- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The (Munster) Times. January 23, 2020

Dysfunction abounds in East Chicago firefighter shifts fight

Just when you think local government dysfunction can’t get worse, a Region city becomes embroiled in a lawsuit with itself.

For the sake of East Chicago residents, reasonable heads must prevail in the conflagration raging among the mayor, City Council and firefighters regarding shift changes for the emergency responders residents rely upon in their most desperate hours.

East Chicago citizens must hope such reasonable heads can be found.



The East Chicago City Council and Mayor Anthony Copeland have been waging a battle, which has spilled from City Hall into Lake Superior Court, for control over the scheduled shifts worked by the city’s 76 firefighters.

Late last year, Copeland announced he was changing city firefighters’ shifts from a 24-hours-on, 48-hours-off schedule to a rotation of eight-hour morning, afternoon and overnight shifts.

Copeland claimed the move was being made to achieve cost-savings for a cash-strapped urban city.

East Chicago Professional Firefighters Local 365 claimed it was political retribution because the firefighters’ union had supported Copeland’s mayoral opponent in last year’s election.

Copeland and his fire chief also argued that such a change of firefighters’ shifts saved taxpayer dollars when the move was tried in Washington, D.C.

But Dabney Scott Hudson, president of the District of Columbia FireFighters Association, told The Times last month those claims were incorrect.

“Our case went to arbitration, and we prevailed in the arbitration case, keeping our 24-hour shift. In the arbitration, the city testified that the change would in fact increase costs to the city. Additionally, the health and safety, as well as cognitive function of the workers, significantly decrease working rotating shifts such as the ones they are proposing,” Hudson said in a statement.

Instead of finding a way to work this out, neither side of the East Chicago dispute is budging.

The East Chicago City Council voted to scrap Copeland’s shift changes and return to the previous schedule.

Copeland then vetoed the council’s vote.

Then the City Council overrode the mayor’s veto.

Then the mayor, last week, issued an emergency order keeping East Chicago firefighters on his swing-shift schedule.

And Copeland is suing in Lake Superior Court, seeking a judicial declaration that he and his fire chief have sole authority to order work schedules for the Fire Department.

It’s a political back-and-forth that East Chicago residents should find counterproductive and embarrassing.

East Chicago has a number of things to be proud of.

This spat isn’t one of them.

End the nonsense and work this out without lawsuits.

___

South Bend Tribune. January 22, 2020

Bill provision threatens Hoosiers’ access to public info

Tucked into an education bill in this year’s session of the Indiana legislature is a provision that ignores the self-evident, the obvious.

Public notices belong where the public will see them.

House Bill 1003, a measure that addresses several education matters, includes a provision that would eliminate the requirement that an annual performance report for a school corporation must be published in a local newspaper. Instead, school districts would submit the report to the state Department of Education, which has been posting the results on its website.

The bill is scheduled for a second hearing in the House Education Committee today.

The publication requirement would end, despite the fact that six out of 10 adult Hoosiers say they have read public notices in the newspaper, and there would be a 60 percent decline in their readership of public notices if they are only posted on government websites. That’s according to a 2017 poll by American Opinion Research.

Lawmakers who favor this sort of change point to falling print circulation among newspapers and say there are other ways to present such information, that notices can be posted other places, and that parents with internet access could still monitor their children’s schools.

The school performance report is among the more highly read public notices published in Indiana newspapers. Public viewing of school performance reports on the DOE website is minimal compared to 3 million Hoosier adults who read a newspaper at least once a week. As the Hoosier State Press Association points out, newspapers with print and online readership still reach far more readers than low-traffic state websites.

That change would require an extra effort and diligence to track down the information. Legislators should be making it easier, not more complicated, for Hoosiers to access public notices.

The provision in HB 1003 goes against the self-interests of Hoosiers and their ability to stay informed. It’s not difficult: Put public notices where the public will see them.

___

Kokomo Tribune. January 22, 2020

Infant deaths state’s shame

Indiana is above average, but not by a measure of which anyone should be proud: infant mortality.

“Infant mortality is the number of babies who die during the first year of life per 1,000 live births,” says a report by the Indiana State Department of Health. “Infant death is a critical indicator of the health of a population. It reflects the overall state of maternal health as well as the quality and accessibility of primary health care available to pregnant women and infants. The top three causes of infant deaths … are disorders related to short gestation and low birth weight, congenital anomalies and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.”

Indiana is far above the national average and has been for quite some time.

In 2005, in the United States as a whole, the infant death rate was 6.9 per 1,000 births. By 2011, that figure had fallen to 6.1. Indiana also has seen a drop, albeit a much slower one. In 2005, the state’s rate was 8.0. By 2011, it had only fallen to 7.7. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared we had the country’s fifth-highest infant mortality rate in 2010.

Monday, The Indianapolis Star reported that in 2017 the state saw the single largest decrease in the infant death rate in six years. Today, that number is 7.3 per 1,000 births. The national mortality rate among infants was 5.8 per 1,000 in 2017.

According the CDC, Indiana’s improvement on this public-health issue now makes us sixth-highest in the country.

In an effort to curb this embarrassment to our state, then-Gov. Mike Pence signed House Bill 1004 on May 4, 2015.

Health officials began a new state program known as Safety PIN – for Protecting Indiana’s Newborns. It funded grants to support local programs where women could receive prenatal care and other help associated with expectant mothers.

Any movement to tackle this problem should be commended, as we did five years ago. But let this not be the only step we take. We owe it to ourselves and our children to get this one right. We can’t afford not to.

House Bill 1003, a measure that addresses several education matters, includes a provision that would eliminate the requirement that an annual performance report for a school corporation must be published in a local newspaper. Instead, school districts would submit the report to the state Department of Education, which has been posting the results on its website.

The bill is scheduled for a second hearing in the House Education Committee today.

The publication requirement would end, despite the fact that six out of 10 adult Hoosiers say they have read public notices in the newspaper, and there would be a 60 percent decline in their readership of public notices if they are only posted on government websites. That’s according to a 2017 poll by American Opinion Research.

Lawmakers who favor this sort of change point to falling print circulation among newspapers and say there are other ways to present such information, that notices can be posted other places, and that parents with internet access could still monitor their children’s schools.

The school performance report is among the more highly read public notices published in Indiana newspapers. Public viewing of school performance reports on the DOE website is minimal compared to 3 million Hoosier adults who read a newspaper at least once a week. As the Hoosier State Press Association points out, newspapers with print and online readership still reach far more readers than low-traffic state websites.

That change would require an extra effort and diligence to track down the information. Legislators should be making it easier, not more complicated, for Hoosiers to access public notices.

The provision in HB 1003 goes against the self-interests of Hoosiers and their ability to stay informed. It’s not difficult: Put public notices where the public will see them.

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