Tag Archives: Politics

American Legion Says Veterans Denied "Christmas" Cards from School Children

27 Dec interstate 80 94 accident

INDIANAPOLIS, Dec. 26, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Handwritten Christmas cards
from schoolchildren were denied distribution to veterans at the Dallas VA Medical
Center this week because they referenced the holiday by name, and American Legion
National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger is not happy about it. Neither is the
Liberty Institute, which has sided with the Legion in opposing a number of other
attempts to prevent free expression of speech and religion.

Also this week, the VA hospital in Augusta, Ga., announced a new policy that turned
away high-school students who intended to sing Christmas carols to veterans, as they
traditionally have in past years. And in Iowa City, American Legion members were
told they could not hand out presents to veterans if the wrapping paper said Merry
Christmas, a problem they solved by filtering the gifts through the VA chaplain.

The American Legion has asked VA Central Office for an explanation of why it appears
that Christians are being singled out for restrictions, especially when the holiday
honors the birth of Jesus Christ.

“First of all, VA’s decision to prohibit the delivery of Christmas cards that
mention Christmas is ludicrous,” Dellinger said today after Texas teacher Susan
Chapman was told Monday that her students’ cards would not be delivered to veterans.
“Second of all, VA has been down this road before, and recently. VA has been warned
through a federal court decree to stop denying freedom of religious expression at
its facilities. It’s pretty obvious the Dallas VA did not get that memo.”

When high school singers arrived last Friday at the Augusta, Ga., VA Medical Center,
officials reportedly gave them a list of 12 approved, secular holiday songs.
Unprepared to sing them, the students opted not to perform. “That’s censorship, pure
and simple,” Dellinger said of the rejected carolers. “Every Christmas, every
religious holiday, Christians are more and more often targeted for censorship and
restriction at VA facilities. Veterans in these hospitals fought to protect such
freedoms.”

Chapman, the wife of a U.S. military veteran, has requested that the Dallas VA
Medical Center immediately rescind its discriminatory policy and allow her and her
students – and any others in the future – to distribute Christmas cards
that say “Merry Christmas” or “God Bless You” or mention Jesus. Writing to VA
Secretary Eric Shinseki and VA North Texas Health System Director Jeffery L.
Milligan, Liberty Institute set a deadline of Friday, Dec. 27, for confirmation in
writing “that Mrs. Chapman and her students may distribute cards that contain the
phrase ‘Merry Christmas,’ ‘God Bless You,’ or that contain other religious
references to veterans at the Medical Center and at all other VA hospitals, and that
the holiday card policies of the Department and the Medical Center (are) brought in
line with applicable law.”

“Of course, for this year’s schoolchildren, it’s a little late, and that’s really
disappointing,” said Dellinger, who leads the 2.4-million-member American Legion,
largest veterans organization in the country. “VA needs to let those children
deliver cards to the veterans now, and those who wrongly banned them owe an apology
to the children, the teacher and the veterans who were supposed to get them Monday.
This is a clear case of discrimination on the basis of religious expression; the
courts have already ruled that such policies are unconstitutional. The American
Legion fully concurs with that interpretation.”

Advertisements

Memorial for Fallen Trooper Scott Patrick in Gary Today

21 Dec

Gazette Staff
Gary, Lake County-The Trooper Scott Patrick Memorial was unveiled this rainy, wet Saturday, December 21, 2013 evening on the I-80 east bound to Grant Street exit amidst family, friends, comrades and representatives from many other police departments.

At approximately 8:00 p.m. a Memorial marker was unveiled at the location where Trooper Scott Patrick was killed in the line of duty on Monday, December 22, 2003. Trooper Patrick was dispatched to assist a stranded motorist at the Grant Street exit when he was shot and killed.

State Representative Dr. Vernon G. Smith filed a naming resolution which was passed by both chambers of the Indiana legislature and resulted in the declaration dated January 13, 2013. These efforts were enhanced with the assistance of State Representative Shelli VanDerburgh and INDOT Deputy Commissioner Robert Alderman.

This also marks the 10th anniversary of Trooper Patrick’s death.

The ceremony included the Indiana State Police Honor Guard, the Lake County Pipes and Drums, Indiana State Police Chaplain Coffee, Senior Trooper Geoff Gruber (who was first onscene and wounded Darryl Jeter who was convicted of Scott’s death), Melissa Patrick (Scott’s widow), Isaac Scott Patrick (nine year-old son of Scott) and Jamie Patrick (Scott’s brother).

Indiana State Trooper Scott Patrick memorial

from left to right is Lieutenant Jerry Williams (Lowell District Commander), Melissa Patrick (widow), Isaac Scott Patrick (son) and Jamie Patrick (brother)

 

 

City of Gary Says Sheraton Project is Neighborhood Stabilization

19 Dec

by Ken Davidson

At last night’s meeting of the Gary Redevelopment Commission, the Board approved a contract for environmental monitoring of the Sheraton Hotel project. The contract was awarded to Shrewsberry and Associates, LLC of Indianapolis. Shrewsberry and Associates has strong ties to State democrats, including former Chairman of the Indiana House Ways and Means Committee William Crawford. Crawford came under fire for not disclosing his financial interests with the Firm when he was appointed to Ways and Means. Shrewsberry no longer lists its Board of Directors on its website or in public filings that are readily available.

The original Request for Proposals for the demolition called for the contractor to include asbestos remediation and monitoring within the proposal. This additional cost was calculated into the bids submitted by others who were not aware that the Board would later hire another firm and pay that firm separately.

All of this is not unusual for Gary. Although the above is questionable, at best, the Gazette receives reports of such irregularities on a semi-consistent basis. What makes this proposal astounding is how the City apparently plans to pay for the additional cost. The Gazette has learned that the City has included the Sheraton Property in the 2014 Neighborhood Stabilization Plan.

The Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) was established by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for the purpose of stabilizing communities that have suffered from foreclosures and abandonment. Through the purchase and redevelopment of foreclosed, abandoned and short-sale homes, the program’s goals is being realized.

The grant information provided by the City appears to reference this purpose:

[NSP] appropriates $2,717,859 for the purpose of assisting in the redevelopment of abandoned and foreclosed homes.The grant program is commonly referred to as the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP).

The Times of Northwest Indiana Legal Notice 12-19-2013

The Notice goes on, however, to list the “neighborhood surrounding the old Sheraton Hotel and its adjoining garage located at 465 Broadway” as an area of additional need. The Sheraton is not only a commercial property, it lies in the major commercial zone of the City. Sitting between City Hall and a Township owned office building, the structure is blocks from any residential structure. The neighborhoods that SHOULD receive relief under the program will not receive the funding intended for them. In fact, it seems likely that Gary will end up repaying another very large grant to the Federal Government.

With 10,000 abandoned homes, one would think that every cent of the NSP funds would go toward rehabilitation of residences.

Better Gov't Assoc. Questions Bobby Rush for Campaign Paying Wife, Getting Free Rent

16 Dec

by Ken Davidson

The Illinois Better Government Association has published a scathing article questioning the ethics of the Bobby Rush campaign.  In the report, the Association points out that Rush has paid his wife, Carolyn Rush, just over $400,000 in the past six years.  The payments amount to just over 25% of the amount the campaign has raised.  Additionally, the Association questions whether Rush’s use of an office without paying rent may violate election law.

Even if Rush’s campaign committee doesn’t pay a dime in rent, the 1,506-square-foot space still “has a value to the landlord,” and that has to be reported, said Robert Walker, a former chief counsel and staff director for both the House and Senate ethics committees.

You can read the full report here:  http://www.bettergov.org/rent_rolls/

NIRPC Passes Illiana, Lowell Residents Outraged, Union Members Cheer

12 Dec

by Ken Davidson

In perhaps one of the most contentious public meetings of the year, a room full of people who face losing their farms and family homes squared off with union members looking for temporary jobs.  Union members cheered as NIRPC voted to approve the Illiana Toll Road while farmers cried.  Perhaps the best comment was from a Lowell resident who said “move the road closer to Cedar Lake and Crown Point since they want it so bad.”  That comment clearly points out the irony of communities who have nothing to lose weighing in on the fate of people’s homes in rural south county Indiana.

Christine Cid stood up to the machine once again and voted against the Illiana.  You will recall that Cid was the lone democrat on the County Council standing against the income tax.  This time Cid was joined by County Chair Thomas McDermott.  McDermott, acting as Mayor of Hammond, clearly stated that communities along the 80/94 corridor may be harmed by the southern corridor.  Thus, the question as to why Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson decided to support the controversial plan.  Freeman-Wilson would appear to have the most to lose with the construction of the tollway as she has pinned Gary’s revitalization hopes to the plan to be a transportation hub.  The Illiana Toll Road is expected to be a catalyst for the proposed Peotone Airport as well as a truck route to avoid congestion.  The primary economic growth Gary has seen in recent years has been along the 80/94 corridor.  In the event the Illiana is successful in removing even 20% of the truck traffic from the area, that could be a large loss in jobs and tax revenue for Gary.

The real story here is Governor Mike Pence.  Pence chimed in today praising the Board for passing the plan.  Pence would do well to remember his base if he plans to run for re-election.  It seems that he was outmaneuvered politically during this entire process.  Maybe we will see a Governor McDermott after all.

Gary Councilman To Plead Guilty to Two Misdemeanor Tax Counts

9 Dec

by Ken Davidson

Here is a lesson for anyone potentially facing federal charges, get a great attorney and get in front of the situation before the press can get a handle on it.  In a Lake County first, Gary Councilman Ronier Scott announced a plea of guilty on the day that the office of US Attorney David Capp announced the charges against him.  Scott avoids the months of negative press that have plagued some other politicians in similar circumstances.  While he still will certainly face much scrutiny, it appears that he will not be required under Indiana law to resign his council seat.  Scott’s Attorney, Kerry Connor, confirmed to the Gazette tonight that the plea agreement calls for Scott to plead to two misdemeanor counts, each carrying a maximum term of one year in prison.  Under Indiana law, an elected official must resign if he or she is convicted of a felony.

Scott admitted in a written agreement that he failed to file tax returns for the years 2008 and 2009.  The agreement will be submitted to the Court on December 20, 2013.  Scott’s wife will be spared prosecution under the agreement.

Ronier Scott was previously implicated in a mortgage fraud matter involving convicted mortgage huckster Jerry Haymon.  Scott had given Haymon a $75,000 grant to renovate a home in his district.  Scott admitted that federal agents had questioned him several times in that matter.   It remains to be seen whether Gary voters will still “punch 10” and re-elect Scott

Mayor McDermott Attempts to Quash Investigation into Campaign Finances

6 Dec

by Ken Davidson

In a filing with the Lake County Election Board today, Mayor McDermott, by his attorney David Westland, asked the board to dismiss the complaint filed by Eric Krieg. You will recall that Krieg filed a complaint asking the board to investigate payments of over $300,000 from the campaign to the Mayor’s wife; non-payment of rent to Pyramid Development Corporation for office space; and a one-time payment of $6,000 to David Woerpel from the campaign.

In the filing the Mayor states “there is no substantial reason to believe that a violation of election law has occurred.” The Mayor argues that Indiana law does not require a written contract between a candidate and his wife for payment of services to the campaign. In support of this argument, the Mayor cites the fact that the advisory opinion was never codified and the statement of Brad King, co-chair of the Indiana Election Commission, which was obtained by The Times of Northwest Indiana for their article on the issue.

As to the rent issue, the Mayor argues that rent was paid and the Board should not look to the fair market value of any such agreement. Finally, as to the one time payment to David Woerpel, the Mayor points out that the payment was made three weeks before his arrest and states that Woerpel performed services for the campaign. The nature of the services are not outlined in the reply.

The Gazette would like to hear your thoughts. Should the Election Board investigate the above issues?
You can read the full response here:
12051302 (1)