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Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers

November 13, 2018

The (Munster) Times. November 9, 2018

Blame to go around in Porter County election fiasco

At best, some top Porter County elections officials seem to have treated one of society’s most important institutions as an afterthought.

At worst, polling places and some ballots appear to have been treated as inconsequential.

It’s shameful, and both people and processes must be held accountable.

Through it all, Porter County Clerk Karen Martin, who is supposed to be in charge, has been largely missing in action as other county officials deal with the fallout.

Now Porter County voters and political candidates are reaping the reward: An election system that appears to have been in chaos long before election night and a lack of reported results 60 hours, and counting, after election night.

Adding shameful insult to injury, Indiana Republican Party leaders actually tried to block the efforts of county officials and a judge to extend polling hours at 12 voting locations that opened several hours late Tuesday.

A number of voters faced disenfranchisement in an era when national political scandals already have eroded public trust in our elections.

The state GOP was tone-deaf and shortsighted, placing politics above voters.

One of the few positives rising from the voting fiasco in Porter County is the leadership of county commissioners.

The three county executives pushed for the later operations of the affected polling locations, giving voters who were turned away in the morning more time to vote later in the day.

When various complaints flowed in from election workers, the details of which have not been fully disclosed, the commissioners called on the FBI to investigate.

It was an important step in beginning to restore trust, or in weeding out any possible transgressions.

Commissioners Laura Blaney, a Democrat, and Jim Biggs, a Republican, have been providing particularly visible leadership in the wake of the chaos.

Commissioner Jeff Good, the Republican president of the commissioners, is on the ballot this election cycle and rightly has kept himself removed from the situation.

But the solid leadership from commissioners aside, how did we get here to begin with?

Why are results not counted three days and counting after polls opened? Why were early and absentee ballots apparently not organized and counted timely and properly?

Who is responsible?

It will take more leadership from commissioners and other county officials to fully vet what caused this disaster and ensure it never happens again.

Porter County taxpayers deserve it — and should be demanding it. It doesn’t get any more broken than what we’re seeing play out in the Porter County 2018 general election.

Now who will step forth and fix it?

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The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. November 9, 2018

Cash infusion

State crafts wise plan to spend anti-opioid grants.

Jim McClelland, who leads Indiana’s efforts to fight the opioid epidemic, acknowledges the state has been slow to spend federal funds earmarked for the crisis. But that was to get it right, he said in a recent interview.

“It took longer to roll some of that out than might have been desirable,” he said. “We’ve got a problem here that took 20 years to develop,” said McClelland, Indiana’s executive director for drug prevention, treatment and enforcement. “There’s no instant solution to it.”

As The Journal Gazette’s Ron Shawgo reported recently, during a one-year period that ended in April, Indiana had spent about a quarter of its $10.9 million allocation for fighting opioid abuse. An Associated Press analysis of the use of funds from the 21st Century Cures Act passed by Congress in 2017 revealed that states such as Indiana that had accepted Medicaid expansion dollars have generally been slower to spend that money. That’s because Medicaid funds had already allowed them to “go beyond the basics.”

Indiana, though, had farther to go than most other states. It is among those states with the biggest problems from opioids, and the least effective response systems, as noted in a recent report from IUPUI’s Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health (also discussed on the facing page). AP reported Indiana’s rate of spending Cures Act funds lagged even among those 33 states where Medicaid expansion had occurred. Through April 30, the state spent $2.47 million - 24.9 percent of the money allotted.

In an interview this week, McClelland said Cures Act funds are being distributed much faster now. “When we got into this, we just did not have anywhere near the treatment infrastructure that we needed to respond to a crisis of this magnitude. You don’t just flip a switch and make that happen.

“What appeared to be a slow rollout of the Cures Act grant in its first year was largely a result of our desire to take a strategic approach and build a well-thought-out infrastructure that could be sustained,” he said. “Our interest is in spending money wisely rather than just spending money fast.

“We did not lose a dollar by doing that,” McClelland continued. “All of what was unspent the first year carried over to the second year.” In fact, he said, the Cures money is just a portion of the resources the state is marshaling against its worst drug epidemic. The original Cures Act allocated another $10.9 million for this year; the omnibus opioid-fighting bill that became law in October will make the same amount of money available to Indiana each year through 2023. And Indiana will receive additional federal grants of $18.1 million this year and next.

McClelland said the state has used Cures funds to train medical professionals to administer medically assisted treatment with buprenorphine; to create mobile-response teams for rural counties; to distribute the opioid antidote Naloxone; and to launch an anti-stigma campaign called Know the O Facts.

In addition to its support through Cures, the federal government has given Indiana a waiver allowing the state to spend more of its Medicaid funds on a wider range of assistance, including as much as 30 days of residential treatment and some types of recovery-support services - the kind of sustained therapy that can help victims overcome opioid addiction and get back on a path to a normal life. That may mean as much as $80 million a year targeted at the epidemic, McClelland said. Meanwhile, Fort Wayne is one of several sites around the state the legislature has approved for pilot programs to add treatment beds. Locally raised funds will be used to match a $1.5 million state grant.

If that seems like a lot of money, consider the costs in deaths and devastation to families, and the economic cost to Indiana, which the Fairbanks School estimated at $43 billion over the past 15 years. There are a few signs of progress statewide, such as dropping opioid prescription rates and a reduced number of visits to emergency rooms this year, according to McClelland.

“Unfortunately, there are no quick solutions,” he said. But the state is quickly resolving how to best spend the windfalls of opioid-crisis-related funds.

“I don’t think,” McClelland said of the slow start to spending the federal dollars, “you’ll see this problem, going forward.”

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South Bend Tribune. November 7, 2018

Fix communication issues at Housing Authority of South Bend.

A number of issues raised by Mayor Pete Buttigieg — including financial and safety matters — suggests that South Bend’s Housing Authority has some major work to do.

The way the mayor chose to publicly present his concerns emphasizes the troubled state of affairs.

At the Oct. 24 meeting of the South Bend Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners, Buttigieg raised concerns about the local housing authority, including unaddressed safety issues, fiscal problems and a lack of communication between the city and housing authority.

He highlighted concerns about complaints from personnel in seven city departments, in terms of responsiveness from housing authority staff. His office also has fielded complaints from some residents about the conditions in public housing.

“There are some issues that have gotten to the level that I think we need to pay special attention to,” he said. “They’ve gotten to the level that has prompted me to decide that working to support and improve the housing authority will be in the top tier of priorities for my administration for as long as I’m mayor.”

In response, a number of commissioners expressed anger and frustration about the way the issues were raised, after not receiving a letter outlining his concerns from Buttigieg in advance of the meeting. Some felt that this failure left them unable to respond. Buttigieg distributed the letter during the meeting, and apologized for not presenting it to them earlier.

Last week, the executive director of the housing authority and president of the board of trustees acknowledged financial problems and issues with bug infestations, but pushed back on some of the other concerns the mayor raised. In the next week, the board and housing authority executive director Tonya Robinson plan to release letters specifically responding to Buttigieg’s concerns about communication, maintenance shortfalls, payment problems and mistrust between authority staff and residents.

The agency, which draws funding from the U.S. Department of Housing, has a history of turmoil. According to a February 2015 Tribune report, federal housing officials found in 2013 that the local agency was plagued by mismanagement and financial woes. The issues led HUD to classify the housing authority under “troubled” status.

In 2015 — shortly after the agency received a series of bleak performance reviews by the federal government, Buttigieg replaced the entire board. “The Housing Authority is at a crossroads, with many issues requiring attention, and this year brings an opportunity to draw new vision and leadership for the board,” he said at the time.

Three years later, Robinson, the executive director, says the agency has been “digging ourselves out.” ″We’re working hard to correct our deficiencies.”

It’s clear that some issues remain at the agency that operates hundreds of public housing units and more than 2,100 Section 8 vouchers. Both the mayor and housing authority officials have expressed a commitment to fixing the problems. We’d suggest that both sides start by repairing their communication failure.

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(Terre Haute) Tribune-Star. November 8, 2018

Enhancing the Hulman Legacy.

Mari Hulman George recalled for her kindness, generosity

The Hulman family name has long been synonymous with Terre Haute. Its reputation for success in business and sports entertainment has grown over several generations, buoyed by Anton (Tony) Hulman Jr.’s now-famous purchase and rehabilitation of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1945.

Even before the resurgence under the Hulman family of the speedway and the Indianapolis 500 auto race in the mid-20th century, Hulman & Co. was a corporate juggernaut with roots in the grocery business. Clabber Girl Baking Powder had long become an international trademark.

Growing up amid the fanfare was Mary “Mari” Antonia Hulman, born in 1934 to Tony and Mary Fendrich Hulman. She went to school in Terre Haute and Indianapolis, then later to Purdue. She became part of the racing business and was always close to the action at the speedway. She was married to Elmer George, and they had four children — three daughters and a son. Her life was long and eventful. She made the most of it.

Mari died last weekend at age 83. While her life was split between Terre Haute and Indianapolis, her contributions to her home community here were significant and substantial. While she may be remembered for her public presence at the IMS and her “Start Your Engines” call to drivers prior to the start of the Indy 500, her lasting legacy in Terre Haute may well be her generosity and philanthropy.

She supported many wonderful causes and her contributions have ensured that many of them will thrive into the future.

Kind words and accolades have flooded in about Mari in recent days. Of particular note were comments from people who knew her well throughout her life and witnessed her impact on those around her.

Racing legend Parnelli Jones, winner of the 1963 Indianapolis 500, seemed to capture her essence as he reflected on her life. “Mari was always very friendly and very charitable just like her father, Tony,” Jones said. “She didn’t like the spotlight and preferred to let others do the talking.”

Three-time Indy 500 champion Bobby Unser echoed Jones’ thoughts while recalling her passion and hard work with animals, especially horses and greyhounds.

“She was a good person and always had others in mind. Her charity work benefited lots and lots of people, something we all admired her for,” Unser said.

Mari Hulman George’s funeral was Thursday and she was laid to rest in a local cemetery. The Hulman family legacy is deep and strong in Terre Haute. Her contributions help ensure that legacy will live on.

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