Letters: Why Republicans voted for Indy council leadership change

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People are still trying to figure out what happened at the City-County Council meeting on Jan. 8 where part of the Democratic caucus joined with most of the Republican caucus to change leadership. Accusations, discontent and a whole host of imagined future plagues are spewing out. What people aren’t really digging into are the why and how could it happen.

It’s all about leadership. A leader must not lose sight of being a servant. After a number of years, things had stagnated. A fracture had developed in the Democratic caucus that, instead of being bound up, continued to widen as the focus became retaining leadership rather than working as a team to move the ball forward. Time and time again simple disagreements became power plays. While the public might not have been aware, the disharmony was under the surface of more than one debate.

Moreover, despite the rhetoric, there wasn’t true bipartisanship, not in the sense that disagreements were discussed and compromises reached. Promises were made but not kept. Republican proposals were stalled or tabled, only to be repackaged as “Democrat” proposals, or there were outright efforts to kill such proposals only to try to take credit for them if they managed to pass. It was senseless because there were middle grounds and enough credit for both sides, but politics had to dominate. The last straw was when we saw efforts to manipulate our ethics code for appointments that was a result of the infighting. Fortunately those efforts failed.

In light of the foregoing, Republicans had one real choice to make: do we vote for a continuation of the same, or do we vote for a change that could make a difference? We already had experience with the latter choice based on prior efforts crossing the aisle to pass some of the proposals that were stalled. And so that latter choice offered not only new spirit and energy to accomplish goals but also provided an opportunity for our constituents (and districts) to have a greater say in continuing to make the city a better place to live. Focusing on those two options, and not allowing ourselves to be clouded by personal dislikes and mud-slinging that were desperately being tossed about, the choice was clear.

To the naysayers, the world didn’t stop. The city didn’t shut down. You still have 25 individuals who each must bring ideas to the table and, hopefully, compromise to make decisions that are best for the city. Contrary to opinions, we are no more or less responsible for the mayor’s agenda than we were before but are still required, as separate branches, to work together. Rather than a glass is half empty perspective, this can be viewed as a new opportunity. That’s how Republicans on the council see it, and we are going to keep working hard for the people of this city.

Scott A. Kreider

City-County Councillor

District 23

Don‘t assign grades to schools

Some thoughts as to the state Board of Education insisting on placing grades upon schools:
Does anyone realistically think that if an “A” rated school and an “F” rated school exchanged student bodies, that either school would receive the same rating? We keep hearing that schools are failing students, but few will address that students are failing schools. This is not a reflection on students‘ abilities or desires, simply a realistic view that some school systems are dealing with students who are more focused on where they are going to get their next meal, where they are going to spend the night, whether their parents/guardians will be home that night instead of what might be going on in the classroom.

I also fail to see school safety addressed in the grading discussion; which, in my opinion, should be the number one priority for any school, as a student who fears for his or her safety is for sure not going to concentrate on studies. Of course, if a school takes measures to make a safe environment by getting rid of bullies, drug dealers and students who continually disrupt class, they end up receiving a low grade for high suspension/expulsion rates along with low graduation rates. This is usually not a problem for elite or private schools, as they eliminate that problem by simply not accepting those students; public schools do not have that luxury.

Standardized tests should and can be very valuable tool for schools, teachers and students, as it shows what areas need to be addressed to improve education. Grading schools, along with using standardized testing as a major ingredient for grading, in my opinion, is totally unfair unless all schools are dealt a similar hand. Since this is impossible, I would hope our Board of Education would consider concentrating on how to help schools instead of rate and condemn schools.

Bob Whitson

Greenwood

General Assembly must address DCS crisis

A 12-year-old girl who hasn’t eaten in two days because school was cancelled due to extreme cold. A 17-year-old boy sleeping in a friend’s car because his older brother is addicted to heroin, and he feels concerned for his safety living at home. A 14-year-old girl living with three siblings in a temporary shelter because her mother is fleeing an abusive partner. 

These are just a sample of the experiences some of my students bring with them to school each day. Lack of sleep and malnutrition make it hard to focus in class. Truancy and attrition are rarely in their control. And yet their resilience and drive to seize educational opportunity never fades. They know at school, they are surrounded by adults who love them, want them to be successful, and will do whatever it takes to make sure their experiences don’t get in the way of their goals, safety, and happiness. 

As a middle school teacher, it is heartbreaking to me and other educators to work so hard to support kids in school only to see them face challenges outside our four walls that we can do little about. That’s why it is so frustrating to educators such as myself that the Indiana General Assembly doesn’t plan to meaningfully address the growing crisis at the Indiana Department of Child Services during this year’s legislative session. 

DCS has long been in need of reform. High turnover, overstretched case workers, dated management infrastructure, and cuts and eligibility changes to other state safety nets that impact children have been the reality for the better part of a decade. But the statewide opioid crisis has rapidly driven our caseload well above that of Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan, all of which have larger populations than Indiana. That stark reality makes non-action this year seem like a dangerous punt. 

I agree with Gov. Eric Holcomb, Sen. David Long and House Speaker Brian Bosma that a comprehensive review of DCS is necessary. They are conducting it now, and it will need more time than this year’s short legislative session allows. But that is a question of long-term strategy. A patient in crisis needs emergency triage immediately, as well as a treatment plan. DCS is in crisis, and the General Assembly must prioritize action now, alongside the review being conducted. 

We can start with the recommendations in outgoing director Mary Beth Bonaventura’s pointed resignation letter, such as modernizing the antiquated Child Support Bureau system for tracking children, and preventing staffing caps for case managers and child welfare attorneys. There is no shortage experts who have already given recommendations over the past decade, both in public testimony and in writing, on what can be done immediately to reform DCS without another review.

Outside DCS, there are clear, research-based actions that can be taken to alleviate the sheer volume of cases ballooning around the state. First and foremost, we must place the opioid crisis at the top of the agenda, which is the primary reason DCS has been so overwhelmed. Increasing access and coverage for methadone and other opioid addiction treatments, as well as expanding needle exchange programs statewide, are just the first obvious steps. Beyond this, more work can be done to expand access to healthy food, to support low-barrier shelters for families experiencing homelessness or abuse, and to increase funding for school-based social workers and counselors to meet student needs. 

These are actions that can be taken this year, regardless of how short the session is, and without waiting for a study committee or an outside review. This is especially true given the lack of any other clear overarching agenda for the upcoming session. But this General Assembly is more likely to take up Sunday alcohol sales than address the welfare of Indiana’s most vulnerable children. That is a shameful misplacement of priorities.

Ronak Shah

Indianapolis

Varvel wrong about humor, political correctness

I read with great sorrow that Gary Varvel feels political correctness has killed humor and laughter.  My ability to laugh isn‘t dead but I thought I would try to figure out what we‘ve lost since political correctness became prominent.  My list isn‘t complete but I think it makes the point.

We lost dumb blonde jokes.   We have, however, found other ways to insult women.  We lost all those hysterical ethnic jokes.  But political correctness has not yet killed our desire to make fun of the physically disabled. Donald Trump and his supporters have shown that area of humor to be alive and well.  Political correctness hasn‘t killed it all.  We still have work to do. 

Elizabeth Davenport 

Noblesville

Keep Dreamers in the U.S.

I‘d like to add my voice to the millions in this country who feel that we must protect the Dreamers. While describing them as immigrants or illegals seems to be the norm, I feel as if there needs to be a shift away from these terms. 

Dreamers are our neighbors, our coworkers, our friends. They know of no other home, and cannot even speak the language of the country where they were born but have never known. What values do we stand for if we do nothing to keep these Americans here? Because that is what they are: Americans. 

They might not have a slip of paper with a nine digit number on it, but they contribute to the well-being of this country every day of their lives. We cannot allow party politics to use these Americans as pawns in a re-election game. We must give them a path to citizenship and work on keeping them here. 

Joshua Hunt

Indianapolis

 

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