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: 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.
- Readers’ Forum: July 11, 2014
RONN MOTT: That Old Man River
I was surprised to learn the people in Cairo are now taking water taxis to avoid the traffic, the confusion and the dangers that are appearing on Cairo, Egypt’s, streets. I mean, I was surprised the people in Cairo, these native Egyptians, were surprised they could take a water taxi and get to where they wanted to go using the Nile River as a highway. So, for the Egyptians living in Cairo, everything old is brand new again.
EDITORIAL: A green idea worth pursuing
It sounds like a blue-ribbon idea.
READERS' FORUM: July 10, 2014
• Herb Faire a great success
• Appreciation for a ‘lovely angel’
• Thanks for stirring fireworks show
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.
Readers’ Forum: July 9, 2014
• Don’t eliminate our six-day mail
• Zamperini death stirs memories
RONN MOTT: Black Dog
We had some excitement around our house the other day and it was not the good kind.
There was a small dog, black in color with a spiked collar on his neck, and he was the spitting image of a small Doberman. I don’t know if they have miniature Dobermans but this dog could have been a mixed breed that came out looking like a Doberman although smaller.
Readers’ Forum: July 8, 2014
• T-S ignores common decency
• Lighten up on Donald Sterling
• Time to reject Dems in Congress
• Fueling the EPA
MS. TAKES: Great music is made during all generations
Number Two son tells us that his 20-year-old son has been listening to “Big Band” music with apparent enjoyment. As if that wasn’t enough of a surprise, I was talking with a young girl, barely out of her teens and she told us that she really wasn’t into rap. She said, “It isn’t really music, it’s just talk.”
Readers’ Forum: July 7, 2014
• The moral issue is major issue
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.
Readers’ Forum: July 6, 2014
• Coats ignoring climate science
• Do those mustache posters exist?
• Utility rate freeze took determination
• What perversion is next in line?
• Opinions vary, but voters will decide
• This preaching must stop — now
• Golf fundraiser a huge success
Flashpoint: State’s lawyer has duty to represent state in marriage lawsuit appeal
Recent federal court actions that first struck down Indiana’s statute limiting marriage to the traditional definition, and then stayed that order pending appeal, have left many in our state in legal limbo. As the attorney who represents state government and defends its laws, I know this difficult case stirs many people’s deeply held beliefs that touch their lives in very personal ways. Not since my office had to represent the state in lawsuits arising from the State Fair disaster has a dispute been so seemingly impossible to address in a way that the public would accept as being fair to all concerned.
Flashpoint: The Supreme Court decision and ‘closely held’ corporations
The much awaited Supreme Court decision in Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby came down this week. The court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the 1993 Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA) does cover “closely held” corporations, even if those corporations are for profit.
RONN MOTT: Learning more about Jefferson
During this Fourth of July weekend, I’ll be reading John Meacham’s biography of Thomas Jefferson.
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.
- Readers’ Forum: July 4, 2014
RONN MOTT: The Men Who Made the Country
The Fourth of July is the day we celebrate our independence from Great Britain. It reminds me of something David Ben-Gurion would say, at a much later date, about British rule: “If you have to have a master, the British are about as good at it as anybody.” Of course, we really don’t need a master.
GREG ZOELLER: State’s lawyer has duty to represent state in marriage lawsuit appeal
Recent federal court actions that first struck down Indiana’s statute limiting marriage to the traditional definition, and then stayed that order pending appeal, have left many in our state in legal limbo.
Readers’ Forum: July 3, 2014
• Over the top on immigration
FLASHPOINT: HIP 2.0 gives consumers better choices
On Wednesday, the State of Indiana submitted its proposal for the Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0 to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
MIKE PENCE: HIP 2.0 gives consumers better choices
Today, the state of Indiana submitted its proposal for the Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0 to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
If approved, the Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0 would replace traditional Medicaid for low-income, able-bodied Hoosier adults. Unlike traditional Medicaid, which is government-driven, HIP 2.0 is consumer-driven.
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.
- Readers’ Forum: July 2, 2014
RONN MOTT: Cats
Looking at the situation as a whole, the adopted cats, plus one, seem to be doing OK. The boys, Magic and Mellow, like to roam occasionally, which causes some consternation when they are gone for a long time.
LIZ CIANCONE: Oldtime fans will never give up on the Cubbies
My Best Friend claims to be the world’s oldest living Cubs fan. I am willing to take him at his word, but surely there is some long-lived fan out there in the right field bleachers who would dispute his claim.
Readers’ Forum: July 1, 2014
• Defying the laws of God
• Correcting the written record
• Hands of $$ from Redevelopment
• Celebrity visit for celebration
Flashpoint: New Healthy Indiana Plan our best option
Some state-run health care exchanges — the brainchild of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — have gotten off to a rocky start, to the point that they are turning to the federal government to pick up the pieces. Indiana’s decision to try to expand the already-existing Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP) in lieu of an exchange seems a more prudent choice every day.
Readers’ Forum: June 30, 2014
• Don’t be victim of home repair scam
• Ending unfair tax practices
- More Opinion Headlines
- Editorial: The Bennett ‘settlement’