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Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers

October 2, 2018

The (Munster) Times. September 27, 2018

Griffith lights way in fight against waste, corruption

Griffith voters spoke with a united voice this week, taking advantage of a state law to divorce the town from long-running government corruption and waste.

In all, some 3,360 Griffith voters either visited the Tuesday special election polls or voted early on a question of seceding from the scandal ridden and fiscal-waste-plagued Calumet Township.

That about 98 percent of those voters opted to pull away from an abysmal government entity should encourage anyone who would like to see the Region shed its reputation for government waste and corruption.

The majority of those voters sent a clear message, taking advantage of a 2012 secession law to break away from the embattled township.

A poor-relief tax rate that by some estimates is nearly 30 times higher than the state average and past criminal acts committed by township trustees proved to be great motivators.

It’s one thing just to get angry and grumble about government waste and corruption.

Nearly 30 percent of Griffith’s registered voters lodged those complaints by voting to secede.

The number is about twice the town’s turnout in previous elections and monumental, considering secession was the only item on the ballot.

It typically takes a presidential election to post such a turnout.

The entire Region owes Griffith thanks for showing us how to act, rather than sulk, regarding shoddy or corrupt government.

We wish Griffith well as it heads into a new chapter, seeking out a bordering township to call home.

Under state law, Griffith must now court neighboring townships to absorb the municipality.

Any of those contiguous townships — St. John, Ross or North — would be lucky to inherit a thinking, conscientious electorate and the tax revenues that would follow.

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South Bend Tribune. September 26, 2018

Time for ‘extraordinary effort’ to resolve fight over South Bend police tapes.

The latest court ruling regarding the South Bend police tapes calls for both the mayor’s office and the Common Council, with the help of a mediator, to resolve their dispute by year’s end over the release of the tapes.

In his ruling, St. Joseph Superior Judge Steven Hostetler ordered all sides to keep trying because “the public and private interests involved in this case demand that the parties undertake an extraordinary effort to resolve these matters.”

The court case began six years ago when the council subpoenaed the administration of Mayor Pete Buttigieg seeking copies of the recordings, so it’s hardly out of line for Hostetler to order both sides to reach a resolution by the end of December.

The council has wanted to review the recordings to determine what role they might have played in the firing of police communications director Karen DePaepe and demotion of police Chief Darryl Boykins. The city didn’t release the tapes, saying it wanted a judge to decide what is legally allowed.

Officers recorded on the tapes claimed their constitutional rights were violated and struck a settlement with the city, with the group dividing a lump sum of $500,000.

Some of the tapes are alleged to include racist comments and discussions about breaking the law.

So frustration over the content of the tapes and whether they should be released goes on while money spent on settlements and legal fees continues to mount and already reaches in the millions.

It’s been a long, expensive battle for everyone involved, but it’s the taxpayers that have borne the brunt of the battle.

As we have advocated in the past, the public should hear what’s on the tapes. This is about transparency and trust between the city, police and the public they both serve. It’s time for this matter to be put to rest and for the tapes to be released and, as much as can be, played for the public to hear and make its own judgment.

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The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. September 28, 2018

State must do more to protect defendants’ rights

When the Boston-based Sixth Amendment Center examined Indiana’s public defender services for a 2016 report, it came to a harsh conclusion:

“If indigent defense services are structured so as to actually deny counsel to defendants, or to constructively give the accused a lawyer in name only because the lawyer has too many cases or operates under too many financial conflicts to be effective, the system itself is constitutionally deficient,” it stated. “Yet, this is an apt description of the constitutional right to counsel in Indiana today.”

Two years later, with the recommen-dations of the Indiana Task Force on Public Defense in hand, the state’s Public Defender Commission last week issued its legislative agenda, with multiple measures designed to improve indigent defense. But James Abbs, chief public defender in Noble County and president of the Indiana Chief Public Defenders’ Association, said the agenda doesn’t go far enough. Specifically, Indiana should mandate that all 92 counties participate in a program that requires counties to honor public defender caseload limits and other minimum standards in exchange for reimbursement of a portion of defense costs.

“We need a statewide system of reimbursements,” he said. “Why do we go out and do all of these reports and then we accept a patchwork system?”

The patchwork approach is apparent in northeast Indiana. Noble and Allen counties are in compliance, but Whitley, Wells and Huntington counties are among 30 statewide that do not participate and are not bound to the minimum standards.

In most non-participating counties, a judge hires public defenders or appoints attorneys to act as counsel for defendants who cannot afford to hire their own. The judge, in those cases, has authority over a public defender who might have to challenge the judge’s own work to adequately represent his or her client.

Counties participating in the reimbursement program avoid that potential conflict because they are required to establish a public defender board, which manages the indigent defense budget and oversees the public defender staff.

Randall Hammond, chief public defender for Allen County, said the county has participated in the statewide program since 2003, collecting more than $17 million from the state in reimbursements.

The program doesn’t reimburse counties for representation in misdemeanor cases, however. While Allen County provides public defender representation in those cases, a pending federal lawsuit alleges the county’s system violates indigent defendants’ rights to adequate legal defense.

Calvin Wilson was charged with misdemeanor battery in 2015. His suit claims an assigned public defender spent less than one hour on his case. The class-action lawsuit alleges four part-time defense attorneys handled more than 6,250 misdemeanor cases between Jan. 1, 2013, and Aug. 1, 2015.

Hammond declined to comment on the pending suit, but said he is “very much in favor” of the proposal for the state to reimburse a portion of misdemeanor defense costs.

“It’s an incentive to reduce caseloads,” he said. “It makes economic sense.”

Addressing a misdemeanor offense appropriately could mean the difference between an offender receiving rehabilitation and becoming a productive citizen, or the offender committing additional crimes and perpetuating public costs for years to come. It might also result in the accused being found not guilty.

It makes economic sense to mandate statewide participation. Abbs, the Noble County chief public defender, said his county has cut jail costs by reducing pretrial incarceration periods. Costly court appeals could be avoided statewide with better representation in all counties.

If you support the U.S. Constitution, you must support the Sixth Amendment right of the accused to “have the assistance of counsel for his defense.” Indiana’s constitution affords the same right. Protecting the constitutional rights of defendants, regardless of their financial status, should be on every lawmakers’ list of priorities.

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The (Bloomington) Herald-Times. September 26, 2018

Even a beerless pedal pub in downtown Bloomington could serve up issues

News that a new Pedal Pub is coming to Bloomington should spark concerns about the continuing evolution of downtown.

Climb aboard a 16-seat, pedal-powered vehicle and ride around downtown. They look like fun in bigger cities.

Those pedal-powered pubs typically include alcohol for their hard-working patrons. Fortunately, city laws don’t allow alcohol on bikes, so that won’t be the case here. So beer won’t be spilling (nor will riders, presumably) off of the new shuttle that plans to go between bars and restaurants.

It kind of seems like an amusement ride coming to a downtown that already has traffic issues and a perception that it’s becoming more a student center than a community center.

OK. We’ll admit, we may be reacting too harshly. But those thoughts are the first ones that come to mind in the wake of community discussions about the need to control the growth of student housing and the negative effects that go along with it downtown.

Perhaps beer-free pub crawling along city streets will be a hit rather than an error. Time will tell.

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