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Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers

January 22, 2019

The Munster Times. January 16, 2019

Require citizenship test for high school graduation

Many of us have seen late-night television comedy hosts poking fun at the lack of U.S. citizenship and history knowledge during man-on-the-street routines.

It’s really no laughing matter.

Too many American citizens aren’t in tune with even the most basic knowledge of U.S. government, citizenship and the Constitution.

Even more woefully inadequate is the knowledge and interest of schoolchildren, young adults and citizens at-large in U.S. and world history.

It’s why we firmly support a pending bill in the Indiana Legislature to require all Indiana high school students to pass the U.S. citizenship test already administered to immigrants who seek to become Americans.

It seems shortsighted to require immigrants to master a basic knowledge of the workings of our government without forging the same requirement for our youth as they take crucial next steps to adulthood.

There should be no birthright rendering any American exempt from learning the core structure and values of our nation.

Senate Bill 132, sponsored by state Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, would prohibit a student from earning a high school diploma at any public, charter or private school unless the student correctly answers at least 60 of the 100 citizenship exam questions, regardless of whether the student has satisfied all other graduation requirements.

“We have a deficiency in government and civics knowledge in America today, and I think it’s getting worse,” Kruse said.

“This test is a fair judgment, I think, of what somebody should know to become a United States citizen, and I think somebody who is a citizen, and goes through our school system, also ought to know this information.”

We agree.

Hoosier students already must earn passing grades in two semesters of U.S. history, and one semester of U.S. government, in order to receive a high school diploma.

Under a 2017 law, the State Board of Education this year also is providing schools an optional U.S. government end-of-course exam to administer to high school students.

It’s time to take these requirements further.

The General Assembly should adopt Senate Bill 132 to create a more informed Hoosier citizenry.

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The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. January 18, 2019

Coal-ash cleanup

Electricity from coal-burning plants has powered Indiana’s homes, building and factories for decades. But the bills soon may be coming due for a long-ignored byproduct of that process.

Though the air pollution produced by coal-fired plants has long been limited by rules to protect the environment, the disposal of coal ash, another potentially harmful byproduct, was virtually ignored by regulators. Coal ash contains an array of dangerous chemicals, but most plants captured the ash and flushed it into artificial holding ponds or landfills, which presumably kept the chemicals contained. Indiana, as a major industrial state with high electricity use, leads the nation in the number of coal-ash ponds.

Though there are no fly-ash disposal sites in northeast Indiana, the coal plant operated by American Electric Power in the southern Indiana town of Rockport supplies a portion of the electricity delivered by I&M, the AEP subsidiary that serves northeast Indiana.

Growing concern that dangerous chemicals including arsenic, radium and boron might be seeping into groundwater and nearby drinking-water wells from those holding ponds led the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to issue its first regulations on coal ash in 2015. Though that represented a step forward, environmental groups challenged the agency in court, contending the new rules should apply tocoal-ash disposal sites that have been closed down as well as those still operating.

In August, a federal appeals court agreed with the environmental groups, which included the Hoosier Environmental Council. “That was important for Indiana,” said Tim Maloney, a senior policy director for the council, “because we may have up to two dozen of those legacy ponds that were not covered under the federal rule.”

The regulatory outlook is still murky. The Trump administration plans to delay implementation of the new rules, though that decision is also being challenged in federal court by environmental groups.

Meanwhile, tests by Indiana utilities required by the EPA have indicated contaminants are leaking from many of the coal-ash disposal sites, Maloney said. “These latest filings by the utilities are just confirming information everybody already knows,” he said. “Anywhere you have an unlined coal-ashimpoundment, there’s going to be groundwater contamination.”

According to the Indianapolis Star, two Indiana utilities, Duke Energy and NISPCO, have already filed test results indicating they have groundwater pollution violations and have offered plans for cleanup to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, which is charged with enforcing the federal rules. Other utilities, including I&M, are still reviewing tests and putting together compliance plans.

In an email Thursday, Melissa McHenry, AEP’s director of external communications, said the federal regulations apply to both a holding pond and a landfill for fly-ash disposal at the Rockport plant. AEP plans to close part of the “pond complex” by October 2020, McHenry said. But tests so far indicate “that the Rockport ash storage sites are not impacting groundwater quality.”

AEP plans to release additional test results by the end of February, and will take additional steps if necessary, McHenry wrote.

With testing, legal and regulatory issues yet to be resolved, it’s too early to know how much effort it will take to clean up the state’s coal-ash storage facilities. But Indiana needs to protect drinking water and nearby waterways.

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South Bend Tribune. January 16, 2019

Recruiting minority police officers must remain a priority for South Bend

Recruiting more minorities to the South Bend Police Department continues to be a tough task despite efforts city officials are undertaking to improve the numbers.

In 2017, the department was made up of 7 percent African American, 5 percent Hispanic and 86 percent white officers.

And though changes in the recruiting process have been made, diversity got slightly worse the following year. In 2018, there were 5 percent African American, 5 percent Hispanic and 88 percent white officers on the department.

“You want and need your police department to reflect the community that they serve,” said Operations Division Chief Jeff Rynearson.

But that hasn’t been the case in South Bend, where roughly 63 percent of the population is white, 26 percent African American and 14 percent Hispanic.

Recruiting minorities to serve has always been difficult. Qualified candidates can find more lucrative careers in other areas of law enforcement such as the FBI or CIA. Minorities also have traditionally not had the connection with local police, leaving many potential candidates feeling like outsiders.

But South Bend is trying to change that by better guiding potential recruits through the entire process.

Making applications available online has increased the total pool of applicants. Unfortunately, those applicants often don’t follow through, especially when it comes to taking the physical test, the first part of becoming an officer. The department now offers a practice physical test about three weeks prior to the official test so applicants can hone their physical skills before the real test comes around.

The department has made improvements to the application process, and that will still be a focus in the coming year, which is encouraging.

There’s also a role for the community to play if it wants a police department more reflective of the community. People must encourage young men and women to consider law enforcement as a career.

And the police department can help itself by making sure its officers live up to the responsibility of their role in the community, especially when their actions are under a microscope now more than ever.

Yes, the department must continue reaching out to find new ways to connect with minorities using every available tool. But the entire community has a stake in this issue. A police department that more closely represents the racial and gender makeup of a community stands a better chance of building trust between officers and the public they serve.

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