Articles

AT&T’s stealth over U-verse drawes fire

Some in the telecom industry think AT&T had the Indiana General Assembly twirled around its finger like a coil of phone cord
last year. It lobbied legislators to rewrite the state’s telecommunications laws so it could more easily deploy its “U-verse”
video product.

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Township wrestles with incorporation: As Greenwood, Bargersville annex commercial corridors, rest of township declines

White River Township in northwest Johnson County is dotted with an increasing number of high-priced homes and anchored by one of the area’s strongest school districts. But the area, known as Center Grove, also is marked by crumbling roads, poor drainage and an anemic parks system. To preserve its strengths and shore up its growing weaknesses, some in the area think White River Township needs to incorporate into its own city. The township of more than 40,000 residents faces the…

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BRIAN WILLIAMS: Indiana needs to get energy-wise

As the 14th-mostpopulous state in the union, Indiana generates a gross state product that is 16th-largest of the 50 states. Unfortunately, despite significant investments in equipment and processes by manufacturers and public-policy efforts to encourage the attraction and growth of knowledgeand technology-focused industries, our economy remains energy-inefficient. In 2003, Indiana was the country’s sixthlargest consumer of energy per capita, according to the Indiana Energy Report. Ninety-seven percent of Indiana’s electricity is generated by coal. Indiana is the fifthlargest emitter of…

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Steam plant ups reliance on coal

Citizens Gas & Coke Utility shuttered its coke manufacturing plant earlier this summer, much to the relief of neighbors and
health officials who warned that its benzene emissions were a cancer threat. But regulatory filings show closing the plant
at Keystone Avenue and Prospect Street could result in more pollution downtown.

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VOICES FROM THE INDUSTRY: Choosing renovation or new construction a tough decision

Sooner or later, in the life of almost every building owner, there comes a time when a structure has outlived its usefulness in its current condition. A choice between two options must be made. Do we renovate or do we demolish and build something totally new? The answer is by no means easy or automatic. Confronted with these options, an owner must grapple with a host of issues. The following sample is not exhaustive but may prove helpful as a…

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Heating-assistance program on the bubble: Agency urges improvements, questions accounting

The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor has filed a lukewarm response to plans from a pair of local utilities to continue a program intended to reduce gas disconnections in the upcoming heating season. The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission is weighing whether to continue the 20-month-old “universal service” programs offered by locally based Citizens Gas & Coke Utility and Evansville-based Vectren Corp. The programs are funded by the utilities and ratepayers. They amount to the secondlargest source of funds in…

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INVESTING: Don’t give up on stocks, despite talk of bear market

The S&P 500 on June 1 set a rally high of 1,540. Now, it sits at 1,507. That’s the longest stretch of no forward progress since last summer. So, does that mean anything? There is no shortage of professionals telling us the next bear market is upon us. And with more than a few industries not participating for a while, it might seem the bears have a valid point. Before you pull out the lifeboats, though, there are a few…

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EYE ON THE PIE: Taxes pay for what Hoosiers want

Good people, me included, have been making dumb statements about the property tax mess in Indiana. The problem is that we don’t know enough to talk or write intelligently on the topic. The result is that we can be led by our noses into an even worse mess. “Abolish the property tax!” some demand. Then what? Abolition of the property tax means raising some other taxes or fees, unless government spending on services decreases. The state has been urging counties…

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Landlord handling of water, sewer bills under scrutiny: Utility commission examining charges to see whether owners operate as utilities

State utility regulators are examining whether operators of apartments and trailer parks are hosing tenants with excessive bills for water and sewer service. The inquiry by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission takes aim at decades-old billing practices that include dividing up a complex’s total water and sewer bills among all tenants. The commission said it’s received a handful of complaints over the years alleging rental property owners, or their billing agents, are assessing tenants higher rates than the commission permits…

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Industry takes deep breath over ozone: Tougher EPA standards could force costly emission controls, choke economic growth

Just when the nine-county metro area appeared back in the good graces of the federal government where ozone levels are concerned, the feds want to tighten the standard once more. Manufacturers and other businesses that pump pollutants into the air that combine with sunlight to produce ozone are “apprehensive” about the proposed new rules, said Patrick Bennett, vice president of environmental, energy and infrastructure at the Indiana Manufacturers Association. Businesses in non-attainment counties face possible restrictions on expansion of facilities…

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Union targets IPL over efficiency, customer programs: Is workers’ group taking on utility advocacy role?

A union that’s aggressively sought to organize the city’s janitors unsuccessfully tried to intervene in an Indianapolis Power & Light case before state utility regulators. IPL’s lawyers mopped the floor with the tenacious union-this time, anyway. The Service Employees International Union Local 3 wants IPL to expand its energy-efficiency and low-income customer assistance program, arguing that IPL and other utilities need to do more to help lower-income workers afford service. Attorneys who argue before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission said…

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INVESTING: Rising interest rates not a reason to get defensive

Investors the world over are in an uproar about the increase in U.S. interest rates over the last month. Fundamental guys are screaming that the cost of capital is now prohibitive to further growth. Technical guys are screaming that 25- year support levels were broken and now the floodgates are open to much higher rates. Somewhere a voice of reason needs to be heard. You’ve come to the right place. The fact is that interest rates have been trending higher…

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INVESTING: Utilities finally stumble, but don’t lose faith in them

A go-to trade for the last few years is losing some of its sheen. This market-leading sector offered one of the true gems of investing: market-beating returns without a lot of extra risk. A change in that might send small ripples throughout your portfolio. The utility sector has been one of the few areas that led from the lows in early 2003 right up until a few weeks ago. While home builders dropped out more than a year ago and…

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INVESTING: Outlook bright long term, but look out for potholes

Bull markets can take many forms, depending on the investor’s perspective. Terms like secular and cyclical get thrown around, along with more obscure references to Kondratief Waves and Fibonacci sequences. I know day traders who think a bull market lasts only two hours. Then there’s Warren Buffett, who still has a few positions he bought in 1974. I remember cruising around Indianapolis eight years ago looking for a home so my family could move from Florida and seeing gas at…

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VOICES FROM THE INDUSTRY: Infrastructure is costly to improve, but costlier to ignore

A recent article in Strategy+business magazine estimated that “the world’s urban infrastructure needs a $41 trillion makeover” between now and 2030. The article explained that $41 trillion is roughly equivalent to the “2006 market capitalization of all shares held in all stock markets in the world.” Some experts think that “new technology” will be the answer, and it may be when nanotechnology takes over the world. For now, however, the trend usually reinforces the trend, and we do the same…

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INVESTING: Big caps are back and best place for big 2007 gains

As this rally labors on, one point I brought up a few times in January is becoming clear. I expected that the small-cap stocks, which put on a powerful era of outperformance from 1999 until 2006, would cede their leadership to the bigger companies in America. A seven-year cycle of better returns is typical of the smaller stocks, and that ended last May. For the rest of 2006, things were about equal, and now the evidence is staring us right…

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Commentary: A plea for bio-focused policies:

Commentary A plea for bio-focused policies On April 2, in a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that carbon dioxide is a pollutant under the Clean Air Act and can be regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. While the ruling acknowledges the obvious, it offers a compelling rationale for Indiana elected officials to create an economic development strategy that leverages Hoosier intellectual capital and one of the state’s greatest assets, our farmland. With the scope of the twin challenges…

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INVESTING: Google’s been outbidding Microsoft; is it overpaying?

Google hasn’t been around for even 10 years, yet it has the world’s wealthiest man and his company playing defense practically on their home court. In many cases, great defenses wins titles (our own Colts defense proved invaluable during this past season’s Super Bowl run) but the jury is out on whether Microsoft can successfully keep Google in check during this battle of technology heavyweights. The real action began in late 2005 when Google paid $1 billion for a 5-percent…

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