Students lobby in Frankfort

The Northern Kentucky University Presidential Ambassadors took Frankfort by storm last week for the purpose of gaining a better understanding of how the political process works.

That wasn’t the only reason they went, though. Joe Mills, a senior political science major, in his third year as a Presidential Ambassador, says that they went to help NKU.

“NKU and Northern Kentucky have a sort of identity crisis in Frankfort, and we went to put a face on the university; to personalize it,” Mills said. “We’re sort of representatives for the university – we give tours, host events. We wanted to have a more external purpose, to raise awareness of the university.”

In an effort to raise awareness of the funding issue at NKU, Michael Tobergta, an SGA senator, will be attending an upcoming rally in Frankfort.

“Hopefully, the budget gets passed,” Tobergta said. “If they don’t pass it, that will just show that the state wants to put all the burden on the students.”

Becky Bleh was one of the presidential ambassadors on the trip and mentioned the proposal for an NKU arena.

“Our primary purpose was to learn about the legislative process … We also spoke with them about the regional events center,” Bleh said. “Hopefully the next time that they meet to talk about it, they’ll think of us.”

The ambassadors had breakfast with Kentucky Speaker of the House Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green. Richards is in his sixth term as the house speaker and gave Mills and the other ambassadors some positive news.

“If there are (capitol) projects, then I think that there is a very good chance that (the arena) will happen,” Richards said. “However, that is my opinion. Of course, I will vote for it, but that’s only one vote out of one hundred.”

Funding for the arena has been up in the air since the state budget was not passed last year, though Gov. Ernie Fletcher has continued to stand behind his assertions that the plans for the arena will eventually become a reality.

The Bank of Kentucky is paying $6 million to have its name put on the arena for the next 20 years. It is yet to be determined whether the university will get the rest of the money for the arena from the state.

While in Frankfort, the ambassadors also met with the president of the Senate, the attorney general, the secretary of state and the Northern Kentucky Legislative Caucus. Before they left, they had their pictures taken with Fletcher.

“That was great,” Mills said. “He’s so busy, and it was really nice of him to take 10 or 15 minutes out of his schedule to talk with us and to take some pictures. We were all very excited.”

Bleh also thought that meeting the governor was an interesting part of the trip. She had a little fun with him at one point.

“He was great,” Bleh said. “We gave him a bobblehead, and I got to be the one to present it to him. It was Hey-U. He just looked at us like, ‘What?’ We had to explain to him that it was our mascot.

“I told him that whenever he’s having a bad day to bobble its head and think of us.”

NKU President James Votruba and Vice President of Administration and Finance Ken Ramey also joined up with the group later.

“I just happened to be down there with Dr. Votruba on other matters, and we ran into them,” Ramey said. “I sat in the session with Sen. Williams; he presented the state of the budget and gave some background information.

“The students did ask questions, but it was more of an informational thing.”

Mills and Bleh both felt like the trip was successful and worthwhile.

“It was a great trip,” Bleh said. “You could just tell that our presence made a difference. We were all very attentive and asked good questions.

“(The legislators) could tell that we really cared.”