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Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers

November 6, 2018

The (Munster) Times. November 1, 2018

Lisa Beck will bring new energy, focus to key Region issues

Serving constituents in a district that is pretty much equally divided between Republicans and Democrats can be tough for a legislator.

Going directly to the people may seem like the best course, however daunting, especially in a close-knit community like District 19, which covers east-central Lake and a slice of west-central Porter counties.

And that is just what Democratic challenger Lisa Beck has done, with her campaign canvassing more than 6,000 houses in the past few months, having conversations with voters of varied political stripes to learn what is most important to them.

It’s one of the many reasons we endorse Beck over incumbent Indiana House Rep. Julie Olthoff, R-Crown Point. Olthoff, who runs a marketing communications firm in Crown Point, is seeking a third term.

What Beck, who lives near Lakes of the Four Seasons, learned shaped her vision for what she hopes to accomplish if she wins the seat. She said the three overarching issues of most concern to residents in her district are infrastructure, good-paying jobs and public education.

Olthoff has focused on initiatives to fight domestic violence and sexual assault, and she’s now a board member of Fair Haven, Lake County’s rape crisis center. She also sponsored a law that requires school employees to be trained in youth suicide prevention at least once every three years.

Despite these efforts, Olthoff sometimes focuses on topics of limited scope and overemphasizes the minutiae of issues, often eclipsing the bigger picture as it relates to the Region.

Beck, a Valparaiso University law graduate, stressed to The Times Editorial Board the importance of distilling constituents’ myriad concerns into several larger concrete issues on which to stay focused. Tactical thinking is key but needs to be tied to an overall strategy.

Beck is high-energy and enthusiastic, and she also has a grasp of issues facing not just the state but also the Region, and the need to improve Northwest Indiana’s economy and enhance its profile in the Chicago area.

She believes her work for nine years in the Lake County Prosecutor’s office, first in child support and then trial work, followed by years in private practice, instilled in her a love of public service and the ability to navigate complex processes.

In response to those who would back Olthoff solely to keep a local Republican majority downstate to better achieve Region goals in a cohesive fashion, Beck said not only is that view “not representative of democracy,” but also misses the core of who she is and what she stands for.

Beck would reach across the aisle and work with all Region lawmakers to achieve unity and forward momentum for the residents in her district, she said.

Beck referenced a 2018 vote on House Bill 1319, which would have raised the 72 percent interest cap on payday loans to 222 percent and allow them to be larger and longer-term. It passed the House 53-41, with Olthoff in favor.

Beck said she would have voted with state Rep. Hal Slager, R-Schererville, to kill the bill, which she said most Region lawmakers agreed could harm local families.

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The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. November 2, 2018

Safety above all

Bus-stop protections worth the investment

The horrific crash that killed a 9-year-old girl and her 6-year-old twin brothers as they crossed Indiana 25 to board a school bus Tuesday morning prompted quick review of school policies - and rightly so.

Tippecanoe Valley School Corp. announced it will move the students’ bus stop off the state highway and into the mobile home park where they lived. But the state and all Indiana school districts should consider what more can be done to protect students. And motorists must be mindful of school buses at all times.

Alivia Stahl and Xzavier and Mason Ingle died at the scene. A fourth student, Maverik Lowe, 11, was airlifted to Fort Wayne’s Parkview Regional Medical Center with serious injuries. Alyssa Shepherd, a mother of two and the children’s director at a Rochester church, was arrested and charged with three counts of reckless homicide and one misdemeanor count of passing a school bus with its arm-signal device extended.

School bus drivers witness motorists committing similar passing violations every day, according to Frank Jackson, transportation director for Fort Wayne Community Schools. An annual survey by the Indiana Department of Education asks bus drivers to report violations observed on a single day. On April 18, drivers in the Fort Wayne district reported 158 violations, he said.

At East Allen County Schools, 70 violations were observed - 48 on rural roads and 22 on city streets, according to figures provided by Tamyra Kelly, public information officer for East Allen.

“Unfortunately, the public is in a rush,” Jackson said. “We’re not focused on those important things, like a child who might be crossing the street.”

The Fulton County crash occurred about 7:15 a.m. - before dawn. Citing school bus safety, a Central Time Coalition has worked since 2009 to move Indiana out of the Eastern time zone. But Jackson said he doesn’t believe the change would make a difference.

“It’s not a factor,” he said. “I’ve been with this district 27 years. Stop-arm violations have always been a major issue - even when we weren’t on daylight-saving time. The majority of violations are probably when we are delivering kids home from school.”

Jackson noted that school buses display flashing yellow lights before pulling up to a bus stop and flashing red lights when students are entering or leaving the bus, including flashing lights on the stop arm.

Some school districts have adopted another innovation: an aluminum frame extending the flashing stop-sign 61/2 feet from the bus, into the opposite traffic lane. It won’t stop an inattentive driver, but it makes a stopped bus much more difficult to miss. FWCS’ Jackson said he would be interested in looking at the device.

“I think any piece of technology or any piece of equipment that will prevent this sort of thing from happening is worth exploring,” he said.

A spokesman for the Indiana Department of Education said the State School Bus Committee would have to approve use of the Extended Stop Arm, but has not done so.

Jeff Harris, transportation director for Guilford County Schools in Greensboro, North Carolina, said his district installed 10 of the devices as part of a statewide pilot in 2015. It clearly showed the longer stop arms helped make motorists aware of stopped buses, so his district installed an additional 140.

“The device proved to be an effective tool in our efforts to reduce stop arm violations,” Harris wrote in an email. “The extended stop arms were installed on buses where a violation was reported by the bus driver in previous years or where the likelihood was greater. The device does not prevent stop arm violations - each year (the) extended stop arms are hit by motorists failing to stop for a bus making a passenger stop. While the device does not prevent all violations, I remain convinced that it is an effective tool in reducing the frequency of stop arm violations.”

In a pilot program earlier this year, Albemarle County Public Schools in Virginia found the number of passing violations fell by 89 percent with the longer stop arm.

“We’ll never know how many lives we’ve saved,” Transportation Director Jim Foley told a Charlottesville TV station.

Just since Tuesday’s deadly accident, a 9-year-old boy was struck and killed in Mississippi as he crossed a highway to catch a school bus and a 7-year-old boy died waiting at a bus stop in Pennsylvania.

Gov. Eric Holcomb spent more than $330,000 to make handheld metal detectors available to Indiana schools after a school shooting in Noblesville last spring. He should consider an investment in school bus safety.

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South Bend Tribune. November 1, 2018

Indiana’s attorney general should resign

The special prosecutor’s decision announced last week means that Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill won’t face criminal charges regarding sexual misconduct allegations.

It does not mean — contrary to the claims of Hill’s defense attorney — that he has been “exonerated.”

Nor does it mean that the distractions and concerns that have swirled around Hill since four women said he inappropriately touched them have disappeared.

In fact, Daniel Sigler, the special prosecutor investigating the allegations, said he found the witnesses to be credible, but decided “that there was no crime that could be proven.”

The 25-page report released by Indiana’s inspector general paints a disturbing picture of Hill’s conduct during a party in March at an Indianapolis bar. Multiple witnesses stated that Hill’s conduct was “inappropriate, ‘creepy,’ unwelcome and made many of the women at the party uncomfortable. Men and women from both parties, the political left and political right, provided accounts of what transpired that night,” according to the report.

The report says that Hill’s level of intoxication is supported by witness interviews and “it no doubt contributed to his actions at the bar.” His behavior that night left at least one woman in tears, “others were upset enough to actively avoid any contact with Hill the rest of the night, and still others sought the protection of men and other women who were there,” according to the report.

Hill, a Republican and former Elkhart County prosecutor, has denied wrongdoing.

Gov. Eric Holcomb and other prominent Republicans have called on Hill to resign.

A brief statement released by Hill’s attorneys following the special prosecutor’s announcement says that “Mr. Hill will continue to serve the people of Indiana in the capacity for which he was elected as the Indiana Attorney General.”

But just how effectively can he serve the people of Indiana, given the evidence of his shameful behavior described in the report — behavior that one witness describes as “like a freshman at a college frat party”? How much trust can Hoosiers place in Hill and the office he leads?

While Hill won’t face criminal charges, other legal issues lie ahead: Hill’s four accusers and their attorney have announced plans to file a civil lawsuit, saying the women were victims of sexual harassment, employment retaliation and assault.

Hill has demonstrated that he is no longer fit to fill the role of Indiana’s highest ranking law enforcement official. It’s time for him to do the right thing by the people he was sworn to serve. It’s time for him to resign. Failing that, lawmakers should explore the possibility of impeachment.

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(Terre Haute) Tribune-Star. November 1, 2018

There is unquestionably a lot at stake in Tuesday’s election, and Hoosier voters find themselves in a critical position to play a major role in the long-term political direction of our country.

The U.S. Senate race in Indiana between incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly and Republican challenger Mike Braun is tight and tense. What’s more, it could decide which party controls the U.S. Senate for the next two years. That control means much to the future of Americans on issues related to health care, immigration, Social Security and Medicare, and whether Congress will truly act as a check and balance on the executive branch of government.

Fortunately for Hoosiers, the fundamental decision can be cut along clear lines. Joe Donnelly is a moderate who adheres to his party’s principles in many areas while demonstrating independence in others. His record shows a willingness to support President Trump when he thinks his policies are good for Indiana, and isn’t afraid to challenge or reject those policies when he disagrees, despite the fact Trump enjoys support here. Braun bills himself as a conservative whose sole purpose in the Senate would be to support whatever policies Trump advances.

Indiana is a red state that occasionally shows an independent streak. That Donnelly was able to win a Senate seat here in 2012 against unwavering, hard-core conservative Richard Mourdock demonstrates that Hoosiers appreciate a moderate Democrat’s value in their political system and trust him to exercise good judgment on the hottest of issues.

Donnelly has fulfilled his promise to Hoosiers. While partisans from both sides occasionally feel frustration with him, he wields his moderate mantle consistently and understandably. Whether he sides with Republicans or Democrats on the issues before him, he earnestly explains his decisions and listens to all points of view with concern and sincerity.

Among the major issues with which Donnelly has earned Hoosiers’ trust is health care. He supported the Affordable Care Act, also know as Obamacare, and has defended it against the constant assault from Republicans wanting to destroy it in any way they can despite its growing acceptance, even popularity, with voters. He is right to point out that the ACA has done great things for those who previously could not get or afford health insurance and has saved those with pre-existing conditions from being denied access to the system. He acknowledges the system can and should be improved but rejects conservative calls to repeal it outright.

Braun’s strength as a candidate is that his real-world experience comes from building and operating a successful private business in Jasper. He would not have had that kind of success if he didn’t have considerable leadership and management skills. Voters can be confident that he has the ability to be a visionary and problem solver when confronting challenges and opportunities.

Still, Braun’s campaign rests on his promise to blindly support Trump and Republicans. It doesn’t matter if he’s a visionary and a problem solver if he isn’t willing to use those skills. A willingness to simply go along with whatever GOP leaders put forward does not qualify him in any remarkable way.

Hoosiers have a right to demand more of their elected representatives in Congress. We endorse Donnelly for a second term in the U.S. Senate because he embraces the challenge of doing the hard work of making reasoned, sound judgments on difficult issues and not being a partisan rubber stamp.

Hoosiers voted for that type of open-minded, independent politician when they elected Donnelly in 2012. They got what they asked for. For his work on behalf of Hoosier voters during his first term, he deserves to be re-elected.

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