.
As consultant to the Coalition, Luke Schmidt developed an extensive media distribution list and called on over 40 key media outlets throughout the Commonwealth (and adjacent markets in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio and West Virginia) during two statewide media tours, including television stations, talk radio stations, NPR radio stations and all daily newspapers which resulted in hundreds of positive newspaper articles, radio and television news stories. (Many of the newspaper articles and television news reports can be viewed in the Media section on this Web site) Three newspapers endorsed the Coalition’s position. Press releases were issued as needed.
Luke Schmidt called on key local Chambers of Commerce in the Commonwealth’s Top 10 markets. The Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce endorsed the Coalition’s position.
The Coalition launched an initial statewide petition drive which included 110 grocery stores and which gathered 56,000 signatures. A follow-up online petition drive secured another 18,000 signatures. The petition drives were supported with unique in-store collateral pieces.
Luke Schmidt worked closely with a group of grocers which comprised the FWWC Steering Committee. The grocers provided invaluable support, insight and counsel. A true partnership was established. Yet, Members of the Kentucky General Assembly continued to focus exclusively on critical issues such as the Commonwealth’s severe budget shortfall, unfunded pension liabilities, etc., all the while avoiding the controversial issue. As such, the foundation to support legislation to allow grocery store wine sales was put into place; however, the environment needed to pass the controversial legislation remained challenging at best.
The FWWC elected to take this issue to court, challenging the constitutionality of the law. In 2012, U.S. District Court Judge John Heyburn ruled in Louisville that Kentucky’s existing law which outlawed the sale of wine in grocery stores was illegal and further stated that grocery stores should be allowed to sell wine and distilled spirits. The ruling was appealed by the liquor store industry and the issue is currently being reviewed by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.