Tag Archives: president and CEO

Carrie Hightman Tied to Bobby Rush Scandal

29 Dec

by Ken Davidson

A new investigation by the Illinois Better Government Association, while not specifically mentioning Hightman, calls the relationship between SBC Illinois and the Office of Congressman Bobby Rush into question. Andy Shaw, President and CEO of the Better Government Association is quick to point out “We’re not suggesting that Rush broke the law, but we are saying the fog needs to be cleared and real answers provided.” SBC Illinois was the donor of the $1M grant to Rush’s non-profit organization. The grant was supposed to build a technology center in Chicago’s troubled Englewood neighborhood. According to reports from the BGA, the center was never built and the money was never accounted for. Shaw calls for an investigation into:

[Rush] maintains the money wasn’t stolen or squandered, but that claim, without verification, doesn’t suffice, so we’re suggesting some options for shining more light on the situation:

The House Ethics Committee can see if Rush crossed any legal or ethical lines in regards to the million-dollar grant, his charity accepting tons of money from regulated companies seeking his legislative help, and his campaign office apparently not paying rent.
The Federal Election Commission can look at whether Rush or his campaign operation violated federal law by apparently accepting free rent, not reporting it as an in-kind donation and possibly exceeding donation limits.
The Internal Revenue Service can investigate the tax implications of all this, including whether Rush’s nonprofit violated the law by wrongly claiming on one disclosure form the tech center had been built, which wasn’t true.
The IRS can also find out if Rush used campaign cash to enhance his personal lifestyle, which is what got former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. in trouble.
http://www.bettergov.org/the_million-dollar_question/?CategoryId=1

Any such investigation would obviously focus on whether or not the grantor received anything of value in return for the no strings grant. Regardless of whether there was any impropriety in the transaction, the situation calls into question the professional judgment of Hightman.

Carrie Hightman, the Chair of the Gary P3 Committee, became Chief Legal Office for NiSource in 2007 after serving as CEO of AT&T Illinois, which was formerly SBC Illinois. In a statement released when Hightman joined NiSource, her experience in ” regulatory, legislative, governmental and external affairs activities, as well as community and industry relations, throughout Illinois” were cited. The statement went on to explain:

During her tenure at AT&T, Hightman led the company through a series of important public policy initiatives as AT&T evolved from a traditional telephone company into a provider of diversified communications and entertainment services, including wireline, wireless, data and video services. Under her leadership, AT&T secured unanimous regulatory approval of a landmark agreement to deregulate local telephone service and offer competitive pricing in the metropolitan Chicago market, as well as helped the company return to the long distance telephone market after a twenty-year absence.

The SBC Foundation states that they provide grants of $25,000 to $50,000. The Gazette could find no evidence of any other single grant in any amount near $1M. Additionally, the 990 tax forms submitted by the Rebirth of Englewood Community Development Corporation listed no such contribution, despite a specific question asking about “Unusual Grants.”

28 Unusual Grants: For an organization described in line 10, 11, or 12 that received any unusual grants during 20001hrough 2003, prepare a list for your records
to show, for each year, the name of the contributor, the date and amount of the grant, and a brief description of the nature of the grant. Do not file this list with
your return. Do not include these grants in line 15.
423121 12-03-04 NONE Schedule A (Form BBO or 990-EZ) 2004

Source: http://990s.foundationcenter.org/990_pdf_archive/364/364078159/364078159_200503_990.pdf
Hightman was instrumental in selecting the contractor that was recently approved by the airport board to run the airport for up to 40 years.  While this information was not disclosed to the airport board, the Gazette has previously reported on the connection between Hightman and one of the companies involved in the partnership that was ultimately selected.

The Better Government Association is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and is not affiliated with the Northwest Indiana Gazette.  You can read the entire BGA article at their website  The Million Dollar Question

EXPERT: FAA Says Hammond Air Show Not Possible

27 Nov

by Ken Davidson

Rudy Malnati, CEO of Midwest Air Shows, Inc, spoke exclusively to the Gazette today.   Malnati makes it clear that he looked at every option to bring the Gary Air Show to the Whiting/Robertsdale area.  “The FAA requires a 5 mile ring which makes the Whiting location impossible if you have jets or military aircraft” Malnati said.  Even without military aircraft, the required 3 mile requirement could not be met according to Malnati.  “We looked at every possible option . . . believe me, I would rather have it in Hammond.” He said.   Malnati manages air shows for Chicago, Milwaukee, and Rockford.

These comments echo the statements of South Shore Convention and Visitor’s Bureau President and CEO Speros Batistatos.  In a conversation, Batistatos made clear the choice presented to him was not Gary or Fair Oaks.  “The choice was whether we would have an air show or not” Batistatos replied when asked about the decision to hold the event at Fair Oaks.  “I would love to keep it on the lake . . . Marquette Park (in Gary’s Miller section) was designed in no small way to accomodate the air show.”  The public-private partnership with Fair Oaks will provide the best event according to Batistatos.  “Fair Oaks is a local business that is globally recognized for innovation.”  He stated.  

Batistatos admitted that he had not thought about public transportation prior to being asked on a radio show about the issue but replied “We have worked with Everybody Counts in the past.  Trustee Frank MrVan and Everybody Counts have cooperated to get people to events [such as the Lake County Fair].”  When asked if local parking and public transit could be  a way for local communities to capitalize on the event Batistatos replied “I am open to any conversation about making this event a success.”  “We are an organization of action.” He concluded. 

 

 

 

A Christmas Story Exhibit to be Featured at Riley Children's Hospital

27 Nov A Christmas Story Comes Home

Gazette Staff

A window scene from the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority’s annual “A Christmas Story” Comes Home exhibit will be spending this holiday season at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.

According to Speros A. Batistatos, president and CEO of the South Shore CVA, the organization wanted to share Northwest Indiana’s holiday cheer with the hospital.

“Watching the holiday classic ‘A Christmas Story’ has become tradition for many families. We wanted to provide Riley Hospital for Children’s patients and families the chance to experience the annual exhibit during their time at Riley,” said Batistatos.

In addition to providing one of the window scenes for display, the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority will be coordinating several special events. The special events will offer patients and families the opportunity to experience Christmas traditions while at Riley Hospital for Children.

The “A Christmas Story” Comes Home exhibit, which is presented in agreement with Warner Bros. Consumer Products, will open at the Indiana Welcome Center on Saturday, Nov. 9 and run through Sunday, Jan. 5. The Indiana Welcome Center is open seven days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and is located at 7770 Corinne Drive, Hammond, Indiana 46323.

For more information on the exhibit, weekend and holiday hours, special events, or the partnership with Riley Hospital for Children, contact Bethany Randolph, special events and services manager for the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority, at 219-554-2229 or visit www.AChristmasStoryComesHome.com

South Shore Air Show Moves to Fair Oaks

21 Nov

Gazette Staff

 

Hammond, IN (November 21, 2013) – The South Shore Air Show will return in 2014 at a new location. Speros A. Batistatos, president and CEO of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority, and Gary Corbett, CEO of Fair Oaks Farms, announced that Fair Oaks Farms will play backdrop to the event at a press conference on Thursday, Nov. 21.

“When making the decision to bring the air show back, the South Shore CVA staff wanted to bring it back bigger and better than ever,” Batistatos stated. With the recent cancellation of the Indy Air Show, the move will draw even more visitors, Batistatos explained. Fair Oaks Farms is situated between Chicago and Indianapolis, opening the event up to potential attendees who may not have attended the event in Miller Beach.

Fair Oaks Farms is a 33,000 acre attraction, allowing the two organizations ample room to make additions to the family-fun event.

“Hosting an air show at a tourism destination, like Fair Oaks Farms, has yet to be done in the United States,” said Batistatos. “We have a real opportunity to bring in new facets to an event that is already a ‘must-attend’ for residents and visitors.”

Additionally, Batistatos believes hosting the air show at Fair Oaks Farms will challenge conventional thinking on space used for events along the South Shore.

“Northwest Indiana is such a unique area. There are many different features that can be highlighted and tailored to make an event truly special and successful,” said Batistatos.

According to Batistatos, Fair Oaks Farms enthusiastically agreed to partner for the 2014 air show.

“Fair Oaks Farms is transitioning and growing at an exponential rate,” said Batistatos. “With breaking ground for a restaurant and discussion for the additions of a hotel and indoor water park, Fair Oaks Farms has positioned themselves to being leaders in the hospitality and tourism industry.”

South Shore Air Show attendees will be able to enjoy the traditional, exciting aerial acrobatics in addition to exploring all Fair Oaks Farms has to offer. With the recent addition of The Pig Adventure, Fair Oaks Farms has numerous educational and entertaining activities for all ages. Proposed additions to the air show include a car show and live music entertainment.

Previously, the South Shore Air Show has been held on the beaches of Marquette Park in the Miller Beach section of Gary. In 2012, the air show saw an estimated 570,000 attendees over the three-day event which included numerous aerial acts, a twilight night show with fireworks, kids’ zone, beer garden, food vendors, charity event and VIP receptions. The 14th annual South Shore Air Show was canceled due to the impacts of sequestration.

“The South Shore CVA Board of Directors and staff, as well as Fair Oaks Farms, are very excited for the opportunity of presenting a reconfigured, unique visitor experience,” stated Batistatos.

Dates for the 2014 South Shore Air Show will be announced in the coming months. For additional information on the air show, contact Nicki Mackowski-Gladstone, vice president and chief communications officer for the South Shore CVA, at 219-554-2720 or nicki@southshorecva.com

Fair Oaks to host South Shore Air Show

South Shore Air Show moved from Gary, IN to Fair Oaks Farms.

Indiana Shows Dramatic Improvement in Education Scores

8 Nov

PR News Service

INDIANAPOLIS, Nov. 7, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Two years after enacting the
nation’s most comprehensive set of education reforms, Indiana has jumped to near the
head of the class in improvement on the National Assessment of Educational Progress
(NAEP), commonly referred to as the Nation’s Report Card.

According to data released today by the U.S. Department of Education, Indiana
students’ scale scores increased for fourth- and eighth-grade reading and
mathematics more than all other states, save for Tennessee. Indiana also ranked
third in terms of growth from 46th in 2011, if including Washington, D.C., which is
first this year. Indiana ranked 13th for overall scores, up from 23rd in 2011.

“This is fantastic news for Indiana’s children and shows school choice is having an
impact,” said Robert C. Enlow, president and CEO of the Indiana-based Friedman
Foundation for Educational Choice. “The dramatic increase in scores is not only a
testament to the hard work of teachers, it is evidence that the comprehensive reform
package passed in 2011 has stimulated significant improvements that aid children in
public schools.”

When including Washington, D.C. in the rankings, fourth-grade students in Indiana
ranked fourth in growth in both reading and mathematics, with scores increasing from
221 and 244 to 225 and 249, respectively. Moreover, eighth-grade Hoosiers were
eighth in growth in reading and 19th in growth in mathematics, with scores
increasing from 285 and 265 to 288 and 267, respectively. In terms of raw scores,
the rankings for 2013 are 14th, 4th, 25th, and 18th, respectively.

“It is clear that increased transparency, accountability, and choice have made a
difference for Indiana’s children,” added Enlow. “Policymakers should be proud of
what they accomplished for Hoosier children.”