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Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers

July 31, 2018

The (Munster) Times. July 29, 2018

Gary violence is epidemic, not ‘aberration’

In a recent statement to the media, Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson was quoted as describing a June weekend rash of shootings in her city as “an aberration” — something that was out of the norm.

The label does an injustice to the deadly tempest that appears to be brewing in the Steel City in 2018.

Last Sunday, The Times chronicled the names and deadly circumstances of all 29 homicide victims in the city since the beginning of the year.

Before the press ink on that edition was dry, Gary recorded its 30th homicide.

That count, which still held as of Friday afternoon, pushed the city more than 16 percent above last year’s homicide levels.

So far this year, Gary homicides account for 66 percent of all homicides in Lake County. Meanwhile, Gary represents only 15.7 percent of the county’s population, according to the most recent U.S.Census estimates.

The June 22-24 shooting glut in which one person died and 16 others were wounded wasn’t an aberration, as the mayor dubbed it.

It was a clear warning sign of the danger that the mayor, her police department and all public safety officials should be facing head-on, not dismissing as out of the norm.

That only one person died out of 17 shot during the June 22-24 weekend was the true aberration. With that many bullets flying in one weekend, Gary is lucky far more weren’t killed.

Historically speaking, Gary averaged 48 murders a year between 2007 and 2016, FBI uniform crime statistics show.

That isn’t an aberration. It’s a steady death toll.

We understand some strides are being taken to grapple with the problem of violence — particularly involving gunfire — in Gary.

The city is particularly fortunate that Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez remains dedicated to bolstering police patrols and aiding in the investigations of previous shootings.

U.S. Attorney Thomas Kirsch II said he has designated Gary as one of the northern Indiana cities that will be the focus of Project Safe Neighborhoods. It’s an effort by federal authorities to target the most violent criminals in the most violent areas.

And earlier this month, the Gary City Council transferred $50,000 in Majestic Star Casino tax proceeds to cover additional overtime for city police officers.

These measures all make sense.

What doesn’t fight the problem is dismissing ongoing, in some cases increasing and well-documented, violence as an aberration.

Such labels are one step shy of dismissing or ignoring a major threat to society.

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Kokomo Tribune. July 24, 2018

Move over, Ind. Drivers

Most motorists already know state law requires them to change lanes when approaching a stopped emergency or state highway vehicle when its emergency lights are flashing.

And if that’s not possible, drivers are required to reduce their speed to safely pass the vehicle.

We all were reminded of the importance of attentive driving, after three Indiana state troopers were involved in three separate crashes during the spring of 2015. Trooper Roosevelt Williams told Fox 59 he has seen several close calls during his tenure with the Indiana State Police.

“If ten cars pass me, you may get one or two of them that may slow down below the posted speed limit to pass you,” he told the Indianapolis news station.

Two changes were made to the state’s “move-over” law several years ago, and Indiana State Police will be targeting drivers this week whether they know them or not.

Service vehicles operated by utilities were added to the list of vehicles requiring motorists to change lanes.

The other addition to the law had to do with speed. If you are unable to safely change lanes to avoid the police car, ambulance, tow truck or other vehicles on the list, you must reduce your speed to 10 mph below the posted limit.

Indiana State Police and the Indiana Department of Transportation also advise people not to come to a stop for these vehicles, as that could result in a chain-reaction collision.

A violation of the move-over law that leads to death, injury or causes damage to equipment can result in a $10,000 fine and a license suspension of up to two years.

There’s a lot of highway construction underway in Indiana. You’ve seen the orange barrels and work zones, and state highway workers, as well. They’re mowing medians, repairing potholes and building new roads and bridges — making Hoosier roadways safer for you and your family.

By following the law and switching lanes or slowing down for emergency, highway and utility workers, you can do more than show some common courtesy.

You can help save lives.

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The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. July 29, 2018

State doing less to help boost energy efficiency

Before Mike Pence became part of a federal administration that has upended progress on a whole range of energy and environmental issues, the then-governor of Indiana had an opportunity to take a principled conservative stand for responsible energy policy.

In 2014, consumer advocates begged him to veto Senate Bill 340, an effort by the utility industry to kill an innovative energy-efficiency program that was saving customers money and creating an estimated 19,000 jobs while encouraging conservation. In a classic display of fence-straddling, Pence allowed the bill to become law without his signature but he acknowledged the need to promote energy efficiency and urged lawmakers to take up the issue again.

They did, serving up a parody of the original plan in 2015 that left it to the utilities themselves to pursue energy savings. Skeptics pointed out that this was like leaving foxes in charge of henhouse security, but Pence signed it into law.

A new report commissioned by Indiana Citizens Action Coalition suggests those decisions may be proving costly.

The Applied Economics Clinic of Sommerville, Mass., a nonprofit research group affiliated with Tufts University, looked at what might have happened if energy goals enacted by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission and the energy efficiency program that began in 2011 had been continued after 2014. By 2019, the group estimated, Indiana electric ratepayers would have saved $140 million, job growth would have continued, and electric demand would have been substantially reduced.

Bryndis Woods, one of the two researchers who did the study, said the clinic used only the utilities’ own numbers in reaching its conclusions.

“We make no assumptions,” Woods said. “We added nothing.

“In my opinion, the energy-efficiency standard was working,” she said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “Utilities were meeting the target. It was creating jobs.” Now, according to the report, many of those jobs have disappeared.

A statement provided by I&M on Thursday disputes the research group’s conclusions. “The report commissioned by the Citizens Action Coalition shows that I&M customers are achieving the same or more energy savings at lower cost,” I&M said, noting that it works with Fort Wayne and the IURC to offer “dynamic, wide-ranging energy efficiency programs, for both residential and commercial customers.”

The program Pence allowed to die was started in 2011 by his predecessor, Mitch Daniels, a practical conservative governor who understood that responsible energy management is not snowflake liberalism but constructive governance, good for business and public health as well as our environment.

Funded by I&M and other public utilities, the Energizing Indiana program hired private energy auditors who offered assessments and guidance to residents, industries and businesses on cutting electric consumption. They would prescribe a combination of education, targeted rebates and such uncomplicated suggestions as the use of weatherization and more efficient light bulbs and appliances to reduce power expenditures.

Though I&M and other state-regulated utilities offer similar programs, the Applied Economics Clinic study suggests the utilities don’t pursue those goals as vigorously as the independent Energize Indiana effort had.

The legislature didn’t like Daniels’ plan; the new report raises serious questions about the Pence-era alternative. Perhaps Gov. Eric Holcomb and next year’s legislature should revisit the important issue of energy conservation.

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The (Anderson) Herald Bulletin. July 27, 2018

Local schools must adopt positive discipline models

Ask any teacher about their biggest challenges in the classroom, and the conversation will often turn to discipline.

Disruptive students can poison the learning environment for their classmates, through both bullying and distraction.

The classic answer to the problem in education has been to suspend or expel, removing the disruption from the classroom and sometimes from the school system altogether.

This approach treats the symptoms without addressing the root problem. Kids who misbehave return after suspensions, or they move on to another school and often cause similar disruptions.

Traditionally, a suspension or expulsion also meant that education, essentially, reached a standstill for offending students. They stopped learning while they served their time.

Over the past decade, many Indiana schools have gotten better at dealing with problem students without resorting to suspensions and expulsions.

Anderson Community Schools is an example. Such discipline used to be practically rampant at ACS.

The district reported 8,313 in-school suspensions and 179 expulsions for the 2011-12 school year. In a school system of about 7,000 students, the suspension rate was particularly alarming — more than a suspension per student.

ACS officials made a commitment a few years ago to figure out ways to keep troubled students in the system so that they continue to learn. As a result, suspensions fell to 3,500 and expulsions to 23 during the 2015-16 academic year.

ACS accomplished this through, in part, the development of more alternative school options, a redistribution of administrative resources and more support programs for troubled kids.

Schools across Indiana have come under increasing pressure to adopt reformative — not punitive — discipline.

A new state law mandates positive discipline models and reductions in suspensions and expulsions through these main points:

. Reduce disproportional discipline and expulsions of minorities.

. Limit involvement of law enforcement to only those cases where the health and safety of students or school staff is at risk.

. Through policy, address bullying and cyberbullying on school property.

. Comply with state surveys, for reports to the legislature, about the use of positive discipline.

While state laws can force compliance with a program to help troubled kids and keep them learning, the training of staff and the allotment of resources are key.

With a new school year about to begin, it’s incumbent on all school districts in the Madison County area to give kids a fresh start and to take advantage of resources to help disruptive students continue in their education while addressing their behavioral problems.

Removing troubled students from the classroom can be the answer in terms of maintaining a positive learning environment. But the root causes of the behavior must be addressed for the good of the offending student and for the benefit of society.

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