News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 25, 2013

Readers’ Forum: August 25, 2013


---- — INDOT should have done better in its I-69 planning

Regarding the front page article headlined “New I-69 plan would affect less property, save $100 million”: Will Wingfield, INDOT spokesman, “attributed the savings to more refined engineering and better assessment of the existing four-lane Indiana 37 …” Moreover, he stated that “Doing more homework and winnowing down the impact is making a big difference.”

This is precisely the detailed process that supporters of the I-70/US 41 proposed route (using existing roadways) suggested more than five years ago.

It seems to me that the INDOT personnel failed to show due diligence in their initial study. Had they been more attentive to these details in their homework in the early stages of the process, they might have saved up to $1 billion, made a significantly reduced impact on the environment, and caused less disruption of many properties along the current I-69 route.

INDOT should have done their detailed homework at the beginning rather than the end of the project.

This is poor engineering design practice and the citizens of Indiana deserve better.

— David Voltmer

Registered Professional


Terre Haute

Egypt turmoil a sad situation

This letter is not a political opinion, but a sad statement about what is happening in the world today.

The Readers’ Forum cartoon of Aug. 20 featuring the “crying Sphinx” touched my heart. I have been very fortunate to have traveled many times and one of the most amazing trips was to Egypt.  

It breaks my heart that my friends and grandchildren will not be able to see the sights I have seen because of turmoil and unrest in much of the world.

My prayer is that we all try to work together to try to end the conflicts so that travel is safe and enjoyable for our friends and future generations.

— James Campbell

Terre Haute

School safety deserves more detailed study

When I talk with parents of school-age children, their number one concern is school safety.

On Thursday, the School Safety Interim Study Committee will meet to discuss that issue. It will be the first of only two meetings that are supposed to tackle an extremely complicated topic. As I write this letter, the agenda for either meeting has yet to be released.

Last session, some legislators suggested the presence of guns would deter gun crimes in schools. I disagree. There was a shooting spree on the Fort Hood Military Base in Texas where guns are everywhere. Likewise, a madman shot numerous people on the Virginia Tech University campus, which has 49 sworn police officers. Guns are not the answer to a complex problem. Other issues need to be explored.

For instance, the issue of mental health has not been adequately addressed. Identification of students and adults with potential mental health needs is a valid concern that should be on the agenda. Most gun-related incidents involve individuals with some connection to the institution they attacked. However, with only two meetings and limited testimony, it is doubtful that mental health issues will be thoroughly reviewed by this study committee.

Teacher and staff training must be a subject examined closely. What are their specific responsibilities? What plans do we have to ensure proper training and funding for it? These are valid questions.

Another School Safety Study Group has made significant progress already. Gov. Mike Pence chairs the group, which includes Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz; Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura, head of the Indiana Department of Child Services; Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter; Gen. Martin Umbarger of the Indiana National Guard; Division of Mental Health Addictions Director Kevin Moore; and other distinguished individuals.

This study group recommends that Indiana develop a website that houses all pertinent information regarding school safety. It also suggested that seminars be held by the appropriate agencies to assist school districts and their educators. Additionally, agencies dealing with mental health issues and corrections will aid the transition for those who have experienced problems. These are all good recommendations and our legislative study committee should expand upon them. However, two meetings is not enough time.

The issue of school safety came to the forefront following the Columbine High School tragedy in Colorado 14 years ago. Last year, the Sandy Hook Elementary School killings in Newtown, Conn., renewed and amplified the outcry.

Throughout the years, groups have explored a variety of safety plan options. Every school corporation in Indiana runs its own program. Some have police officers assigned to schools by local police chiefs. Other districts hire retired or off-duty officers. These individuals are highly trained, which is essential for someone armed with a gun.

I make this observation as a former police officer with many years of experience. That is why I opposed the legislative proposal last session to place an armed person in every school building. These would not necessarily have been trained individuals, like police officers. Guns reacting to guns is like mixing volatile chemicals. One needs to have the proper training to keep a cool head in volatile situations.

One can only imagine a situation in which an irate parent goes to her child’s school, makes some verbal threats because of the heat of the moment, then puts her hand into her purse. Perhaps she is reaching for a facial tissue, but the untrained person with a gun thinks she is reaching for a weapon. It is not inconceivable that the untrained person would draw and shoot the mother. Whereas, a well-trained officer would keep a calm head in a tense situation and make the correct, life-and-death decision.

There are no easy answers to highly complex issues like school safety. A glance-over won’t suffice. We need a magnifying glass.

We can create the safest schools in the country, but the issues must be reviewed in depth. The other School Safety Study Group has given us a good start. Let’s complete the job properly. We should not sprint to the finish line only to find we’ve just begun the race. Let’s run this study committee as if lives depend upon it, because they do.      

— State Rep. Linda Lawson


Tweaks to make a Founder squirm

Yo! Listen up! Got a great idea!

Let’s fix the First Amendment. A little bit. Sure, it’s a great opener to the Bill of Rights, that capstone our Founders added to their political masterpiece. But times change. Laws evolve.

I’m thinking about the firestorm of rage from a passel of irate Repubs over the new documentary on Hillary. A nefarious plot by Dems to steal the W.H. in 2016? And angry reactions even before the protesters have seen the film. Not to mention three years before the election.

First let me attest that I am not against freedom of speech or freedom of the press. But there are limits, as you well know: libel, slander, threats of assassination, shouting fire in a crowded theater, etc. So why not add to that list any propagandistic chicanery that is not only unethical, immoral, and sinister, but downright criminal. If such a political abomination doesn’t come under the racketeering or conspiracy laws, then the obvious way to stonewall the firestorm would be to tweak the First Amendment. And to make it fair, have it apply to either party that is in power.

Freedom of religion and assembly are fine, but the part about making no law abridging freedom of speech or press should be amended to read: “except when documentaries, docudramas, biopics, or books are released about a potential presidential candidate up to three years before a national election.”

To those who say that punishing violators with prison time might crumble one of our pillars of freedom, I say that unfettered freedom of speech is a deceptive ruse for license.

Nevertheless, to placate the squeamish, the amendment should read that the party out of power should be free to produce films or books, since dissent is basic to democracy.

While the new law would not end the bully pulpit the president enjoys or his obscenely preferential access to the media (these could be fixed in latter laws), the repaired First Amendment could build a firewall against partisan Hollywood and other producers, as well as book publishers, who would attempt a propaganda coup to win an election.

Finally, once the updated amendment is in place, the famous four freedoms of the current First Amendment should be referred to as the famous three and a half freedoms.

— Saul Rosenthal

Terre Haute

Thanks for great summer camp

The summer is coming to a close and the YMCA Summer Day camp would like to express thanks to all the people in the community that helped make our camp a success this year. It goes without saying that the staff at the Vigo County YMCA was wonderful. The Silver Sneakers and other Y members were supportive in all the donations that they made to our camp supplies.

We had 11 weeks of themes that were filled with projects, field trips and guest speakers/presenters. The community support was phenomenal. A special thanks goes out to the Firefighters at Station 2 that put on quite a show for our campers as well as the K-9 unit and trainers during Super Heroes week. We visited with Steve Weatherford during our fitness week and Wade Winston came and did an outstanding karate demonstration.

Our own Elizabeth Cain did a couple of zumba sessions for the campers. Patti Willey from the Academy of Dance led a 90-minute jazz dance session with all of us during our “We’ve Got the Beat” week. Local musicians Paul Bertsch and Neal Wagner came and played different genres of music for the children. Mayor Duke Bennett spoke with the students when we visited the Court House during our 4th of July week and he came by and judged our Cupcake Wars during our Chefs in the Haute week.

Local educators, Jeremy Johnson and Brittany Perez came and did special science and art activities with the campers.

We had several local field trips during our summer camp. Holly Hudson with the Allen Memorial Planetarium did a wonderful presentation for our children during our Weird Science week. We had great visits to the Swope Art Museum, Dobbs Park and the Terre Haute Bowling Center. Thanks to all who donated their time to make the trips possible and fun.

Purdue Extension sent two wonderful teachers to work with our K-3 students once a week for eight weeks. They did an awesome job. We enjoyed having Jeanette Bouchie with the Vigo County Public library coming to get the campers excited about reading during the summer. Kim Tipton with the Choose Respect program came and spoke with our older campers.

Thanks to Sam’s Club, Pepsi and Staples for donations to our camp with supplies and special snacks. CASY supplied our breakfast and lunch each day.  A huge thanks to the Children’s Bureau, Inc., that made it possible for over a third of our campers to attend with scholarship assistance.

Lastly, we want to say a special thanks to our hard-working camp counselors. Without them the program would not run. Thanks for all you did to make this camp fun and safe for our campers.

— Roxy Bertsch, director

YMCA Summer Camp

— Lori Barnett, asst. director

YMCA Summer Camp

More about the 85th Regiment

The recent, Sunday, Aug., 4, 2013, article by Cory Burger, Sherman’s March to the Sea and the 85th Regiment, was an interesting follow up to Mike McCormick’s recent history columns.

In the article, Mr. Burger refers to “… was Terre Haute’s very own 85th Regiment.” Your readers may have gotten the impression that the regiment was recruited from men only from Terre Haute. It is true that the 85th was organized and mustered in to the Army in Terre Haute. However. the soldiers were recruited from the entire congressional district.

My great-grandfather, Cpl. Josiah Pierson, his younger brother Moses, his brother-in-law Thomas Lanning, and a cousin also named Moses Pierson, all of whom lived in Pierson Township near present-day Lewis, enlisted in Co. C, 85th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

Your readers who may be interested in reading about the 85th should see Coburn’s Brigade by the late Frank J. Welcher and Larry G. Ligget; I am sure a copy can be found in the VCPL. Prof. Welcher’s grandfather was also a soldier in the 85th.

— Thomas Pierson Jones