- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. June 17, 2016

Diversity lacking.

No detailed study is required to conclude the Indiana General Assembly lacks diversity. Hoosiers only have to look at their congressional and legislative delegations to know white males hold a disproportionate number of seats.

An Associated Press analysis, however, puts all doubts to rest:

. 7 percent of Indiana’s population is Latino; one state lawmaker is of Cuban descent. No members of the congressional delegation are Hispanic.

. Just over 9 percent of Indiana’s residents are black, while 8 percent of its legislators are African American. One of the 11 congressional seats is held by an African American.

. The General Assembly is 88 percent white; Indiana’s population is 80 percent white.

Indiana fares better than most states, the analysis shows. On average, whites are overrepresented in state assemblies by about 21 percent.

The analysis didn’t examine gender diversity, but Reps. Susan Brooks and Jackie Walorski are the only female members of Congress from Indiana.

Prospects for improvement are discouraging. The U.S. House seat vacated by Rep. Todd Young, the GOP candidate for Senate, could be picked up by IPFW graduate Shelli Yoder, D-Bloomington, and Walorski faces a strong challenge by Democrat Lynn Coleman, who is African American. But no additional seats are expected to be picked up by female or minority candidates.

In northeast Indiana, legislative candidates are overwhelmingly white and male.

Republican Sens. Liz Brown and Sue Glick are the only female lawmakers representing the region; there are no black or Hispanic representatives. Fort Wayne educator Jorge Fernandez, who is Hispanic, is the Democratic nominee for Indiana House District 50, but he faces an uphill battle against incumbent Dan Leonard in a heavily Republican district.

Redistricting is the key to electing representatives who reflect the state’s population. Under the current system, politicians pick their own voters.

An Interim Study Committee on Redistricting is hearing testimony on possible changes, but they won’t happen without pressure from Indiana voters. Lawmakers need to hear that Hoosiers want fair and competitive contests to produce leaders who look like those they represent.


South Bend Tribune. June 17, 2016

Yes, prisoners in Indiana need good health care.

Prisoners are not the easiest people to sympathize with.

They’ve broken the law. They’re behind bars for a reason.

But that doesn’t mean they should be stripped of their humanity. And when we dismiss people as society’s trash, we start to lose our own humanity.

We should not, then, be quick to toss aside the facts and tales that Tribune reporter Virginia Black revealed this week in her series of stories, titled “Profits over prisoners?” (read all the coverage at www.southbendtribune.com/prison). In looking at the health care in Indiana’s prisons, she discovered heart-wrenching tales of death and anguish, as well as questions about the state’s oversight.

To be sure, providing medical care to prison inmates is a tough business. Many come into the system in poor health, and they can be quick to file lawsuits.

But when Gov. Mitch Daniels in 2005 decided to turn prison health care over to a private company - as part of a larger push to privatize state services - was it the right move? As Black’s stories revealed, there are legitimate concerns about how well inmates are being served by the company, Corizon Health, and how well the state is monitoring the level of care.

Complaints spiked in Indiana 2015, while officials in other states have accused Corizon of cutting corners to save money. Then there are the human stories: the Centerville man who died in prison after just 37 days even though prison officials knew of his health struggles, including the need for a tracheostomy tube; the Huntington woman who died coughing up blood while handcuffed and shackled in an ambulance; the Knightstown man whose cancer went undiagnosed for nearly two years.

There are key areas where Indiana can take a harder look at its medical care, and both short-term and longer-term steps it can take:

. Oversight. The hundreds of complaints that are filed by inmates about health care are reviewed primarily by one person - the Department of Correction’s ombudsman. She can choose to take a deeper dive on complaints or dismiss them. What recourse does an inmate have with the state if the decision is to pass? Virtually none.

Meanwhile, the chief medical officer for the DOC, Dr. Michael Mitcheff, is responsible for working with Corizon in overseeing its health care. His previous job? Working at Corizon, as a regional medical director. Mitcheff and the company insist the level of care is reviewed carefully. But lawyers and former Corizon doctors level accusations of pressure to rein in costs.

Michigan has tried to build at least one level of oversight. It also contracts with Corizon, but it hires another outside company to help monitor Corizon, including reviewing reports and audit findings.

. Prescription medicines. State officials provided two different and varying sets of figures on the amount of drugs prescribed to inmates each month. They couldn’t explain the discrepancy. And each set showed odd patterns. Need we point out that drugs are supposed to be prescribed based on need?

. Transparency. Reports that Corizon is supposed to file with the state, including information on staffing shortage and inmate deaths, are not made public. The state cites confidentiality of medical records as the blanket reason. It’s too thick a blanket; there are ways to release information while protecting the identity of patients or victims. Also, while the state releases lists of prisons and their scores during inspections, it does not include details about the inspectors or what they may have found to be deficient.

. Review all options. Indiana’s latest contract with Corizon is due to expire at the end of this year. Many states, such as Florida, Tennessee and Maryland, have walked away from Corizon in recent years. Indiana should thoroughly review its contact, its relationship with the company and the level of care before deciding to renew. At this point, after over a decade, it’s worth asking whether Indiana has made the best choice.

. Listen to the judges. A group of federal judges in southern Indiana is so worried about prisoners who aren’t getting proper legal representation with medical cases that they’re pushing to set up a system to recruit attorneys and experts who can help. One judge cited the “urgent and ever-increasing need” to get legal help for poor plaintiffs. Unfortunately, judges in the federal court’s northern district, which includes South Bend, are “not doing anything along those lines,” a spokesman said. They should pay closer attention, and consider following the lead of their counterparts.

The bottom line is prison inmates have a right to quality health care, and the state has an obligation to provide it, as difficult as the task may be. It’s time for Indiana to make sure it’s meeting that obligation.


The (Bloomington) Herald-Times. June 16, 2016

Clear cellphone reception not without a cost.

“It’s going to get ugly,” wrote a Herald-Times online commenter on our story concerning a rash of permits for new cellphone towers on private property and in public rights of way.

We tend to agree, hedging only slightly because we haven’t seen photos of or specifications for the equipment involved. However, with the city reporting last week that each of the 12 towers for which permits have been submitted so far will be at least 35 feet tall, expect the worst.

The city administration deserves credit for getting out in front of this situation, no doubt still smarting from the grief it took earlier this year from northside property owners who were aggrieved when a cell tower installation was proposed for Cascades Park. That idea was scrapped after the outcry from citizens about the affect on property values and other issues.

The city would have received $18,000 a year in lease payments from Horvath Communications, but that won’t happen for any of those towers seeking to take root in the public right of way. That’s because the Legislature changed the rules for communication companies, decreeing that they be treated no differently than any other utility.

While it seems fair to treat all utilities equally, cell towers are not like natural gas lines or fiber optic cable; they can’t be placed underground. So judging from requests so far, which the city has limited authority to regulate, many of Bloomington’s intersections soon may be sprouting cell towers.

City officials said last week that they may be able to influence the look of towers in certain areas, perhaps requiring landscaping in some locations or painting towers to blend in with the background. That certainly is less satisfactory than being able to decide whether a cell tower is appropriate - period - for a specific location, but apparently, the Indiana General Assembly decided local communities couldn’t be trusted to make such judgments fairly.

Wonder how legislators will react when a telecommunications company decides to put cell towers at every corner of the Statehouse?


The (Munster) Times. June 15, 2016

Censorship attempts must end.

In the United States, as well as many foreign nations, freedom of the press is under attack.

The First Amendment lists some of the nation’s foundational freedoms, including freedom of the press, freedom of religion and the right to peaceably assemble. Our Founding Fathers knew the public must serve as a check and balance on the government, and the press - or news media, as we know it today - must be free to report on the government to ensure voters are well informed.

All Americans should issue a loud outcry when those freedoms are under attack.

Today, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is attacking the media’s access to information, which affects your right as a voter to essential information about the presidential campaign.

Trump’s latest assault is against The Washington Post. Complaining about a story is well within his rights, but revoking the news organization’s credentials and access to his campaign goes too far.

This is Trump’s attempt to censor news about his campaign.

He has tussled often with news organizations, including complaining about watchdog reporting that disclosed he didn’t send promised donations to veterans groups until the day the media challenged him on it.

That’s what the media are supposed to do.

Neither Trump nor Hillary Clinton nor any other candidate should expect reporters to refrain from asking tough questions. Nor should their supporters be upset about the candidates being grilled.

That’s all part of the process. That’s how voters learn what they need to know about the candidates.

Americans deserve better than to see their right to information about the campaign under attack from a major political party’s candidate for president.

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