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Thursday, September 29, 2016
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Thursday, September 29, 2016 9:19 AM

INDIANAPOLIS – Just hours after Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump exited the national debate stage that had been the scene of taunts, zingers and political bedlam, Indiana’s gubernatorial nominees went through the same exercise. And there was peace in the valley.

The topic was education and Democrat John Gregg, Republican Eric Holcomb and Libertarian Rex Bell appeared before a theater of students and a statewide television audience meant as a civics class. For the most part during the debate, Lt. Gov. Holcomb and Gregg had few policy disagreements, though during the discussion of the current teacher shortage, the former House speaker seemed to blame the changes made by Govs. Mitch Daniels and Mike Pence, as well as Supt. Tony Bennett by grading teachers and tying pay increases to job performance data generated by the now-discredited ISTEP exam.
“This problem has been created over the last 10 years by telling teachers how to teach,” Gregg said. Holcomb noted that the U.S. faces a 60,000 teacher shortfall. “Indiana is not unique,” Holcomb said. “It does start with how we treat teachers.  We must insist on working with locals to make sure. Indiana invests 54 percent in K-12. We are second in the nation. We need to continue to invest in teachers. We need to make sure the money is getting into the classroom and I will lead this discussion.”
Asked if he was blaming the Pence and Daniels administration, Gregg deflected. “I’m not hurling insults at Mr. Holcomb and getting into a ‘he said/she said’,” Gregg said. “I’d rather fix the problem than affix blame.” Following the debate, Gregg was asked about the lack of rhetorical pyrotechnics. “The truth of the matter is, I think Hoosiers ought to take a deep sigh and breath and say, ‘Wow, our candidates running for office practice what they preach,” he responded. “They’ve been civil in this matter. There can be disagreements, but there is no need to get into an argument.”
Gregg and Holcomb found common ground on standardized testing. “We have to talk about getting back to letting teachers teach,” Gregg said. “Teaching to the test is what teachers are doing. I voted against ISTEP and it is flawed.” Gregg said that ISTEP results don’t reach teachers and students until the following school year. Holcomb acknowledged there is “universal agreement” on replacing ISTEP, which was passed under Gov. Robert Orr in 1987. “It is going away,” Holcomb said.

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    INDIANAPOLIS – Two C’s and an F were the marks given by a group of high school debate students to three candidates for governor who met on a school stage Tuesday and were given the assignment of hashing out education issues. The candidates, Republican Eric Holcomb, Democrat John Gregg and Libertarian Rex Bell, left few distinctions among them. Political rhetoric and a lack of detailed answers to tough questions, including one about jobs for teens and another about college tuition for immigrants living illegally in the United States, left students saying they felt “cheated” by their choices to lead the state. “I feel like I was robbed of the opportunity to see an actual debate because everybody was agreeing with each other,” said Caleb Jones, 18. All three candidates backed the notion of getting rid of ISTEP, the state’s standardized test which has experienced multiple problems in recent years, including months-long delays in getting results to students and teachers. But none offered a detailed plan of what should replace it, other than a test that is shorter and quicker.
    MERRILLVILLE – Judging by the initial comments from Lake County government officials, it’s going to be a long time before a substantial convention center is built. Talk of the convention center has escalated since it was announced that the Radisson Hotel and Star Plaza Theater will be razed later this year and early next year. A new hotel is planned, but there won’t be any convention facilities to replace those that will be eliminated. Speros Batistatos, the president and CEO of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority, has proposed the imposition of a 3-percent food and beverage tax to help pay for the new facility. Such a tax would have to be approved by the Lake County Council and Commissioners. The large convention centers around the state, including one in Indianapolis, are funded in part with food and beverage taxes. Lake County government officials essentially said they want it all but don’t want to pay for it.
    INDIANAPOLIS – A few days ago, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis released the 2015 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures for all 382 metropolitan areas of the nation. Of these, 10 are exclusively within Indiana and five others (Chicago, South Bend, Cincinnati, Louisville and Evansville) include one or more Indiana counties. How are these 15 metro areas doing since the Great Recession ended in 2010? In a word: Poorly. What kind of recovery have they had compared to the rest of America? Weak. Hoosier politicians of both parties love to celebrate urban areas as the engines of economic growth while declaring that our rural communities protect something called “Hoosier values.” Collectively, our 15 metro areas grew at a slower rate than American metros as a group every year for the past five years. Does being “business-friendly” mean Indiana retards business growth? The average annual rate of growth in real GDP for Indiana metros from 2011 through 2015 was 1.56 percent compared with a national metro growth rate of 1.90 percent. 
    NASHVILLE, Ind. - A couple of decades ago, I had a chance to see and hear jazz great Dave Brubeck play the Elco Theater in downtown Elkhart. It was a mesmerizing concert. At one point, Brubeck sat his piano in the spotlight and began a cadence, “The Peace of Jerusalem, the Peace of Jerusalem,” tapping his foot and clicking his fingers. His quartet picked up on the reponsorial and it sent great joy through the crowd. After the concert, many of us crossed Main Street to Flytrap’s, a downtown restaurant, and as we sipped cocktails and awaited dinner, I could see a entourage cross the street. The door swung open, and there was Brubeck himself adorned in a great coat. There was a pregnant pause, one of almost disbelief, and this was followed by an emotional, rousing standing ovation. A great man was in our midst. It was a spectacular display of the art of leadership: The broaching of a grand concept and then its articulation through a cultural media, hitting a chord with those who listened. Politics is quite a different genre, I bring this up as Hoosiers and Americans prepare for one of the most fascinating, and potentially consequential two weeks in the early years of the 21st Century. On Monday, presidential nominees Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will meet for the first of three debates, and the stakes are utterly epic. As Clinton put it earlier this week, “The next 50 days will determine the next 50 years.”

    KOKOMO – When you take on the job of a political party chairman, you enter your tenure with visions of political lollipops dancing in your head. You imagine all of the nifty things you’ll accomplish in the name of the cause. You salivate over creating targeted marketing programs, systematic fundraising processes and candidate development.  Then, very quickly, perhaps within two or three days, you realize that you are going to be doing things that no one told you about. Scrubbing toilets at Republican Headquarters, I realized that there might be things that I would be called upon to do that weren’t in the brochures touting the glamorous and exciting lifestyles of a Republican County chairman. Ten years into my sentence, make that service, as a GOP chair, I’ve done things that I never anticipated doing and seen events that amaze and astound. I’ve done some things they just can’t get laboratory rats to do, all in the service of my party. Last April, our Republican HQ started being bombarded with telephone calls asking when we would have Donald Trump signs for distribution. The callers were polite but quickly became agitated when told that sign distribution during primaries was largely up to the individual candidates.
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  • Horse Race: Young answers plea from East Chicago, Bayh criticizes
    INDIANAPOLIS – With the Pence administration missing in action concerning the 1,100 East Chicago residents forced from their Calumet Housing Complex due to lead and arsenic contamination, city leaders were looking for help. They found it from an unlikely source: U.S. Rep. Todd Young, the Bloomington Republican running for the U.S. Senate against a favorite son, Democrat Evan Bayh. Young, who sits on the House Ways & Means Committee, introduced legislation on Monday to address the affordable housing shortage in East Chicago by targeting additional low-income housing tax credits to the impacted area. His legislation would give dislocated families who cannot find housing the opportunity to return to their community in the near future. “Entire lives are being uprooted by this disaster,” said Young.
  • Horse Race: Big donations continue to pour into gov race

    INDIANAPOLIS - Big donations continue to pour into the Indiana gubernatorial race. Republican nominee Eric Holcomb picked up another $500,000 from the Republican Governors Association Right Direction PAC. Democrat John Gregg received $200,000 from the Committee to Elect Christina Hale and $300,000 from the National Education Association Fund for Children and Public Education PAC.
  • Holcomb, Gregg differ on an elected DOE superintendent

    INDIANAPOLIS – After four tumultuous years of policy and political sparring between Gov. Mike Pence and Supt. Glenda Ritz, one point of division between gubernatorial nominees John Gregg and Eric Holcomb is whether the state’s top education post should be elected or appointed. Lt. Gov. Holcomb, the Republican nominee, believes it should be appointed, though he was careful to say it is not a potential end-around if both he and Ritz are elected on Nov. 8. “I’m open to that,” he said of an appointed superintendent. “I stood on a stage with Democratic Chairman Dan Parker and we both agreed that position should be appointed. It’s not part of my agenda for 2017. We shouldn’t change the rules during someone’s term.” Gregg took an opposite stance, though he acknowledged his position has evolved. “I think it needs to continue to be elected,” Gregg said. “To change that now sends a really, really bad signal.”

  • HPI Analysis: An epic Clinton-Trump debate with impact unknown

    INDIANAPOLIS - With the whole world watching, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton sparred in their first epic debate Monday night. It began with an innocuous greeting from Clinton, who said, “Donald, it’s good to be with you.” It ended in the spin room, where Trump’s entourage waded in and the candidate said, "I was going to say something extremely rough to Hillary, to her family, and I said to myself, 'I can't do it. I just can't do it.' It's inappropriate. It's not nice.’ " The two battled over temperament, racism, his tax returns and her emails. Trump questioned Clinton’s stamina, saying, “She doesn’t have the look. She doesn’t have the stamina.” Moderator Lester Holt then turned to Clinton and asked about that “look,” and Clinton noted that she had traveled to 112 countries as secretary of state, and negotiated trade deals and other agreements. If Trump did that, she said, “He can talk to me about stamina.” Holt allowed the two nominees to actually hold a conversation, and that was a revealing new wrinkle in this epic election.

  • Holcomb releases his education, workforce plan

    INDIANAPOLIS - Republican gubernatorial nominee Eric Holcomb continued to flesh out his policy agenda, announcing his “Excellence in Education & Workforce Development Plan” before 900 school board members and superintendents. “Whether a superintendent, a school board member, or the state’s Lt. Governor,” Lt. Gov. Holcomb said Monday morning as he appeared before the 67th Annual Indiana School Boards Association/Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents Fall Conference. “We all have an obligation to future generations to prepare them for life in a global economy that gets more and more competitive and interconnected by the day.” Holcomb said the aim of his plan would be to endure every Hoosier child “has access to exceptional early education and a safe, student-driven learning environment, is ready to enter the workforce or pursue higher education; and every out-of-work adult can retrain and develop the skills necessary in our 21st Century economy.

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  • FBI's Comey says Russians are hacking state election systems
    “There have been a variety of scanning activities which is a preamble for potential intrusion activities as well as some attempted intrusions at voter database registrations beyond those we knew about in July and August. We are urging the states just to make sure that their deadbolts are thrown and their locks are on and to get the best information they can from DHS just to make sure their systems are secure.” - FBI Director James Comey, speaking to the House Judiciary Committee on what intelligence analysts believe are efforts by the Russian government to influence and disrupt the U.S. presidential election. Hackers have targeted at least 18 states.
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Trump taxes

Should Donald Trump release recent tax returns, like every major party nominee has done over the past 40 years?


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