Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers
The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. July 2, 2019
On the wrong track
State needs to get on board with rail plans
The Hoosier State train made its final run from Chicago to Indianapolis Sunday, marking the end of daily passenger rail service between the two cities. Fort Wayne residents, who have been without any passenger service for nearly 30 years now, can empathize. But they also should consider how the loss of the Hoosier State line affects efforts to restore service here.
In short, it appears Gov. Eric Holcomb and the Indiana General Assembly have little interest in rail as a transportation option in the Crossroads of America. They need to hear from Hoosiers who want to see passenger trains share in the support now afforded highways, trails and a direct flight from Indianapolis to Paris.
Holcomb signaled early this year he was not interested in continuing to subsidize the Hoosier State line, which saw passenger numbers fall from 33,930 passengers in fiscal year 2014 to 27,876 in fiscal year 2018, according to the Indiana Department of Transportation.
Admittedly, the service has been hampered by the national rail service company’s performance, but Amtrak showed marked improvement in the past year. Between February 2018 and February 2019, the Hoosier State was on time 80.5% of the time, beating an 80% on-time or early target for all of its lines.
Loss of the daily service applies not only to Indianapolis residents, but also to residents of rural communities who accessed the Hoosier State line at stops in Crawfordsville, Lafayette and Rensselaer. Helen Hudson, a Crawfordsville resident, told Trains Magazine the state has missed an opportunity in neglecting smaller communities that could benefit from daily rail service.
“It’s especially frustrating when we’ve watched our neighboring states like Michigan and Illinois do it so well,” Hudson told the publication. “It changed the life of Bloomington-Normal, Illinois; that’s an equivalent distance from Chicago as Lafayette and Crawfordsville are in Indiana. We would have benefited economically and from young people choosing to settle here if they could easily commute.”
Another Crawfordsville resident, Paul Utterback, questioned the state’s priorities.
“You’re telling me our governor can’t cough up $3 million a year twice in a $33 billion two-year budget?” he asked. “In the state of Indiana, the legislature says if you don’t make enough money to own a car and aren’t physically able to drive, you don’t matter. Instead, we subsidize a daily Delta Airlines Indianapolis-Paris flight by $3.2 million a year - that works out to about $110 per person. To me, it’s a regressive application of transportation dollars.”
Fort Wayne City Councilman Geoff Paddock, a board member of the Northern Indiana Passenger Rail Association, said the group had received some positive comments from Holcomb’s staff as it pursues high-speed rail service on a Columbus, Ohio, to Chicago line that would include stops in Fort Wayne, Warsaw and other cities in northern Indiana. But he acknowledged the state’s commitment to passenger rail is “disappointing.” The association pursued a feasibility plan at the urging of then-Gov. Mitch Daniels’ administration, and it was encouragement from then-Gov. Mike Pence’s administration that prompted the group to move ahead with an environmental impact study.
Paddock said the Hoosier State line’s demise “compels us to say there is all the more reason to help make the case for service in northern Indiana.”
It will take many more voices, however, to move Indiana officials to support passenger rail as it is supported in neighboring states. Steven Coxhead, president of the Indiana Passenger Rail Service, noted Michigan is expanding service, with high-speed rail on state-owned tracks. Wisconsin subsidizes several daily trains connecting Milwaukee and Chicago. Illinois has “a well-developed internal rail network” and is considering expansion to other cities. Missouri supports multiple daily trains connecting St. Louis, Chicago and Kansas City.
Direct flights to Paris undoubtedly are a draw in attracting and retaining some employees, but support for transportation shouldn’t overlook residents of the Hoosier cities and towns who could best be served by rail. Tell the governor and legislators to get on board.
(Terre Haute) Tribune Star. July 3, 2019
Inspiring past, bright future
Let us celebrate America by clinging to its principles
Many words will be spoken today about the freedom we enjoy as Americans and how we all need to remain vigilant to protect them. The language will often be strong and fiery. Sometimes it will be sweet and poetic.
It’s good for all of us today to put into our own words what it means to be an American.
But the only words that really matter today — and those that truly serve as the foundation for our country’s existence — are these that were written in the summer of 1776 as war was raging between Great Britain and the American colonies. They represent the opening salvo in a statement of principles that have guided this country through the generations.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
— The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
As we engross ourselves in holiday activities today and celebrate Independence Day in honor of our country’s founding, we should pause a moment to feel pride at what the founders created.
The actions of that group changed the world. And it wasn’t easy. It did not happen suddenly or in a vacuum. The representatives had varying, often conflicting views of how their new country should be formed and how their founding principles should be applied. They agreed on the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They did not agree on the issue of slavery. In fact, a dispute over how the slavery issue would be handled in the Declaration almost scuttled its adoption. Mention of it had to be stricken from the document before it could be approved.
The great American experiment has never been easy.
But it has survived. And with attention to common goals and principles, it will continue to survive.
America’s democratic principles are no easier to apply now than they were in its early days. But it’s always worth the effort. Let’s remember these principles: Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Happy Birthday, America. May your future be as bright as your past.
The (Muenster) Times. July 4, 2019
Declare independence from a bad Gary deal before it explodes
At year’s end, voters will be free of a Gary mayor who backed and helped broker a deal to sell a city building and then put taxpayers on the hook for principle and interest payments, which will total about twice the sale price over the next 20 years.
But why wait for the fleecing to play out?
This Independence Day, Gary voters should demand that their city council revisit and pull the plug on the controversial sale and leaseback of the city’s public safety building.
The need to stand against this deal became even greater this past week when the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission filed charges alleging wrongdoing by a financial adviser to the city in an unrelated case out of Harvey, Illinois.
The latest warning signs associated with the sale-leaseback deal couldn’t be more pronounced.
The SEC alleged that financial adviser Comer Capital Group and its principal, Brandon Comer, of Gary, lead the Illinois-based Harvey Library District astray in a 2014 bond deal.
Comer also has served as a financial adviser in the unrelated sale-leaseback deal, which seeks to lead Gary’s finances astray into 20 years of high-interest payments.
It’s past time to draw a line in the sand on this deal.
We all can be hopeful the strong stance new Gary mayor-elect Jerome Prince has taken against the sale-leaseback plan.
Prince has publicly called out the plan for what it is: a short-sighted play for an estimated $35 million in revenue that would barely put a Band Aid on the gushing wound that is Gary local government finance. In return, taxpayers could be on the hook for paying about $80 million over the next 20 years to satisfy terms of the deal.
Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, who mustered a meager 37% of the vote in the May primary election, pushed the sale-leaseback deal. A majority of the sitting Gary Common Council voted to allow it.
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and Gary has been burned enough over the years.
The warning signs associated with this deal are flashing brighter than the grand finale of a Region fireworks display.
There’s still time to douse the fuse on the sale-leaseback deal before yet another financial explosion rocks the Steel City.