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06.10.2004 General News

Lexington Mayor gets away from it all in Ghana

By HERALD-LEADER

So you're the mayor of Lexington and want to get away from the grind.

Where do you go?

Well, Lexington Mayor Teresa Isaac last week traveled to Ekumfi Edumafa, Ghana, a village so obscure that almost the only mention of it on the Internet revolves around a foiled plot to abduct goats in a taxi.

Bruce Edwards, Isaac's press secretary, said the mayor's expenses were paid for by the Central Human Development Foundation, a non-profit organization for AIDS education. After a Ghanaian exchange mission to the United States visited the Urban County Government's Family Care Center, the Ghana delegation decided to model the Ekumfi Edumafa facility after it. Isaac participated in the groundbreaking.

But the real puzzle is this: Why is Ghana so appealing to Isaac just a month before a hotly contested election that could shift council votes on the mayor's favorite issue: buying the water company? Unless, of course, the mayor expanded her knowledge of water governance in a country where clean water, industry, healthy people and goats are in short supply.

Watch for the return of retirees

Lexington taxpayers can take the mass exodus of Urban County Government employees to early retirement two ways:

You can hope for a leaner local government.

Or, you can wonder how they're going to run the place without longtime employees who were a fount of knowledge about how Lexington runs. People like attorney Chris Westover, the government's resident planning guru. Or Marianne Blodgett, the city's well-regarded government communications pasha. Or engineer David Uckotter.

Yes, the city will save money in the short term. But if it winds up so thinly staffed that it hires back some of the departed employees as high-paid contractors for their specialized knowledge, are the "savings" ephemeral? Remember that former law commissioner Mary Ann Delaney made more as a legal contractor than she did running the city law department. Stay tuned to see if any familiar faces make a return to the People's Palace on Main Street.

Protect children's IDs

A Fayette County school parent raised a concern about having students use their Social Security numbers for identification and for such daily tasks as lunch purchase. It's a concern that has been raised in other school districts and colleges as well; in fact, USA Today estimates that half the nation's colleges have ditched the use of Social Security numbers, in part to prevent identity theft.

Superintendent Stu Silberman has heard some of the same concerns. He says the school district is moving away from using Social Security numbers for employees at professional development sessions and on leave forms, requiring the employee number only. Discussing a change in student identification procedures is, he says, "on our list of things for us to examine and possibly change."

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Reach Cheryl Truman at (859) 231-3202 or 1-800-905-6397, Ext. 3202, or [email protected]

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