- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Journal Gazette. June 2, 2014

Up for discussion

For more than a decade, Indiana has been struggling to resolve the issue of canned hunting - the practice of confining docile, farm-bred deer within a high-fenced “preserve” and charging visitors thousands of dollars to shoot them.

During this year’s session, the Indiana Senate fell just short of approving a measure that would have imposed a few regulations on the state’s four canned-hunting sites but would have legitimized them and perhaps encouraged the opening of others.

Those who backed the bill seemed to be unduly concerned about the economic benefits that flow from this inherently unsporting practice and oddly dismissive of the dangers posed to wild deer herds by the domesticated deer imported from other states.

Imported deer could bring chronic wasting disease, an always-fatal deer malady that could devastate the legitimate hunting industry in Indiana as it has in other states. Some balance may be restored to the discussion this summer. At the request of Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, and Rep. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville, the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, the legislature has authorized a summer study committee to look carefully at the CWD issue as it relates to the four canned-hunting operations and the nearly 400 deer farms in the state.

Long has spoken caustically about canned hunting in the past and voted against passage of this year’s measure. A powerful series about the issue in The Indianapolis Star a few weeks ago galvanized concern.

Last week, the office of Attorney General Greg Zoeller also weighed in, filing a brief urging the Indiana Court of Appeals to recognize that responsibility for regulating the high-fenced hunting operations rightly belongs to the state’s Department of Natural Resources.

The DNR tried to shut down canned hunting in 2005, but that effort remained in limbo until last year, when a judge in Harrison County ruled against the DNR, though an Owen County judge previously had ruled in favor of the agency.

In an effort to resolve the matter, the attorney general’s appeal of the Harrison County ruling argues that denying DNR oversight on a wildlife-related issue creates “a regulation-free environment where individuals can hunt without a license, out of season, with weapons not typically used for hunting and with blatant disregard for Indiana’s safety and ethical hunting standards.”

Preserve operators have argued that their deer are exempt from DNR oversight because they really should be classified as livestock. But if that’s the case, the attorney general’s office argued, state law would prevent them from being hunted.

It’s encouraging to see the legislature giving the issue more thought, and Zoeller is to be commended for taking the issue on in the courts. One way or another, the reckless trafficking in and unethical slaughter of deer have to be brought under control.

___

Evansville Courier & Press. June 2, 2014.

‘Walking’ school bus could reduce costs, encourage fitness

If this were the 1950s or earlier, this latest development in transporting kids to school would be regarded as a huge joke - walking.

This being the 20-teens, the revival of an idea that’s as old as school, indeed as old as feet, has been gussied up with fresh jargon - “the walking school bus.” The idea is that, under parental supervision, pupils within reasonable walking distance to their elementary school walk as a group, starting at the most distant house and picking up their classmates as they go along.

What we would like to point out is that Courier & Press columnist John Lucas, more than two years ago, put in a plug for the walking school bus, asking if it wasn’t time again to revise the old idea of walking to school, as a way of cutting school expenses. Also, it is a way of improving fitness.

Like many ideas that have the fatal disadvantage of being old ones, the walking school bus makes all kinds of sense. They are under the watchful eyes of adults they presumably already know - and just as importantly know their parents.

“Walking school buses” have been tried successfully in locations as diverse as Missouri, Iowa and Rhode Island.

A generation that seems fated to obesity - threatening our national defense, if you believe our military leaders - gets much-needed exercise.

The kids get time to make friends with classmates they might not otherwise see. And the walking school buses save the district on the cost of operating real school buses. By involving parents, it may even pull their neighborhoods closer together.

And what about bad weather?

The makers of outdoor gear have your kids covered - literally. The days of those bright yellow rubber raincoats that turned into mobile saunas in any temperature over 40 degrees are long gone. And so are the matching rain hats that looked like inverted buckets. And when was the last time you heard the word “galoshes?”

Any decent outdoors store has a selection of light, breathable, waterproof rain gear that can be folded up compactly and stashed in the child’s backpack. The gear dries out quickly and, for that matter, so does the child.

As the parents of an earlier, hardier generation would say, as a child timidly about to set out for school contemplated a spring downpour, “A little rain never hurt anyone.”

And, besides, the walk will help the kids work up an appetite for one of first lady Michelle Obama’s delicious and healthful school lunches. A little kale never hurt anyone.

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Indianapolis Business Journal. May 31, 2014.

Party conventions not an easy call

In late April, there was a dust-up over the city’s decision not to bid on the 2016 Democratic National Convention. City and convention officials said it was a practical decision based in part on an already stacked 2016 calendar.

Predictably, the leaders of the local Democratic Party cried foul, claiming the decision was a political play by the city’s Republican administration.

Groundless, knee-jerk statements are what we’ve come to expect from political pros on both sides of the aisle. This one was no different. In fact, the city had earlier withdrawn from any consideration of hosting the 2016 Republican National Convention. Why? Because regardless of which party’s convention is up for grabs, there are legitimate questions about the wisdom of dedicating time and money to such an effort.

Count us among those who are skeptical the attendance and media exposure the big political parties draw are worth the cost.

It’s hard to disregard the benefit of bringing 50,000 delegates to the city, some of whom would be first-time visitors, and having them fill the city’s hotel rooms and patronize local eating and drinking establishments. But that’s the biggest thing the political conventions have going for them.

The mainstream media exposure the conventions receive isn’t what it used to be. The major television networks at one time offered gavel-to-gavel coverage. That was back when party platforms were hammered out at the conventions and presidential nominees weren’t foregone conclusions. In the 1980s, when the political parties began turning their conventions into made-for-TV spectacles, the TV news teams started trimming their coverage. Now political junkies can get their convention fix on social media.

Then there are the costs.

For starters, both parties require that the city’s convention facilities be shut down for 12 weeks to allow for setup and tear-down. That’s almost a quarter of a year, entirely too long to have our marquee facilities sit vacant.

Another big drawback to hosting is the $55 million to $60 million the political parties require the host city to raise. That’s twice what city businesses committed to the city’s recent Super Bowl bid. And unlike the money pledged to host a Super Bowl, an event the entire city can rally around, the money that goes toward a political convention supports an event that is more likely to divide local residents.

Whether it’s $30 million for a Super Bowl or $60 million for a political convention, the fact that such large sums can be raised to host a one-time event gives heartburn to those who struggle on a daily basis to raise modest sums for causes that seem far more worthy. At least the National Football League put its muscle behind redevelopment of the East 10th Street corridor when the city hosted Super Bowl XLVI in 2012. Would a political convention leave a lasting legacy?

The gatherings, which sometimes spawn large protests, some of them violent, also come with huge security costs.

We’re not urging the city to flatly reject the idea of hosting either party in 2020. But officials need to carefully compare costs and benefits. And if they say, “Thanks, but no thanks,” they’ll get no argument from us.

___

The Indianapolis Star. May 30, 2014.

Hoosiers’ poor health takes a heavy toll

The numbers, year after year, are discouraging.

In 2013, Indianapolis ranked a sorrowful 45th out of the nation’s 50 largest cities in terms of residents’ physical fitness, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. This year, the Indy-based organization’s newly released American Fitness Index pegs our city as a lowly 47th in the nation.

Despite all the time, money and attention poured into efforts to improve Hoosiers’ health, we’re still losing ground. And gaining weight. And failing far too often to eat right or get enough exercise.

The bad news gets even worse because the Fitness Index isn’t an outlier. United Health Foundation’s annual rankings on states’ overall health placed Indiana at 41st among the 50 states last year. Indiana landed in the same lowly spot in 2012.

Indy, we have a problem. Actually, multiple problems.

Of the College of Sports Medicine’s 15 fitness categories, Indianapolis rated below average on 14. The one exception was in diabetes-related deaths.

Enough discouragement, for now. Because there actually are several hopeful signs pointing to a better, healthier future for more Hoosiers.

Start with the rapid growth of biking in the city and the addition of miles of bike lanes and trails. Add the increase in farmers markets and other outlets for healthier food.

And factor in the still-emerging work of two major community-based initiatives. The first, Jump IN for Healthy Kids, is a recently launched campaign to reduce child obesity in Central Indiana. It’s already brought together top business, government, nonprofit and academic leaders and organizations - including Eli Lilly, Roche Diagnostics, the Colts, the Pacers and The Star - with plans to set aggressive, measurable goals for improving children’s health and fitness.

The second is the YMCA-led Top 10 by 2025 initiative, which has championed better mass transit, tougher smoking laws and a local ordinance that gives priority to trails and sidewalk construction as part of road improvements. The campaign has set an aggressive goal - to get Indy ranked in the Fitness Index’s top 10 cities list by 2025.

That may seem almost impossible given how low we rank now. But in an old Midwestern city that turned its Downtown into one of the nation’s most attractive, that pulled off one of the best Super Bowl week experiences in history, that built the innovative and alluring Cultural Trail, that routinely comes together to conquer big challenges, it can be done.

In fact, it must be done. Our poor health cuts short lives, causes untold suffering, drives up employers’ costs and thus reduces workers’ compensation, and drags down our overall quality of life.

It’s a cliché but true: Nothing is more important than our health. It’s time we started acting like it.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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