We really do not have a health care “system” in the United States, especially when compared to the European model of a government-run, single-payer system.
Instead we have an odd, hybrid mix, cobbled-together over the past 70 years, of private health care providers paid for service by the federal and state governments (Medicare, Medicaid) or by private insurance through employers or bought by individuals separately.
The result of this Rube Goldberg, third-party-payer construct has been skyrocketing medical costs, unaffordable for any individual, and an incomprehensible system of charges different for every clinic and hospital and variable depending on the payer.
Also, many people, especially younger ones, go without insurance coverage, but can get expensive care at emergency rooms and hospitals, which by another federal law must treat all patients equally without regard to ability to pay. When they can’t pay, these costs are passed on to insurance companies (and hence all of us) through increased charges for private insurance patients.
Fortunately, we have the best health care professionals and institutions in the world, capable of providing the best care in the world. Unfortunately, the combination of unaffordable costs, a large group of Americans without insurance coverage, and our citizens’ poor health care habits has resulted in health care outcomes that match third world countries in some categories.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, is an ambitious attempt to rectify some of these problems, while retaining our present health care “system”, but providing better care for more people at reduced costs.
Medicaid expansion: Medicaid coverage was expanded (but not in Indiana and several other states) to cover more low income people in the hope that they would get better care and stay out of expensive emergency rooms with advanced illness. Early results show Medicaid patients still go to emergency rooms in similar or greater numbers than they did before Obamacare, because that’s the way they have always done it. Medicaid patients could get good comprehensive care at the Federally Qualified Health Centers, FQHCs, also expanded under Obamacare. (Northwest Indiana has three of them with multiple locations). A change in culture is needed for these patients, and that will take some time.
Individual mandate: Insurance coverage by the newly formed state or federal exchanges was mandated for citizens without employer-sponsored insurance with subsidies for low-income people not qualifying for Medicaid. Many low- to moderate-income people find the premiums unacceptably high, usually several hundred dollars a month, deductibles huge, thousands for family coverage, and thus are choosing to go without coverage and to accept a small IRS penalty. The ER then remains their primary care provider (but they too could take advantage of the low-cost FQHCs).
Insurance reform: Insurance plans are required to offer plans that cover many routine screening tests with no copay and to ignore preexisting conditions. This has resulted in many catastrophic or low cost minimal coverage plans being cancelled for individuals and only higher cost plans available. Some people in this category will go without coverage rather than pay higher costs and some people will have to find another doctor or hospital because their’s is not included in their new plan.
Pay for performance: Under Obamacare, through the new accountable care organizations and other federal programs, the records of doctors and hospitals are in the process of being gathered and, by a number of mechanisms which will increase over time, payments for services will be based on outcomes of patient care or illnesses prevented, rather than services rendered. In other words, our health care professionals will not be paid to treat patients’ illnesses, but rather paid for the success of treatment and prevention of further expensive care.
This is a profound change in responsibilities of the health care providers, in essence requiring them to help change the health behaviors of patients in order to be paid. This is a tall order to ask providers in America, a country founded by people with a distrust of authority and a disdain for being told what to do, even by their doctor or nurse.
So it’s obvious that this tinkering with our complex and irrationally designed “system” by Obamacare will have much trouble meeting its goals of better care for more people at reduced costs.
Whether this can be sorted out successfully over time is not clear.
It is early March, and there is still a ton of snow on the ground. I have been in the Chicagoland area for more than 30 years, and I understand it could still snow in May, but really haven’t we had enough snow this winter?
How many times have you cleaned off your driveway? At my home, my snowblower and I have become close personal friends. I have no more space to put snow from the driveway.
It has been crazy this winter. From all the unfortunate accidents on our interstate highways, to the Amtrak train getting stuck in the snow, to the day when we had rain, snow and thunder snow, it’s time to say goodbye to winter and a hearty hello to spring!
No matter the weather, the Lan-Oak Park District has many program offerings and other activities going on that we hope provides a positive outlet to our users and stakeholders in the community.
During January, many residents either renewed or joined for the first time at our fitness center during our 2-for-1 membership special. Our youth basketball league has more participants this year than any year before. Dance, gymnastic, swimming and fitness programs are all going strong.
For parents looking for a preschool program to enroll your child in this coming fall, the park district’s Playskool is a very creative, fun, interactive program for 3- to 5-year-olds where play is the foundation for learning. I would encourage any parent to call the Eisenhower Fitness & Community Center to get more information on the Playskool program and arrange for a tour of the classrooms to see for yourself the great quality of this program.
Special events coming this spring include our annual Easter egg hunt at 10 a.m. April 19 at the Park Plaza. The park district has a special connection with the Easter Bunny, and we have made arrangements for the Easter Bunny to deliver your Easter basket to your child. Call the Eisenhower Center at (708) 474-8552 for more detailed information on this very special event.
Moms and sons have a special bond. On May 9, moms can have a fun night with their son at our Mother/Son Fun Bowl.
For information on this special event, trips and other programs in our winter/spring brochure please visit www.lanoakparkdistrict.com or call the Eisenhower Center.
You do not have to be confined this winter with all of the snow piled around your home. Cabin fever? I would say not with all of the program offerings available to you and your family from the park district.
Our recreation staff, headed up by Sharon Desjardins, is always looking for new programs, new adventures and other leisure activities that can be a true value to you and your family.
So don’t let the snowy weather stop you. See you soon at the Eisenhower Center.
Mike Delph is a Republican state senator from Carmel, but he is well known to Republicans throughout the state.
The evangelical conservative ran for secretary of state in 2002, losing at the Republican convention. Three years later, he won a caucus to replace state Sen. Murray Clark, who had been named state chairman. Over the past several years, he traveled to many of the 90 Tea Party cells across the state as he pondered a potential primary challenge to U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar.
Last month, Delph created a sensation at the Indiana Statehouse. After 23 House Republicans joined with Democrats to remove the controversial second sentence from HJR-3, the constitutional marriage amendment, Delph unsuccessfully attempted to restore it in the Senate. In doing so, he violated Republican caucus rules, and in a memorable press conference under the Statehouse rotunda publicly blasted Senate President David Long, alleging that he had conspired to keep HJR-3 off the 2014 ballot.
The prior weekend, Delph posted a series of attacks against legislative Republican leadership, the news media, and even churches in his district that extends from Carmel, to Zionsville and the west side of Indianapolis. “My biggest criticism is with the evangelical church. GraceCC, E91, College Park, Northview, etc. ... you all should be ashamed!” Delph said on his Twitter account.
I've been covering Indiana politics since 1985, and cannot remember an office holder castigating churches in his district.
Delph is now up for re-election, and he faces a gay Democrat, J.D. Ford. Should Delph worry about his re-election?
Conventional wisdom is that Senate District 29 is a staunchly conservative district the GOP will hold no matter what. Matt Zapfe, executive director of the Senate Majority Campaign Committee, points to 2006 when state Auditor Tim Berry (now state chairman) carried it with 58.8 percent and 59.8 percent in 2010. Delph ran unopposed in 2006 and won by about 7,000 votes in 2010.
But the district was redrawn in 2011. “Although it is a Republican-leaning district, it does not appear to be overwhelmingly Republican or socially conservative,” said Tim Henderson of the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, who puts the baselines at 42 percent Democratic, 2 to 3 percent Libertarian, and 55 percent Republican.
Richard Mourdock lost the district to Sen. Joe Donnelly, not even cracking 40 percent in 2012. Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz carried the district with 50.9 percent that year, and President Barack Obama lost it by fewer than 1,000 votes.
So SD29 is Republican leaning and is fiscally conservative. But it doesn’t have the social conservative firebrand stature like some rural Senate districts have.
With Delph’s theatrics and criticism of churches in his own district, and having thoroughly angered not only Senate leadership, but many of his caucus colleagues who he accused of jumping ship on his efforts to restore HJR-3’s second sentence, it raises the specter of an isolated incumbent. But groups like the American Family Association, Eric Miller’s Advance America and the Indiana Family Institute will rally on Delph’s behalf.
“I see an opportunity with Sen. Delph’s district,” Henderson said. “He’s created an opportunity for us that might not have been there otherwise. J.D. Ford has gotten a lot of people reaching out to him from all walks of life.”
“I really think this will be the race to watch in November,” Ford told me, noting that there will be no presidential or gubernatorial race on the ballot. “There will be a clear contrast between what I stand for and what he stands for. There’s not another race as clear as this race can be.”
Ford said that being gay is only a small part of why he is running. “It’s a part of who I am,” Ford said. “It doesn't make 100 percent of who I am. I want to be a public servant and have servant leadership. It’s not what makes me a candidate for Senate. I am running on other issues.”
He did cite HJR-3 as a “clear contrast” between him and Delph. “I believe in equality for all people,” Ford explained. But he is a supporter of mass transit and adds, “Sen. Delph spent the past six weeks talking about HJR-3 and not really talking about the issues of District 29, which are jobs and economy. They want us to focus on the economy and getting people back to work.”
Delph, who declined to discuss his campaign, has a reputation as a hard-working candidate. He raised $86,319.25 in 2013 and reported $180,223 cash on hand. But as former Senate leaders Bob Garton, Larry Borst and former Indianapolis mayor Bart Peterson will attest, candidates with huge money advantages can be defeated.
Since Delph’s rotunda press conference, Ford has described a significant outreach in various posts on his Facebook page. His followers on Twitter have increased from 50 to 600, his Facebook page went from 700 likes to 1,200. He’s raised about $2,000.
While there appears to be a potential opportunity for Ford in this race, he will have to build and run a very disciplined campaign. He faces a vigorous incumbent with a dedicated core group of social conservative supporters.
But this race could be an interesting one to watch.
Energy bills are likely to be on the rise soon. You can send your “thank you” card to President Barack Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency. Since Congress failed to follow his request, the president turned to the EPA to perpetuate his administration’s attack on coal.
The EPA’s proposed regulations are excessive and unrealistically limit greenhouse gas emissions for new power plants. What’s more, they would require use of a technology that is simply not commercially viable today; this is a fact the EPA’s own science advisory board pointed out to the agency months ago.
Facts like this should give the EPA pause. But no.
The kicker is that, by its own admission, EPA says the new power plant regulations will have “negligible” benefits (on lowering carbon dioxide emissions).
Again, another fact conveniently discarded.
To make matters worse, the EPA doesn’t stop there. It has announced plans to release another regulation for existing coal-fueled power plants in June that will drastically affect Indiana and our nation. Complying with these regulations will be expensive and impact all consumers. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates the resulting cost increase could be as much as a whopping 80 percent in electric power rates. What Hoosier business or family can afford that?
Indiana will be hit far harder than most states because it’s the No. 1 per capita manufacturing state in the nation. We make and grow things – and that takes a lot of energy. Over 80 percent of Indiana’s electric power comes from coal (compared to nearly 45 percent for the country). In fact, we have an over 300-year reservoir of coal in the ground. To put it mildly, coal is Indiana’s primary energy source.
Many companies have located here because we have an adequate, reliable and affordable supply of electricity and water. But now that coal has come under attack by the Obama administration, affordability is going to go out the window. How long will it be before jobs go with it?
Repeatedly, Obama has called for an “all-of-the-above energy strategy” yet has excluded coal, which is the most plentiful energy source in the U.S. Not only is this short-sighted but seriously challenges our economic competitiveness and threatens our national security.
Smart, necessary regulation by the EPA makes sense, but these are ill-advised maneuvers for everyone.
There may still be something Hoosiers can do. The comment period for the proposed new regulations runs until Monday. Let the EPA know what you think about the prospect of your energy bills soaring. Also, let your members of Congress know too; they need to assert themselves before the EPA does irreparable damage to Indiana’s economy.
As a general surgeon with more than three decades of experience in private clinical practice, I can safely say Obamacare is the culmination of the fundamental changes I've seen in the way doctors practice medicine.
Unfortunately, these changes have been less progressive and more regressive, with medicine now the domain of pencil pushing rather than patient service.
This shift has been underway for decades. It began in the 1980s, when Medicare imposed price controls and a coding system on physicians who treated anyone over 65. The regulators believed that such standardization would lead to more accurate processing of Medicare claims.
Instead it made doctors and hospitals wedge their patients and services into predetermined, ill-fitting categories. Private insurers, starting in the late 1980s, began pegging their compensation contracts to the Medicare code-based fee schedule, effectively extending Medicare price controls into the private sector.
With the dawn of the 21st century, the bureaucrats behind Medicare decided to go a step further. The federal government imposed further regimentation on America's physicians through a centralized bureaucracy known as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services — the same bureaucracy now in charge of implementing Obamacare.
Using so-called “evidence-based medicine,” CMS instituted protocols based on statistically generalized — rather than individualized — outcomes in large population groups.
It is easy to standardize treatment protocols. It is impossible to standardize individual patients.
Patients should worry about standardized clinical models that ignore the vital nuances of their conditions. Even more, they should be alarmed that the protocols being used don't provide any measurable health benefits. Many were designed and implemented before any objective evidence existed as to their effectiveness. Bizarrely, many protocols are not “evidence based,” despite their name.
The spread of protocols and price controls have coincided with a steady ratcheting down of fees for doctors. Meanwhile, Medicare's regulatory burdens on physician practices continue to increase, adding on compliance costs. Independent doctors are increasingly selling their practices to hospitals, thus becoming hospital employees. As of 2011, fully 50 percent of the nation's doctors had become employees of someone else — either of hospitals, corporations, insurance companies or the government.
But this doesn't serve patients. The doctor-patient relationship worsens when doctors come to view patients as the hospitals' patients rather than their own.
Enter Obamacare. Because Medicare’s price controls ripple across the entire health care industry, any changes to its fiscal stability will affect nearly the entire medical profession. Yet in an attempt to keep Medicare fiscally stable (which it needs to be, with 10,000 Americans turning 65 every day), Obamacare sacrifices the patient by pushing doctors to the sidelines.
It does so through its “Accountable Care Organizations.” Under this system, hospitals, clinics, and health care providers are organized into teams that will get assigned large groups of Medicare patients. These teams are hemmed in on every side by the practice guidelines and protocols approved by Medicare.
Like in the 1980s, private insurance companies are following suit with non-Medicare versions of this system. In both cases, cost control and compliance with centrally planned practice guidelines dominate.
This means less doctor choice for patients. Once free to be creative and innovative in their own practices, doctors are becoming more like assembly line workers, constrained by rules and regulations.
I joined the medical profession because I want to serve patients, not fill out forms. Thousands of others feel the same way I do.
Thanks to Obamacare, this is harder than ever before. It’s no surprise that many of my generational peers in medicine have gone part-time, taken early retirement, or quit the medical profession for another field entirely. Others are starting cash-only medical practices that accept no Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance.
As these old-school, independent-thinking doctors leave, they are replaced by doctors who need to know more about regulations and red tape than medicine or bedside manner. The “care” in Obamacare’s name is thus little more than a broken promise. This affects us all—we will all be patients someday.
What is the best way to learn about the world?
For students, there is there no better way than a newspaper – no matter what platform – print, digital or mobile. Every day, newspapers deliver key information about world governments, local communities, economic shifts and scientific discoveries.
Teachers and schools agree. Classrooms across America will be spending this week focused on their local newspaper coverage as they celebrate Newspapers in Education Week with a wide range of lessons and discussions. Many newspapers have developed specific materials and fun activities corresponding to current events in addition to offering students free access to their online editions.
Journalism has been referred to as the “first rough draft of history,” and this week is dedicated to celebrating this fact. Readers of all ages trust newspaper content more than any other form of media, so it is logical that students would refer to their local newspaper to place today’s event in the context of the larger story and foster civic engagement.
By teaching our students to thoughtfully dissect the news, we are fostering critical skills such as good writing and clear communication that will serve them well in any field they choose to pursue. The newspaper in the classroom is far from a new concept because newspapers have always educated citizens of all ages.
However, the way news is dissected is changing. People read newspapers in all forms, regardless of the platform. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to reading news. For some students, like those who live near our offices in metro Washington, D.C., they will read a print edition of a newspaper every morning as they take the Metro to school. For others, they will rely on their laptops or smartphones to catch up on the news of the day.
Today’s students are exceptionally social media savvy as they turn to Twitter or Facebook to see what news is trending, get real-time updates and engage with reporters like they have never been able to before.
It is an exciting time for newspapers as these new avenues open up for students to get involved, whether they are politically motivated or interested in a journalism career. As an example, at our NAA mediaXchange 2014 conference in Denver this month, we will have a crew of student journalists covering the sessions and developing content for NAA.org. Our industry is looking at the way forward and that includes the next generation of reporters, editors and publishers – and readers.
I enjoy Newspapers in Education week because we know the Millennial generation is engaging with newspapers at an outstanding rate. Recent studies show than 56 percent of adults age 18 to 34 read newspaper content every week and 71 percent access newspaper content in a given month. These are staggering numbers that reveal the true breadth and scope of the newspaper industry, reaching millions upon millions of young people every day.
The newspaper industry has transformed, but we remain committed to our core principle of reporting the events of our world, informing citizens and championing free speech. I’m honored the newspaper industry has this opportunity with Newspapers in Education Week to partner with schools across the country and inspire the next generation of leaders.
After a few days out of town, I spent a few hours reviewing recent news articles and editorials. I find it necessary to spend a few minutes to address the continuing assault on our county employees by some individuals for no other reason than to score political points as they face re-election.
It is no secret that the salaries and benefits we provide our county employees comprise the largest portion of our budgets. They are our largest financial liability. But what some fail to recognize is that the dedication and commitment of our county employees is also our single largest asset.
County government is in the business of service, and our employees are critical to meeting the level of quality service our residents deserve and demand. Our employees plow the snow, pave our roads and inspect our bridges. Our employees protect the health of our children and ensure the safety of the food that we eat. Our employees answer the 911 call when a loved one falls or has a heart attack. Our employees protect our lives and property, prosecute those who would endanger us, assure that justice is administered, and house those who are guilty.
Our employees gather stray animals from our yards, house them and find them new homes. Our employees improve our quality of life with cultural and recreational programs. Our employees assess our homes, record our real estate transactions, send out tax bills, collect the taxes and pay our bills. Our employees protect our environment, reduce our carbon imprint, and assure the quality of water that we drink. Our employees develop and enforce building codes that assure our homes are safe. Our employees develop and enforce zoning laws that assure orderly growth and protect property values.
Our employees work hard every day to meet the needs of our citizens, and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. They should never be treated as political pawns for election year gains.
As everyone is aware, this board commissioned and has received the confidential human resources report. That report is very lengthy and complicated, and deserves a deliberate and thoughtful examination. The commissioners will be working to determine actions that may be necessary, and the best way to achieve those actions.
In the interim, I want to address three issues.
First, the commission will not consider any changes to human resources policies by any single department or office. Any changes that result from the human resources report will be made for all employees, across the board. Our employees deserve to know everyone is treated equally and fairly.
Second, I assure our county employees that any wholesale changes to human resources policies or benefits will not be made without their input. This Board of Commissioners values their work and dedication, and is committed to working together with them through this process. We anticipate forming a committee, similar to what we did with the health insurance changes, to assure employees' opinions and needs are respected.
Finally, the commissioners intend to begin immediate discussions with the County Council leadership to establish and fund a county human resources department. There has been enough talking, and the time has come for action.
Of the five women’s colleges in Indiana, only two are still in operation: St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, and St. Mary’s of the Woods College in Terre Haute.
While the popularity of single gendered educational institutions is declining, the experience I’m gaining at my school only rises. I am a rising senior at the former Saint Mary’s College of Notre Dame. I work in the admissions office as a tour guide, and because of that, I get the question a lot more frequently than other girls: “Why would you choose an all-girls college? There’s no boys!”
Prospective students usually ask this question, rather than her parents. In actuality, that fact is not entirely true. My college has a 99 percent female student population. Meaning, while there are no boys who live on our campus, there are boys that come to take classes from other campuses in town. However, their presence does not go unnoticed. Oftentimes, boys’ presence on campus is an odd thing to see. If there are five boys in the dining hall at dinner, it’s a lot.
It’s a common understanding that college is usually the time where girls find long-standing boyfriends, maybe future husbands, and start building their lives. I understand that attending an all-women college hinders me from doing so. But, in the largest and most important ways, I’m also building my life. Just minus the boy part.
And any of the girls here will tell you, once you take out the equation of “boy,” life becomes a lot easier, for two main reasons.
Males mature slower than females; this fact is scientifically proven. (Women are always two steps ahead, and science says so. Remember that, boys.) With only girls in the classroom, lessons, discussion and understanding move faster. When things move more quickly, a lot more can be learned in the same amount of time.
The absence of the male gender on campus also takes away the stress of dressing up to impress them. There are no girls in competition here; there is no one to compete for. All of the time spent fretting over boys’ opinions is spent on thinking about the test next week, the prospect of going abroad, the senior composition project, etc.
Personally, I adore my college and its atmosphere. I’m surrounded with like-minded people, learning is more quickly facilitated, and dressing up is only on a want-to basis; it's any girl's dream.
A single-gender college or institution isn't to be tossed aside for the mere fact that it isn't co-ed. The benefits might outweigh the glaring negative. They do for me.
First the corporate education reformers came for our local control through property tax caps, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't paying attention. I didn't know that changing the funding from property tax to state sales/income tax would harm my schools. I was running carpool.
Next they gutted the funding through "school choice," and I didn't speak up because I thought, "Sure. This is a free country. Everyone should be able to find the school that best suits their children." I didn't know the vouchers would take tens of millions of dollars away from my kids' schools and make it impossible to fully fund the rich educational programs and extracurricular activities for all children.
Then they took over and privatized some schools, and I didn't speak up because I thought, "That's an inner-city problem. Why should I worry about that?" I didn't know that once these for-profit charter companies and special interest charter sponsors smelled money and a market demand, they would come to my town. I didn't know that when they wooed the families from my public schools, they would take with them the money for my kids' art teachers and librarians, the PTO volunteers, and divide us as a community.
Then they went after the curriculum, and I didn't speak up because I thought, "Sure, we should have high, consistent standards. Kids should be 'ready' for college and career." I didn't know this was a money-making scheme unlike all others and that the testing involved would destroy teacher autonomy and the joy in learning. I didn't know laws like a grading system of schools based on one test score or laws tying test scores to teacher salaries and security in the name of "accountability" were designed to destroy public schools. I didn't know the maligning of schools through low letter grades based on a curve would open the market to charters and privates and further hemorrhaging of public school funding. I didn't know kids would lose art, music, gym and library. I just didn't know.
And they came for the teachers, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a teacher. I didn't know the destruction of teacher unions, collective bargaining and morale would effectively silence teachers and keep them from advocating for my kids. I didn't know the culture of fear would make teachers unable to say: "Hey! This initiative is absolutely developmentally inappropriate for these kids!"
Then they came for my children and my school, and I found my voice.
The personal is political. It has been difficult for parents and the general public to see how the decisions made in the statehouse directly affect our children’s lives.
Bills with no foundation in educational research and written by for-profit corporations have chipped away at the cornerstone of our democracy, public education, with a death by a thousand cuts.
Schools are not factories to output workers for the economy. They are places where children learn and are nurtured. Please join us and speak up.
Now that we have witnessed the 2014 round of commemorations proclaiming America and Northwest Indiana firmly on the road to Martin Luther King's dream, those who want to make the dream real must pursue his true activism.
King's book, “Where Do We Go from Here?” provides an excellent model for public officials, social justice activists and workers fighting for living-wage jobs and training such as in Northwest Indiana. King courageously posed questions about the purpose and direction of Civil Rights in the uncertain days of 1967. Conditions in urban ghettos of Chicago and Watts pushed King to question persistent joblessness, disillusionment, and the indifference and hypocrisy of economic and political elites. King identified three evils — poverty, racis, and militarism — as standing in the way of building “the beloved community."
In King’s beloved community, poverty, hunger, homelessness, racism, bigotry and discrimination will not be tolerated, because wealth and resources will be shared. In the spirit of King, we must continue to fight for a successful community benefits agreement for living-wage jobs; job training and workforce development for unemployed and underemployed men and women in 14 of Northwest Indiana's most impoverished communities.
Despite diligent efforts of Northwest Indiana Federation of Interfaith Organizations/Jobs Coalition for more than two years, the Regional Development Authority still refuses to sign a CBA that provides 30 percent of man-hours paid on publicly funded projects.
Meanwhile, our local and regional public officials make public pretense for job creation, but routinely cut "public-private" deals that leave out real community benefits for real jobs and blatantly ignore public interest. The only guarantees are windfall benefits to private corporations and financiers, and ultimate burdening of citizens with more debt, when financiers bail-out.
Holding up the market as the best means of solving community development challenges, “privatization” has become the "answer" of elites and many who support elite visions of economic futures. Several decades of evidence indicate the profiteering ways of "the market" have done little to end persistent joblessness and empower poor and working families in disparaged communities.
Considering the price paid by King and thousands who died in the civil rights struggle, it is unconscionable to continue to pursue economic justice, democracy and environmental sustainability without questioning the present grave economic inequalities and links to political compromise and betrayals of the public interest.
We must embrace our human and civil rights to good jobs and a trained workforce that leads to good quality of life. Promoting and accepting anything less than a regional community benefits agreement for jobs and training will mean an immoral and corrupt betrayal for all those for who dream of King’s dream.
Reflecting on the hours I spent watching the Sochi Olympics, I have reached a conclusion worth sharing. While much attention naturally befits the spectacle of the Olympic Games, the pageantry of the call of athletes, the fireworks and floating figures, the climactic lighting of the massive cauldron, I believe what truly defines the Olympic spirit are the small gestures, those simple, spontaneous acts that inform the universal humanity of both fans and athletes.
The USA/Russia shootout will undoubtedly find its way into the rich history of American hockey, a proper bookend to the "Miracle on Ice." It will surely be a "where were you when you saw it" moment.
Much praise deservedly will be lavished upon T.J. Oshie, who stared down the Russian goalie in the eighth. Rather than bask in self-congratulation, rather than seek to exploit the attendant celebrity, rather than do a taunting dance that we see far too often in other sports, Oshie reflexively raised his gloved finger toward his goal. It was a small gesture, indeed, but one that separates the Olympics from so many other sporting events.
For many who don't appreciate the individuality of the quadrennial fortnight, the focus is solely on medal counts and rabid nationalism. However, for those who understand its true nature, like Canadian cross-country couch Justin Wadsworth, the event stands for much more than medal colors.
Upon seeing a Russian skier dragging himself along the course due to a broken ski like "an animal stuck in a trap," Coach Wadsworth, cognizant of the athlete's sacrifice and hard work, offered him a ski. Coach and athlete exchanged no words; none were required. A simple nod was enough, and the skier finished the race. A small gesture I will take from Sochi, long after I forget who took home the gold, silver or bronze.
The Olympics are also a time for celebration for both the athletes and those closest to them. Even at the highest levels of a sport, world-class athletes dig deep to find that something extra.
Take, for example, the case of the winner of freestyle moguls. Alex Bilodeau was already a world champion, enjoying the throne at the top of his sport. At the Olympics, however, nothing is a sure thing. His family, particularly his brother, stood in the crowd waving his country's flag and cheering. Bilodeau did not let his brother down, winning the gold with gravity-defying deft.
For anyone who watched the event, I guarantee that he may not remember the winner's name, nor the country he represented. What shall remain is the exuberant smile of a brother, a pure testament of love. A smile. Another small gesture.
Now that the Olympic flame in Sochi has been extinguished, we must wait for the Pyeongchang Olympics in 2018. By that time, names and countries will be blurred. Curling rules will require an overhaul with a Zamboni.
Most assuredly, I will watch for even more small gestures, for the next smile, for the next selfless act, for the simple gesture that reflects the best in us all.
There have been two winds blowing at public education over the last several weeks. The first has been the very cold and snowy wind, which have caused many schools to delay or cancel schools. This decision, never an easy one, has been made by superintendents across Northwest Indiana to keep students and staff safe.
When a storm alert is received via the National Weather Service, it’s important to look at all possibilities. Are the conditions worthy of a delay or cancellation? Are there road conditions that would be dangerous for either buses that traverse main streets and subdivisions, for staff members arriving at school or parents bringing their children? We consider whether the wind chill would improve in the first couple of hours after buses begin their routes, and how hard the winds are blowing.
Certainly, a challenge this winter has been the number of days corporations have delayed or cancelled, which have cut into instructional time, which impacts the ISTEP+ and ECA.
The importance of having students in the classroom cannot be understated. Administrators and teachers have had great concerns about the loss of instructional time, making the decision to close or cancel school even more significant.
The second wind has been from Indianapolis, where the legislators continue their freeze out attack on public education, proposing bills that would allow vouchers in pre-kindergarten in a state where kindergarten is not required nor fully reimbursed. The legislature would have you believe it is when they fully funded the grant in the last session, but alas this is not accurate, as kindergartners only count as a half, when turning in pupil counts to the Department of Education.
We agree that pushing this through is not in the best interests of students. Further study on this topic and to make kindergarten mandatory is needed.
The bill that would have allowed private schools not to provide Americans with Disabilities Act services for Special Education students was modified by the House in 2011, but this provision was taken out by the Senate.
It’s important that all special education students are entitled to all services in all schools. There should not be two standards for these students who have greater educational needs. Private or voucher schools should be expected to have the same requirements as public schools if our schools are to be fairly measured.
Another bill that got the attention of public educators would give an award to public school teachers to move over to charter schools that pay less, allowing them a proper salary for jumping ship.
Charter and voucher schools in the state and across the country have not shown much progress in the years since they started. In fact, research tells us only a small percentage of all charter schools around the country have shown success. They may create competition for public schools, but they do not provide the type of first class education that one would expect from schools that have the ability to take the top students away from public schools.
Turnaround schools have had even less of a success rate. Unfortunately, although they offer choice, they also give parents a slight chance that their children will receive the education they richly deserve through public education. In this second half of the legislative session, contact your legislator to let them know of your support for public education.
Thus, we have to look at which wind has produced the coldest wind chills, the one from Mother Nature or the one from the Legislature.
In May 2024, I will be celebrating my 76th birthday, surrounded by friends and family and commemorating having just shot my age at Lost Marsh. This is my fantasy; write your own.
Leaving my Oak Forest apartment building (I took high-speed rail to the Sox victory over the Cubs last night on the 15-minute Metra express; that’s why I like living next to the station on the old Rock Island line), I find my car in the underground parking lot.
As I take my place in the command seat in my 2022 Ford Daley (made in Chicago Heights), the car recognizes me, molds the seat around me, sets the temperature and light levels, and prepares my coffee.
I verbally program my hands-free trip for the day on the in-dash computer (assembled in Hobart), then I smile as familiar physical markers begin to appear on the screen.
Then a delightful female voice on the computer greets me in a sultry voice and asks, “Where are we going today, oh great and wise one?”
I take a moment …
“Well, my dear, let’s tour the area. I’ve got an hour or so before my party. How about doing the southern loop?”
“Confirmed,” she says in an uplifting tone, and off we go.
As the Daley leaves the confines of the garage of the 15-story Oak Forest apartment complex, the little two-seater safely and silently merges into traffic on its way to I-57. I catch up with news, have my coffee and watch as we link up to I-57 just south of its connection with I-294 – known as the Rita Interchange – and proceeds south to I-80, past the Country Club Hills Hospitality megaplex where the interstates intersect, taking me east on I-80 past the world’s largest intermodal conglomerate, Mi Jack Corp., over the burgeoning intermodal yards and high-tech component assembly zones in Harvey and South Holland, the East-Hazel-Homewood-Crest Mirage/Trump complex on Halsted, across Lake Thornton and Recreation Area (used to be a quarry, as I recall), and onto the Kelly Parkway, or Ill. 394 as we old-timers remember it.
“Would you like a narrative today?” my Daley inquires.
“Why not? Let’s hear it?”
“Robin Kelly Parkway was expanded and enhanced with the completion of the Illiana Expressway, known commonly today as the Link, in 2019 and the opening of Lincoln International (aka, Abe Air) in 2020. As a consequence of both projects what you see along the parkway – warehousing and component assembly, interstate transportation services and sales, and support services in Glenwood, Lynwood , Ford Heights and Sauk Village – accounts for a day-time workforce population of more than 50,000.
"The structure to the east as we cross under Joe Orr Road is the clock tower announcing the recently expanded Lynwood town center (Williams Commons).”
We pick up speed now, passing the U.S. 30 interchange (also known as Paesel Corners) and its commercial corridor, past the Crete Business Park, the recently expanded Balmoral entertainment zone, Metra Southeast Station, and the outskirts of the airport development zone.
To no one’s surprise, the cars on the Illiana are matched by interstate trucks moving freight and containers from points east and south and the recently opened Crete/Centrepoint intermodal operation to the north.
And then the alarm goes off. I’m back in 2014, it’s snowing, and a planning meeting for the Chicago Southland Economic Development Corp. April forum in Park Forest awaits me.
Maybe I should share my “dream” with the keynote speakers — the Illinois Department of Transportation secretary, state aviation officials, Metra rail director and the Park Forest mayor.
Or maybe they’ll share theirs with the rest of us.
Should taxpayers be forced to “double down” on an abandoned property?
Crown Point is interested in developing the old bus garage at Joliet and West Street. This 2.7-acre property is owned by Crown Point Community School Corp. This property has two dilapidated structures, old tires and storage containers that are an eyesore. This land was effectively abandoned by the school corporation once their facility on Summit Street became operational several years ago.
I have proposed a redevelopment project for this property. Under my proposal the city would acquire this property from the school corporation and convert this abandoned eyesore into a beautiful community venue that would be used to locate all the current downtown special events off the public streets and onto these new and improved grounds.
This event center would provide the community with a picturesque design that would mirror our community’s image and character. The project would also feature a dedicated year-round performing arts / band shell, multiple vendor slips with utilities hookups, public bathrooms, a seasonal multipurpose water feature (splash pad in the summer time and skating rink in the winter) and improved public parking.
The old bus garage renovation project would be a 100 percent improvement from its blighted state and complement our already award winning downtown. A project of this importance would have direct and indirect benefits to our residents, business community, school corporation and visitors.
But this proposal has met with resistance from school administrators based on the following issues.
1. Even though taxpayers paid for the initial purchase of this property for the school, the school corporation believes the city should pay for the acquisition of this land again. (However, it is true the school’s boundaries include some households outside the city who don’t directly contribute to our city government.)
2. Would allowing the city to acquire this property for anything less than top dollar be a wise decision, by the school, on the heels of getting a local referendum passed to help cover the shortfalls caused by the state's troubled funding formula?
We don’t discount the school's concerns on those issues but believe the greater good would be served along with protecting and growing everyone’s investment if the project was to move forward without charging the city for the land.
The land has already been bought and paid for by taxpayers, the majority of them in Crown Point. Why should we pay twice? The ones who live outside the city limits could argue for equality, but the city provides at no charge to those residents or the schools the two full-time police officers ($70,000 annual salary and benefits each, for a collected value of $1.4 million) for the past 10 years.
We could also include the crossing guards and the $123,000 per school year it costs the city. I believe the homeowners within the one-mile radius pay the same school rate as the homeowners who require buses and cost the most.
The city has already set the example on working with our local library and providing land for their project at no cost that benefits residents in Crown Point and Center Township.
Should the city, in turn, invoice the schools corporation for the services provided? I think not.
Those who would want to justify a balance sheet should understand that ink on one’s ledger sheet doesn't always equal the value it brings to a community.
The XXII Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, coincided with American Heart Month. In both the feats of the athletes and the recommendations from various health institutes, we see and hear it is not simply a healthy physical heart we all need.
We also need a mental state that is perhaps reflected in the lyrics of one song from the Broadway musical comedy "Damn Yankees": “You’ve gotta have heart … All you really need is heart."
Olympic athletes often embody what another refrain from this song encourages: “When the odds are sayin’ you’ll never win … That’s when the grin should start." Through their examples we see what experts call heart healthy optimism.
Researchers at Duke University Medical Center have been studying the impact of optimism on heart patients. In one study they learned that patients with optimistic expectations about their recovery were 30 percent less likely to die over the next 15 years than patients with less optimistic expectations, regardless of the severity of their heart disease.
The Olympic creed speaks to this same optimism: "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."
This mental attitude of optimism and never giving up and its effect on our health gives us a glimpse that there is more to heart than a muscular organ that pumps blood through the circulatory system of the body. My heart or feelings tell me that if we can understand this in our spiritual relationship to God the muscle can be healthier, and we can live better lives – whether we are Olympians or not.
The Bible offers us insight into the nature of man as a divine idea rather than merely a physical body.
For example, the Lord says to Samuel, when searching for a new king among Jesse’s sons, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (New International Bible, I Samuel 16:7).
To look at the heart as “the Lord looks at the heart” is to view heart not as something physical but more as the inner spiritual qualities of love, strength, purity that a person expresses. One might say this changed view of heart is the most profound “change of heart” a person can make, and it can be a healing factor in heart disease.
In answering the question, “Do you believe in change of heart?” Mary Baker Eddy, a health seeker and Christian theologian, said “We do believe, and understand — which is more — that there must be a change from human affections, desires, and aims, to the divine standard, 'Be ye therefore perfect;' also, that there must be a change from the belief that the heart is matter and sustains life, to the understanding that God is our life, that we exist in mind, live thereby, and have being. This change of heart would deliver man from heart-disease, and advance Christianity a hundredfold." (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 50)
Not matter-based but spiritually-based hearts get the gold of life!
The Indiana Legislature is rushing through a bill that would terminate the state’s successful energy efficiency program, even though an independent evaluation has shown the programs are saving ratepayers $2 in costs for every dollar spent on the programs.
If this attack on energy efficiency programs succeeds, future electricity costs will rise by hundreds of millions of dollars for Hoosier families, small businesses, churches and ratepayers across the state.
Results in Indiana and nationwide show energy efficiency programs save electricity at less than one-third the cost of building, fueling and operating a new power plant. If the proposed bill succeeds, future electricity costs will be higher for all Indiana ratepayers, because much more expensive electric generation resources (like Duke Energy’s $3.5 billion Edwardsport coal gasification plant) will have to be purchased.
In just a few short years, Indiana’s energy efficiency programs are already saving Hoosiers money, providing energy savings for thousands across Indiana and supporting hundreds of local jobs.
In Northwest Indiana, for example, the energy efficiency programs are providing cost savings benefits to schools from Michigan City to LaPorte by helping school districts conserve electricity.
This attack comes as a surprise because the current programs are already working quite well. Indiana recently achieved full-scale implementation of the statewide energy efficiency programs, and recent progress helped the state move up six spots in the rankings of ACEEE’s 2013 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard to 27th, ahead of states like Kentucky and Missouri. Just the statewide “core” energy efficiency programs alone are saving 25 times as much electricity as the utilities were under the old “voluntary” approach in 2008.
An independent evaluation of the first year of programs conducted in 2013 showed the energy savings benefits were exceeding the costs by a 2:1 margin, resulting in savings that will total over $80 million from just that one year of programs.
The current energy efficiency programs were created under order of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission in 2009, after many months of investigation and hearings determined Indiana utilities were doing almost nothing to provide energy efficiency programs to their customers.
Yet now the Legislature is rushing to kill these programs in a matter of weeks, without taking any testimony from, or even discussing the results of, the independent evaluators who have carefully examined these programs.
Supporters of energy efficiency are working to rally opposition to Senate Bill 340, but are hampered by the fact that this bill was dropped without advance warning and is being rushed through the Legislature on a very fast track. Presumably this is to avoid allowing the bill’s negative impacts to reach the public’s attention.
Good public policy would suggest the Legislature should slow down and conduct a thorough and objective review of energy policy before moving forward.
The “Crossroads of America” finds itself at a crossroad, fueled by the need to retain and attract young professionals to live in Northwest Indiana.
We have an opportunity to invest in our region, and the lives of our young, emerging leaders and, ultimately, our future economic growth through the expansion of the South Shore Line.
This is a generational imperative on which we must act now.
Northwest Indiana’s current public transit options are undoubtedly fragmented, inadequately funded and in need of significant infrastructure improvements.
The benefits of commuter rail expansion have truly transformative potential. It is estimated such investment could easily outperform the economic impact of any single project since the establishment of Bethlehem Steel, breathing more than $147 million per year into our local economy by way of paychecks commuting back to Northwest Indiana from Chicago.
The benefits, though, are brought home when considering the opportunities an extension would have for just one rider, one young emerging Northwest Indiana leader.
Take, for instance, Allison Aguilera, a 2013 Indiana University Northwest MBA graduate. As an audit associate with Deloitte & Touche LLP, Allison commutes from southern Lake County to the Chicago loop via the South Shore Line.
Her one-way, one-and-half-hour commute would be significantly reduced by a South Shore Line extension, saving this young professional substantial time and money. Aguilera’s commute would be significantly reduced if provided with an express service direct from Crown Point.
Higher education institutions, like IU Northwest, prepare our undergraduate and graduate students so they, like Aguilera, can find professional opportunities that challenge and refine their skills, building successful, satisfying careers.
It is undeniable that many of these opportunities exist in Chicago.
The number of employers within one mile of the South Shore Line’s Millennium Station is nearly the same as within the five Northwest Indiana counties. Yet, these 16,000 Chicago businesses employ twice as many, and pay more than double Northwest Indiana salaries.
Greater access to these Loop-based jobs and their highly competitive salaries can only make Northwest Indiana more economically attractive, stable and vibrant, which is a way to create more well-paying jobs here.
Please become an informed, active citizen and show your support for this transformational investment by writing, emailing or tweeting your local elected officials.
Also, plan to attend the “Laying Track for the Future” event hosted by the Emerging Leaders Network on March 10 at the Avalon Manor.
Our quality of life is dependent upon our ability to help reverse the “brain drain” and the demographic graying of the region. It is the future of our region, and that of our young leaders, that is at stake.
Recently, The Times Editorial Board came out in opposition to House Bill 1143, which is more commonly known as the “no more stringent than” environmental bill. This proposed legislation would prohibit the Indiana Environmental Rules Board from adopting a rule or standard that is more stringent than the corresponding regulation or standard established under federal law.
HB 1143, authored by state Rep. David Wolkins, R-Winona Lake, is an idea he’s proposed for at least a decade. The bill passed the full House of Representatives last month by a 68-28 vote and was sent to the Senate Committee on Environmental Affairs, which I chair, for consideration.
Many Hoosiers concerned with the environment and opposed to the bill are quick to point out that Beverly Gard, former senator and longtime chair of the Senate Environmental Affairs Committee, never gave Wolkins’ proposal a committee hearing.
As the current Senate Environmental Affairs chair, it is my responsibility to advocate for a fair and full discussion. Committee members — myself included — believed this debate was worth having because environmental regulations affect all Hoosiers and Indiana employers. During the committee hearing, we engaged in a robust policy discussion between supporters and opponents of the legislation.
Supporters believe EPA regulatory standards are plenty strict and argue the bill safeguards against any additional economic repercussions for Indiana. They testified this legislation would prevent future members of the Environmental Rules Board from calling for tests or standards Indiana cannot afford.
Opponents argue the proposal ignores Indiana’s unique environmental concerns that require policies specific to the Hoosier State. They say guidelines from the EPA are considered a minimal baseline that states can make more stringent as lawmakers and rulemakers consider Indiana’s specific needs. Challengers conclude Indiana’s system, including the role of our Environmental Rules Board, already works well, so this legislation would create more harm and confusion.
After two hours of carefully listening to testimony on both sides of the issue, it was evident there are misconceptions about the proposed legislation and its impact on stakeholders.
Committee members were not prepared to vote on HB 1143 because it would require a significant policy shift in Indiana, but I commit to study the issue during the summer and fall months. Lawmakers may reconsider the issue and take the time to educate both the public and fellow legislators next year during a longer session.
As always, I invite constituents to share their thoughts and potential solutions with me by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (800) 382-9467.
One of my proudest moments as governor of California was working with advocates like Common Cause and the League of Women Voters to reform the redistricting process.
Like most states, the redistricting process was not serving the people of California, as it was gerrymandered and 99 percent of incumbents were re-elected in the districts they themselves drew.
The people of California, as do the people of Indiana and other states, want a political system that benefits the interests of the voters, not one rigged to benefit the interests of politicians.
In California we created and passed through a ballot initiative, the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, a unique approach to redistricting which took the power to draw the state legislative lines away from the political parties and gave it back to the people.
This people’s revolt is happening all across the country. The people are fed up with gridlock, fed up with the partisan bickering and fed up with leaders who lack the courage to stand up to the special interests.
What is happening in Indiana is very exciting. Elected leaders in the Indiana House of Representatives are standing up for the people and acting to put what is best for the people over political self-interest.
When passing House Bill 1032, a move to create a bipartisan redistricting commission, these leaders send a powerful message, that they hear the voice of the people and are willing to take steps to reform a rigged political system.
However, I have been listening to the reform advocates in Indiana, who have voiced concerns that HB 1032 doesn't go far enough to separate the redistricting commission from partisanship.
I agree with their concerns that having the legislative caucus leaders appoint four of the five commissioners, and with no requirement that the commission chair be nonpartisan, will allow politics to infiltrate the redistricting process.
It is also important for the members of the redistricting commission to be representative of the diversity of the state itself. With only five members this will be difficult to achieve; a larger membership will ensure that all Hoosiers, no matter where they live or what they look like, will feel represented by this important group and participate in a grassroots discussion that will yield congressional and state legislative districts that reflect the interest of their communities.
HB 1032 is on its way to the Senate Elections Committee, where the people of Indiana and the nation will be watching and hoping that courageous leaders in the Senate will pass a bill that puts the people over political self-interest and ends gerrymandering in their state.
Growing up, my grandfather, who fought against the Nazis in World War II and my grandmother have always told me stories about who I am, relatives I have never met, each of their children who were conceived in three different countries as they experienced the life of war refugees. It made me realize the importance heritage has had on my family’s traditions and values.
Passing down traditions and values from one generation to the next is a strong component of the two ethnic backgrounds I share — Serbian and Norwegian. As I grow older, I realize I’ve taken for granted what many of my peers do not have — cultural traditions that reflect my heritage.
America is a great country, a melting pot of diverse backgrounds. Every individual should take the opportunity to find where their family is from and learn about their heritage. By doing so, they would realize that embracing your heritage is important. If we extend simple traditions and reflect them to our inner selves, to members within a society, further to the whole community, then we might discover why people behave the way they do.
For instance, in the movie "Fiddler on the Roof," Tevye, the father and main character, sang a powerful song about the importance of tradition. He sang this not once, not twice, but numerous times. He did so to remind his three teenage daughters that although the war they were encountering might alter the culture around them, their heritage and its traditions will always be a part of who they are.
We live in a wonderful country, considered a melting pot of ethnic backgrounds, but I’ve found that many of my peers are in the dark when it comes to their ethnic backgrounds. For me, my ethnic background and culture really does define me. It means performing at ethnic folklore dance festivals on weekends, two Christmas celebrations based on two different religions and cultures, and lots of skiing, just to name a few.
My parents always stress the importance of embracing the unique characteristics of the two cultures (Serbian and Norwegian) within my lifestyle. But why? I guess I’ve always thought of myself as a progressive thinker and finding myself being more tolerant than others my age when it comes to different cultures.
It is said that when individuals are connected to their individual heritage and its culture, they become more tolerant of others. Understanding my own heritage and culture has also provided me with a newfound respect toward other religions, ethnicities and traditions preserved and passed down by each for centuries to come.
No matter where I end up, I will always have my ethnic culture, my traditions and my memories to pass down to later generations.
My heritage has given me a sense of belonging, somewhere to turn when questioning others. Frankly, it helps define who I am.
I love journalism. I suppose that’s one of the reasons why I’m writing this column as well as studying journalism at Indiana University.
I’m focusing on my love of journalism for this week’s column because at the beginning of the semester, I was ready to be done. I was tired of textbooks, papers and homework assignments that just seemed so unimportant all of a sudden.
Advice from others said it was the winter blues or the fact that I’m getting ready to graduate soon so there’s one foot in the door and one on the way out. I didn't know what was causing these feelings, but it made me nervous. I didn't have a back up plan. I didn't know what else I could possibly imagine doing with my life.
This month changed all that and reminded me why I love what I do and why I would never do anything else.
First, I got to interview Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan for a story. No matter what side of the debate you fall on, I think he’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. He also happens to be from Munster and has a similar educational background as me (St. Thomas More, Munster High School, journalism major at IU). He was just so easy to talk to and had so many stories to share.
That’s one reason I fell back in love with journalism. People are so fascinating, and everyone has a story to tell. It’s just taking the time to listen (and take notes, of course) to find out what their story is.
I had another monumental journalism moment. Two in one week sure sounds like a sign from a higher power, if you ask me.
I’m working on another story about the Southern Indiana Center for the Arts in Seymour. John Mellencamp and his mother were the people behind this center, so my professor challenged me (Thanks, Nancy!) to get a quote from Mr. Mellencamp himself. I was doubtful, but I emailed his publicist explaining the story and asking for a quote.
About 12 hours before my story was due, an email appeared in my inbox from Mellencamp’s publicist with a statement from Mellencamp that I could use. Needless to say, my inbox has never felt so cool. This just showed me that no one is off limits, and it never hurts to ask. Also, professors can be pretty great advisors as well.
Moral of the story: I still love journalism and talking to people and telling stories. I hope I always get to do this in some capacity during my life.
Within weeks of arriving in the Northwest region as chancellor of Ivy Tech Community College Northwest, the University Park project in Gary was brought to my attention. The project has a transformative vision relative to revitalizing a neighborhood and the community.
I have had similar meetings with leaders in Hammond, East Chicago, Michigan City and LaPorte, and it is clear from these meetings there is no better way to foster positive development in Northwest Indiana than through the building and strengthening of neighborhoods.
In fact, the quality of social interactions, community engagement and economic development in neighborhoods provides the context for understanding people, health, culture, transportation needs, public safety, environmental concerns and housing, or lack thereof, in a community and in the region.
Of particular concern for Northwest Indiana is the status of housing, a quality of life indicator, and its role in addressing vitality in our neighborhoods.
I am pleased that higher education partners with local governments and businesses to support a positive living transition in Northwest Indiana.
We still struggle with abandoned properties, segregation, lack of adaptive housing, affordability of housing (with owners and renters dedicating well over 30 percent of their income — the conventional threshold of affordability) — and very low median home prices within metropolitan areas. Abandoned or unkempt properties can decrease property values and breed crime.
What is important to keep in mind are the concerted efforts to enhance safety and access to services and employment, and, in many cases, bring some neighborhoods back to life.
We continue to work together to find solutions that can help produce supportive infrastructure for sustainable neighborhoods. Education and training are certainly key elements.
As a case in point, Gary has received federal recognition as a Strong City-Strong Community. This merges federal and local resources to strengthen neighborhoods, and under Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson’s leadership, the initiative pulls together key partners to seek solutions and direct resources that can revitalize communities in Gary.
The shared project University Park project underway between Indiana University Northwest and Ivy Tech Community College will align with and benefit from collaborations with SC2 resources.
The $45 million building will include more than 160,000 square feet at Broadway and 35th Avenue. Programs related to the arts (including a performing arts center), communication and health sciences will be in the building.
The project will also be an important beacon of neighborhood development in the University Park corridor. Education and culture, both drivers in establishing and assessing quality of life, are focal points in this collaboration between IUN and Ivy Tech.
A related initiative is the mayor’s neighborhood revitalization with the Dollar Home Project. With this program, residents can achieve their dream of home ownership through the acquisition of abandoned housing. This project will reduce the number of abandoned houses, which reached an alarming 24.6 percent in Gary in 2006.
The SC2 initiative and the projects targeted in University Park will serve as examples where we can focus our community efforts and resources to create a resurgence of housing for residents, students, staff members, and visitors. This resurgence will hopefully stir growth in retail and other business ventures in the University Park corridor.
In general, cooperative efforts among community partners are critical to demonstrating how together we can transform a neighborhood and, in turn, improve the quality of life in Northwest Indiana.
More and more communities are focused on integrating strategies and practices that incorporate longer term horizons. The trend is to not only accommodate the needs of today’s residents, but also to plan carefully so future generations are also served.
This focus on “sustainable planning” is increasingly leading local and county governments to consider both immediate and long-term benefits, and equally value the natural and built environment.
By balancing community and regional investment with long range strategies that also preserve the environment, we ensure today’s needs are met without negatively impacting future generations’ ability to succeed.
Across Chicagoland, there are plans and projects underway that support economic, social and environmental sustainability. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning is leading the way, providing planning funds for worthy projects. In support of its GO TO 2040 Plan, CMAP initiated a Local Technical Assistance Program that provides staff support and grants to communities and other groups that support sustainable investment strategies.
To date, some 150 grants have been issued, including transportation initiatives, neighborhood revitalization efforts, economic development studies, natural resource plans and more. Many initiatives are multidisciplinary and multijurisdictional, spanning more than one community and often multiple issues. While they vary in scope and scale, they all share a common theme: an emphasis on livability, economic prosperity and sustainability for the future.
There is a similar focus and approach at the county level. With support from CMAP, Cook County is in the midst of its Planning for Progress initiative that includes a new five-year Consolidated Plan while simultaneously creating a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy to guide future decision-making. Following robust public involvement efforts, these plans will enable Cook County to be more competitive for federal funding and more able to strategically address the housing, community, economic development and residents' long-term needs.
Here in the Southland, CMAP is supporting the efforts of Calumet City, Chicago Heights, Crete, Lynwood and Lansing as they update their local comprehensive plans. With input from the community, each municipality is developing its own unique plan and policy framework that will guide land use, open space, development and community decisions. They will also incorporate strategies that help to make them more competitive and sustainable in the future.
Lansing’s plan, slated for an early spring rollout, will outline ways to maximize economic development potential and promote greater transportation linkages with a focus on sustainability and long-term success.
Other planning initiatives such as brownfield remediation, open space and recreational plans, transportation corridor studies and watershed planning are also on track — and sustainability-oriented planning in Northwest Indiana is following suit.
The Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission’s 2040 Comprehensive Regional Plan focuses on sustainable growth and revitalization of Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties. While in the past NIRPC had primarily focused on transportation, its plan now integrates land use, human and economic resources, and environmental policy objectives.
These efforts bode well for the future. Careful planning that strengthens both local communities and our region through sustainable efforts is key to our collective success — and the next generation’s too.
The issue between Everybody Counts and the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Authority is simple. NIRPC isn't complying with the terms of an agreement they signed in federal court, after a class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of people with disabilities throughout Lake County.
We are a small community organization that advocates for the rights of people with disabilities, which are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act, passed by Congress nearly 25 years ago.
For many of those individuals, access to adequate public transit services is more than a convenience. It can literally mean the difference between life and death. NIRPC has failed them miserably, but in fact they are failing the entire community.
NIRPC’s budget is around $800 million. In determining funding priorities, it has legal and moral obligations to actively engage local residents. Instead, decisions made behind closed doors can have rippling effects that impact the entire community.
A recent, particularly outrageous example significantly impacted residents of Hammond and other north county communities.
Based on the numbers of people who had used their services, the now-defunct Regional Bus Authority had earned more than a half a million dollars for each of the next two years, through the state’s Public Mass Transit Funding program. After the RBA’s demise, the Indiana Department of Transportation gave NIRPC the authority to disseminate those funds ($506,267 in 2013, 562,701 in 2014).
Remember, those dollars had been earned because of Hammond riders. So did NIRPC award those resources to the North Township Trustee’s office to bolster its Dial-A-Ride service, the only remaining option for the transit-dependent Hammond? Or maybe to East Chicago Transit and/or Gary Public Transportation, the only other Lake County fixed route providers, so they could help meet the need?
No, NIRPC awarded those funds to agencies in Porter County, and one serving only south Lake County residents. They have not disclosed just how much went to which, but we do know zero went to anyone who provides public transit services in those communities in north Lake County.
Why would NIRPC’s commissioners, who are responsible for that agency’s decisions, approve of such a thing? Simple. It doesn’t appear that they even knew it was happening. Decisions like this are largely left to the staff.
This decision was not brought to the Transportation Policy Committee. It was not brought to the Finance and Personnel Committee. In fact, there isn’t a single bit of evidence that there was any discussion before NIRPC staff altered the 2013 budget and presented it to the NIRPC commissioners.
Once this matter was brought to INDOT's attention, NIRPC was directed to divide the 2014 RBA allocations between East Chicago Transit and the GPTC. The latter has combined those funds with other resources to expand its fixed routes and paratransit services in Hammond.
Could that have happened a year ago? Absolutely.
NIRPC’s lack of transparency is common knowledge, even among \elected officials who serve as its commissioners. But most are afraid to rock the boat for fear that funds to their community might be impacted.
Intimidation is a common tactic used by those afraid of the truth. Just ask those senior citizens who found themselves being stared down, two to one, by armed police officers for having the audacity to ask a few questions at a recent NIRPC meeting. But neither that, nor a barrage of double-talk and insults can change the facts.
As noted in Times editorials, public transportation is important to an ever-growing number of local residents. If NIRPC’s business was conducted openly, it would have to follow the rules – and the law – and an effective regional system might be an achievable goal.
By arrogantly dismissing those most in need – as well as their own commissioners,
NIRPC is letting all of Northwest Indiana down. And that is why we’re taking them back to court.
On Feb. 11, history was made as representatives of China and Taiwan agreed to exchange representative offices. Face-to-face negotiations are led by Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun of China, who heads that government’s Taiwan Affairs Office, and Taiwan Mainland Affairs Minister Wang Yu-chi, both notably senior officials.
Neither side is using formal terms of diplomacy such as consulate or embassy, but that in fact is how the new offices will function. More direct and stable relations and de facto recognition, without fussy formalities, are moving steadily forward.
The two sides share a bitter legacy of battle and blood. In 1949, Nationalist forces of General Chiang Kai-shek evacuated to Taiwan. Mao Zedong’s armies controlled the mainland of China. Except for the island territory, communist revolution was complete.
The Korean War of 1950-53 made the Cold War global, with China and the United States direct combatants. U.S. commitment to Taiwan security became explicit.
The latest agreement reflects the economic interests of Beijing and Taipei. Last April, Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou discussed progress via international video with a Stanford University audience. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice moderated the session. Importance of relations with the mainland was underscored. President Ma’s governing Kuomintang (KMT) Party controls the Taiwan legislature, where mainland cooperation remains controversial.
A firm foundation of cooperation between Taiwan and mainland China steadily expands. In November 2008, historic negotiations concluded with comprehensive trade agreements, including direct shipping, expansion of weekly passenger flights from 36 to 108, and introduction of up to 60 cargo flights per month.
In 2010, the bilateral Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement was concluded. This has been a major triumph for Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, leader of the KMT and former mayor of Taipei. His election and re-election to the presidency in 2008 and 2012 has led to reduce tensions and increased cooperation with Beijing.
In a 2006 visit to New York, Ma emphasized the 1992 agreement with Beijing to accept the concept of "one China" while differing on specifics. That accord is fundamental to the fitful but forward collaboration. Ma’s dramatic reaffirmation of this understanding while in America’s financial capital was shrewd politics.
Pragmatism characterizes Taiwan’s approach to mainland China. Following Washington’s formal diplomatic recognition of Beijing in 1978, a process begun by President Richard Nixon’s 1972 visit, Taipei immediately launched a comprehensive essentially non-confrontational strategic response.
Consular offices around the U.S. were expanded. State government officials, along with members of Congress, were assiduously courted. Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton was among those who visited Taiwan. Positive congressional ties became an especially important priority, which clearly paid dividends over the years. Continued U.S. arms aid is one result.
Taiwan has become an essential investor for the enormous industrial revolution taking place on the mainland. Commercially successful, generally well-educated overseas Chinese in turn are a vital source of capital for the mainland. Expatriate Chinese also vote in Taiwan elections.
The 2008 and 2010 agreements are not only inherently important but a useful barometer of relations between China and Taiwan. From time to time, U.S. arms aid to Taiwan has threatened to derail cooperation – but the process survives. Ending economic cooperation now would bring enormous costs.
The Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement now stands as a historic milestone in China’s peaceful integration. Beijing from time to time has delayed but not destroyed this now definitive dialogue.
So far, trade and investment have trumped ideology.
Hoosiers might be surprised to learn that in 2012, the 112th Congress agreed on at least one thing; The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 – which included provisions to expand work-sharing policies in the U.S.
This provision saved a whopping half-million jobs during the recession – with less than half of all states using it during that time.
Indiana’s delegates supporting the act included Sen. Richard Lugar and Reps. Marlin Stutzman, Joe Donnelly, Andre Carson, Larry Buschon, Todd Young and now Gov. Mike Pence.
Since its passage, work-sharing policies have been adopted and supported by Republican and Democratic governors (including Michigan and Ohio), business and labor, and conservative and progressive economists.
Now used in more than half of U.S. states, work-sharing provides employers with the option of temporarily reducing the hours and wages of all employees instead of laying off all workers.
Hoosiers might also be surprised that broad bipartisan support exists in Indiana as well. Here’s why:
For workers, the program acts as the front line defense against joblessness. Workers would earn higher wages than they would under traditional unemployment, and they would retain health and retirement benefits.
For business, work sharing offers flexibility during economic downturns. Providing a tool for business to retain a skilled workforce is why Gov. Rick Snyder supported recent legislation in Michigan – a smart move for states interested in closing skills gap.
Finally, work-sharing has the real potential to chip away at Indiana’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund deficit. The program, according to our survey of states with work sharing programs, is either cost-neutral to the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund, or has produced savings. This analysis does not even take into account the federal government’s implementation and outreach grants, along with its reimbursement period. The latter could save the state millions.
So why, after three years’ worth of legislative efforts, does the Indiana General Assembly continue to fail to protect Hoosier jobs?
From the Indiana Chamber of Commerce: “…the bill was scratched from the Employment, Labor and Pensions Committee schedule by its chairman, amid opposition from the Department of Workforce Development and belief the governor was not yet on board with the program – despite voting for the federal work share bill when he was in Congress.”
It’s mathematically reasonable to assume another downturn is right around the corner. With work-sharing, forward-thinking lawmakers can implement this bipartisan, cost-friendly and common sense solution immediately to, as the saying goes, start to fix the roof while the sun is (relatively) shining.
A comedian once observed the reasoning behind the term “horse sense” is that horses don’t bet on people.
With the Senate passage of SB 91, which is moving through the House, many may think Indiana's withdrawal from the federal Common Core education program is a sure bet.
After all, Common Core has become so controversial across the nation that Gov. Mike Pence said in his State of the State address, "When it comes to setting standards for schools, I can assure you, Indiana's will be uncommonly high. They will be written by Hoosiers, for Hoosiers, and will be among the best in the nation."
Senate Bill 91 voids Indiana’s education standards that were modeled after the Common Core and requires the State Board of Education to adopt new ones. This was welcome news to opponents of Common Core who were worried about lower academic standards, political indoctrination of students, state sovereignty and a move away from Indiana’s past standards that had received wide acclaim from various educational groups.
Some opponents of Common Core are beginning to wonder if some politicians and the education establishment are simply moving the shells around the table. They worry SB 91 could become a way to confuse parents with “new” standards that are actually Common Core by another name.
Notice what Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Derek Redelman, one of the Common Core’s leading advocates wrote: “It is unfortunate that SB 91 is being misreported in this way. In reality, it does not dump Common Core but allows the State Board of Education to continue the review of our state standards that is already underway. Per legislation that passed last year, that review will result in a set of recommended standards that could be identical to Common Core, an Indiana version of Common Core, or something completely different ... So in other words, SB 91 changes nothing.”
What does Redelman know that supporters of SB 91 do not? Hoosiers Against Common Core believes they have the answer. They have done an extensive review of the backgrounds of the individuals selected to sit on the state board’s evaluation panel and the College and Career Readiness panel that will create and evaluate the new standards.
Hoosiers Against Common Core found “an unhealthy pro-Common Core bias on these panels.” This is based upon the large number of members who have signed pledges of support for Common Core, testified in favor of it, or have been employed by education and testing companies pushing the national Common Core program.
At least half of one committee’s members, and one-third of the other charged with creating our own standards, have supported the controversial Common Core federal program.
Legislators who supported SB 91 and want Indiana to control our education destiny need to ask if the state board has set up a losing bet for parents who have concerns about our following the national Common Core standards.
In mid-January, Congress released its 2014 spending bill, and from a conservation standpoint, it’s good news for the Great Lakes and Indiana.
The bill restores funding to two critical Great Lakes programs. It provides $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative; the program received $285 million in 2013. The Clean Water State Revolving Fund is set to receive $1.44 billion for fiscal year 2014; the program received $1.37 billion in 2013.
In case you’ve not heard of it, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative supports efforts to clean up toxic pollution, restore fish and wildlife habitat, fight invasive species, and reduce runoff from cities and farms that pollute our lakes and knock the ecosystem off balance.
Since 2010, more than $25 million in funding has been invested in Indiana for key projects ranging from Asian carp research to the purchase of forested wetlands to on-the-ground restoration work in various coastal habitats.
In fact, more than 2,600 acres of habitat have been restored in Indiana thanks to this funding. Our beloved Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore has undertaken remarkable wetland restoration projects using these dollars at Great Marsh and Cowles Bog.
These projects are producing results. A great example is the daylighting of Dunes Creek in the Indiana Dunes State Park. This project brought a creek previously covered under the paved parking lot back into the sunlight. It created new fish habitat and reduced polluted runoff and bacterial pollution from entering Lake Michigan.
The Clean Water State Revolving Fund provides low-interest loans to communities across the nation to upgrade sewage infrastructure. Many wastewater pipes around the Great Lakes and in Northwest Indiana are aging and need repair or replacement to prevent dirty wastewater from getting into our streams, rivers, wetlands and Lake Michigan. This program helps towns and municipalities fix these problems, reducing beach closures and improving water quality.
The loan program distributes funding to all 50 states based on a fixed formula, and many communities in Indiana have benefitted from the program and made significant upgrades to their wastewater systems. The 2014 spending bill would provide about $530 million to the Great Lakes states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.
Given the frequency of beach closures and advisories in Northwest Indiana alone, these funds are simply critical to make meaningful progress toward fixing our aging infrastructure.
I want to say thanks to our legislators because each and every one of them voted to approve the budget. Particularly at a time when we expect strong accountability in government programs, it’s good to know these Great Lakes programs are delivering results in communities across the region and right here at home in Northwest Indiana.
A vast majority of high school and college students use Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. People are focused on their own thoughts and making those thoughts known. Social media today highlight everyone’s narcissism, but this isn't always negative.
According to a July study by the University of Michigan, teen-age narcissists are more likely to use Twitter, while middle-aged narcissists are more likely to use Facebook. While the demographics that make up the users of the websites naturally lend themselves to these results, Twitter may also appeal to the young narcissist for other reasons.
An open forum like Twitter appeals to teenagers who want to broaden social circles while broadcasting personal opinions. Twitter allows someone to share their views or thoughts with complete strangers, which can heat up social movements and empower young people to realize they truly do have the power to make a difference in the world.
However, most teens aren't spending their time tweeting about the most recent civil rights movement or cancer treatment breakthrough. Many simply narrate their lives or engage in comedic banter with peers. This “tweet every thought” mentality is where narcissism becomes most apparent.
Another sign of self-awareness today is Oxford Dictionary’s 2013 Word of the Year: selfie. The word’s use increased by 17,000 percent throughout the year and is defined as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website,” according to Oxford.
The number of Instagram posts tagged “selfie” is more than 58 million, and those tagged with “me” reach over 158 million.
Selfies are a form of expression of oneself. There are many editing apps to correct imperfections and add filters to pictures. However, posting too many selfies can get some complaints from peers. Oxford’s usage example even says “Occasional selfies are acceptable, but posting a new picture of yourself everyday isn't necessary.”
If posting self portraits every day makes someone happy, then that is what he should do. It is important to remember, though, that pictures of someone’s face or body are only that. Posting a pretty picture may get a lot of likes on Instagram, but pictures measure only the physical traits of a person.
Twitter and Instagram can also cause people to wander from who they really are. Many people look to social media for the confidence boost and approval from peers that come with a favorite or retweet, which can require changing how someone acts, speaks or looks. Creating a persona to appeal to followers can eventually harm self-confidence.
In all reality, everyone who posts on social media sites is at least slightly narcissistic. People naturally look for the traits within themselves that outshine their peers and want to broadcast these traits when possible.
Like many people, I love the Olympics. I enjoy nothing more than sitting around a TV and watching competitive events like curling and bobsledding that I would normally never see anywhere else.
But while thousands of athletes arrive in multimillion dollar arenas to perform on the greatest stage in all of sport, an elephant sits in the room — Sochi, Russia, has been surrounded by potential acts of terrorism, anti-gay sentiments and various other social unrest.
In response to the political controversies, a number of world leaders — including President Barack Obama — did not attend the opening ceremony. Their absence was awkward. Obama blamed schedule conflicts, but others have questioned whether his absence is one of protest coming amid escalating tension between the United States and Russia.
That leads to a question: Should political expression have a role in the Olympics?
A recent CBS Poll revealed 82 percent of those who responded do not believe political expression should have a role in the Olympics.
I've heard whining and much chagrin from my high school and college friends on social media complaining about the politics. Many say the game should be about the sports and not the politicking and activism.
One tweet I read proclaimed how “annoying and stupid” it was to bring up social issues when we should be watching sports.
But why not bring up these issues? It’s the grandest stage in the world where potentially billions are watching. If done right, it’s the perfect grounds to make a political statement.
This is nothing new to the Olympics. It has led to innovation in the past.
In the Mexico City Summer Olympics in 1968, American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos famously wore beads to honor lynching victims, and as the national anthem was played they hung their heads and raised their fists in salute, bringing awareness to the lack of equality African Americans faced.
In 2008, Smith and Carlos were awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPY’s to a standing ovation.
In 2012, Saudi Arabia had its first female athletes attend the Olympics. The 1972 “Miracle on Ice” was surrounded by Cold War talk and debate.
The social issue dominating talks in Sochi is gay rights, among many topics. Activist groups continue to protesting the Olympics from outside Russia and around the world.
Is it really that annoying? Thirty, maybe 40, years down the line we could look back and be talking about those who stood up for various political agendas at this year’s games.
We might look back and think how silly it was to have ever lived any differently.
But until then, like most of the world, I’ll be watching. The Olympics are a special event that brings people together to watch four men cram into a bobsled or ski down a mountain, all chasing gold.
I’ll also be listening to what protesters have to say and will remain open to what they have to say. Because the Olympics are more than just a game.
Since my arrival in Northwest Indiana six months ago, I've made it a point to get involved in a number of organizations and participated in scores of community meetings to get acquainted with my new home. I made a conscious decision not to write my first column until I felt I was familiar enough with the region to express an opinion worth considering. Today, it’s time.
Over the past several months, no matter where I was or who I was meeting with, one topic was always brought up. Ever since U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky issued his challenge to build the West Lake Corridor, to expand and upgrade the South Shore commuter line, people have been asking, what do we need to do?
The expansion itself just seems to make sense for the region. The Chicago metro area is the 21st largest economy in the world — larger than that of Switzerland — but the only way for most of our residents to get to the heart of the city is to drive personal cars over congested roads. Public transportation is woefully lacking here.
In an area struggling with high unemployment, there are more jobs within a couple miles of Millennium Station than in all of Northwest Indiana. The region has lost close to 10 percent of its population in the past 40 years. How fast could we grow if our Illinois neighbors, fed up with high tax burdens, could move to the region, knowing there was quick, affordable reliable public transportation into the Loop?
Back in November, Pete challenged us to get the train moving forward by March 31. There are federal matching funds available currently, but there's no guarantee that the money will always be there. Now is the time to act.
The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, Lake County, Munster and others have already pledged all but $5.7 million in debt service funds needed to qualify for federal support. In all, the first phase will cost $571 million.
I applaud the foresight shown by these leaders, and I am sure other municipalities will get on board as the deadline draws closer.
Of more immediate concern is the need for our legislative delegation to show their support by voting to pass Indiana Senate Bill 367. As it currently reads, this bill will provide state funds for the RDA to place in escrow to cover the first five years of operating expenses of the expanded South Shore Line. Since this measure deals with the way funds generated from casinos are spent, it’s understandable some communities would feel ownership and wish to maintain local control of the funds. The truth is, these state tax dollars could go back into the state coffer if the region does not pull together and use them for the betterment of the region.
Some may question the investment in this expansion. The first leg, the expansion to Dyer, has an estimated price tag of $571 million. But the federal government would cover up to half the cost. State and local investment of about $285 million would generate a projected $147 million per year in new income for Indiana residents. As the congressman points out, this would have the greatest impact on the state since the Bethlehem Steel plant was built in the 1960s. And it will all be done with no new taxes.
People throughout the region are banding together and showing their support. It’s time for our legislators to get on board. Stop the bickering. Take positive action. This project has been pursued for three decades. If we don’t act now, we may not see progress of this scale again in our lifetimes.
My grandfather used to say the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, but the second best time is today. If we want to make NWI a more livable, prosperous region, it’s time to get on board.
Andrew recently turned 2 years old and he has a passion: trains!
Andrew is fascinated with train cars, the tracks and even has little people he puts on his play trains. His is a resident of Lake County, along with his parents and big brother Blake. Andrew has no concept of the countless possibilities that a train can bring to our community.
You and I recognize the purpose of a train is more than simply transporting individuals from one destination to another. In fact, rail transportation represents opportunity, connectivity, expansion, and hope -- hope for economic prosperity for future generations that chose to make Northwest Indiana their home.
If made a reality, the South Shore expansion initiative can generate this and much more. In a recent guest commentary, U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky wrote that he considers rail expansion “a generational imperative." We could not agree more. Over the years, we have heard voices of concern raised across our community saying that such an expansion may not be in the best interest of our region. We share Visclosky's belief that such an expansion can transform our future.
Over the past few months, Lake Area United Way has been convening conversations with local emerging leaders to give them a platform to articulate their aspirations. Our Emerging Leaders networks are spread across all three counties and include impressive young leaders like Eddie Melton (NIPSCO), Mackenna Dickt (Porter County United Way), Jennifer Holmes (Urban League), Celina Weatherwax (Visclosky’s Office), Matt Glaros (Employer Benefit Systems), Matt Saltanovitz (The Times), Charlie Roberts (Horizon Bank) and many more! They are bright, educated, energized and, most important, civic minded. Our emerging leaders’ network is the gateway to that next generation.
In our conversations, the Emerging Leaders have identified the South Shore Expansion Initiative as the number one priority for our region. We are committed to supporting these young professionals and Visclosky in their efforts to make this vision a reality. However, we need more young professionals to partners with us.
Lake Area United Way has partnered with The Times and the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority to host an information summit on transportation featuring our keynote speaker, U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky.
We welcome young professionals to join us on March 10 for an exciting and transportation summit on “Laying Tracks for the Future.”
Did you know a rail expansion into south Lake County will result in almost 2,000 new jobs to the Northwest Indiana economy? Economic studies are projecting this expansion could generate $2.5 billion in economic output and $1.3 billion in gross regional product. Some 300,000 vehicle miles could be eliminated, and think of the impact that has to our infrastructure and environment.
Are you on board? Will you help make it possible for Andrew to ride an expanded South Shore line?
Our economic future depends on this expansion. The time is now!
We’re easily approaching some of the most exciting times in the history of public education.
Across the country, neighborhoods are showcasing strong innovations through partnerships with collaborative programs like Teach for America and AmeriCorps. We’re also getting smarter about truly ensuring no child is left behind by building complete systems for our children, such as early childhood education, full-day kindergarten and nutrition programs.
The amount of resources being dedicated to resolving the course of public education by these partnerships and programs is exceptional. For instance, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has made college readiness one of its fundamental purposes and invested more than $25 million to local districts last year alone. That amount is enough to ensure every student in Northwest Indiana has the proper supplies to approach his or her education.
The couple’s foundation also published “The Turnaround Challenge," providing an important educational reform framework to improve low-performing schools. This report emphasizes turnaround will be most effective when the state works closely with school districts to create an “appealing” space where high-impact reform can take place. This means having the authority to restructure staff, extend school hours and/or days and flexibility in financing innovative teaching and learning programs.
Most important, replicating the successes from early application of these innovations is achievable. It’s also clear how to establish and leverage partnerships from a shared platform.
In addition, collaborative organizations have made it clear they strongly intend to invest in unified school districts. They recognize the best path forward involves complementary policies that bring all groups together in a common vision for improving schools and creating high performance students in all communities regardless of income deficiencies.
These reasons, among others, are why the growing willingness by states to interfere in local districts is puzzling at times. Honestly, when has the quality of outcomes ever been raised by increasing the level of bureaucracy?
One of the most alarming observations about the rising number of state interferences is the general lack of precedent. Three years ago, when Indiana began seizing control of local schools, the objective was unclear. In the best-case scenario, plans would reform and restore oversight to the very body that was initially stripped of its autonomy, likely maintaining unstable conditions. In the worst-case scenario, they would simply disrupt accountability by fragmenting the local system, creating empty solutions.
Transferring accountability from locally elected officials to state-level bureaucracies sets a practice that conflicts with the historical purpose of locally elected institutions. Protecting the autonomy of local school districts provides the most visible path to durable reform and groundbreaking partnerships.
Each year the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association develops its legislative priorities for the federal, state and county levels.
The resulting policy statement is developed with input from many of our 43 municipalities through the Legislative Committee, chaired by Mayor Rick Reinbold of Richton Park.
This year’s legislative policy statement was recently approved by the full membership and presented to our federal officials, state legislators, and county commissioners at our annual legislative breakfast on Jan. 31. Nearly 70 municipal officials joined representatives of U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk, Reps. Bobby Rush and Robin Kelly, and Cook County Commissioners Deborah Sims, Liz Gorman and Joan Murphy along with a representative for President Toni Preckwinkle. State legislators included Sens. Hastings and Cunningham, Reps. Anthony DeLuca, Will Davis, Al Riley and Elgie Sims Jr., as well as a representative of Sen. Toi Hutchinson and House Minority Leader Jim Durkin.
SSMMA President and Flossmoor Mayor Paul Braun presented the association’s priorities and asked each elected official to respond to their position on each priority.
The SSMMA priority issues discussed by federal representatives were the upcoming extension of the federal surface transportation bill in October of this year and the need to craft a new, long-term bill with expanded sources of revenue to fund our growing infrastructure needs.
In addition, the association expressed its support for the “Marketplace Fairness Act” recently adopted by the U.S. Senate, sponsored by Durbin. Rush and Kelly support the bill, but it faces an uncertain future in the House.
At the Cook County level, the association expressed an urgent need for the establishment of a Level 1 Trauma Center in the southern suburbs to support the facilities at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, which frequently goes on bypass. All Cook County representatives expressed support for such a facility but urged collaboration with federal, state, county levels of government as well as local hospitals to determine how to fund and operate such a facility.
Relative to SSMMA’s state legislative priorities, the mayors and legislators discussed SSMMA’s call for municipal public safety pension reform. Municipalities are burdened by state-mandated police and fire pension benefits that have become unsustainable and a financial burden on local property taxpayers.
In addition, a priority of SSMMA is to restore the 10 percent share of the state income tax collected to municipalities. When the income tax increase went into effect, the municipal share was reduced to 6 percent. Municipalities must be returned to this 10 percent share.
Finally, the mayors and legislators discussed a state capital bill to fund many needed state and local highway needs as well as other critical infrastructure and projects such as SSMMA’s transit priority, the new Southeast Metra Commuter Rail Line.
The association will continue to work with our elected officials at all levels of government for our communities and residents.
Conditional annexation of the Republic Services dump near Lowell deserves serious consideration.
One of the problems is the way it’s been handled up to now. Another is the reason being used to support it.
A November meeting was held at which the town attorney attended. The council president asked me prior to this meeting if I supported him and another councilman meeting with Republic to negotiate a deal on annexing the dump. I believe this should be negotiated by the whole council.
I was also concerned about any negotiations with Republic since the questionable extension of its contract with Lowell just last year.
The council unanimously approved putting our garbage contract out to bid. Two weeks later, in a 3-2 vote, certain councilmen approved a three-year extension of Republic's contract with nothing but a motion and second. Literally no discussion.
Republic later came to a public meeting touting the new contract and savings to Lowell residents. When I asked, they didn't even know the contract cost to residents and couldn't explain any savings. There were none; it included an increase over three years.
We lost any chance of possibly doing better for our residents when we didn't put this out to bid. This set the stage for my concerns of any negotiations by only two councilmen and Republic Service.
I would like nothing better than to control the land next to the C&D Dump through annexation. Just for different reasons.
I have heard all the stories of the tipping fees that have been paid. In a recent council meeting,
Council President Edgar Corns stated Lowell has missed out on $2 million in fees. He said, “We could have paved our streets with gold.” While the Lake County Solid Waste District may have received this kind of money, had the dump been in Lowell we would have needed to contract these host fees.
Host fees are negotiated completely separate, above and beyond the tipping fees to the county. I seriously doubt these fees would have matched the tipping fees.
I suspect the current landfill is close to full and expanding will be necessary to stay in business. Why haven’t they already done it? They can expand the landfill without Lowell.
How many new jobs would an expansion create? Remember the old one is almost complete.
Annexing this land with proper zoning could open several opportunities for Lowell. It offers valuable land along Ind. 2 for commercial and light industrial which in turn fits the current western business landscape, creates a tax base, creates buffer zones essential for transitioning between residential living and business and many more jobs than an expansion of a dump. You’re limiting your future by not considering everything.
There are many ways to create revenue, a future and jobs. Columnist Marc Chase brought up many points, the most important being this decision should be discussed by all councilmen and all should be involved in negotiations, not just a few.
The generosity of individuals and business owners who donate to the Methodist Hospitals Foundation is making a difference in the lives of thousands of families in Northwest Indiana every day.
We live and work in a region blessed with this great spirit and treasure.
The philanthropic spirit Northwest Indiana residents display each and every day supports Methodist Hospitals’ commitment to its mission of providing quality care to those in need.
In the last year, donations from our benefactors have enhanced cardiac care, breast wellness, along with pediatric and newborn services.
Our vision is to develop resources through contributions that support the mission of Methodist Hospitals. Donations to the foundation are vital to the hospitals’ plans for strengthening its partnership with the community, including:
• $10,000 for scales to keep our heart failure patients healthier and out of the hospital.
• $18,000 for the Northwest Indiana Breast Care Center.
• $30,000 for state-of-the-art bassinets for the nursery.
• $15,000 for emergency services.
• $10,000 for pediatric services.
We have wrapped our fundraising initiatives into a neat little package that is easily identifiable as the region’s longest and largest celebration of Mardi Gras.
Although most of us tend to imagine Mardi Gras as a nonstop party that begins and ends in New Orleans, the celebration — also known as Carnivale — is celebrated around the world with family, friends and philanthropy.
Just like in the south, our initiatives are identified by our individual fundraising Krewes — 11 in all — that have identified a focus and goals that benefit the region.
Our Krewes have a tradition of service as they seek to meet the needs of the health care system. Their efforts are laudable.
They invigorate and energize our efforts. Some, like Mario Minotti, lead by example. As prince of our Krewe Athena, Minotti works tirelessly in support of breast cancer prevention.
In recent weeks, our Krewes have combined their efforts with bead mosaic artist Stephan Wanger, who traveled from New Orleans to work in our community and assist with our fundraising efforts.
Bead Town Northwest Indiana is expanding our reach while engaging our community in a new way.
Join us as we raise the profile of the community — as well as much-needed dollars — one discarded Mardi Gras bead at a time.
Please support this unique effort and Methodist Hospitals in our ongoing philanthropy through a donation to the Methodist Hospitals Foundation at foundation.methodisthospitals.org/donate. We assure you every dollar will be used to its fullest.
Pranks have been pulled for as long as anyone can remember. When is it funny and when is it enough? Is it a practical joke or something more? These questions are probably what go through most people’s minds.
A practical joke is a mischievous trick or joke played on someone, typically causing the victim to experience embarrassment, perplexity, confusion, or discomfort. The term "practical" refers to the fact that the joke consists of someone doing something physical, instead of a verbal or written joke.
Pranks became so interesting and entertaining that people made movies, TV shows, videos and so much more revolving around nothing more than pranks.
It is common for young adults to prank one another because it gives them something to do. Do some take it too far? Sure.
Friends are a very important aspect in the life of a young adult. They make life more enjoyable, funny, happy, and lively. However, they can also be great at humiliation.
Everyone experiences many embarrassing moments over the course of their life. Most likely, friends cause a majority of those morbid experiences. Pranks, or practical jokes, are the ultimate weapon friends all over use against others for a good chuckle.
There are many pranks, from simple to complex, but all should be guaranteed to be funny, depending on how you look at it.
High school pranks do not usually happen that often around this region, at least not any that are reported or talked about. When people hear the term "prank," they probably think about college. Movies show that college upperclassmen love to prank the underclassmen.
Something else that goes along with pranks is school rivalry. Schools try to have students act with more school spirit, especially around the time of a big game. This typically means students flaunt around everywhere, gushing about how great their school is, dressing up, and most of all pull pranks on the opposing team.
Typically, when a student is asked about their rivals they will say they hate them, or that they will get crushed. They make fun of them, call them names, and they criticize each other, all just because they are rivals.
Schools don’t like bullying, but could this be the one thing leading to it?
Great memories, good times, friendships, big sports games, and crazy pranks seem to shape young adults lives around the world. When is it enough? When do you stop? This is something one would have to figure out one’s self.
Black History Month was something I looked forward to growing up. I remember being in the classroom and learning about Harriet Tubman, Garrett Morgan, Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King, among others, and being proud to be black.
I remember being given the opportunity to choose an African-American leader and writing a paper on that person and then presenting it to the class.
I used to love going home and watching black history movies or flipping through the channels and seeing some of my favorite television shows, like “Sister, Sister,” “Moesha” and “A Different World,” just to name a few, and watching the black history episodes.
When I think about Black History Month and black leaders now, I think about how much time has passed and how many leaders have given up something and risked their own lives to benefit the lives of the future generations to come.
But I also think about how, over the years, I've watched Black History Month just like numerous other things in this world be swept under the rug and reduced to being nothing more than the shortest month in the year.
While watching "Windy City Live: The Color Divide," I found it very interesting learning about how much racism still exist and how it has been defined and changed over the years.
Racism is commonly known as “poor treatment of or violence against people because of their race.” I then thought about African Americans and how they still don’t receive equal opportunity in the job field and they’re often prejudged as being thugs, uneducated and aggressive, just to name a few, at first glance.
When talking to an African-American student on campus, she said, “There is more to being black and in the black culture than hip-hop and rap music and sagging pants.”
“We don’t get enough credit for doing good," she said. "We’re always getting recognized for doing wrong especially in the media. We’re always depicted as criminals.”
After hearing this, I asked a few Caucasian students to see what they thought on the issue of racism. I asked if they ever had a firsthand encounter with racism from any nationality or race. I asked whether they felt they faced any challenges or stereotypes because they were Caucasian, and they all said, “No!”
Interestingly enough, that was the exact answer I expected.
As I reflect on Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” I realize I too have this same dream.
I have a dream that one day this world will finally be filled with racial equality and that as a nation we will not be divided or stereotyped by our outer appearances or background, but we will be recognized and acknowledged for all the good we do.
“The stories are in these faces,” I said out loud while walking through the Historic Pullman Foundation Visitors Center. Looking at the historic images of the proud Pullman Porters and mustached Hotel Florence workers and guests, I saw stories waiting to be told.
The more I walked through the visitor center and traveled around the neighborhood row houses with their crimson bricks made from Lake Calumet clay, the more I knew I was only half right.
The stories are not only in the faces, but the places as well.
If you haven’t been on the annual Pullman House Tour in October or Candlelight House Walk in December, you are missing true gems of the Midwest. From the emerald serpentine stones that make up the Greenstone Church to the bright red bricks of the Pullman Factory, this is an extraordinary place that deserves preservation. There is a special feeling when you walk into the Pullman Factory Complex as history resonates around you.
The Pullman area holds a special place in our history. The labor and civil rights movements have roots in Pullman, and unique planned villages like Park Forest looked at Pullman, America’s first planned industrial town, as a model. The industrial and rail history hold a special meaning for many on the Chicago’s south side and southern suburbs.
Pullman means much to a wide gamut of people, and I was fortunate to meet many of these folks during the recent introduction of the Pullman National Historical Park Act by U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk and U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly.
The Chicago Southland Convention & Visitors Bureau is a loud and proud supporter of the Historic Pullman Foundation and the Pullman State Historic Site.
In the last few years, the CVB brought over a dozen travel writers to tour Pullman, and we believe Pullman is a pivotal part of the region’s rail history and it plays a large role in our promotion of the region to rail fans. The Chicago Southland CVB supports Pullman becoming Illinois' second national park.
Tourism means dollars and jobs for our region. A Pullman National Historic Park could annually attract 300,000 visitors, create 356 new jobs and provide $40 million in estimated economic impact according to the National Parks Conservation Association. Tourism to Pullman would generate more economic development in the area and the impact would go far beyond the neighborhood. Visitors would stay in local hotels, use local trails and travel to other parts of the region.
I encourage you to call your congressmen and senators and tell them to preserve a piece of American history by supporting the Pullman National Historical Park Act.
Just as important, go to Pullman and see the artifacts in the Visitors Center. Walk along the maroon row houses on your way to Hotel Florence, and then marvel at what will become of the Pullman Factory Complex. Discover the faces and places that tell the experience of Pullman.
Have you ever visited Tomorrowland? It was one of the original park attractions when Disneyland opened in 1955. Walt Disney described it as a place to view “wondrous ideas ... a step into the future with predictions of constructed things to come.”
On display were picture phones, remote control units for televisions and microwave ovens.
Visitors were in awe of these devices.
Today, Disney World’s biggest challenge is to make sure their exhibits of “things to come” remain relevant and the essence of Tomorrowland means more than just the day after today but further into the future.
Their task is difficult these days as companies have reduced the length of time an idea is conceived to the time it is on a shelf at your favorite store.
Apple introduced the iPad in April 2010. Today, the iPad Air represents the fifth generation of the tablet device. And, in that time span, the total sales of all tablets sold by Apple, Samsung, Amazon and others is greater than sales of personal computers.
While I have begun to understand the impact technology has on my personal life, Tom Friedman has brought to life the impact computers are having on the workplace. My first exposure to him was reading his book “The World is Flat” and, since then, through his other books and his column in the New York Times.
He is a genius in trend spotting, but perhaps his greater gift is his writing style. He looks at technology and other factors affecting the world economy and explains the impact on the workforce and workers in an understandable and meaningful way. Let me share a few examples.
We are moving toward driverless cars, which will soon morph into driverless trucks. This will have an incredible impact on the transportation, distribution and logistics industry. It is possible transportation costs will be reduced without the need for the thousands of truck drivers we need today.
Computers can now be used to quickly screen and store large piles of documents. That reduces the need for patent attorneys and their paralegals. Already, enrollment in law schools across the country is down as law school graduates scramble for work.
Three-dimensional, computer-aided software applications can now design parts that are transmitted to a 3-D printer, which can build or print a piece right before our eyes. This technology might have a substantial impact on manufacturing, Indiana's largest sector of jobs.
In "The World is Flat," Friedman says every worker should try to become “untouchable.” Such status, argues Friedman, means your job cannot be outsourced.
Friedman divides untouchables into four, broad categories: workers with “special skills” (LeBron James and Paul McCartney), “specialized workers” (brain surgeons and advanced machine tool and robot operators), “anchored workers” because their jobs cannot be performed in China (plumbers, nurses, electricians) and “really adaptable” workers (people with a skill but committed to lifelong learning).
There will be many jobs for folks in management, in education, healthcare, the media, engineering and the sciences.
These are jobs which both the Northwest Indiana Workforce Board and READY NWI are promoting as our jobs of the future. But more important, it is the knowledge and skill sets people need to acquire to support these jobs.
I leave you with one final glimpse into the future: rather than paying FedEx or UPS to deliver your next purchase, Amazon says it is considering the used of unmanned drones to drop your most recent purchase in your back yard. Just be sure to keep Fido in the house on delivery day.
Although it clearly benefits neither state to gloat at the expense of its neighbors, that was unfortunately the case in your Jan. 20 story, "Illinois ranks 2nd, Ind. places 3rd in outbound migration."
Setting aside whether there's any satisfaction in being one slot higher in a race to the bottom of 50 states, we found the story's premise — that it's great for Indiana if people leave Illinois — to be flawed.
An extended decline for metropolitan Chicago in coming decades would be bad for the entire Midwest and worst for our closest neighbors. Also, migration patterns are influenced by a wide variety of complex factors, not just by cost of living and certainly not just by the cost of cigarettes.
Maybe it's to be expected that economic development professionals brag about poaching businesses from neighboring regions or states. But recent analysis of Dun and Bradstreet data (http://goo.gl/zhb23F) indicates such efforts generally result in little or no net gain — in other words, businesses and jobs move into our respective states at about the same rate by which they move out.
It's far better for us to join forces in improving infrastructure and pursuing investment from around the U.S. and overseas, as recommended not long ago in an important Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report (http://goo.gl/v3HfUk) on the deep economic interdependence of Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin. By working and planning together, we can win big rather than fight over the scraps.
More often, The Times of Northwest Indiana tends to demonstrate how Northwest Indiana and northeast Illinois work best as a combined region within the global economy. Your Jan. 22 editorial, "Get ball rolling to get trains rolling," described benefits of connecting our transit systems. Specifically, transit improves connections between employers and workers, regardless of state boundaries.
Rather than compete with each other, our two states and regions need to compete together in today's globalized economy. Can anyone really believe Indiana would benefit if metropolitan Chicago were to take a step backward? Or that Chicagoans would benefit if Indiana were to decline?
Northwest Indiana stands to lose a lot if the Illinois economy doesn't rebound. And metropolitan Chicago benefits from a strong Indiana economy.
We're rooting for you, in fact, and that's not just neighborly — it's enlightened self-interest.
Valparaiso Community Schools have been plagued by a lack of effective leadership in recent years, as evidenced by the School Board violating state contracting law, violating board policy, responding late to state funding cuts and hiring past Superintendent Andrew Melin, whose tenure is viewed almost universally as an abject failure.
These failings, combined with the board’s general disdain for honest, open public dialogue, has done great harm to our public school system.
The board’s latest injustice involves a plan that would almost certainly disadvantage Valpo High students in favor of foreign students coming through the for-profit Lumenus Institute.
This plan would put 30 wealthy Chinese students into Valparaiso High. These students would come as customers of Lumenus, a for-profit business owned by Mayor Jon Costas and area developers Chuck Williams and Harley Snyder. Lumenus charges these foreign students $42,000 and promises to prepare them to compete for admission into America’s top universities, as well as for entry into the U.S. job market.
The plan would place Valpo’s top performing high school students in direct competition with the profit-driven Lumenus customers, further straining our already stretched-thin resources.
Given China’s heavy focus of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) curriculum, VHS students would likely lose well-earned spots in Advanced Placement classes like AP Physics or Math, disadvantaging them when they apply to schools such as Purdue, Rose Hulman and others.
Making this flawed plan even more egregious was the board’s refusal to allow a single question, comment or concern from teachers and parents before voting in favor of this initiative.
Board member Jim Jorgenson, responding to criticism of both the plan and lack of process, was quoted in The Times as saying, “The 21st century is intensely competitive, and we need to prepare them for that.”
As if anyone who has lost their job in the past decade because of foreign, and often unfair, competition needs to be schooled on the harsh realities of globalization.
Still, the mission of Valparaiso Community Schools, like any public school, is to nurture, to teach and to prepare our children for that inevitable competition, not to throw them into the belly of the beast.
Of course, Valpo residents have come to expect from our School Board this kind of arrogance and contempt for honest public dialogue.
Of greater disappointment was the role of interim Superintendent Mike Berta, who equally refused to take any questions before or after the vote. In his closing comments, Berta stated we should remember “we’re in the kids business.”
The question Valpo residents need to ask is, whose kids?
Teachers, students, and parents have an opportunity to question the board at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Ben Franklin Middle School cafeteria, at the board's monthly discussion meeting.
These meetings, designed to be less formal to better engage the board with the public, will give residents a chance to voice their displeasure with the board’s Lumenus plan.
The farm bill is the best example of Washington’s dysfunction, waste and deception.
Hoosiers and this Indiana farmer clearly saw that last week when Republicans and Democrats in the House passed a $1 trillion "farm bill" that logrolls separate policies, kills historic reforms and sinks taxpayers further into debt.
For decades, an unholy alliance between food stamps and farm programs has prevented reform and ensured that “must-pass” legislation was moved through Congress with little more than superficial consideration.
Year after year, Hoosiers have watched as Washington spent money it never had. But last July when a $1 trillion farm bill, with 80 percent of its spending going to food stamps, came for a vote, I led 61 of my Republican colleagues to defeat business as usual. For the first time in our history, the farm bill failed on the House floor. But because reform takes more than just opposition, I worked to push ahead with common-sense solutions.
Because Congress works best when it works in full view of the American people, I argued, as a farmer, that we should give farm programs and food stamps the separate consideration they deserve. Different policies deserve different votes. It’s as simple as that. It worked!
Hoosier taxpayers got an honest look at how Washington spends their money when we passed the first farm-only farm bill and separate food stamp legislation in nearly 40 years. By working on one program at a time, we were able to make long-lasting reforms that Hoosiers deserve.
I’m proud that the first farm-only farm bill not only eliminated direct payments that manipulate markets, but also ended permanent laws that create confusion when Washington stumbles from one manufactured crisis to the next.
I’m also proud that we were able to double taxpayers’ savings and cut $40 billion by shining light on the unhealthy and inefficient food stamp program. Because government checks are no substitute for paychecks, we passed work requirements for able-bodied adults to help families get back on their feet. With 1 in 7 Americans on food stamps, this is just common sense.
My colleagues and I upended business as usual by focusing on real reforms. Unfortunately, business as usual fought back.
Instead of continuing our work, four conference committee negotiators worked behind closed doors to remarry food stamps and farm programs into one bill. By logrolling these separate issues, they killed the best opportunity for long-term reforms. To make things worse, the final farm bill actually cost more than the bill Senate Democrats originally passed.
In the end, we were left with the same failed approach that created this mess.
Hoosiers want solutions and that’s exactly what we delivered by separating food stamps from farm programs. Washington’s bad habits die hard, but Hoosiers don’t quit.
I stood up to both parties, and I’ll do it again. This is a fight hardworking taxpayers deserve.
Some people say that I’m “doing college” all wrong, that I’m lame, that I can’t possibly be having any fun on my weekends. And perhaps after reading this some of you might reach similar conclusions about me.
But I’m here to tell you I don’t drink, and I’m more than OK with it. Now, I’m not here to judge anyone who does, nor do I suggest we resurrect Prohibition policy from the 1920s. I’m not even saying that I won’t ever have a drink in my lifetime. But right now, life is pretty good sober.
I used to think my lack of desire to get sloshed every weekend was just one of the many facets of my awkward personality. Maybe that’s true, but I hope I can help you understand why my sober lifestyle really isn't all that bad and is actually quite fulfilling.
I've been a college student for only about six months, so I’m no expert on this stuff, let alone anything. But I would like to share a few nuggets of information I've learned about sober life with all my fellow young people out there. Just read what I have here for you, digest it, and do with it what you will.
• Despite what seems to be the popular belief, I don’t think the moments from your college years that you’ll cherish most will be the ones you spent with a ludicrously high blood alcohol content. However, you most definitely will remember the time you studied abroad, the time you took a road trip with friends, and the time you went to your favorite band’s concert.
• Quite frankly, if you feel like you can’t have fun with your friends without reaching a certain state of mental incompetency, then I think that speaks for the quality of your friends. Choose your group of friends judiciously, and you’ll notice that alcohol is hardly necessary. If every weekend your plans revolve around booze, then I’d say you’re missing out on opportunities for real fun.
• Drinking for the sole purpose of getting drunk won’t get you anywhere except the bathroom floor. Hurling your stomach contents into a toilet won’t purge you of any imprudent decisions you may have made earlier in the night. Oh, and stay away from the jungle juice.
There’s nothing wrong with going out and having a good time, but your decision to drink or not to drink won’t define your college experience. It’s not everything. Whether you choose to drink or not, just remember there’s more to college than what is in your cup.
A total of 327 boys and girls came through the doors of Alternative House last year. They came because their chances of success and safety were better at the Crisis Center’s runaway and homeless youth shelter than at their home.
There was a good chance they were having problems at school, falling behind and not getting along. More were teen girls than boys, and some were as young as 12. These are kids whose opportunities in life are diminished. To have a chance, they chose to leave home.
There is a huge and growing level of unequal opportunity in our country, and these kids are often the face of it. How do you get a good education, climb the income ladder, buy products, enhance your community, improve your home when you have inequality of opportunity and income?
In Indiana, the average per person monthly Temporary Assistance for Needy Families payment is about $85, according to the Indiana Family & Social Services Administration. A car is an impossible luxury. How do you get your kids to school when getting enough food until the end of the month is a concern? How do you afford a safe neighborhood with no threatening gangs when you step out your door?
Recently, we heard about President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty at its 50-year anniversary. It had some successes cutting the experience of poverty through food stamps and health care.
Another former president, Republican Teddy Roosevelt, gave a speech in 1910 in which he said the federal government had a responsibility to promote equality of opportunity and attack special privilege and vested interests. “In every wise struggle for human betterment, one of the main objects has been to achieve in large measure equality of opportunity,” he said.
Equality of opportunity should mean investment in the young, investment in skills and education starting early enough so immature brains get nurtured.
The belief that greater inequality would make people work harder and invest in their education works only so far. When the rungs up the economic ladder are diminished, it means fewer people with skills required for today and tomorrow’s jobs and eventual slower economic growth.
This growing gap between the richest Americans and everyone else is hurting the U.S. economy. Middle class pay has stagnated while wealthier households have thrived.
Joseph Stiglitz, a Lake County native and Nobel laureate economist teaching at Columbia University, says we need to be aware how money converts into political power.
It isn't shocking to hear that money has influence and can favor self-interest. The effects of inequality when it results in poor education, housing and neighborhoods have an effect on America as the land of opportunity and our self-interest. The lack of involvement in infrastructure – pothole marked roads, falling bridges – is one thing, but the failure to invest in people has generational effects.
The kids walking through our doors at the Crisis Center are the ones who will someday soon be paying our Social Security. We should want to invest in them. It is their future, but it is our future too.
As we begin ramping up for yet another round of local, statewide and national elections, I will use this forum to address community engagement.
When we began on our first Indicators Report in the late 1990s, the percentage of the adult population that votes was quickly identified as a key measure. We assumed – correctly, I think – that a high level of participation in elections is desirable for a community. It was an easy decision.
Since then, however, we've witnessed a growing assault on the right to vote. A variety of ostensibly legal techniques are now being used across the country to suppress the vote in urban communities.
The strategies employed include onerous restrictions on voter registration drives, identification requirements with which some citizens can’t easily comply, fewer opportunities to vote, the purging of voter rolls, and the inadequate equipping and manning of certain precincts.
The justification given for these restrictions may sound reasonable on the surface. “We need to prevent vote fraud!” There has been no credible evidence of systematic election fraud, however.
Don’t take my word for it. James A. Baker III, Ronald Reagan’s chief of staff who later served both as secretary of the treasury and secretary of state, came to the same conclusion in a report issued by a bipartisan commission he co-chaired with Jimmy Carter.
And some political operatives on the right have been sufficiently emboldened to admit the real objective of these measures is the suppression of minority votes. The claim that massive voter fraud is taking place is a fig leaf, a canard, a lie.
When we talk about those who've made the ultimate sacrifice for this country, we often note they died for our freedom. At its heart, this freedom involves the right to participate in decisions that impact our shared lives together. All of us. And that’s what pushes these voter suppression strategies beyond the pale. That’s what makes them profoundly un-American.
I have been amazed at how little outcry there has been on this issue. And yet there is no right more sacred in our historical development as a people. Where’s the outrage?
How do we reverse this trend? For now, at least, the power is in our hands. Make the suppression of voting rights a disqualifying factor when you cast your next ballot. And support candidates who want to make it easier for all of us to participate as fully engaged citizens.
No doubt everyone is feeling the extreme weather we are experiencing these days.
The guy who plows my driveway is very happy right now because he has not had the opportunity to use his plow for several years, he says.
The mechanic who fixes my car is happy because he has a steady stream of customers who, like me, waited until the last minute to get their vehicles tuned up for the winter. Tow trucks are definitely busy, and the car rental companies are struggling to keep up with the demand.
Heating and electric utility companies undoubtedly will experience a sharp increase in their profits as the temperatures drop well below anything we have experienced over the past few years.
Needless to say, the news is filled with traffic tragedies that have resulted from low visibility, slick pavement and potholes, and deaths from hypothermia are on the rise.
A “polar vortex” and the arrival of “solar cooling” this year sends chills up and down my spine, and the explanations of these phenomena don’t make me feel any better.
All I know is that the cost of keeping our homes warm and comfortable is hurting everybody’s wallets. Are we prepared?
Already this winter, we at Thornton Township are experiencing a dramatic increase in the number of families requesting assistance with their utility bills. Many families have to make a choice between paying their water bill or electric or heating gas bills — not enough income to pay all three.
You might be surprised at how many families are living without running water. They had to make a choice, and their only relief is that the gas and electric companies can’t disconnect after the temperature drops below a certain point.
I predict a massive disconnect action in the spring, not to mention the flooding that will occur.
We are trying to assist families as much as we can by referring them to Salvation Army or Catholic Charities or CEDA, but there are just not enough funds to meet the need.
Back in the winter of 2012, Thornton Township began responding to the energy bill crisis by installing plastic on windows and doing what we can to eliminate drafts from leaky doors for seniors and disabled residents. This service has been an extremely cost-effective way to drastically reduce heating costs and make homes more comfortable in the winter as well as the summer. It costs about $100 to do this kind of winterization for an average home, and residents have reported that their heating costs have been cut in half or more.
Meanwhile, we are looking for more funding to continue winterizing homes. Local service organizations and individuals can help us continue this valuable service by making donations to Thornton Township's winterization program. Call me at (708) 596-6040, ext. 2001, for more information.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates was professional and effective in office, but has abruptly reversed course with his new volume of memoirs which bluntly criticize former colleagues, including President Barack Obama.
Gates' extensive, often harshly negative discussion of personalities is unfortunate, for him and for our nation’s foreign policy.
This development brings to mind General George C. Marshall, who as U.S. army chief of staff was vital to World War II victory. He then led the state and defense departments, where he became a target of Sen. Joseph McCarthy and associates in the anti-communist hysteria of the time.
When Marshall died, I was working after school as an office clerk for a Pacific war veteran who ran a small business. Mr. Henricks survived the horrific combat of Bougainville, but with physical and emotional wounds apparent to a young boy.
He usually tried fiercely to focus on the business but took a break to discuss the general with reverence, uncharacteristic sentimentality from this restless, tormented man. I wondered why the top military commander had such a hold on this line soldier.
Marshall never produced memoirs, and he turned down enormous offers from publishers. From a vastly different America, he viewed public service as a special privilege. He was concerned about embarrassing others and inadvertently compromising national security.
President Franklin Roosevelt was annoyed that the chief of staff refused to be called by his first name, or get together socially, but also emphasized during the war he could not sleep at night if Marshall was outside the country. Marshall captured FDR too.
Gates has received deserved great respect, with an unprecedented tenure as defense secretary continuously during both the Bush and the Obama administrations. His undeniable policy successes include changing defense strategic planning overall while cutting specific weapons systems.
In a fundamental Pentagon policy shift, he bluntly criticized the department for giving too much emphasis to preparing for unlikely general wars, while our most serious challenges involve limited unconventional wars. Afghanistan still provides exhibit A.
Secretary Gates fought hard and generally successfully to reduce weapons programs. Prime targets included the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor fighter, Boeing’s C-17 transport, proposals to arm 747 aircraft with laser weapons, the Army’s Future Combat Systems operation, and the Missile Defense Agency. He abolished the Joint Forces Command, a Virginia facility with powerful support on Capitol Hill.
Gates’ greatest contribution in the job, going beyond strategies and weapons, probably was his devotion of sustained emphasis to the high suicide rates and emotional stresses among our military personnel. Over the 20th century, descriptions grew ever more clinically impersonal, from "shell shock" to "battle fatigue" and now "post-traumatic stress disorder." He spearheaded a public education effort made even more important by the all-volunteer military, by definition generally removed from lives of most Americans.
As nonpartisan public servant, he shielded Obama and the Democratic Party. While Democrats took the White House and Congress in 2008, a representative ABC-Washington Post public opinion poll showed that Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain was viewed as more likely than Obama to protect national security. The Republican Party has continued to poll relatively strongly regarding defense concerns.
Gates successfully opposed what President Dwight Eisenhower accurately described as the enormous "military-industrial complex," but his standing is now significantly changed.
Marshall felt strongly leadership success was directly related to keeping working relationships formal and maintaining public discretion – and he is right.
I was disappointed to read Rich James' recent column, “Sen. Tomes pistol-whips gun control.” His column was rife with error and made attacks on my personal character. It’s discouraging that this type of reporting passes as journalism today.
Though I’m hesitant to dignify his comments with a response, I want to make sure you get the correct facts.
In regard to James' claim that I authored legislation “allowing all Hoosiers to carry a concealed handgun without a license,” this is simply not true. Senate Bill 506, which I authored in 2011, would have allowed only qualified gun owners to carry concealed firearms in limited circumstances, consistent with our 2nd Amendment rights.
Also, by no means did I sponsor legislation “requiring all public school teachers to recite the Lord's Prayer on a daily basis.” My legislation would have allowed — not required — teachers and students to recite this prayer in the classroom because I believe it should be up to the local school communities to decide what’s best for its students. It also included a clear opt-out provision for students who did not wish to participate.
Furthermore, the reason I am sponsoring Senate Bill 229 this year is because it makes sense financially. It was certainly not driven by any organization. So again James' assumptions are inaccurate.
Local law enforcement agencies waste money buying firearms, and then selling them for scrap or having them destroyed. To me and my colleagues who supported this bill, it makes more sense for law enforcement to sell these guns to people lawfully allowed to own them and get back what these firearms are actually worth.
This bill is a best practice model that would benefit all involved parties. It’s a win-win for law enforcement agencies, who could use extra revenue, and for responsible gun owners.
Though these distinctions I've pointed out may seem small, they dramatically change the intent of these bills. I urge James to get his facts straight on important issues affecting Hoosiers.
Ultimately, my job as a state senator is to dutifully represent the views and opinions of my constituents, and I take that job very seriously. My beliefs in defending our Constitution and liberty are shared by many Hoosiers in my district and across the state. I will continue to represent these beliefs in the General Assembly.
Emergency situations can bring out the best in people, and there was no truer example than the way our community responded in the aftermath of the recent Interstate 94 motor vehicle accident.
First, on behalf of Franciscan St. Anthony Health-Michigan City, our prayers are with the families of the deceased and with those injured.
Next, we thank the first responders, who acted with such diligence, care and poise during the most stressful circumstances. Their cooperation with our hospital physicians and nurses, many of whom came in on their time off and also performed brilliantly in providing life-saving care, exhibited the same team spirit shown just last year when all were called upon to rescue and treat the boy saved in the miracle at Mount Baldy.
In conjunction with our fire, police and county emergency colleagues, we activated our emergency response plan when the scope of the accident became known. Hospital and physician staffs remained in place after hours to care for the injured, and we notified additional staff to stand by. We cared for 13 patients injured in the accident, some of whom required hospitalization here. We worked with the first responders to triage and treat those patients.
Thanks also to the community members who brought refreshments to the accident scene and to our Emergency Department, and otherwise volunteered to help.
We know the news media took an intense interest in this large accident and in how our community handled the emergency. We are proud to have been part of an effective and life-saving response. We should be proud once again as members of our Michigan City and LaPorte County community.
God bless you all.
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