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“Rise Above the Mark” Showing Tonight at Bloomington North

“Rise Above the Mark”, a documentary film focusing on Indiana’s struggles with public school reform will be shown tonight at 6:30 at Bloomington High School North.  The film was produced by the West Lafayette Community School Corporation.  The film looks at issues of school choice, standardized testing, the A-F grading system of schools and the role of politics and legislatures in education policy.

The film is narrated by Peter Coyote.  Rocky Killion, the superintendent of West Lafayette Community School Corporation, will introduce the documentary.  Judy DeMuth, superintendent of Monroe County Community School Corporation, Gerardo Gonzalez, dean of the IU School of Education, and Erika Peek, a teacher from Summit Elementary School, will also be present for a discussion following the movie.

The showing is sponsored by the Indiana Coalition for Public Education and the IU School of Education Graduate Student Association.

Open Streets Event Gains Approval

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Organizers of an open streets event got permission September 23rd to move forward with their plans, but not without a struggle. Open Streets Bloomington asked the city’s Board of Public Works to let them shut down half a mile of Seventh Street, from the Banneker Community Center to the B-Line Trail. The event is scheduled for October 5th. One of the organizers, Beth Rosenbarger, described Open Streets as an opportunity to use the street for unconventional activities such as promotion for local businesses and community meetings.

This is the second annual Open Streets event in Bloomington. Some residents told the Board they objected to the street closure. John Bavender lives on West Seventh. He also owns other houses on the street. He objects that the event would prohibit him from doing his routine property maintenance.

Only two of the three members of the Board were present. Both of those members, James McNamara and Charlotte Zietlow, said they should have been consulted earlier in the process. McNamara said he felt pressured to approve the street closure because the event is so soon. He ultimately did not want to deny the event to those who took time to put it together on such short notice.

Throughout the U.S. and Canada there have been more than 100 Open Streets events since 2010. A local architect, Marc Cornett, told the Board that these kinds of projects typically have opponents at first.

The Board later voted in favor of the event with the caveat that organizers must work with city staff to determine the hours for the closure. McNamara said he won’t support Open Streets in the future.

Further coverage of the decision for the Open Streets event can be found here.

Open Streets Event Under Consideration As An ‘Inappropriate Use Of Streets’

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An event meant to examine the use of streets to encourage healthy living and community may be denied a permit based on inappropriate use of streets. The Open Streets Bloomington event, scheduled to be held on Sunday, October 5, will be heard at the Board of Public Works meeting September 23, and is expected to face opposition.

Board member Charlotte Zietlow says that the first annual open streets event, held last fall, had a slight bit of opposition, and tonight the three member board will also voice their concerns.

This is the first time the event is coming in front of the board this year, and the final opportunity for approval since the board does not meet again before October 5.

Miah Michaelson, assistant director for the arts for the city of Bloomington economic and sustainable development department, is the supporting staff member for the project.

Michaelson says typically organizations would present their proposals well in advance of their scheduled event.

The proposal for the event includes closing 7th street from the B Line into the near west side neighborhood at Elm Street to traffic for the majority of the day.  Open street organizers expressed concern today through Facebook postings and a message that went out to the near west side neighborhood association that there event would not get approved, and that the board might not understand exactly what it is the event is trying to do.

“They’re proposing to close those streets off and as I understand it the idea is to get cars off the streets and use the streets as a type of playground,” Zietlow says, “I gather that the intent is to see what we could do if there were no cars on the streets. So the question arises is ‘Why do we have streets?’”

The open streets website differentiates the international open streets movement, from other events that typically block streets like art fairs, charity runs, and parades, stating the benefits of an open streets event to be about encouraging physical activity, broadening transportation choices, and encouraging economic development.

Michaelson said she could not think of a direct economic impact the event would have as it is not a ticketed event and there are not good being sold.

Zietlow also mentioned that the event does not support a charity the way other street closure events tend to do. The afternoon media campaign by the organizers of open streets seemed to already be having an effect, Zietlow said she was starting to hear from the public in support of the event.

“I’ve gotten three or four emails supporting it, and this is unusual for the things we act on,” Zietlow says. “There are other questions asking if this is a legitimate use of streets because there’s not charitable group this event is raising money for.”

The open streets event is set to coincide with a day long celebration of cycling at the Buskirk Chumley Theater, and was the recipient of the proceeds that came from the $12,000 raised at the clips of faith film festival in Bryan Park this summer.

The hearing regarding the open streets events will take place at the board of public works meeting September 23.

A New Statewide Voter App Launches With National Voter Registration Day

Today is National Voter Registration Day and in celebration, Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson urges Hoosiers to use a new mobile registration app to confirm or register their vote.

As part of a 50-state effort to encourage civic participation, Secretary Lawson urges all Hoosiers to take advantage of the full-service application that will also look up their polling place, get driving directions to the site, see who is on their ballot, track their application and contact election officials.

Apple users can access the application via iTunes from a mobile device or tablet by searching “Indiana voters,” and Android users can access it via their mobile app store by searching “Indiana Voters.” A full list of events to be held in celebration of National Voter Registration Day, can by found here.

New Yard Structures for Local Attorney

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Also at the meeting, the Plan Commission approved a measure that allows local attorney Ken Nunn to build new structures his yard. Nunn asked the Commission to reduce a conservation easement on his property on Saddlebrook Lane, just southeast of Bloomington. Don Kacharik, from an engineering firm who inspected the site, said the measure would correct a surveying error made years ago.

The conservation easement prevents Nunn from building on a portion of his property. Commission member Scott Wells was the only opposition to the measure. Wells said Nunn’s subdivision was given lots of exemptions from the County’s rules when it was built in the 90s.

Nunn was once the attorney for the Plan Commission. Except for Wells’s opposition, he got a warm reception at the meeting. Nunn promised to consult his homeowners association before building new structures.

The Commission told Nunn his own personal injury law firm slogan, “It’s Just that Easy,” when giving him the O.K. to build his yard structures. The Commission voted 7 to 1 to reduce the conservation easement in his yard.

Indiana Politicians Resist New EPA Regulations Despite Rising Carbon Announcements

Though CO 2 emissions in the atmosphere continue to rise, Indiana’s senior politicians are working hard to resist any carbon restrictions by the environmental protection agency. Last week, the World Meteorological Organization released findings that the level of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rose at a record-shattering pace last year. The scientists from this U.N. advisory body also expressed surprise at their findings and fear of the consequent acceleration of global warming and attendant climate change. The report went on to note that concentrations of nearly all the major greenhouse gases reached historic highs in 2013, reflecting ever-rising emissions from automobiles and smokestacks but also a diminishing ability of the world’s oceans and plant life to soak up the excess carbon put into the atmosphere by humans.

Also last week, Indiana Governor Pence released a letter that he signed, along with 14 other state governors, addressed to President Obama asking him to veto new green house gas regulations proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency. These measures would reduce the permitted amount of green-house gas emissions from power plants. They are specially focused on coal burning plants which produce more CO2 than any other fuels. In order to comply, most older coal plants would have to undergo major upgrades, switch to cleaner fuels, or shut down. Governor Pence also dispatched Tom Easterley, the Commissioner of Indiana’s Department of Environmental Management, to tell the Subcommittee on Energy and Power of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Energy and Commerce that the new EPA regulations would, qoute, cause significant harm to Hoosiers without providing any measurable offsetting benefits.

Meanwhile, Indiana’s Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly and Republican Senator Dan Coates, along with 50 other senators, published letters to similar affect. The Senators’ requested a 60-day extension of the public comment period on the EPA’s proposed rule. This extension would be on top of the current 120 day comment period. Senator Donnelly’s announcement states that this extension is, “critical to ensure that state regulatory agencies and other stakeholders have adequate time to fully analyze and comment on the proposal.” Senator Coates’ announcement is more direct, stating that the proposed rules will, “restructure our entire electricity sector, kill reliable coal power and raise energy prices.” In response to the bipartisan petitions the Obama administration added another 45 days of comment period. Meanwhile, global climate scientists think that the world’s oceans have reached their capacity to absorb carbon, which means that levels in the atmosphere will increase at an even faster pace.

Greg Zoeller Asks FCC To Increase Call-Blocking Usage

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller joined collegues in thirty-seven states urging the FCC to allow more extensive use of call blocking technologies.  Newer technologies such as NoMoRobo, Call Control, and Telemarketing Guard allow phone carriers to identify and block a much larger portion of telemarketing calls.  But phone companies are reluctant to use these technologies.  They fear they could be fined under a ruling made by the FCC in 1934.  This ruling says phone companies have a legal obligation to complete phone calls.  Much has changed since that ruling was handed down.  In recent years the number of robo-calls, as well as the number of consumer complaints about these calls, have increased drastically.  To protect consumers from unwanted calls, the Attorney General is asking the FCC to allow phone companies to use call-blocking filters if requested by consumers. For now consumers can cut down on unwanted calls by signing up for the Do Not Call list.  This can be done online at www.IndianaConsumer.com or by calling 1-888-834-9969.

Alzheimer’s Walk Raises Money and Awareness

The Alzheimer’s Association raised more than $55,000 this past Saturday in Monroe County with its Walk to End Alzheimer’s at Bryan Park.  Nearly 500 people participated in a one mile walk which not only raised money but also raised awareness of this disease and the latest research in the field.  Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease that affects older people.  The number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s increases each year as the American population ages.  It is currently the sixth leading cause of death. Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the Alzheimer’s Association’s largest fundraiser. Walks are held in cites throughout the country.  The Indianapolis Walk to End Alzheimer’s is ranked 8th largest in the country.  It will be held on October 12th at Military Park.

Eli Lilly Teams Up With UK Pharmaceutical Company For New Alzheimer’s Drug

Eli Lilly yesterday announced a partnership with U. K. drug maker AstraZeneca to develop and commercialize a potential new drug for Alzheimer’s.  AstraZeneca will produce the drug, ASD3293, and Lilly will lead the clinical trials.  The drug is one of a class of drugs called BASE inhibitors.   BASE inhibitors inhibit an enzyme, beta-secretase, which is involved in forming the plaques in the brain, one of the characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease.  BASE inhibitors are believed to be a promising target for treatment of Alzheimer’s, but several trial drugs have been abandoned because of serious side-effects.  Last year Lilly stopped trials with a BASE inhibitor it had developed after the drug was shown to cause liver toxicity.  Merck also has a BASE inhibitor, MK8931, in clinical trials. Developers of drugs to fight Alzheimer’s have the prospect of big rewards, with an estimated 5 to 20 billion dollars in annual sales. There are also big risks.  A recent study in the Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy journal found a success rate of just 0.4% for drugs in this field that were developed between 2002 and 2012.

Duke Energy Helps County Move Forward In Energy Prize Contest

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Local schools and utilities are slowly becoming involved in the effort to win a nationwide energy conservation competition. This summer Monroe County passed the quarterfinals of the Georgetown University Energy Prize contest. Communities are competing to track energy use and making plans to conserve. Ian Yarbrough, a member of the County Environmental Quality and Sustainability Commission, told the Commission September 10th the local gas and electricity providers are mostly on board to help. Duke Energy has contributed to the contest by agreeing to track energy usage, while Vectren, a supposed partner initially, has backed out of its contribution.

These contributions from utility companies would aid in the contest by helping determine hot spots for energy use in the County. Those working on the competition are also in talks with schools, including the Monroe County Community School Corporation. The second round of the competition will be judged in January. The community that wins the national prize will get $5 million to put toward conservation efforts.

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