- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The (Munster) Times. October 21, 2016

We endorse McCormick to lead Hoosier public education.

When two candidates for government office offer similar core values and ideas, it’s logical to look next at their ability to work with others and keep political spats from drowning out policy.

It’s the standard we apply in endorsing Jennifer McCormick, Republican candidate for Indiana superintendent of public instruction, over incumbent Superintendent Glenda Ritz, a Democrat.

We find both candidates have true understanding and compassion for the teachers in our public school trenches, who struggle to provide quality education for students.

Both women appear to be able, quality candidates.

However, we can’t forget the divisive squabbling and power struggles that have characterized Ritz’s inaugural term since her 2012 election to the post.

Political spats and jockeying for control of the state’s education policy among Ritz, the Indiana State Board of Education and the governor’s office often have obscured the job’s real importance - promoting quality education for students. Ritz shares in the blame.

Tussles over simple board procedures, squabbles regarding delays in state accountability grade results, fights over widespread testing interruptions and a lawsuit Ritz filed against the board, accusing it of Open Door Law violations, all have characterized her first term.

We see McCormick as a bridge-building alternative to Ritz.

McCormick, who has been superintendent of the Muncie-area Yorktown Community Schools for six years, is better positioned to stop the fighting.

McCormick said providing leadership and repairing necessary relationships among the superintendent’s office, the governor, the Legislature and the education board would be a top priority.

We’re impressed that many of McCormick’s core policy ideas don’t always favor the popular line of her own party.

She believes the state must be more conscientious in balancing school choice, including vouchers and charter schools, with the need for adequate public school funding. McCormick would like to see separate appropriations for private school vouchers, not from the same pool of public school funds.

McCormick also takes a more pro-teacher approach to school accountability than many in her own party, rightly not judging teachers based on the results of standardized test scores alone. And she wants to see more comprehensive school accountability reports cards from the state - assessments that, perhaps, assign letter grades to specific categories of school performance and growth rather than an overall letter grade that provides no specifics of school success or deficiency.

We believe Ritz’s heart generally has been in the right place during the past four years of her first term.

But there are crucial changes coming for Indiana education, including a new and yet-to-be-determined standardized test, which will require a united front of state leaders.

McCormick is best suited for moving Indiana public education forward.

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South Bend Tribune. October 21, 2016

Resolution not an ending to concerns about South Bend Police.

The latest chapter involving a South Bend police officer who has been under fire for alleged misconduct has been resolved.

Last Friday, Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski said in a public statement that Aaron Knepper, the officer who arrested University of Notre Dame football player Devin Butler in August, did nothing wrong and would not be disciplined.

A few days later, Butler pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of resisting law enforcement for the altercation with Knepper. Under the terms of the plea agreement, prosecutors agreed to drop felony counts of resisting law enforcement and battery to a public safety officer.

That may officially settle the matter, but it does little if anything to ease concerns in the community about one officer in particular and the less than transparent manner in which cases of alleged misconduct are handled in general.

Those demanding more openness from the police may have been encouraged by Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s recent announcement that the SBPD will soon begin releasing data on the use of force by officers and complaints against them of misconduct. In an interview with The Tribune, the mayor credited the new White House Data Initiative with helping the city form a policy that will allow it to release such information.

That’s a good step toward a more transparent department. But you can’t ignore recent history: As detailed in a report earlier this week, The Tribune found that, after more than a month of seeking, substantial records have been nearly impossible to obtain. Some were shielded from public view altogether. Others were not readily available or are filed in formats that city officials say make them difficult to gather. And in some cases, the city used legal exceptions to avoid turning them over.

Buttigieg said he expects the city to begin posting data about the police conduct online by the end of the year. He said that “within the boundaries we have, in terms of technical ability and legal constraints, we get that we can be doing more when it comes to police transparency.”

The city can be “doing more” by releasing information, within reasonable constraints, that allows the public to see how police are performing. That’s the only way to gain the confidence and trust that is lacking in the relationship between law enforcement and members of the community.

Another way the city can build a stronger connection is by establishing a citizen review board. The review system that’s in place - with police investigating themselves - creates suspicion no matter what the facts really are. A more open process might well exonerate officers as well as educate the public about some of the difficult situations that the police face on a daily basis.

The Board of Public Safety, whose members are appointed by the mayor and serve indefinitely, has its role in handling hiring and disciplinary matters. A citizen review board would have a different and distinct role of better addressing the questions and concerns members of the public may have about a system from which they often feel alienated. The board would sort through issues in a process that would be public. That openness would serve to inspire confidence in the police.

In his statement clearing Knepper of any wrongdoing, the police chief noted that “for every case of alleged misconduct that comes before our department, we base decisions and recommendations on a full review of evidence.”

Imagine how members of the public would react if they knew such reviews were conducted with the participation of their fellow civilians. It’s time for the mayor to look at other communities that have set up separate review boards to work to clear the air and enhance the authority and trust their people place in police departments. We need to find a good model and follow it here.

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The (Bloomington) Herald Times. October 20, 2016

Focus on city’s digital future laudable.

While details haven’t been finalized, Mayor John Hamilton says the city is getting closer to the citywide gigabit-speed fiber network for Bloomington he made a major focus of his 2015 campaign and his first nine months in office.

Hamilton has lofty and specific goals for what he wants, and if he’s successful, Bloomington will be positioned very well to compete in the 21st century economy that relies heavily on digital connectivity. Beyond the economy, citizens will have the latest communications and information technology at their fingertips.

The mayor said this week he sees five benchmarks for the city’s fiber service.

. It needs to be citywide, which means it’s ubiquitous, or available to everyone no matter where in the city they live.

. It needs to be open access, meaning companies that don’t actually construct the fiber infrastructure must be able to use it to provide their business services. It would be a privately built network open to others to use.

. It needs to be financially responsible, which means it has to be able to work for the both the companies and customers involved. The appropriate partner must be ready, willing and able to invest in and build a digital network.

. It has to reduce the digital divide, which means, potentially, that low-cost options or subsidies will be available for low-income people to be connected.

. It has to be timely. Hamilton wants to get this going, so Bloomington is ahead of the curve and the potential competition from other communities that figure out how to develop a similar infrastructure. He expects to announce a decision by the end of the year and see construction begin in early 2017.

Hamilton’s plan shows vision but also has a high level of complexity and room for controversy. The city’s decision to pick one partner for this build-out gives one company a huge advantage in a potentially booming future market. Smithville, a local company providing Gigabit service to selected neighborhood, is already in the market and plans to continue to expand. The city’s decision on a partner will have an effect on the company.

On that point, the mayor believes strongly a new network will be an enhancement to existing businesses while attracting new ones.

In addition, recent problems and delays involving the state’s partnership agreement to design and build Section 5 of I-69 provide a cautionary tale about the importance of picking the right partner and having airtight contracts in place.

These concerns aside, the mayor’s focus on the digital future of the community is laudable. We await further details on the plan.

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Kokomo Tribune. October 19, 2016

Business, in the open.

Before the end of the year, we’ll be sending letters to the many government agencies and schools in our coverage area with requests for planned meeting places in 2017.

We won’t be alone in doing so either. We’ll be joined by hundreds of newspapers across the state.

Why?

It’s all part of the Indiana Open Door Law.

Aimed at keeping the public informed of what its government is doing, the law requires governmental agencies to notify the public of when meetings are to be held. Newspapers play a part in this process as well. That’s where the letters come in. We send the letters to let these governmental agencies know we want to inform our readers of their planned meetings.

It’s something newspapers do every year. It’s something we do with purpose and conviction.

It’s not something we do just to annoy or because we’re nosy. We do it for you, the reader and the taxpayer. Why? Because it’s your government, and you should know what it’s doing. If you want to break it down to the real nitty gritty, it’s your money they’re spending.

You, too, can play your part in local government. One way you can do that is by actually attending those public meetings.

The Indiana Open Door Law requires 48-hour notice before a governmental meeting. We have found many local governments and boards more-than-comply with the law. We annually receive the meeting dates for some agencies even before we send out the letters requesting such information.

We think they do this because they not only understand the letter of the Open Door Law, they understand the spirit of it as well. The law isn’t meant to be a “gotcha” set of requirements that pits media and governmental agencies against one another. Rather, it’s meant to lay the groundwork for a cohesive relationship that allows the public to come out as the winner.

So whether you receive the letter as a representative of the governmental agency or are reading the public notice in the paper, know we do this every year for all involved. We are at our best - journalists and government alike - when we conduct business out in the open.

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