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Gov. Pence Eliminates CECI, Pushes For Appointed Board Of Education Chair

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The long running dispute between Indiana Governor Mike Pence and State Superintendent of Education Glenda Ritz seems to have switched battlegrounds.

Both won their respective offices on fundamentally opposing education policy platforms. Pence adheres to the nation-wide Republican promotion of what has been labelled “school choice”, which means the use of public funds to finance vouchers for private schools and turning under-performing public schools into privately controlled charter schools.

Ritz, a former school librarian, teacher’s union leader, and public education activist, ran on a platform of strengthening public schools and against the increasing emphasis on high stakes state-wide tests, the state-run school grading system, the shift to performance based teacher pay, and what she and her allies saw as the general devaluation of the teaching profession.

This ideological opposition was aggravated when e-mails were discovered showing that Ritz’s predecessor – Tony Bennett, a former gym teacher and the GOP candidate who Ritz defeated – had tried to manipulate the school grading system for the benefit of a favored charter school while he was in office. Republicans blamed Ritz for the e-mail release. Tensions mounted when, soon after Ritz took office, Pence created the Center for Education and Career Innovation, C.E.C.I., to reside within his office and staffed with his personal appointees. Ritz viewed Pence’s creation of a parallel education department as an attempt to usurp her policy making power.

Ritz sued Pence, charging a violation of her constitutional powers. The suit was dismissed on a technicality last fall. However, this issue became moot when Pence announced last week that he was dissolving his education center effective February 20th. He coupled this move with an announcement that he would be requesting the state assembly pass legislation allowing the state board of education to elect its chair. The superintendent is by law automatically chair of the board. However, the Governor appoints the other ten members of the board.

Mark Stoops, member of the state senate for district 40, which includes all of Bloomington and most of Monroe and Brown Counties, is a member of the Senate Education and Career Development Committee.

“I’d like to think Pence saw the writing on the wall and I think what this means is they’ve decided to go after Ritz and make her elected position an appointed position,” Stoops says. “That’s a real problem.”

Since the mid-19th century Indiana’s constitution has recognized the office of education superintendent as separate from all other branches of state government and it is unique under state law in being the only elected government department head. Consequently, Ritz and others have seen Pence’s efforts to usurp Ritz’s power as being in violation of the state constitution and the state code.

However, Senator Stoops does not hold to this view.

“I believe that the legislature votes and approves a measure to remove Superintendent of Public Instruction as automatic chair of the Board of Education, that would probably be legal,” Stoops says.

Since her election, Ritz has found support in the state assembly for many of her policies, in particular the senate supported maintaining federal Common Core standards.

However, Senator Stoops thinks that the majority of the members of the General Assembly will go along with Pence’s campaign against the current superintendent of education.

“Unfortunately I think the message from the past election is that the public doesn’t really care what they do and they’ll use that as an opportunity to push more privatized public education,” Stoops says.

Senator Stoops noted that several candidates running as democrats during the last election, some of them teachers and principals, and strong advocates of public schooling, were leading in the polls up to the election. However, they were defeated after a last minute mailing from the Republicans claiming support for public education, and promising to increase funding for the public system.

“I think we have to be wary because some schools are seriously close to being in a position of being taken over, and people need to understand that this is imminent,” Stoops says. “This is something we could see in Monroe County pretty soon.”

Indiana already leads the nation in the creation of charter schools. Governor Pence has promised to increase the pace of this process.

Hoosier Hills Food Bank Will Host Red Cross Book Fair

A committee of former Red Cross Book Fair volunteers has completed its selection process for a new host for the popular book fair fund-raiser annually held at the Monroe County Fair Grounds.

The new host and organizer is the Hoosier Hills Food Bank.

Noting that Hoosier Hills in the past has conducted a food drive during the book fair, its director, Julio Alonso, noted that this was a logical move for both Hoosier Hills and the book fair.

The next step will be to move the remaining books and book book fair supplies from the American Red Cross Chapter House to new sorting facilities and reorganize book fair volunteers

Just as with the food bank, the book fair will continue to rely on funds and volunteers’ time as well as corporate sponsors and extensive marketing to alert the public to the book fair’s new host. Hoosier Hills is immediately prepared to accept book donations at its office at 2333 West Industrial Park Drive Mondays-through-Fridays from 9-5 PM.  If citizens plan to donate more than one or two boxes of books, they are asked to call ahead to Hoosier Hills at 812-334-8374. Future book collection events are also planned for various places in the Bloomington community.

‘Dead Voter Law’ Reason For Delays In Monroe County Election Results

A law prohibiting dead people from voting was responsible for delays in tallying election results last month.

That’s according to the Monroe County Election Board who oversees the vote counting process. They said most of the ballots were processed by 8 p.m. on election night.

But final results weren’t available until early the next morning. Board member Brian Lemonds said that’s because of what he called the “dead voter law.”

The dead voter law says that if anyone dies after submitting an early vote before election day, then the vote doesn’t count.

County Clerk Linda Robbins said Monroe County has never had to invalidate more than three votes because of the law. Robbins and Lemonds both said the law should be repealed.

“If someone took time to vote, it should count, so I think it should be repealed,” Robbins says.

The law applies to all of the counties throughout Indiana, most of which typically get their results tallied before Monroe County. Robbins said the voting system in Monroe County is responsible for some of the complications.

“As long as we continue with the same kind of voting system, the best option would be to repeal the dead voter law,” Robbins says.

Over 19,000 residents cast their ballot in person this fall and over 7,000 absentee ballots were sent in for the midterm election.

Bloomington Plan Commision Approves Bank Plans, Delays Hotel Plans

Old National Bank is one major step closer to moving its downtown Bloomington branch.

On December 8, the Bloomington Plan Commission approved plans for a two-story building on the corner of Kirkwood and Lincoln. Old National plans to vacate its current branch, which is just one block west, and move those operations to the proposed building.

The company developing the project, GMS-Pavilion Properties, has been negotiating with the city for years.

City Planner Jim Roach said the Planning Department is happy with the recent progress.

“It’s been a long time coming, but we believe this building meets all city requirements and there are no parking or residential density issues,” Roach says.

Plans for the building originally included a third story as well as 17 apartments. Over the past year the developer scrapped those elements, making the proposal better comply with the city’s zoning rules. Plan Commission members had few complaints about the current proposal.

But Commission President Jack Baker did have an issue with the brick developers plan to use, saying in order to keep the vibrancy and quirkiness of the street, they should use a more reddish color.

The brick currently proposed for the building is more earth-toned than Baker wants.

Steve Hoffman, from Pavilion Properties, said his company can’t do much to change that part of the plan, because it’s what the bank asked for.

Baker proposed an amendment that would require the developer to work with staff to consider a new color of brick. But that amendment didn’t pass.

The Commission later approved the plans for the entire building unanimously. It still needs approval from the Bloomington Board of Zoning Appeals before construction can happen. By moving into a new building, Old National hopes to clear the way for a new hotel on the site of its current branch.

But there have been complaints about the hotel proposal. The Commission delayed a vote on that plan at the December 8 meeting and won’t take it up again until February.

Activate! – Don Jones: Wonderlab

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Retiree Don Jones talks about the amazing experience he has had as a 7 year volunteer with Wonderlab. Also, more volunteer opportunities from the Volunteer Network.

LINKS
Wonderlab
Wonderlab Trainings
Shalom Hospitality
Autumn Hills Activities Volunteer

Bring It On! – December 8, 2014

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William Hosea and Jacinda Townsend welcome Valerie Haughton and Megan Lewis.

PART ONE
On tonight’s show, William and Jacinda welcome the Honorable Valerie Haughton, Monroe Circuit Court Judge, Monroe County Defense Attorney Megan Lewis. They join us to help sort through the legal proceedings of the Grand Jury in both the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases and offer their observations with whether or not it should have gone that route to begin with.

PART TWO
Headline news and local calendar events of interest to the African-American community.

CREDITS
Hosts: William Hosea and Jacinda Townsend
Bring It On! is produced by Clarence Boone
Executive Producer Alycin Bektesh
Our News Editor is Michael Nowlin
Our Board Engineer is Chris Martin

Black Student Union Organizes Protest to Highlight Racial Inequality

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WFHB News Director Alycin Bektesh was on hand during a demonstration on campus last week organized by the Black Student Union to call attention to racial injustice and police/citizens relations, and brings us today’s community report.

Photo by Alycin Bektesh.

Daily Local News – December 8, 2014

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An Indiana law limiting abortion clinics was declared unconstitutional last week; On November 26th, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a reduction in the allowable level of ground level ozone in the atmosphere; A law prohibiting dead people from voting was responsible for delays in tallying election results last month; Local realtors and other concerned citizens will have a chance to talk informally with Monroe County officials about a set of controversial new zoning laws.

FEATURE
WFHB News Director Alycin Bektesh was on hand during a demonstration on campus last week organized by the Black Student Union to call attention to racial injustice and police/citizens relations, and brings us today’s community report.

ACTIVATE!
Our weekly segment spotlighting people working for positive change in our community.

CREDITS
Today’s headlines were written by David Murphy and Sophia Saliby
Along with Joe Crawford for CATSweek, a partnership with Community Access Television Services.
Our feature was produced by Alycin Bektesh
Activate! is produced by Jennifer Whitaker, along with the City of Bloomington Volunteer Network
Our engineer is Chris Martin,
Manging Producer is Joe Crawford
Executive producer is Alycin Bektesh.

Brown County Hour – Episode #33 – December 7, 2014

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Hosted by Dave Seastrom, Pam Raider, Vera Grubbs, Rick Fettig & Jeff Foster.

First aired Sunday, December 7, 2014 at 9 AM on WFHB

☆ In this episode of the Brown County Hour:

  • Musical guest Kenan Rainwater talks about his recent CD, As The River Flows, produced by the Reverend Peyton, and we hear selected tunes from the project

    Kenan Rainwater

    Kenan Rainwater

  • Director of Mother’s Cupboard Sherry Houze discusses the Cupboard’s work to help feed Brown Countians in need
  • Brown County singer/songwriter extraordinaireCari Ray launches the pilot segment of her new BCH series, For A Song, wherein she explores the creative processes involved in finding your muse
  • Rick Fettig offers a heartfelt perspective on public assistance, and also some thoughts on a persimmon tree
  • Our old friend Pete Sebert returns to visit Brown County, and offers some uplifting thoughts in a freewheeling interview with Pam Raider
  • Poetry by Gunther Flumm
  • Dave Seastrom delivers another pithy essay
  • FOSTER JONES perform Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas in this archive recording from our December 2010 episode.
✇ Theme music by Slats Klug & Friends.

Books Unbound – “Short, With a Wicked Tongue and Long Legs,” Episode Two: “The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes” and “The Cloak” by Gogol

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“Short, With a Wicked Tongue and Long Legs” is the second of a three-part of classic short satiric fiction. This week, the conclusion of The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes, His Fortunes and Misfortunes, an early Spanish novella published anonymously and officially banned during the Inquisition, followed by the first part of “The Cloak” by Russian master Nikolai Gogol. Both stories have an outsider protagonist, the one a sly but often clueless rascal who finds success in a government job, and the other a downtrodden government employee who longs for the clothes to make him a man. Guest readers are Tony Brewer and Frank Buczolich. Hosted by Sarah Torbeck, with announcer Berklea Going.
The episode features music interludes written in the era of Lazarillo by Diego Ortiz, with selections from Recercadas del Tratado de Glosas performed by Jordi Savali and by the Ensemble for the Seicento. Music for “The Cloak” comes from the Viola Sonata in D Minor by Gogol’s contemporary Mikhail Glinka and performed by Nobuko Imai. The translation ofLazarillo is by Robert S, Rudder. “The Cloak” appeared in the 1917 collection Best Russian Short Stories edited by Thomas Seltzer.
Produced and written by Cynthia Wolfe, with assistant producers Doug Storm and Robert Shull. Executive producer is Alycin Bektesh. Theme music by The Impossible Shapes.
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