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Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers

April 2, 2019

Terre Haute () — Tribune-Star. March 29, 2019

House resists doing right thing

Hoosiers are clearly demanding that their representatives in the Indiana General Assembly listen to them and take action on their behalf by adopting a comprehensive hate-crimes law. Unfortunately, lawmakers continue to do absolutely the wrong thing.

Despite heavy support for a law that offers specific protections to those most vulnerable to discrimination and violent actions, the Indiana House has found a way to say “no” while pretending to address a complex issue in a positive way.

The House this week adopted an amendment into an unrelated bill giving lip service to crimes of bias but refusing to specify personal characteristics that are most targeted for hate crimes such as race, religion, gender, national origin, sexual orientation and gender identity. The House later passed the full bill.

The Republican supermajority in the House orchestrated the action in a way that denied the public any input. Rather than conduct a committee hearing on the version of the bill that had passed the Senate, which was itself inadequate, the House inserted new language that went further than the Senate bill, but not nearly far enough. By being inserted into another bill, the amendment could receive no public feedback or comment. What’s more, the amendment was passed by voice vote, meaning the vote will not be registered on any lawmaker’s voting record.

Gov. Eric Holcomb, who has been a strong advocate for a comprehensive hate-crimes bill, lent his support to the amended bill. While Holcomb’s support may indicate that he realized that this compromise was the best he was going to get, it’s disappointing that he was willing to throw in the towel so soon. To his credit, he has said subsequently that he will continue pushing for a specific list in a hate-crimes bill. The House bill now goes back to the Senate for consideration

The Republican supermajority’s hangup is on giving specific protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Yet those groups are among those frequently targeted for crimes based on their characteristics. Those groups need to be listed specifically in any hate-crimes law.

It remains to be seen whether this nonspecific version of a law is enough to remove Indiana from the list of five states that have no such law. But it doesn’t really matter. Removal from the list, which does tarnish the state’s image as a tolerant and inclusive culture, isn’t the ultimate goal. Rather, Indiana must do the right thing for the right reasons. A comprehensive hate-crimes law is what Indiana needs, and anything short of that isn’t good enough for the people of this state.

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The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. March 29, 2019

Pace of repairs

The revival of our downtown is about Fort Wayne’s future. Aimed at bettering everyone’s quality of life, the improvements are driven in many cases by public-private partnerships. But even in a strong economy, even after the sale of an electric company left a pot of discretionary public cash most cities could only dream of, there is only so much money to go around.

As the Riverfront Project, the Landing and Electric Works take shape, the trick is ensuring that enough of our resources are devoted to the balance of the city. Nurturing the city’s neighborhoods and other commercial areas means, first and foremost, seeing to the upkeep of roads, alleys and sidewalks. And though the city has allocated millions to those purposes in recent years, there always seems to be more to do. This is an election year, and the city’s announcement that Fort Wayne will devote $31 million to infrastructure this year will no doubt be parsed by every resident who has a cracked sidewalk in the neighborhood or encounters a pothole on the way to work. In November, voters will have the chance to say whether the mayor and the City Council have done their best to meet their needs.

Wherever the votes might fall, there should be no higher priority than to ensure that children walking to school have safe sidewalks and crossings. Some children always have walked to school, of course. But the post-tax-caps cuts in bus service have meant more kids walking longer distances. Some streets don’t have sidewalks. And even along those that do, construction and repair projects sometimes create obstacle courses for young pedestrians. Add the limited visibility of early morning darkness or inclement weather, and the safety issues for schoolchildren may be multiplied.

The good news is that Fort Wayne Community Schools was consulted as the city put together the year’s infrastructure plan.

“We’ve worked closely with the city to identify areas where sidewalks are needed,” FWCS spokeswoman Krista Stockman said in response to an email inquiry. “We primarily focused on elementary schools because they are the youngest, but also by focusing on elementary, we hit nearly all the middle and high school areas.”

Asphalt resurfacing, concrete reconstruction, chip and seal, new curbs, new trails - all of those little improvements will make our city a better place to live, too. Not everything can get done. But Job One should be improving safety on those routes we’re making our littlest pedestrians tread.

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South Bend Tribune. March 28, 2019

Local residents should do their part in recycling crisis

A recent story in The Tribune detailed the crisis in recycling that hasn’t hit this area as hard so far — and the trouble that looms ahead from carelessness and a lack of awareness.

The problem plaguing other areas of the country has to do with the contamination that comes from materials that don’t belong in recycling. This contamination is the reason China and some other countries began rejecting bales of recycling materials from this country if it contained excessive amounts of other materials.

The recycling industry had to seek out new markets to process the materials, and prices crashed due to oversupply. In response, some places began dumping recycling in landfills and looking for such solutions as converting materials into energy by burning them.

Things aren’t as bad locally, as most of the recyclables in the South Bend area are sold to Midwestern companies, not China.

But there is cause for concern and it’s summed up by this statistic: Of the 27.9 million pounds of recycling material collected in St. Joseph County by Borden, about 4.4 million pounds were deemed trash that never should have been placed in recycling containers to begin with. The effort to remove those materials is costly.

The problem is that area residents have gotten worse at recycling since the program was initiated over the last two decades. Either they aren’t aware of the clear instructions printed on Borden containers informing them on what is and isn’t accepted for recycling — instructions that can also be found on the company’s website (https://bit.ly/2WyV6vN) — or they aren’t paying attention to them.

Neither is acceptable. Officials should consider an effort to educate consumers to combat and reverse the contamination that has made its way into the recycling streams — the sort of education campaign that took place when recycling first came into this area.

But it’s also up to members of the public to do better, to get informed, to take a minute or two to read the instructions on their recycling bin before carelessly tossing in that battery or greasy pizza box.

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