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Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers

October 9, 2018

The (Munster) Times. October 5, 2018

Heroes rise in Walmart shooting

Heroism is something we don’t hail often enough in society or on this opinion page.

Sometimes it takes a major local news story to remind us of the heroes who suit up each day to serve and protect the public.

Two such heroes emerged this week from a hail of gunfire, shattered glass and civilians shot at the Hobart Walmart — one of the most frequented retail stores in Northwest Indiana.

Off-duty Gary police officer Keon Parker was with his family in the checkout line of the popular store on U.S. 30 Sunday night when gunfire erupted near the west store entrance.

Parker secured his own family, first by having them duck between registers and then in a security closet.

Then he quickly went to work doing what first responders do. In a short window of time, Parker assessed the scene, disarmed and secured the gun of a civilian and suspected gang member who had returned fire in the matter and then provided first aid for one of the shooting victims.

Parker’s expert multitasking of safety, for both his family and others in the store are detailed in police reports and court records.

We all should salute Parker for his response in the face of personal and family peril.

While Parker tended to a 25-year-old male gunshot victim inside the store, Hobart police Cpl. Kevin Garber Jr. pulled up on the scene with a score of other first responders.

In the parking lot, Garber found a 9-year-old boy bleeding from the chest — the son of the adult gunshot victim who was inside the store.

Garber immediately put the boy in a bear hug to calm him and applied direct pressure to the wound. Such pressure can make the difference between life and death for someone who is severely bleeding.

The 9-year-old boy remained hospitalized in critical condition Wednesday.

Garber spoke to Times reporter Sarah Reese about the incident Wednesday, noting that his past combat training from active service in Iraq kicked in.

He told Reese he was no hero — just one of many first responders who did their jobs that night in the wake of an apparent gang-related shooting.

Garber and Parker both deserve the title of hero for their actions at Walmart.

Our Region is lucky to be protected by such dedicated servants.

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South Bend Tribune. October 2, 2018

Standing up, down for area veterans

This year’s Michiana Military Stand Down was the most successful yet, helping more than 700 people — including homeless vets and veterans returning from deployment — connect with social service agencies that provide needed help.

“It was outstanding,” said Kent Laudeman, director of the Robert L. Miller Sr. Veteran’s Center, who helped coordinate the event. “We ran out of everything because of the excellent response.”

Homeless vets, returning veterans, volunteers and others were treated to box lunches, free haircuts, flu shots and a host of other services.

Sixty agencies took part in the Stand Down. Veterans in need picked up donations of clothing, hygiene items and nonperishable foods.

Key to the success was having the Stand Down in the parking lot of the St. Joseph County VA Health Care Center in Mishawaka, where vets could get the immediate help they needed while also learning about the services provided by the VA Center.

This year’s Stand Down was the sixth.

Its continued growth shows the commitment agencies and volunteers have in helping our local veterans.

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The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. October 4, 2018

Voters’ education

When Indiana voters chose Jennifer McCormick over incumbent Glenda Ritz in 2016, some believed it would spell the end of cringe-worthy exchanges between the elected state superintendent and appointed members of the State Board of Education.

The high-level drama might have ended since McCormick took office, but tension between the superintendent’s office and the administration is still great, even with Republicans in full control. The political wrangling Hoosier voters have repeatedly rejected in state education policy continues, as McCormick made clear when she announced Monday she will not seek re-election.

“When I got into this office, my charge was ‘I want to do what’s best for kids,’ ” said the former Yorktown schools superintendent. “I think back to that time ... it was so cute. I was so naive.

“Now that I’ve learned the governance structure...things are very complicated in Indiana.”

The governance structure is complicated - by design. It was altered after Ritz defeated state Superintendent Tony Bennett in 2012. He was recruited to run in 2008 by Gov. Mitch Daniels’ administration, which had its own rocky working relationship with another female Republican office-holder, four-term state Superintendent Suellen Reed. With Bennett’s defeat at the hands of public school educators and Common Core opponents after just one term, Gov. Mike Pence lost an eager partner in efforts to expand the state’s school voucher program.

His solution was an end run around the superintendent’s office. Pence issued an executive order creating the Center for Education and Career Innovation, with two administrators and a 16-person staff. The governor’s power play was assisted by legislative budget writers, who quietly moved $3 million in annual funding for the State Board of Education to the new agency, outside the authority of Ritz’s Department of Education. The 10 members of the state board all were appointed by the governor.

The Center for Education and Career Innovation staff acted so blatantly to undermine Democrat Ritz that criticism began to reach the governor’s office. Facing backlash, Pence dissolved the new agency in late 2014. But its work simply shifted to the State Board of Education.

Pence’s restructuring created outright hostility between the elected superintendent and some members of the appointed board. The tension prompted intervention from the General Assembly, which passed a law in 2015 that took two of the 10 board appointments from the governor and gave them to the House and Senate leaders. It also granted new powers to the state board, allowing its two-member staff to expand. There are nine administrators today, and the board’s 2018 budget appropriation was $17.5 million.

“It makes the state board the defacto Department of Education,” House Minority Leader Scott Pelath said in 2015. “The people of Indiana don’t want two departments of education.”

But that’s what Hoosiers got, and it’s what McCormick faced when she took office last year. The General Assembly sealed the power grab a few months later by taking voters’ authority to elect the state superintendent and giving the appointment to the governor, effective in 2024.

In addition, much authority over student testing, voucher schools and more has shifted from McCormick’s Department of Education to the state board. The superintendent’s frustration with board staff has been apparent in some discussions, but she has continued to chair the meetings in a respectful and professional manner. But at Wednesday’s monthly business meeting, she announced she would not seek election as board chairman in 2019.

“The position of Chair, as structured by state leaders prior to my time in office, is irrelevant to policy outcomes,” she said in a statement. “My time and attention are better utilized without this unnecessary distraction.”

The deliberative, research-based and student-focused approach McCormick has attempted to take is stifled by political strong-arming in the wake of the power shift. To her credit, the superintendent is continuing to administer her department in a manner that serves school districts and students well. But the fate of sound education policy rests with Indiana voters, who still have the right to elect lawmakers who can challenge the actions taken in recent years. Each legislative candidate should be prepared to weigh in on the dramatic restructuring foisted on Indiana’s schools and students.

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The (Bloomington) Herald-Times. October 4, 2018

And Another Thing...

Put the toys away

About those scooters populating downtown Bloomington:

It struck us this week that these are much like toys that never get put away. When someone stops playing with one, they are just left out for someone else to pick up or stumble over, whichever the case may be. Even for those who use them for something necessary, like transportation, they are treated like a coat someone wears outside and doesn’t hang up when they go back inside.

Perhaps that’s where the regulations should start — with some designations about where they can be parked, and where they can’t.

Don’t block the curb cuts

While we’re at it, scooter riders should realize those ramps cut into curbs weren’t created for them. They are there to more easily allow people with disabilities, such as those who use wheelchairs, to get around the community.

In a particularly insensitive illustration of this, a rider left his or her abandoned Lime scooter parked across the curb cut that would allow easy access from Peoples Park to Dunn Street. That’s exactly where one was left Tuesday morning; it couldn’t have been more in the way.

Regulation No. 2 should require scooters blocking a curb cut to be picked up by city government and returned to the company only upon collection of a fine to be put into the Jack Hopkins Fund to be made available to an agency that serves people with disabilities.

Hoosiers waiting to vote

We’re not sure what to make of the news that Hoosiers waited longer to cast ballots in 2016 than residents of all but one other state. That’s the word from data gathered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Only South Carolina voters had to wait in line longer than the 17 minutes Indiana voters had to endure before casting their ballots.

The half-full glass would suggest Hoosiers are a dedicated, civic-minded lot who don’t mind the wait times for a chance to participate in the most basic right of democracy. The lines simply illustrate a strong sense of the duties of living in a representative republic.

The half-empty glass would suggest Indiana doesn’t have its act together when it comes to making sure voting is an efficient and painless process. The waits illustrate a lack of good public policy when it comes to ensuring the right of people to vote.

The practical among us would point to Indiana’s relatively short voting hours and a need to push for more vote centers and less restrictive voting rules.

Alert on a national scale

The “Presidential alert” emergency test from the Federal Emergency Management Agency came blasting over smart phones and other electronic devices in south-central Indiana at 2:18 p.m. Wednesday. The alert sounded much like the state’s Amber Alert that announces when a child is missing.

The perceived need for such an alert turns back the clock by more than half a century, when kids in schools were trained to crouch beneath their desks in case of a nuclear attack launched by the Soviet Union. That strategy for protection now seems more than a little inadequate.

It’s no joke that terrorism could come to this nation and prompt the need for some sort of national alert. It would seem the regular channels for disseminating news could handle such an emergency, though redundancy from FEMA isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

It’s good and comforting to know, however, that President Trump won’t have direct access to the system for sending out personal or political messages. It’s more than enough that he takes to Twitter, often using A LOT OF CAPITAL LETTERS to send out his thoughts to the people. Giving him, or any other politician, another tool for invading our space would be ill advised.

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