The (Munster) Times. November 10, 2017
Lawsuit stresses importance of protecting kids
The issue of sexual assaults against some of our most vulnerable citizens — children — has been elevated locally by the move of a victim's locally filed lawsuit to federal court.
The lawsuit, filed by the parents of a Hammond middle-school student, alleges their son was sexually assaulted while in the locker room at George Rogers Clark High School.
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The assault reportedly occurred while the boy was preparing for soccer practice in the high school locker room in February 2016. High school and middle school soccer players practice together at Clark, according to the lawsuit.
The suit alleges coaches failed to supervise some of the high school players, who ultimately sexually assaulted the victim.
Even more disturbing are allegations from the attorney in the case that similar abuse had taken place before at the school.
Regardless of what happens with this particular lawsuit or how the facts fall, it's a stark reminder of the need for schools to be mindful of any mistreatment of students, including hazing, bullying and any form of assault.
Hazing rituals within schools can and do escalate out of control. Our society has seen far too many instances of children suffering emotional scars, injury or worse.
Hammond attorney Alex Mendoza, who is representing the victim's family in the Clark lawsuit, is right in his contention that parents should be able to send their children to school without fear of such harm.
There is zero room for turning the other cheek — for adults missing, through negligence or deliberate omission, such things befalling students in any school or other facility.
The Clark lawsuit is a reminder that diligence is of the utmost importance in protecting our children.
The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. November 8, 2017
As the end of the year nears, business is booming in Indiana's solar power industry. It has nothing to do with the holiday season.
At Renewable Energy LLC, in Avilla, home and commercial installations are up 50 percent.
"Everybody's seeing an increase in their business this year," said Eric Hesher, president and owner.
This should be good news. The move to solar and other clean-energy, renewable alternatives to coal-produced electricity is growing new industries and jobs across America even as it helps preserve the environment.
The rush to solar in Indiana, though, is almost certainly a short-lived phenomenon. As the Indianapolis Star reported last weekend, solar companies are already worried about what will happen after Jan. 1, when a law aimed at discouraging private solar power production begins to take effect.
Senate Bill 309 waters down the state's net-metering system, which allows customers who produce electricity through solar power to be credited for the unused power they produce. Those who have a solar system installed and operating by Dec. 31 will be grandfathered for the next 30 years under present rules, which require utilities to offer credit for solar-produced power at their retail electric rates.
Beginning Jan. 1, new solar users will be grandfathered in for 15 years, and the length of grandfathering time for new customers will continue to drop for the next five years. After that, new customers will receive credit at a drastically reduced rate.
It's difficult to gauge how much the phaseout of net-metering credit will affect potential solar users as they balance the cost of installation against the potential savings a solar system might produce for them. Legislators who pushed SB 309 through over strong objections from environmentalists and consumers predicted its effect would be minimal. The Star reports, though, that some companies are anticipating a big drop-off in orders after Jan. 1.
Noble County-based Renewable Energy, which serves customers within a 100-mile radius in Indiana, Ohio and Michigan, has been growing for years. "For the next three to four years," Hesher said in an interview Tuesday, "the outlook is pretty bright." But he acknowledged things will change after a 30 percent federal tax credit for installation costs expires in 2020 and the rate of credit for unused electricity continues to drop.
"Short-term gain, long-term loss is how we're looking at it," Hesher said.
The economics of electricity generation are complex. During the debate over SB 309, utility companies argued net metering forced other electric customers to "subsidize" solar users. Solar advocates made a strong counter-case. But rather than punt the matter to the experts at the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, the legislature pushed ahead.
Even SB 309, though, may not be enough to stifle solar power. Eventually, Hesher said, "New technology and mass production will prevail in the solar industry and make it a part of everyone's life."
South Bend Tribune. November 9, 2017
Will Hoosiers look a gift horse in the mouth?
A recent IndyStar report may feed suspicions the public already holds about the elected officials sworn to serve them.
And whose interests they're representing.
According to the report, as Indiana legislators were considering important energy legislation, utilities and their political action committees were pouring millions into the General Assembly in gifts, entertainment, campaign contributions and lobbying.
Specifics of the largesse, centered about the passage of a bill phasing out net metering, which requires utilities to compensate customers who produce more energy than they consume, include:
. During the 2015, 2016 and 2017 reporting periods, investor-owned utilities and the organization that represents them spent more than $109,000 entertaining Indiana General Assembly legislators. More than $32,000 was spent entertaining members of the Senate and House committees focused on utility legislation.
. From 2014 to the first half of 2017, utilities spent $2.78 million on lobbying. More than $530,000 was spent in the first reporting period of 2017 alone, which included the 2017 legislative session and the months leading up to it.
The top recipient of the gifts and entertainment was Rep. Heath VanNatter, R-Kokomo, then-vice chair of the House Committees on Utilities, Energy and Telecommunications. He was treated to about $5,300 worth of meals, Indianapolis Colts games and other entertainment during the 2015, 2016 and 2017 reporting periods. His campaigns also received about $42,000 from PACs representing Indiana utilities since 2011.
Other top recipients are Rep. Eric Koch, R-Bedford and Sen. James Merritt, R-Indianapolis, who each received more than $34,000 from utility PACs; and Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Wheatfield, who received at least $61,000.
The bill in question, SB 309, was firmly opposed by homeowners, small business owners and environmental advocates and passed in the House by only 13 votes. Its passage has cast Indiana's developing solar installation industry into some uncertainty.
Of course lobbying on issues before legislators is a fact of life at the Statehouse, as are gift-giving and donations. And lawmakers would tell you — as they have in the past — that none of this determines how they vote.
We have no way of knowing what effect, if any, all those gifts, donations and lobbying had. But one thing is for sure: The appearance alone is cause for concern, as it invites suspicion that the interests lawmakers are serving aren't those of their constituents.
The (Bloomington) Herald-Times. November 9, 2017
Habitat's use of county land makes sense
In 2014, the topic in this space was 85 acres of property south of Cook Pharmica, now Catalent Bloomington, owned by Monroe County government. At the time, a solar farm was being considered for a portion of the land that was purchased more than a decade earlier as a potential location for a juvenile detention facility or corrections campus, which would have included the county jail.
The initial idea never materialized. The editorial on that day ended: "County officials should take their time and look carefully at the possibilities for the property. But they should also make it a priority to do something productive with it in the next few years, certainly before another decade passes."
On Wednesday, plans surfaced that would result in using the property for a residential development by Habitat for Humanity. The county commissioners signed a letter of intent designed to transfer ownership or development control of the property to Habitat.
More details of what Habitat would do with the property were expected to be announced at the annual More Than Houses Breakfast this morning.
Paving the way for Habitat to build a neighborhood on this land meets our definition of doing "something productive ... in the next few years." This is a city and county in need of low-cost housing, and Habitat is an organization that builds decent, affordable homes alongside the families that are going to live in them.
The Monroe County Habitat for Humanity chapter has been so successful that it hasn't had to stop with one house at a time. It's planned and constructed neighborhoods where families — parents and children — live comfortably within their means. Family members work side by side with volunteers and professional builders on Habitat homes. Those who qualify for the homes also receive training in financial literacy and other issues that can arise with home ownership.
Turning over the keys of this acreage to Habitat makes a lot of sense. It's a step forward in the effort to make more affordable housing available.