FRANKFORT - Say "cheese" or just plain cheesy.
Kentuckians who partake of the state fair this year can have their picture made with the state's constitutional officers.
To better educate the public about Kentucky's elected officials and the duties of each office, Secretary of State Trey Grayson has arranged for six of the seven to be together through the 11-day spread of the fair.
Well, kind of.
All Kentucky's constitutional officers - save one - permitted for life-size photographs of them to be taken and used for the project. Every cut-out is placed together in a nice familial setting with Gov. Ernie Fletcher and first lady Glenna Fletcher in the front holding Abby, the first dog.
Positioned behind the first couple are Lt. Gov. Steve Pence, Treasurer Jonathan Miller, Grayson, Commissioner of Agriculture Richie Farmer and Auditor Crit Luallen.
Attorney General Greg Stumbo opted to not participate in the photograph. Spokeswoman Vicki Glass said Stumbo decided not to because he will be at the fair in person talking about identity theft.
(Glass said Stumbo's decision had nothing to do with the political climate in Frankfort, which is quite heated given his investigation into alleged abuse of the state's hiring laws by Fletcher officials. "We will have a booth at the fair and the attorney general will be visiting the fair and available to the public so why have a cut-out when you can have the real thing?" Glass said.)
Capturing the moment on film is free. And included in the package are information packets on all Kentucky's statewide elected officials, including Stumbo.
"We thought if we had pictures of the constitutional officers that they could kind of see who they are, and people would be excited to participate," said Les Fugate, spokesman for Grayson.
The photo project is part of Grayson's civic literacy initiative, where his office seeks to better educate the public about state government and other civic issues. Fugate figures there are Kentucky citizens who may not be familiar with all the statewide officers or their jobs.
"When they go to the polls they don't know exactly what the role is for the officer they are voting for," Fugate said. "We wanted to try to take that education up a little."
Fletcher in recent days has made himself more available to the media.
OK, not really.
The governor, who has kept a low profile in the midst of more indictments and subpoeneas, held a few press conferences recently where various announcements were made. Media attendance was high at the events mostly because reporters have many questions related to the investigation, which is looking into alleged violations of the state's hiring laws.
Questions such as whether any of the nine individuals who have been indicted be pardoned.
Or whether Fletcher will invoke his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination when he goes before a grand jury later this month.
But Fletcher has adopted a new practice where he only answers questions related to the topic at hand. At a recent press conference, when asked a question about pardons, Fletcher said:
"Would you please respect this? Please respect the fact that we have a number of folks interested in this. They are not here for the investigation," Fletcher said, then promptly left.
A few days later, another press conference. This time, Fletcher said it wasn't the appropriate time to discuss the investigation. As he left he continued to dodge additional questions by throwing his hand in the air, smiling and thanking reporters for taking an interest in the subject at hand, which that day happened to be a study on elders.
Whether Fletcher's latest technique for avoiding questions is effective is questionable, said Michael Baranowski, political science professor at Northern Kentucky University.
"I don't know how effective that tactic is either, when you start to shut down to try to limit the damage," Baranowski said.
It worked OK for former President Ronald Reagan. He'd have reporters gather around soon-to-depart aircraft. As he'd walk through, he'd cup his hand around his ear and strain to hear, smile and wave - and leave all the unwanted questions unanswered.
This is Amanda York's last column for The Post. Please send future inquiries and comments to assistant managing editor Barry Horstman at email@example.com.
Publication date: 08-20-2005