Written by Submitted
Monday, November 25, 2013 3:49 PM
It has been over five months since the legislature’s last day in session. Although the interim has been filled with summer study committees, the atmosphere around the Statehouse simply isn’t the same.
Tuesday, Nov. 19, however, was Organization Day, and the hallways are again buzzing with the excitement that comes with the promise of a new year and the opportunity to improve Indiana for all Hoosiers.
Although the legislature will not meet again until after the first of the year, Organization Day marks the ceremonial start of another session of the General Assembly. This is when new members are sworn in, the first roll call is taken and Democrat and Republican caucuses from the House and Senate are able to meet and organize their priorities for the next session.
Each legislator brings their own bills and ideas to the table, but as a whole, we also have an overall vision for what we want to accomplish. This is what the Speaker outlined on Tuesday. In particular, he spoke of four main goals: bridging the skills gap, encouraging early childhood education, allocating more funding to road improvement and working towards fair business taxation.
While these are specific goals that we are working towards, like last session, we also hope to uphold an air of bipartisanship as we accomplish these improvements. Collaboration and working on a united front in both the House and Senate allowed us to pass major legislation which further catapulted Indiana into the national spotlight in terms of fiscal responsibility and education. Together we made historic investments in public schools, delivered the largest tax cut package in state history and still maintained the strongest reserves in the nation. I want to keep the momentum going.
With the Thanksgiving holiday right around the corner, there was no greater display of bipartisanship than what took place on Organization Day before session convened. Legislators, staff and other state office holders from both sides of the aisle, came together to donate sporting equipment and other items to the Special Olympics of Indiana. This is an organization that has over 11,000 participating athletes throughout the state.
Five athletes were present at the Statehouse to accept the donations, and I was impressed not only by the progress that the Special Olympics has allowed them to make but also the strides the organization itself is making to encourage acceptance of Hoosiers with intellectual disabilities.
If you would like to learn more about the Special Olympics of Indiana and learn how you can also contribute to this cause, please visit www.soindiana.org. It is important to remember that even if you do not have the financial means to donate, there are plenty of other ways to get involved and make a true difference in someone’s life. By becoming a coach, a volunteer or working at your local church, you will be giving life’s most precious resource: time.
When the 2014 legislative session kicks off Jan. 6, I hope that this sentiment of working together for the common good will carry over. I am already eager to get started as we continue to make Indiana the best place to live, work and raise a family.
Frye, R-Greensburg, represents Ohio and Switzerland counties, as well as portions of Ripley, Decatur, Jennings, Jefferson and Dearborn counties.
Written by Stacia McKeever
Wednesday, November 20, 2013 5:50 PM
In 2009, Abigail was a high school sophomore in Lawrenceburg. When she learned that human slavery was not a thing of the past and that millions of individuals today are sold into slavery, Abigail was heart-broken.
So, for her speech class, she determined to research and write a speech on what someone like her—someone like you—could do to fight this ever-present evil.
What Abigail discovered gave her hope. She found that there are organizations dedicated to rescuing people from slavery and to rehabilitating them by teaching them a skilled craft so they can make and sell products for a fair wage, rather than the back-breaking, no-pay, abusive, hopeless “wages” they received while still in slavery.
And when she—when you and I—purchase these fair trade products, we help these artisans to provide for themselves and their families. We give them hope.
Sara, Abigail’s mom, shared her daughter’s burden to help end human trafficking and brought an idea before the missions committee at her church: What if we acted as the hands and feet of Jesus (Matthew 25:37–40) to those who were formerly enslaved (or otherwise marginalized) by bringing their products here, to our town? Together, Sara and her friends started what is now called the International Fair Trade Expo right here in Lawrenceburg.
They gathered items from a variety of organizations that represented those who are looking for hope.
Individuals such as Beatrice, who provided for her six children by crushing rock into gravel eight hours a day in the hot sun while earning just a hopeless 25 cents per day.
When she learned of RecycloCraftz, a fair trade organization in Zambia, Beatrice began making handbags out of recycled plastic bags and earned a fair wage for her work.
This enables her to send her children to school so that they, in turn, can learn a trade that pays fair wages.
And individuals such as Jamuna, a young tween girl from Nepal who was given away to a human trafficker by her parents because they couldn’t afford to feed her. One of the 100,000 Nepalese girls who are trafficked each year, Jamuna worked in a brothel in Kolkata, India, for years until she was given hope through Sari Bari.
This fair-trade organization restores women from the red-light districts in India and offers them jobs making beautiful quilts and scarves out of used saris, paying them a fair wage for their work and enabling them to provide for themselves and their families.
And individuals such as Joyce from Uganda, who was eleven years old when soldiers abducted her and forced her to work in ways that no young girl should work.
After eight years, she escaped this slavery and learned to sew. She found Amani ya Juu (“peace from above”)—an organization that pays its artisans fair wages in return for their handcrafted bags, jewelry, Christmas ornaments, note cards, aprons, pot holders, and other items. And she was finally filled with hope that she could provide for her three children by working with her hands.
And individuals such as Adul, a father who lives in a remote village in northern Thailand.
He could barely make ends meet and his young sons were at risk for being taken by traffickers. Even he, himself, was being cajoled by a slave-trader with the promise of work in a far-away place.
Until he found that he could grow organic coffee right there on his land and sell it for a fair price to Mai Thai Coffee, providing for his family and keeping the looming threat of slavery at bay.
And individuals such as Lisa, who was sold by her brother so he could buy more drugs . . . right here in the United States. When she escaped her captor, she eventually found the Women’s Bean Project in Denver, Colorado, where she learned to make jewelry and gourmet food mixes (organic soups, cookies, chili, marinades, and gluten-free items). As she earned a fair wage for her work, she was able to care for herself and her family and break the cycle of poverty and slavery she had been caught in.
You have the opportunity to fight the hopelessness of slavery, of poverty, of injustice felt by millions around the world by an act as simple as purchasing a Christmas gift for your mom. At the IFTE, you’ll find an amazing array of earrings, bracelets, necklaces, hand crafts, scarves, baskets, hand bags, soaps, chocolates, and even coffee—all guaranteed to be fair trade.
You can shop for that unique gift item that no one on your Christmas list already has knowing that your money will fight hopelessness in the life of the artisan who made that gift.
And you can rest assured that no sweat-shops or child-labor are involved in crafting these items. Guatemala, Zambia, India, Uganda, Thailand, the United States, Canada—people around the world just want a chance to make a decent living for themselves without needing to sell their daughters and sons—or themselves—into slavery.
You can fight hopelessness by buying fair trade items. You can fight hopelessness by coming to the International Fair Trade Expo.
International Fair Trade Expo
Friday, Dec. 6, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 7, 9 p.m. - 2 p.m.
Agner Hall, Dearborn County Fairgrounds, Lawrenceburg, Ind.
Stacia McKeever is a writer and homemaker who lives in Dillsboro with her husband and sons. Stacia has written curriculum, articles for several magazines, and a book for children called Why is Keiko Sick?.
Written by P.G. Gentrup
Monday, November 11, 2013 4:50 PM
Anne Kinman had graduated from Vevay High School in 1963 and wanted to become a nurse so she started nursing classes in Cincinnati and it was here that she met her future husband, David Steven “Steve” Lassiter, who was attending mortuary school there.
Steve was drafted into the U.S. Army and Anne stayed in Vevay with her aunt and uncle while Steve was sent to Vietnam for a year.
Anne was working at the King’s Daughters’ Hospital in Madison, Ind., when she received the word that Steve had been killed in action in Vietnam. He had been there less than a month serving with the 25th Infantry Division at Cu Chi. He was 22 years old. Steve was awarded many medals including the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. He was killed near the Cambodian Border by a booby trap on Aug. 17, 1968.
Anne said she was treated with so much respect by the government after Steve’s death.
She decided that she wanted to help our veterans so she chose to go to work at the Veterans Hospital in Atlanta, Ga., and retired from there after 40 years of service. Her dream job helped her to help so many veterans through the years and she had so many rewarding experiences.
Anne recently visited Washington, D.C., with a group of veterans from Southeastern Indiana in June with her husband, JP Menese, who is also an Army Veteran.
Anne had visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial “The Wall” when it was dedicated on Nov. 13, 1982, and this was the first time she was able to return. She and JP were presented an American Flag that had been flown over the U.S. Capitol by Congressman Luke Messer’s Office at the Statue of the Three Soldiers at the Vietnam Memorial.
Local American Hero, Brett Bondurant, was a member of the 25th Infantry Division when he was badly injured in Afghanistan, the same division Steve Lassiter had served with in Vietnam. Brett and wife, London, had presented a picture frame with Steve’s picture and information on the trip in 2012 which will be on display in the new museum being built to house the items being left at theWALL. Steve Lassiter’s name can be found on Panel 48W, Row 33.
Anne and JP Menese were also able to attend the Cincinnati Reds game on Sept. 28 and watch Brett Bondurant throw out the first pitch.
We must never forget those who have given so much to help defend our nation and those 58,286 names on the WALL in Washington, D.C., represent some of the best our nation had to offer. May they rest in eternal peace.
P.G. Gentrup is a graduate of Lawrenceburg Consolidated High School, a Vietnam veteran, and Ohio County Veterans Service Officer.
Written by Erika Schmidt Russell
Thursday, November 07, 2013 1:09 PM
I can’t reprint the investigation and work by The Indianapolis Star about conflicts of interest involving one of our current state representatives (Jud McMillin), a past state representative (Bob Bischoff) and our state senator (Johnny Nugent) without jumping through a lot of hoops, however, I can and will comment on that work.
I thank them for connecting the dots, that I, as a small town journalist, cannot. Or at least I can’t if I want folks to talk to me again. Guess they’re not going to talk to me after this column, but I can’t get The Star’s story out of my mind.
There are still questions to be answered, and more reporting to be done. For instance there’s been a law suit filed against Linkmeyer Development regarding not paying prevailing wage.
I’ll get around to reporting on that eventually. I’ve had my hands full reporting on Lawrenceburg’s city council meetings. Lawrenceburg remember is the place with the money that is at the heart of the conflicts reported on by The Star.
Lawrenceburg still has its 10-county grant program, and, after the Destination Brookville debacle of this winter involving Jud McMillin, has vowed to scrutinize applications more. The grant program, as well as many other items, was discussed at the city’s recent budget meetings.
The money for the grants, and much the city does, comes not from taxes on Hollywood Casino but from the city’s development agreement dating back to the beginning of riverboat gambling in the city in the late 1990s.
Until 2002, there was not even a budget for the riverboat revenues, taxes and development agreement. What The Star did in pointing out the latest round of conflicts was right. It was needed. Did it come as a surprise to any of us, however? I should think that would be “no,” since Dearborn and Franklin counties are relatively small compared Marion County.
But given people’s reactions, I guess it was a surprise to some. We see only what we want to see. And unless it is pointed out to us, we ignore unpleasantness.
Now that the dots have been connected, Lawrenceburg needs to move forward, but after Monday night’s city council meeting, I wonder if it can.
While council and the mayor can find common ground on some issues, on others they remain stubbornly divided.
One of those is the city’s revolving loan committee. The city awarded a number of businesses loans, then stopped because it was not properly created via an ordinance, and in the meantime has outstanding loans of which it does not know the complete status.
Since January 2012 council and the mayor have been going round and round about it: who should be on it, requirements, approval, vetting. While having strict requirements would prevent a situation such as the Destination Brookville incident with the 10-county grant program, the ongoing debate has hurt the city.
Finally there was some movement, thanks to Bill-Bill Bruner, who pointed out he would agree to the city council serving as the loan committee “if it’s legal” because “something has to be done.”
Having council micromanage everything and handle the loans is not the best solution, but it is at least a temporary stop-gap.
Thank goodness for Bruner and councilman Aaron Cook. They try to find compromise, even Bruner who has been backed into a corner as the sole remaining incumbent from the previous council. (JR Holdcraft was on the previous council, but was appointed to fill a vacancy.)
Reporting on Lawrenceburg for the past almost two years has not been fun, but it has been interesting. And for the folks in the outlying parts of Dearborn County, you probably get tired of seeing Lawrenceburg this and Lawrenceburg that, but it is important.
Lawrenceburg gives the county 50 percent of its tax revenues from the casino. That revenue has been used to build a park in West Harrison; it’s been used for street upgrades in Moores Hill; it’s been used to upgrade Dillsboro’s sewer plant.
In addition, Lawrenceburg has grant programs administered by the Dearborn Community Foundation. Those grants have helped buy fire trucks for Miller-York and St. Leon and new turnout gear for Bright’s firefighters. The grants have helped the county’s food pantries, festivals large and small, and schools upgrade technology.
A free press is a cornerstone of our nation, and reporting on the conflicts of interest involving our state representatives and contention among the city council and mayor it just as important as reporting about a grant for defibrillators in police cars or a new playground.
Don’t kill the messenger, or give the messenger the cold shoulder. Remember just as the elected official has a job to do so does the press.
One last reminder, the elected official is there because voters - taxpayers - put him or her in office. They work for us, and should be accountable and open to and with us.
Erika Schmidt Russell is editor of The Journal-Press and The Dearborn County Register.