Editorial Roundup: Indiana

Terre Haute Tribune-Star. Oct. 14, 2021.

Editorial: Rokita discovers new way to stir the pot

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita isn’t shy about stirring the stew of America’s boiling culture war.

This week, he dragged the people of Clinton, Indiana, into his cauldron.

The Vermillion County community north of Terre Haute is proud of its Italian heritage. Like so many immigrants who came to the United States during and since its birth, Italians have maintained their ethnic identity while blending into the melting pot of American society. Clinton, which has a sizable population of people who trace to Italian ancestry, celebrates its heritage in special ways, including with its annual Little Italy Festival every Labor Day weekend.

The folks in Clinton recognize and honor Christopher Columbus as one of their own. The Italian navigator and explorer whose harrowing journeys across the Atlantic Ocean in the late 15th and early 16th centuries opened the doors to European colonization of the “New World” to the west. His exploits on behalf of the Spanish monarchy have been held up as heroic, although time and deeper research reveal a less attractive leading man in these mythical adventures.

Although Columbus and his “achievement” of discovering America have garnered him a U.S. federal holiday, there is far more to his story. As is the case with so many historical figures, the truth about Columbus paints a complicated picture. He never set foot on what we now call the North American continent. He spent most of his time exploring and conquering Caribbean islands and the coastlines of South and Central America. Research suggests he abused native peoples he encountered on those islands and helped introduce slavery to the region.

As the truth about Columbus has emerged, Americans have become less likely to honor him or celebrate his holiday each October. Many would like to do away with the observance altogether and replace it with a day to honor those who first called the continent home hundreds of years before Columbus was born.

In fact, President Joe Biden issued an executive order recently declaring last Monday Indigenous Peoples’ Day to do just that.

Rokita, a Republican, was rankled. So he set out on the holiday to a place where Italian heritage is celebrated to stoke fires of resentment against historical facts.

The AG later issued a press release about his visit to Clinton. It stated that he celebrated the “contributions of Christopher Columbus” and rattled off a litany of other conservative political talking points. He decried the lack of respect shown by some to the acclaimed explorer.

“For most of the 19th and 20th centuries, millions of American students were taught about the significance of Columbus’ discovery of the New World in school, and his contributions were greatly admired,” Rokita is quoted as saying. “But now left-wing radical socialists are tearing down statues of Columbus, and diminishing a hero who was greatly respected by millions of Americans.”

He then went after Biden, mocking what he called the president’s “deliberate attempt to purge Columbus from our history, and forever erase his contributions from memory.”

Italian heritage need not be caught in the crosshairs of this battle. Italian contributions to American society can be celebrated without ignoring or minimizing the tragedies European colonization and exploration brought upon indigenous peoples.

Rokita appears to have been alone among Hoosier state officials rallying on Columbus’ behalf. His purpose was clear. As a politician with eyes on higher office, Rokita used the people of Clinton not to advance their interests, but to promote his own.

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KPC News. Oct. 15, 2021.

Editorial: Unanswered questions about train stoppage frustrate

Motorists in Kendallville bristled on Tuesday after a long freight train stopped on the tracks, blocking all three of Kendallville’s at-grade railroad crossings for about three hours.

It wasn’t because of an accident. Not a derailment. Nor a breakdown.

City officials were told the train stopped because of “a significant violation,” although it was never clarified as to what that meant.

As the train started up and rolled off out of town around 3:15 p.m. with seemingly no issue at all, all signs point to the stoppage and extended blockage being related to some matter that was administrative, not mechanical.

We still haven’t received an answer to the “what” question as to the cause resulting in the train stopping across three crossings for three hours.

But also unanswered is the “why” question, primarily why did the train have to stop exactly where it did and mess up Kendallville for an entire afternoon?

If the stoppage was so that the Train Police could write the engineer ticket or something, that couldn’t have happened with the engine approximately 200 yards east, not blocking Main Street?

The train couldn’t have stopped anywhere between Corunna and Kendallville where there’s a grand total of one (1) other at-grade crossing at C.R. 3 in DeKalb County? It couldn’t have moved to the west, where the next closest crossing is at C.R. 500E in Noble County, approximately 3 miles from Main Street?

Was it really necessary to block all of the city’s crossings, causing people to have to take long detours either to S.R. 3 or Allen Chapel Road to use an overpass over the rails?

And, lastly, couldn’t have someone provided an actual reason to Kendallville as to why this train apparently had to stop and not move an inch for three hours while effectively bisecting an entire community?

We’ll continue to look into the issue and we hope Kendallville city officials will push Norfolk Southern for answers, too.

Stoppages are rare, sure, and this appears to be a unique case, but just because it rarely happens doesn’t mean when it does it has to cause the maximum disruption for everyone involved.

At the least, an explanation is owed.

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Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette. Oct. 16, 2021.

Editorial: Public school defenders fight - and switch

Jennifer McCormick, Indiana’s last elected superintendent of public instruction, surprised few observers when she confirmed in June that she was switching her party affiliation from Republican to Democratic. Elected in 2016, she was only months into her job when McCormick began to publicly question GOP colleagues’ support for public education.

She joined Democratic state Sen. Eddie Melton on a statewide listening tour two years ago and in 2020 announced she would remain at the Department of Education if Democrat Dr. Woody Myers was elected governor and won the right to appoint the first Indiana secretary of education. McCormick joined high-profile Indiana Democrats earlier this year as they toured the state to draw attention to benefits of the American Rescue Plan Act, which was approved without support from any Republican in the state’s congressional delegation.

But McCormick isn’t the only top education leader to switch sides this year. Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister announced last week she is switching her party affiliation from Republican to Democrat. She also announced she will challenge GOP incumbent Gov. Kevin Stitt in next year’s gubernatorial election.

“I am changing parties to run as a Democrat and that is because I also believe in the values of supporting public education, supporting quality and good access to health care, as well as rural infrastructure,” Hofmeister told the Tulsa World in an interview.

In June, McCormick sounded a similar theme in remarks to the Times of Northwest Indiana.

“I know there are Republican voters across Indiana who believe in the ideas to fully fund our public schools and provide our educators the quality of life they deserve, but I have some advice for them: it’ll be the Indiana Democrats – not Republican elected officials – who’ll get it done,” McCormick said, noting the $2 billion Indiana schools will receive in federal funds under the American Rescue Plan and the state funds supporting teacher pay hikes that would not have been available without federal aid.

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