Early and absentee voting hours for Monroe County residents will begin on Tuesday, October 7th at the Election Center, 401 West Seventh Street in Bloomington. Ruth Hickman, Monroe County Election Supervisor announce the office will be open Tuesdays through Fridays from 8:30-6:00 p.m. with times increased after October 24th to accommodate voters. A public test of electronic and ballot voting equipment will be held next Tuesday at 9am in the Monroe County Election Center.
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Free furnace inspections, cleanings and repair will be offered on “Bring the Heat Day,” October 11th through a volunteer partnership between Bloomington’s Housing and Neighborhood Development Department and the Heating and Air Conditioning Alliance of Indiana. From 8:00 a.m. until noon “Bring the Heat Day” volunteers will supply resources to conduct up to fifty furnace inspections and repairs for owner-occupied, gas furnace residents of Monroe County. The day is designed to raise awareness for the life-saving importance of proper furnace maintenance. Applications for “Bring the Heat” are available at 401 N. Morton St., Suite 130 and can be picked up or returned Monday through Friday between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. The application deadline is September 26th.
Last Thursday, the Board of Directors of Jill’s House voted to shut the organization down. Jill’s House is a nonprofit home with over 25 rooms for cancer patients to live during treatment. The organization opened in 2008 and has been a home to over 600 patients. It will be closing on December 31, the same day that the IU Health Proton Therapy Center is closing. IU health officials have said the facility is closing due to financial deficit. Jill’s House was founded by the parents of Jill Behrman, who was abducted in 2000 while bike riding near her home. Behrman’s parents created the nonprofit with the parents of Steven Howard, who died of cancer at the age of 19. IU announced earlier this month that it was not financially viable to continue to operate the Proton Therapy Center.
Same sex couples in Indiana are still not able to marry, at least until the Supreme Court addresses the case later this month. Yesterday, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals approved a stay on same-sex marriage in Indiana. The stay is holding the lower court’s ruling from September 4th that the same-sex marriage ban in Indiana is unconstitutional, and will be held until dealt with by the U.S. Supreme Court. On June 25, same-sex marriage was temporarily legal after a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Yung. Two days later, the Seventh Circuit Court ordered an emergency stopping to same-sex marriages. On September 29th, the Supreme Court will address the case in a closed-door conference to either hold or lift the ban.
The national debate about militarized police forces continues as awareness grows about local campus police acquiring surplus military gear. The Indianapolis Star reports that Indiana University is one of at least five campus police departments that have received surplus military gear in the last four years. Surplus gear can include body armor, military vehicles and M-14 or M-16 rifles. Recent incidents of lone assailants creating public massacres using high-powered weaponry have raised concerns about police and campus resources. Yet after the much-publicized shooting of 18-year old Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri police, lawmakers held congressional hearings last week on the subject. Claire McGaskill, Democratic Senator from Missouri, called for limits to programs that supply police with military equipment. According to records obtained at the IU Department of Administration, Bloomington campus police have received six M-16 rifles as well as helmets and bullet-proof vests. Officer Jerry Minger, who oversees seven campus police departments at Indiana University, says the rifles have been modified so they are not fully automatic. He claims they are appropriate for campus police force use. Minger is quoted in the star saying “Police departments are typically not warriors, they’re typically guardians of a community. How do you protect the community if you don’t have the appropriate equipment to do so?” Herb Terry, former president of the Indiana University Faculty Council, says he trusts the IU campus police will use discretion with the armament and suggested the thing to monitor might be the people wielding the weapons, not the weapons themselves, saying he does not believe the IU police department is over-militarized.
Three organizations have received funds from the City of Bloomington to advance bicycle and pedestrian mobility in Bloomington. The Local-Motion grant program is an effort by the city to obtain bike-friendly community status from the League of American Bicyclists. Three thousand dollars were split between Middle Way House, the Bloomington Bike Project and Friends and the Buskirk Chumley Theater for a bike share program, a fellowship and a screening of Breaking Away. A second cycle of Local Motion grant applications will occur next spring.
The Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act authored by Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly is scheduled to receive a full senate hearing this year, but in conjunction with Septembers’ Suicide Prevention Month Donnelly released a statement this week regarding a new report from the Department of Defense. According to the D-O-D in the first quarter of 2014 one hundred and twenty service members committed suicide. The number is right on track with the total number of military suicides in 2013 – which after reevaluation was changed from four hundred and seventy nine to four hundred and seventy five. In his statement, Donnelly said that the majority of assistance goes to those who are active military in their deployment cycle, and that more assistance needs to goes to those to reserve and National Guard members.
The Main Library has extended its Sunday hours in response to public requests. Beginning this month the library opens from noon to 6 on Sunday instead of the previous hours of 1 to 5 p.m. To maintain the same total number of hours, the library opens one hour later on Friday and Saturday, at 10 a.m. instead of 9 a.m. Since downtown parking is free on Sunday, this means that free parking is available during more of the open hours. The increased Sunday hours coincide with the opening of newly renovated auditorium and expanded program offerings on Sunday afternoons, including movies, music, storytelling and dance.
IU Bloomington has ranked number 30 for public universities, and 76th of the top 100 universities overall, according to the latest survey by U.S. News and World report. The indicators used to determine rankings include graduation rate, financial resources, faculty resources, student retention, selectivity, reputation and alumni giving.
A high ranking is useful for recruiting out-of-state and foreign students who may not be as familiar with I U as in-state students. Although I U has a sizeable number of out-of-state and foreign students, the majority of the students are from Indiana and most decide to attend IU based on factors other than national rankings.
IU officials acknowledge that it is flattering to attain high ratings, but it has little influence on the overall administration of the university.
Hoosiers, along with officials from 31 other states, have rushed to file appeals asking the Supreme Court to consider the issue of same sex marriage. Fifteen months ago, in the case of U.S. versus Windsor, the Supreme Court struck down a portion of DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, that denied tax, health and veterans benefits to legally married same sex couples. Since that time, the Windsor decision has been used by nearly two dozen judges to strike down same sex marriage bans every region of the country. Just last week the Seventh Court of Appeals in Chicago unanimously ruled that bans against same sex marriage in Indiana and Wisconsin are unconstitutional. In his 40 page opinion, Judge Richard Posner said that the bans in Indiana and Wisconsin are irrational and animus-driven. He noted that Indiana refuses to recognize same sex marriages from other states, but it does recognize first-cousin marriages from other states, although first-cousin marriages are not legal in Indiana.
The appeals to the Supreme Court come from both sides – states that do allow same sex marriage and those that don’t. According to the Associated Press, thirty businesses including Amazon, Target, and General Electric, say the Supreme Court should extend same sex marriage nationwide because “the current patchwork of state laws causes employees justifiable uncertainty about how their employers and state governments will treat their familial relationships”. Many analysts believe the Supreme Court will decide to take up the matter when they meet in private on September 29th. However, it could be June 2015 until a ruling is issued.