- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The (Munster) Times. December 8, 2016

Fixing Hoosier water infrastructure deserves top billing.

Revelations from Indiana’s summer legislative study committees show encouraging signs that a long-term road funding plan may be in sight for the upcoming 2017 legislative session.

Sooner, rather than later, Indiana’s leaders also must grapple with and overcome another unrelated infrastructure challenge - with an estimated starting price tag of $2.3 billion.

The Hoosier state’s water infrastructure is either aging or inadequate to sustain the state’s future, and the General Assembly must begin tackling long-term plans to modernize it.

Indiana state Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, has been leading this endeavor, and the entire state needs to turn a keen ear to what he is saying.

A new Indiana Finance Authority report, commissioned by the General Assembly largely through Charbonneau’s efforts, found the state’s 554 independent water systems are struggling to maintain quality service as water pipes, mains and other underground assets reach or exceed their useful lives.

It will take upward of $2.3 billion in immediate repairs and $815 million per year in additional maintenance to protect human health and prevent the loss of about 50 billion gallons of water per year, the report concluded.

On Tuesday evening, Charbonneau mentioned the challenge while addressing other legislators and community leaders at an annual legislative dinner sponsored by The Times and NIPSCO.

He noted he fully supports state efforts to find permanent revenue streams to maintain the state’s roads. But he also implored fellow lawmakers to keep water infrastructure near the top of Indiana’s priorities.

We agree.

It may be difficult for folks in Northwest Indiana to fully grasp the state’s water challenges. We’re uniquely situated along one of the Earth’s largest natural freshwater supplies in the Great Lakes. But other areas further from that resource, and experiencing aging infrastructure, could severely hamper the entire state if water systems failed.

One need look no further than the ongoing contaminated water crisis in Flint, Michigan - spurred in part by aging lead pipes - to realize the fine line that separates functional water supplies from dire circumstances.

We’re glad Hoosier lawmakers like Charbonneau are lending an authoritative voice to the future of Indiana’s water infrastructure. Now it’s time to bring the best ideas to bear in tackling a long-term solution.

___

The (Anderson) Herald Bulletin. December 8, 2016

E-recycling will help us protect future Hoosiers.

Most of us think we’ve done our job in placing trash and recyclable waste on the curb for pickup.

But some Hoosiers are too quick in throwing out electronic devices for the trash truck. Instead, they should be taking their computers, old cellphones and no-longer-used video players, among other items, to Indiana’s authorized disposal sites.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management posts a list of those sites at its website, www.in.gov/idem.

This year, IDEM reported that about 87,500 tons of electronics have been recycled since a state law was introduced in 2009 banning certain electronics from landfills.

But IDEM is also trying to send a message reminding Hoosiers that electronic devices must be taken to these approved sites. But when these items leak, they leave a mess for local trash collection agencies and landfills.

To prevent such clean-up potential, homeowners should become familiar with the banned items. And that’s not as easy at it sounds.

Indiana’s law is admittedly confusing over the definition of e-waste.

On a simpler level, e-waste is anything with a video screen. But there’s also a broader definition used by IDEM that includes devices that can play a DVD or CD, digital media players and GPS devices. They’re been banned from local landfills since 2012 because they can leak cadmium, chromium and flame retardation chemicals into the ground.

In addition, although Indiana has more than 100 e-waste recycling sites, they aren’t available to many rural Hoosiers.

The Legislature would be wise to clean up any confusion and encourage rural areas to develop recycling sites - even alerting those residents to the closest facilities.

Until then, Hoosiers will have to remain vigilant and stay informed on where e-waste should be discarded.

As we get rid of our kids’ outdated devices, we must keep in mind that we’re trying to protect the environment for those kids.

More online

To read a recent look at recycling electronic waste, visit www.heraldbulletin.com and search for “e-recycling.”

___

The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. December 7, 2016

Coats ends a career of service to state, nation.

Dan Coats said his goodbyes in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday. The Indiana Republican had done that once before, when he chose not to run for re-election in 1998. This time, though, after a career that has included four terms in the U.S. House and 16 years in the Senate, his congressional service is most likely over. And that will be a loss not just for senators on both sides of the aisle, but for all Hoosiers who believe political issues can be discussed and resolved reasonably and civilly.

The 73-year-old Coats has been a figure on the Indiana political landscape since before many of his constituents were born. A native of Jackson, Michigan, he served two years in the U.S. Army, graduated from the IU School of Law and worked as an attorney in Fort Wayne for a few years before becoming home-district assistant for a young Huntington Republican, U.S. Rep. Dan Quayle. After Quayle went to the Senate in 1981, Coats replaced him as 4th District congressman and served through the ‘80s. When Quayle became vice president, Coats replaced him in the Senate and served there throughout the ‘90s.

After Coats left the Senate, he served as ambassador to Germany before running for and winning another Senate term in 2010.

Coats has always been an outspoken conservative. Like most Republicans in Congress, he has been unrelentingly critical of President Barack Obama. But - and this is the part Hoosiers of every political stripe can appreciate - Coats unfailingly presents his opinions civilly and logically.

He doesn’t call names, and he doesn’t resort to threatening or belittling his opponents. He doesn’t grandstand, and he rarely raises his voice.

In a setting where some leaders range from pompous to imperious, Coats refrained from taking himself too seriously. His “Waste of the Week” awards documented real instances of appalling government profligacy. But Coats presents them with a tone of humorous astonishment.

A $171,000 grant to study monkeys gambling: “My bet is that taxpayers agree with me that there are more pressing issues that we could be funding,” Coats said.

He discovered that, after a government-created agency called the U.S. Enrichment Corporation was sold to a private company, $1.6 billion of public money was left over that could neither be spent nor returned to the federal treasury. The money was originally meant to encourage enrichment of uranium for nuclear energy plants. But “whatever you want to call it - a zombie fund, a fund that simply has no purpose - its life is over, yet it lives on.”

And there was this classic: A National Institutes of Health study that measured the effects of Swedish massages on rabbits “to prove out the fact that massage helps get rid of some of those aches and pains that come from strenuous exercise.” Noting that the research was conducted at Ohio State University, Coats asked, “Why didn’t they just ask the football team?”

In 2014, after he called for sanctions against Russia, President Vladimir Putin banned Coats and several other members of Congress from visiting his country. Some political leaders might have huffed about being offended. Coats responded by tweeting a David Letterman-style Top 10 list of things he would no longer be able to do. Number One: “Our summer vacation in Siberia is a no go.”

Sen. Coats served his state and his nation well, and his presence on the public stage will be missed - even, perhaps, by those who often disagreed with him. Others, in Congress and elsewhere, could benefit from the example of his good humor and calm temperament.

___

South Bend Tribune. December 7, 2016

Homeless camp vanishes, but problem remains.

City crews quickly and efficiently dismantled the homeless tent city under the Main Street viaduct in South Bend last week.

The underlying problems and issues won’t so easily disappear.

What started out last summer as a few men and women sleeping under the railroad viaduct on sheets of cardboard had morphed, with donations of food and tents, into an encampment. As the numbers grew, so did the concerns about public health and safety.

With millions of dollars of development planned for the area, and with complaints from nearby businesses, the pressure was on the city to resolve the situation.

A short-term resolution came with last Thursday’s opening of Hope Ministries’ new shelter. The warming center is located at 211 W. Monroe St., in the former Kraz building. The city donated $125,000 in economic development tax money to help renovate the building.

City officials hope to have a more permanent solution in place by next year with a plan to convert the former Oliver School to housing units for individuals such as those who lived under the bridge, many of whom are ineligible for existing housing programs because of addiction, mental illness or both.

The need for a humane, long-term solution couldn’t be clearer. Even as the encampment was removed from the viaduct, many who lived there didn’t go to the new center, some setting up tents in a wooded area off of Tutt Street. A less prominent location, for sure, but still an obvious sign of a complex problem, one that other communities like ours are grappling with.

One so deep and persistent that you can’t sweep it away with a front-end loader.___


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