- Associated Press - Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Bloomington Herald-Times. September 24, 2015

Entrepreneurship: Who is next?

The annual Cook Institute for Entrepreneurship shines a light annually on the possibilities for those who follow their own idea down a path to success. Accomplished speakers share their experiences and leave those who hear them realizing that risk can often result in great reward.

Tuesday’s speaker was Scott Dorsey, who started the company ExactTarget in Indianapolis with two other guys and the help of investments from his family and friends. Original financing in 2000 was about $200,000.

In 2013, the company salesforce.com bought the firm for about $2.7 billion. The company has been integrated into a new division that’s been renamed Salesforce Marketing Cloud.

Dorsey told the crowd that keys to starting a company are perseverance and having strong enthusiasm for the business idea. Those were instrumental for the Cooks, Bill and Gayle, for whom the Cook Institute is named. They launched their medical device company from a small apartment on the east side of Bloomington into an international group of companies headquartered on the city’s west side.

This event always highlights what can happen to someone with an idea and the drive to see it through.

Who’s next?

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The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. September 23, 2015.

Still work to do.

The good news is very good indeed. The unemployment rate has improved throughout northeastern Indiana.

In the 10-county area monitored by IPFW’s Community Research Institute, the jobless rate has dropped to 4 percent.

“That’s the lowest rate since May 2001,” said Ellen Cutter, the institute’s director.

August statistics released by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development show that within the three-county Fort Wayne metropolitan statistical area, the jobless rate was slightly higher - 4.1 percent - and Allen County’s rate was 4.2. But all of those rates are lower than for Indiana as a whole (4.4 percent) and for the nation (5.2 percent).

What does that mean for our region?

“The economy is moving, there are a lot of opportunities,” Cutter said. “People can find employment in greater numbers. But businesses are probably starting to feel the squeeze.”

Expanding businesses will be challenged to find enough skilled and trained workers. That will increase efforts to attract new workers to the area and to lure back people who for whatever reason have dropped out of the workforce. That includes some who gave up because they couldn’t find work and some who hold part-time jobs but really want full-time employment.

Thus, “the low unemployment most likely will result in some pressure to raise wages.” That, in turn, may provide an answer to the region’s greatest economic challenge - wages that in past years have dragged along below state and national averages.

The 10-county region has added 3,907 jobs since August 2014. And recent growth wasn’t in the retail sector, where wages tend to be lower. In comparison with the nation as a whole, northeast Indiana is “outperforming in manufacturing job growth. Also in logistics and transportation and in warehousing and wholesale trade,” Cutter said. Almost half the new jobs - 1,748 - were in manufacturing.

That kind of quiet, steady growth is just what the region needs to overcome years of stagnation.

None of this good news, of course, invalidates the concerns quantified last fall in a report sponsored by the Indiana Association of United Ways. The ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained and Employed) Report showed that even many families with full-time “breadwinners” have struggled to cope. More than a third of Allen County residents have had difficulty affording their basic needs.

And though northeast Indiana’s total number of jobs has grown by more than 1 percent during the past year, the state and national job-growth rates were closer to 2 percent. So, the challenge is to create still more jobs, jobs that in turn will raise the wage base, and that in turn will lift more families past the point of mere survival into real economic security.

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The South Bend Tribune. September 23, 2015.

A mixed legacy for South Bend’s police chief.

Ron Teachman stepped into a difficult job, at a difficult time, when he took over as South Bend’s police chief in January 2013.

The department and city were still embroiled in the controversy over the ouster of the ex-chief, Darryl Boykins, and the questions surrounding a federal wiretap investigation and secretly recorded tapes.

Teachman also faced critics, some outright hostile, who were angry about Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s decision to bring in an outsider to run the police department, as opposed to promoting a longtime veteran.

And it didn’t help that only a few months after arriving in South Bend, Teachman faced accusations that he didn’t back up an officer who was trying to break up a fight at the Martin Luther King Center, touching off an investigation by state police.

A rocky start to the new job, to be sure.

But from there, Teachman launched into a long list of changes and reforms for the department, bringing a more academic and high-tech approach to policing. He spoke often about looking far and wide for best practices in policing that South Bend could adopt.

He championed “Operation Ceasefire,” a strategy for targeting gun violence and, more importantly, the culprits most responsible for that violence. He installed a license plate reader to help catch people with warrants. And he brought in the ShotSpotter system to help quickly pinpoint the locations of gunfire.

He took the heroin epidemic seriously and had officers trained on how to administer a drug to treat overdoses. He talked openly about the need for better outreach and communication with residents.

For critics, Teachman never shook the “outsider” label, and they often harped about his management style and what they perceived as morale issues in the department. And for full disclosure, Teachman’s relationship with local media outlets, including The Tribune, was rocky at best - a reluctance to cooperate with reporters often seemed to border on disdain, with no explanation given as to what fueled that sentiment.

On his way out, Teachman has given his critics new fodder: He’s taking a job with ShotSpotter, the very company he brought to South Bend, on a $300,000 contract. He says he received no personal gain from the company, and the mayor says he has no concerns. But does it really pass the smell test? It’s fair to say that it should at least raise eyebrows.

Buttigieg now hands the department off to Scott Ruszkowski - the type of longtime insider that critics wanted two years ago. A third-generation cop, Ruszkowski has deep ties to the community and widespread respect, and his appointment has already drawn praise from several corners. The mayor seems to have signaled that, after the changes brought by an outsider, it’s time for a veteran whose profile earns him immediate respect from the rank-and-file and the community.

As for Teachman’s tenure, the same can be said for him that can be said of many public officials: He leaves behind a mixed legacy - some bad, some good. But for all the controversies and complaints, and many were part of the job of police chief, he does leave behind a force that is more forward-thinking. Many of his initiatives will have lasting impact. He certainly packed a lot into two years and nine months.

He leaves the department with someone who comes into the job with a level of goodwill and support that Teachman certainly would have benefited from early in his tenure.

It’s time for a new chief and a new approach, building off Teachman’s initiatives, but maybe also avoiding some of the missteps.

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The Indianapolis Star. September 25, 2015

Motherly advice for Gov. Pence’s drug task force.

They are experts. Reluctant experts who have been forced to see the horrors of Indiana’s heroin and opioid epidemic from up close.

They’re parents of young men and women whose lives have been ripped apart by drugs. They’ve lived through their children’s incarcerations and withdrawals, relapses and hospitalizations, broken promises and overdoes, and in some cases through their funerals.

It’s a different kind of expertise, one earned through years of pain. But they are experts, nonetheless, and they are at the top of the list of people the governor’s new drug abuse task force should turn to for true insight.

Four of these parents, all moms, spent two hours with me on a recent Thursday evening, eager - desperate even - to tell me what they’ve learned during years of watching their children battle fierce dependencies. They said they were glad I was listening but that they hoped the governor’s task force would listen, too.

“These are sick people that need our help,” an Indianapolis mom, Kourtnaye Sturgeon, said. “They need our help, and the truth is we as a state are doing the polar opposite of what they need. I hope the people on the task force understand that.”

The mothers I met with have been through personal hells, yet they optimistically fight on. They’ve seen their children lose everything to addiction and, so, they have worked to save other families from that same fate. They have memories of happy and bright children - memories that sometimes no longer seem real.

The women aren’t doctors or addiction specialists; they are hair stylists and small-business owners and marketers. But they’ve seen just about everything you can see about this crisis. They’ve seen its raw ugliness and the awful choices it forces upon a parent. They’ve seen what heroin does to a person, and they’ve almost screamed at a system that is not equipped to handle a crisis of this magnitude.

With these backgrounds, with this baggage, these moms can offer two essential things to the public debate. First is a dose of reality. Second is a tour of the roadblocks standing in the way of successful recoveries.

The reality check comes in the stories the women share. Stories about overdoses and homelessness, about a son selling his body for drugs, and a daughter imprisoned for stealing to support her habit. Stories of formerly happy children turned into broken adults, and of parental shame that eventually settles into sadness.

Theresa Short, 56, told me about once reporting her son’s heroin use to his probation officer. She knew that call could send him to prison but couldn’t think of how else to save him from the fatal overdose that seemed to be on its way - the type of overdose that claimed her stepson three years ago. Her son, a former high-school wrestler, has relapsed so many times that she is now “scared to death because he gets off parole in October,” and then he will no longer be subjected to court-ordered drug testing. That type of fear is why she turned in her own son.

Sturgeon, 53, wiped away tears as she recalled kicking her son, now 24 and struggling in recovery, out of her house several years ago. That was hard, she said, because it meant she would lose what little control she had. But too many lines had been crossed, too many lies had been told. She told me about the time he looked at her and couldn’t promise to stay clean. “I know why you’re asking,” he said, “but I hope you know that the last thing I want to do is use.”

Michelle Crane, 49, recalled driving her son, amid violently painful withdraw symptoms, to his drug dealer. She had a look on her face that said, don’t judge me unless you’ve been there, and I understood. “That was not my child,” she said. “He was out of his mind, and unless you’re going through it you can’t explain the horror to anyone.”

Her son is 28 and, after numerous attempts at recovery, is now serving the last days of a prison sentence stemming from a petty crime. Once, Crane said, she spent a Mother’s Day searching the city for him. Another time, she found him in a parking lot on 38th Street, a mix of meth and heroin in his system, sores so extensive on his face that she didn’t recognized him.

“The heartache addiction causes a family is indescribable,” she said.

As the others talked, Justin Phillips mainly listened. She didn’t have to say much; we’ve spent hours in the past talking about her late son, Aaron Sims. He had a great smile and a sharp mind, and he played football at Lawrence North High School. But heroin addiction overwhelmed him and he died of an overdose in 2013 at the age of 20.

That is the reality check.

And here is the message for the task force and other state policymakers who are taking a closer look at the addiction crisis. It’s simple: “The current system is just making the problem worse,” Short said.

The epidemic has too often been treated as a criminal justice issue and not a health crisis, she said. Treatment centers are far too limited and far too costly, particularly for those without insurance. Jails and prisons lack the programs to effectively help inmates deal with their addictions, and they don’t come close to adequately preparing them for life on the outside.

Over and over, the moms talked about the lack of opportunities for those who have collected rap sheets while in the grip of addiction. As much as anything, this was on their minds. It’s so basic, they said, but so tied to a troubled person’s chance of turning his or her life around. The task force, they argued, should focus closely on job training and work programs for those with felony records, and for those whose addictions will continue to challenge them for years.

“Nobody wants to hire them, even when they are clean,” Short said. “They cannot find a job and that only makes their lack of self-worth worse.”

Sturgeon talked about the challenge of finding affordable treatment programs and said that the task force needs to understand the urgency of the situation. Those trying to overcome addiction to heroin can’t be asked to wait months, weeks or even days.

“When they are receptive to that help, there is a very short window,” she said. “If you can’t get them into a facility right away you can easily lose them.”

They know. They’ve seen it.

The women also gave several pragmatic suggestions: They said Indiana needs a needle-exchange program. They urged the state to study with skepticism the for-profit methadone clinic industry. They almost begged for more detox centers. They said the probation system should be not only about enforcement but also about partnering with those fighting addiction.

And they said Indiana must better help families navigate the complex network of recovery programs and centers, providing clear data focused on the results and outcomes that different programs produce.

“It’s so hard to determine who is honest and who is not,” Sturgeon said.

As I’ve written about this crisis in the past couple of years, I’ve heard from many people who argue that a person who sticks a needle in his arm is responsible for his own problems. What that argument misses is that these are real people who shouldn’t be tossed aside. And even if you think they should be, tackling this crisis more effectively will help us all. Each story of addiction has collateral damage that spreads immense pain and heavy costs through families and communities.

There are no easy answers. There is no quick fix. But there are experts who can offer wise counsel. They’ve lived through the pain, frustation and fear of this epidemic.

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