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Wednesday, September 20, 2017
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Wednesday, July 31, 2013 3:35 PM
LOGANSPORT - It is more than slightly ironic that the Indiana State Board of Education is hiring its own consultant to do what it could be doing collaboratively with its state school superintendent – improve education.

It would be nice if board members and a state school superintendent from different parties could be on the same page when it comes to the importance of education in this state, but state education reform has become so politicized that politics takes priority. The irony of the current Tony Bennett controversy involving a grade change for Christel House, the charter school funded by one of Bennett’s biggest campaign contributors, represents one of the worst kinds of academic fraud there is. Forget the NCAA hammering some college for giving a football player a D- in a math class he should have failed. What Bennett and his staff did for Christel House pales in comparison. He violated a public trust for the sake of a private school run by a campaign contributor.

Think about this for a minute: If the Indiana State Board of Education had really been holding Bennett accountable like it is holding Glenda Ritz accountable now, the Christel House controversy may never have happened in the first place. But the board didn’t.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – If I’m gonna go to the Amazon, I’m going to pack and pack tight, take a first aid kit, mosquito netting, a hammock, a Sears poncho, rations, trail mix, potable water and . . . cold beer. As the General Assembly’s Alcohol Code Revision Commission met last Monday, mayors from Indianapolis and Fishers, along with the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, were dreaming of Amazon’s HQ2, a $5 billion, 50,000 employee, high-wage gem. Analysis from the New York Times and others place Indiana in the mix along with dozens of other cities until “quality of life” and “mass transit” come into play. With this plum capturing site selector fantasy, Indiana is plunging into a debate about where carryout cold beer can be sold and whether it should be available on Sundays beyond Big Woods, Upland, Mad Anthony and dozens of other craft breweries springing up across the state. In 49 other states and the District of Columbia, the temperature of beer sales is unregulated. Indiana is the only state that bans retail beer, wine and liquor sales on Sundays.
        
  • INDIANAPOLIS – What a great week for contrasts in American politics. The 2016 election continues for Democrats while President Trump has moved on and is willing to reach across party lines to get results for the American people.  The same week that Hillary Clinton’s book came out, and Bernie Sanders came out with his new plan – wait, I mean the same old plan – is the same week we hear that President Trump and Vice President Pence will visit Indiana and other states to take their powerful message to the people. Right on! The message is simple and the changes are long overdue. As President Trump said, “We believe everyday Americans know better how to spend their own money than the federal bureaucracy, and we want to help them keep as much of that hard-earned money as we can.” The president wants to lower taxes for the middle class, so that Americans have more in their pocketbooks, and for employers, so they can expand and hire more workers and pay more. 
  • EVANSVILLE – The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) debate revolves in part around a Constitutional question: Does the president unilaterally set immigration policy, or do such laws require congressional authorization? When President Obama lacked the votes to get DACA through Congress, he simply implemented it via executive order. In truth, DACA was headed toward a legal challenge that likely would have overturned the rule as unconstitutional. Congress needed to take it up one way or the other anyway. But this administration’s motives to end DACA, or at least sow confusion among those benefiting from it, most certainly find their roots in more than just constitutional concerns. The #MAGA crowd feels their American identity and financial well-being stretched and insecure. Immigrants make an easy culprit. We’ve witnessed similar tension at other points in our country’s history – the Civil War, waves of immigration at the turn of the 20th century, and the cultural revolution of the 1960s – but throughout those conflicts the question was whether white Christians would make more room for other groups at a table they still dominated. In those older conflicts new groups gained acceptance in exchange for cultural assimilation.
  • SOUTH BEND – Which party now is going the way of the Whigs? Political pundits have pontificated about that for decades, actually since 1854. That’s when the Whig Party, once one of two major parties and dominant in the 1840 presidential and congressional elections, disintegrated – split over slavery and stuck on less relevant issues. It quickly ceased to exist. Now, once more, come prognostications about which party is going the way of the Whigs. Some analysts in the press, in political science, in think tanks, in bars, say it is the Republican Party. Theory for demise? That it cannot survive the divisive and bizarre presidency of Donald Trump, who alienates so many segments of the population, including the growing number of Hispanic voters, African-Americans, the young and on and on. Also, Republicans have total control of Congress at a time when polls show total contempt for Congress. And the GOP seems mired in issues of the past instead of what voters want for the future. The Democratic Party theory for demise? That it was so inept that it lost to Trump and still concentrates more on Bernie vs. Hillary than on a unifying message to keep Trump from winning again over an inept opposition.
  • MERRILLVILLE  – Almost without exception, what happens just across the state line in Illinois has an impact on Northwest Indiana. When property taxes go up, scores of Illinois residents move to Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties. When the Illinois sales tax goes up – particularly in Cook County – people flock to Indiana to buy cars, cigarettes, gasoline, appliances and more.  And now, Cook County residents are coming to Northwest Indiana to buy pop and other soft drinks containing sugar. The Cook County Board has approved a penny-per-ounce tax on sugary soft drinks. The financially strapped county says the tax will raise about $200 million annually and prevent the closure of Stroger Hospital or a reduction in its services, particularly to low-income residents.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – “Workers,” says the human resources manager. “Customers,” says the small business owner. “Young families,” says the home builder.“Students,” says the school superintendent. “We’ll get what you need,” says Monique representing ManMover, the population recruiting company. “We find the communities that are attracting the people you need. Then we examine what they have done to get those people.” The next day I get the call. “Hi, it’s Monique,” she says. “Got a job for you; tell me which Indiana counties are best at attracting different types of people. Send me what you can in the next 24 hours.” I know a consulting scam when I hear one, but I need the work. “It’s done,” I say and email this information to her: According to the American Community Survey, five-year report for 2015, the largest age group of in-migrants (people who crossed a county, state, or international border to live in Indiana) was those ages 18 to 24. We think of these people as predominantly college students and that is true for certain counties, including Knox, Vigo, Grant, Vanderburgh and St. Joseph. But young people who don’t go to college also move for jobs and/or to establish their own households in counties like Steuben, Spencer and Posey.
  • BLOOMINGTON – Our nation is in a dark period. Can we pull ourselves out? Keep this in mind: Our institutions are far more durable than any single president or any single historical period. An interesting thing keeps happening to me. Every few days, someone – an acquaintance, a colleague, even a stranger on the street – approaches me. They ask some version of the same question: What can we do to pull ourselves out of this dark period? For the many Americans who respect representative democracy, the Constitution, and the rule of law, there’s reason to be concerned. The president is off to a rocky start; he’s unproductive and undignified at home and derided on the world stage. Congress struggles to get its bearings. In the country at large, forces of intolerance and division are at loose on the streets and on the nightly news.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – President Trump has promised “fire and fury” for his North Korean counterpart, the dictator Kim Jong Un. Last week, Trump tweeted, “Talking is not the answer.” On Sunday, Defense Sec. Jim Mattis, standing with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford on the White House driveway after meeting with President Trump and Vice President Pence, reacted to the North Korean detonation of a hydrogen bomb that measured 6.3 on the USGS Richter scale and just weeks after it lobbed a missile over Japan. “We have many military options, and the president wanted to be briefed on each one of them,” said Mattis. “Any threat to the United States or its territories, including Guam, or our allies, will be met with a massive military response – a response both effective and overwhelming.”  The war drums are now fully beating. Perhaps it’s time to channel our inner Andy. By this, I mean the late U.S. Rep. Andrew Jacobs Jr., author of the non-bestselling book “The 1600 Killers,” describing the war actions of the 20th Century’s last 10 presidents. As a young congressman in the mid-1960s, he defied President Lyndon Johnson, becoming an early critic of the Vietnam War. Jacobs had a relevant historical viewpoint. He joined the U.S. Marine Corps because he believed the snazzy dress uniform would attract the babes. He ended up in the Korean War.  His perspective, that it’s Congress that has the authority to declare war and not the president, came from a man who once found himself hauling off wounded Marines in a classic fog-of-war moment, staring down the guns of Chinese infantry, who inexplicably allowed him to live.
        
  • FORT WAYNE – One of my favorite expressions is that while history may not repeat itself, often it rhymes. Hurricane Harvey is not Hurricane Katrina. The scale of costly damage may, however, exceed it. Depending upon where hurricanes come ashore, and obviously the category level based upon wind, the impacts vary wildly. Also, as any watcher of weather knows, generally the warnings far exceed the actual impacts. Generally. For most of my life, not to seem unsympathetic, my interest in hurricanes was mostly related to Notre Dame pummeling the University of Miami. Where I grew up we worried about tornados and rivers flooding, and if we were going to get a snow day. Water in northeast Indiana provides us with some of America’s best soil for agriculture and most of the natural lakes of Indiana. Some rivers run to Lake Erie, some to Lake Michigan, and the Wabash River system heads to the Mississippi River and out to sea at New Orleans.  Different Army Corps of Engineers divisions work with our region, and, if you are in office for 16 years, you learn to know them all. After 9/11, New Orleans also came of particular interest because of potential terrorism, both because of its importance to the oil/petrochemical interests and because of its port, the gateway to the entire Mississippi River Valley.
  • SOUTH BEND – Sen. Birch Bayh of Indiana, author of the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution on presidential succession and disability, guided it to approval by Congress in 1965 and final ratification by the states two years later. For some reason, the amendment is now in the news. Bayh, then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on constitution amendments, said the amendment was “necessary to provide a way to deal with two problems of presidential succession.” One was frequent vice-presidential vacancies. When President John Kennedy was assassinated and Lyndon Johnson became president in 1963, it brought the 16th time the office of vice president was unoccupied. The Constitution had not provided for a way to replace a vice president between elections.
  • KOKOMO – Against my better judgement, I have decided to weigh in on the subject of Confederate memorials. The existence of Confederate memorials have been the subject of much debate and consternation. Recently, in Charlottesville, Virginia, the issue came roaring from the history books onto the front pages of America’s newspapers. The issue has simmered for all of the 152 years since Robert E. Lee surrendered to U. S. Grant at Appomattox Court House. I must admit that I am personally deeply conflicted on the issue. There is something to be said for both sides of the monument debate. My great-great-uncle was held at Andersonville Prison and suffered the horrors of that hell hole during 1864. I suppose that I have as good a reason as anyone else to totally reject anything at all to do with the Confederacy and what it did to so many millions of American citizens and slaves during four long years of war. However, I am also a student of history and as any historian worth their salt knows, “history ain’t pretty.” No historical issue is ever truly cut and dried. Whereas I spent my childhood thinking that I wore a white hat when I fought as a Union soldier or as a GI battling evil Nazis, today in my relic collection I own a Nazi belt buckle with a Swastika inside a wreath with the words “Gott Mit Uns” written around the wreath. Even the lowly German stormtrooper felt that God was on his side. The dirty little secret of history is that history is written by the victors.

  • MERRILLVILLE – Lake County Democrats are about to select a new sheriff without the help of the general public. It’s happened before. In the mid-1980s, Democrats picked a new sheriff when Rudy Bartolomei was indicted. Bartolomei went into the witness protection system and helped launch Operation Lights Out, the most extensive federal investigation into public corruption in the history of the state. Lights Out resulted in a slew of federal indictments and sent several elected officials to jail. Lake County Democrats will elect another sheriff at a precinct caucus on Sept. 16. Sheriff John Buncich was removed from office last week upon his conviction on bribery charges in connection with county towing contracts. It used to be that convicted public officials stayed in office – while collecting fat paychecks – until sentencing. The Legislature in recent years, largely prompted by Lake County, changed the law to remove an elected official from office upon conviction.
  • INDIANAPOLIS - This nation mystifies me. In a country where most folks believe people must be responsible for their own lives, accept the consequences of their actions, we rush to help those who created their own hell. Houston is the latest example. This city paved itself over, failed to control its land use, sprawled in all directions, and now is reaping what it has sown. “Oh, that’s too harsh,” I can hear you say. “Those poor people have been hit with an extraordinary event. It may be the wrath of the All Mighty, but, nevertheless, we have to help.” When a tornado hits Indiana, we file for federal aid. When an earthquake strikes California, they expect federal aid. When a forest fire threatens homes in Colorado, we cheer the heroes paid with our taxes who fight the blaze. Let the White, Eel, Kankakee, Wabash, Tippecanoe, Ohio, or St. Joseph River over-run its banks, then listen to the cries for help.
             
  • INDIANAPOLIS – In the two decades before and after the 20th Century commenced, there was a concerted effort to remember the Lost Cause or the War Between the States from the Southern perspective. The Daughters of the Confederacy funded, forged and erected more than a thousand statues honoring President Jefferson Davis, Gens. Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, along with dozens of others.  It extends beyond monuments, with several U.S. Army bases (Benning, Bragg, Beauregard, Gordon, Hood, A.P. Hill, Pickett and Lee among them) named for Confederate generals. Another 12 Confederate figures are in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall, compared to just four civil rights leaders (Frederick Douglass, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., and Sojourner Truth). On the Gettysburg Battlefield in Pennsylvania, there are monuments to Lee, and Gens. James Longstreet and A.P. Hill, as well as those representing the 14 Confederate states.
        
  • BLOOMINGTON – One reason I consider myself fortunate to have led a life in politics is that, over time, I’ve had a chance to work with nine presidents. From Lyndon Johnson through Barack Obama, I’ve talked policy, politics and, sometimes, the trivial details of daily life, with them. I met JFK twice for brief conversations. I don’t know our current president, but I’ve gained valuable perspective from his predecessors. Johnson was a deal-maker, always trying to figure out how to get your vote. He came into office with a clear vision of what he wanted to do, and on the domestic side notched accomplishments unmatched in recent decades. Yet he was brought down by the Vietnam War, a war he could neither win nor quit. Richard Nixon, one of the more complex personalities to inhabit the office, often spoke to me about his mother and her home in Indiana. Highly intelligent, brimming with energy, extremely ambitious, he was also uneasy in social settings and could be vindictive. He focused intently on policy, especially foreign policy, and yet had a flawed moral compass.
  • SOUTH BEND – When Vice President Mike Pence returned to Indiana for the unveiling of his official portrait as governor, the Democratic National Committee fired off a statement criticizing Pence for pushing health care changes that would be “devastating for Indiana.” No surprise that the DNC criticizes Pence. But the title the Democratic organization gave to Pence was a surprise. The statement began: “The presumptive 2020 presidential candidate Mike Pence returns today to his home state . . .” For Pence, that’s the unkindest cut of all. The last thing Pence wants right now is to be viewed openly as a presumed candidate for president in 2020. It’s not that Pence wouldn’t love to be the 2020 Republican presidential nominee. It’s not that he isn’t raising funds and organizing to be ready for that possibility. It’s not that a majority of Republicans in Congress wouldn’t prefer Pence over Trump as their 2020 nominee – or as their president right now. It’s that Pence must avoid being presumed openly and widespread as a candidate for president rather than again being the loyal, supportive vice-presidential running mate as Trump seeks a second term.
  • MERRILLVILLE – An out-of-towner asked me the other day how things were going in Gary. I told him the murder rate was down, but that was only because the population of the city had dwindled to fewer than 80,000 residents, not because of a drastic reduction in homicides. And, while crime continues to be a problem in Gary, so too is justice. It was unveiled a few months back that the Gary city court has a backlog of more than 200,000 cases and no plan in place to speed up justice. And just as the state named a special monitor to take control of the city’s struggling school system, a group in the Miller Beach section of the city announced it may try to form a new school district with the three schools in that section of the city. But it’s not all negative when it comes to Gary. Every few months there is an announcement about something positive for the city. Virtually every time, it involves the creation of jobs – something sorely needed. Despite the optimism, it’s rare that jobs are created.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – We used to be able to say that on Census Day (April 1) in 2010 a certain number of persons with certain characteristics lived in a given place. Now, however, you must accommodate the idea that over a one- or five-year period there was an estimated number of persons of given characteristics who lived in certain places. This is not really a new idea. We’re familiar with thinking that the August number of jobs describes a month. If we were honest with ourselves, there could be a different number for each week and, if it mattered, for each day. That’s true for much of the data we use.  In reality, the number of jobs is reported for the week in which the 12th of the month occurs. Each month, the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) chooses approximately 295,000 residential addresses and sends questionnaires to the people who live there. That’s about 3.5 million households annually from which one-year data are available for places with 65,000 or more persons.
  • NASHVILLE, Ind. - We had been the Hoosier State. The Crossroads of America, heart of the corn belt and the center of the basketball universe. Three years ago, we became something sinister. It was “Indiana: The Methamphetamine State!” The statistics were appalling. According to the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, between 2013 and 2015 Indiana had dismantled 4,477 meth labs, and rescued 1,104 children living in meth lab environments. Over the corresponding time period, Indiana had seen a 32 percent increase in homicides, 26 percent increase in abuse and neglect reports to the Department of Child Services, a 90 percent increase in misdemeanor theft.  The collateral damage was appalling. In addition to the abused kids, first responders like cops, firefighters and code enforcers suffered chemical injuries in meth labs. Mayors were seeing dozens of homes and hotel rooms contaminated by the insidious chemical taint that comes with clandestine meth production. There was inertia at the Statehouse as governors and legislative leaders were slow to move, some fearing the wrath and political contributions from the home health consumer products industry. There were others, like prosecutors Dustin Houchin of Washington County, Mike Steiner of Martin County, Jeffrey Arnold in Delaware County and Vanderburgh County’s Nick Hermann, Columbia City Mayor Ryan Daniel, Kendallville Police Chief Rob Wiley and a several legislators - most notably State Rep. Ben Smaltz of Auburn, State Sen. Randy Head of Logansport and House Speaker Brian Bosma - who had had enough.

  • WASHINGTON – Business leaders may be abandoning President Donald J. Trump in the wake of his reaction to last weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, Va., but the two leading candidates in the Indiana Republican Senate primary race are sticking with him. While CEOs exited White House advisory councils after Trump on Tuesday reaffirmed his stance that there “was blame on both sides” of a demonstration by white nationalists and a counter protest that led to one death and several injuries, Reps. Luke Messer, 6th CD, and Todd Rokita, 4th CD, avoided contradicting Trump. “Hate, bigotry and racism are un-American and unacceptable,” Messer said in an email statement. “I denounce these groups in the strongest terms. To me, much of the criticism surrounding the president was unfair. President Trump denounced the violence and racism displayed in Charlottesville, and I have denounced it, too.” Like Trump, Rokita cast a wide net of blame. “Rep. Rokita believes Americans need to come together to reject all hate groups that encourage domestic terrorism and violence,” Tim Edson, a Rokita campaign spokesman, wrote in an email.
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  • Rep. Brooks endorses Messer in GOP Senate race
    "Luke and I have been friends for a long time, and being his colleague and watching him work up close, I have no doubt he'll make a great U.S. Senator. We face tough issues as a nation and need Luke Messer in the Senate to meet those challenges and make Washington work better for Hoosiers. Luke is a proven conservative, but more than that, he is a respected and skillful leader who builds the relationships necessary to get our shared priorities enacted into law. His principles and strong communication skills have made him a go-to leader in the House, and those same attributes will enable Luke to deliver results when he arrives in the U. S. Senate. His record of fighting for school choice to create better education opportunities for tens of thousands of Indiana families and protecting veterans’ GI Bill benefits shows Hoosiers they can trust him to do the right thing and do it well.” - U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks, endorsing U.S. Rep. Luke Messer for the 2018 Republican U.S. Senate nomination on Wednesday. Messer faces U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita, attorney Mark Hurt, businessman Terry Henderson, State Rep. Mike Braun and educator Andrew Takami in the GOP primary.
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  • Mike and Hillary
    We’ve watched 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton make the rounds on her new book: “What Happened.” The reaction has been cringes from Democrats hoping to move on, a set-the-record mentality from some journalistic quarters, and taunts from Republicans. Vice President Pence has the best line of all, with this tweet Thursday morning: “The first book that has the question and the answer on the cover.” Good line, Mike, er … Mr. Vice President. It harkens back to those studio days near the Speedway and a retreat to Claude & Annies. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
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