Delaware County

2013 in review-Muncie Politics

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The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.  I am humbled and very grateful for your support.  Thank you very much!  Hope 2014 is even better.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 8,800 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

57 countries have visited the blog. Mostly from the United States, Canada and the UK.

The most widely read and shared post of 2013 was 6.5 Million dollar question with 235 views.

The busiest day of the year was November 6th with238 views. The most popular post that day was The $6.5 million question – Muncie Community Schools referendum-update.

Your most commented on post in 2013 was Seeking full-time Donkey Whisperers in Delaware County. Steady employment.

Again, a very big thank you to all the readers and visitors.  I can’t stress enough how humbled and grateful I am to you all.  Never expected this when I first began Muncie Politics, which really started from a pure desire to publish some type of record for posterity’s sake.  It was fun, too.

We are fortunate enough to have the tools available, for a minimal cost or even free.    Even more blessed to live where we can voice our thoughts unfettered.

Happy 2014 to all!  Wishing you all peace, health and prosperity.

Saturday Morning Ramblings: Here it comes – 2014!

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2014 copyIt doesn’t seem to take long for another year to pass us by.  We look forward to new beginnings, make New Year’s resolutions, and mull over the previous year.  What did we do wrong?  What did we do right? What can we do better in the new year?

Getting an early start on 2014 resolutions, the first one is systematically removing every negative influence.  So far,  it has been very successful and already feeling a burden lifted…kind of like pulling yourself out of a pit full of mire.    I won’t reveal my 2014 resolutions just yet, though.

One of the easiest thing to give up is watching main-stream media.  Easy because I haven’t so much as tuned in to watch the razzle-dazzle, professional news journalists for many years.   Here’s why.

Gun Owners of America executive director Larry Pratt: “I honestly don’t understand why you would rather have people be victims of a crime than be able to defend themselves. It’s incomprehensible.”

CNN host Piers Morgan: “You’re an unbelievably stupid man, aren’t you?…You have absolutely no coherent argument whatsoever….You don’t give a damn, do you, about the gun murder rate in America?…I know why sales of these weapons have been soaring in the last few days. It’s down to idiots like you. Mr. Pratt…. You are a dangerous man espousing dangerous nonsense. And you shame your country.”

— From the imported British host’s anti-gun tirade on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight, December 18, 2012

To be honest, I had never heard of Piers Morgan until he demanded an apology from Sarah Palin over the Arizona shooting.  Thinking, maybe she should apologize for some things, this just isn’t one of them.  He desperately tried to find a link between Palin and Arizona.  Maybe she was governor of a state that begins with the letter A?  Similar to an episode from Sesame Street where the program is brought to  you by any  one of the 26 letters.  Now, Big Bird definitely knows how to properly link a letter.  A is for Apple, B is for Butter so on and so on…

Funny how Piers Morgan never apologized over Chris Dorner’s diatribe.  In reality, no thinking person would hold Morgan responsible for Dorner’s killing spree.  Which is  why Morgan’s demand for Palin to apologize is so acceptable.  He just doesn’t fit into the “thinking person” category.    Some people adore Piers.  I like Piers, too.   The British accent and sharp wit propels him to the top of my list.

Enough about Morgan, let’s take a look at local events, shall we?

One of my favorite local columnists, Larry Riley, penned a recap of the last week of 2013.  The topic –  governmental meetings.  Riley is not favored amongst the powers that be in local government.  Nor their staunch supporters.  A Piers Morgan, he is not.  Probably the best explanation for their disdain of his columns.  But, I digress.

Riley’s column highlights some of the current happenings around Delaware County.   A local poster finds his use of the word “incent” confusing and asks what his point is.

Riley covering the $45 million tax increase, a county  that ain’t got a pot to pee in, can’t pay back their loans to us, possible bond refinancing for the city, a PAC looking at election fines , etc, etc, etc…has far less impact on the citizens than the use of the word incent.

I may be off base here, something tells me she is a regular viewer of the Piers Morgan Show.  Just a wild guess.

We had the Democrat party come out in support of the massive $45 million tax increase, even though the Democrat Headquarters has not paid a penny of property tax for decades.  Tax exempt, ya know.

We have four Democrats voting to not pay back the debt owed to the taxpayers.  Continuously borrowing from the fund until $738,000 slipped through their fingers.  The endless excuses of tax caps, credits, loss of revenue is what guided them in approving the $7 million bond, the lovely County plaza at $700,000, a rail spur and the pie in the sky $5 million visitor center as just a few examples.

Despite not being able to meet their debts and tapping into the rainy day fund, the 2014 budget increased without the  financial cushion of the Rainy Day fund.     It’s always someone else’s fault, and never poor fiscal management skills.  Personal responsibility anyone?  This has been going on since ’09, or nearly six years.

Raise your hand if you voted for bonds, hiring, borrowing, remodel of the plaza, costly legal issues with the judges.  I often wonder why the county is broke and they look for more tax revenue from you.  The city which ended with a $8 million balance looked for more tax revenue from you.  Cha ching!  Increase the tax levy, that’s the ticket.

Broke or not, they still seem to want more of your income.

Many of the citizens have far less revenue and making hard financial decisions.  It’s time we stop tapping into a false endless resource, you, when your funds are drying up.

There is no reason why Delaware County can’t be fiscally sound, made attractive to businesses, families.   Why we can’t have better schools.  We are full of resources just waiting to be tapped.  The power to change the direction of this county is in the hands of the people.  We’re not afraid of hard work, but we are leery of letting go of the past.

The past is not working to our benefit any longer.

Saturday morning ramblings ~ barely surviving Friday the 13th

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Fireplace stockings-freeHappy Saturday, folks!  T’is the season to shop till you drop, spend to the end.  The snow is falling, and we are expecting a nice accumulation.  It’s starting to feel a lot like Christmas.

Unfortunately, it seems just a tad bit harder to get into the spirit of the season this year.  I dunno, maybe because the season started in July?  Shopping at Hobby Lobby for 4th of July trinkets at a discounted price when lo and behold, an aisle full of Christmas tree ornaments and garland.  In July.  Heck, we hadn’t even gone to the State Fair yet.  What gives?

Then the unthinkable happened, almost dividing our nation.  Black Friday started on Thursday.

Americans are resilient, man.  With an unprecedented show of solidarity, and despite overstuffed tummies, we headed out to the 6:00 PM sales.  Oh the joy and laughter that filled the stores.  Look, an iPad for $299.00, Blu-Ray movies starting at just $5 and Subway open for a late night snack, too!  T’is the season, to be sure.

 Christmas in July, jump starting Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the saying “the early bird catches the worm” I love it when it all comes together.

Of course, I am far from political and prefer reading People Magazine over the Weekly Standard, still it seems that Christmas isn’t the only season being fast-tracked.  Maybe some of you don’t know this, but mid-term elections are just around the corner.

Steve Craycraft, current county clerk, is running for auditor in 2014.  Following in the footsteps of Hobby Lobby, Mr. Craycraft has had a pop-up advertisement in the newspaper for his  campaign since 1974.  Just kiddin’, of course.  I can’t imagine the dollars his campaign stumping has raised.

I’m kinda keeping my eye on the judicial races.  This happens every six years and those elected in ’08 are up for re-election.  Three spots open.

Judge Feick squeaked over Diane Frye in ’08, and that was a close one, especially considering the Democrat sweep.  The tough race for Linda Wolf and Tom Cannon was fought in the primaries, both being contested by some top guns.  I am expecting a full slate in 2014 primaries on the Democrat side.

Now, this is just a prediction folks, so don’t take it to the bank.  I think one of the Quirk girls is gonna run for judge.    You see, a meth dealer wrote a letter to the editor complaining he received more time than a child molester.   In his letter he cited both Wolf and Feick.  Gee, Feick was the bad guy.   I think it was “setting the tone” not that Judge Wolf is all that loved by the local party headquarters, mind you.

Next up, Megan Quirk filing election violation charges against a Republican poll worker.  One charge stemming back to 2012, and he is a bad driver, too.   Her complaint backed up by two county employees.    A letter in the paper today praising Mike Quirk and his company, SOS, for working with her on the sewer bills. The very last Delaware County frontier for the Quirk family is to sit on a judicial bench.  They occupy nearly every city and county spot already.

The election season has begun, ever so subtle.  Keep your eyes on the letters to the editor, newspaper articles and see who starts getting targeted.  I follow the careers of the officials from the moment they get sworn in.  That way, I don’t have to walk in to the polls and guess at which one should get my vote.

Although, who hands out the best candy or fingernail file, does have some bearing on my vote.  As it should.  Is it Godiva or Dollar Tree chocolate?

Is the name familiar?  Does the name begin with one of the early letters in the alphabet?  Did they come to my house and shake my hand?  All important factors in determining a vote.

Keep your eyes open and see who walks around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.

When is no plan a plan? ~ Muncie Community Schools waiver hearing and other tidbits

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If and when the referendum is passed we will begin strategizing -Tim Heller

December 9th 2013 the Muncie Community Schools (MCS) held their waiver hearing before the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE).  No ruling was made, and none was expected.   In attendance,  the Muncie Community school board,  the superintendent, the financial officer, and  approximately 60 citizens.  I would have liked more people in the auditorium, but it is what it is.

Things went fairly smooth, and the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE)  asked some compelling questions.  I watched as they sifted through the paperwork which was presented.  They were extremely attentive to all parties which spoke that evening.  Asking for clarification when needed.  City Council person Mary Jo Barton cited State and Federal law regarding elementary children on the public transportation buses.  None of the IDOE members was aware of the law and asked Mrs. Barton to supply the law.  Hopefully, she will do so.

I am going to skip through the opening remarks from MCS and the testimony of the 20+ people and get to the closing remarks. Read the rest of this entry »

Muncie Community Schools – Public Hearing

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Notice of Public Hearing: Indiana Department of Education, Muncie School Corporation

Monday, December 9, 2013 – 5:00pm

A public hearing will be held by the Indiana Department of Education on Monday, December 9, 2013 at 5:00 p.m., or as soon thereafter as may be heard at the Northside Middle School Auditorium 2400 W Bethel Ave, Muncie, IN 47304 concerning the Petition for Waiver under Indiana Code 20-27-13-7 made by Muncie Community Schools to the Indiana Department of Education. Pursuant to IC 20-27-13-3, upon approval by a governing body, a school corporation must provide notice to the public of its intent to terminate transportation services for students and said notice must be provided at least three (3) years prior to the date transportation services are to be terminated. However, IC 20-27-13-7 allows a school corporation to seek a waiver of the three (3) year notice requirement by petitioning the Indiana Department of Education. Muncie School Corporation has made this request by way of a petition. A copy of the Petition is attached herein.

All persons in favor of, opposed to, or in any manner interested in Muncie Community Schools’ request for waiver of the three (3) year notice requirement are invited to attend this public hearing or forward written comments to Michael LaRocco, Director of Transportation, Indiana Department of Education Indiana Department of Education 115 W. Washington Street South Tower, Suite 600 Indianapolis, Indiana 46204. All comments by individuals of the public will be limited in time to accommodate all those wishing to make public comments.

Pursuant to the Americans With Disabilities Act, any individual interested in attending the hearing should contact Muncie Community Schools and advise what, if any, accommodation is needed to attend the hearing. For more information, contact Mark A. Burkhart, Chief Financial Officer/Treasurer Muncie Community Schools 2501 N. Oakwood Avenue Muncie, IN 47304.

Petition for waiver in the matter of Muncie Sommunity Schools. (pdf)

Department of Education 

Blight in Delaware County

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blighted house copyWednesday night I had the opportunity to attend a public forum addressing blight in Indiana communities.  Muncie was the third such forum held.    Graciously hosted by Mayor Dennis Tyler at City Hall, the event saw a large and diverse group of citizens.

Indiana’s Abandoned Home program was presented by Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority overseen by Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellspermann, and spearheaded by Senator Jim Merritt in conjunction with State Representatives Lutz and Errington, and State Senators Lanane and Eckerty.

I’ll admit not familiar with the legal complexity of blighted properties,  still one doesn’t have to look far to see examples of houses and how it affects the surrounding neighborhoods.  Blighted properties are a magnet for crime, vandalism, squatters, arson and a variety of other undesirable elements.  It’s not just an urban problem, it extends to the rural area, too.

In Muncie, circa 2010, blighted properties were highlighted weekly in the newspaper drawing the public’s eye to the problems and solutions.  Often a property would be targeted, and the end result saw it either rehabilitated or removed.  We had a deconstruction program praised by Joe Hogsett, Indiana U.S. Attorney, which utilized  prison re-entry program as the source of labor.

We had some fantastic successes in rehabbing apartments and homes, but sadly, not every property is worth saving or fiscally feasible to rehab.

Somewhere along the line, the zeal for targeting blight has diminished,  The weekly articles ceased, information and progress on the properties became a guest column now and then with ideas but no real progress has been made.  Oh, we have had successes and hope of future successes to come, yet blight is still here for now.  And it’s very real.

With funding and legislation expected, how can those monies be evenly dispersed among 92 counties?  The State of Indiana has designated “Divisions” which groups together counties based on population.  Delaware County is Division Three and includes Clark, Elkhart, Hendricks, Johnson, LaPorte, Madison, Monroe, Porter, Tippecanoe, Vanderburgh and Vigo Counties.  Estimated amount of funds $19 million dollars.  As presented, this will be a very competitive program.  Municipalities will submit their properties and future reuse of properties.  The criteria used for submission is point based and links to further information is listed at the end of this blog.

The program, is quite detailed and subject to change before it becomes finalized, just consider this as a heads up and something to watch.

I’m still trying to digest all the information, and certainly don’t consider this anything more than a basic source of information.  Just keep your eyes out for further developments.

Economic Digest – Gary, Indiana

Indiana Association for Community Economic Development

Media Release – Muncie, Indiana

Funding Divisions and more info

Muncie competing for state’s demolition dollars (Star Press article available for 7 days)

Muncie Voters and the Referendum ~ Voting and thoughts…It’s USA

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Since the November 5th, 2013 certified election results have not been posted on the Delaware County website, will give you the information from the local paper.

The total was 46% Yes and 54% No.  The additional tax will not be assessed on taxpayers and citizens.

The supporters of the referendum are going nuts on social media, so I would like to give you a sample or two of what is being said.

Business owners who were against this hear me now. Much of the money I might have spent eating at your restaurant or buying your products will be spent on gas money ensuring my grandchildren have a way to school. The gas stations might pick up some of my money but you won’t. I will make sure I do all my shopping outside Delaware county as you don’t deserve my money. I know many of my friends and coworkers will join me in this boycott of money grubbing, heartless businesses.

Did any of the No voters take into consideration the many disabled children that go to all the different schools ON BUSES? I guess I got my answer last night.

… you are incorrect. If the State does not grant the waiver then MCS will be forced to borrow $7 million (cost of busing for 2 years) until they can legally stop the buses.

this morning (for the first time in my life) instead of being sad that I no longer live in Muncie (forced to move when I could not find a job) I prayed my thanks that my community supports my children.

There are more, but I think you are getting the gist of social media.   I’m not sure if  some locals understand the schools and all government services is shored up with taxes from business.  If they don’t, perhaps they should go back in time when Borg Warner, Westinghouse, and others filled the government coffers with plenty of green.  They want jobs but not businesses.

Who told the poster disabled students won’t have transportation?  Excuse me, but Federal law dictates this provision.   (More on that later.)  Another threatened MCS would have to borrow…really?  If they can’t afford transportation, they can afford payments and interest?  And lastly, he moved away because he couldn’t get a job?  So, he won’t pay a penny of this tax and he expects those left behind with less disposable income in the town to pay?

You may have heard about the waiver to end school transportation and MCS had submitted it in June.  Some even believed it was a done deal.  The waiver barely scratched Indiana code and I personally can’t believe this was actually submitted to the State of Indiana for consideration.  Waiver Request – Muncie 2013.  

Let’s consider the waiver and MCS continuing transportation for disabled students.  (Told you we would get there.)  Muncie Community Schools said they would provide transportation because  it is a Federal law.  Yet, we heard countless times, and you saw one post, that this transportation would be denied.  Not so, and while the supporters spread this around town, I don’t remember ever reading MCS disputed that claim.  It goes along with claiming buses would end in 2013.

Some “Yes” supporters are even saying that one little piece of paper with information on the additional taxes turned voters away from voting yes.  Really?  One little piece of paper changed the vote?    Imagine for a minute, just a minute, if the following happened:

  1. The local newspaper ran daily pro articles on the bus referendum
  2. The League of Women voters purchased signs with their logo in support
  3. The Democrat Party came out in support of additional taxes
  4. Thousands of fliers were distributed stating the buses would end in 2013
  5. The schools bus was in the parade
  6. Muncie City closed departments so the employees could work the polls (see Facebook status below)
  7. PAC (political action committee)  spent unknown dollars, and last we knew the filing of the PAC was overdue in registering.  Nobody knows who contributed to the billboard, signs, T-shirts, etc.

Well, sounds far-fetched?  It all happened.  A media blitz of one-sided reporting, a split League of Women Voters all of the above we witnessed.  And yet, the Yes supporters would like you to believe on little piece of paper swayed the voters.  Really?  How about this one, the voters were paying attention and  understood exactly what this referendum was about.  However, we are all stupid and can’t possibly think for ourselves.

Better yet, the voter didn’t get sucked up into an emotional frenzy designed to scare the bee jeebies out of you.   Instead thought and voted with clear heads.  We aren’t falling for their claims we were brainwashed when the deck was so  stacked against those concerned about $43 million in additional taxes.

Plenty of opportunities for the 3,806 Yes voters to donate to the school district, with booster clubs, fund raisers, field trips. one wonders if they will.  It’s kind of like the tax caps.  Complaining about “less” tax dollars yet never paying more than their tax bill.  Go figure…

I’ll leave you with the Facebook status report, there was NO prior notice from the city or the newspaper the departments would close.  It was a last-minute decision by the city administration.

Muncie Animal Shelter’s status.November 4  Hey Facebook friends! Just a friendly reminder we will be closed all day tomorrow due to voting. There will be an officer on call and we will be taking emergency calls. Sorry for the inconvenience!