Making a Difference: A Unifying Force for Kentucky
Brad Cowgill, Kentucky Budget Director (2003-2007)
Looking back at his tenure as Kentucky’s budget director (2003-2007), Brad Cowgill recalls how he often explained the challenges of drafting the state budget by pointing to a surprising fact about the Commonwealth.
Kentucky, he noted, is one of the most diverse states in the nation — a tapestry of different regions, each with its own geography, cultural history, and economy — which sometimes made it difficult to get the various regions to work together toward a common goal.
But it’s that same diversity, he says, that underscores the value of a statewide public television network such as KET. The network’s weekly public affairs programs and live coverage in Frankfort, Cowgill says, serve as a unifying force for those who call Kentucky home.
“When I say ‘unifying force’, I’m referring to the fact that we’re all in this together — there are public issues that are going to affect us all,” Cowgill said. “These are things that matter. And KET helps us to understand what these things are so we can engage in a dialogue with our neighbors and our representatives and make the process of democracy work effectively to advance the public good.”
The issues facing the state are often complex, Cowgill says.
“For the public to engage with these issues, it helps to have the ideas be organized, analyzed, and simplified so people understand what our options are and the consequences of those options,” Cowgill said. “KET plays that role, and it does it extremely well.”
And it’s not only the public that benefits, Cowgill adds.
Leaders in Frankfort, he said, consider KET’s public affairs programs to be required viewing.
“We all watch those programs for the purpose of understanding how the issues are being analyzed and digested by voters,” he said. “Along the way that helps create a measure of accountability, and that’s always a good thing in a democracy.”
Cowgill, a lawyer by trade who now helms a pair of investment firms and serves as chairman of the Board of Visitors at the University of Kentucky’s Martin School of Public Policy and Administration, says KET’s live coverage of the legislature offers an insightful window to the issues of the day. And if you can’t watch live, KET archives all its coverage on its website, he adds.
“That’s a wonderful thing because if you’re interested in knowing what the discussion was on a certain day, you can go to KET’s website and look it up,” Cowgill said. “KET creates a public forum that helps the free flow of information. And the effect it has on our state is very positive and very much needed.”