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UK making some slam-dunk moves off the court, too

“We’re moving in the right direction” is a phrase oft-repeated in Frankfort.

But it’s not always used appropriately.

Senate Republicans did anything but on the recent methamphetamine legislation – committing a foul worse than anything we see during March Madness.

When faced with proposals that either force all Kentuckians to obtain a prescription before purchasing products containing pseudoephedrine – an ingredient used to make the meth drug – or that severely limit purchases of Claritin D without a doctor’s note, that august body forfeited the game by voting to limit non-prescription purchases to about two boxes of decongestants per month.

How disappointing that some senators who claim to carry the mantle of smaller-government conservatism and who swear allegiance to defending our individual freedoms seem to feel pretty good about their vote.

They believe it’s a good compromise. “After all, nobody got everything they wanted,” I heard.

Though law enforcement pencil pushers (read: different from front-line-book-‘em-and-lock-‘em-up officers) failed in their mission to force all law-abiding citizens to find a doctor before we buy a box of Sudafed, the much-maligned pharmaceutical companies did not escape from the legislative sausage-making process without some restrictions.

And now politicians claim they “did something” about Kentucky’s meth problem.

“It’s been a reasonable compromise,” said Jerry Rhoads, D-Madisonville. “The final result is a step in the right direction.”


Call it “sausage making.” Call it “horse trading.” Call it anything but “reasonable” or “a step in the right direction.”

Since when is it ever “reasonable” for politicians charged with protecting our individual freedoms to do just the opposite? It all sounds pretty “out of step” with what most law-abiding citizens want.

But there are times when being “out of step” with the status quo really is “a step in the right direction.”

The University of Kentucky took such “a step” recently when it agreed for the first time to allow private developers to build some badly needed housing on campus.

Education Realty Trust will build a new 600-bed residence that will open next year. The private development firm will be responsible for the cost and upkeep of the $26 million project and will pay UK $5.3 million over the next 11 years that will help pay off debt on other dorms.

Talk about wins all the way around.

The school gets a big check and new housing to replace UK’s current “cinderblock Soviet style housing of the 50s and 60s,” as Alexander Goldfarb, a senior REIT analyst at Sandler O’Neill and Partners, described it in a Wall Street Journal story about this historic public-private partnership.

From students’ perspective, it’s a slam-dunk move by new UK President Eli Capilouto that puts at least some UK housing in the “Final Four” nationwide.

 “For universities to compete, they have to offer at least some housing that’s current with the times,” Goldfarb said.

By hiring a private firm, the university will more quickly meet an urgent need for better campus housing, as illustrated by the fact that around 4,000 students annually sign up for the 684 current residence-hall beds considered “modern.”

The university wins now – as it can come off the bench right away and compete for potential students with better housing.

The university could have saved even more had it not determined that the private developer must pay prevailing-wage rates to workers. This government-mandated, union-like pay scale will consume 7.5 percent of the project’s cost – about $90 per bed per semester.

Getting rid of prevailing wage rates would have guaranteed a spot on any March Madness highlight reel.

Still, moving toward private developers, who can construct student housing more quickly and at lower costs, is truly a step in the right direction.

Contributor bio: Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at Read previously published columns at

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