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Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers

July 4, 2017

The (Munster) Times. June 29, 2017

Bridge all gaps in E-911 dispute

The Indiana State Police are offering a unifying bridge between two feuding factions of Lake County’s vital 911 public safety network.

Both sides should seize on the opportunity to settle all pending legal disputes.

For the past 18 months, Lake County’s larger consolidated E-911 emergency dispatch service has been in mediation with the towns of Cedar Lake and Schererville.

Those two towns never joined the state-mandated consolidation, opting instead, also under state law, to form their own dispatch between the two municipalities.

Cedar Lake and Schererville then sued Lake County E-911, alleging the county has refused to provide full E-911 communications capabilities so both entities can seamlessly communicate when public safety calls for it.

The two sides also are in a legal dispute over the allocation of state telephone user fees.

It seems the public safety aspect of those disputes has a resolution on the horizon, courtesy of the Indiana State Police.

The state cops are offering a new radio system on which all within the county can communicate on an as-needed basis similar to mutual aid agreements between fire departments of different communities.

This means, for example, if a police chase begins in Schererville and crosses into Merrillville, police from both towns will be able to communicate.

All parties in this dispute appear ready to latch on to this state police tool as a major settling point.

This should serve as a catalyst to settling the lingering dispute over the equitable division of $2.3 million in telephone user fees collectively provided to the county for E-911 funding by the state.

Disputes over the consolidation have been brewing and churning for years. It all should end here and now. Residents and taxpayers deserve better.

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The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. June 29, 2017

Informed voices key in tax debate

Laws limit council in rate-hike proposal

Discussion of a proposed increase in the county’s local income tax got off to a healthy start Tuesday with a public hearing before City Council. But among the comments offered was no small amount of misinformation, beginning with the idea that the council should “let the voters decide.”

“Give the citizens of Fort Wayne an opportunity to speak and to raise their voice on this by putting it to a vote. ... Put it to a referendum in 2018,” one opponent said, “Let the citizens of Fort Wayne have their voice and you’ll see whether we do or do not want this tax increase.”

But there is no mechanism in state law for putting the question to a vote. Some states allow ballot initiatives on seemingly countless measures, but Indiana is not one of them. Aside from proposed amendments to the state constitution and school referendum questions, there is no means for the council to ask the public for an up or down vote on a tax increase.

“I suppose we could have an unofficial vote on it, but that would be costly and, at the end of the day, it wouldn’t be binding,” said City Councilman John Crawford, R-at large, sponsor of the proposed 0.15 percent increase in the income tax rate. “They are confusing it with a vote to increase the maximum levy on the property tax, on a school project.”

Another claim on the tax question suggests the city could use revenue from an income tax increase to cover school transportation costs. It can’t.

The confusion likely comes from the city’s effort to prioritize sidewalk repairs based on proximity to schools. When property tax cap restraints forced Fort Wayne Community Schools to reduce the number of bus routes, more students began walking and biking to neighborhood schools.

But sidewalks are needed near schools regardless of bus ridership.

The district doesn’t provide bus transportation for students who live within a mile of an elementary school, so it’s important to have a safe route for those who live close enough to walk. That infrastructure has been lacking.

Moreover, sidewalks are needed by all residents. Rena Burden of Turnstone Center for Children and Adults with Disabilities made that point eloquently Tuesday.

“Improving the sidewalks and alleyways improves the lives of the people we serve and the clients that benefit from our services,” she said.

“Public transportation is imperative for them to get to Turnstone, and improving the sidewalks by adding curb cuts and improving the alleyways for them to get through to their homes is essential to their independent quality of life.”

Yet another misconception is that the county’s Capital Improvement Board has the financial resources to cover riverfront development.

Crawford notes the CIB’s annual revenues, from food and beverage tax revenue of about $5 million a year, isn’t sufficient to support multiple phases of the riverfront project.

CIB has invested $3 million in the first phase of the development, but its resources are needed for other economic development projects, as well.

New Haven, for example, is looking to the board for development of the Casad Depot.

As the tax increase proposal debate continues, it’s important for all voices to be heard. But the discussion will be most effective if it is well informed.

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Kokomo Tribune. June 29, 2017

One person without peer

The Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Michigan, recognizes people who “have significantly impacted the development of the automobile or the motor vehicle industry.” More than 200 deserving individuals have been so honored.

About 30,000 visitors to the 78-year-old Hall of Fame rediscover automotive titans such as Carl Benz, Ettore Bugatti, Louis Chevrolet, Walter P. Chrysler, Andre Citroen, Horace and John Dodge, Charles and Frank Duryea, Henry Ford and Ransom Olds every year.

Elwood Haynes is among them, having been inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 2015. Outside the Seiberling Mansion, home of the Howard County Museum, a life-size, bronze statue of Haynes now welcomes visitors.

On July 4, 1894, Haynes drove his gasoline-powered “Pioneer” along Pumpkinvine Pike right outside Kokomo. “A new American industry had been founded” that day, said Ralph Gray, professor emeritus of history at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

It’s why the Haynes Apperson Festival, which begins today in Foster Park, is celebrated each year around Independence Day.

In his lifetime, Haynes was recognized as the builder of America’s first automobile, according to Gray. Haynes drove his Pioneer at the head of a parade celebrating the automobile’s first decade in New York City in 1908. During a 1913 tour of Indiana-built autos from Indianapolis to the West Coast, he was acclaimed as the “father of the automobile.”

As state Sen. Jim Buck, R-Kokomo, said during the Haynes statue’s unveiling, he also could be considered the father of Kokomo.

“We are all his beneficiaries here in Kokomo,” Buck said. “The City of Firsts started with this man. This man planned in the past the future that you and I enjoy today.”

Haynes’ contribution to the auto industry didn’t end with the Pioneer. Needing a more durable spark plug electrode, he invented a precursor to his alloy, Stellite. He introduced stainless steel because his wife wanted tableware that didn’t tarnish. His work in metals arguably is more important to the car industry than his autos.

In Kokomo and Howard County, Elwood Haynes has no peer.

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(Terre Haute) Tribune-Star. June 28, 2017

Time to wake up and smell the asphalt

Raise in gas tax, vehicle fees go to worthy projects

Gasoline prices are anything but stable, so it may or may not be obvious to Hoosier motorists that they will suddenly being paying 10 cents more per gallon at the pump this weekend. That’s when Indiana’s gas tax increase takes effect, a product of legislation adopted in the last session of the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb.

Indiana’s gas tax will rise to 28 cents a gallon on Saturday. What’s more, a registration fee of $15 per vehicle will be implemented on Jan. 1, 2018, with the fee rising to $150 for electric vehicles that do not use gas but travel on Indiana roads.

The rise in taxes and fees marks a significant step toward upgrading the state’s vital infrastructure. Much of the money goes toward road funding, and in the first year, the tax should raise $357 million for the Indiana Department of Transportation and $260 million for local road projects. There are other revenue-raising elements that will take effect in subsequent years. Overall, the funding package should raise $6.4 billion during the next seven years.

It’s easy to grumble about rising taxes and fees, and some Hoosiers are already beginning to vent their frustrations about the impending gas tax increase. But it’s important to remember that the state’s gas tax has not been changed since 2003, when it went up by 3 cents. In the meantime, roads, bridges and other critical assets have slowly deteriorated while the state struggled to keep up with demand for repairs and new construction.

One group that studies such things gave Indiana a D-plus grade for its infrastructure in 2013. It certainly hasn’t improved much since then.

Indiana’s lawmakers spent considerable time and energy cutting taxes in recent years. Hoosiers have benefited from that. This year’s raise in gas taxes and fees for funding infrastructure projects is an acknowledgement from legislators that eventually a state has to invest itself in order to meet the needs of its citizens and the businesses they operate.

An infrastructure plan was part of new Gov. Holcomb’s legislative plan, and we applaud his determination and leadership in this area. It wasn’t easy. Holcomb, like the vast majority of Hoosier lawmakers, is a Republican, and his party has been the prime proponent of cutting taxes and opponent of raising taxes for many years. Taking this position was difficult and controversial in his own party. But doing so was the right thing. In the end, with the support of House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President David Long, it passed by a wide margin.

Holcomb defended the legislation again this week, saying if Indiana wants good roads it will have to pay for them.

“It was time to have a long-term, truly sustainable, data-driven plan and that will kick in on July 1,” he said. “It will have the funding to be able to maintain what we have. That’s what taxpayers expect and deserve, that’s what they pay for. And we’ll be able to finish projects that are going to continue to draw in investment to the state of Indiana, like nobody’s business.”

Like any major program, it isn’t perfect. There are long-term issues to be resolved, including the potential for tolling on major interstates such as I-70 and I-65. Those topics will stir considerable debate and controversy.

But for now, it’s time to get busy.

“I am eagerly awaiting July 1 to get here,” Holcomb said. “And like I said, you’re going to be able to smell asphalt morning, noon and night.”

It can’t happen soon enough.

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