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Thursday, December 12, 2019
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  • OXFORD, England – The first time I heard of Sen. Lugar, I was in middle school. My dad was driving me back from swim practice with some political show on the radio (to my grand protestations). A story about the senator aired, and I asked who that was. “A true statesman,” my dad immediately replied, with an air of reverence I associated with only a few other figures. His dad, his uncle. The Pope. Ronald Reagan. Sensing I still didn’t know who the man was, my dad continued, “He’s one of our U.S. senators, serves in Washington. Each state gets two. And he’s about the best you could ever ask for.” Learning about Senator Lugar was one of the first ways I learned about politics, which is a little like learning about basketball by following Michael Jordan. Learning the rules of the game was inseparable from falling in love with it. Small wonder I’ve spent my whole academic career, and hope to devote my professional one, to learning about that thing he did so well while remaining so good.
  • OXFORD, England – On Thursday, Jan. 24, the State Senate voted 31-17 to pass Senate Bill 132, which would make it a graduation requirement for high school students to pass the same civics exam given to immigrants to the United States. The bill now faces consideration in the House. (Full disclosure: My dad, John, a state senator, was a cosponsor.) Senate Democrats, in unified opposition to the bill, raised concerns that instituting another graduation requirement, without any supporting resources, wouldn’t have the desired effect. Instead of more knowledgeable citizens, the argument goes, this mandate would only encourage “teaching to the test” and erect another barrier to graduation for students in under-resourced rural and urban schools. These concerns are valid, and they counsel against Senate Republicans’ bid to require testing without any supporting provisions. However, the need to boost civics education is too important for Indiana Democrats to sit on the sidelines. With some tweaking, it’s the perfect cause for Democrats to champion. SB132 has started an important conversation. We’ve all heard the statistics: Only 26% of Americans can correctly identify the three branches of the U.S. government; apathy and disengagement are ubiquitous.
  • OXFORD, England  – The White River flows between two unappealing banks. The first is neglect. We don’t talk much about this largest waterway in Central Indiana, which indulges in serpentine bends on its southwesterly flow through farmland and suburb and city, in no hurry. The river is not so much Indy’s best-kept secret as it’s one we don’t even know we’re keeping. The second is contempt. The butt of countless jokes, the White River is synonymous with pollution, and for good reason: pesticides, industrial runoff, and sewage have long flowed into it. And then there was the fish kill of 1999, when millions of fish were killed by chemical discharge, their bloated bodies floating belly-up across 50 miles between Anderson and Indy. Not a great reputation. Thankfully, that is changing. An alliance among the City of Indianapolis, Visit Indy, and Hamilton County Tourism is spearheading a new effort called the White River Vision Plan.
  • OXFORD, England – We need a service program for the state of Indiana. It is my firm conviction that there are few better things we could do for our state, our political culture, and the next generation of Hoosiers than to enact a program that gathers a selection of high school graduates from every corner of Indiana and gives them a year of structured service. Such a program would manifest political ideals from both the right and the left. It would help our communities and shore up the kind of civic bonds necessary for sustaining democracy – precisely those most threatened in this precarious political moment. I believe Indiana can lead the way toward a more constructive politics, and we can do it with a statewide service program. My inspiration stems from the urgency of the need: The polarization afflicting American politics.
  • OXFORD, England - I was thrilled to see Indy make the list of finalists being considered for Amazon’s second corporate headquarters (HQ2). Like many across the city, I began salivating at the prospect of 50,000 high-paying jobs and an influx of dynamic and diverse citizens. And I love what our shortlisting represents: Conviction among city and state leaders that we can run with the big dogs and vindication from one of the world’s most powerful companies that, yes, in this sense, we can. But these bright prospects haven’t kept me from having a few worries, too. Pursuing a prize this big carries risks – for Indy, and for the other cities involved in the incentive-based competition that the HQ2 sweepstakes has ignited. In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, urban studies scholar Richard Florida voices perhaps the most common concern. Florida takes issue with the lavish incentive packages cities have been offering Amazon – most in the hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars. 
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  • The Azar, Verma feud festers
    "The federal agency I lead, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is taking swift action to implement it." - Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Director Seema Verma, in  Chicago Tribune op-ed. That same day, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar went on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Fix News — one of President  Trump’s favorite TV shows — and claimed credit for driving the same initiative. “POTUS and I envision a healthcare system with patients in the center,” Azar tweeted from the Fox News set. “We’re fighting powerful interests to deliver honesty and transparency in healthcare.” The feud between these two Hoosiers who control more than $1 trillion in annual federal spending has transfixed The White House West wing and Washington. President Trump has asked Vice President Mike Pence to quell the Azar/Veerma feud.
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  • Into the impeachment vortex ...
    Here we go. Where America ends up in early 2020 after the fourth presidential impeachment that got underway this week is anyone's guess. 

    When I wrote the Sept. 19 HPI cover story - "The Double Dog Impeachment Dare"  - the Ukraine quid pro quo scenario was just beginning, becoming a full congressional/media vortex suck. Regular Hoosiers I know aren't paying much attention and are polarized by President Trump.

    We'll restate past thoughts on these alleged high crimes and misdemeanors: 1. Impeachments are messy and unpredictable. 2. Impeachment is an American tragedy. 3. Impeachment will result in unintended consequences. 4. Hoosiers are prepared to render a verdict on President Trump at the ballot box next November. 5. If we get into a mode where we're impeaching an American president every 20 years, the fragile American experiment will be doomed. 
    - Brian A. Howey, publisher
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