TERRE HAUTE —
The emergence of two-party government in the last decade has been healthy for Vigo County.
Republicans in the high-profile offices of Terre Haute mayor and county prosecutor function alongside Democrat-led city and county councils and commissions. They co-exist, deal with disagreements and provide crucial checks and balances of each other’s power. That’s a good situation.
By contrast, the ugly byproduct of single-party dominance at the state government level in Indiana is now on full, unsettling display for Hoosiers to witness. It disguises itself as an ongoing territorial conflict between Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz and members of the State Board of Education. Instead, this soap-opera-style feud boils down to the ill effects of power.
In this case, Republicans possess so much power they feel no pressure to allow the lone Democrat elected to a statewide office, Ritz, to make decisions or pursue policies contrary to their agenda. Since she took office in January after defeating Republican school-reform stalwart Tony Bennett in the 2012 election, Bennett’s party and supporters have circumvented, ignored and undermined her — because they can. Republicans hold super-majorities in the Indiana Senate and House, as well as the governor’s office. The only checks and balances they face within the system must come from a small band of Democratic legislators or Republicans’ own consciences.
The paper-thin nature of that wall of correction became apparent Wednesday in Indianapolis as the Board of Education met, with Ritz serving as its chair.
Exasperated, Ritz abruptly adjourned the meeting after a member, appointed by Republican Gov. Mike Pence, tried to transfer certain student-assessment powers from her Department of Education office to essentially another state education department — the Center for Education and Career Innovation, created by Pence’s executive order in August. Ritz decided the motion was “improper,” refused to allow the board to vote on it, and said she would seek an opinion from the state attorney general, also a Republican. As board members objected and questioned her authority, she declared the meeting adjourned.
Some board members pushed for a vote anyway, after Ritz left, but they eventually heeded advice to put it off.
Ironically, Ritz and the board had settled a seemingly more contentious issue — a revised A-to-F school accountability format — earlier in the meeting. That action represented normal, healthy compromise. The later motion, which blew up the meeting, amounted to another subtle chip in Ritz’s authority.
In response to Ritz’s accusation that Pence was conducting a “complete takeover” of education policy, the governor stated he has worked “in good faith” with her. An objective observer could legitimately view that level of cooperation differently than Pence.
Obviously, Ritz has complicated the situation by growing combative as the friction has escalated this fall. Surrounded and out-numbered, with no high-placed allies, her defensiveness is understandable. Her detractors insist Ritz drags her feet and that they’re just pushing to get things done. Board of Education members — some of whom are Democrats, but all are appointees of Pence or fellow Republican former Gov. Mitch Daniels — interrupt her at meetings, and she’ll often refuse to recognize their comments. The final minutes of Wednesday’s meeting (available for viewing online at media.doe.in.gov/sbe/2013-11-13.htmi) reveal the dysfunction.
Board member Andrea Neal, quoted in the Lafayette Journal and Courier, said, “The breakdown of trust is serious. We need some kind of reconciliation process to move forward.” Excellent point.
On Friday afternoon, Pence notified Ritz and the Board of Ed members that the National Association of State Boards of Education had agreed to mediate and clarify their roles, at the governor’s request. Pence urged Ritz and the board to take up the offer. Is this gesture worthwhile?
Perhaps, but the real question is, who will sincerely pursue reconciliation?
Given the imbalance of power, Ritz is the only one compelled to try.
What choices does a lone Dem really have?
TERRE HAUTE —
The emergence of two-party government in the last decade has been healthy for Vigo County.
EDITORIAL: Greater course loads can mean quicker degrees
The impact of Indiana’s low education attainment level shows up in Hoosiers’ paychecks.
The state ranks 40th in the U.S. in the percentage of residents with college diplomas.
Editorial: Community support crucial for workers facing layoffs
The loss of 150 jobs impacts people — the employees themselves, their families and the community. They need the support of loved ones, friends, neighbors, churches, schools, clubs and local service groups in the search for new work and clarity amid the uncertainty.
Ronn Mott: Gaza 2014 — hatred lives on
The rockets’ red glares have turned Gaza, part of the Palestinian authority, into a battleground with Hamas, a legislative terrorist organization that has been stockpiling armaments to use against Israel for years.
EDITORIAL: Work program needs industry buy-in
Good help is hard to find. That’s essentially what Indiana companies have insisted for several years. The state struggles with a “skills gap,” the firms explain. They need employees, but can’t find enough — or in some cases, any — qualified Hoosiers. Businesses say too few applicants possess the “soft skills,” such as showing up for work on time or being able to effectively communicate with co-workers.
EDITORIAL: Vigo Jail study essential to determine strategy
It comes as encouraging news that the Vigo County Council might include in its 2015 budget significant funding for an expert and neutral study of what can be done to replace or enhance the existing county jail.
Editorial: Continuing the standard
U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett has raised the profile of his federally appointed position more than any individual to hold the job in decades. From the start, he was a man on a mission, and often that mission was focused on rooting out corruption, maintaining integrity in government and pursuing those who violated the public trust.
EDITORIAL: Legal marriages should be honored
An eager and probably nervous couple stands before a minister or a judge or a county clerk and exchanges vows, accepting the legal, moral and ethical obligations of a marriage.
EDITORIAL: Dysfunctional relationship with schools chief doesn’t bode well for potential Pence presidency
A window to the future may be unfolding in Indiana.
Editorial: The Bennett ‘settlement’
It takes a special kind of arrogance to flout ethics laws in the manner which former state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett has violated them. Even when he finally admitted his transgressions, he claimed he could have avoided the matter altogether had he just changed the department’s ethics policy before engaging in the troublesome conduct.
In essence, this was the old “mistakes were made” acknowledgment of wrongdoing. And the real mistake to which Bennett admits was apparently not changing the rules before he violated them. This is a truly Nixonian moment.
EDITORIAL: A green idea worth pursuing
It sounds like a blue-ribbon idea.
EDITORIAL: Be safe, be responsible
The Independence Day weekend brought a brief respite in construction work on area roadways. In particular, it provided needed relief to the congested segment of Interstate 70 in Clay County that is undergoing resurfacing this summer.
Editorial: City financial health demands an open, honest discussion
Obscured by the recent rift over use of departmental funds in the city of Terre Haute’s budget are serious issues related to our city government’s overall financial health. The answers may be mired in the complexity of municipal finance, but coming to grips with the situation is important to the city’s future.
EDITORIAL: Celebrate your independence
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
As eloquent and declaratory as that statement is, implementing its principles has been a decades-long pursuit for these United States of America. Our nation, it seems, is the quintessential work in progress, even though what this country has created in terms of a stable, collective society is, let’s face it, pretty darn good.
Editorial: Texting law serves safety
July 1 each year marks the day in Indiana when new laws take effect. But rather than focus on new laws today, let’s observe the anniversary of a law that went on the books three years ago this month — the law that barred texting while driving.
EDITORIAL: For kids, an immediate need
If you agree that not much is sadder — and potentially more unsettling to our society — than a child torn from his or her home, here is a way you can make a difference, one kid at a time.
Editorial: A center for the future
The Monday morning “groundbreaking” at the site of the new Vigo Schools Aquatic Center in Voorhees Park was largely ceremonial. It will still be a few weeks before work on the $9.8 million facility actually begins. But that didn’t stop the highly anticipated event from taking place, and it was clear from remarks made by a host of VIPs who took turns at the podium that this project is destined to produce great things.
EDITORIAL: A proud moment for Vigo County
Most people, regardless of their personal opinions or beliefs on the matter, will admit that they knew the day was coming when Indiana’s law banning same-sex marriages would be overturned by a federal judge. It has happened in other states that have encountered the issue.
EDITORIAL: Getting smart about fighting crime
When those “CSI” TV shows began to burst on the scene in 2000, viewers were mesmerized by the flashy scientific and technological methods police labs were using to build cases against criminals.
EDITORIAL: Forging ahead
Life in the digital world has changed drastically for many community institutions. But the Vigo County Public Library, which has navigated various minefields of change in recent years, has shown it can adapt, even improve.
EDITORIAL: More needed from Speaker
Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma did what most people expected he would do in the wake of Speaker Pro Tem Eric Turner’s ethics probe.
EDITORIAL: A woman in the House
The twists and turns of politics can produce unpredictable results. Just ask Bionca Gambill.
EDITORIAL: Enticing more students back to campus a worthwhile initiative
Of all of the educational initiatives paraded before Indiana residents in recent years — some ideas worthy, others flops — none seems more timely or more on point than one approved by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education last week.
EDITORIAL: Celebrating local success
It’s always an uplifting occasion when good things happen to good people. And so we join in the celebration of three people who this week achieved a new level of success and recognition for their professional and personal contributions to life in Terre Haute and the Wabash Valley.
EDITORIAL: Shoring up the VA
How America cares for its veterans is indicative of its values as a nation. We’re confident the vast majority of citizens agree that health care for military vets through the country’s network of VA hospitals should meet or exceed common-sense expectations.
Editorial: Playing the Nazi card
There was good news to report from the Indiana Republican Party Convention conducted last weekend in Fort Wayne. The GOP nominated three women to top its general election ballot in November. There isn’t much gender equity in Hoosier politics, so seeing these three rise to the top of the Republican ballot this year is refreshing. But perhaps the best news is that Richard Mourdock, two-term state treasurer and unsuccessful candidate for U.S. Senate in 2012, will no longer hold public office at the end of this year.
EDITORIAL: Cleaner environment will help boost city’s image
In Terre Haute, the difference is becoming apparent between responsible stewardship of the environment and a look-the-other-way attitude about dumping harmful materials.
EDITORIAL: Ernie Pyle’s words told a personal story
Today is the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the day when Allied Forces led by the United States military invaded France on the beaches at Normandy. It was the crucial turning point of World War II against Nazi Germany. To observe this somber anniversary, we have given this page’s editorial space the past three days to the columns written by Ernie Pyle in the invasion’s aftermath. Pyle filed three columns about D-Day that were circulated widely in American newspapers beginning June 12, 1944. The first appeared Wednesday. The second appeared Thursday. This is the final column.
EDITORIAL: Ernie Pyle walked the beaches of Normandy
NORMANDY BEACHHEAD, June 16, 1944 — I took a walk along the historic coast of Normandy in the country of France.
It was a lovely day for strolling along the seashore. Men were sleeping on the sand, some of them sleeping forever. Men were floating in the water, but they didn’t know they were in the water, for they were dead.
EDITORIAL: Remembering D-Day — in the words of Ernie Pyle
NORMANDY BEACHHEAD, June 12, 1944 — Due to a last-minute alteration in the arrangements, I didn’t arrive on the beachhead until the morning after D-day, after our first wave of assault troops had hit the shore. By the time we got here the beaches had been taken and the fighting had moved a couple of miles inland. All that remained on the beach was some sniping and artillery fire, and the occasional startling blast of a mine geysering brown sand into the air. That plus a gigantic and pitiful litter of wreckage along miles of shoreline.
EDITORIAL: Rape, sexual assault demand greater attention
When the facts, figures, commentary and analysis about the devastating impact of rape in our society have been consumed, the daunting, even haunting, question is: What can we do to stop it?
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