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Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers

February 27, 2018

The (Munster) Times. February 23, 2018

Crown Point development on right track with big thinking

When a proposed project would satiate the chief community goals of enhancing municipal revenue, increasing residents’ quality of life and creating jobs, people naturally become curious.

When that same project is expected to transform a long-empty series of fields into a potential cornerstone of Region commerce, our entire Region should be cheering.

Such appears to be the case for a proposal to turn empty fields at the major Region interchange of Interstate 65 and U.S. 231 in Crown Point into a commercial retail center.

It represents a $150 million to $250 million investment in the type of growth, relevancy and quality of life so important to our Region’s future fortunes.

The development plan, announced recently by the city and developers, would occupy 109 acres at the northwest corner of the interchange with two hotels, a bowling alley, a theater, fast causal and full-service restaurants, a specialty grocery store, residential townhomes and a fire station.

Anchoring the development would be an outlet mall of 80 to 100 stores.

While the proposal is in its early stages, it’s hard not to share in the excitement of developers and city leaders for the prospects of what this plan could mean to the Hub City and our entire Region.

For years, the interchange has been discussed as an area of great growth potential for Crown Point and the I-65 corridor.

Nearby facilities, including from the Franciscan medical group and University of St. Francis, have taken shape there.

But much of the area has been zoned industrial for many years, never achieving desired development.

We wish developers and city leaders well in this new endeavor.

Change for the better starts with big dreams and even bigger planning. This project appears to be on the right track.

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The (Bloomington) Herald-Times. February 23, 2018

And another thing...

More talk about police vehicle

The city administration could be accused of over compensating for a perceived lack of transparency about the controversial purchase of an armored vehicle for the Bloomington Police Department’s Critical Incident Response Team.

Following a “listening session” at City Hall on Monday and follow-up discussion at Wednesday’s city council meeting, the city has identified three more opportunities for citizens to learn more about and/or comment on the acquisition.

On Tuesday, the Board of Public Safety will take public comment about the vehicle acquisition from 5 to 6:30 p.m. That will be followed by a “CIRT open house” starting at 6:30 p.m. in the atrium of City Hall. Another CIRT open house is scheduled from noon to 2 p.m. Thursday.

Additional opportunities for discussion are welcome, of course, but it doesn’t change the fact that there should have been more conversation before the city decided to purchase the vehicle.

It’s unclear what impact all this after-the-fact dialogue will have, but city officials aren’t going to safisfy everyone, no matter what they do now.

Black History Month honorees

A highlight of the city’s annual Black History Month activities is the recognition of African-Americans whose accomplishments have made a real difference in the Bloomington community, as well as the up-and-coming leaders of tomorrow.

This year, the Black History Month planning committee is honoring Frank Motley and Valerie Haughton-Motley as recipients of the Living Legend Award. Motley is a retired administrator at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law. Haughton-Motley has served as presiding judge of Monroe Circuit Court VIII for the past nine years.

The City of Bloomington Commission on the Status of Black Males is recognizing two black males as outstanding leaders of tomorrow. The adult recipient is Marvin Q. Jones Jr., an IU graduate student in astrophysics. The 2018 high school recipient is David Anthony Johnson, a junior at Bloomington High School North.

Read more about the award recipients in profiles published in The Herald-Times today and Saturday. The award winners will be honored at the 11th annual Black History Month Gala on Saturday evening at the Hilton Garden Inn. Tickets are available at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater box office.

Seniors to say goodbye

The Indiana University men’s basketball team closes out its regular season tonight against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. It will be Senior Night for four players — Freddie McSwain, Robert Johnson, Josh Newkirk and Tom Priller. It also will be the final regular season game for Colin Hartman, who returned for a redshirt season after sitting out last year with a knee injury.

The usual postgame ceremonies will take place, but it will be hard to top Hartman’s Senior Night last year, when he proposed to girlfriend Hayley Daniel in front of 17,000 fans in Assembly Hall. Facing the 16th-ranked Buckeyes gives the Hoosiers a chance to bolster their post-season resume in advance of next week’s Big Ten men’s tournament.

Thank you, seniors, for four years of commitment to Indiana University, and here’s hoping you still have a lot of basketball to play.

Women look to extend streak

The Indiana women’s basketball team closes out its regular season on Saturday. The team goes on the road to Iowa City to try to extend a record winning streak.

The women’s team has won eight straight, equaling the program record set in 1982-83, and it can eclipse that record against Iowa. The women started conference with a 1-6 record, and now they have worked themselves to the middle of the conference standings at 9-6, in a three-way tie for sixth place.

Saturday’s final regular season game will be carried live by the Big Ten Network. Tune in at noon to see if the women can extend their win streak in advance of their own conference tournament next week.

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South Bend Tribune. February 22, 2018

A question for our legislators: Gun control, yes or no? Hello?

The shootings at a Florida high school last week have renewed a contentious, years-long wrestling match in this country about gun control.

While previous efforts have failed, the Florida shootings seem to have injected a greater sense of urgency, driven by the activism of students from the school. Even key Republicans in Congress and President Trump have expressed a willingness to at least consider action on strengthening background checks.

So with the nation’s full attention on the tragedy in Florida and once again in the throes of a gun debate, where do our legislators stand?

Tribune reporter Jeff Parrott reached out to three Indiana legislators — Sens. Todd Young and Joe Donnelly, and Rep. Jackie Walorski — as well as U.S. Rep. Fred Upton from Michigan. What should be done about mass shootings, and were do they stand on gun control proposals?

Spokesmen for all four said they were too busy for an interview. Must be a hectic time of year.

In the end, we got emailed statements instead of interviews. Here’s what they said:

. Young was very strong and very explicit — about coming down on the FBI.

The agency, he noted, “failed to act” and “Congress needs to investigate where and when the breakdown occurred.”

But Young also wants to make sure “expertise and resources” are available to keep children safe at school and “we must make sure someone who is mentally ill does not have access to a firearm.”

The statement didn’t say where exactly the school safety resources would come from or how they would be used. And is he saying he’s in favor of stronger background checks? When we asked more specific questions, we didn’t get a response.

This is probably a good time to point out that The New York Times recently reprised an analysis it ran in October 2017 ranking the 10 federal legislators who had received the most National Rifle Association funding in their careers, through either donations or spending. Young ranked No. 9, with nearly $2.9 million.

. Walorski delivered a promise — to “carefully consider any legislation that comes before the House” related to this issue.

But she does want to “address gaps in our mental health system.” She wants to make sure “existing laws are fully enforced.” And she wants to “protect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans.”

Is it possible to help the mentally ill while enforcing laws and still allowing people to safely own firearms? That sounds good. We’re still waiting for details on how that translates to actual policy, though.

. Upton was a bit more specific than his Hoosier colleagues, pointing out that he has repeatedly voted for background checks and remains interested in ensuring those checks are “robust.” His spokesman also pointed out that Upton was in favor of banning “bump stocks” after the Las Vegas shootings last year.

Beyond that, Upton makes clear that law enforcement authorities need not just some tools but actually “all the tools in the toolbox.” And he plans to discuss “common-sense solutions” with cops, students and others.

And on one critical point, Upton took a no-holds-barred stand.

“Our kids must be safe from violence at school,” his statement declared. “Period.”

. Donnelly, like Upton, pointed out that he has repeatedly voted for measures to beef up background checks and to keep people on the terrorist watch list from being able to buy guns.

As a Democrat running for re-election this year in a state that is clearly red, the gun control debate is a delicate tightrope for Donnelly to walk.

So he, sounding a lot like Walorski, promised in his statement to “review any legislation.” He talked about the need for Republicans and Democrats to work together. He says he wants to “reduce gun violence, while protecting the rights of law-abiding citizens.”

And there you have it from all four of our federal legislators.

So let the rest of the nation continue the debate of what, if anything, to do about guns, law enforcement and school safety. We’ll see who takes a stand, who steps forward with new proposals, who presents pragmatic ideas. Will everyone at least agree on the easy steps around background checks? Will there be tougher debates about, say, assault weapons?

You know, strong leadership on a politically thorny issue. Here in Michiana, we’ll continue to wait for our elected officials to catch up to the debate.

Because their constituents must be safe from empty statements and lame platitudes. Period.

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The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. February 22, 2018

Voice of the people

The system worked. In a settlement announced last week, Indiana Michigan Power Co. agreed to accept an electricity rate increase that will total $96.8 million. The company’s original request was $263 million.

A typical residential customer’s bill would increase by $9.41 per month; I&M’s original rate request would have increased that 1,000-watt customer’s bill by almost three times that. The company had planned to raise the fixed monthly portion of residential bills from $7.30 to $18, which would have hit the utility’s poorest customers the hardest. Under last week’s settlement, that portion of monthly bills will rise $3.20, to $10.50.

I&M also agreed to add several programs aimed at helping low-income customers, including an arrearage-forgiveness pilot program to help struggling customers catch up on bills.

After I&M filed its rate-increase documents last September, it faced a legal challenge from a broad group of intervenors that included the cities of Fort Wayne, South Bend and Marion, nine industrial customers, and several consumer-advocacy groups.

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission had well-attended hearings in Fort Wayne, South Bend and Muncie. At each, customers trooped to the microphone to express their displeasure. And the Office of Utility Consumer Counselor collected comments from more than 2,700 customers.

In November, the utility consumer counselor, which makes recommendations to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, said I&M’s increase request should be slashed to about $125 million.

After the national tax cuts in December, the commission announced it would investigate how those reductions should affect rates of all the state’s utilities. At that point, I&M reduced its request to $191.5 million.

Then last week, the utility consumer counselor, the intervenors and I&M announced they had agreed on a settlement. “There’s no question that this is a good outcome for the ratepayers,” said Kerwin Olson, executive director of the Indiana Citizens Action Coalition.

Such agreements aren’t always the case. When some of the parties challenging NIPSCO’s last electric-rate hike request reached an agreement, Olson said, his organization wasn’t even notified.

“I think that the process worked in this case,” Olson said. “Everybody was at the table. I&M, to its credit, really tried to speak to the concerns of all parties.”

Customers who spoke out played a crucial role, Olson said. “The public hearings had an enormous impact on everyone ... especially I&M.”

The I&M settlement plan still has to be approved by the utility regulatory commission, and a gas-rate increase request by NIPSCO is still under deliberation. NIPSCO’s original rate request would have raised $143.5 million in annual revenue. In response to the tax cut, NIPSCO reduced its request to $117.9 million a year.

The utility consumer counselor’s recommendation on that case is expected next Wednesday. Public comments may still be sent to www.in.gov/oucc/2621.htm, though the office’s spokesman, Anthony Swinger, said his office can’t guarantee those comments will be part of its presentation to the regulatory commission.

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