INDUSTRIAL FARMING AMENDMENT TO INDIANA CONSTITUTION AIMS TO ABOLISH LOCAL CONTROL

The constitutional amendment on many minds is the amendment banning same-sex marriage.  Another amendment, however, is also set to drastically change our lives and environment – by enshrining protection of industrial farming in the state constitution. Republicans just can’t seem to get enough of misusing the amendment process for their own agenda.

Republicans are anticipating that the attention on the marriage “inequality” amendment will allow SJR 7 – the Right to Hunt and Fish – to sail by the voters in November 2014 with little notice.

SJR 7 is an innocuous sounding Trojan horse being used as a means for those who want to see Indiana become the “land of CAFOs.” Its goal is to amend Article 1, Section 39 of the state Constitution by constitutionally protecting industrial farming over all other occupations and professions. The amendment is worded as follows:

Constitutional right to hunt and fish. The people have a right to hunt, fish, harvest game, or engage in the agricultural or commercial production of meat, fish, poultry, or dairy products, which is a valued part of our heritage and shall be forever preserved for the public good, subject only to laws prescribed by the General Assembly and rules prescribed by virtue of the authority of the General Assembly. Hunting and fishing shall be the preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife. This section shall not be construed to limit the application of any provision of law relating to trespass or property rights.

Hunting and fishing may be a part of our “heritage”, but industrial farming is not.  The Republicans know full well by captioning the amendment with the “Right to Hunt and Fish” that it will draw little opposition.  I mean, really, how un-American could one be to oppose hunting and fishing and the oft-cited patriotic reference to our “heritage.”

The amendment not only enshrines industrial farming in the Constitution but also rips away local control and places it with the state.  Local control using zoning and other regulations is a much-needed check on the explosion of factory farms that have been linked to health hazards and to environmental pollution through decreased air quality and manure runoffs into rivers. That control will be abolished and handed over to the state.

Manure pits filled with waste from the nearby CAFO

Manure pits filled with waste from the nearby CAFO


Industrial farming does not deserve constitutional protection, and, our local officials and citizens certainly do not deserve to lose even more control over local issues to the state legislature.

Posted in Politics | 5 Comments

DANIELS MOVES PURDUE OFFICE OF PUBLIC RECORDS CLOSER TO HIS HEART – AND FINGERTIPS

Purdue “President” Mitch Daniels has decided to move the office of public records just a stone’s throw from his office.   He has also hired new legal counsel to oversee those pesky requests from journalists, private citizens, and lawyers.

Of course, there is a legal component to public records requests but strange isn’t it that Purdue managed for years without this step – Daniels comes in and changes it.

Could this be as a result of his “foot in the mouth” incidences in the past that were uncovered with public records requests?  Remember the Howard Zinn flap and tell-tale email information uncovered involving Tony Bennett?

public records

 

Posted in Education, Indiana, Mitch Daniels, Public Records

CHAIN, CHAIN, CHAIN – TREATING THOSE RECEIVING EARNED BENEFITS AS SECOND-CLASS CITIZENS

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is about to become a hot topic again for those on social security – regular and disability. And President Obama appears to be in support of the plan. Gird for battle if you don’t want your social security benefits, veterans benefits, or federal benefits to be impacted and decreased.

The CPI takes a virtual “basket” of consumer goods, including groceries, housing, gasoline, transportation, healthcare, and clothing, and tracks the average prices of the basket’s components over time. When the cost of the “basket” rises, we have inflation albeit sometimes not too noticeable. Our yearly Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) to social security benefits are based on the CPI.

Market Basket

Now, throw in the concept of chained CPI. The premise behind the chained CPI is that, instead of using the CPI’s rise based on inflation, it looks at anticipated consumer behavior and a practice known as “substitution bias.” The theory is that if prices go up, consumers will substitute – or buy – a lower priced item. Since lower priced items lead to a savings, the price of the “basket” will be less, thus reducing the amount of increase in social security payments because the COLA will be less.

For example, if a can of Del Monte green beans costs $1.09, a consumer may opt for the store brand at $.89 – a savings of $.20. If substitution bias is possible for many items, then the expectation is that those of us on a limited income will do what is necessary to get by, not complain, and buy the cheaper product.

This might work for groceries or items that have alternate products for a lesser price, but what about healthcare and transportation? What about the price of gasoline?

http://www.bls.gov/cpi/

To date, social security has not been chained, but the discussion is rearing its ugly head again. Now, I am not opposed to buying store brand products – I have done so for quite some time, and I see little difference – but what about those items about which we have little alternative choice? Gasoline, transportation, and healthcare have few or no alternatives.

It is time to educate the public on on the reality of what chained CPI means. And, frankly, it means recipients of social security benefits, veterans benefits, and federal benefits are expected to live more frugally and do without simply because we are in classes that are receiving EARNED BENEFITS.

Posted in Politics | 2 Comments

THE BATTLE TO DESTROY SOCIAL SECURITY – FDR’S SUCCESS STILL RANKLES THE REPUBLICANS

As the recent mind numbing memories of fiscal collapse diminish and the public readies itself for the next round of infighting over another potential shutdown and debt ceiling crisis, Social Security is high on the hit list for the Republican penchant to privatize.  They won’t achieve a dismantling of the system – yet – but what they will try to do is leverage small bits and pieces to chink away at what has been one of the most successful programs in U.S. history.

Social security was established in 1935 by President Franklin Roosevelt during the Depression.  Since that time, ending Social Security has been a “raison d’etre” for various cobbled-together factions in the Republican Party.   Their continued failure to engineer its demise certainly weighs heavily on their minds as each year rolls around and Social Security is still in place and operating as it should.

The following video highlights the efforts by the Koch Brothers and their supported Think Tanks – and I use the word “think” loosely – to implant into the minds of the public that Social Security is a failure and is bankrupt.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The Social Security fund has somewhere between a $2.6 trillion and $2.9 trillion balance, depending on the source consulted.

Posted in Franklin D. Roosevelt, Politics, Privatization, Republicans, Social Security

“RIP VAN” POSNER – SIX YEARS LATER THE JUDGE WAKES UP

Judge Posner has stunned the legal community with a rare judicial mea culpa: an admittance that he was asleep at the wheel six years ago when he wrote that he really thought voter fraud was an okay reason to have voter ID in Indiana even though little to no evidence was provided about actual fraud.  He was also provided with the argument that the voter ID could be the basis of voter suppression, which he also forthwith dismissed.

Indiana’s Republicans have long been working on various “disparate impact” voter registration and voter ID laws, which appear to be plausible but, in reality, are aimed at suppressing voting access by minorities and those who typically vote Democratic.  While they are shrewd enough not to flat out target a specific group – imagine the stink that would raise – they have fabricated laws that in their application have a disparate impact on certain groups.

In conjunction with Republican legislative efforts, then-Governor Daniels – under the guise of “efficiency” – made sure to slash the number of Bureau of Motor Vehicle locations where voter IDs could be procured.  Or the locations were moved from democratic strongholds to make access more difficult. Thus, the Republicans used a two-prong drive to suppress as many Democratically leaning voters as possible:  Impose an ID requirement, and then close or relocate those very offices where the IDs could be obtained.

Allen County has three BMV locations.  Two are in Fort Wayne – Pine Valley and Waynedale – with a third in New Haven.   The Waynedale location replaced the branch once located at Southgate Plaza, which served an area in the predominantly democratic 5th and 6th districts with a heavy minority concentration of African-American and Hispanic populations.

The following maps show the areas of minority concentration.  The numbers in the boxes are not related to the issue of minority population.

2010 African-American population concentrations

2010 African-American population concentrations

The darker the shade of blue the higher the African-American population.  The situation is similar for the Hispanic population.

2010 Hispanic population concentration

2010 Hispanic population concentration

Again, the darker the shade of green, the higher the concentration of the Hispanic population.

Finally, here is a map that shows the 5th and 6th districts showing the boundaries.  The relocated Southgate branch now resides in the 4th district – a Republican held city council seat.  Both the 5th and 6th districts are represented by Democrats.

City Council - 5th and 6th districts.

City Council – 5th and 6th districts.

So, while it is a stunning admittance from Judge Posner that he finally woke from his six-year sleep, it is not a case of “better late than never.”  His “ah-ha” moment is too little too late.

Posted in Civil Rights, Constitutional Issues, Indiana, Judges, Judicial System, Politics, Rights and Liberties, U.S. Constitution, Voter Suppression, Voting

WHO PARTICIPATES?

“We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.”

Thomas Jefferson  (1743 – 1826)

3rd president of United States

Quote | Posted on by

STUTZMAN WANTS RESPECT FOR THE “TEAPUBLICANS” BUT REFUSES TO RESPECT THE CONSTITUTION

Stutzman, Indiana’s Third District House Representative, has forgotten his Constitutional underpinnings – or he has chosen to simply ignore them.  As he whines about the TeaPublicans needing some measure of “respect”, he thoroughly trounces the Constitution which he so passionately supports – or so he says.

The Congress – not the president – is responsible for establishing revenue sources and for appropriating and designating funds for the budget.  The president sends a tentative budget to the House.  The House sifts through it, makes changes, and then sends it to the Senate.  The Senate marks it up as well, and the disagreements go to a conference committee where differences are resolved.  When done, it is sent to the President for his approval or rejection.

John Dean, former Nixon cohort in crime, has over the years come to pretty much despise Republicans.  He writes as an analyst for Verdict, which is a component of Justia, and he writes some very good pieces.  Given my dislike of anything Nixon and pretty much all things Republican nowadays, I almost ignored reading an excellent piece he wrote for Justia about the use of extortion by the Republicans to get their way when they cannot do so legitimately.

According to Dean’s premises,  the Republicans’ strategy is

(1) patently unconstitutional and unconscionable;
(2) in violation of the Congressional Oath of Office; and
(3) unethical and unseemly.

The United States Constitution establishes a government which was intended to function 24/7, 365 days a year.  No where in the Constitution can be found a provision for shutting down the government because some individuals are unhappy.  Laws are passed, and they take effect.  Provisions are in place to change that through the legitimate process established in the Constitution – not by some irresponsible process found in the minds of TeaPublicans.

Stutzman took an Oath to uphold the Constitution and its laws and to faithfully discharge his duties, yet he conspired with other Republicans to violate that Oath by refusing to fund the government and to ignore his obligation to discharge his duties.  Stutzman mouths the virtue of respect yet refuses to actually follow his own words.

Stutzman is a Cruz clone, and, in voting to shut down the government, he has decided that his own idea of Constitutional interpretation is superior to the actual words and intent of the Founders.  His foot-in-mouth moment that has now become a “shot heard ’round the world” demonstrates his idea of respect:  he wants respect for himself but won’t give it for the very government created by the Constitution, which he swore to uphold.

 

 

 

Our Constitution calls for an ongoing and perpetual government unless modified under the amendment process set forth in Article V of the Constitution or by revolution.  Refusal to fund the government, which under law shuts it down, because a small recalcitrant group of Republican Party office holders are unwilling to fulfill their basic responsibilities for maintaining a functioning government, is a form of unconstitutional insurrection. – See more at: http://verdict.justia.com/2013/10/04/the-legality-of-government-by-extortion-as-we-say-or-we-shut-it-down#sthash.YBZALjvc.dpuf
The Republicans’ strategy for imposing their Party’s minority will on the majority by refusing to fund a law, or to keep the entire government functioning is (1) patently unconstitutional and unconscionable; (2) in violation of the Congressional Oath of Office; (3) unethical and unseemly; and yet, (4) there is no legal action that anyone in the other branches can pursue to end this shameful conduct. – See more at: http://verdict.justia.com/2013/10/04/the-legality-of-government-by-extortion-as-we-say-or-we-shut-it-down#sthash.YBZALjvc.dpuf
Posted in Barack Obama, Marlin Stutzman, Politics, Republicans, U.S. Constitution | Tagged , , , , ,

LOSING OUR RIGHTS – TAKING OUR EYES OFF THE STATE “BALL”

Federal elections are important, but, in our focus on and zeal in maintaining our elected advantage at the federal level, Democrats appear to have taken their eyes off the real seat of power – the states and their elected officials – governorships and legislative control.

Federal officials and their policies can have devastating effects on state and local matters, but it is at the state level that more and more laws that negatively impact voting, women’s reproductive rights, gun control, same-sex marriage, education, and other social issues are slowly squeezing the life from the rights for which many have fought decades to secure.

Like a giant anaconda, the Republicans have slithered in, honed in on their targets, and focused on the “big squeeze” by implementing legislation that is having devastating effects across this country – all at the state level.

For the first time since 1964, our Indiana General Assembly has super-majorities in both chambers. And, they aren’t Democratic super-majorities.  The House Republicans have a 69-31 super-majority, and the Senate Republicans have a 37-13 super-majority (which it has had for years).  Couple that with a Republican-controlled governorship, and the picture becomes stark and bleak.

But, Indiana isn’t the only state marching backward to the beat of a bygone drummer. State legislatures are evenly divided as to party control in their chambers with one or the other chamber in the opposite party’s control – 25 and 25.

Governorships are now tilted to a Republican advantage – 30 to 19.  Our governor – and I use that word loosely – is a fundamentalist conservative Christian TeaPublican.  Say that in one agonizing breath.  Worse yet, understand the agony created by the knowledge that comes with recognizing what he intends to do to Indiana. Daniels was a disaster, but Pence is a catastrophe.

One-party control – both chambers and the governor – exists in 37 states – by Republicans in 24 states and by Democrats in only 13 states.  And, the coup de gras is the increase in legislative super-majorities by Republicans.  Republicans also hold that advantage with 15 states in their complete legislative grasp to only five states for Democrats.

Parties with super-majorities in control are able to pass legislation without even needing the other party to do session business.  The “quorum” to do business exists without counting the opposite party’s members.

We must re-focus at the state level to re-take and re-shape our policies once again to focus on all citizens – not just those with an ideology that views social programs as undeserved government giveaways, our hard-won Constitutional rights as bothersome antiquities, and the power and the money to buy who and what they want.

Indiana is a state known for its love of basketball, but, sadly, we took our eyes off the political “basketball” and are now losing rights with each legislative session. Indiana Democrats need three seats in the House and four seats in the Senate to regain control of that ball and put it back in our court – at least as to stopping the super-majorities. It is a start, but we have a long way to go to become a legislatively relevant party in our state once again.

It is frightening to know that our rights can be erased or diminished simply by controlling the governorships and the legislatures – not at the federal level but at our own state level. We have already seen the impotence of Congress and the bias of the United States Supreme Court.  It is up to us at our state levels to once again place our eyes on the ball – and then not give it up.

 

Posted in Politics

WHEN IS A FARMER NOT A FARMER? ASK MARLIN!

Exactly how long is a person entitled to claim the moniker of “farmer.”  Does farming apply generically in that once a farmer always a farmer even if the person only obligatorily climbs the steps into a tractor or combine cab for a photo op?  Or does it mean that someone actually sits his or her backside on a combine, tractor, or other piece of farm equipment on a daily basis?  Plowing, planting, and harvesting? Milking, caring for livestock, etc.?

Stutzman continues to label himself currently as farming 4,000 acres with his father, Albert.  So, if Stutzman is farming, how is he representing the Third District in Washington?  Or if he is representing – albeit inadequately – the Third District, how is he farming?  What Stutzman is doing is using his tie to a long ago effort at farming to display a public persona.

Case IH

And, in doing so, he dishonors the profession of farming.  He is no longer a farmer. He is a part of the D.C. establishment which has a dismal approval rate.  You can’t have it both ways, Marlin.

Posted in Agriculture and Food Production, Marlin Stutzman | Tagged , , , , , | 11 Comments

STATE BOULEVARD AND BROOKVIEW – SAVING HISTORY FROM DESTRUCTION

 

I oppose the State Boulevard widening project; I thought it would be best to get that out front.  However, let me say I have supported City projects on other occasions.  I was an enthusiastic supporter of the Harrison Square project.  I currently support the Around the Square Plan – at least as released in its preliminary plans that have been viewable by the public.

As President of the West Central Neighborhood Association, I supported the demolition of two historical homes located on West Washington Boulevard – a main thoroughfare heading west out of Fort Wayne – with plans to construct two new homes on the empty lots left by the razed homes.   The two homes had been abandoned for years and were virtually beyond salvation.  Two other companion homes to the west were to be salvaged and renovated.  In West Central, we deem demolition as a last resort, but the homes were demolished so the City could accomplish a much-needed renovation of 50% of a deteriorated block in West Central.

But projects must make sense, and they must be necessary, and they must be based on public concerns and input – not arrogantly garnered after the fact but gathered in the initial planning stages of the process.  The State Boulevard project fails on all counts.  In order to understand what is happening to our neighborhoods through the City’s plan to slice and dice them into quadrants and thruways, a little background and history is required.

METROPOLITAN PLANNING ORGANIZATIONS (MPOs)

Regional and area transportation plans are created by entities called “Metropolitan Planning Organizations” (MPOs).  These MPOs are federally mandated and federally funded under the 1962 Federal Aid Highway Act.  Statewide and metropolitan transportation planning processes are governed by Federal law, and applicable state and local laws are required if Federal highway or transit funds are used for transportation investments.  While this all sounds neat and tidy, the major flaw in this entire scenario is that Metropolitan Planning Organizations operate virtually free of public scrutiny and input.

In our local area, the Northeast Indiana Regional Coordinating Council – NIRCC for short – is the entity that decides for the most part just what roads, highways, intersections, and other infrastructure repairs go where, when, and how.  And they get to decide how a road is labeled, which makes a tremendous impact on what happens to the road.  Is it an arterial – major or minor?  Is it a boulevard? Is it a local road?  All left up to the regional authority with no input from the neighborhoods through which these streets run.  The designation impacts what can happen to an urban street such as State Boulevard.

Most citizens have no idea of the power and influence of NIRCC.  Plans are made 20-30 years in advance with cursory and obligatory public open houses after the preliminary plans have been drafted.  Even then the plans are mere lists of projects with codes that indicate the stage and funding source – no detailed explanations of impacts on neighborhoods or areas.  Simply, “here it is whether you like it or not.”  The newest draft plans can be found at NIRCC under current news.

Despite the fact that 20-30 years is at least a generation and paradigms and philosophies change, NIRCC and the City still advance plans made decades earlier and are pretty much unwilling to take another look based on newer paradigms and philosophies.

REQUEST FOR PROPOSAL – 2007

In 2007, a Request for Proposal (RFP) was published by the City.  The RFP was for a five-lane expressway through the Brookview Neighborhood.  The plans and design for the five-lanes were created probably in the early years of the Richards administration.  The RFP was done before public input was sought.  The City and its engineers had already planned the concept, and, they determined they were not going to change it.

In February 2009, City Council was presented with the proposal to hire a firm to develop the plans.  A contract for approximately $950,000 was approved for engineering services only – nothing further.  Thus, as of today, the only item that has been approved is the engineering contact for a design.  If anyone tries to tell the public different, then they are misrepresenting the actions of that February 2009 council vote.  No project has been approved even though the City personnel continue to speak in terms of a “done deal.”

STATE BOULEVARD AND BROOKVIEW NEIGHBORHOOD

Brookview is a historical neighborhood, designed by nationally known architect Arthur Shurcliff.  State Boulevard – the boulevard that is the focus of the project – was also designed by a nationally renowned landscape architect and planner, George Kessler.   State Boulevard runs east and west and winds through Brookview just past the intersection with Cass Street.  Once through the historic neighborhood, State Boulevard crosses the St. Joe River near North Side High School and continues past several additional historic areas. The Brookview-Irvington neighborhoods were listed in 2011 on the National Register of Historic Places.

Brookview

Obtaining this recognition is accomplished through a lengthy submission which requires much work and dedication in its preparation; the process is time-consuming, but, if successful, bestows an honor on the neighborhood and provides a certain degree of protection from the advances of modern engineering philosophy that deems wrecking balls and bulldozers as tools to be used – often indiscriminately.

CITY PLANS WILL DESTROY BROOKVIEW ENVIRONMENT

The Brookview neighborhood is threatened by various separate proposed roadway and flood control projects. The existing State Boulevard bridge is to be replaced. As the road narrows and curves as it runs through Brookview, traffic engineers plan to replace and elevate the bridge and, at the same time, widen and straighten State Boulevard to five lanes – a total of a 54-foot width.

This will alter the character of the neighborhood significantly and may lead to the destruction of many houses that date to the district’s historic period (circa 1906 to1965). Several houses have already been removed as a flood control measure. A final project is the improvement of the Clinton Street Bridge which will cause the height of State Boulevard to be elevated in order to connect with Clinton properly.

The City has given little thought to alternative plans – in fact, it has given no thought; it doesn’t think it needs to.  NIRCC and City personnel have basically said this is it – tough luck. The City argues with vitriol against opponents of the project that federal funding will be lost if this massive five-lane project cannot be completed.  City engineers wring their hands and opine that the only solution is the five-lane expressway through the historical Brookview-Irvington neighborhoods.

Yet, the engineers cannot point to any specific source where criteria can be found to support their position that a change in plans will lead to loss of funding.  The explanations provided usually are based on the assumption that “because we say it is, it is.”  Or, “it is complicated.”  That, my dear public, is code for “you wouldn’t understand it even if we explained it to you because you just aren’t educated sufficiently to understand these issues.”  I beg to differ.

The City held three open houses several months ago for what it said was the purpose of public input.  Would it surprise anyone to know that the public input was a farce?  One city personnel said that the five lanes were not going to change – that was it – basically too bad.  What the public input amounted to was where to place landscaping.  Yet, what hasn’t been disclosed by the City is that the comment sheets personnel handed out indicated that at least 50% of the those responding wanted the project scaled back.

Our opposition group also handed out surveys at the open houses, and we found the same position by those who had responded with comments to the City.  Despite the fact that at least 50% of the public’s comments asked that the project be scaled back, the City dismissed the results with the typical “Father Knows Best” stance, intent on ignoring the results.  Public input is merely illusory.

Folks, the result will be a five-lane expressway carrying increased truck and vehicular traffic.  And, if anyone thinks a five-lane expressway will not become a truck route, hey, I have the proverbial ocean front property to sell you located in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

West Central – my neighborhood – is a perfect example.  Before the extension of West Jefferson and West Washington toward the southwest, the two boulevards terminated at Swinney Park.  They now carry 35,000 vehicles a day.

At any hour through the daytime and early evening, heavy traffic enters from the west speeding around the curve at the Swinney Tennis Courts.  Thousands of vehicles per day.  And, in the evening, thousands of vehicles leave by West Washington.  Placing a five-lane expressway in the Brookview neighborhood will do exactly the same thing. The goal for the City is to run a major thoroughfare through the heart of historical neighborhoods including those farther east of the Brookview-Irvington neighborhoods.

The State Boulevard project is not necessary in its current form. The public input suggests that at least 50% of those who responded with comments want the project scaled back.  So, one might ask – exactly what message is the City and its engineers not getting?  Or are they getting it but believe they have no obligation to listen to the public – the taxpayers – the citizens of this community?

 

 

Posted in Politics | 1 Comment