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Monday, March 27, 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.
  • MERRILLVILLE – Election after election, Lake County Democrats deliver for the party. They did so last November, but the massive vote totals were overshadowed by the losses of each of the Democratic statewide candidates. The Nov. 8 results were fairly typical; Lake County Democrats delivered a huge plurality, but the party suffered big losses on the state level. And yet, the strongest county Democratic party in the state doesn’t received any respect, according to Jim Wieser, the newly elected county chairman. “We don’t have a strong voice in the state,” Wieser said shortly after taking over as chairman. That lack of respect, Wieser said, has to change. And, he sees a couple of ways to make that happen. One way is for the party to make regular stops in Indianapolis to “pound on the door.” The party, Wieser said, needs a bigger voice in shaping statewide policy and elections, including a larger role for Lake County’s Young Democrats, a group that outgoing Chairman John Buncich energized.
  • FORT WAYNE – It seems a good time to review the key points of the Donald Trump’s “Art of the Deal.”  At the start it is important to be clear: The Republican bill is TrumpCare just as much as the current law is ObamaCare. President Obama did not draft the health care named after him. Hillary Clinton was its mother from her days as First Lady. The Democrat House wrote it and the President signed off. Because he was the President, it became ObamaCare. What goes for one side also goes for the other. They aren’t trying to replace PelosiCare. Thursday night President Trump, after making his best offer to recalcitrant conservatives who want to gut the law, he demanded that the House vote Friday. If the alternative doesn’t pass, he’s ready to let ObamaCare remain the law and move on to other issues. It is not totally out of character for him. Another of his books (“The America We Deserve”) which was written as he considered running for President in 2000, he made his views on health care clear: “We must have universal health care … I’m a conservative on most issues but a liberal on this one. We should not hear so many stories of families ruined by healthcare expenses.” 
  • INDIANAPOLIS – Years ago my late journalist colleague Harrison J. Ullmann of NUVO Newsweekly used to chide the Indiana General Assembly by frequently calling it “America’s worst legislature.” But I have to tell ya, after watching the three-ring circus in Washington, in institutions we call the White House, the House and the Senate over the past two months, when it comes to truthful, adult leadership, where prioritized legislation is based on sound research, datasets and metrics, I’ll take the Indiana General Assembly any day. When it comes to civility, transparency and earnest policy-making, the Indiana Statehouse comes off as a haven of mature leadership compared with the so-called “big leagues” inside the Washington beltway. Can you imagine Gov. Eric Holcomb making fun of a disabled reporter or calling out “Lyin’ John Gregg?” Can you imagine Senate President David Long swearing on the chamber floor, or saying he could go shoot someone on Meridian Street and win more votes? Can you imagine Speaker Brian Bosma suggesting an opponent’s father played a role in a presidential assassination, or making fun of overweight people from the well of the Indiana House?
  • BLOOMINGTON –  The challenge our political leaders face is how to get through the thicket of conflicting principles, interests and dogmas in our sprawling democracy. As you watch the healthcare proceedings on Capitol Hill, imagine what things might be like if we lived in more functional political times. In particular, what if Congress were run by pragmatists? It would not change the issues at hand. On the one side, you’d have the Republican majority in Congress, which for the most part believes that the healthcare system should be left to the private sector. On the other side would be Democrats who, to varying degrees, see an important role for government to play. What would change would be how the two sides reconciled their differences. Rather than maneuver the proceedings for political gain or worry first about their political bases, they’d be dead-set on a healthcare overhaul that improved the system and was politically sustainable.
  • WEST LAFAYETTE – Consider the eternal questions. Why is the sky blue? Why is the grass green? Why are some Indiana local government property tax rates high, while others are low? Let’s leave the answers to the first two to actual scientists. I’ll take a stab at that last one. Suppose we measure the revenue capacity of Indiana local governments. Our counties, cities, school districts, libraries and townships receive revenue from property taxes and local income taxes. Schools get a lot of aid from the state. Counties, cities and towns receive state aid for roads. And there are interest earnings, charges and fees, and dozens of other smaller revenue sources. Let’s calculate the average property tax rate for all Indiana local governments, then multiply that rate by the taxable assessed value in each county. That gives the amount they could collect if their tax rates were just average. Calculate the average revenue from local income taxes by multiplying the average local income tax rate by each county’s taxable income. Then add in school and road aid, which depend on state aid formulas. And take the state average of the other revenues per person, and multiply by county population.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – This column is for Mr. W of Columbus, Mr. R in Terre Haute, and the many readers who see Indiana exclusively as a wonderful place. They believe, however, I tear Indiana down, not appreciating its glory. Indiana is a wonderful place because it has the opportunity to build a better future. We do not suffer from the overwhelming burdens of poverty, ignorance, and indolence that afflict many places in this world. Our problem is that we refuse to use our wealth, knowledge, and energy to make our state and communities better. Complacency is a public health hazard in Indiana. We suffer serious air and water pollution, decaying infrastructure, inadequate education, low quality public services, reactionary legislation based on superstition, all in fear that a step forward will upset the stagnation of our perceived equilibrium.
  • MUNCIE – President Trump sits in the White House today because, in part, Democrats ceded rural Indiana and rural America. The Hoosier State is barely functioning in a two-party system. I asked Indiana Democratic Chairman John Zody for a list of county chairs elected on March 3. According to a party spread sheet, Daviess, Gibson, Martin and Henry counties listed no chair. Mine down a bit further and you see Donald Trump won Daviess County with 79.6 percent of the vote, 71.6 percent in Gibson, 69.2 percent in Henry and 76.9 percent in Martin. This is all relevant because during the 2016 presidential campaign, candidate Trump vowed repeatedly and vociferously to repeal and replace Obamacare. In January, Trump promised “terrific” coverage “for everybody.” The new Health and Human Services Sec. Tom Price vowed that “nobody will be worse off financially” with the plan proposed by House Speaker Paul Ryan and is being pushed by Vice President Mike Pence.

  • INDIANAPOLIS - Historic preservation never interested me. Public television’s Antique Roadshow is a farce about the monetization of memory. Junk shops, occupying valuable downtown space throughout Indiana, only trumpet our economic and social decay. Nostalgia, to me, is a disease of the mind. I delight in seeing the past transformed into a promising future. Reuse of a beautiful building, restoration of landmarks pointing to tomorrow is inspiring. Today, communities are falling all over themselves to attract imaginary young adults. It’s like seeking a new factory instead of working to retain and develop existing businesses. Indiana’s many small towns and older urban neighborhoods deteriorate when businesses and families leave. Disinvestment, the neglect of maintenance and rotting of physical assets, creates open wounds and ugly scabs. Instead of wondering how to attract unknown businesses or workers, we might try improving the assets we have.
  • SOUTH BEND - Jason Critchlow was re-elected without opposition as St. Joseph County Democratic chair. So, why would he want four more years in a job without a salary, where expectations are seemly unrealistically high and where losing candidates often blame the chairman, while winners say they did it all by themselves with their own political skill and personal charm?  Critchlow is coming back for more, even after St. Joseph County, that supposed bastion of Democratic strength, gave the party’s presidential nominee a margin of a mere 288 votes out of nearly 112,000 cast in 2016. He says it’s because of a passionate belief that politics is important. The election of Donald Trump proved that, he says, and gives him more incentive now, not less. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” Critchlow says of determination he sees in party ranks and with new volunteers, packed in “elbow to elbow” in meetings at the small Democratic headquarters in downtown South Bend.
        
  • INDIANAPOLIS – We really are living in two different countries, if you watch the cable television shows every night. The good thing is most people have better things to do.  When I got home Wednesday night, Fox News showed the headline, “FBI on Hunt for CIA Mole after Secrets Are Leaked.”  At the same time, CNN’s headline read, “Pence Dodges Questions on Trump’s Wiretapping Claims.”  The contrast in stories tells the story right there.  A few minutes later, Fox ran a report of an illegal immigrant who had been deported five times with over 20 arrests since 1990, who was intoxicated and smashed the car in which he was fleeing another accident. He also crashed into the car driven by Sandra Duran, a California woman who was a mother, daughter and sister, killing her instantly.  This five-minute story could never paint the true tragedy so many family and friends must now live with forever.  Flip the channel and you would have found CNN covering the “A Day Without a Woman” event, like there is now a national holiday to bash the president. I couldn’t even bring myself to switch over to MSNBC.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – People from the beginning of recorded time have noted that human intercourse, sex, can feel really good. It usually doesn’t cost anything, and people have been doing it for years, in fact, this is how we have populated the planet. It is going to continue to happen, even when circumstances are less than ideal. Yet our attitudes toward it can be very impractical and public policy can actually bring harm. In Indiana, sexual education can only be taught in public school through the lens of abstinence. Abstinence only for disease prevention. Abstinence only for pregnancy prevention.  While well-intentioned, this strategy leaves out a great deal of necessary information, like how to protect yourself from or get help after violent encounters in an age-appropriate way. These good intentions, intentions presumed to cut back on promiscuity, lead to all kinds of problems.  
        
  • FORT WAYNE – As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump promised change, just as his predecessor Barack Obama had done. People generally want someone to blame for their problems, and we all choose different targets. I, for example, prefer to blame liberals. “Draining the swamp” in a non-Washington context has historically meant the draining of swamps to control mosquito populations to combat malaria. Ronald Reagan is often credited with using the term in the political way to refer to the concentration of power in Washington, thus combining the historical swampy conditions of the governmental area of original Washington and likening the overuse of power to malaria. But he was not the first to do so.  Winfield Gaylord, a Milwaukee socialist politician, wrote in 1903: “Socialists are not satisfied with killing a few of the mosquitoes which come from the capitalist swamp, they want to drain the swamp.”  Fellow socialist, journalist and politician Victor Berger of Milwaukee wrote in his Berger’s Broadsides (1912): “We should have to drain the swamp – change the capitalist system – if we want to get rid of those mosquitoes.” Hoosier socialist Eugene Debs credits Berger, the first Socialist member of Congress, with recruiting him to socialism.  Neither Reagan nor our current president meant draining the nation of capitalism. The problem with such aggressive attacks on the “establishment” is that the slope to the “swamp” becoming the institutions of our nation – a republic, capitalism – is very slippery.
  • MERRILLVILLE – Lake County Sheriff John Buncich and Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. don’t especially like each other. That’s not about to change any time soon. That disdain was emphasized in the days leading up to last Saturday’s election of a new Democratic county chairman. The two candidates for the job were Hammond’s Mike Repay, a county commissioner, and Schererville attorney Jim Wieser. Wieser and Repay campaigned for more than two months to win the favor of 523 precinct committeemen and their vice committeemen. But the campaign came down to the final three days. On Thursday, Buncich, the outgoing chairman, sent a letter to the committeemen and their vices. In the letter, Buncich essentially said he had been the only effective county chairman in recent years and said the party should elect Wieser as his replacement. The only problem is that Buncich replaced McDermott as chairman, and the Hammond mayor took that as an insult. The timing couldn’t have been better for McDermott, who has a show on local radio every Friday morning. McDermott used his time on the radio that morning to slam Buncich. And the Hammond mayor also lashed out at Wieser for accepting the support of Buncich, who is under federal indictment.
  • SOUTH BEND – South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg raised a half million dollars in six weeks for his campaign for chair of the Democratic Party. He received widespread favorable news coverage. Then he dropped out before the first ballot. Here are some questions about that, with what Buttigieg and others say about his bid to lead the party. Q. Why did he drop out? A. “If either of the others (frontrunners Tom Perez and Keith Ellison) was going to come in shy of 200 (votes) on the first ballot, then even with a very modest total, there would be a path for us,” said Buttigieg. “When we saw that wasn’t going to happen, I certainly didn’t want to prolong it, create multiple rounds for my own benefit.” Q. Was he offered a deal? A. “Early on, people would kind of sniff around about what I really wanted, some kind of deal that would convince me to step out,” Buttigieg said. “But I think over time we made clear that I was simply in this because I thought it was the right thing for the party. So, there was no deal at the end. I didn’t do this because I needed a job at the DNC. I have a perfectly good and compelling day job right here in South Bend.”
  • KOKOMO – Please forgive me for being Mr. Obvious here, but Indiana’s highways didn’t just begin to crumble last year and our bridges didn’t just start falling down at the same time. The deterioration of infrastructure begins the day a new highway is completed or a new bridge erected. Anyone driving around the Hoosier State over the past 10 years knows that roads and bridges have been getting progressively more in need of repair.  Why then, in the name of Harold Handley’s ghost, did we just notice last year that we had a problem? Well, sure, there was the impending collapse of the bridge on I-69 at Lafayette to focus attention on the issue, but surely someone in the Indiana Legislature had to notice the potential problem before then.  
       
  • BLOOMINGTON – Many sources of information today cater to a narrow political view, making no pretense of objectivity. Their goal is to incite, not inform. What’s needed is a common base of knowledge we can use to forge agreement. The job of being a citizen, and being a member of Congress, has gotten much harder of late. As sources of information proliferate and “news” not actually grounded in fact grows common on social media, Americans have to work to sort reality from fiction and insight from disinformation. This is a challenge for our representative democracy. And we’ve only begun to grapple with it. Why should too much information be a problem? Let’s start with what I consider to be the most important skill in a representative democracy – not just in government, but within private organizations as well – building consensus. Without forging agreement among people who see the world differently, it’s difficult to move governments and organizations forward.
  • INDIANAPOLIS  – When I first came to Indiana, nearly a half century ago, I found a study in the IU library declaring South Bend as the best place to live in the Midwest. It wasn’t surprising, since the author was a professor at a campus in South Bend. That’s what it is about rankings. Pick your criteria carefully and you can make Hell the most desirable location for permanent residency. Last week, several Hoosier newspapers carried a story from U.S. News & World Report ranking Indiana’s government first among the 50 states. Actually, it wasn’t government, it was state government finance, but that could not stop some headline writers. The governor was pleased by this national recognition and promised to keep up the good work. We could not expect him to say otherwise.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – Obviously, I was very proud of our president while watching him deliver a great speech Tuesday night. I won’t overstate it because I wasn’t surprised, and by now almost everyone either watched it themselves and were impressed or have heard or read all of the positive reviews.  Of course there were the haters. That’s not surprising as the liberals and most of the media had their opposition planned out before the speech began. They were led by the former Democrat governor of Kentucky and the 10 remaining Kentuckians who don’t support President Trump. What was the Democrat party thinking?  I wasn’t surprised by the president’s performance and message because at every turn during the last two years, he has risen to the occasion and he has shared the same type of positive message. That’s why he was the last one standing after the primaries. It is why he came back with two strong winning debate performances against Clinton after most thought he lost the first debate (I didn’t). And it is why he fought so hard during the last stretch of the campaign to be in states you wouldn’t expect. He has always risen to the occasion, and he did again Tuesday night. 
  • SOUTH BEND – The media told you that the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. They lied. So dishonest. Terrible. The alternative fact is that the Cleveland Indians won. The Cubs were disqualified for using an illegal immigrant who paid bribes to get to this once-great country to pitch. Cheating. So unfair. But did the failing New York Times tell you that the Cubs were forced to forfeit? No. So biased. Did you hear on any of those TV networks that nobody listens to anymore that the Cubs still haven’t won the World Series since 1908? No. So untruthful. Did you read in this failing South Bend Tribune that the Cubs really aren’t defending champs? No. So slanted. Did Tribune columnist Bill Moor apologize for all his blabbering about “Cubs win!” and flying a “W” flag? No. So disgraceful.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – How alike the nation is Indiana? One way to judge would be to visit representative Hoosier homes and compare what we find there with what we see in typical American homes. Without the resources to visit all those homes, let’s use some 2015 data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. The first thing we see is the average Hoosier’s personal income is $6,172 (13 percent) lower than that of the average American. This means we have less to spend than those elsewhere in the nation. And so we do. The average Hoosier spent $4,098 less in 2015 on consumer goods and services than did the average American. Right there we see why a town of 50,000 persons somewhere else in the nation will attract more retailers with higher quality (priced) goods than a town of equal size in Indiana. There will be more diversity of services elsewhere than in Indiana for the same reason. For Indiana to be more attractive to retailers and to service providers we need more people with more income to spend.
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  • IU hires Dayton coach Archie Miller
    “While there was great interest in this position, Archie Miller was on my short list from the very beginning. The more I learned about him, the more convinced I became that he is the coach we need to meet our high expectations for many years to come. First, he has the commitments to compliance, wellness and academics that we require at Indiana. A coach’s son with the headiness and toughness to flourish as a (5-foot-9) major college point guard, Archie is a proven leader, proven winner, proven recruiter and a proven player developer with a defense-first mentality that will help us win championships. Perhaps most importantly, he understands and embraces the special stature of Indiana University basketball and the critical relationship it must have with its former players, Indiana high school players and programs, and the entire state of Indiana.” - Indiana University Athletic Director Fred Glass on the hiring of Dayton coach Archie Miller to coach IU basketball. Miller, 38, is 139-63 at Dayton, his first-head coaching job, and has guided the Flyers to four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. Miller, whose brother is Arizona coach Sean Miller, played at North Carolina State.
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  • A question for Gov. Holcomb: Who's the king of rock n' roll?
    After Howey Politics Indiana conducted a brief interview with Gov. Eric Holcomb earlier this week, we followed up with this probing question for a governor who loves rock n’ roll: Who’s the King of Rock n’ roll: Elvis Presley or Chuck Berry? Holcomb responded, “That’s a trick question. It’s not an ‘either-or’ answer. It’s ‘and.’ The world was big enough for two kings who both owned every room they ever performed in!” Great answer, Gov! - Brian A. Howey, publisher
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