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Teachers help 'plant' seeds for adjustments

I want to commend the elementary teachers and their administrators at English, Milltown, Marengo and Patoka schools. When faced with the reality of a district consolidation change, the teachers used the opportunity to help students incorporate the change.

The picture story of the activities and events at the schools in the June 1, 2016, Clarion News was heartwarming.

While children may have fun with the balloon lift-off and ice cream, they were also learning far greater skills. Planting the seeds of being able to let go, collaborate, make friends where you are and being flexible are life-long attributes that help children learn the inevitable lesson that change happens.

Well done, teachers!

Elizabeth Bonham
English, Ind.
June 08, 2016

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School board should have included staff, public

As you can imagine, many parents and teachers in Crawford County are upset by the consolidation plan approved by the county's school board this past week. There are many, many reasons for their outrage and, hopefully, your paper will address the difficulties that the parents and the school system will face as the plan is implemented.

I am writing because I wanted to address an issue related to the plan that has disappointed my family — how the school board has made the process as easy on themselves as they possibly could in the development of the consolidation plan, its announcement, the public hearing, the board's response and their vote. I would also like to address how the school board has chosen a plan that is so incredibly difficult on the students, the parents, the teachers and — quite frankly — the administration that has to implement it, but that would add a great deal to what will be a long letter already.

At every step — from the very beginning of this process — the school board has tried to avoid bringing in the community that they were elected to represent or the staff that they were elected to manage.

Soon after three of the board's members were seated in 2013 (the at-large members — Hammond, Mitchell and Talley), they had a feasibility study done on the consolidation of the elementary schools. The study is available on the school system's website.

In 2014, the district seats were up for election, completing the board we have today. For three years in total, the school board has sat on this study without taking any action. Now, in 2016, with elections for the next school board coming up and with five of the seven members conveniently choosing not to face the voters again, the board dumped this consolidation plan on the table at the last possible minute for it to be implemented.

The plan came as a surprise to the general community, but more telling was the disregard this board has shown to the school community — the school administrators and teachers themselves. The school board obviously felt that they did not need to take the time to get input from the teachers before the plan was brought before the public. The clear implication is that the school board did not feel that was worth their time or the inconvenience to consult with the teachers or that the teachers — with years of training and experience here in the county — had anything valuable to offer in the development of the plan.

And it was pretty clear that the school board had no interest in taking the time to incorporate any ideas from the public. They did schedule a special meeting to hear from the public — on the day before they intended to vote. This is clear evidence of a premeditated decision that they felt that the parents and community would have nothing valuable to say at the meeting. Since the community was not going to be able to contribute anything of value, why plan any time to consider and incorporate it?

On the night of the meeting, it was clear that the school board considered this meeting a mere formality. They had the school administration produce a short slide show that presented the findings of the three-year-old study and gave an account of how much the consolidation of the elementary schools was expected to save the school system. (The analysis of that data is a whole different topic. "Overly optimistic" was my impression when I began to consider all of the expenses that would be involved.)

As the members of the public began to speak — parents, teachers, county council members and former school board members, the school board members sat without saying a word. So minimal was their involvement that the people who decided to speak had to work out their own speaking order. When the time allotted by the school board for the public ended, the board announced that they would meet again on the following day for the vote, and then it was over.

I, myself, went up to the board after the meeting closed and asked if we could expect the answers to these questions in written form. I was not given an answer, but, lucky for the people attending the meeting the following evening, the only way in which the community's hour and a half of questions the previous night were addressed was a stack of dittos in the back of the meeting room.

The meeting was gaveled to begin at 7:30, the pledge was recited and a prayer was given that sought for the school board courage and strength (but left out wisdom). Business began quickly, and, with no discussion from the board, they passed the consolidation plan on a 5-2 vote. The school board did not address a single question that was raised the night before and did not thank the community for their contributions the night before or for showing up on the current night. The whole meeting — and their other business that occurred — was over and done with by 7:50.

The whole business could not have been easier for those seven members on the board.

Oh, you may be wondering about the answers to the questions in that stack of dittos. There were 20 questions answered. Over a third of the answers were bureaucratic lingo for "we don't know" or "we'll figure that out later." It was not a confidence booster.

Thank you for your consideration.

Jeff Roudenbush
Marengo, Ind.
May 04, 2016

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Farmers find their voice with passage of SB 308

Indiana Farm Bureau is known for grassroots policy positions — standing for something and working to make it happen. This approach has been true since our beginning in 1919, and was more evident than ever during the 2016 legislative session.

In today's culture, standing up for your ideas and making a difference is not as easy as going to a rally or posting online. Yet, this year our members took the more challenging road by standing up for what they believe, coming to the Statehouse and working with their elected officials for a solution to rapidly escalating property taxes.

I am extremely proud of the county Farm Bureau network of farmers that came to the Statehouse each day, worked to educate legislators back home and made numerous contacts to voice concerns and advance our agenda. Our grassroots farmer-members convinced the General Assembly to pass SB 308, which provides historic levels of farmland tax relief.

For Indiana Farm Bureau's top priority to be realized took the leadership of two very special lawmakers to negotiate a compromise. I must thank Sen. Brandt Hershman who proposed and championed the formula concepts and to Rep. Tim Brown, who worked them through the House. Passage of SB 308 also depended on countless legislators who listened to the facts and recognized the need for farmland tax relief.

SB 308 makes much needed permanent and substantial changes to the farmland value formula. On average, farmland taxes have increased 63 percent since 2007 — far more than any other type of taxable property.

SB 308 matches the base value more closely with a farmer's ability to pay by reducing the four-year lag in net income data used in the formula to a two-year delay. It also freezes the soil productivity factors at the current levels and creates statutory cap rates (ranging between 6 percent and 8 percent) that are triggered by how much the farmland formula increases or decreases.

While savings from last year's legislation averted a $250 million increase for the same period, SB 308 will finally make farmland tax bills go down. It is estimated that farmland owners will save $16.5 million in 2017, $48.7 million in 2018 and $106.4 million in 2019.

This year farmers found their voice by coming to the Statehouse, attending town hall meetings and making other contacts with their lawmakers. By being involved and showing up, our members truly were the voice of Indiana agriculture. They should be incredibly proud of the outcome.

As a farmland owner facing a depressed farm economy, I think the passage of this tax relief measure is a cause for celebration by everyone involved in Indiana agriculture.

Randy Kron, Grain farmer and president of Indiana Farm Bureau, and Jay A. Wood, Communications specialist (public policy and advocacy), Indiana Farm Bureau
March 23, 2016

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Buzz phrases mean little

At the Feb. 3 joint commissioners-council meeting, the public heard from the council criticisms, buzz phrases and observed theatrics, but nothing was accomplished that improved chances for economic development in Crawford County.

A paragraph from an eight-year-old committee report was read. The report was prepared when George Bush was in office and the economy was in the tank. The intent of the report was to deal with the budget shortfall during the depression. Yet, the council treated that report like it was the lost scrolls of Babylon. If you work for a company, how would your managers react if you gave a presentation based on data that was eight years old?

The buzz phrases "new direction" and "change of direction" were used referring to economic development, yet in the economic development director's contract no goals or expectations are spelled out. To accuse a contractor of non-performance without goals and expectations clearly stated would be akin to hiring the 16th century printer Gutenberg, saying to print something and then firing him for printing the first Bible instead of "War and Peace." When people use buzz phrases, usually they have no idea what they really want and use a buzz phrase to imply they do.

Missing meetings was mentioned, yet, in the economic development director's contract, attending meetings is not a requirement. Would you rather the director attend a meeting when economic development is talked about over cocktails or meet with a prospective client where something might actually happen?

The commissioners and council should hold another joint session and discuss only realistic ideas that will improve Crawford County's chances of economic development. Don't bring a buzz phrase or criticism. Bring an idea, and, if you can't, stay at home so you don't disrupt a constructive meeting.

The following is an example of a constructive idea:

In today's economy, technology rules and for Crawford County to not have a professional website is starting the economic development race in last place. Form a committee, with the economic development director as its chair, to do a cost and time-line study on the implementation of a professional website for all Crawford County offices and entities it supports. This would not only help in economic development, but would be beneficial to county residents who have computers, smart phones, etc.

If you feel the theatrics and political pestering has went too far, contact the county council and commissioners and let them know what you think. Tell them, get off your biblical donkey and do something.

Thank you for allowing me to exercise my right to free political speech.

Gary Robinson
Marengo, Ind.
March 09, 2016

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Goal not to butt in, but help improve

I was reading the Clarion News and I saw my name mentioned a few times, and I must admit this paper isn't big enough to print all the things I don't know.

I have had a part in keeping the taxpayers from paying two new taxes while in office. I came up with a plan to turn one of the 4-H buildings into a gym for our kids to enjoy and saved the school from borrowing $3.4 million more to build a gym, saving a huge amount on taxes, also allowing the 4-H to lease the building to the school. This was enough money to make their payments. These things were done without raising taxes.

I believe I should continue to reach out and do the best I can for the county. By working with commissioners, councilmen, school board and the 4-H Council was the above accomplished.

You may look at this as sticking my nose in other people's business, or you can say I like having someone who cares enough to try to make things better.

I encourage you to run for office and vote to improve our great county.

William Breeding, Crawford County Councilman
February 17, 2016

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Duty to use Article V

Almost everyone knows Washington, D.C., is on a dangerous course. The $19 trillion national debt is one example of its abuse of power. But few Americans know the people possess the power to make changes to the federal structure when Washington starts to abuse its authority.

Article V of the Constitution authorizes the people — through their state legislatures — to call a convention for the purpose of proposing amendments to the Constitution. Just like Congress can propose amendments at any time, a Convention to propose amendments would be able to discuss, draft and vote upon amendment proposals that limit the federal government's power. The Indiana Senate recently passed SJR14 to do just that, propose amendments to limit the federal government and it now heads to the Indiana House.

Some folks believe this could be a vehicle to rewrite the Constitution. However, this belief is based on fear rather than fact. First, a Convention can only propose amendments. By itself, it cannot change one word of the Constitution (much less rewrite it). Second, these amendment proposals must be ratified by 38 states.

Others express distrust of state lawmakers. I understand distrust of politicians and bureaucrats in Washington, but have more confidence in lawmakers who have to live and work among us at the state level. Those inside the Washington beltway may not willingly give up their own power, but state officials will want to divest them of it.

The framers of our nation understood human nature. They knew that, over time, power would become centralized. They left us this emergency cord in Article V. It is our duty to use it.

Diane Gomez, Indiana State Director, Convention of States
February 17, 2016

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Meetings should be public

After losing a legal complaint filed with the Public Access Counselor last year, you would have thought that the new county council would have taken the time to study the laws on how to advertise meetings and when closed door or executive meetings can be held. Apparently, they didn't, and, to quote President Reagan, here we go again.

At the January commissioners' meeting, Councilman Bill Breeding expressed his and the rest of the council's concerns about how the commissioners were conducting business on some issues. He then asked the commissioners to hold a joint executive session to discuss the issues. To Bill and the rest of the new council, to hold a joint executive session with the commissioners could possibly be an illegal meeting.

By law, there is a limited number of reasons to hold an executive session, and most of them do not apply to county government. The ones that are left apply to the commissioners, with the exception of litigation.

It is the commissioners' job, not the county council's, to interview, hire, discipline or fire employees, contract negotiations, purchase or lease real estate, union negotiations and litigation threatened or pending. All of these are reasons for an executive session. If the county council is included in the threatened or pending litigation, then a joint executive session is called for.

When the commissioners hold an executive session to discuss issues in their job description, not in the county council's job description, the county council becomes a member of the public at large. If the public can't attend, then the county council can't attend.

By law, the specific reason, by Indiana code, must be on the posted public notice stating the reason for the executive session. If a joint session is held, what reason will be put on the notice?

To Bill and the rest of the new county council, last year, instead of concentrating on being good council members, you expended all your efforts on the commissioners' job and second-guessing them. That eventually led to making mistakes as councilmen that cost the county $83,000, and the county still doesn't have paramedic-level ambulance service. This year, please concentrate on being councilmen before you cost the county more money or get us sued. If it is truly the council's desire to hold secret or illegal executive meetings, then move to Cuba or North Korea, where such practices are common.

To the commissioners, if you allow a camel to stick its nose under the flap of your tent, it will not be long until the entire camel is inside the tent with you.

If you would like more information on the open door public meeting laws, please go to the Public Access Counselor's website at www.in.gov/pac. Look for the link that goes to the open door laws or the handbook on Indiana public access laws.

Thank you for allowing me to exercise my right to free speech.

Gary Robinson
Marengo, Ind.
February 03, 2016

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Retired LHDC CEO thanks community

Jan. 1 marks my first day being retired from Lincoln Hills Development Corp. after a 39-year career, including 35 years as CEO.

I want to take this opportunity to express my deepest appreciation to the entire Crawford County community for their support during my time at LHDC and for all the expressions of congratulations and best wishes as I enter a new phase of my life. I also want to thank Chris Adams and Taylor Ferguson and the entire staff at the Clarion News for their fair coverage and for their help in keeping the public informed of the services and activities available at LHDC.

My parents instilled in me a love of family, a hard work ethic, a thirst for education and a passion for public service. During my time at LHDC, I believe I was able to nurture all four of those traits, and I hope, along the way, the community has improved its quality of life.

As I leave LHDC and begin the rest of my life, I reflected on my past and found the lyrics from "Happy Trails" by Dale Evans Rogers seemed appropriate to my situation:

"Happy trails to you, until we meet again.

Happy trails to you, keep smilin' until then.

Who cares about the clouds when we're together?

Just sing a song and bring sunny weather.

Happy trails to you, 'till we meet again.

Some trails are happy ones,

Others are blue.

It's the way you ride the trail that counts,

Here's a happy one for you.

Happy trails to you, 'till we meet again."

Thanks for everything and wishing all a happy, healthy and blessed New Year 2016 and "Happy Trails."

Larry K. Kleeman
Tell City, Ind.
January 13, 2016

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Cox, Smith true 'heroes'

After reading and rereading the article written by Taylor Ferguson in the Oct. 21, 2015, issue, I had to write my feelings about the Crawford County elementary principals, Alan Cox and Lisa Smith, who are truly heroes to give of their precious time and energy to two schools.

Giving up much and sometimes working from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. to make time for the school children is extremely admirable. However, heroes should not have to give up their lives for the school. The two principals they are replacing received a pay check and benefits, so Cox and Smith are saving the corporation approximately $200,000, as well. Now, these two people do double duty and do not receive an increase in their salary, but they are getting paid for 10 extra days for taking on two elementary schools. It seems to be extremely unfair to them and the children they want to care for in their classrooms, and their own family. Plus, they may become over-extended and stressed and burnt out and not be able to function in the manner they are accustomed to doing.

Superintendent DeRossett said the school board hopes to put a principal in each school as soon as possible. I hope it will be very soon as they knew since the end of the 2014-2015 school year that they needed to find replacements.

Rita Harden
English, Ind.
November 18, 2015

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Frustrated taxpayer

I arrived at the courthouse at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 10, property tax statement and check in hand. I was stunned to find the courthouse locked and dark inside. In the short time I stood there not sure what to do with my tax payment, which was due that day, eight other people drove up, all prepared to pay taxes. I understand there were many more throughout the day.

I later spoke with a county commissioner who told me the courthouse was closed so that employees could take their Veterans Day holiday. Veterans Day fell this year on Wednesday, the day the courthouse is already closed.

It's unbelievable to me that someone — the treasurer, perhaps? — didn't have the foresight to see what an inconvenience and frustration this would pose to many county taxpayers. I strongly feel the courthouse should have been open, regardless of the typical practice of taking holidays on Tuesday when the holiday falls on Wednesday. Many, many taxpayers make their payment the day it's due. That is our privilege and the Treasurer's Office should be open to accommodate us.

County officials are elected BY the people to SERVE the people. This was a poor example of service to the county.

Editor's note: We printed a notice from the Crawford County treasurer on page A3 of the Oct. 28 issue notifying readers that the courthouse would be closed on Nov. 10 and that property taxes instead would be due on Nov. 12. Perhaps we should have printed the notice on Nov. 4 instead, but we wanted to do so far enough in advance.

Stephanie Ferriell
Marengo, Ind.
November 18, 2015

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Schuler Bauer
Barbara Shaw
07 - 24 - 16