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Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down: Sept. 27

Thumbs Up — Voters registered in Boyle

Boyle County residents get an A for their dedication to registering to vote.

As we noted in a story Friday about Alison Lundergan Grimes’ voter registration efforts, the 2010 U.S. Census listed 22,274 adults over 18 in Boyle County. There were at our last count 21,241 registered to vote. That’s more than 95 percent of eligible voters registered to vote.

While Boyle Countians are good at registering, the number who actually use their ability to vote is much smaller. For this year’s primary election, fewer than one in four voters actually voted.

The ability of every normal person to have a say in who runs the government is not the norm in the world, but we all too often take it for granted here in the U.S.

If we were ever to lose the democratic right to vote in this country, it would begin with no one caring to vote in the first place. When we place value and importance on voting, we help ensure voting will remain the standard in the future.

Here’s hoping general election turnout this year is every bit as stellar as Boyle’s voter registration numbers.

Thumbs Up — Court rejects Bevin’s university cuts

The Kentucky Supreme Court scored a victory for checks and balances last week when it ruled Gov. Matt Bevin did not have the authority to unilaterally cut the budgets of state universities.

Let’s leave aside the issues of whether the cuts would have had a net positive or negative impact; whether Bevin had good or bad motivations; or whether you lean Democratic or Republican. Those are all superfluous debates to the real issue here: the balance of power in government.

The state legislature exists for a reason — several reasons, in fact. One reason is to approve state budgets that allocate how much Kentucky spends on what. When Bevin ordered cuts to the current budgets of nearly all of Kentucky’s public colleges and universities, he was attempting to set a new standard whereby a governor could do whatever he wished with a state budget without approval from the legislature.

If you already dislike Bevin, you’re probably happy the supreme court ruled the way it did. If you like what Bevin has been doing in office, you may view the ruling as a loss.

No matter how you feel about it, remember that other governors will eventually be running this state and they will have different priorities than Bevin. When a governor less focused on cutting spending and shrinking government takes over, those who currently support Bevin will likely be very thankful for the precedent that governors are not dictators.

Thumbs Down — Culture of careless, reckless driving

In our Sunday paper, we covered the efforts of local officials to figure out what can be done about the intersection of U.S. 127 and Shelby Street in Junction City.

Better lighting seems to be something that many people want, and it certainly can’t hurt.

However, we need to be careful not to assume that we can tweak the intersection and magically make it safe so we don’t have to worry about it.

The fact is the Shelby Street intersection sits along a stretch of wide, straight, flat highway, filled with many drivers who are attempting to travel quite a few miles and hoping they can do it quickly. Add to this houses on one side and commercial businesses on the other and you wind up with an inherently risky situation.

Short of building a pedestrian overpass or underpass, there’s not much in the way of physical changes to the intersection that seem both feasible and likely to eliminate the risk.

That’s because the real problem is how we drive. We speed, we eat, we call and we text while driving — sometimes we combine two or three of those activities at the same time. As humans, we’re very bad at assessing actual risks and taking appropriate actions. Because we have speeded in the past, or texted while driving in the past, and nothing bad happened, our brains assume we can continue to do those same things and nothing bad will continue to happen.

To really drive down (pun intended) accidents at the Shelby Street intersection and everywhere else, it will take more and more of us consciously choosing to drive safely even when our brains are telling us otherwise.

Thumbs Up — United Way taking action

The Heart of Kentucky United Way once again coordinated its massive giving-back event, the Day of Action, last week, and once again, many people and places in the United Way chapter’s coverage area benefited.

The Day of Action is always an excellent reminder that we aren’t helpless to fix things in our lives.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking “that’s just the way things are” when facing a problem or wishing things were different. In reality, you can usually make a difference and fix the problem if you put a little effort in.

The United Way is proof that actions have consequences, and good actions have good consequences.