Excerpts of editorials published recently in Indiana newspapers

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The Munster Times Oct. 1, 2015

t is a continued black eye, and a financial sting, for Lake County to fail to complete the E-911 consolidation.

The state is withholding the $2.6 million the county should be receiving from telephone user fees to support this service.

That's money being taken out of the pockets of Lake County residents and businesses.

Barry Ritter, E-911 state executive director, and the state's E-911 administration have been withholding the money since March because Lake County missed the Dec. 31 deadline for completing its E-911 consolidation.

Everyone but Cedar Lake and Schererville have joined in the consolidation. Those two towns balked and are pursuing their own joint call center.

That decision is costing residents money, and it bolsters views elsewhere of Northwest Indiana being a corner of the state more fond of infighting than actually getting things done.

Cedar Lake and Schererville continue to hold out, setting up a service that will cost their residents more than if the consolidation were to occur. The towns, along with St. John, initially drove down the cost of consolidation. But now the two remaining holdouts are going to make their residents pay more than the rest of the county.

That's irresponsible.

It's also failing to learn from the 9/11 Commission, which hoped to prevent poor communications in the event of a future disaster. That was the driving force behind the state law that required consolidation for each county.

It's no secret that the law was aimed at forcing consolidation in Lake County, which had more public safety answering points — call centers — than any other county in the state.

At the Lake County Public Safety Communications Commission meeting last week, Ritter saw firsthand the conflict that continues in Lake County as the two towns insist on going their separate way.

The consolidation is far along, but it's not too late for Cedar Lake and Schererville officials to finally join the countywide consolidation effort.

Completing the merger — finally — is in everyone's best interest. Don't let politics get in the way of good public policy.

The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. Oct 3, 2015.

Ex-trooper keeps driving home his point with humor.

Sgt. Tim McCarthy told a joke he'd already told Saturday - to the same audience. That was OK, though, because it had been 51/2 decades since he told it the first time.

If you have been to a Notre Dame home football game, you probably remember the hush of anticipation in the stadium as McCarthy was introduced during a timeout toward the end of every game.

McCarthy, a retired Indiana State trooper, takes the microphone to deliver what seems to be a routine public-service announcement - drive safely on your way home from the game. He then follows the plea with an atrocious, traffic-related pun. There is a set-up line, and then a pause, and then the punchline. And then, on cue, the crowd groans.

Some samples:

"Driving half-lit ... is not very bright." (Fans: GROOANN!)

"Monkey around in traffic ... and you may end up in a cage." (AAGGH!)

"Following too close ... is not the way to make ends meet." (OOOWWWW!)

McCarthy began doing his public-service announcements during the last part of the 1960 season. But he was concerned that the fans weren't listening.

At the beginning of the 1961 season, he tried telling a joke.

At first, McCarthy recalled in a book he cowrote with Mike Collins called "May I Have Your Attention, Please ...," the student section booed.

"Going into the third season with the quipped messages," he and Collins wrote, "I noticed the students were not booing as much. In fact, the cornier the quips, the more they seemed to like it. I even detected a few cheers."

And thus was born a tradition that endured through championship seasons and autumns of on-field disappointment. Those thousands of fans who paused and listened to his message - who knows how many were spared a terrible accident because of McCarthy's gentle warnings? What is known is that he became a cherished part of the home-game spectacle.

And then, at the end of Saturday's game against the University of Massachusetts, McCarthy told the joke he told that first day in fall 1961.

"Remember, the automobile replaced the horse ... but the driver should stay on the wagon." (GRROOOAAANNN!!!)


The South Bend Tribune. Oct. 2, 2015.

Hoosier highways on shaky ground.

The Indiana Department of Transportation is investigating nearly 200 road projects across the state that could potentially fall apart more than a decade ahead of schedule. The problem has been attributed to an insufficient amount of petroleum binder in the asphalt mix or the use of more recycled asphalt.

Samples from $71 million in pavement projects are being tested by state transportation officials. That figure corresponds to 44 contractors and 188 construction projects around the state.

In its first action against a contractor, INDOT is demanding $5.15 million from Fort Wayne-based Brooks Construction Co. unless the company agrees to remove and replace three miles of the Hoosier Heartland Highway it completed in 2012. The company's owner says his company met all INDOT specifications on the project.

Such a problem would never be good news, but this couldn't come at a worse time for Indiana, where long-neglected roads and bridges have reached critical mass. Even the billions that have gone toward road construction and maintenance in the past decade haven't been enough to keep up.

That isn't too surprising when you consider that the state spends less per capita than most states on highways and transit — and hasn't raised the state gas tax, a major source of highway funding, since 2003.

Indiana is hardly in a unique position; there are frequent reminders that the United States as a whole has fallen seriously behind in maintaining its infrastructure. There are no shortage of reasons why such repairs are essential — none of them more important than the danger that failing to act represents to the public.

It remains to be seen whether a lack of commitment and resources played a role in the state's current mess. But whatever the culprit, this problem should serve as a wake-up call to anyone who thinks Indiana can't afford to focus on the state's roads and bridges. In reality, it can't afford not to.

The Indianapolis Star. September 25, 2015

It's time for Carmel to act on LGBT rights.

After weeks of intense debate, it's time for the Carmel City Council to take a strong stand against discrimination in their community.

On Monday, the council, thanks largely to the leadership of Mayor Jim Brainard, is scheduled to vote on a civil rights ordinance that would prohibit discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodation because of a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.

The council should vote overwhelmingly to approve the ordinance, without amendment, for two overriding reasons.

Reason one, it would send an unmistakable message that Carmel is a welcoming, inclusive community. That's not merely a symbolic gesture; it's an important signal for Indiana communities to send after all of the negative attention that the state attracted with this year's Religious Freedom Restoration Act controversy.

Major employers in Central Indiana say that the lingering effects of RFRA continue to hurt their recruitment of talented workers from outside the state. Business owners and corporate executives also take Indiana's damaged image into account in considering relocation to the state.

That damage to Indiana's image was, in part, what prompted several other communities — including Columbus, Muncie, Terre Haute, Whitestown and Zionsville — in recent months to adopt legal protections for LGBT citizens.

As an economic power in the region, and as a leader on many quality of life issues, it's especially important for Carmel join the growing list of cities that have taken a stand against discrimination.

Reason two, passing the ordinance is simply the right thing to do. Today in Carmel, as in most places in Indiana, a gay man can be fired or denied employment solely because of his sexual orientation. A transgender woman can be turned away from a place to live because of her gender identity. A same-sex couple can be denied service in a restaurant. And they have no legal recourse to fight back against such discrimination.

That's wrong. And Carmel's elected leaders need to fix such gaping holes in the city's civil rights protections on Monday night.

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