A1 A1
City eyes scooter regulations, adding mobility options
 Wes Swietek  / 

The city of Bowling Green is looking at ways it can – and can’t – regulate shared scooter services in the city.

At the same time, the city is open to considering an expansion of efforts such as shared bicycle services in the city, even as it was announced Friday that Western Kentucky University’s two-year-old bike sharing service is ending.

Shared scooter services – in which people rent scooters, often electric-powered, that are parked in public places – has been a contentious issue in many municipalities. The main issues regard safety and concerns when the scooters are dumped on sidewalks, streets or private property instead of designated areas.

Some places have outright banned the services, while others have strict regulations.

But because of Kentucky law, “the city can’t ban scooters, but we can regulate where they go and where they park,” Bowling Green Mayor Bruce Wilkerson said.

Bowling Green officials at a city retreat last week said they are waiting to get further clarity on what the city can and can’t do under state law: “As soon as that regulation comes down, we will probably have a work session,” Wilkerson said.

“We want to make sure they are not a problem like in Nashville,” Wilkerson said.

Nashville Mayor David Briley last summer proposed banning shared scooter services in that city after a scooter rider was struck and killed by an SUV, and after numerous complaints about the scooters being dumped on and blocking city sidewalks. Because of similar safety concerns, the Chattanooga, Tenn., City Council voted to extend a ban on scooters last week.

In Kentucky, new safety initiatives were recently announced in Lexington after a scooter rider was hit and killed by a car in November.

“The main concern is a lack of infrastructure to support these devices,” said Brent Childers, city Department of Neighborhood and Community Services director. He said scooters fall somewhere “between a pedestrian and a vehicle,” so neither sidewalks nor busy roads are suited for them.

He also said it is a common sight in some larger cities to “see them all over the sidewalks impeding traffic and taking up parking spaces.”

The congestion and safety issues are more prevalent with scooters than bikes, as people “grew up riding bikes and they generally abide by traffic regulations,” Wilkerson said. Many scooter users “don’t follow traffic laws in a way to keep themselves and other people safe.”

No bike or scooter sharing service has formally asked to start operations in Bowling Green, Wilkerson said, although one scooter service did contact city officials last year.

There has been a bike sharing service on the campus of Western Kentucky University since 2018, but it was announced Friday that it was ending.

VeoRide will cease its bike sharing services at WKU at the end of February.

Jennifer Tougas, WKU’s Director of Parking and Transportation Services, said the service was well received by students and the decision to end it was made by the company as it looks to focus on other transportation services.

WKU and the city are now in discussions to consider if there is a way to partner to bring other “micro-mobility” services to the campus and the city.

Tougas described micro-mobility as getting people the last few miles to a destination. That could entail using traditional bikes, bikes with small motors, seated scooters like Vespas or even small on-demand electric vehicles.

“WKU has a continuing interest” in providing micro-mobility services, she said.

Likewise, “We are interested in talking to them,” Childers said.

With new bicycle lanes being built as part of continuing downtown renovations, Childers said there are new opportunities to invest in these types of services.

Grace Ramey / Grace Ramey  

Girls Inc. member Alexandria Chappell, 11, of Owensboro crawls through a squeeze box, which mimics crawling through cave passages, at one of the Western Kentucky University departments booths during the Herstory@WKU girl empowerment event at the Kentucky Museum on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. (Grace Ramey/photo@bgdailynews.com)

WKU shows how girls can run the world
 Justin Story  / 

The Kentucky Museum hosted an event Saturday that allowed girls a glimpse into a bright future.

Aimed at girls in grades 1-8, Herstory@WKU was meant to empower young girls and show them a path to achieving their career goals and following their interests.

“We always hope that we can excite the girls and get them subjects that interest them and let them know about ways they can pursue them as they get older,” said Christy Spurlock, education curator at the Kentucky Museum and an associate professor at Western Kentucky University.

The free event was put together with support from Wells Fargo and the WKU Gender and Women’s Studies Department.

Spurlock said the event was organized in recognition of the centennial of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

Herstory@WKU is one of a number of community programs organized in commemoration of the centennial called Journey to the Vote, but this particular event is unique for its focus on children, Spurlock said.

Several activities were held throughout the day that showed the numerous possibilities available to girls.

In the museum’s window gallery, girls could meet and get autographs from local women in diverse professional fields, including government, medicine, the arts and law.

Spurlock said the visibility of the professional women would leave a good impression on the girls who met them.

“I’m a firm believer that you have to see it to believe it,” Spurlock said. “If a girl wants to be in law enforcement or serve in the military or become a doctor, meeting someone from those fields in person is invaluable.”

The professionals, for their part, came away impressed with the girls they met.

“It’s just nice to see how ambitious they are,” said Dr. Abigail DeBusk, a sports medicine physician at The Medical Center’s orthopedic clinic and a WKU team physician. “I hope they can see the different careers available to them that you would normally think of as men’s jobs and that they can do whatever it is they want to do, no matter how crazy it sounds.”

Some girls arrived in costume as part of a costume contest.

Eight-year-old Breanne Wichman was dressed smartly in a blue blazer as former First Lady Michelle Obama, who she admires for her efforts to encourage children to eat healthier.

Breanne said she loves animals and wants to be a veterinarian.

“I got to meet a bunch of professional women,” Breanne said.

A total of 18 WKU departments had stations set up in the Kentucky Room featuring hands-on activities.

At one end of the room, WKU’s Women in Science and Engineering chapter had a booth with information about the area’s cave systems, and a squeeze-box that gave visitors a simulated experience of crawling through a cave passage less than a foot tall.

At another booth, WKU civil engineering student Rebecca Hurley led a group of girls in the construction of spaghetti towers, with the uncooked noodles being held together with marshmallows.

Hurley, current president of the student chapter of the WKU American Society of Civil Engineers, said that growing up on a farm gave her an interest in the hands-on work of civil engineering, and she hoped the girls who visited her booth left with an expanded knowledge of the career possibilities ahead of them.

“I want to get them to think outside the box,” said Hurley, a junior from Park City. “I want them to be aware of as many options as possible before they get to high school.”

Grace Ramey / Grace Ramey  

Skylar Myers, 6, of Bowling Green colors a button at one of the 18 WKU departments booths during the Herstory@WKU girl empowerment event at the Kentucky Museum on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. (Grace Ramey/photo@bgdailynews.com)

Family Video to close one Bowling Green store
 Don Sergent  / 

Bowling Green will soon lose half its remaining video rental stores.

Family Video, a subsidiary of Glenview, Ill.-based Highland Ventures Ltd., will close its store at 560 U.S. 31-W By-Pass later this month, leaving the Family Video at 1870 Westen St. as the last video store standing.

Matt Hill, Family Video district manager, said the 6,000-square-foot building next to a Cricket Wireless store on the bypass is being sold and will close Feb. 25.

“Bowling Green was one of the last cities where we still had two stores,” Hill said. “The business is not what it once was, so we thought we needed to close one.”

Hill wouldn’t reveal the buyer, but he said the sale doesn’t affect the Westen Street store that is near Campbell Lane.

But that Family Video, part of a 550-store chain that operates in 20 U.S. states and Canada, bears little resemblance to the Blockbuster Video and Movie Gallery stores that have fallen victim to the rise of Netflix, Hulu and other video streaming services.

Bowling Green’s last remaining Family Video shares space in its 7,000-square-foot building with a Marco’s Pizza and is also one of several spots in town where you can pick up cannabidiol (CBD) products that are promoted as natural remedies for various ailments.

“Pizza and a movie go well together,” Hill said. “The video business is declining, but you can often make more money per square foot with another business.”

Which helps explain why Family Video has survived while other big video rental chains have gone the way of the manual typewriter. Blockbuster, for example, declared bankruptcy in 2010 and closed its final 300 company-owned stores in 2014. As of January, the only remaining physical Blockbuster store in the world was a privately owned franchise in Oregon.

Family Video, founded in 1978 as Video Movie Club, has avoided the fate of other video rental chains through a strategy of owning the real estate where its stores are located.

“Our parent company owns the property,” Hill said. “That’s one of the big reasons why we have been able to survive.”

That, and a diversification strategy. Privately owned Family Video has branched out into real estate, developing more than 600 retail strip centers, and also has its hand in fitness centers, cellphones and cable television.

Hill said the company isn’t ready to abandon its video-rental roots.

“We’re not looking to close all our video stores,” he said. “We still have quite a few people who rent DVDs and Blu-ray discs, and our video game offerings continue to be strong.”

The inclusion of Marco’s Pizza – another Highland Ventures subsidiary – at the Westen Street store is part of a companywide trend for Family Video. Hill said more than 100 Family Video stores are paired with the pizza chain.

The CBD products, introduced to Family Video stores in 2018, have been a hit, according to Hill.

“They’re really popular and have helped a lot of people,” he said. “They’ve helped increase traffic in our stores.”

Hill hopes to liquidate all or most of the movies and games being sold at discounted prices at the bypass store by Feb. 25.

As for the Westen Street store, He says: “We have no plans to change anything at that store. We hope customers from the bypass store will visit the other store.”

Feds given more time to respond to Boucher appeal
 Justin Story  / 

The federal government has been granted an extension of time to file its response to Rene Boucher’s appeal of his 30-day prison sentence, which he has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review.

U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco had requested an extension ahead of Friday’s deadline to file his response, saying in a Jan. 31 filing that the attorneys responsible for preparing the government’s response “have been heavily engaged with the press of previously assigned matters with proximate due dates.”

Though he has served the jail time, paid a $10,000 fine and performed 100 hours of community service for his conviction of assaulting a member of Congress stemming from the 2017 tackling of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul outside his home in Rivergreen subdivision, Boucher remains in a state of legal limbo.

Federal prosecutors had asked for a 21-month sentence when Boucher pleaded guilty and appealed the punishment handed down in the case by Special Judge Marianne Battani, arguing that what Boucher received was too lenient given the extent of Paul’s injuries.

Last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled in favor of the government, reversing Boucher’s 30-day sentence and remanding the case back to U.S. District Court and Battani for another sentencing hearing.

Before that could be scheduled, though, Boucher and his attorney, Matt Baker, asked the Supreme Court to hear his appeal, petitioning the court in November to consider whether a resentencing hearing violates Boucher’s rights to due process and protecting him against double jeopardy.

“Here, (Boucher) has served every bit of a perfectly legal sentence,” Baker said in the petition. “He now faces the horrifying prospect of having to go back to prison to serve an additional sentence for the very same offense to which he pled guilty and accepted his punishment. This is simply intolerable by anyone’s standards of the application of double jeopardy and fundamental principles of due process.”

In the petition, Baker argued that Boucher gave up his right to appeal when he pleaded guilty and the government implicitly waived its appeal rights as well, meaning both sides should have been legally bound by Battani’s ruling imposing the 30-day sentence.

Both sides were allowed to argue for a specific punishment at the 2018 sentencing hearing. Baker urged Battani to place Boucher on probation, while federal prosecutors asked for 21 months.

The Supreme Court on Dec. 9 requested a response from the U.S. Solicitor General, which argues cases on behalf of the federal government before the high court.

On Dec. 31, the court extended the deadline for a response from Jan. 8 to Friday, and the second extension was granted Jan. 31.

Supreme Court rules hold that four of the nine sitting justices must vote to accept a case for review.

Bac Totrong / Daily News  

Rene Boucher speaks Jan. 29 in Warren Circuit Court.