Editorial Roundup: Indiana

Indianapolis Business Journal. November 18, 2022.

Editorial: Actionable workforce proposals are step to a better Indiana

Call us jaded. We’ve seen dozens of recommendations over the years for boosting the state’s workforce readiness and preparing Indiana for the next generation of jobs. Sometimes they come from new governors or at the whim of lawmakers or because of a perceived change in the economy or Indiana’s standing among other states.

And over the years, there have been many great ideas—some in practice, others still on a shelf.

But included in almost every workforce plan of the last few decades has been layers of bureaucracy—new agencies, commissions, panels at the state and local level.

So we were delighted to see that a new set of 30 recommendations from the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet is largely free of bureaucracy. (See story on page 1A.)

Instead, the recommendations are practical, actionable and refreshingly feasible.

They are divided into three areas: helping employers find skilled workers, removing barriers for workers and preparing future skilled workers. They were developed by a panel appointed by Gov. Eric Holcomb that includes business executives, educators, government officials and social service leaders.

Ryan Kitchell, a former hospital executive and previous state Office of Management and Budget director, chaired the panel and worked with the cabinet’s new executive director, Whitney Ertel, on the recommendations. Both came on board the cabinet last spring, just in time to help Indiana rethink its workforce approach post-pandemic.

The governor, Ertel said, was seeking “new energy, a renewed focus and a very, very accelerated approach” to bolstering the state’s workforce readiness. And she said the recommendations focus heavily on increasing preparedness for STEM jobs as well as helping every worker move to the next level of education or advancement, regardless of where they are starting.

“This is about investing in the workforce like we’re investing in other parts of the economy, like infrastructure,” Kitchell said.

To that end, we love the recommendations that focus on helping workers and employers navigate the complex systems for access to training programs, educational opportunities and more. Too often, those efforts have been focused more on people who are unemployed or companies negotiating incentive packages and less on employed workers who want to do more and existing employers looking to expand.

The panel’s recommendations call for an Indiana Talent Agency—which would be less a headhunter and more like the Indiana Economic Development Corp. but helping to develop recruiting and training strategies for all Indiana companies.

We also appreciate efforts to give students more access to employment experts while they’re in school, rather than putting all the burden for career planning on guidance counselors, and rethinking the credentials that go into a high school degree—not to make them more stringent but to make them more flexible.

There are more recommendations worth pursuing (and a few we might not totally agree with). We hope the Governor’s Office and the Legislature (and in one case, Congress) will take them seriously and act accordingly.

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Anderson Herald Bulletin. November 16, 2022.

Editorial: Facial recognition use must be accurate, fair

In nearly every spy thriller or superhero movie, some savvy computer wiz pushes a few buttons, and dozens of mugshots flash across a screen until the bad guy is identified.

The action requires a facial recognition system using biometrics, which generally use body measurements to match a photo with a person.

Those systems are not as reliable as Batman or Jason Bourne would have us believe. They can inaccurately identify anyone. Those foul-ups generally involve people of color.

A 2019 federal study found that Asian and Black people were up to 100 times more likely to be misidentified than white men, depending on the system’s algorithm and type of search.

Native Americans had the highest rate of false positives among all ethnicities, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The pervasive technology is everywhere. One estimate places the presence of one surveillance camera for every 4.6 Americans. Estimates for China are one camera for every 4.1 people.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection uses facial recognition technology for identity checks. From fiscal year 2018 through 2021, customs processed over 100 million individuals using facial recognition, uncovering 950 imposters but improving aircraft boarding times.

In July 2021, the U.S. House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security heard testimony regarding law enforcement’s use of the technology. Witnesses urged melding the technology with constitutional rights to privacy and free speech.

Berry Friedman, professor at New York University School of Law, called it “democratic accountability.”

He told the subcommittee, “It is asking too much of policing agencies to develop regulatory approaches to complex technologies on their own. That is the job of legislative bodies. It is your job.”

He added, “Nowhere is the mistrust higher than in Black and brown and marginalized communities, which already feel the brunt of many unfortunate policing practices.”

Grassroots protests have cropped up. Last year, the West Lafayette City Council passed a ban on facial recognition technology; however, the mayor vetoed the ban.

In mid-October, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued Google for unauthorized use of biometric data involving body measurements without approval by Texans.

Perhaps the closest Indiana has come to creating a uniform policy comes through the state police’s Indiana Intelligence Fusion Center, which issued a guide for law enforcement.

As written, the center says it does not connect the system to any interface that performs live video surveillance, including drones and body-worn cameras.

Regarding general protections, Americans should hope that there is reasonable suspicion that the subject of a criminal investigation is involved with or has knowledge of possible criminal or terrorist activity.

A court order could be considered in administering facial recognition technology against a suspect. That technology cannot serve as a foolproof link to a suspect in court proceedings.

The technology looks trendy in movies, but such thrillers don’t talk about police profiling by skin color, nor do they set up penalties for misuse.

There need to be additional guidelines to tell the public when and how facial recognition is being used, such as at passport control points. The systems must be accurate but, like polygraph tests, generally not admissible as evidence in court.

And the technology and its system operators must guarantee and protect an individual’s constitutional rights.

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Terre Haute Tribune Star. November 18, 2022.

Editorial: Youth voting critical to greater civic engagement

One bright spot in the wake of this month’s election was recognition given to Indiana State University for its students’ voting levels.

If Vigo County and Terre Haute hope to improve the community’s persistently weak voter turnouts, younger people must be encouraged to participate in the electoral process.

The ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge recognized ISU as being among the organization’s most engaged campuses for college student voting. The nonpartisan, nationwide initiative — launched in 2016 as part of the American Democracy Project — recognizes universities and colleges for intentional efforts to increase student voter participation.

ISU joined five other Indiana campuses on the list.

The efforts at ISU included the formation of a campus-wide group to centralize student voter registration, voter education and voter turnout. ISU also monitors its progress through membership in the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement.

As a result, the candidates they help elect will influence the policies that will affect the students’ futures.

“Young people have a great deal at stake in every local, state and national election,” said Nancy Rogers, ISU vice president for student engagement. “At ISU, we are working every day to help students recognize and use their own agency in impacting the future of our democracy.”

One of the biggest steps toward greater student participation at ISU involves the Vigo County community, as well. The ISU campus became the site of a community polling site, as one of the county’s vote centers, in 2018. Turnouts at the vote center, located inside the Hulman Memorial Student Union Building, have been solid and comparable to many other vote centers throughout the county.

It was an important addition. A predominance of voting sites are most familiar to older generations and longtime residents — American Legion and VFW posts, firehouses, churches and union halls. The placement of a vote center on campus, which is Terre Haute’s third-largest employer, gives students a place that is not so foreign to them.

Greater inclusion of college students also diversifies the local electorate, a much needed impact, as well.

The ISU voting location was hard-fought to gain, surviving two initial rejections by the Vigo County Election Board, before eventually being added. The Election Board’s maintenance of the ISU vote center is laudable, and should continue.

Vigo County needs new voters. Its track record of low turnouts continued with the 2022 general election. Just 25,399 (or 34%) of Vigo County’s 75,021 registered voters cast ballots, marking just the second time in at least 52 years that the county’s turnout has dipped below 40% in a midterm election.

Vigo County’s turnout also ranked second-lowest among Indiana counties this year, according to preliminary unofficial results posted on the Indiana Secretary of State’s Election Division website. Only Tippecanoe County, at 32%, was lower. Marion County also had a 34% turnout.

The county and state need to attract more young people to the polls. Indiana ranked sixth-worst in voter registration of 18- to 24-year-olds in the 2022 election cycle, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University.

Indiana and Vigo County can do better. More outreach, such as the efforts at ISU and the campus vote center, can bring younger voters to the polls. The result will be elected officials that are more attuned to the needs of all generations of residents, not just those from their own demographic backgrounds. That is true democracy.

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