WASHINGTON – Standing before a Congress and a nation sharply divided by impeachment, President Donald Trump used his State of the Union address to extol a “Great American Comeback” on his watch, just three years after he took office decrying a land of “American carnage” under his predecessor.
The partisan discord was on vivid display Tuesday night as the first president to campaign for reelection after being impeached made his case for another term: Republican legislators chanted “Four More Years,” and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ripped up her copy of Trump’s speech as he ended his address.
“America’s enemies are on the run, America’s fortunes are on the rise and America’s future is blazing bright,” Trump said. “In just three short years, we have shattered the mentality of American decline and we have rejected the downsizing of America’s destiny. We are moving forward at a pace that was unimaginable just a short time ago, and we are never going back.”
Citing the nation’s economic success as the chief rationale for a second term, Trump’s speech resembled a lower-volume version of his campaign rallies, providing something for every section of his political base.
But while he tweets daily assailing his impeachment, Trump never mentioned the “i-word” in his 78-minute speech. That followed the lead of then-President Bill Clinton, who did not reference his recent impeachment when he delivered his State of the Union in 1999.
Trump spoke from the House of Representatives, on the opposite side of the Capitol from where the Senate one day later was expected to acquit him.
Pelosi created a viral image with her seemingly sarcastic applause of the president a year ago. This time, she was even more explicit with her text-ripping rebuke.
Trump appeared no more cordial. When he climbed to the House rostrum, he did not take her outstretched hand, though it was not clear he had seen her gesture. Later, as Republicans often cheered, she remained in her seat, at times shaking her head at his remarks.
When Pelosi left, she told reporters tearing up the speech was “the courteous thing to do considering the alternative.” Republicans denounced her action as disrespectful.
Trump, a former reality TV star, added a showbiz flavor to the event: He had the first lady present the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, to conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, who recently announced he has advanced lung cancer.
He stunned a young student in the gallery with a scholarship. And he orchestrated the surprise tearful reunion of a soldier from overseas with his family in the balcony.
Even for a Trump-era news cycle that seems permanently set to hyper-speed, the breakneck pace of events dominating the first week of February offered a singular backdrop for the president’s address.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who has presided in the Senate over only the third impeachment trial in the nation’s history, was on hand again Tuesday night – this time in his more customary seat in the audience. Trump stood before the very lawmakers who want to remove him from office – and those who are expected to acquit him when the Senate trial comes to a close.
The leading Senate Democrats hoping to unseat him in November were off campaigning in New Hampshire. In advance of his address, Trump tweeted that the chaos in Iowa’s leadoff caucus showed Democrats were incompetent and should not be trusted to run the government.
Among Trump’s guests in the chamber: Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who has been trying to win face time with Trump, his most important international ally.
The president offered Guaidó exactly the sort of endorsement he’s been looking for as he struggles to oust President Nicolás Maduro from power. Trump called Guaidó “the true and legitimate president of Venezuela.”
“Socialism destroys nations,” Trump declared.
The president entered the evening on a roll, with his impeachment acquittal imminent, his job approval numbers ticking upward and Wall Street looking strong. He struck a largely optimistic tone. But in past moments when Trump has struck a tone of bipartisanship and cooperation, he has consistently returned to harsher rhetoric within days.
Trump spent much of the speech highlighting the economy’s strength, including low unemployment, stressing how it has helped blue-collar workers and the middle class. He stressed the new trade agreements he has negotiated, including his phase-one deal with China and the United States-Mexico-Canada agreement he signed last month.
While the White House said the president was offering a message of unity, he also spent time on issues that have created great division and resonated with his political base. He attacked Democrats’ health care proposals for being too intrusive and again highlighted his signature issue – immigration – trumpeting the miles of border wall that have been constructed.
He also dedicated a section to “American values,” discussing efforts to protect “religious liberties” and limit access to abortion as he continues to court the evangelical and conservative Christian voters who form a crucial part of his base.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer delivered her party’s official response and drew a contrast between actions taken by Democrats and the president’s rhetoric.
“It doesn’t matter what the president says about the stock market,” Whitmer said. “What matters is that millions of people struggle to get by or don’t have enough money at the end of the month after paying for transportation, student loans, or prescription drugs.”
The Bowling Green City Commission had a lengthy discussion Tuesday about changing the way commissioners vote on ordinances, ultimately deciding to table the issue to discuss it further.
Currently, the commission votes on both the first and second reading of ordinances, but only the second vote is binding. Under state law, ordinances must be read twice, but voting on a first reading is required only by city ordinance.
Changing that policy was first discussed at a city retreat last week.
An ordinance that would change the city policy to vote only on a second reading was sponsored by Commissioner Brian “Slim” Nash.
“I think the current process gives the impression that the commission has already made up its mind,” he said. He said that practice discourages vital public input.
He said a first reading of an ordinance should be to “give notice to the public” to then give feedback before a vote.
Commissioner Dana Beasley-Brown likewise said she has heard from many constituents who wonder, regarding a nonbinding first vote, “why are you voting on it if you are not really voting.”
The current policy is “making our citizens feel ... we have already made up our minds,” she said.
But Commissioner Sue Parrigin said the current process promotes transparency as it allows residents to know how commissioners feel as soon as an ordinance is presented.
“I personally like to have my vote out in front of the community,” she said, adding that her experience is that people are generally aware of the process.
Not voting when an ordinance is first presented allows commissioners to “avoid taking a stand on really big community issues,” she said, and on a second vote, they “can still change their minds.”
An idea was then discussed to hold more work sessions to allow a proposed ordinance to be presented and discussed publicly before it is put up for a vote.
City Manager Jeff Meisel said there would be some logistical hurdles to overcome to hold regular work sessions, and commissioners ultimately voted to table a decision until they can have a work session to specifically discuss the issue.
Nash, Beasley-Brown, Parrigin and Commissioner Joe Denning voted to table the motion while Mayor Bruce Wilkerson voted no.
At last week’s retreat, City Attorney Gene Harmon said an informal poll of other municipalities showed that many others don’t have their governing bodies vote on a first reading.
The proposed changes would be only for ordinances, not municipal orders. Most ordinances the commission votes on relate to things like rezonings, while municipal orders typically are for things like accepting bids and hiring employees.
Also Tuesday, commissioners approved on a second vote a rezoning for a large multiuse development on Russellville Road.
Approved was a rezoning of 83.41 acres at 6309 Russellville Road from agriculture and general business to single-family residential, multifamily residential, highway business and light industrial. The development plan includes a 19.88-acre multifamily portion that will have up to 456 apartments, a 16.33-acre portion along Russellville Road to be zoned highway business and a 35.1-acre portion that will be light industrial.
Commissioners approved the request 5-0 at the Jan. 20 meeting on first reading.
– Follow News Director Wes Swietek on Twitter @BGDNgovtbeat or visit bgdailynews.com.
GLASGOW – The city of Glasgow is one step closer to implementing a plan to revitalize the community that more than 14,000 people call home.
Glasgow City Council members created a Strategic Planning Committee that partnered with the nonprofit Kentucky League of Cities for $11,000 to formulate a strategic plan. Residents were shown a draft version of the plan Tuesday.
“That is an investment in the community,” said Terry Bunnell, a councilman and committee chairman. “The KLC, they’ve done this, and they’ve done it across the commonwealth. And so they’ve seen cities like Glasgow and how (a) strategic plan of focus and the community working together can make a difference.”
KLC representative Bobbie Bryant, who has been with the organization for 23 years, said Glasgow shares many of the same issues and concerns as every city across Kentucky, but it also has some unique opportunities.
The meeting at the T.J. Health Pavilion Community Center brought council members, local leaders and citizens together to learn about the KLC preliminary plan, which stems from a list of strengths, weaknesses and opportunities in the city.
The six-page compilation is based on information gathered by Bryant and her colleague Tad Long at three public listening and design sessions last fall.
Safety and location were listed among the strengths; poverty and young people leaving were among the weaknesses; and some opportunities to address included expanding affordable housing and business development.
To narrow it down, the KLC representatives identified five key areas of interest, including arts, entertainment and culture; marketing and branding; entrepreneurship and economic development; parks, recreation and trail development; and housing and infill development.
Their presentation explored ways to foster growth in those areas, such as establishing a community identity, adding bike trails, making room for cost-conscious housing and a $4 million proposal to build a park and a 4,000-seat amphitheater, along with a covered farmers market pavilion and splash pad.
After the presentation, attendees divided into subcommittees dedicated to the five main components and discussed ways to make those ideas a reality.
Amy Vann, a longtime resident of Glasgow and owner of the store Floors & More, said she hopes the city will match funding provided by local investors to build the park.
“If we did the park, it is going to be close to downtown and then it would just revitalize everything downtown, (because the) square, it’s kinda been dying over the years.”
She also mentioned that parking on the square is a problem, so additional spaces might be helpful.
Bryant said the city’s final plan will be “very similar” to the draft.
“This was really our opportunity to say back to the citizens, ‘We heard you say this, did we get that right?’ If we missed something, now is your chance to let us know that,” Bryant said.
“And I think everyone agreed that, ‘Yes, we got it right.’ And the direction that we’re leading them to (addresses) things they were most concerned about and so I think it was very well received.”
KLC will now take a step back to let the Strategic Planning Committee and its subcommittees move toward finalizing the Glasgow Strategic Plan, which will be presented within the next 30 days.
Police arrested a Bowling Green man reportedly involved in an incident in which he was stabbed after shooting another person.
Henry Ernesto Escobar-Castro, 20, was booked Monday in the Warren County Regional Jail on charges of first-degree assault and receiving stolen property (firearm).
The charges stem from an incident Jan. 29 in which Escobar-Castro is accused of shooting Luis Torres, who was found wounded on West 13th Avenue that night.
Bowling Green Police Department officers responding to an unknown trouble at 2056 Rock Creek Drive, No. 3, found Escobar-Castro at the address with stab wounds, an arrest citation said. Police located Torres shortly afterward, and he was taken to an area hospital for treatment.
On Thursday, officers interviewed Escobar-Castro at The Medical Center.
Escobar-Castro said he was drinking with four other people at the scene of the incident, the arrest citation said.
“Castro said he felt tension in the room, and he was fearful an altercation was going to take place,” BGPD Detective Rebecca Robbins wrote in the citation. “Castro said he walked outside to the vehicle he had arrived in and retrieved a handgun. Instead of walking back to his residence, which is less than a block away, Castro walked back into the apartment.”
Escobar-Castro told police he felt as if he was going to be assaulted, so he shot Torres, according to police records.
Witnesses at the apartment said Escobar-Castro was tackled and assaulted while they fought over the gun, according to his citation.
Police interviewed Escobar-Castro again Monday and found inconsistencies in his account.
The gun reportedly used in the assault was reported stolen Sept. 26, and Escobar-Castro provided differing accounts on how he came to be in possession of the firearm and how long he had possessed it, his citation said.
Escobar-Castro was arraigned Tuesday in Warren District Court and has a preliminary hearing set for Friday. He remains in the Warren County jail under a $7,500 cash bond.
– Follow courts reporter Justin Story on Twitter @jstorydailynews or visit bgdailynews.com.