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Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers

June 12, 2018

The (Munster) Times. June 8, 2018

NIPSCO must weigh options for electricity.

The May 31 shutdown of NIPSCO’s coal-fired Bailly Generating Station in Burns Harbor is another signal the energy industry is changing.

Natural gas is cheaper, and burns cleaner, than coal. Natural gas plants have been popping up to meet demand, but not new coal-fired plants.

It’s important to carefully weigh the balance between reliability, cheap power and the adverse health effects of pollution to determine the best energy portfolio for companies like NIPSCO.

Longtime residents remember that NIPSCO wanted to build a nuclear power plant where Bailly now stands. Sustained protests led the utility to abandon that plan. Nuclear plants are no longer being built in the United States, and many of the existing nuclear plants are near their life expectancy.

NIPSCO now is mapping out a 20-year Integrated Resource Plan for its future, something it does every three years. In the process, it is looking at the best mix of fuel sources. That’s more difficult than it might sound.

Coal currently powers 61 percent of NIPSCO’s generating capacity. With Schahfer Generating Station in Wheatfield aging, NIPSCO will have to look at alternative sources for power.

Technology is improving, making wind and solar power more viable options than they were even 10 years ago. Fracking has made natural gas more available and more affordable.

Some utility customers are demanding green power and paying a premium to support solar and wind power as part of the grid.

The energy industry is heading in that direction, no question about it. The real question: At what speed should the industry move?

Indiana is more heavily dependent on coal than most states. Coal is less expensive to burn than most other fuels.

But there are environmental costs associated with coal that should be factored in as well.

Likewise, there are bird strikes and other issues to consider with the use of wind turbines. Each fuel source has advantages and disadvantages.

Through meetings with stakeholders and the public, NIPSCO is creating a new Integrated Resource Plan for the next 20 years. That plan should ensure reliability will continue while fuel costs are controlled and the environment and health concerns are taken into consideration.


The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. June 6, 2018

At our fingertips

911 text technology has already proven a lifesaver

Data-mining. Hacking. Cyberbullying. Spoofing.

Evil turns in technology seem ever-present. So, it’s worth celebrating when we can recognize where advances serve us well. The Journal Gazette’s Niki Kelly highlighted one with her Sunday report on texting and emergency response systems. All of Indiana’s 92 counties now have text-to-911 capability, and the new technology is proving its worth.

“Indiana is the nation’s leader,” Ed Reuter, executive director of the Statewide 911 Board, told Kelly.

Voice calls to 911 remain the best way to summon emergency help, but texting is proving invaluable in some situations, including one in which an Allen County woman was being held against her will and was able to silently seek help. In another case, a Bartholomew County woman was able to text police when her husband - angry after an argument - was driving at an unsafe speed with the woman and her child in the car.

In just four years, the number of texts to 911 has grown to between 500 and 600 a day, but without the nuisance texts authorities feared. Some texts, in fact, have been initiated by the 911 operators. When a 911 call is dropped or disconnected, operators can send out a text to determine whether there’s an emergency. Indiana is the only state with the capability, Reuter said.

A Fort Wayne firm, INdigital, created the platform for the outbound text capability. Company president Mark Grady said a 911 dispatcher can call back after a hang-up and tell the person to hit any key if they need help but can’t speak. Then the dispatcher can hang up and text the caller.

Texting capability is proving to be a lifesaver - literally - for callers who are deaf or hearing- or speech-impaired, as well as in situations where speaking would be unsafe.

Text-to-911 is technology worth celebrating.


The (Bloomington) Herald-Times. June 7, 2018

Pause on new centers seems sensible step

It’s complicated.

That’s the simple truth when it comes to a proposal set to go before the Bloomington Plan Commission Monday and then the city council that would impose a moratorium on new addiction treatment centers in Bloomington.

City officials say they remain committed to making sure everyone who needs addiction treatment has an opportunity to receive appropriate and timely services. So why would they move to stop new centers from opening?

The reason is, they want to pause to consider all the ramifications of the rapid growth of an under-regulated industry that has entered the market to treat people who are addicted to opioids and other drugs.

They are right to do so. Reports from numerous media outlets, from the Palm Beach Post to the New York Times to The Herald-Times to HBO’s John Oliver have shined a light on questionable treatment practices, high costs and potentially predatory profits involved in the growing rehab industry.

City officials list seven for-profit treatment centers that have opened here in the last year, including a state-mandated methadone clinic that is scheduled to open later this month. That center is expected to see 500 people per day, with up to 90 percent of clients coming from outside of Monroe County.

To some, all these centers are blessings that offer hope to individuals and families at the bottom of a drug spiral. The Indiana Recovery Alliance was blunt in a statement:

″... (M)isguided policies such as this ordinance will ultimately deny vital services to those who are most at risk. We absolutely must not allow the city to erect barriers that block access to life-saving (medication assisted therapy) treatment options.”

Others wonder, among other things, about the effectiveness of certain therapies in battling drug addiction; rates of relapse, which lead to additional costly treatments; frequent urine testing that has led to the term “liquid gold” because the tests enrich those who require the testing; whether centers should be clustered or spread through the community; and the desirability of building an industry that pulls addicts out of their own communities for service here.

On that last point, city officials wonder how that will impact public services and nonprofit organizations.

Bloomington is not the first and won’t be the last government entity to wrestle with this issue. As far back as July 1, 2007, the state of Indiana imposed what was to be an 18-month moratorium on opioid treatment programs to study the issue. There were 13 programs in the entire state then (11 for-profit, two nonprofit), according to a study commission report. This moratorium specifically covered methadone treatment programs, and it wasn’t until 2017 that the state announced it would support construction of five more, including the one in Bloomington.

It seems reasonable that Bloomington take a similar pause, though it must be for a considerably shorter period of time. Let’s be sure the rush to welcome businesses that say they want to help those with serious addictions doesn’t cause unintended harm.


South Bend Tribune. June 8, 2018

Mishawaka police dash cam video shows truth of motorcycle pursuit

The dashcam video from a Mishawaka police squad car taken during the May 26 pursuit of a speeding motorcyclist and his passenger told the truth.

No, Patrolman Andrew Sark didn’t bump John Williams’ motorcycle, causing it to crash, as social media had speculated. In fact, Williams’ motorcycle was so far ahead of Sark’s squad car — about a quarter-mile — that the crash that left Williams dead and his passenger, Rebecca Mack, injured wasn’t even visible in the video until Sark pulled up on the scene several seconds later.

The video supported the findings of the St. Joseph County Fatal Crash Team that Sark followed the department’s pursuit policy.

here have been questions surrounding video cameras, especially those worn by officers. There were concerns that police departments would withhold the release of video to the public unless ordered to so by the courts, and then only after a strict series of rules were met.

We support police using dashcams and bodycams. More and more police departments are embracing the technology. South Bend’s patrol division began using 170 dashcams and bodycams last week.

Cameras are the best way to protect both police and the public, especially in instances of confrontation.

A 2016 report from Harvard’s Shorenstein Center said cameras provide transparency, build public trust and provide against false complaints. In this case, the dashcam video supported the officer.

But there’s another issue at play as well and that is the pursuit of Williams.

Police departments have put into place policies regarding pursuits in an effort to protect both the public and officers involved in a chase.

The Mishawaka pursuit policy states that, “Officers engaged in pursuit shall at all times drive in a manner exercising due regard for the safety of themselves and all other persons and property within the pursuit area.”

“By looking at that video, I’ve seen nothing that would make me believe he did something wrong according to our (policy),” Mishawaka police Chief Kenneth Witkowski said of Sark, who won’t face criminal charges.

With pursuits, there are always legitimate questions about when or if at all a pursuit should be initiated.

In this instance, the dashcam video told the truth about the pursuit and the officer’s actions. It’s a good example of how cameras can serve the best interests of the community as well as the cops.


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