Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers

The Munster Times. December 12, 2019

Teachers aren’t going away. Indiana must listen and act

They’re many in number. They have real concerns. They’re not going away.

Those should be three key takeaways for Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, the Legislature and Hoosier citizens as a whole as the state heads into the 2020 legislative session.

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The thousands of teachers who swarmed Indianapolis and attended or engaged in discussions surrounding the Red for Ed Action Day in Indianapolis last month is proof positive our state’s educators are earnest in their demands for public education reform.

Holcomb clearly noted the existence of educators’ concerns Tuesday as he laid out his 2020 government agenda, including calling for the further study of more competitive teacher salaries, eliminating unfunded mandates for schools and legislation that would hold teachers harmless for the effects of the state’s new ILEARN standardized testing.

The governor has touted “record investment” in public education resulting from the 2019 legislative session, including $150 million in teacher pensions paid down by the state, freeing up funds for pay increases.

On Tuesday, Holcomb noted 300 Hoosier school corporations, special education cooperatives and vocational centers have raised teacher salaries this year as a result.

But for most educators, and many of their supporters, it’s not enough.

There’s no doubt the state has more to do in ensuring the most competitive salaries to attract the best teachers for our children.

But so do local school boards, which ultimately decide how to spend the resources of their local government bodies.

In direct response to these educator concerns, and for the state’s part, Holcomb is pledging continued support for a Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission, tasked with exploring long-term solutions to the teacher pay issue.

But the governor and other state leaders must be clear on an important point: Study commissions, summer study sessions and general lip service won’t satisfy the concerns of thousands of educators who demonstrated at the capitol last month.

More importantly, any action short of directly dealing with the problem won’t move the needle on quality education for our children and their future.

Only specific plans and actual execution of investment can do that.

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South Bend Tribune. December 12, 2019

The right move, and long overdue, on South Bend police towing contract

The city of South Bend’s decision to open bidding for the police towing contract is the right one — and it’s long overdue.

The move comes after a recent Tribune report about how one company, ASAP Towing & Recovery, managed to capture the lucrative city contract and operate with little or no monitoring.

On Tuesday, the Board of Public Works granted a three-month extension to ASAP, a short renewal that will allow the city to open the work for bids for the first time in three years. The city had extended the contract without seeking bids the previous two years in a row.

In 2016, the city disbanded an on-call rotation of five companies that handled police towing requests and awarded the exclusive contract to ASAP, the only firm to submit a bid. Other companies claimed they were never alerted to the city’s plan to seek a sole contractor, while ASAP expanded its capabilities with new land and equipment in the weeks before the city began seeking bids.

While city officials have noted they met their legal obligation in 2016 by placing two newspaper advertisements seeking bids, two members serving on the Board of Public Works at the time have acknowledged the city did not take steps to maximize competition.

It’s hard to evaluate how ASAP company is performing, given that there’s no evidence that officials are performing oversight duties by monitoring the company’s practices. The city does not collect billing records from ASAP, even though the company’s contract gives the city the right to inspect that information at any time.

All of this has left the public in the dark about the handling of more than 3,000 tows of crashed and impounded vehicles a year for the police department.

The three-month extension granted last week will allow for a new round of bidding, according to a city spokesman.

In a comment earlier this month, we stated that officials should make sure that the city has the best contract and contractor — and that going forward, they should start taking their oversight duties seriously. The decision to open bidding for police towing is a move in the right direction. But it’s only a start toward the city fulfilling its obligation to be accountable to the taxpaying public.

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Kokomo Tribune. December 12, 2019

Put down the phone

A vanity license plate that premiered in 2016 should be considered by the state of Indiana, should the standard plate ever fall out of fashion. The message is that important.

And judging from the 2020 legislative agenda Gov. Eric Holcomb announced in Terre Haute Tuesday, he’s willing to spend political capital on that message.

As reported by the South Bend Tribune three years ago, the plates were being presented by the Indiana Motor Truck Association and had a very simple decree: “Put the Phone Down.”

As the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found, distracted driving is a contributing factor in 10% of all vehicle fatalities involving teen drivers ages 15-19. This is a staggering figure considering how recently cellphone, and especially smartphone, technology has been a part of our lives. Your average stoplight is a visual buffet of poor posture as people stare at their glowing laps waiting for the lights to change.

Perhaps you’ve even been one of these motorists. And if you are, that’s part of the reason why the governor wants to ban all cellphone use by drivers, not just texting.

Here are some more disturbing distracted-driving facts from the Indiana Department of Labor:

• There are now more crashes related to texting and driving than drinking and driving.

• People who text while driving are 23 times more likely to crash.

• Studies have found your reaction time will be about 30% worse if you’re trying to text and drive. You’ll spend an average of 10% of your time out of your lane.

• When you look down to send or read a text while driving, you take your eyes off the road for an average of almost five seconds. Doesn’t seem long — but a person driving at 55 mph travels the length of a football field in five seconds.

Not only that, but texting while driving in Indiana can carry a fee of $500 for those caught. Nothing on your phone is that important you can’t wait until you’re stopped, we assure you.

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