- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Tribune-Star, Terre Haute. May 11, 2015.

Slim margins mean we should change voting process

Close outcomes in elections are not uncommon. Who can forget the 2000 presidential race in which Al Gore received 543,895 more votes than George W. Bush, but lost that razor-thin contest in the Electoral College?

Situations that unfolded in the Wabash Valley in Tuesday’s primary for municipal offices reflect a troubling trend, though. The number of voters participating in Indiana elections has gotten so low that a few handfuls of ballots are deciding outcomes.

The city of Brazil has 5,413 registered voters. Only 437 cast ballots in Tuesday’s primary, just 8 percent. Not one, but two races ended in margins of one vote or less. One such case would represent a fluke, mere coincidence. Two indicates a problem, which extends to the entire state, not just Brazil’s city limits.

In an at-large Brazil City Council race, incumbent Democrat William Lovett and challenger Brandy Pierce each received 146 votes. A tie. Thus, after both candidates decide against pursuing a recount, a Democratic Party caucus will determine who gets the nomination. In another Brazil City Council race, challenger G. Steven Bell out-polled incumbent A. Ann Bradshaw by one vote, 63 to 62. In a Friday Tribune-Star report, Bradshaw said she hadn’t yet decided whether to seek a recount.

Beyond the task of settling the two races, a larger question arises of what Indiana can do to increase voter participation. Scant turnouts increase the likelihood of more elections being determined by a single household of voters or a single person, or ending in a once-unheard-of tie. Clay County Democratic Party Chairman Harvey E. Roscoe saw it happen twice Tuesday.

“The trend of not voting in the last general election (last November) and in this primary is pretty sad,” Roscoe told the Tribune-Star. “I am hoping people take a look at this and come out and vote in the general election (this November).”

State lawmakers should pay attention, too. Apathy and a lack of hot races aren’t the lone contributors to low turnouts across the state. Indiana had the worst voter turnout of any state last November, and its lowest since World War II. Numerous elections since the 1940s have lacked a high-profile race and still drew larger turnouts.

So, in addition to raising voter awareness, state legislators should open the door to easier voting. They should get rid of the ancient 29-days-before-the-election deadline for voters to register; the voter ID law legislators cooked up in 2005 - under the ridiculous pretense of addressing nonexistent voter fraud - erases the need for such an early deadline. Election Day registration would vastly boost turnouts. Lawmakers should automatically pre-register 16- and 17-year-olds as voters when they get their driver’s license. And, they should stop demanding that voters provide an excuse voting absentee.

As long as Indiana clings to restrictive voting policies, fewer and fewer people will vote, and the margins of victory will get slimmer and slimmer.


The Elkhart Truth. May 11, 2015.

Mayor Moore should sanction group to study animal control

There’s already a conversation underway in Elkhart about what to do with feral cats, and it’s time for Mayor Dick Moore to get more involved.

City councilmen Brian Thomas and Brian Dickerson want to form a committee to look at the city’s animal control ordinance but said they need Moore’s support. He should give it.

Feral cats and whether to have colonies are a neighborhood issue and one that matters to many in the city of Elkhart and surrounding areas. More than a dozen letters to the editor have appeared in The Elkhart Truth in recent weeks, though a number were to express outrage at one that joked about killing feral cats (the writer has since apologized).

Even so, there have been far more letters about the feral cat issue than the local primary election. Members of the Elkhart County Feral Cat Coalition packed the room for the April 6 Elkhart City Council meeting.

Most agree that wild cats should be managed. In late April, Moore said he doesn’t think the city needs to take another look at the ordinance. Moore has gone on record saying he doesn’t support trapping, neutering and returning cats to colonies, which can shrink them over time.

The city’s animal control officer is more likely to trap animals and then end their lives.

Moore and other city officials should at least do more listening on the issue.

One positive reaction has been involvement from local citizens. The coalition is managing a trap, neuter and release program for cats to help manage the feral population. That’s the most humane way to deal with the feral cat population that is part of any community and doesn’t cost taxpayers.

If feral cat populations don’t belong in a densely populated area, as Moore asserted in March, then the city needs to work at a solution. The current animal control ordinance needs an update to eliminate needless ambiguity on this issue. The ordinance restricts trapping without a permit and doesn’t address how an advocacy group could work within the guidelines.

The local coalition could also do more to educate the public about its cause, including how it helps manage feral cat populations in Elkhart County. Currently, the coalition’s website is outdated. It should do more to help educate people who love animals less than they do about good practices.

This conversation won’t go away in Elkhart County. The coalition can do more to help the public understand and government officials can work more closely with them. It should start in Elkhart with the mayor’s office.


The Herald Bulletin, Anderson. May 9, 2015.

NFL penalties will hurt Pats, Brady but tarnish will last

It’s official. The New England Patriots cheated.

You might need us to be more specific, since this isn’t the first time the Pats and coach Bill Belichick have been caught in violation of the NFL’s rules. There’s also that little “Spygate” incident with the New York Jets in 2007.

But this isn’t about “Spygate,” it’s about “Deflategate,” perpetrated earlier this year at the AFC Championship game.

An NFL investigation has determined it’s likely New England intentionally deflated footballs used in the game and their NFL poster-boy quarterback, Tom Brady, had at least general knowledge that these actions were taking place.

The league has indicated it will levy sanctions against both the Pats and Brady, though no pronouncement has been made about the degree of the penalties.

Just to be clear, the deflated footballs had no impact on the Pats’ 45-7 rout of the Colts. Blame that on the porous run defense.

And the findings shouldn’t cost New England its Super Bowl win.

But the NFL needs to bring the hammer down on both the organization and Brady for repeatedly pushing the envelope on the rules and, quite frankly, letting us all down.

Pats fans have repeatedly defended their team by insisting similar things happen in every locker room. Similar? Probably. Maybe the rest of the league is just better at hiding their deceptions. Or maybe these repeated attempts to gain an advantage with only passing regard for the rules are part of the New England culture.

Perhaps that’s what’s most disappointing about the whole situation. One of the basic lessons we learn as children is that cheaters never prosper. It’s hard to drive that point home when these cheaters have four Super Bowl rings.

We expect better of our champions, even if they aren’t the home team. It’s understandable they may falter in their personal lives - after all, they’re only human. But the playing field . that’s sacred territory. To bring dishonor to the game there brings dishonor to your franchise.

And that may be the greatest penalty the Patriots and Brady pay - an unsightly tarnish on an unbelievable legacy and the lasting disdain of the majority of the NFL’s fan base.


The Times, Munster. May 7, 2015.

War on drugs is fought on many fronts

There are a number of efforts to fight substance abuse in the region. Four in particular, which have been in the news lately, deserve a special shout-out.

One is the heroin treatment center to open soon in LaPorte. Frontline Foundations is putting the finishing touches on its new downtown facility. The faith-based clinic will be open two days a week initially, with more days possible depending on demand. Each client will undergo six hours of treatment a week for a few months to two years, depending on the individual’s needs.

Another effort is the plan championed by U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., to establish best practices for the prescribing of pain medicine and train emergency responders in administering naloxone, which serves as an antidote for opiate overdoses. Donnelly reintroduced the legislation last week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said prescription drug abuse is an epidemic. Opiate use is widespread in Northwest Indiana.

“This isn’t just another bill. This is a situation we’re living with in Indiana every day now,” Donnelly said.

Prescription drug abuse and heroin are the region’s biggest drug problems, according to Aaron Kochar, director of prevention and education at Porter-Starke Services, a mental health and drug treatment agency based in Valparaiso.

In southwest Indiana, the heroin problem is so pronounced that the Indiana General Assembly passed legislation this year allowing creation of local needle exchange programs like the one in Scott County, where an HIV outbreak occurred after dirty needles were shared by drug users.

Under this state plan, counties with high rates of hepatitis C - a liver disease commonly found among intravenous drug users, considered an indicator for HIV risk - could create needle exchanges. The aim isn’t to encourage drug abuse but to fight a public health problem.

The fourth effort to fight drug abuse is aimed at educating parents about the dangers of marijuana.

The recent “Blunt Truth About Pot” program in Portage brought together people across Northwest Indiana to educate parents about the dangers posed by marijuana use among children and adolescents, especially at a time when medical marijuana and decriminalization efforts across the nation make the drug seem less dangerous to young people.

If you smoked it when you were younger, well, today’s marijuana isn’t what you smoked. The THC content - that’s the active ingredient that gets users stoned - is far higher today than in previous decades. It’s a fact that is central to the debate over the relative harm posed by marijuana use.

“Unless your kid is paying rent and you allow them to put a lock on the door, check their room,” advised Portage Police Chief Troy Williams. “Kids are going to make mistakes. Hopefully they don’t make a lot of them and they learn from the first one. Just be aware of what’s out there.”

Fighting substance abuse is a multi-pronged effort. There must be treatment, but there also must be law enforcement, education and prevention efforts. Efforts like these, and others, are vital to our region’s future.

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