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MCPL offers free parking cheat sheet

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The Monroe County Public Library is advising patrons on how best to save money on parking now that most spots near the Library are metered. At a meeting August 21st of the Library’s Board of Trustees, Executive Director Sara Laughlin held up a brochure the Library designed to help patrons deal with what she called a complicated picture. Tickets for not paying the meters can be as high as $100. Laughlin said she is advising those who might be downtown for an unpredictable amount of time to use parking garages, where payment occurs when drivers leave the garage. She said the Library also has a guide to where free parking can be found. The parking finder is available here.

MCPL may end test proctoring

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The Monroe County Public Library may soon end its test proctoring service, which a Library employee said has become too popular. Christine Eykholt-Friesel, the coordinator for the Library’s Indiana Room, where the tests are proctored, says the increased use of electronic devices in schools has also made test proctoring more difficult.

The Library charges 30 dollars to proctor a test. So far this year, Eykholt-Friesel said the Library has made $1,800 on the service. And although there was concern about losing the revenue, Board members mostly spoke in favor of ending the service. Board member Kari Isaacson Hartig, who is also a literacy coach at Templeton Elementary School, said state rules about test taking have become more strict in recent years.

The Board is scheduled to vote on whether to end the test proctoring service at its next meeting August 21st.

Monroe County Community School Board eyes bonds

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At a work session August 13th, the Monroe County Community School Board discussed if and how to issue another multi-million dollar bond. During a wide-ranging discussion about the Corporation’s finances, school corporation officials said they would like to issue a bond to replace two other bonds that will be paid off in the next few years. Corporation Superintendent Judy DeMuth said the two bonds that will be paid off include one that was approved by referendum in 2010. The other paid for the construction of Bloomington South High School.

Both of the current bonds will be paid off by 2018. If the Corporation doesn’t issue another bond to replace them, tax rates in the County will go down. But several Board members said they want another bond to pay for various upgrades to school buildings. Board member Martha Street said it would be smart to keep the buildings in good shape.

 

 

 

ISTA Settles $14 million lawsuit

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Last Tuesday, Secretary of State Connie Lawson and her office reached an agreement regarding terms of a 14 million dollar settlement with the Indiana State Teachers Association and the National Education Association.

The ISTA offered teachers and other school employees a medical plan that allowed school corporations to invest their excess balances to offset future health care costs. But, according to Secretary Lawson, that isn’t what ended up happening.

Lawson also alleges that the ISTA continuously issued quarterly and annual statements to schools misrepresenting fund balances. She says this has been a long time coming and that this settlement in the long run was the right thing to do.

The ISTA and NEA agreed to the settlement terms that would return $14 million to the 27 school corporations.

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.

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.

 

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.

Monroe County-based Artists Receive Indiana Arts Council Grants

Several Monroe County-based artists have received Indiana Arts Council grants for the 2014 fiscal year that begins July 1st. Of the 39 statewide artists in a variety of disciplines who received the awards, five live and work in the immediate Bloomington area. IAC Grants for Individuals rants are given to artists in dance, literature, music, and theater.

“It is a career development grant to helping travel to New York City this summer and to be able to watch some of the current shows in the city and to use that to develop my abilities more,” said Chad Rabinovitz, producing artistic director of the Bloomington Playwrights Project.

“Mostly focusing on musicals, because my career is currently taking a turn in that direction and it is just unbelievably helpful to see what is cutting edge in the field and to learn some new styles and techniques.”

Rabinovitz will be in New York for eight days from July 12-19th. He has been awarded $1,754 to cover travel, hotel, and meal expenses as well as Broadway’s hefty ticket prices. Among the many musical theater creative types he’s scheduled to meet are the composer and lyricist of the play “Island Song.” In addition to helping individual artists develop their skills, the IAC grants benefit the communities in which the artists work. Local arts patrons can experience enhanced performances and exhibitions and businesses like nearby restaurants get a bump from theater-goers and live music lovers who make a night of it.

“The grant requires that there is an affordable or free to the public performance,” said Rabinovitz.

“There will be a pay-what-you-can performance for the BPP production of ‘Island Song.’ Theater tells us about the human condition as it is now. It is not only a place to relax and to be entertained; it is to be educated on what your values are, to question those values. Arts education is about learning collaboration, working with one another. Acting is understanding why different people are different from you.”

Besides Rabinovitz, local artists getting the good news today include singers Janiece Jaffe and Krista Detor, choreographer Tamara Loewenthal, and oboist Guy M. Hardy.

Lieutenant Governor Designates Communities for Revitalization

Two Indiana communities have been designated by the Lieutenant Governor to receive help funding revitalization projects. Bedford and Richmond were selected as the two winners of the 2013 Stellar Communities program, which is a collaboration among the Office of Community and Rural Affairs, The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority and the Indiana Department of Transportation.

“It was a way to look at pooling sources to communities to fund their long term comprehensive strategic goals in targeted areas of their community,” said Public Information Officer Emily Duncan of The Housing and Community Development Authority.

“So instead of having to go to each individual agency to apply for funding, they could kind of do one grand proposal, and then see what could happen for their communities.”

Duncan says Bedford and Richmond’s proposals, which suggest nearly $20 million each in improvements, impressed officials during the selection process. Each proposal included efforts to revitalize the two communities’ downtown areas with projects like business development, bike trails and murals.

“We just finished the 2013 designation round which was the third year for the program,” explained Duncan.

“We put out a request for proposals, so any community that is not a entitlement community, meaning they do not receive funds from the federal government directly themselves, so they had to be a (inaudible) of government could submit a letter of interest. We received 24 community’s proposals for this coming run. Then after we evaluated those, then the top six, which was what we called ‘finalist communities,’ which required a little bit of further information, and then say business was conducted by the staff by each of the agencies.”

Funding for the designation program comes from multiple existing federal funds, and both cities have proposed projects that involve public and private dollars. While no amount of funding is actually guaranteed, Duncan says the initiative is important because it makes the process of accessing funds easier.

“I think that is what is important for Indiana. This is a wonderful, groundbreaking designation program that really paired three agencies together and showed kind of a new wave for federal, state, and local dollars to come together for the combined efforts of vision for different communities.”

“In fact,” continued Duncan. “This dollar designation program was nationally recognized last year and received the presidential award for innovation from the council and state community development agencies.”

The Stellar Communities Program was started in 2011 and is a collaboration among the Office of Community and Rural Affairs, The Indiana Housing, Community Development Authority and the Indiana Department of Transportation and Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellspermann.

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