South Bend Tribune. May 2, 2018
Regional innovators lay strong foundation with IDEA week
Area innovators laid the foundation for more ideas to come with the recent hosting of the first South Bend-Elkhart region IDEA Week.
The innovation festival, based loosely on the Austin, Texas-based South by Southwest festival that combines art, film, music and innovation, brought together people and businesses from across northern Indiana to share their success stories.
People like Jason Lippert, who talked about driving growth in manufacturing through technology that enhances how an RV owner can control and service the vehicle.
The OneControl technology that Lippert talked about was showcased at the ETHOS Science Center for a Northern Indiana Tech Expo. Now, RV'ers can control a wide range of operations from one smartphone app. The internet meets camping.
And it wasn't just our region that was represented. Daymond John, founder of the clothing line FUBU and a judge on the business idea show "Shank Tank," talked to a packed house at the University of Notre Dame's DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.
There was Tony Hsieh, founder and CEO of Zappos, one of the world's most popular online sales companies, who talked about the doggie day care room that operates at Zappos headquarters.
You get the idea. Boundaries no longer exist when it comes to innovation and that's certainly true here.
IDEA Week resulted from the contribution of many, including Nick Swisher and Bryan Ritchie of Notre Dame along with representatives from South Bend, Elkhart, Goshen and communities and businesses across northern Indiana.
In today's fast-paced, competitive, technology-based world, communities must come up with new and distinct ways of promoting and selling themselves.
South Bend's Best Week Ever, which grew out of the city's sesquicentennial celebration in 2015, highlighted some of the best local offerings our community has to offer, from food to music to entertainment — the past and present of South Bend.
IDEA Week is about the future and what South Bend, Notre Dame, Mishawaka, Elkhart and Goshen can accomplish regionally in the future.
Both serve as building blocks for the foundation of a community that must continue to build if it is to succeed. Both are good starts.
The (Anderson) Herald Bulletin. May 4, 2018
Critics too late to impact major schools decisions
Two men were late to the game when they complained at a school board hearing Monday that the black community hadn't been involved in two important Anderson Community Schools decisions.
The board offered interim Superintendent Tim Smith the full-time position and also is in the stretch run of two school referendum proposals, totaling about $43 million, mostly in facility improvements. The referendums will be voted on Tuesday at the primary polls, the same day the board will vote on final approval of the superintendent's contract.
The referendums effort and the superintendent search have been ongoing for months, yet the Rev. M. Lewis Hunt and Terry May waited until the last hour to launch their complaints.
"My opinion is the black community was left totally blind in this process," said Hunt, founder of Anderson's Black Chamber of Commerce.
May, who made an unsuccessful run for school board in 2016, said that Smith has failed to improve educational opportunities for black students at ACS.
"I like Tim, but we're looking out for our kids," May said. "Our community is very upset; we feel like we have little or no power."
Why did Hunt and May wait so long to make their thoughts known, when there had been two public comment meetings on the superintendent search and numerous public meetings to discuss the referendums?
As ACS board member Robert "Bucky" Bookhart pointed out Monday, the various meetings had been written about and advertised extensively in The Herald Bulletin and on the school district's website. Bookhart, who is black, noted that he had not heard any rumblings of discontent from black Andersonians over the referendums and superintendent search.
The black community should always be included in discussions about such important matters. While ACS officials should seek to be all inclusive, it's also up to various groups to raise their hands and be counted. With an aggressive approach, the NAACP and Black Chamber could have been closely involved from the beginning.
While it's too late for Hunt and May to have an influence over the superintendent hiring and school referendums plans, it's never too late for them and others to be involved with the schools.
Perhaps the two should meet with Smith and school board President Patrick Hill after the Tuesday vote on the referendum to discuss their concerns.
The (Bloomington) Herald-Times. May 3, 2018
Creating new city park took vision, focus, persistence
It takes a vision.
While the seed was planted at the end of Mayor Tomi Allison's administration for the city to purchase property on which the construction of Switchyard Park begins this week, the vision began to take shape during the administration of Mayor John Fernandez. He could see the B-Line Trail, which at the time was an old CSX rail bed. He could see a large park at the railroad's switchyard and commercial and residential development at points along the linear greenway.
The last freight train pulled out of the 157-year-old McDoel Switchyard just south of Grimes Lane in 2004. By then, the Fernandez administration had obtained funding to purchase the rail property and begin planning the B-Line Trail.
Construction of the B-Line Trail was completed, and the city purchased the property for Switchyard Park during the administration of Mayor Mark Kruzan. Many more steps, including funding approval and now the beginning of construction, have occurred with Mayor John Hamilton leading the city.
It's been a decades-long process that is scheduled for completion in 2020.
That's when city residents should begin to fully appreciate the vision, persistence and focus on the project.
Park users will be able to enter the park from the north off of Grimes Lane. That will be the easiest way to get to the basketball, pickleball and bocce ball areas, as well as playground equipment and the community gardens.
The entrance off South Walnut Street will provide the most direct route to the skate park, the north lawn, the great lawn and a pavilion and performance space.
The entrance off Rogers Street on the west side of the park will be closest to the main pavilion and the largest parking lot.
The all-important dog park on the south end will be about the same distance from the east and west entrances.
Walkers and cyclists will be able to approach and explore the 58-acre park in their own way. They will be able to enjoy the trails, the grassy areas and the 603 mature trees and 2,000 seedlings that will be planted.
It will be the city's largest park. The generation of Bloomingtonians who can't imagine the city without Bryan Park will be replaced by generations who feel the same way about Switchyard Park.
Thanks to all who have had the vision, as well as the skill to lead it to this current phase.
The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. May 3, 2018
Dangerous deja vu
State must replenish unemployment reserve
Indiana learned a costly lesson in the last recession - or did it? After repaying its debt to the federal government for an unemployment insurance shortfall during the Great Recession, the state seems to be falling short in preparing for the next one.
A Wall Street Journal report last week notes the failure of states to prepare for an economic downturn, finding more than half of the states - including Indiana - do not have enough money in the funds from which they pay jobless benefits to weather another recession.
"More importantly, Indiana would seem to be a big-time risk, with only enough cash in the UI kitty to fund fewer than three months of payments, a lower amount in reserve than only California, Texas and Ohio," adds Ed Feigenbaum, editor of the Indiana Legislative Insight newsletter and a close observer of the fund's status for many years.
The 2008 meltdown was inevitable. Indiana had $1.6 billion in its unemployment trust fund in 2000, a healthy balance built during the strong economy of the 1990s. But as is often the case, the clamor to return money to taxpayers grew, and the legislature in 2001 cut the unemployment tax rate that businesses pay by 25 percent. Critics warned reduced revenue would eventually create a shortfall, but pressure from employers to keep the tax rate low and from union officials to preserve benefits stymied any efforts to make reasonable adjustments.
With insufficient revenue, the trust fund began shrinking. When the unemployment rate skyrocketed, the money ran out. The bailout came from the Obama administration in a federal stimulus package that included state assistance for unemployment insurance. Indiana was among the first states to take out a loan, eventually borrowing about $2.2 billion from the federal government - a loan that cost us dearly in interest payments.
But Rep. Dan Leonard, R-Huntington, insists it could have been much worse. Some states, including Michigan and Illinois, took out bonds to repay the federal government for the bailouts. While they paid off the federal government more quickly, employers ended up paying off not only the government loan, but also bond payments to private lenders.
Leonard, the General Assembly's unemployment insurance expert, also points out that Indiana succeeded in paying off its federal obligation in late 2015, well before it was expected to be paid off late this year or next.
"We saved employers $327 million in 2016 alone," he said. "It was a huge savings for employers."
But Leonard acknowledges the current trust fund level is not where it should be. Now at about $250 million, it's well short of the $750 million the U.S. Department of Labor formula suggests.
"I've contended for a long time it should be $1 billion - maybe a billion and half," Leonard said. "It's growing, but not as fast as I would like."
Leonard said the state could adjust the amount of payments required but said Indiana must be careful not to "stifle the economy."
"The dilemma is, is it better to recoup those (unemployment insurance) funds in better times or wait until things are going south?" he said. "Our economy is moving right along. If we're going to do it, we're better to do it now rather than wait until the economy slows."
Leonard's efforts have been key in not only making the unemployment insurance program structurally sound, but also in protecting it from fraud. His counsel on building up reserves while unemployment is low shouldn't be ignored.