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Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers

March 7, 2017

The (Munster) Times. March 2, 2017

Broadcast meetings for information, not vanity

There’s a difference between providing public information and vain showboating.

Lake County Councilman Jamal Washington — and in a larger sense, the entire County Council — should learn the difference.

If you didn’t already know Washington by sight, just attend a Lake County Council meeting and look for the member who appears to be mugging for selfies on his smartphone in the middle of public business.

It happened with impunity during the Feb. 14 County Council meeting, with Washington using the Facebook Live video function to transmit live feeds of himself to social media followers.

Washington’s video selfies came during the same meeting when he relinquished his seat as council vice president amid fallout from his December guilty plea to battering his wife.

That part of the meeting was not recorded, suggesting Washington’s live-streaming of public meetings is more about self-promotion than informing the public.

We clearly support any and all means of delivering public information to the people through all possible means.

The Lake County Council should consider social media live videos as a means of sharing its meetings, real time, with constituents who aren’t able to attend the monthly meetings. Other local government bodies should consider it as well.

But the video should focus on the entire meeting.

Though Washington occasionally panned the camera to show other aspects of the meeting — and most of the meeting’s audio was captured — the camera largely remained trained on him throughout the meeting.

The Times published an article Sunday regarding Washington’s selfie video propensity. Following its publication, Washington asked a Times reporter how many online hits The Times article about his live-streaming received.

There’s a clear difference between providing public information and personal vanity. If the council or Washington cares about that difference, the camera should be trained on the entire meeting — not just one council member’s ego.

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Evansville Courier & Press. March 2, 2017

Citizens deserve to be heard

It’s time for U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon to listen to the people who elected him to serve them.

While other congressmen have shown the courage to take questions from concerned citizens in their districts, even when it turns out badly for them, Bucshon has shown no stomach for giving any answers.

He has toed the Republican Party line that says people demanding answers about the future of programs such as Obamacare, about concerns for the Trump administration ties to and contacts with Russia, about the outlook for public schools under controversial Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, about the drawbacks on environmental protections already underway, and about restrictions on immigrants from certain countries, are simply staging a protest — perhaps, the whispers go, as paid provocateurs. He told our Thomas B. Langhorne in an interview that “a national liberal organization in D.C. is driving this.”

But if the congressman from Newburgh or any members of his staff had attended any of those rallies, they would have seen, instead of infiltrators, students and young adults, seniors and older citizens, teachers and ministers, almost all local residents. In short, they would have seen our neighbors, and our neighbors’ children, and our neighbors’ activist uncles and aunts.

Bucshon represents Indiana’s Eighth District, an odd-shaped area that hugs the western Indiana line from our parts up past Terre Haute. He was voted into the job in 2010, when Democrat Brad Ellsworth was a late draftee to run unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate unexpectedly vacated by Evan Bayh. And while Bucshon is far from a tea party patriot, it was that group of citizens — who relied on noisily attending town halls and public events to make their feelings known — that first voted him, and many other conservatives, into office.

He has survived three additional election cycles, fending off more conservative primary opponents then defeating what, in many cases, have not been stellar or well-funded Democratic contenders.

His main thrust, as shown by frequent retweets of Republican leadership blasts, is the repeal of Obamacare, though, despite his past life as a heart surgeon, he has not stood in front of his constituents — many now covered by either the Affordable Care Act or the Healthy Indiana Plan — and shared specifics about plans for replacement.

We can only hope that, behind the scenes, he is making an impact on the process. We have no assurances.

What we do know is that it has been years since Bucshon has held an open, public forum with his constituents. True, there are office hours by staff members and, at times, the congressman himself. Yes, he appears at public events, though most of those are mostly gatherings of his core supporters.

“As you know, Dr. Bucshon has always made it a priority to meet with Hoosiers through a variety of different events in the district and that won’t change,” Bucshon spokesman Nick McGee told the Courier & Press recently. “Outside of that, I don’t have any specific scheduling updates for the next district work period at this time.”

Bucshon was in Japan during the last congressional recess, on a trip funded by the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress to discuss economic partnerships. With the presence of Toyota Indiana and others in his district, that is understandable and, hopefully, will lead to even more job growth.

But particularly as the nation, and southwestern Indiana, struggle to find common ground under a new president with vastly different ideas and aspirations than the previous office-holder, our congressman needs to make himself available to all. Our state representatives, of both parties, do just that at monthly town halls. We deserve no less from our national representative.

The next congressional work period is scheduled for April 10-21, though there will be plenty of long weekends available before those dates.

We encourage Rep. Bucshon to remember who he works for and to listen to their concerns, no matter how uncomfortable that might make him.

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South Bend Tribune. March 2, 2017

Public input vital to budget process

Talk of tightening swollen federal budgets makes for good campaign fodder, but those cuts can have a far-reaching impact on the communities they serve.

Depending on how those list of cuts plays out, the impact could be significant in St. Joseph County.

The Trump administration is considering recommendations to slash U.S. Department of Justice grants through the 1994 Violence Against Women Act. Last year, the YWCA landed a $350,000 grant from VAWA that pays for rent and utilities when victims move from the Y’s shelter back into the community. That three-year grant supports six families each year.

Additional VAWA grants provide some support for bilingual staff to educate and counsel victims of violence and staff to counsel rape victims and children in both St. Joseph and Elkhart counties.

Other organizations potentially impacted include the Family Justice Center of St. Joseph County, which could lose up to 40 percent of its nearly half-million-dollar annual budget. Indiana Legal Services, which ensures the poor have an attorney, would lose most of its funding.

These are worst-case scenarios, of course, and only recommendations. Congress has ultimate decision-making power over the budget.

Some of the recommendations already have caught the attention of U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, who spoke up for the money that the Y and Family Justice Center could lose. Walorski joined three other representatives in Congress in urging President Trump to avoid cutting the DOJ grants. The legislators expressed “deep concern” and explained countless lives have been saved by the Violence Against Women Act that was first adopted in 1994.

It’s clear voters are fed up with Washington politics and hungry for change, especially when it comes to managing the federal budget and their tax dollars. We understand the frustration.

But these local organizations provide critical services that could go unmet without adequate funding, and that could have serious consequences for our community.

The good news is these are only recommendations. A lot of ground has to be covered before the final budget is approved.

That gives the public ample time to have its voice heard. If you’re worried about the potential impact of the proposed cuts, talk to your representative. Write a letter, attend a meeting. Public input can make a difference and now is the time to have your voice heard.

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Kokomo Tribune. March 1, 2017

Too many rape victims

A national analysis of sexual violence by the Centers for Disease Control found 15 percent of high school-age females in Indiana reported having forced sexual intercourse in 2009.

It was the second-highest percentage in the nation and 3 percentage points higher than the rest of the country.

The Indiana Youth Institute’s annual Kids Count report, released Monday, shows the percentage of Indiana girls who were raped or sexually assaulted is now 13.4 percent — still 3 percentage points above the national average.

And experts say the sad fact is the actual number might be even higher because up to half of sexual assaults never get reported.

The Indiana University researchers who analyzed the 2009 findings said the available data don’t explain why Indiana ranks so poorly. They say the state’s best approach, though, is to raise awareness of the issue.

The researchers recommend schools create more effective and age-appropriate programs and improve training of school staff. They also call for better ways to track, create and fund community-wide sex education programs.

None of these steps will come without cost, but surely our children are worth the expense.

The CDC says attackers in most cases are not strangers hiding in the bushes. Among female rape victims in 2012, perpetrators were reported to be intimate partners (51.1 percent), family members (12.5 percent), acquaintances (40.8 percent) and strangers (13.8 percent).

The national Sexual Violence Resource Center in Pennsylvania says 1 in 5 women will be a victim of sexual assault by the time she finishes college. The best way to lower that number, the center says, is by raising awareness and by holding the perpetrators responsible for their actions.

Sexual assault isn’t an easy subject to discuss. Most of us just aren’t comfortable bringing it up.

But this statistic should be enough to spur all of us to action: According to Monday’s Indiana Youth Institute’s Kids Count report, nearly 1 in 7 high school-age Hoosier girls reported being raped.

That’s a number we simply can’t tolerate.

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