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Daily Local News – August 19, 2013

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Secretary of State Connie Lawson and her office reached an agreement regarding terms of a $14 million settlement with the Indiana State Teachers Association and the National Education Association; At a work session August 13th, the Monroe County Community School Board discussed if and how to issue another multi-million dollar bond; The Monroe County Public Library may soon end its test proctoring service, which a Library employee said has become too popular; State Road 54 in Greene County is closed to traffic beginning today.

FEATURE
Scientia Recieves Crane Contract
A software company based in Bloomington announced earlier this month it had reached a major new agreement with the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center. The company, Scientia LLC was formed in 2010 by three former employees of the Center. For today’s WFHB feature exclusive, Assistant News Director Joe Crawford spoke with one of the owners about what the company produces and its relationship with the military.

ACTIVATE!
Sarah Delone of the Monroe County Humane Association talks about the  the Association’s VIPaws therapy animal program. Learn about VIPaws and how you & your pet can become a part of this program.

CREDITS
Anchors: Maria McKinley, Doug Storm
Today’s headlines were written by Chris Martin, and David Murphy.
Along with help from Joe Crawford for CATSweek, in partnership with Community Access Television Servies
Our feature was produced by Joe Crawford
Activate is produced by Jennifer Whitaker
Our engineer is Kat Carlton
Our theme music is provided by the Impossible Shapes
Executive producer is Alycin Bektesh

Daily Local News – August 15th 2013

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Hundreds of new parking meters were activated Monday in Bloomington’s central business district and so far downtown business owners and their customers seem to be taking the change in stride; Tonight at the Bluebird Bar, nine Bloomington residents will share ideas that inspire them for the year’s first Ignite Btown event; Starting tomorrow, the Indiana State Police will be cracking down on impaired drivers statewide; Researchers from the Indiana State Department of Health have found West Nile virus present in mosquitos in Monroe and Morgan Counties
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State Road 54 closed this week

State Road 54 in Greene County is closed to traffic beginning today.

Railroad contractor crews closed off the road from the junction of State Road 57 to the junction of State Road 67, and will be making repairs to the crossing 0.30 miles east of S.R. 67.

 Work began today around 8:00 a.m.  It is anticipated that, weather permitting, the roadway will be re-opened to traffic by 2:00 p.m. on Friday.

Until then, no through vehicle traffic will be allowed, however local residents will have access to the point of closure.  All lanes of traffic will be closed at the rail crossing.  The official detour will follow S.R. 57/U.S. 231 and S.R. 67.

Monroe County’s Protective Order Process

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Monroe County Clerk Linda Robbins cited her own firsthand knowledge of domestic violence as her reason for organizing a panel discussion last week regarding the process in place for victims to obtain a protective order from the county.  Panelists Toby Strout, the Executive Director of Middle Way House; Robert Miller the Chief Deputy of the Monroe County Prosecutor’s office, Kevin Getz of Indiana State Police, and Judge Fancies Hill joined Robbins to share what they are working on to address domestic violence locally. We hear their introductory statements here, for today’s Daily Local News feature report.

States report abuse among the elderly increasing

State agencies around the country say they are seeing an increase in reports of abuse of elderly people. That’s according to the National Center on Elder Abuse. And the reports don’t tell the whole story. The Center estimates that as few as 1 in 25 cases of elder abuse are reported to the authorities. This morning Assistant News Director Joe Crawford spoke with the director of the state agency responsible for investigating elder abuse in Indiana for today’s WFHB feature exclusive.

MRF Voted Down

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By Joe Crawford

Proponents of a major recycling operation vowed to keep fighting for the project after it was voted down a second time on a technicality. The Monroe County Solid Waste Management District’s Board of Directors called an emergency meeting August 15th to effectively redo a vote on a materials recovery facility, also known as a MRF. The previous vote at a meeting August 8th produced confusion and frustration when several Board members either didn’t show up for the meeting or needed to leave early. In the end, only three of the Board’s seven members voted for a budget that specifically excluded $60,000 to investigate the viability of a MRF.

But, as Board President Steve Volan explained, attorneys for the District later decided those three members successfully passed their version of the budget. One of those three members, Cheryl Munson, made a motion August 15th to effectively reverse her previous vote. The motion was to approve a version of the budget that includes money for a MRF, which would allow the District to process and sell its own recyclables. The two main opponents of the MRF were Board members Patrick Stoffers and Iris Kiesling, who are also both County commissioners. Kiesling said she opposed spending money on the project partly because the District is on track to run a deficit next year. Members of the public and the District’s Citizens Advisory Committee spoke in favor of the MRF. Committee member Stephen Hale said the facility could give the District an opportunity to make more money on its recyclables.

When the Board voted on the motion to include the MRF in next year’s budget, three of the five members present approved. Volan, Munson and Julie Thomas voted for the MRF. But another technicality worked to help the opposition. Because this was a vote to amend a budget that had already been approved, attorneys said this time a majority of the full Board – or four members – was needed. Without enough votes to support the MRF, Volan said he planned to force another vote on the subject as soon as all seven members could attend a meeting. Volan said the two absent members, Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan and Ellettsville Town Council member Dan Swafford, were absent for health reasons.

 

Cate takes stand against government data collection

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IU 1 smallBy Kat Carlton

IU Law Professor Fred Cate is taking a stand against a court order that allowed the government to collect telephone data from Verizon Communications. Professor Fred Cate, along with a group of other law experts, filed an amicus brief curiae The brief supports of a motion to strike down the order, which came out of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. While some argue this is a violation of privacy, Cate’s argument is focused more on the order being a violation of the law itself—more specifically, the Fourth Amendment. Cate says this sends a message that there’s no protection from the government obtaining information from citizens. He says this is a problem because the Fourth Amendment was specifically designed to limit government access to data like this. In addition, he thinks people are misguided when they argue the government needs access to this kind of information.

 

Congressman Todd Young Gives Climate Change Protesters Their 15 Minutes

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Yesterday, citizens of Monroe County planned to hold a protest at representative Todd Young’s Office regarding their concerns about his position on climate change. What was intended as a protest turned into a fifteen-minute meeting in the congressman’s office. WFHB’s Kat Carlton has the story for today’s WFHB feature.

Monroe County Election Board Addresses HAVA Complience

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At a meeting July 19th, the Monroe County Election Board approved a plan aimed at making voting sites more accessible for people with disabilities. The Board voted to have a team of workers inspect voting locations for compliance with the Help America Vote Act, or HAVA. That federal law includes requirements that sites have appropriate parking and equipment such as ramps. The Board first had a conversation about whether it would be acceptable to use strategies such as shuttling people to and from parking lots in golf carts..

“If somebody cannot make the walk from the parking lot, we have a golf cart that picks them up,” said County Clerk Linda Robbins.

“I do not like segregating people that,” said Judith Smith-Ille.

“That is not HAVA compliancy. That is making some people different from others and I will never vote for that.”

Smith-Ille said the golf carts idea would effectively segregate people with disabilities from other voters.

“Let us use the golf cart idea,” said Randy Paul, a disabilities rights activist who has lobbied the Country to comply with HAVA.

“The reason I think that idea should be temporary is that I understand what Judy is saying. It does make someone who has a disability feel different. For some people there is embarrassment. That is why I was so negative about the wheelchair option. I know what it was like when I first started using a wheelchair. I think we need to move off of where we were and move forward, and I think in doing that if we have an agreement saying let us move towards compliancy. Let us do what we have to in short-term to make it work. So at North let us do the golf carts or whatever we have to do with the idea that we will move towards total compliance.”

Robbins said she is still committed to making the County’s voting sites comply with the law. But she suggested advertising one particularly accessible voting site as an alternate location for any voters who worry their regular sites won’t be accessible.

“I just want to be clear here is that that suggestion in no way meant that I was looking at making the site of it accessible, HAVA compliant,” said Robbins.

“I just thought that could be an option for someone who was concerned. Someone who has maybe had a poor experience in the past, that wants to make sure they can. That they know that there is a place that they can go.”

Smith Ille was opposed to that plan, saying she wouldn’t want voters to feel embarrassed for using a special voting site. She instead said the County should work to make all the sites compliant with HAVA. Robbins later suggested the County have a group of inspectors check each voting site for accessibility once the Board selects the sites.

“I would like to make a motion that once we determine our polling location sites,” said Robbins.

“That we do request that Randy Paul and other selected employees of the clerk and other representatives that seem necessary will be to review the sites for HAVA compliance and what we need to do to make them HAVA compliant. “

The Board voted unanimously to approve Robins’ plan.

Donnelly Opposes Regulations on Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Indiana Democratic Party Senator Joe Donnelly has joined Republican Party members of the state Congressional delegation in opposing increased regulations on greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. Donnelly, GOP Senator Dan Coates and Indiana Republicans in the House of Representatives, sent President Obama a letter last week, requesting that he reject new proposals from the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Indiana’s two Democratic Representatives, however, did not sign the letter.

The proposed EPA rules would require new coal-fired electricity generating plants to meet the same green-house gas emissions limits as those for natural gas-fired plants. All new electrical generation facilities will be allowed to pump a maximum of 100 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere for every megawatt of electricity produced.

The letter from Donnelly and his allies claims that this new limit would increase the costs of generating electricity from both upgraded and new coal plants, which would render them uncompetitive with other electricity generating sources, and put too much of a burden on customers. The letter goes on to promote the benefits of coal including, its ability to meet domestic energy demands for over 100 years, the jobs and income produced by the state’s coal mining sector, the low cost to electricity consumers of coal generated power, the future promise of zero emissions through sequestration of coal emissions, and the threat of economic competition from countries such as China and India that have no such restrictions on burning their cheap coal.

Bennet Brabson, Emeritus Professor of Physics at IU-Bloomington, who specializes in climate and energy joined faculty colleagues at IU and other local notables in government and industry with an interest in energy and the environment, in meeting Senator Donnelly’s energy advisor to discuss power generation. Brabson says generation of electricity from more benign sources is not only more environmentally responsible but of greater economic benefit to the state, and also something that Indiana is ready and able to take on.  He first explained Indiana’s potential in bio-fuel production.

“There are three big issues that make Indiana attractive from the point of view of non-coal energy,” said Brabson.

“One of those of course is biofuels. We are a big agricultural state, and we grow crops well, and can grow almost anything well because of our climate at the moment. We are in position to grow any of the biofuels that are being suggested, and those biofuels are ones that former senator Lugar was enthusiastic about as they even included corn. And now we are moving away from corn because it does conflict with food prices and so forth, but even doing corn as biofuel is a step in the right direction — it is a carbon neutral source.”

Bio-fuels are carbon neutral because they absorb as much carbon dioxide in their growth phase as they produce in their power generation stage. These crops, such as switch grass, miscanthus and poplar, grow well in Indiana. He also explained that the use of coal to generate electricity has to stop if humanity has any hope of limiting global warming and catastrophic climate change.

“The second turns out to be the fact that Indiana has already a major center for the establishment of renewable energy in the form of the Lugar Center in Indianapolis,” explained Brabson.

“So the idea that Indiana somehow is unable to or unwilling to do alternative fuels is not correct. Already, there is a huge effort in Indiana done by people who are smart folk here to develop renewable energies, and those certainly include wind and solar which are now coming into their own. Both wind and solar are now less expensive it turns out per kilowatt hour than coal, which is remarkable, but actually the case.”

Professor Brabson explained that the promise of carbon sequestration is weak. Furthermore, one of the states largest user of coal for electricity generation, Duke Energy, has announced that it will not build any more coal plants but instead use natural gas as a source material, because it is both much cheaper and much cleaner than coal, as well as having wind and solar arrays for power generation. He then provided the third reason why Indiana should move to cleaner energy generation.

“The fact that Indiana is a technological state that has done enormous effort for the automobile industry over the years and is enormously clever — illustrated by the Cummins engine and the development of all sorts of parts for automobiles for many years including the building of automobiles themselves — there have been automobiles that been built in this state. The state has also done work on trailers and other electromechnical devices and so it is very good at working on things like windpower development, for example. Which it is now doing. So there are a number of things that include technology, that include brains, that include land. And those three things are critical and are available in Indiana.”

President Obama gave a speech this afternoon which directly addressed greenhouse gasses, and warned that the United States must take action to avoid the future damage of changes in the climate.

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