Editorial Roundup: Indiana

Terre Haute Tribune-Star. July 1, 2021.

Editorial: Study exposes Indiana’s political imbalance

It’s no secret that Indiana is, in political terms, a bright red state. The Republican Party has an iron grip on state government and in most local government entities.

What Hoosiers don’t realize is how skewed its political district lines have become and the ends to which GOP leaders have gone to squeeze every bit of power it can from the map-drawing system.

In the 2020 elections for president, governor and attorney general, Republican candidates won their races with about 57% of the vote. Yet, the GOP holds about 73% of state House and Senate seats.

This gross imbalance has been underscored by a recent study commissioned by Women4Change, an advocacy group that hired George Washington University Professor Christopher Warshaw to do an independent study of the state’s electoral maps. The results are eye-opening.

Warshaw found that Indiana’s maps are more tilted than 95% of the maps drawn nationwide over the past 50 years.

Districts are reapportioned every 10 years based on the results of the U.S. census, and using sophisticated computer technology, Indiana Republicans have turned gerrymandering into a science, using precise mapping to squeeze the greatest advantage from the available population based on voting tendencies. And they’re very good at it.

“It’s a pretty extreme level of partisan bias in the Indiana map,” Warshaw told the Tribune-Star last week.

In addition to diluting minority party seats by packing Democratic voters into a few heavily Democratic districts, gerrymandered maps eliminate competitive districts that might otherwise elect moderate representatives.

The result is more polarizing candidates getting elected and fewer candidates coming forward to run in noncompetitive districts. Over time, the controlling party achieves a super majority, which has happened in Indiana. At that point, the minority has little or no impact on the legislative process and more extreme pieces of legislation get adopted.

The process causes public confidence to wane and voter turnout to weaken.

There is a better way. Twenty-one states have already adopted it by creating independent or bipartisan commissions to draw legislative maps. Such an approach doesn’t diminish the will of the voters. Rather, it crafts a government that more accurately reflects the makeup of the electorate.

Indiana political leaders from both parties promoted the creation of an independent redistricting commission. But the proposal goes nowhere once it arrives in the heavily partisan legislature.

Women4Change has served Indiana well by digging deep into the state’s redistricting process and makes a strong case for change.

In a functioning democracy, the will of the people should be fairly represented. That’s what this group, and many others like it, are asking of political leaders.

It’s time for those leaders to listen.

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Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. July 3, 2021.

Editorial: Zoo tigers assist in virus studies

Two city residents are helping scientists learn more about COVID-19.

The residents aren’t people, though, and they live at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.

Sumatran tigers Bugara and Indah were diagnosed with the disease in February; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was interested.

Each of the big cats had been trained before their diagnosis to donate blood – a process that involves coaxing them into a chute, then convincing them to lie down and slide their tails through a hole in the door. Veterinarian Kami Fox used a syringe to secure the blood while zookeeper Kristin Sliger provided the tigers “an endless supply of meatballs” and goat’s milk on the other end of the enclosure.

“It requires a lot of time, consistency, trust and patience,” zoo spokeswoman Bonnie Kemp said in an email. “Even the CDC was impressed.”

The CDC requested samples of the blood, and it’s being used to study antibodies to learn how a tiger’s immune system responds to the virus.

The story is highlighted in “Zoo to You,” a magazine published by the zoo for its members.

“Bugara and Indah are now COVID-free, but their blood samples are being used to learn more about this disease in animals,” the article says.

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KPC News. July 4, 2021.

Editorial: Good police work benefits our area

The recent series of unusual criminal incidents highlights the importance of police and the role they play in our communities.

First, Steuben County police were called to investigate the death of Wilma Ball, 82, at her Lake James residence, which was determined to be a homicide by stabbing.

Officers haven’t made an arrest in that case yet, which has now passed the first week since the incident, but police continue to gather evidence, follow up on tips and further the investigation.

Second, authorities spent two days investigating and searching for the gunman in a shooting at the Gallops gas station in Kendallville. Officers were on scene in about three minutes after receiving a 911 call from one of the victims and likely just missed the shooter as he fled the scene.

Over the next two days, police put out a multi-state alert to be on the lookout for suspect Matthew Rodriguez and his red Kia Forte. Around 3 a.m. on Wednesday, a state trooper in Athens, Ohio, 4 1/2 hours away from Kendallville, spotted the red sedan while on a routine check of the local rest stop, ran its plate and made an arrest on Rodriguez.

And third, Auburn police last week quickly responded to a break-in at the YMCA Early Learning Center in DeKalb County, arresting a man who allegedly tried to snatch a worker at the center and, in the process, broke through a window and secured door.

Who knows what might have happened if he had successfully captured that YMCA worker or got deeper into the facility where children were? Thankfully, a quick response by police ensured that he didn’t.

Nationwide some valid criticisms have been made about some aspects of policing and the U.S. criminal justice system. Thoughtful reforms in policing and criminal justice are welcome in the same way that thoughtful reflection and change can benefit literally any sector of society and business.

Knee-jerk overreactions can make the already difficult job police are tasked to do nearly impossible.

Thankfully, homicides, kidnappings and other serious violent crimes are a rarity in our communities, but other parts of the country started seeing increases in these types of violent crimes in 2020. Having a police officer a few short minutes away and ready to respond is critical to maintaining public safety.

Detectives and investigators who gather and follow the evidence to a suspect are key to ensuring that victims eventually get justice.

We are grateful for the good work of our law enforcement professionals.

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Columbus Republic. June 30, 2021.

Editorial: Don’t risk lives by driving through high water

Anyone who has commuted Bartholomew County’s back roads knows just how little rain it takes to wash them out.

In just a few minutes, a clear street can resemble a busy waterway; forcing motorists to pursue different routes to their final destinations.

Unfortunately, for some, visible flooding and “road closed” signs aren’t enough to deter them from attempting to traverse hazardous conditions.

Last week, the Bartholomew County’s Sheriff’s Department conducted multiple water rescues after flash flooding soaked the region. In some instances, drivers were stranded on top of their vehicles while waiting for airboat extraction.

While the county is fortunate to have the resources to respond to these calls, the situations — often avoidable — put both motorists and rescuers at risk of injury or worse.

It takes just 6 inches of water to cause total loss of control and possible stalling, and a foot of water floats most vehicles.

Bartholomew County’s numerous rivers and creeks, as well as its topography, make for prime flooding conditions — so don’t expect the issue to stop any time soon.

Fines are already in place to address the issue, but the threat of a ticket will never stop the problem altogether: even if local officials decide to bump it to a heftier fine one day.

Motorists need to continue to be reminded of the dangers of high waters, pay attention to which roads often flood, and plan ahead when incoming weather looks unfavorable.

With more rain expected this week, locals need to remember the warning signs are up for a reason.

The “turn around, don’t drown” mantra seems cliche, but the motto needs to be practiced by everyone behind the wheel.

Mother Nature always wins in the end, so don’t challenge her.

END