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Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers

December 4, 2018

The (Munster) Times. November 29, 2018

Gary mayor sets sights on national role while city crumbles

It defies reality — again — in the city of Gary.

While the city crumbles and financial controversy abounds, the mayor prepares to assume a national leadership role.

The city is wrapped in a well-documented scandal over mishandled emergency services funds, embarrassing state audit findings, ethics violations by a top leader and crumbling infrastructure and schools.

A State Board of Accounts audit released earlier this week further backed the narrative of unauthorized poaching from an emergency services fund to make payroll and the inappropriate double-dipping of Gary Councilwoman Mary Brown, who now must reimburse $132,748 to the city’s sanitary district for money she collected while serving as both a councilwoman and sanitary district employee. The double-dipping ran contrary to state law, the audit concluded.

That all was the backdrop to Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson being elected earlier this month as 2019 president of the National League of Cities.

We could ask the league — a national advocacy organization for cities — what it was thinking in electing the Gary mayor to this post.

After all, generations of Gary leadership have done little to truly address the many problems plaguing the city.

But in a more local sense, we must ask what Mayor Freeman-Wilson is thinking by accepting this national role.

A Nov. 10 news release from the league notes Freeman-Wilson “will serve a one-year term as president of the nation’s largest and most representative membership and advocacy organization for cities and their leaders, will focus her presidential platform on creating communities for all generations, responding to the unique needs of legacy cities, uplifting and supporting civic engagement, and addressing our nation’s varied housing crisis.”

This sounds like a worthy checklist for Freeman-Wilson to be carrying out on the home front, as Gary mayor — a position that pays her $142,277.72 in annual compensation for her mayoral and sanitary district duties.

An editorial earlier this year criticized the mayor for making headlines at the Mexican border at a time her city was experiencing a rash of shootings and street violence.

At that time, she was stumping for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, decrying the detention and separation of children from their undocumented immigrant parents. What happened at the border is a well-documented travesty, but so are the poverty and crime unfolding in Gary.

The same logic that applied in our editorial earlier this year is relevant now that she has become the league’s president. How many more times will the mayor be stumping for outside issues while her own city crumbles?

Mayor, you were elected to serve one of the most struggling, impoverished, crumbling cities in the nation.

Your work is cut out for you here.

Consulting with the league on best practices is a great idea. Leading the national group when your own house lacks precious little order smacks of the ridiculous.


The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. November 30, 2018

Students first

Indiana is closing in on two decades of so-called school reform, with proponents continuing to claim more is needed. But the changes they’ve championed, beginning with the 2001 charter school law, now have a track record. A measure of the effectiveness of Indiana charter schools should include those opened in Fort Wayne, where another could soon be shut down. Of six charters opened here, only two would remain.

Thurgood Marshall Leadership Academy welcomed its first students in 2012 under the sponsorship of the Fort Wayne Urban League. It was among the first charters authorized by the Indiana Charter School Board, created by the Indiana General Assembly “to grow the supply of high-performing public charter schools throughout the state.”

From the start, Thurgood Marshall has been anything but high performing. Its first letter grade was an F, rising to a C for several years before dropping to a failing mark again in 2015-16. It received F’s in both the state and federal grades issued most recently. Jim Betley, executive director of the state board, told The Journal Gazette’s Niki Kelly that a dispute between the school and its management company could be the last straw.

“It’s never a good time to close a school, but if we have concerns about the viability of a school we have to weigh the pros and cons of that,” he said. “The circumstances don’t even look like they are there or will be there in the foreseeable future to show improvement.”

The school never appeared a viable option for students. The 2011 public hearing on its application was a charade, with only one member of the state board in attendance. Public comments were not recorded and board member William Shrewsberry made the audacious claim that audience members who did not speak represented a “silent majority” in support of the application.

This page noted at the time that American Quality Schools, the management company chosen by the Urban League, had a poor track record overseeing its other Indiana charters and that its bookkeeping practiceswere cited in state audit reports. The school also was pitched in 2012 as an alternative for African-American students in the East Allen County Schools district, but instead opened near two of Fort Wayne Community Schools’ top-rated magnet schools.

Mark GiaQuinta was president of the Fort Wayne school board at the time, and now is a Democratic appointee of the state charter school board. As such, he observes charter schools authorized by the state board with a critical eye.

“It was a classic bait and switch. I look at this as a school that never should have been started in the first place,” he said. “There is nothing the children at Thurgood Marshall are getting they wouldn’t have received from responsible school leaders at FWCS. It became a case of adult egos over children’s needs.”

GiaQuinta said he takes no satisfaction in the state board’s decision to withdraw a charter, which could happen at its Dec. 11 meeting.

“Am I confident the school will close? No - there’s another charter authorizer waiting in the wings to swoop in and take the money,” he said, referring to the independent colleges also authorized by the state to grant charters. “It’s time to put these kids and their parents first and get out of the charter business.”

Charter schools are public schools, permitted to operate outside of many of the regulations placed on traditional public schools in the belief they can respond quickly to student needs. Supporters argue flexibility comes with greater accountability, but Thurgood Marshall is now in its seventh year of operation. Have its students been well served? Will current students be well served if the school is ordered to close at the end of the year or if they continue under another authorizer? Would the millions in tax dollars spent on failed Indiana charters have been better invested in neighborhood schools?

Christel DeHaan, the Indianapolis time-share mogul who was among the biggest charter proponents, argued for their creation in an oped in 2000.

“We must stop inventing spin-master accusations, stop pointing the finger, own up to what truly is and move on to effective solutions,” she wrote.

Her argument now should apply to charter schools: Lawmakers must own up to what truly is and move on to effective solutions.


South Bend Tribune. November 28, 2018

So far, so good on Hoosier Sunday alcohol sales

Nine months have passed since Indiana finally ended its antiquated ban on carryout Sunday alcohol sales.

So far, so good.

As The Tribune reported this week, the dire predictions that helped justify the ban haven’t come to pass.

For years, the argument went that Sunday sales would bring economic upheaval.

Traditional liquor stores on the Indiana side of the border with Michigan were concerned that ending the ban would mean that shoppers would buy their alcohol while grocery shopping on Sundays. Stores on the Michigan side feared that they would be forced to close after Indiana shoppers stopped coming to them to buy alcoholic beverages on Sundays.

Thanks to those arguments — and the state’s powerful liquor store lobby — consumers, the strong majority of whom supported Sunday carryout sales, were ignored and inconvenienced.

The reality of Sunday sales in Indiana has been somewhat different than the grim forecasts. Although business has been somewhat slower on the Michigan side, some stores have used competitive advantages such as installing additional coolers to ensure an ample supply of cold beer.

And Gary Gardner, the operations manager at Belmont Beverage — who opposed Sunday sales — says Belmont hasn’t been hurt so far by the change. In fact, he told The Tribune, it might have been helped. “I’m glad it’s gone the way it’s gone so far,” he said.

So are we — and so, we’d wager, are Hoosiers frustrated by the state stubbornly holding on to a blue law that’s been on the books since federal Prohibition ended in 1933.

Eighty-five years later, Indiana ended its dubious distinction as the last state in the nation that bans all sales of carryout alcohol on Sundays.

This calls for a toast: Better late than never.


Kokomo Tribune. November 28, 2018

Cub Scouts open doors to girls

Six-year-old Eden Hoppes always wanted to be a Cub Scout. She attended meetings since she was 4-years-old and wanted to do things that Brownies and Girl Scouts don’t do, things like shooting BB guns, shooting archery and tying knots.

However, the Cub Scouts were a boys-only group. But now, after more than a century, the Boy Scouts of America announced last year that the Cub Scouts program would be open to girls as part of its Family Scouting Program starting in 2018.

The choice about whether to form a new all-girl pack or add girl dens to an existing pack is left to the chartered organization, in consultation with unit leaders. That means that if boys want to join an all-boys pack, that option is available.

Kokomo Cub Scout Pack 3506 chose to open its doors to girls and got the OK from its charter organization, Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, where the weekly pack meetings are held.

Heath Hoppes, Eden’s dad and the Cubmaster for Kokomo Cub Scout Pack 3506, knew his daughter would be ecstatic to be able to join.

So he and Priscilla, Eden’s mom, who serves as the assistant Cubmaster, got the ball rolling to start signing up girls to join their pack.

Once Eden finally joined Cub Scouts of Pack 3506, it didn’t take her long to excel. During a Cub Scout camp this summer, she was the only person out of 15 boys and girls who could start a fire. At a day camp, she outshot all the boys with her BB gun, which, in Eden’s opinion, is one of the best parts of Scouts.

There are currently 26 girls registered in the six Cub Scout packs in Howard County that have elected to participate in the Family Scouting program, according to the Sagamore Council, which oversees the Scouts BSA programs in 16 counties in north-central Indiana. One pack in the county has decided not to join the program and keeps a boys-only group.

Since May, 12 girls have registered in Pack 3506, which has in total 87 scouts, making it one of the largest Cub Scout Packs in the Sagamore Council.

Whenever Priscilla Hoppes hears from naysayers, she asks the them what they don’t like about girls in Cub Scouts. She says she still hasn’t really gotten a legitimate answer, aside from the person saying that they’re “old school.”

“Women have changed,” Priscilla said. “Girls have changed. Girls want different things in life now than what they wanted 50 years ago.”

“The thing is, the standards are the same,” Heath added. “It doesn’t matter if my son learned it. It doesn’t matter if my daughter learned it. They’re both getting the same thing. They’re both capable of doing the exact same things.”

And for Eden, we say “You go, girl!”


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