Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers
Posted September 5
The (Munster) Times. September 1, 2017
Make strong push for police, government diversity
The men and women who provide government services, including public safety, should be representative of the people being served.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson clearly understands this concept, recently explaining, "We have a great diversity gap in the State Department. We need a State Department that reflects the American people...
"Every time we have an opening for an ambassador position, at least one of the candidates must be a minority candidate," Tillerson later added, among other pledges to increase diversity in his federal department's ranks.
In Northwest Indiana, we also should be encouraged by efforts afoot in local law enforcement to increase diversity within police department ranks.
On Saturday, Region police officers and officials participated in a panel discussion, "Behind the Badge: A Female and Minority Perspective."
It was a healthy discussion about the shortcomings and various ideas for fixing diversity within Region police ranks.
Griffith Police Chief Greg Mance, who has been progressively moving the needle on various aspects of law enforcement reform both within his department and regionally, sponsored the event together with Indiana University Northwest and Crossroads YMCA.
Mance wisely concluded that recruiting officers who represent a community's diversity begins with attracting diverse youth to a law enforcement calling.
"We need to reach the younger generations. We need to start preparing people, letting them know this is a career they want," Mance said.
In partnership with IUN and the YMCA, Mance's department developed a program that helps applicants prepare for written exams, oral interviews and physical agility tests required to enter law enforcement careers.
That program led to former Olympian Leslie Malerich being hired in 2016 as the Griffith police agency's second female officer in department history.
These are important initial steps, and we hope all Region police departments will take note.
Police departments — and all government entities — making an effort to proportionately represent community diversity help build public good will in an era in which newfound trust is sorely needed.
The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. September 1, 2017
Know where to go
Allen County residents know Tera Klutz as a talented public finance administrator committed to serving constituents. The rest of Indiana is just learning how the new state auditor puts taxpayers' interests first. As she prepares to kick off a campaign to win the seat she was appointed to in January, Klutz is emphasizing transparency.
"I think it's fiscally responsible to be transparent with how government operates and spends taxpayer money," the former Allen County auditor explained in a phone interview Thursday. "But equally as important, being transparent encourages fiscal responsibility. If we know that how and where we are spending our money is easily available to the public and it's going to be broadcast, we're encouraged to make the best decision that we can make."
To that end, Klutz wisely wants to enhance the Indiana Transparency Portal.
She's working with the governor's management performance hub team to develop a new face for the website - a dashboard approach to ensure the information is relevant and what users are looking to find.
"So, for instance, if you wanted to see the Top 10 state-paid employees, you would have to go to each agency and write down the top salaries and try to get that information. It's available, but you have to tabulate it yourself."
Klutz, the first certified public accountant to serve as state auditor, is correct in acknowledging the portal's flaws. The data are there - just not always easy to find.
"We're finding if people want to find a contract, they have to know the exact vendor name, and sometimes the names reported in the paper or the names that are used by officials is not the technical, legal name of the vendor," she said, noting she has assigned her newly appointed public information officer to help the public navigate the transparency portal for information they can't find on their own.
"We're going to pull in small focus groups - the media, watchdog groups, different stakeholders - small enough so that we can have meaningful feedback to provide what they would like to see or what would be easier for them," she said. Working with the governor's office, Klutz said the team hopes to roll out the changes in late winter or early spring.
Klutz said she doesn't want to hire a new contractor for the portal, but instead use available resources to improve it. In addition, she is looking to enhance internal controls in state agencies.
"The legislature passed laws a couple of years ago requiring all local units of government to adopt internal controls, along with the (Bureau of Motor Vehicles and Department of Revenue). However, it wasn't a requirement for the rest of the state. So, I'm starting - in my office - to hire an internal control employee who is first going to walk through our processes and see - do we have the controls in place to make sure that what we are reporting is accurate?"
From there, Klutz would like to expand the guidance to other state agencies on a voluntary basis.
"As a CPA, I understand the risk of not having internal controls, but it's tough because it takes time and it may take a little more money, and that's the last thing you want to do on something you can't see the benefit of," she said. "My goal is to define the benefit and help everyone understand the benefits."
Appointed auditor after Suzanne Crouch became lieutenant governor, Klutz relocated to Indianapolis with her family.
"I'm going to try to be the first elected CPA," she said. "I'm excited about where Indiana is going, and I think I can add value."
She will kick off her campaign Sept. 20 at Parkview Field, where she announced her candidacy for Allen County auditor eight years ago.
Klutz set high standards for fiscal management and oversight in that post and in her eight years as chief deputy to Auditor Lisa Borgmann. Allen County residents shouldn't be surprised to see her doing the same at the Statehouse, beginning with an emphasis on transparency.
South Bend Tribune. August 30, 2017
Decisive action at Stanley Clark prevents potential tragedy
An incident last week that resulted in the lockdown of Stanley Clark School and the arrest of the father of one of its students could have ended much worse.
That it didn't end in tragedy is a credit to the quick actions of all those involved, including school officials and South Bend police, who kept students, teachers and the public safe.
School administrators ordered the lockdown after the father of a student was let into the school and began acting bizarrely. He was agitated and yelling and said "I will blow up this school and blow you up."
Because of the lockdown he wasn't able to get into his son's classroom. The man ran out of the building, jumped into his car and sped away. He nearly collided with one police officer and later tried to ram the police car as he drove down Miami Street, not far from the school. He led officers on a chase before he was stopped at gunpoint and arrested at Main and Sample streets.
Stanley Clark administrators reacted quickly — and appropriately — in ordering the lockdown.
But why don't reports from police at the scene match the description of the incident in court documents?
During a news conference, police reported the man only gained "brief" and "partial entry" into the school. But court documents said the man made it all the way to his 3-year-old son's classroom, was "confrontational and abusive to staff," paced the hall and smashed a clock. One parent told Tribune staff writer Lincoln Wright that one of her children saw the man inside the school and that he would have had to walk down a couple of hallways to get to his son's classroom.
The actions of Stanley Clark administrators and teachers and South Bend police should be commended. They handled a potentially deadly situation quickly and decisively. But it's troubling that different accounts of the same confrontation are being offered to students' families and the public.
That doesn't negate the good work done, but it's a legitimate concern that should be addressed. The actions taken that prevented the loss of life in this case shouldn't be overshadowed by reports that leave parents and the public with additional questions.
The Indianapolis Star. September 1, 2017
Push pause on Indiana's backcountry logging
Logging companies may soon spoil one of the most beautiful, pristine areas of Indiana, and they're set to do so with the state government's permission.
The lucrative business of harvesting timber in Indiana's state forests isn't new. The Department of Natural Resources has for years allowed companies to build roads and cut down trees in forests under the state's protection.
But the current plan to destroy century-old trees on 300 acres of Brown County backcountry is especially egregious because of the forest's rich diversity of species and the state's shrinking reserves of unspoiled wilderness.
State officials say the timber harvest is a necessary part of forest management, but many conservationists question that assertion.
"There is a question of what is legal and what is right," Cliff Chapman, executive director of the Central Indiana Land Trust, told IndyStar's Sarah Bowman. "This truly is a science and does get complicated very quickly, but our forests were getting along OK before we started cutting and managing them."
The forests in Michigan, where logging isn't allowed, appear to be getting along OK as well. Our neighbors to the north have set aside wilderness areas that can be used for recreation but not timber harvesting,
Chapman says the state needs to slow down, listen to both sides and have a broader conversation about how best to manage Indiana's natural resources. He's right.
Slowing down means extending the 30-day public comment period, set to expire Sept. 3, on the proposal to log the 300 acres in Brown County. Our natural resources are too precious and too limited to rush into destroying and hauling away trees that have graced southern Indiana hills for more than a century.
Even more important, the state needs to engage in a full conversation with Hoosiers about how best to protect our forests, fields and streams.
We have a long and unfortunate history of spoiling our states' natural resources. Let's pause now to make sure this time we're getting it right.