The (Munster) Times. August 24, 2018

Arrows pointing up with massive Gary Works investment

It's easy to get down on the Region for what it lacks.

We also need to celebrate its existing bounty — and the forward-looking measures being taken to preserve and improve those valuable assets.

A common theme lamented in Northwest Indiana has been the shrinking of the domestic steel industry — namely Region steel jobs — in recent decades.

It's easy to forget we still play host to some of the largest remaining steel mills in the country.

And the news just got better.

U.S. Steel recently unveiled details about $750 million in planned investment in the Gary Works operation.

It's rightly being hailed as a renaissance of the largest integrated steel mill in North America, and our Region is the beneficiary.

The investment is an important sign the steel giant continues viewing its Gary Works flagship as critical to its business model.

"This is a major modernization of Gary Works, with investments focused on improving reliability, throughput, quality, cost and capability," U.S. Steel spokeswoman Amanda Malkowski said.

It's about investment, maintenance and preserving infrastructure.

It's about making sure there's a future for the 3,875 steelworkers — our neighbors and fellow Region taxpayers — in the plant.

The plan is so important to U.S. Steel that CEO David Burritt visited Gary Works in person last week to announce the investment.

Region leaders who continue to work to bolster our relationship with heavy industry also were on hand.

"The city of Gary and U.S. Steel have had a partnership for well over 100 years," state Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Gary, said following the unveiling of the plan. "The investment that the company announced today represents a continuation of that partnership for many years to come."

The arrows are pointing in the right direction. It's an announcement worth celebrating.

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South Bend Tribune. August 22, 2018

It's pretty clear there's not too much transparency

The headline on a recent op-ed written by former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels made a bold, sweeping statement that caught our attention.

"Government 'transparency' has gone too far."

In the piece, Daniels, currently the president of Purdue University, starts by offering up a scene from the novel "The Circle," in which calls for transparency create a nightmare world, where privacy and personal autonomy are destroyed and public officials wear body cameras and microphones every waking moment. This world, according to Daniels, isn't so far-fetched.

The current "obsession" with transparency has rendered government "less nimble, less talented and less effective," forcing honest people to become "scofflaws" in pursuing their duties, he writes.

While acknowledging that government "is better off for the open-door and open-record reforms of the past half-century," Daniels argues that this whole openness idea has gotten out of hand, and is perhaps too much of a good thing. After all, he says, "even water has a fatal dosage level. Too much exercise can be unhealthy. Attempts to eliminate all forms of interaction in government come with downsides."

An interesting theory. But the notion that there's too much transparency, that the workings of government have become an open book, with way too much oversharing, doesn't square with reality. A reality faced by the journalists here at The Tribune.

As documented in a recent story, a Tribune reporter came up against roadblocks in trying to see court files for three criminal cases in Elkhart County. Despite the fact that such requests are routine, these requests for court files were anything but routine after a judge issued orders that barred access to all police reports that were in the three court files; to all exhibits that were shown to jurors during the trials; and to all briefs filed on appeal. And that's only a partial list of the records she denied, some in violation of Indiana's open records law, according to the state's appointed watchdog on access issues.

Another example that runs counter to the notion of transparency run amok was the initial refusal of Transpo to publicly disclose the reason it fired its CEO and general manager last year — a violation of Indiana's public records law, according to the state's public access counselor. Turns out that allegations of verbal abuse directed against the fired employee went unaddressed for years, and more than $55,000 was spent on lawyer fees to defend against Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints.

Through the years, The Tribune has had numerous tug-of-wars and has gone back-and-forth with cities, school boards and police departments over the release of records that were clearly public. This indicates that there isn't always a widespread understanding of, or concern about, open records and transparency.

Further, who gets to decide what is too much transparency and exactly how do you make that determination? And once you begin pulling back on reforms that protect and support the public's right to know, where do you stop, where does it end?

Daniel's dystopian scenario of out-of-control and overzealous open records laws tearing down government and scaring away the best and brightest works as fiction, but it isn't supported by the facts.

Transparency gone too far? Clearly, that's not the case.

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(Terre Haute) Tribune-Star. August 24, 2018

Make vote systems strong, accessible

The security and integrity of the U.S. electoral process became a big issue in the wake of the 2016 election. It prompted reviews, reassessments and re-evaluations of voting systems nationwide.

Indiana has responded appropriately to the matter by assuring the public that proper precautions are being taken to secure the vote ahead of the Nov. 6 general election.

There certainly is a level of anxiety among voters that should be addressed, but Hoosiers need to understand that there was no evidence of significant voter fraud in the 2016 election, at least not of the type that involved physical manipulation of voting systems or violating election laws.

As the Indiana Secretary of State's office pointed out this week, no piece of Indiana's voting equipment is online. The machines and tabulators are not connected to the internet, and a mechanism known as the Voting System Technical Oversight Program hosted by Ball State University tests all of the election equipment used in Indiana for an added layer of safety and security.

We are confident, and voters should be, that the election infrastructure is sound and reasonably protected from outside threats. The potential for attacks on the system may always exist, but an actual attack is unlikely.

While it's wise for the state to give the issue attention, it should also be considering making laws more friendly to would-be voters. The registration period for new voters or those who need to update their registration is Oct. 9, a full month before Election Day. Given modern technology, there is no good reason for the registration deadline to be so early, long before most people are even tuning into the fact that an election is coming up. What's more, the 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. voting period on Election Day is among the shortest in the country. Extending the time when polls are open on Election Day would make voting more convenient for more people.

The creation of vote centers and early voting sites have helped in Indiana. They have certainly helped in Vigo County. Expanding those offerings should always be under consideration.

Adequate infrastructure is crucial to having a secure voting system. Reasonable laws are vital to ensuring that voters have convenient access to registration and polling places.

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The (Anderson) Herald Bulletin. August 22, 2018

Schools must engage girls in STEM fields

Madison County needs more teachers like Deanna House and Rebecca Cronk of Anderson High School, female teachers making a difference in STEM fields.

We need more female teachers who are passionate about science, technology, engineering and math.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women comprise about 57 percent of the nation's workforce. However, they account for only 25 percent of workers in STEM-related fields.

In a recent news article in The Herald Bulletin, House said most of her students are oblivious to the biases girls once faced if they wanted to pursue a STEM career. Today, women teaching in STEM classrooms can help create a more open environment for all.

"Back when I was in school, the female teachers were very strict," House said. "My students kind of see me as a mom. I'm allowed to be a little more nurturing."

Cronk, in her first year of teaching computer tech support and dual-credit networking classes, said she has noticed a difference in the way boys and girls approach their classwork, with boys being more "haphazard" and girls more "methodical."

Anderson Community Schools Assistant Superintendent Randy Glaze noted that "encouraging girls to engage in STEM-related activities and coursework ... can break down stereotypes and fill these much-needed positions.

"Girls seeing female teachers who are in STEM fields provides the modeling necessary to change stereotypes," he explained.

All local school systems should be intentional in their approach to engaging girls in STEM curricula. It has to start early, while they're just beginning to dream about their futures.

And sometimes, it takes just that one special teacher to cultivate those dreams.

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