- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 7, 2020

The Munster Times. January 1, 2020

Senseless slaughter in Gary should move us all to act

On the eve of the new year Tuesday afternoon, the number of people senselessly slaughtered in Gary in 2019 stood at a stomach-turning 58.

It’s a 45% increase from last year.

As we head into the new year, the entire Region should be disgusted.

But this waste of human life, including the recent slaying of 4-year-old Tory’on Dukes by a stray bullet as he lay in a bed in his home, should elicit far more from all of us than just anger, shock or disgust.

There are ways in which the entire Region can and should be responding.

Leadership within Gary is the first key.

At his Monday inauguration, incoming Mayor Jerome Prince couldn’t have been more on point when he called upon all citizens of Gary to “say something” when they “see something” in the realm of crime and violence.

Too often, residents fail to report crimes, even some of the worst ones, to police, authorities in Gary say.

The people of Gary cannot let fear control when they report to authorities.

Violence, including this rash of senseless slayings, will no doubt continue into the new year without strong intervention from a concerned citizenry ready and willing to tip authorities to crime.

Prince realizes he is fighting an uphill battle as he assumes the reins of a troubled city, whose problems have been exacerbated in recent years by sub-par leadership on all levels, including the mayor’s office.

It’s one of the reasons Prince resoundingly defeated outgoing Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson in the May primary.

Prince must continue to encourage his entire city to work together in a fight against this epidemic of violence.

His choice of new Gary police chief, veteran federal agent and retired Army Col. Richard Ligon, is a solid first step.

But neither Prince, nor the city of Gary, can do it alone.

And they shouldn’t have to.

We are one Region. The lives and livelihoods of all Northwest Indiana residents is affected by the fortunes of all other communities next to us.

All Lake County residents’ tax dollars support the Lake County Sheriff’s Department.

The sheriff’s agency is key to helping Gary, a city of decimated tax base and resources, police its streets.

Thankfully, Sheriff Oscar Martinez remains steadfast in his pledge to continue helping investigate homicides, Gary streets and fight other serious crime in the Steel City.

Martinez and Prince also seem to be on the same page. That communication and partnership will be central to any turnaround in violent crime Gary can realize.

Ultimately, no one living in Northwest Indiana can afford to turn their backs on carnage or other social ills plaguing Gary.

We all must encourage our elected officials to provide whatever help we can spare - even if it’s in the sharing of ideas, innovations or strategies that cost no resources.

We all must show compassion and care.

It’s the only way to spark a real pathway forward.


South Bend Tribune. December 29, 2020

Family overcomes despair by helping others pursue their education dreams

Larry and Sherry Swank could have been swallowed up by anger and despair when their 23-month-old son, Jaxson, died in a tragic accident.

Instead, they chose to establish a foundation in the toddler’s name to help pay for the education of children who otherwise would not be able to afford it.

Called the JWAS Foundation in honor of their son - Jaxson William Augustus Swank - the foundation provides scholarships to children from lower socio-economic backgrounds. The Swank family covers the foundation’s operating expenses while additional financial support raised from other resources, such as wine dinners and auctions, goes directly to Jaxson Scholars.

Ten years ago a small event helped to raised $25,000 for the foundation. At the most recent dinner and auction at the Carriage House dining room, more than $600,000 was raised.

The foundation accepts applications every year from families with children ages 2½ to 5 and whose parents earn at or below 250% of the federal poverty level, which is $60,625 for a family of four.

It’s a rigorous application process. There were 25 applications last year, but the foundation accepts no more than one or two children a year.

The first student - Jolie - was selected from a family who was staying at the Center for the Homeless in South Bend. In 2008, Jolie began attending Good Shepherd Montessori School in South Bend and today she’s a freshman at LaLumiere School in LaPorte. Her younger sister, Marilynn, is also a Jaxson Scholar and an eighth-grader at Good Shepherd.

A parent’s grief over the loss of a child can never be understood, but the Swanks have turned their loss into something that benefits the community and carries on the memory of their son. In doing so they’ve set a great example and also helped to changed lives.


Kokomo Tribune. January 3, 2020

Public’s right to know

Hoosiers support the right to know what government at all levels is up to, and they believe public notices in community newspapers are a trusted source of that transparency.

A 2014 survey by the Princeton, New Jersey-based American Opinion Research asked state residents their thoughts on the importance of public notice advertisements in local newspapers. The study was commissioned by the Hoosier State Press Association’s board of directors and surveyed 1,000 Indiana residents. The findings, published in the Nov. 13, 2014 edition of The Indiana Publisher, were overwhelming:

• 85% supported publication of public notices as a way to inform residents of government actions.

• 64% said governmental entities should be required to publish these announcements, even though they cost them thousands of extra dollars per year.

• 61% said they had read or seen public notice advertising in a newspaper.

State legislators placed a “sunset” in 2013 to the requirement that local government agencies publish their budgets as part of the notice of budget hearings. The rollback took effect in 2014.

The change in the budget-publishing requirement was sought by the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance. Removing budget details from newspaper public notices reduced resident access to this important information. The Hoosier State Press Association says just 12,000 unique visitors saw local government budgets on the DLGF website in 2017, compared to the 3 million Hoosier newspaper readers who no longer read budget details in their local newspapers.

The American Opinion Research shows Hoosiers agree on the importance of public notice advertisements. It’s pretty difficult to keep tabs on governmental entities if one can’t even find basic information like the annual budgets they will debate.

In the 2020 legislative session, state lawmakers must make annual budgets a part of the notice of budget hearings again.

Such a requirement puts information in the one place where local residents are likely to find it: the community newspaper.

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