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Daily Local News – February 19, 2014

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The Bloomington Peace Action Coalition will host a film screening and public discussion over the new film Dirty Wars tonight; Last Thursday an organization that promotes education around soil and water issues asked Monroe County for twenty-five thousand dollars a year; The Richland Bean Blossom School Board voted February 17th to extend a student field trip in hopes of saving money on airfare.

FEATURE
10,000+ Hoosiers Petition Governor Pence for Medicaid Expansion
More than ten thousand signatures in support of Medicaid expansion in Indiana were delivered to the office of Indiana Governor Mike Pence today, timed to reach him before he heads to DC to negotiate Indiana’s treatment of Affordable Care Act funds from the federal government. WFHB News Director Alycin Bektesh spoke with Rob Stone, the director of the local group Hoosiers for a Common Sense Health Plan who was at the statehouse as part of today’s demonstration, for today’s WFHB feature exclusive.

BLOOMINGTON BEWARE!
Phony charges, in relatively small amounts, can show up on your credit card or telephone bills. Here’s the info on two current schemes, and a warning to check out everything, every time.

CREDITS
Anchors: Susan Northleaf, Kelly Wherley
Today’s headlines were written by Daion Morton,
Along with Joe Crawford for CATSweek, in partnership with Community Access Television services.
Bloomington Beware was produced by Richard Fish, with correspondent Anson Shupe. Ilze Akerbergs produced our feature, with correspondent Alycin Bektesh.
Our engineer today is Jim Lang,
Our News Editor is Drew Daudelin,
Executive Producer is Alycin Bektesh.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Part 2

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On Monday January 20th, the City of Bloomington’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration was held to honor and uphold the legacy of the famed activist. The keynote speaker for the Celebration was Freedom Rider Hank Thomas, who spoke on “A Freedom Rider’s Journey.” A Nineteen-year-old Hank Thomas joined the 1961 Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) Freedom Ride. Thomas overcame an impoverished childhood in southern Georgia to attend Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he was active in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC.) This event was recorded on location at the Buskirk Chumley Theater by  Community Access Television Services for Standing Room Only, on WFHB.

Fairview Elementary Labeled ‘Priority School’ By State, Students Not Reading at Grade Level

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The principal at Fairview Elementary says most of its students are not reading at grade level. That literacy issue was the centerpiece of a presentation about Fairview issues that Principal Tammy Miller gave to the Monroe County Community School Corporation’s Board of Trustees on February 11.

The presentation came about a month after parents protested sudden changes at the school, including classroom reassignments based on standardized test scores. Miller said those changes were triggered partly by test scores received in December that showed only about a third of the students in grades 2 through 6 were reading at grade level.

About that same time, she said the state also made an announcement about the school saying that in December, Fairview had been designated as a “priority school.”

Miller said there are only 24 schools with that designation in the state of Indiana. She said priority schools get increased monitoring by the State Department of Education.

“If in the monitoring process the plan does not meet the criteria of improving the student achievement, the next steps might include shifting resources, changing personnel, or have an outside team develop a new plan for the school.” Miller says.

Miller went on to say that only about 40 percent of students who attend Fairview for sixth grade go on to graduate high school in four years. She said the school is working on what she called a Turn Around plan, which is required by the state.

But Board member Sue Wanzer said the problem extends beyond Fairview. She said there are things outside their control, and that they need help from other people outside the school.

Miller said parents would be involved as changes are made to Fairview.

One of the main complaints from parents who protested the changes last month was that they were not consulted.

Critics Say Agricultural Amendment to Indiana Code Priviliges Rights of Agriculture Industry

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The Indiana General Assembly is moving to enact a bill that critics say will privilege the rights and interests of the agricultural industry.

Senate Bill 186 has recently been approved by the agriculture and natural resources committees of both houses of the legislature. The short bill will add an amendment to a part of the Indiana Code dealing with agriculture.

The first sentence of the first section of SB 186 states that it is the state’s policy to promote the agricultural sector. The second says that the Indiana Code shall be construed to protect the rights of farmers to choose among all generally accepted farming and livestock production practices, including the use of ever changing technology.

The second section states that the state department of agriculture pursue this policy by assisting agricultural businesses with the permit process required to conduct business in Indiana, serve as a liaison between agricultural businesses, state agencies, and local units of government.

Kim Ferraro, of the Hoosier Environmental Council is an opponent the bill. She claims that, if passed into law, SB 186 would compel judges, legislators, and regulators to interpret state law to favor agriculture businesses in any legal conflict with other individuals, business, or local government. She also claims that the bill is meant to serve big agricultural operations, in particular those that have recently come under attack for polluting the land, water and air around them, and for contaminating neighboring farms with their genetically modified seeds.

Yesterday, Ferraro said several owners of family farms also expressed opposition to the bill during the legislative hearings.

“There were eight or nine traditional famers who were there to say that the farm bureau and Big Ag lobbyists don’t represent their interests,” Ferraro says, “There are family farmers who are testifying said they don’t need a right like this and that this only hurts the rights of other people. I thought there were some really moving testimonials but it fell on largely deaf ears.”

Andy Dietrick of the Indiana Farm Bureau argues that SB 186 will not privilege the rights of agriculture businesses over other rights. He says it simply reiterates the mandate of the state’s agricultural department to promote farming.

“I think this is just a reaffirmation in the context of the state Department of Agriculture’s role to promote the farmers’ rights to use technologies and practices that are considered generally acceptable practices,” Dietrick says, “Things change over time and practices change over time and I think the state does affirm the right to use those practices.”

Dietrick claims that the bill will not impair local governments’ rights to pass zoning ordinances and regulations that might impact farm operations.

He also thinks that SB 186 was not intended to benefit large agricultural businesses such as CAFO’s – Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation – which in Indiana is defined as a feed-lot with over 4,000 pigs, for example. These businesses have been proliferating in southern.

“Where in the language does it say anything about CAFO or large operations, specifically?” Dietrick says, “It could be GMO or non-GMO. It could be organic. It’s about farmers’ rights to use ever-changing technologies.”

Senate Bill 186 has now passed out of the agricultural committees of both Houses. However, no date has been scheduled for it to come up for general debate.

Interchange – Citizen Training

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Host Lisa-Marie Napoli interviews Mike Potts, Teacher, and Taylor Roberts, Student, both at Brown County Jr. High School, to discuss their recent statewide championship in the “We the People” competition.  The guests discuss the details of the “We the People” national educational program and how it enhances young peoples’ knowledge of the constitution and develops their civic skills.  The guests give a first-hand account of what the competitive program is about and also what they may expect when they travel to Washington, D.C. in April for the National Finals.

Immigrant Rights Demonstrators Address Todd Young

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Today in Bloomington, activists rallied outside of Representative Todd Young’s Congressional office while Bill Regan read a letter to Young about workers and immigrants’ rights. Many activist groups were on location to show their support and sign the letter that was read by Regan. Activists Joe Varga, Monica Morales, Arturo Viruete, and Rudy Lopez were also at the rally. WFHB correspondent Lauren Glapa was on location and brings us today’s WFHB feature exclusive.

Daily Local News – February 18, 2014

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The Indiana General Assembly is moving to enact a bill that critics say will privilege the rights and interests of the agricultural industry; The principal at Fairview Elementary says most of its students are not reading at grade level; Monroe County has agreed to lease electronic poll books for this year’s elections; Jennifer D. Keene, professor of history and chair of the history department at Marshall University will present the Paul V. McNutt Lecture at Indiana University.

FEATURE
Immigrant Rights Demonstrators Address Todd Young
Today in Bloomington, activists rallied outside of Representative Todd Young’s Congressional office while Bill Regan read a letter to Young about workers and immigrants’ rights. Many activist groups were on location to show their support and sign the letter that was read by Regan. Activists Joe Varga, Monica Morales, Arturo Viruete, and Rudy Lopez were also at the rally. WFHB correspondent Lauren Glapa was on location and brings us today’s WFHB feature exclusive.

INS AND OUTS OF MONEY
It is never too early to start discussing dollars and cents with kids, especially considering debt often begins in their teens. Ashley and Sarah cover creative ways to engage your kids in learning about smart money choices for a variety of ages on WFHB’s weekly financial segment, the Ins and Outs of Money.

CREDITS
Anchors: Doug Storm, Nick Tumino
Today’s headlines were written by David Murphy and Lindsey Wright
Along with Joe Crawford for CATSweek, a partnership with Community Access Television Services.
Our feature was produced by Robert Powell along with Correspondent Lauren Glapa
The Ins and Outs of Money is produced by Dan Withered, in partnership with the Monroe County Public Library and The United Way of Monroe County.
Our engineer is Robert Powell
Executive Producer is Alycin Bektesh

Ins and Outs of Money – Kids and Finances, Part 1

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It is never too early to start discussing dollars and cents with kids, especially considering debt often begins in their teens. Ashley and Sarah cover creative ways to engage your kids in learning about smart money choices for a variety of ages.

Activate! – Foundation for the Monroe County Community Schools: Cyrilla Helmi

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Cyrilla Helm of the Foundation for the Monroe County Community Schools talks about the foundation’s mission as well as upcoming volunteer programs and fundraising events, including Drop the Puck on March 1st, 2014.

Questions Remain in Matlock Heights Neighborhood

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This Wednesday the Bloomington City Council is scheduled to vote on whether to restrict future development in a neighborhood on the north side of the city. Many residents of the Matlock Heights neighborhood have asked for designation as a conservation district, which would probably keep out new student-oriented apartment complexes or certain commercial businesses. The process has been underway since 2010 and it has support from many residents and most of the Council.

But a legal issue that has come to light in recent months raises questions about the future of the district. WFHB Assistant News Director Joe Crawford brought us that story for today’s WFHB feature exclusive.

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Until the 1950s, the area north of what is now State Road 46 was a large farm owned by the family of George Matlock. The old farmhouse, built in approximately 1850, still stands in what is now a neighborhood called Matlock Heights. Most of the houses were built in the decade after developer Waldron Fritz bought the land in 1951.

“It was after the war – not much building had gone on and there was a real need for housing,” said Matlock Heights resident Carol Darling. “Here was this whole farm that was for sale. So he bought it and built these lovely homes.

Darling is one of the residents who has petitioned the city to designate Matlock Heights as a conservation district. It would be the first mid-century neighborhood in the state to get that kind of historic protection.

Unlike some of Bloomington’s historic neighborhoods, where many of the houses are more than a century old, most Matlock Heights homes are closer to 60. And residents who support the conservation district have overwhelmingly said they’re not looking necessarily to protect the architecture of those 60-year-old buildings. They just want to preserve the character of the area, to keep out big apartment complexes or other developments that would primarily serve students at IU, which is just south of the neighborhood.

“We’re proud of the history of Matlock Heights and we want to keep it the way it is,” Darling said. “That may sound selfish, but we just enjoy living here.”

But establishing a conservation district in Bloomington is different now than it was in 2010, when residents first petitioned for the designation. The city corrected one of its statutes late last year to comply with an old state law governing historic preservation rules. And now, according to the city attorney Patty Mulvehill, it’s technically possible that a vote for a conservation district could ultimately mean a vote for a full blown historic district, which would be much more restrictive.

“There’s a period of time…where the property owners in that district have to object to elevation to historic district status,” Mulvehill said. “The neighbors know about that.”

What that means is the neighborhood will have to hold a vote in about three years to determine whether they’ll stay a conservation district. If a majority of property owners don’t vote to keep the status quo, the neighborhood would automatically elevate to a full historic district. Property owners would then have to go before a city’s Historic Preservation Commission to get approval for any changes to the outsides of their houses, meaning the commission could regulate the styles of home additions or yard fences or even paint color.

Darling, who many identified as a neighborhood leader on the issue, said she’s confident her neighborhood of just 80 homes will vote to keep the conservation district and avoid the extra rules.

“We already have plans in place to contact every person in the neighborhood to vote against becoming a historic district,” Darling said.

No one who spoke with WFHB said they favored making Matlock Heights a full blown historic district. But some were less sure than Darling about its future status. I asked Robin Halpin Young, the president of the Matlock Heights Neighborhood Association, if she was sure the neighborhood would vote against elevating to full historic status.

“Quite honestly I would say I’m not sure at all,” Halpin Young said. “I think it’s really going to be a discussion in our neighborhood as we go…I don’t think anyone in our neighborhood would tell you one way or another because we’ve just been focused on getting the conservation district through.”

Young went on to say she thought there was a good possibility the neighborhood would keep the conservation district status. But that lack of certainty, which have also been voiced by some City Council members, raises the possibility the Council could vote this week for a conservation district, which they say is popular in the neighborhood, and three years later the area could become a full historic district, which could be much more controversial.

As Nancy Hiestand, with the city of Bloomington, pointed out, the state legislature initially intended conservation districts to be a phase on the way to full historic status.

“It is certainly built in that people could become comfortable with the conservation district and want more regulation as they saw certain things happen,” Hiestand said. “But it would be, I think, unlikely in the case of Matlock Heights, where they’ve really thought through what they want for their neighborhood.

Although many residents are clearly organized in support of the conservation district, there is some opposition. Derk Brewer lives in the southwest corner of the proposed district. Brewer says he opposes the restrictions because he’d like to eventually sell his house to a business that could use the location along State Road 46. The conservation district rules alone would prevent him from doing that.

But Brewer said he’s also concerned about the looming possibility for a full historic district. And he said there could be others who feel the same way.

“I think they should have to take that survey again now that it’s been in the paper and like you on the radio, letting people know that this has a high likelihood of elevating to a full historic district,” Brewer said.

Brewer went on to say he’s considered filing a lawsuit to stop the process, although he said he doesn’t currently have the money to fight the case.

The City Council is set to hold a final vote on the issue this Wednesday. The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Council chambers at City Hall.

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