Articles

Unifying Indiana’s IT efforts: State’s new CTO plans to centralize computing

Indiana’s state Web portal, access-Indiana, won at least a dozen awards over the last four years. It was frequently lauded as a model of modern government efficiency-robust, reliable and user-friendly. But, according to new Indiana Chief Technology Officer Karl Browning, the reality was only skin deep. Certainly, accessIndiana is the handsome public face of state information technology. But beneath the surface, there’s a tangled mess of unconnected systems, each managed independently by a separate agency. Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Republican,…

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Training agency slashes government reliance: Not-for-profit turns to private donations for funding

Talk about a turnaround. An Indianapolis not-for-profit that once relied on government money to pay for most of its programs has found a way to do what many others wish they could-diversify its revenue stream as public funding dries up. In less than five years, work-force development agency Training Inc. has ended a decades-long dependence on government grants and contracts. “We had to reinvent ourselves in order to survive,” said former Director Joyce Duvall, who left this month after more…

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BULLS & BEARS: Americans’ lack of savings shouldn’t be misconstrued

One trait Americans have perfected is fretting. We are the most anxious of all cultures at a time when our prosperity is at its peak. According to the Federal Reserve Board’s flow of funds accounts, Americans’ household assets and net worth are at alltime highs, home ownership and homeowners’ equity are at all-time highs, and we have more money in the bank and money-market funds than we’ve ever had. Still, we are popping anti-depressants like popcorn. Even after all the…

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Auction company packing up Winona: Closed hospital has potential buyer, attorney tells court Getting organized

“That’s to keep the spirits away, make ’em happy,” Brian Hayes explained as he turned past the blaring radio. Auctioneers and the occasional unexplained phenomenon have taken over Winona, as the closed hospital nears an April auction date for its remaining equipment. Hayes, of San Francisco-based Rabin Worldwide Inc., has piled up seven-day workweeks since early February cataloging and organizing the defunct hospital’s assets. All that work may go for naught, however, if the auction proposal dies in bankruptcy court…

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Bart plans 3rd run: Peterson has $1.2 million in his mayoral campaign chest

And how. Peterson, a Democrat, has raised $547,836 in the year since he defeated Republican challenger Greg Jordan to earn a second term. Including funds left over from the last election cycle, his total campaign chest currently stands at $1,217,189. For now, Peterson is more than the frontrunner in the 2007 Indianapolis mayor’s race. According to the Marion County clerk’s office, he’s the only candidate yet on file. Many had speculated that Peterson, perhaps the Indiana Democrat Party’s best-known figure…

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STATEHOUSE DISPATCH: At half-time in the Statehouse, it’s politics 1, people 0

This column is typically devoted to the intersection of politics, government and business (with an occasional tortured sports analogy tossed in). We don’t usually address the higher order of the universe, but after last week, we find that we must delve into the field of metaphysics to provide you with some perspective on legislative events. March 1 marked the halfway point in the 2005 session of the Indiana General Assembly. But with more than 130 bills dying for lack of…

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Republic Airways ponders employee concessions: But union complains about ‘disingenuous’ memo

A memo by Republic Airways warns of the need for employee concessions if ailing partner U.S. Airways ceases operations, Teamsters officials said. The union representing 1,000 cockpit crew members and 600 flight attendants at Republic’s Chautauqua Airlines unit has found itself-not the Indianapolis company-on the defensive, however. Union leaders are wrinkled at what they say is a disingenuous memo Republic CEO Bryan Bedford sent to workers about seven weeks ago, alleging that the union has withheld information from pilots and…

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As leaders argue, local crime rises: Inner-city residents fear police consolidation, but city says it can’t afford current structure

Despite Mayor Bart Peterson’s addition of 200 cops in 2000-which gave IPD the strength to try community, or preventive, policing-crime jumped 11 percent over the last two years. Between them, the Indianapolis Police Department and the Marion County Sheriff’s Department responded to 5,487 more offenses last year than in 2002. Unless new money is found, Peterson has repeatedly warned, the cash-strapped city soon will be forced to fire IPD officers. Marion County Sheriff Frank Anderson already struggles to fight suburban…

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CHRIS KATTERJOHN Commentary: House Democrats blew it

Democrats in the Indiana House of Representatives took their toys and went home last week, skipping work for 22 hours over the final two-day period to move legislation over to the Senate. Their partisan, obstructionist tactics brought progress to a screeching halt as the state tries to move forward with a new agenda that Indiana voters overwhelmingly supported in principle back at the polls in November. I’m not sure, but I think if I decided to boycott my job for…

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TOM HARTON Commentary: It’s your right to make me sick

Smoking is legal, after all. The medical community says secondhand smoke causes diseases associated with slow, painful death. Doctors have been telling us this for 40 years, but who knows if it’s really true? Even if you believe it, all that science shouldn’t get in the way of someone’s right to indulge in something they enjoy. Life is tough enough on smokers already. Most can’t light up while they’re at work. If they fly somewhere-on a business trip, maybe, or…

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VOICES FROM THE INDUSTRY: Are traditional pension plans an endangered species?

Defined benefit plans, or pension plans as they are more commonly known, were a core component of the benefits provided by blue chip employers until the 1980s. About 40 percent of all American workers were covered by these plans. Under such plans, employees are guar anteed monthly retirement checks for life based upon their compensation, years of service and other factors. Recently, however, the use of pension plans has dropped dramatically. In 2003, only 20 percent of the work force…

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EYE ON THE PIE: Cities and counties need autonomy

A recent week took me to Anderson, Columbus, Sullivan, Terre Haute, Crawfordsville and Merrillville. Here are a few observations: Terre Haute’s Chamber of Commerce proudly proclaims that Vigo County is collecting income taxes from Sullivan County residents who work in Vigo County. At the same time, the Sullivan County Council cannot decide if it wants to collect those taxes for itself. The Chamber rightly declares that such funds are helping Vigo County’s economic development. The Sullivan County Council doesn’t seem…

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STATEHOUSE DISPATCH: Daniels seeks to keep bills going

The first week of March marks the General Assembly’s deadlines for passage of legislation in its chamber of origination. Senate bills must clear the Senate by March 1 and House bills must be approved by the House of Representatives by March 4 to maintain the chance to become law. Those deadlines meant the end of February was hectic. Activity reached a frenzied level as lawmakers worked both publicly and behind the scenes to make sure their favored pieces of legislation…

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Mortgage industry waking up to fraud: Collaboration increasing to combat illegal schemes Flipped out

When the U.S. Attorney’s Office in late January announced a 101-count indictment in a mortgage fraud scheme, it closed a year-long investigation into a ring that involved 10 people and 43 houses in Indianapolis, Marion and Fairmount. For the individuals involved, the indictments could bring prison time and hefty fines. But for the bank that loaned money on the houses, the scheme signaled the end of the road. The lender, Louisville-based First Bank Inc., struggled during 2003 and 2004 to…

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Supporters predict passage of waiver bill: Measure would allow uninsured to sign up for health care policies that exclude some pre-existing conditions

Indiana is one of only a few states in which individuals cannot agree to waive coverage for pre-existing conditions in order to get at least some type of health insurance. That could change this year, however. Dueling bills in front of the Legislature have passed out of the House and Senate and are being considered by the opposite chamber. Rep. Gerald Torr, R-Carmel, authored one of the measures and is confident some form of his legislation will pass. The object…

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INDOT chief’s changes altered contract decision: Insider alleges Nicol favored Kernan contributor

Former Indiana Department of Transportation Commissioner J. Bryan Nicol changed official recommendations of INDOT’s design division, according to an INDOT source, a move that sent millions of dollars of work to major contributors to former Gov. Joe Kernan’s campaign. Two days after last fall’s election, INDOT consultant services manager Jeffrey Clanton said he was ordered by then-commissioner Nicol to make a number of changes to a July 29, 2004, selection list. On seven of the 24 different projects on the…

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ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Michigan’s job pain is felt throughout the Midwest

At the end of last year, the unemployment rate in Michigan was 7.3 percent. That was more than 2 percentage points higher than Indiana’s. No state in the country had a higher jobless rate. That’s not a big story in the Hoosier State. We have our own economic challenges, after all. But perhaps we should be paying a bit more attention. We’re not exactly immune to the forces that are dealing such harsh blows to the Michigan economy right now….

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Studies: Bans don’t burn biz: Restrictions in other cities didn’t reduce overall sales, but some taverns were hurt

“My business was down 15 percent at first,” recalled Gina Scott, co-owner of the Lexington pub. Lately, she added, “It’s still down a bit. I don’t know with the ban it will ever go up to where it was.” This ban-in the heart of tobacco country-may offer a glimpse of what’s to come for Indianapolis bars and restaurants if proponents of a smoking ban prevail in the City-County Council. The proposed Indianapolis ordinance is one of the most stringent in…

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EYE ON THE PIE: Focus on expenses, not revenue, in state budget

In fewer than 700 words, I’m going to tell the story of how we finance government in Indiana. It’s my belated valentine to the Indiana General Assembly. The data are for 2001-2002, but things don’t change much from year to year. Indiana governments had revenue of $34.2 billion in fiscal 2002. But forget about separating state and local government finances. It’s a fraudulent idea to talk about local taxes vs. state taxes. The two are totally intertwined. Localities can do…

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Eminent domain facing legal challenges: Supreme Court, Indiana legislature consider changes to economic development tool some say is unfairly used

The tool of eminent domain, increasingly used for redevelopment projects in Indiana cities and towns, could change significantly depending on the outcome of a U.S. Supreme Court case and a bill before the Indiana General Assembly. In Indianapolis, city officials are closely watching the cases and legislation. In recent years, construction of WellPoint Inc.’s operations center, redevelopment of the Link-Savoy and Blacherne apartment buildings, and Fall Creek Place have all involved eminent domain. Officials have also indicated they may use…

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