WBEZ | Indiana http://www.wbez.org/tags/indiana Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en WBEZ obtains 911 call from controversial Hammond traffic stop http://www.wbez.org/news/wbez-obtains-911-call-controversial-hammond-traffic-stop-111511 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/hammond_1_0.png" alt="" /><p><p><em>This American Life</em> and WBEZ have obtained the first copy of the 911 call from a controversial traffic stop in Hammond, Indiana. You can hear the full audio of the call above.</p><p>The Sept. 24 incident began when <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/disbelief-some-hammond-after-accused-cops-are-reinstated-111159">police in Hammond pulled over an African-American family</a> for a minor seatbelt violation.</p><p>During the stop, passenger Jamal Jones refused to exit the vehicle when ordered to by officers.</p><p>The driver of the car, Lisa Mahone, called 911 for help.</p><p>After several minutes of asking, police drew their weapons as Mahone&rsquo;s two young children watched from the back seat.</p><p>One of the kids recorded the incident on his phone, and the video went viral.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="465" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/XsW-QCxXkQA?rel=0&amp;showinfo=0" width="620"></iframe></p><p>The video ends with the moment most people remember: the officers smash the window, drag the passenger from the car, and tase him. Police have said that they thought there might have been a gun in the car.</p><p>You can hear some of Mahone&rsquo;s side of the 911 call in the video &mdash; but for the first time the official 911 audio gives us both sides of the conversation that took place when Mahone essentially called the police...on the police.</p><p>Some of the 911 call is difficult to understand, but what&rsquo;s clear is the two women have completely different perceptions of what&rsquo;s happening.</p><p>Mahone says she&rsquo;s scared that an officer has drawn his weapon and doesn&rsquo;t want to leave the car.</p><p>The dispatcher repeatedly tries to make the case that Mahone is safe and that she and the passengers should follow the orders of the police officers.</p><p>The tape from the 911 call is about two minutes long, and cuts off when the window is smashed.</p><p>After the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/recent-incidents-cast-doubt-hammond-police-accountability-critics-say-111228">incident originally came to light</a>, Hammond mayor Tom McDermott Jr. defended the actions of his officers.</p><p>Regarding the release of the 911 tape, McDermott responded to WBEZ&rsquo;s request for comment with a text message.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ll take a pass on commenting while the criminal case and civil cases are being litigated,&rdquo; McDermott wrote.</p><p>Meanwhile, Mahone and Jones continue to pursue their federal civil rights lawsuit against the Hammond police.</p><p>The FBI is <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/disbelief-some-hammond-after-accused-cops-are-reinstated-111159">still looking into</a> the actions of the police on that day.</p><p><em>WBEZ obtained a recording of the 911 call as part of a two episode project from </em>This American Life <em>examining the relationship between police and civilians. The first of those episodes called &ldquo;Cops See it Differently&rdquo; airs Feb. 6 on WBEZ at 7 p.m.</em></p><p><em>Michael Puente is WBEZ&rsquo;s Northwest Indiana Bureau reporter. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/MikePuenteNews">@MikePuenteNews</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 06 Feb 2015 13:21:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/wbez-obtains-911-call-controversial-hammond-traffic-stop-111511 Under mounting debt, Munster schools forced to make tough decisions http://www.wbez.org/news/under-mounting-debt-munster-schools-forced-make-tough-decisions-111499 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Munster HS.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>On a recent weeknight, about 200 parents braved cold temperatures to gather at Munster High School in Northwest Indiana. They were there to watch a documentary about the threat to public education in Indiana.</p><p>Kate Robinson, who moved to Munster five years ago with her husband and three young children, was in the crowd.</p><p>&ldquo;We were in Chicago before we were in Indiana and moved specifically to Northwest Indiana and picked Munster because of the reputation of the school system. It&rsquo;s been fantastic,&rdquo; Robinson said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a very supportive community. Everybody is here for one reason. Resources for work and good schools.&rdquo;</p><p>But the school system is facing a budget crisis like it&#39;s never seen before.</p><p>Robinson is concerned about cuts at her children&rsquo;s elementary school.</p><p>&ldquo;They already don&rsquo;t have science and that&rsquo;s just changed from last year,&rdquo; Robinson said.</p><p>The School Town of Munster is millions of dollars in the hole.</p><p>&ldquo;I started back here in July knowing when I took the job we had a $7 million deficit,&rdquo; Munster superintendent Dr. Jeff Hendrix said. &ldquo;I got to look at the financials a little closer. It was more like an $8 million deficit.&rdquo;</p><p>He says fewer dollars from the state of Indiana, and a shortfall in property taxes collected by the county made things go from bad to worse.</p><p>&ldquo;We didn&rsquo;t realize it came up about a $1.5 million short of what we expected. And, with that, it created a crisis for us because we didn&rsquo;t have the cash flow available,&rdquo; Hendrix said.</p><p>The district was recently forced to layoff 50 staff members, aides and custodians, but so far no teachers.</p><p>Hendrix says state lawmakers are offering few alternatives.</p><p>&ldquo;We were told that&rsquo;s probably what you&rsquo;re going to have to do is start cutting your programs,&rdquo; Hendrix said.</p><p>This isn&rsquo;t supposed to happen in a place like Munster. The wealthier Republican-leaning community about 30 minutes south of downtown Chicago is among the top districts in the state.</p><p>But they&rsquo;re not the only well-off district that&rsquo;s struggling.</p><p>While some Hoosier lawmakers want to free up more state money for education, Indiana&rsquo;s fiscal conservatism and increased competition is making it difficult. The pot of money that traditionally went to public education is now also being divvied up for charter schools and vouchers.</p><p>Tim Brown, a Republican who heads the powerful Indiana House Ways and Means Committee, rejects the assertion that giving families more school choice hurts some students.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re helping students. We&rsquo;ve increased funding for the general operations of schools,&rdquo; Rep. Brown said. &ldquo;So, again, every child has an opportunity for an excellent education with money following the child.&rdquo;</p><p>Brown says the state is trying to allocate another $300 million for public schools, which could help districts like Munster.</p><p>&ldquo;I specifically looked at Munster and for general operations they have received more money each of the last two years in the biennium for general operations,&rdquo; Brown said. &ldquo;Now the property tax issue, I know because Lake County and the Munster area is under a lot of constraints because of the property tax.&rdquo;</p><p>Those constraints include a state constitutional amendment capping property taxes at 1 percent for every home in Indiana.</p><p>That cap, plus lower home values, means less funding for public schools.</p><p>But Indiana State Representative Vernon Smith, a Democrat from nearby Gary, thinks the Republican-led government could do more, especially with a $2 billion surplus.</p><p>&ldquo;The state doesn&rsquo;t really care about the education of our young because they&rsquo;ve constantly cut back on the allocation of dollars for education,&rdquo; Smith said.</p><p>Smith says Gary schools in his district are also millions in the hole and will need a taxpayer referendum later this year to bail it out.</p><p>Munster passed its own referendum recently, but may have to ask taxpayers to chip in again.</p><p>&ldquo;The problems of the urban communities are now becoming the problems of suburbia,&rdquo; Smith said.</p><p>Back at Munster High School, Melissa Higgason is grappling with these problems as both a parent and a school board member.</p><p>Higgason admits Munster should have started making cuts years ago when funding began to go down. Still, she says affluent school districts like Munster are also hurt by the lack of financial aid from the state and federal government.</p><p>&ldquo;I feel like we have students who are internationally ranked in the School Town of Munster and yet our per pupil funding is among the lowest in the state,&rdquo; Higgason said. &ldquo;So, it seems contradictory.&rdquo;</p><p>Unless something changes, Higgason says Munster may have to lay off more workers. This time, including teachers.</p></p> Thu, 05 Feb 2015 08:02:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/under-mounting-debt-munster-schools-forced-make-tough-decisions-111499 Indiana's veterans service officers help vets get more benefits http://www.wbez.org/news/indianas-veterans-service-officers-help-vets-get-more-benefits-111398 <p><p>&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/indianavso016_custom-e39d107fe13df481bde64af40dd8510467f310ea-s1500-c85.jpg" style="height: 427px; width: 620px;" title="Grant County Veterans Service Officer Bob Kelley, right, works with World War II Army veteran Frederick Kern at the Grant County Government Building in Marion, Ind., on Monday. Aaron P. Bernstein for NPR" /></div><p><em>NPR &mdash; along with seven public radio stations around the country &mdash; is chronicling the lives of America&#39;s troops where they live. We&#39;re calling the project &quot;</em><em><a href="http://www.npr.org/series/363340041/back-at-base">Back at Base</a></em><em>.&quot; This story is Part 2 of a three-part&nbsp;</em><em><a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/01/13/376134776/va-data-show-disparities-in-veteran-benefits-spending" target="_blank">series</a></em><em>&nbsp;about veteran benefits.</em></p><p>The latest data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs show Indiana &mdash; which has the 35th highest number of veterans in the U.S. &mdash; receives $4,935 per veteran each year. If they received as much as Utah &mdash; which has the 35th highest return &mdash; Indiana vets would receive on average another $558. And if they received the national average of $6,088, that&#39;s another $1,153.</p><p>Retired Brig. Gen. Jim Bauerele has spent years working to match veterans with their benefits.</p><p>&quot;I think Indiana has neglected veterans,&quot; he says. &quot;I think veterans are uneducated as to what their benefits are, and there has been little effort undertaken to communicate and get that to veterans.&quot;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/map-va-benefits-in.png" style="height: 462px; width: 320px; float: right; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title="Source: NPR analysis of Department of Veterans Affairs data Credit: Robert Benincasa and Alyson Hurt/NPR" />Back in 2010, a VA survey found that nationwide&nbsp;<a href="http://www.va.gov/SURVIVORS/docs/NVSSurveyFinalWeightedReport.pdf" target="_blank">fewer than half of veterans</a>&nbsp;understood their benefits, whether it was medical care, college tuition or pension and disability payments.</p><p>There are all sorts of reasons why veterans in one area may not receive as many benefits as veterans in another. Veterans from different eras, such as Vietnam or Iraq, can receive different amounts. Older vets might receive more benefits.</p><p><a href="http://www.benefits.va.gov/benefits/Applying.asp" target="_blank">VA applications</a>&nbsp;are also notoriously difficult to complete. Vets don&#39;t always get the help and guidance they need.</p><p>Bauerele says one reason for the poor showing in Indiana can be traced to what are called&nbsp;<a href="http://nacvso.org/" target="_blank">veterans service officers</a>&nbsp;(VSOs). County-level VSOs are part of a system operating in 28 states, and they&#39;re supposed to help vets get the benefits they&#39;ve earned. Some VSOs operate on the state level, and veterans groups like the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars have their own VSOs, which operate in most states.</p><p>Some county-level VSOs in Indiana operate on a shoestring.</p><p>&quot;Some counties have an officer who is part-time, works three days a week, part-time and doesn&#39;t even have an office or a computer,&quot; Bauerele says.</p><p>So depending on where they live, one vet might find an office with a full-time staff trained to file paperwork with the VA, while another might find a closed office, or a VSO who can&#39;t navigate the system.</p><p>And without help, filing a VA claim can be tough.</p><p>Tom Nichols, a 29-year-old Indiana National Guard veteran, has struggled to file his disability claim. After returning from Iraq in 2010, he became addicted to drugs and alcohol. Eventually, he landed in treatment for PTSD.</p><p>Not only does Nichols not understand his benefits &mdash; he doesn&#39;t really know the best way to get them, either. He hasn&#39;t tried a VSO because he says it&#39;s too much trouble.</p><p>&quot;I&#39;ve got to go to some VFW to track down this guy, and it&#39;s only the first Thursday of every month,&quot; Nichols says.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/indianavso014_custom-2468c15859245a2a7f6c60de83e60d06824a0531-s1500-c85.jpg" style="height: 405px; width: 620px;" title="Pamphlets detailing services available to veterans are displayed in VSO Bob Kelley's office in Marion, Ind. Aaron P. Bernstein for NPR" /></div><p>So he filled out the paperwork himself. To some of the medical questions, he just wrote &quot;ask my doctor,&quot; which could be part of the reason his claim didn&#39;t go through. Advocates say the VA rejects claims for reasons as simple as using an outdated version of the form.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s basically on me to go out there and receive this,&quot; Nichols says.</p><p>But a trained VSO can cut months and years off the time it takes veterans to receive benefits from the VA.</p><p>&quot;You never want to apply for benefits on your own, unless you have some experience with it,&quot; says Bob Kelley, the VSO for Grant County, one of the Indiana counties receiving the most from the VA.</p><p>The VA&#39;s own data show&nbsp;<a href="http://www.va.gov/vetdata/docs/surveysandstudies/state_variance_study-volumes_1_2.pdf" target="_blank">vets who give VSOs power of attorney</a>&nbsp;receive more than double the disability benefits of vets who file their own claims.</p><p>David McLenachen, acting deputy undersecretary for disability assistance for the VA, agrees that VSOs routinely help the system work.</p><p>&quot;It can be overwhelming for somebody to prepare a claim and submit it,&quot; he says. &quot;The VSOs can be very successful at helping with the claim process.&quot;</p><p>Kelley also goes to nursing homes and Veterans of Foreign Wars halls to tell veterans about their benefits, often on his own time. He would do more, but his county won&#39;t pay for an assistant until January.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s not a career,&quot; Kelley says. &quot;In the state of Indiana, it&#39;s not a career. When I retired from the military after 25 years, I was hired on at $28,000, and that&#39;s the average salary.&quot;</p><p>But the state is trying to give VSOs more resources in order to ensure all veterans have access to them.</p><p>In the past year, the state paid for software and training so county VSOs could file claims electronically. And for the first time, the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs set up workshops to explain federal benefits to vets.</p><p>Bauerele is part of the Military Veterans Coalition of Indiana, which is pushing to reform the system in Indiana. He&#39;d like to see better pay for county officers, and he wants the state to offer more help. VSOs like the American Legion already process thousands of VA claims.</p><p>&quot;Every dollar you give a veteran is new money from outside the state coming into the state,&quot; Bauerele says. &quot;That&#39;ll pay for a lot of Cadillacs, a lot of homes.&quot;</p><p><em>NPR&#39;s Robert Benincasa contributed to this report.</em></p><p>-<em><a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/01/14/374055310/indiana-s-veterans-service-officers-operate-on-a-shoe-string">via NPR News</a></em></p></p> Wed, 14 Jan 2015 08:47:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/indianas-veterans-service-officers-help-vets-get-more-benefits-111398 Inside the Indiana megadairy making Coca-Cola's new milk http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/inside-indiana-megadairy-making-coca-colas-new-milk-111321 <p><p>Coca-Cola got a lot of attention in November when it&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/2014/11/26/366851927/coca-cola-wades-into-milk-business-with-fairlife">announced</a>&nbsp;that it was going into the milk business. Not just any milk, mind you: nutritious, reformulated supermilk.</p><p>It also invited ridicule. &quot;It&#39;s like they got Frankenstein to lactate,&quot;&nbsp;<a href="http://thecolbertreport.cc.com/videos/ziipwv/thought-for-food%E2%80%94-fairlife-milk%E2%80%94-pizza-hut-s-subconscious-menu">scoffed</a>&nbsp;Stephen Colbert on his show. &quot;If this product doesn&#39;t work out, they can always re-introduce Milk Classic.&quot;</p><p>In fact, the idea for New Milk didn&#39;t come from Coca-Cola at all. It emerged from a huge, high-tech dairy farm in Indiana.</p><p>That dairy, called&nbsp;<a href="http://fofarms.com/">Fair Oaks Farms</a>, doubles as America&#39;s one and only dairy theme park, a bit of Americana that interrupts a monotonous stretch of Interstate 65 between Chicago and Indianapolis.</p><p>It grabs the attention of drivers with a series of tank trucks parked broadside like billboards in fields beside the highway. Painted on the tanks are cryptic messages: &quot;We Dairy You To Exit 200.&quot; Then: &quot;We Double Dairy You.&quot; The final tank truck has two huge fiberglass cows mounted on top of it.</p><p>The pitch may be goofy, but the farm is serious business. It&#39;s one of the biggest and most sophisticated dairies in the country, and it is home to 37,000 cows, divided among 11 different milking operations.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/dairyland-2_custom-b1246a12d0f4892c1588d908bb44c125ff4cccb7-s800-c85.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="The amphitheater where visitors can watch cows give birth. Dan Charles/NPR" /></div><p>The visitors center offers a cheerful picture of milk production. The most startling touch: a small amphitheater where visitors can watch, through a floor-to-ceiling glass wall, as cows give birth.</p><p>Then it&#39;s off to the working part of the farm aboard a small bus. The bus rolls right down the middle of a barn that&#39;s almost 500 yards long, past about 1,000 cows that are eating, standing around, and lying in stalls on beds of sand.</p><p>There&#39;s also a stop at the &quot;milking parlor,&quot; where visitors watch from a balcony as cows, one by one, step onto an enormous rotating turntable to be milked. Sensors identify each cow, and computers record how much milk she&#39;s producing.</p><p>&quot;Take a look! They&#39;re calm, cool and collected, exactly the way the farmers want them to be,&quot; says my tour guide, Terry Tracy.</p><p>This is the frontier of dairying. In fact, the people who run this place are so ambitious, they&#39;re ready to change milk itself.</p><p>Coca-Cola is now a partner in this venture, but the idea began years ago, when two of the founders of Fair Oaks,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31R7V4-Cr5w">Mike and Sue McCloskey</a>, were running a big dairy operation in New Mexico. They ran into a problem with bad water, and had to buy some expensive membranes to filter out impurities.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/sue_enl-562a66e2e24af44e54e993313cc014de090eb40a-s1200.jpg" style="height: 213px; width: 320px; float: left; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title="Sue McCloskey co-founded Fair Oaks Farms with her husband, Mike. Dan Charles/NPR" />Sue McCloskey says they started thinking about what those filters might accomplish with milk: &quot;Is there something else we can do with this milk that will give it a premium value that we&#39;re not thinking about?&quot;</p><p>They realized that the filters could separate raw milk into its different parts, such as protein, lactose, minerals and water. Perhaps they could put those parts back together in different proportions, altering milk&#39;s time-honored recipe.</p><p>&quot;I remember sitting down with Mike, and we were talking about this,&quot; McCloskey says. &quot;And I told him, &#39;Listen, if you could make a milk for me, as a woman, where I could get all of my calcium and a bunch of my protein in one glass or serving &mdash; holy mackerel, that would be the most awesome thing!&#39; &quot;</p><p>They did, in fact, create a kind of milk with extra protein and calcium but no lactose. The H-E-B supermarket chain in Texas sells it as&nbsp;<a href="http://www.heb.com/page/healthy-primo-picks/heb-mooptopia">Mootopia</a>. It tastes like a slightly thicker, richer version of milk.</p><p>Now the idea is going national, propelled by the immense marketing and logistical muscle of Coca-Cola. The beverage giant has joined forces with Fair Oaks Farms and Select Milk Producers, the cooperative that the McCloskeys founded in 1994. They created a venture called&nbsp;<a href="http://fairlife.com/">Fairlife</a>&nbsp;to produce a new line of milk-derived beverages. The first product, which is similar to Mootopia, will arrive in the dairy sections of supermarkets in January.</p><p><em style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;">&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/12/25/372664332/inside-the-indiana-megadairy-making-coca-colas-new-milk">via NPR&#39;s The Salt</a></em></p></p> Thu, 01 Jan 2015 11:21:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/inside-indiana-megadairy-making-coca-colas-new-milk-111321 Recent incidents cast doubt on Hammond police accountability, critics say http://www.wbez.org/news/recent-incidents-cast-doubt-hammond-police-accountability-critics-say-111228 <p><p>Activists will rally in Hammond, Indiana this weekend to highlight concerns about police brutality.</p><p>A controversial traffic stop there led to accusations of excessive force and has become part of a national debate over how to hold police accountable. Critics say that case and another recent incident shows that Hammond&#39;s system for policing the police is broken.</p><p>&ldquo;There needs to be a fair, transparent process in place for citizens to voice their concerns especially when they have a complaint against the police,&rdquo; says attorney Trent McCain, who is based in Merrillville, Indiana.</p><p>McCain is representing Norma Maldonado and her partner Dario Lemus in a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Hammond Police Department.</p><p>The family&rsquo;s 2 year old pit-bull dog Lily was shot last June by a responding police officer who was dispatched on reports that a dog was loose.</p><p>Police say the dog lunged at Officer Timothy Kreischer, which justified shooting the animal.</p><p>Maldonado disputes that claim.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/NWI%20Cops%203%20Lily%20the%20dog%20.jpg" style="float: left; height: 225px; width: 300px;" title="Lilly the dog" />&ldquo;Lily was running at me and I can see the blood all over her. That&rsquo;s when he started to lower his gun and I just started screaming &lsquo;why did you shoot my dog? Why did you shoot her?&rsquo; He was frozen for a while and just staring at us, like he didn&rsquo;t know what to say,&rdquo; Maldonado said. &ldquo;I was screaming why did you shoot her? He said because she was loose. I said &lsquo;no she wasn&rsquo;t.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Maldonado says her house was protected by an invisible fence system, which the city says is prohibited in Hammond because they can fail.</p><p>The dog survived after thousands of dollars in veterinary care.</p><p>Maldonado, however, remains upset because she says the officer fired his weapon just a few feet from her young son.</p><p>Maldonado says she showed up at the police department to file a formal complaint against the officer, but was told she couldn&rsquo;t.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t understand why I was denied that right to make the complaint against them. So, I just felt that all doors were closed for me,&rdquo; Maldonado said.</p><p>McCain says he&rsquo;s not sure why Maldonado was turned away from filing a complaint.</p><p>&ldquo;My clients attempted to file a citizen&rsquo;s complaint several times after their dog was shot within a few feet of their 7-year-old son,&rdquo; McCain said. &ldquo;They got the cold shoulder from the City of Hammond and received the runaround each time they tried to lodge a complaint.&rdquo;</p><p>Hammond police declined to comment on the Maldonado case.</p><p>Maldonado went on to file a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city for the pain inflicted on the family and the officer&rsquo;s alleged reckless action in shooting the dog.</p><p>McCain said all of this could&rsquo;ve been avoided with a proper system for filing complaints to an independent review board.</p><p>&ldquo;The police are there to protect and serve and if they are not performing their duties in the proper fashion and people are getting hurt, and their civil rights are being violated, then they need to have a voice or an opportunity to bring their complaints to the proper bodies,&rdquo; McCain said.</p><p>Hammond police spokesman Lt. Richard Hoyda said citizens can lodge complaints in person, on its website or through the city&rsquo;s Human Relations Commission.</p><p>A spokesman for the commission told WBEZ it recorded only two complaints this year against police and none last year.</p><p>The city wouldn&rsquo;t confirm that number, but it says all complaints are investigated.</p><p>Hammond city attorney Kristina Kantar stated in a letter to WBEZ that Indiana law does not require it to release information regarding citizen complaints unless it results in disciplinary action against an officer.</p><p>That means no Hammond police officers have been suspended, demoted or fired in the past two years.</p><p>That includes officers Charles Turner and Patrick Vicari, who are named in a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by a Hammond couple, Lisa Mahone and Jamal Jones,&nbsp;who were stopped in late September for not wearing their seatbelts.</p><p>The tense, 13 minute traffic stop was captured on a cell phone by Mahone&rsquo;s teenage son sitting in the back seat with his young sister. aAfter Jones repeatedly refused requests to exit the vehicle, the video shows police smashing passenger window, tasing Jones and arresting him.</p><p>Police said the officers feared that Jones might have a weapon.</p><p>The incident sparked a media frenzy, with many comparing Hammond to Ferguson, Missouri. In the weeks after the incident, Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said the officers would face a disciplinary hearing.</p><p>&ldquo;The two officers (Vicari and Turner) are going to appear before the Board of Captains meeting. It is a disciplinary hearing, it doesn&rsquo;t mean discipline is sure to follow,&rdquo; McDermott told WBEZ in early November.</p><p>However, that disciplinary hearing never happened. And a few weeks later the officers were back on the street, despite the fact that the FBI still is investigating the incident.</p><p>Critics say this demonstrates the need for stronger oversight to deal with alleged police misconduct.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s no infrastructure in place in Northwest Indiana that really addresses that concern,&rdquo; said Dr. Gregory Jones, professor of Theology at Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Indiana.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/NWI%20Cops%201%20Dr_0.jpg" style="height: 185px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Valparaiso University professor Dr. Gregory Jones" />Dr. Jones also heads the Northwest Indiana African American Alliance. The Alliance tracks possible racial profiling in areas like Valparaiso, Gary and Hammond.</p><p>&ldquo;Poor people of color are often intimidated off of dealing with that issue. If we look at the Hispanic/Latino community, we look at poor African-Americans and poor whites, we need some levels of accountability there,&rdquo; Jones said.</p><p>In Valparaiso, which has struggled with race relations over the years,&nbsp;Dr. Jones says he has a dedicated partner in addressing racial profiling in Mayor Jon Costas.</p><p>&ldquo;I think the Valparaiso Police Department is a great police department. I think we can give leadership to the region in terms of a process of accountability throughout the region in relationship to these kinds of concerns,&rdquo; Jones said.</p><p>Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas admits his city may not face the same the same challenges as other Northwest Indiana in terms of population, crime, diversity and struggling economies.</p><p>&ldquo;Clearly, it&rsquo;s a much different policing environment in more urban cities and in cities the incidents of crime can be higher depending on where you&rsquo;re at,&rdquo; Costas said.</p><p>But regardless of a city&rsquo;s challenges, Costas&rsquo; message to police officers &mdash; especially rookies &mdash; is clear and constant.</p><p>&ldquo;You have a lot of authority and you have an advantage of force over others in a significant way,&rdquo; Costas said. &ldquo;You must carry that with humility and respect for the citizens.&rdquo;</p><p>Attorney Trent McCain says having a better system of accountability in place could save cities and towns money.</p><p>&ldquo;The number of lawsuits against Northwest Indiana cities and towns like Hammond can be reduced if a fair, transparent process existed where citizens can voice their complaints against police,&rdquo; McCain said.</p><p>Maldonado says after her complaint about the dog shooting was dismissed she no longer felt comfortable living in Hammond and moved back to her native Cicero, Illinois.</p><p>&ldquo;I loved it in Hammond. I really did,&rdquo; Maldonado said.</p><p>Maldonado said she was left to explain to her children that police are there to protect them, not bring harm.</p><p>&ldquo;Not all cops are bad. There are a bunch of bad apples out there but not all of them are bad and it&rsquo;s sad that to this day we never had an apology from them, and that&rsquo;s all I really asked for in the beginning and they never gave us that,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. declined to comment for this story.</p><p>Sunday&rsquo;s rally to address concerns about police brutality will be held outside McDermott&rsquo;s city hall office.</p></p> Fri, 12 Dec 2014 12:31:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/recent-incidents-cast-doubt-hammond-police-accountability-critics-say-111228 Latinos worry after losing longtime seat in the Indiana Statehouse http://www.wbez.org/news/latinos-worry-after-losing-longtime-seat-indiana-statehouse-111079 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Reardon loses .jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In the wake of this week&rsquo;s sweeping GOP victories, some Latinos say they&rsquo;ve lost an important voice in the Indiana Statehouse.</p><p>Indiana&rsquo;s longest serving Latino state legislator, Democrat Mara Candelaria Reardon of Munster, was first elected to the Indiana House in 2006.</p><p>For years, she was the state&rsquo;s only Latino lawmaker, but on Tuesday she lost a close election to her Republican opponent Bill Fine.</p><p>Reardon&rsquo;s district, which once included heavily Hispanic areas like Hammond and East Chicago, shrunk over the last 8 years due to GOP-led redistricting.</p><p>Her seat had been held by a Latino for the last 32 years going back to when Jesse Villalpando Jr. was first elected to the seat.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s changed drastically. It&rsquo;s certainly gotten less and less Democratic and less and less Hispanic,&rdquo; Reardon said. &ldquo;It makes me sad that it&rsquo;s not a Latina seat anymore.&rdquo;</p><p>Reardon&rsquo;s defeat leaves State Rep. Christina Hale, a Democrat from Indianapolis who is part-Cuban, as Indiana&rsquo;s only Latino legislator.</p><p>At 5 percent, Indiana&rsquo;s Latino population has steadily grown over the last decade, including areas like Fort Wayne and Indianapolis.</p><p>In Lake County, Indiana, which includes Reardon&rsquo;s district, the Latino population is 12 percent. The history of the Hispanic community in Northwest Indiana dates back to the early 1900s when Mexicans began arriving in large numbers to work in the factories in East Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it does help to have someone of a Latino background,&quot; Hale said. &quot;And, I&rsquo;m a firm believer that our state legislature and our government should reflect our community and right now it doesn&rsquo;t.&rdquo;</p><p>Hale entered the Indiana House in 2012, and on Tuesday won re-election in a Republican-leaning district.</p><p>She views Reardon as a mentor and someone who championed issues important to Latinos, such as education. She also points to Reardon&rsquo;s fight against state laws that some viewed as being anti-immigrant.</p><p>&ldquo;We do need more people of Latino descent, and more women, different age groups, different perspectives being reflected in our legislature,&rdquo; Hale said. &ldquo;Right now, it&rsquo;s fairly homogeneous.&rdquo;</p><p>Representative-elect Fine beat Reardon by 422 votes to win the seat. He lost to Reardon two years ago.</p><p>Fine says he&rsquo;s aware of issues that may be important to Latinos, although the new district boundaries don&rsquo;t include the predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods it once did.</p><p>Fine, who is a lawyer, says his son-in-law is Mexican-American, and he has several friends who are also Latino.</p><p>&ldquo;There are all kinds of issues that are important to Hispanics,&rdquo; Fine said. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think of it as a single-minded perspective, or single-minded issues. &hellip; And, not all Hispanics are in line with Democrats.&rdquo;</p><p>Before the 12th House district was redrawn, it encompassed a wide area from the shores of Lake Michigan in Whiting to the town of Dyer about 15 miles south.</p><p>&ldquo;Democrats benefited from the sense that it made it nearly impossible for a Republican to win,&rdquo; Fine said.</p><p>The new boundaries for the 12th District include parts of Munster, Highland and Griffith, wealthier areas with few minorities.</p><p>Fine noted that the areas with large Hispanic populations, Hammond, East Chicago and Whiting, are represented by non-Latino, white or black Democrats, most of whom have been in office for years.</p><p>John Aguilera, who represented the 12th District for eight years and succeeded Villalpando, wasn&rsquo;t surprised by Reardon&rsquo;s loss to Fine.</p><p>&ldquo;The way the district was lined up, I could see that coming,&rdquo; Aguilera, of East Chicago, said.</p><p>But Aguilera does put some of the blame of Reardon&rsquo;s loss on her fellow House Democrats.</p><p>&ldquo;I was a little disturbed that other Democratic legislators didn&rsquo;t accommodate her somewhat,&rdquo; Aguilera said. &ldquo;In Indiana, you can&rsquo;t create a district for one particular nationality or race but you can create a district based on communities of interest. But the Hispanic community is an afterthought. They pay it lip service.&rdquo;</p><p>For a time, Democrats Reardon and Hale found an ally in State Rep. Rebecca Kubacki, a Republican of Mexican descent, whose district included the City of Elkhart. But earlier this year Kubacki lost in the primary and won&rsquo;t serve a second two-year term.</p><p>&ldquo;It breaks my heart to think that this coming year that I will be the only one left,&rdquo; Hale said. &ldquo;It doesn&rsquo;t seem right and doesn&rsquo;t seem appropriate.&rdquo;</p></p> Fri, 07 Nov 2014 12:47:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/latinos-worry-after-losing-longtime-seat-indiana-statehouse-111079 Indiana suspect hints at more killings http://www.wbez.org/news/indiana-suspect-hints-more-killings-110968 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP185930239534.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Investigators in two states were reviewing unsolved murders and missing person reports after the arrest of an Indiana man who confessed to strangling one woman, told police where to find six more bodies and hinted at a serial killing spree over two decades.</p><p>But determining whether others have fallen prey to Darren Vann, 43, a former Marine convicted of sexual assault in Texas in 2009, could take years, a former high-ranking agent at the FBI&#39;s Chicago office said. That some of his alleged victims may have been prostitutes or had fallen through society&#39;s cracks could also complicate the investigation.</p><p>&quot;It does make it difficult. It indicates he preyed on individuals that might be less likely to be reported missing,&quot; said Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.</p><p>Vann was charged Monday in the strangulation death of 19-year-old Afrikka Hardy, whose body was found Friday in a bathtub at a Motel 6 in Hammond, 20 miles southeast of Chicago. He also was charged with murder in commission of a robbery and robbery causing great bodily injury. He is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Wednesday.</p><p>A probable cause affidavit said police identified Vann from surveillance video outside the motel.</p><p>Hammond Police Chief John Doughty said Vann confessed to Hardy&#39;s slaying and directed police to six bodies in abandoned homes in nearby Gary. Charges in those cases are expected this week.</p><p>Police in Gary and Austin, Texas, said they are reviewing missing person reports and unsolved cases to determine whether any might be connected to Vann after he indicated during interviews that he had killed before.</p><p>Former FBI agent Joseph Ways Sr., now executive director of the Chicago Crime Commission, a non-governmental watchdog group, told The Associated Press that such investigations can stretch into years. Investigators will trace Vann&#39;s footsteps, down to examining gas receipts and toll both records, to learn where he traveled.</p><p>Ways said teenagers or adults who maintain close contact with their families are typically reported missing quickly, but that&#39;s not always the case for those engaged in prostitution, he said.</p><p>&quot;If one of them goes missing for days or weeks, it might be that nobody notices,&quot; he said. &quot;It&#39;s a shame.&quot;</p><p>Doughty said Hardy was involved in prostitution and had arranged to meet Vann at the motel through a Chicago-area website. Police were called by someone who attempted to reach Hardy but received text message responses that made no sense and that she believed came from the suspect.</p><p>The backgrounds of the other victims weren&#39;t immediately revealed.</p><p>Police took Vann into custody Saturday afternoon, and during interviews the suspect confessed to Hardy&#39;s killing, told investigators where the Gary bodies could be found and hinted at other victims since the 1990s, Doughty said.</p><p>&quot;It could go back as far as 20 years based on some statements we have, but that has yet to be corroborated,&quot; Doughty said. The Gary slayings appeared to have happened recently, he said.</p><p>The body of one victim, 35-year-old Anith Jones of Merrillville, Indiana, was found Saturday night in an abandoned home. She had been missing since Oct. 8.</p><p>Five more bodies were found Sunday in other homes. Doughty identified two of the women as Gary residents Teaira Batey, 28, and Christine Williams, 36. Autopsies are scheduled to be completed Tuesday on three of the women who have not yet been identified, the Lake County coroner&#39;s office said.</p><p>Austin police on Monday said they would review potential related cases based on information provided by Indiana police.</p><p>Vann is registered as a sex offender in Texas, where the Department of Public Safety listed his risk of attacking someone again as &quot;low.&quot;</p><p>Court records in Travis County, Texas, show Vann served a five-year prison sentence, with credit for the 15 months he was in jail awaiting trial, after pleading guilty in 2009 to sexually assaulting a woman at an Austin apartment two years earlier.</p><p>The woman told police that she went to Vann&#39;s apartment, where he asked if she was a police officer. After she told him no, he knocked her down, strangled her, hit her several times in the face and told her he could kill her. He then raped her.</p><p>Vann allowed the woman to leave and she called police the next day.</p><p>The circumstances of that case had similarities to Hardy&#39;s death, according to the victim&#39;s mother and court records.</p><p>Lori Townsend said police told her that Vann asked her daughter to perform a certain sex act, and &quot;when she said &#39;no&#39; and put up a fight, he snapped and strangled her.&quot;</p><p>Vann told police Hardy began to fight during sex and that he strangled her with his hands and an extension cord, the probable cause affidavit says.</p><p>&quot;This man is sick,&quot; Townsend said from her home in Colorado.</p></p> Mon, 20 Oct 2014 16:09:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/indiana-suspect-hints-more-killings-110968 Indiana same-sex marriage proponents celebrate Supreme Court decision http://www.wbez.org/news/indiana-same-sex-marriage-proponents-celebrate-supreme-court-decision-110904 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Gay-Marriage-.png" alt="" /><p><p>Kelly Dooley says it doesn&rsquo;t take much for him and his friends to celebrate.</p><p>But on Monday night, Dooley raised his glass for a toast at a restaurant in Crown Point, Indiana.</p><p>Dooley and about a dozen friends celebrated the U.S. Supreme Court&rsquo;s inaction, which nullifies Indiana&rsquo;s ban on same-sex marriage.</p><p>Although Dooley got married eight years ago in Canada, his marriage to his husband Matthew wasn&rsquo;t recognize by Indiana -- until now.</p><p>&ldquo;This is a great day. We&rsquo;re very, very happy here with this group,&rdquo; Dooley said.</p><p>Dooley&rsquo;s friend Jacqueline Castro joined the celebration.</p><p>&ldquo;(I) Never saw it coming,&rdquo; Castro said. &ldquo;Never in my wildest dreams did I think this would happen, no. Not in Indiana.&rdquo;</p><p>Castro&rsquo;s been with her partner Nancy for 20 some years. She married in late June when a federal judge initially nixed Indiana&rsquo;s same-sex marriage ban.</p><p>That ruling was appealed by the State of Indiana. Her marriage, and that of hundreds of other same-sex couples, was put on hold.</p><p>That hold was dropped once the U.S. Supreme Court refused Monday to hear Indiana&rsquo;s case and similar ones filed by Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Utah and Virginia.</p><p>This makes same-sex marriage legal in 30 states and the District of Columbia.</p><p>Castro says the ruling brings a sense of security for her and her wife.</p><p>&ldquo;Now, no matter what happens to me, my partner will be secure in her future and vise-versa. It&rsquo;s no different than anybody else,&rdquo; Castro said.</p><p>But not everyone is celebrating the decision.</p><p>Just up the street at a coffee shop, Kent Lane says he can&rsquo;t and won&rsquo;t support gay marriage.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t like it. Not at all,&rdquo; said Lane, who lives in the the town of Remington, about 20 miles south of Crown Point.&nbsp; &ldquo;It just should be between a man and a woman. It&rsquo;s wrong in the Bible. It&rsquo;s wrong, period. Like they said way back, It was Adam and Eve, it wasn&rsquo;t Adam and Steve.&rdquo;</p><p>Lane isn&rsquo;t alone.</p><p>Dr. Ron Johnson Jr.&nbsp; is a local minister and head of the Indiana Pastors Alliance.</p><p>&ldquo;I think what this is a sign of is the deep moral darkness that our nation is in right now that we can&rsquo;t figure out something as something as commonsensical as the fact that marriage should be between a man and woman who can have children,&rdquo; Dr. Johnson said.&nbsp;</p><p>Dr. Johnson is also miffed that the court nullified the will of most Hoosiers who supported the state&rsquo;s definition of marriage.</p><p>&ldquo;I just get deeply concerned when we have judges who think they know better than the millions of Hoosiers who already weighed in a situation or who should be given the opportunity to weigh in on a situation,&rdquo; Johnson said.</p><p>Although he doesn&rsquo;t support the ruling, Indiana&rsquo;s Republican Gov. Mike Pence says he will respect it.</p><p>Pence urges Indiana residents to continue to demonstrate civility and &quot;respect the beliefs of all people in our state.&quot;</p><p>But Indiana Senate Pro Tem David Long, a Republican from Fort Wayne, was shocked by the Supreme Court&rsquo;s inaction.</p><p>&ldquo;It is surprising, given the importance of this issue to our society, that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided not to take up this matter, but instead to rely upon lower court rulings,&rdquo; Long said. &ldquo;That being said, the Court appears to have sent a message that if they ultimately do hear these cases, they will support these lower court rulings, and find that same-sex marriage is on equal footing with traditional marriage.&rdquo;</p><p>Long added an effort to write a same-sex marriage ban into the Indiana&rsquo;s constitution is also over after several years of trying.</p><p>&ldquo;The effort to amend the Indiana Constitution to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman would appear to be over unless the U.S. Supreme Court reverses its decision and ultimately takes up the matter in the future to overturn the current decision by the 7th Circuit concerning Indiana law,&rdquo; Long said. &ldquo;Given today&rsquo;s ruling, that appears unlikely.&rdquo;</p><p>Kelly Dooley knows not everyone will be happy with the ruling, but says Indiana has already come a long way in terms of accepting same-sex marriage.</p><p>&ldquo;(Attitudes) are not going to flip over night and it&rsquo;s going to be a long time,&rdquo; Dooley said. &ldquo;But I said it once before and say it again: Had I ever been asked 20 years ago that this would be like this, I could have said no.&rdquo;</p><p>County clerk offices through Indiana are gearing up for what could be a busy day on Tuesday.</p><p>There is no waiting period as judges can perform marriage ceremonies today.</p><p><em>The Associated Press contributed to this story.</em></p><p><em>Michael Puente is WBEZ&rsquo;s Northwest Indiana Bureau reporter. Following him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/MikePuenteNews">@MikePuenteNews</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 07 Oct 2014 07:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/indiana-same-sex-marriage-proponents-celebrate-supreme-court-decision-110904 Officer's death highlights need for trauma center in Northwest Indiana http://www.wbez.org/news/officers-death-highlights-need-trauma-center-northwest-indiana-110790 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Trauma-NWI-crop.jpg" title="The hearse carrying the body of fallen Merrillville, Indiana Police Officer Nickolaus Schultz passes by the police station where he worked. Some say Schultz’s death highlights the need for advanced trauma care in Northwest Indiana. (WBEZ/Michael Puente)" /></div><p>On a gloomy Wednesday afternoon this week, dozens of onlookers lined the streets outside the Town Hall and Police Station in Merrillville, Indiana.<br /><br />They were there to honor Police Officer Nickolaus Schultz, the town&rsquo;s first officer to die in the line of duty.</p><p>A long string of squad cars with flashing blue lights escorted the 24-year-old&rsquo;s body on its way back from the Cook County Medical Examiner&rsquo;s Office in Chicago.</p><p>Carol Miano, the president of the Merrillville Town Council, wiped away tears as they passed in front of her.</p><p>&ldquo;He was sworn in in my first term as president and he died in my second term as president,&rdquo; Miano said. &ldquo;Everybody is heartbroken. The residents, everyone in this community.&rdquo;<br /><br />Schultz was shot in the head late Friday evening while responding to a call at an condominium complex in Merrillville.</p><p>The Lake County, Indiana Coroner&rsquo;s Office reported 33-year-old Michael Hrnciar died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after he shot Schultz. Police were called to a condo where Hrnciar had been evicted but was trying to return. Hrnciar was later found to be wearing body armor.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Trauma-NWI-2.jpg" style="height: 250px; width: 250px; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px; float: left;" title="Merrillville Police Officer Nickolaus Schultz is shown in his police uniform and as a member of the Grizzlies football team for Franklin College in Franklin, Indiana. (Photo provided by the Merrillville Police Department)" />After Schultz was shot, he was first taken to Methodist Hospital Southlake in Merrillville. But in order to get advanced care, Schultz had to be transported nearly an hour west to Illinois.<br /><br />That&rsquo;s because the nearest Level 1 trauma center is Advocate Christ Medical Center in south suburban Oak Lawn.<br /><br />It&rsquo;s unclear whether Officer Schultz could&rsquo;ve been saved by more urgent care. But what is urgently clear, according to some local officials, including Miano, is that Northwest Indiana needs much better trauma care.</p><p>Miano believes the state of Indiana should put money behind that effort.<br /><br />&ldquo;Because it will help out every resident in the area in Northwest Indiana,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Getting access to trauma care for a critically injured person could be a matter of life or death.</p><p>&ldquo;What&rsquo;s important about quality care in that first hour - the golden hour - whereas if the person is not doing well, their chances of survival decreases as the length of time that the surgeon gets on the scene elapses,&rdquo; says Dr. Michael McGee, Emergency Department doctor and Medical Director for Methodist Hospitals.</p><p>Methodist Hospital operates two campus; one in Gary and another 15 miles away in Merrillville.</p><p>Officer Schultz was transported initially to the hospital&rsquo;s Merrillville campus before moving on to Advocate Christ Medical Center.</p><p>&ldquo;That definitely was an unfortunate situation and you have to have special neurosurgeons who were there to do what needs to be done. And even when he got to where he went, which was a level 1 trauma center in Advocate Christ, at that point, for those kinds of injuries, they&#39;re so severe, there&rsquo;s really not much that can be done,&rdquo; McGee said.</p><p>But Jennifer Mullen says regardless of Schultz&rsquo;s condition, that doesn&rsquo;t lessen the need for a trauma center in Northwest Indiana.</p><p>&ldquo;We see industrial accidents, we&rsquo;re so close to the industrial corridor along the lakeshore. We are geographically located between three major highways,&rdquo; said Mullen, a registered nurse at Methodist Hospital who is also coordinator of its trauma services. &ldquo;We certainly have a high incidence of crime in Northwest Indiana so the population we see trauma wise is varied,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>The cost of establishing and maintaining a trauma center is expensive.</p><p>Even in Illinois there are large voids: Chicago&rsquo;s south side, the far south suburbs and even in downstate southeastern Illinois.</p><p>In Northwest Indiana, Dr. McGee&rsquo;s been pushing for years to expand trauma care as part of a state task force.</p><p>But he says the money it takes to pay for for specially trained nurses, physician specialists who are on constant call or stay at the hospital, along with state-of-the-art equipment can run pretty high for hospitals.</p><p>&ldquo;Unlike other states, that have some kind of tax -- in terms of automobile, alcohol, smoking, that will go toward trauma have funds set up -- our state does not have that,&rdquo; McGee said. &ldquo;We got people all over the area now who want to be a trauma center but there&rsquo;s no teeth in the fact that there&rsquo;s no money to become a very independent and sufficient trauma center.&rdquo;</p><p>To become a trauma center, a hospital must first decide if it&rsquo;s a financially viable option, said Arthur L. Logsdon, Assistant Commissioner for the Indiana State Department of Health.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Hospitals have to make the decision as to why they want to be a trauma center,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>The state of Indiana has historically ranked near the bottom of the nation for access to trauma care for residents. But the state is trying to change that by establishing a trauma care network and working with hospitals to try to achieve trauma level status.</p><p>That assistance, however, does not come with state funding.</p><p>Still, Logsdon said there are twice as many trauma centers in the state today compared to just two years ago.</p><p>&ldquo;The 19 that we have, have all done it on their own dime. There have been no state dollars that have gone into that development,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>And those 19 now include Methodist Hospital&rsquo;s Gary facility. Just this week the hospital celebrated its designation as a Level 3 trauma center with a visit from local and state dignitaries, hospital brass and others.&nbsp;</p><p>Level 3 is not as advanced as Level 1 or Level 2 centers in Indianapolis or Chicago, but Dr. McGee says it&rsquo;s a start.</p><p>&ldquo;About 85 percent to 90 percent of the patients that we have that involved trauma we can take care of them but there&rsquo;s a few that still need the services of a level 1 trauma center,&rdquo; he said.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Trauma-NWI-4.jpg" title="The Trauma Area at Methodist Hospital in Gary, Indiana which is now designated as a Level 3 Trauma Center, the first for Northwest Indiana. (Photo by WBEZ/Michael Puente)" /></div><p>Injuries sustained by fallen Merrillville Police Officer Nickolaus Schultz would&rsquo;ve still required transfer to an out-of-area Level 1 trauma center.</p><p>Longtime Indiana State Rep. Charlie Brown, a Democrat from Gary, has been trying to get Indiana to provide funding for just such a trauma center to help offset costs.</p><p>&ldquo;That takes a lot of money and so there is going to need some partnerships and coordination in order for that to occur,&rdquo; Brown said. &ldquo;We are all aware that there is a need for state involvement in the whole trauma system and it&rsquo;s moving in that direction.&rdquo;</p><p>But it&rsquo;s moving more slowly than Dr. McGee would like.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I think the people in the community need to talk and lobby to their politicians, to their representatives and basically advocate for some kind of tax that can go toward funding for trauma,&rdquo; McGee said.</p><p>Funeral services for Nicholaus Schultz are scheduled for Monday. He will be laid to rest in his hometown of Lowell, Indiana.</p><p><em>Michael Puente is WBEZ&rsquo;s Northwest Indiana Bureau Reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/MikePuenteNews">@MikePuenteNews</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 12 Sep 2014 08:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/officers-death-highlights-need-trauma-center-northwest-indiana-110790 Two neighboring states, one big financial gap http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/two-neighboring-states-one-big-financial-gap-110718 <p><p>George Brown of Valparaiso, Indiana, works for a steel mill these days, but at one time, his main gig was construction &mdash; across the state border in Chicago. The commute and that &ldquo;living in both worlds&rdquo; familiarity didn&rsquo;t prevent him from noting differences between the two states. Among them: The differing fortunes of state government.</p><p>He had picked up details here and there about how Illinois owed money (the state comptroller recently said Illinois has more than $5 billion in unpaid bills), how the Prairie State was hounded by bills coming down the pike (it has approximately $100 billion in unfunded pension liabilities), and how it has the worst credit rating among U.S. states.</p><p>On the other hand, just a few years ago, Indiana&rsquo;s coffers were so flush that it returned money to state taxpayers.</p><p>The night-and-day financial picture between the neighboring states got him wondering enough that he sent us this question:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Why does the state of Illinois have a huge deficit, while next door Indiana has a surplus?</em></p><p>George&rsquo;s question couldn&rsquo;t come at a better time. Voters on the Illinois side of the border are deciding between candidates for governor, either of which is certain to confront some hard fiscal realities. The contest between the incumbent Democrat, Gov. Pat Quinn, and Republican Bruce Rauner is odd, though, in that there&rsquo;s a phantom player in the mix, too: Mitch Daniels, Indiana&rsquo;s former governor of Indiana.</p><p>Rightly or wrongly, Daniels is credited with cutting Indiana&rsquo;s budget and making the state&rsquo;s finances the envy of Illinois as well as the rest of the nation. Quinn pushes back on some of Daniels&rsquo; key tenets, while Rauner says he wants to emulate what Daniels did.</p><p>Regardless of where you fall on whether any state at all should follow &ldquo;the Daniels playbook,&rdquo; it is worth looking at what happened during his watch.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Daniels&rsquo; account of how the Hoosier State did it</span></p><p>After an eight-year term, Daniels left the governor&rsquo;s office in 2013. He&rsquo;s now president of Purdue University in West Lafayette. He rarely talks politics now, but after hearing George&rsquo;s question, he was happy to revisit his tenure as governor, especially as it relates to Illinois&rsquo; financial mess.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s hard not to notice, I mean it&rsquo;s national news the trouble you folks have had,&rdquo; Daniels said. &ldquo;They asked me what it was like and I said it&rsquo;s sort of like living right next door to&nbsp;<em>The Simpsons</em>, you know. Dysfunctional family on the block and we&rsquo;re looking in the window.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Daniels purdue shot..jpg" title="Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels delivers the State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature at the Statehouse Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)" /></div><p>As Daniels tells it, things were bad for Indiana as he entered office nearly a decade ago.</p><p>&ldquo;The state was absolutely, by a literal definition, bankrupt,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;So, it had bills much bigger than whatever cash it had on hand. We said this has to end and I want to do it as fast as possible.&rdquo;</p><p>On his first day as governor in 2005, Daniels did something that is unimaginable in Illinois: He stripped bargaining rights for all state union employees.</p><p>&ldquo;These union agreements wouldn&rsquo;t let you change anything,&rdquo; Daniels said. &ldquo;You couldn&rsquo;t consolidate departments; you couldn&rsquo;t divide departments or reorganize them. You certainly couldn&rsquo;t outsource anything if you thought you could get it better and cheaper by hiring Hoosiers in the private sector. So, I finally decided that we simply had to cut clean.&rdquo;<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/indiana icon.png" style="float: right;" title="Indiana." /></p><p>But Andrew Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics in Fort Wayne, says it&rsquo;s uncertain how effective Daniel&rsquo;s move was in shoring up the state&rsquo;s bottom line.</p><p>&ldquo;Some would argue that when the unions had less ability to bargain, it made it easier for the governor to get some things done,&rdquo; Downs said. &ldquo;But given (Daniels&rsquo;) personality, I don&rsquo;t know if that would have been the sort of thing that held him back a whole lot. I think it had more to do with his approach to economics: The freer the trade, the better.&rdquo;</p><p>Daniels didn&rsquo;t stop with state union employees.</p><p>A few years later, he signed a bill to make Indiana the Midwest&rsquo;s first right-to-work state. The policy changed workers&rsquo; relationship to private employers; new employees were no longer required to pay union dues at workplaces governed by union contracts. It effectively weakened unions&rsquo; standing in the state. Indiana&rsquo;s GOP argues the move attracted business to the state and that, in turn, boosted state revenue.</p><p>Daniels also pushed through a cap on local property taxes across the state. The cap limits the amount of taxes local communities can collect from a homeowner at one percent of a home&rsquo;s assessed value. Proponents say that&rsquo;s lead to robust home sales and &mdash; again, the argument goes &mdash; puts money back into the state&rsquo;s coffers.</p><p>If you hear Daniels and other supporters tell it, these policies created enough fiscal momentum that a few years ago the state sent $100 checks to each Indiana taxpayer. The state currently has a $2 billion stockpile, which it&rsquo;s likely to hold onto this time around.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/stillinoyed billboard image2.jpg" title="An example of a Stillinoyed campaign billboard designed to highlight Indiana's business opportunities. (Source: Economic Development Corporation, Indiana)" /></div></div><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The fallout</span></p><p>If you&rsquo;ve driven through the Chicago area, perhaps you&rsquo;ve seen billboards along expressways that read <a href="http://www.in.gov/activecalendar/EventList.aspx?fromdate=3/1/2014&amp;todate=3/31/2014&amp;display=Month&amp;type=public&amp;eventidn=165015&amp;view=EventDetails&amp;information_id=198305&amp;print=print" target="_blank">&ldquo;Illinnoyed by high taxes?&rdquo;</a> That advertising campaign (<a href="http://www.in.gov/activecalendar/EventList.aspx?fromdate=3/1/2014&amp;todate=3/31/2014&amp;display=Month&amp;type=public&amp;eventidn=165015&amp;view=EventDetails&amp;information_id=198305&amp;print=print" target="_blank">conducted by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation</a>) lures city residents and businesses to cross from Illinois to Indiana.</p><p>Michael Lucci says those ads &mdash; or at least the argument driving them &mdash; works on plenty of Illinois residents. Lucci is the Director of Jobs and Growth at the conservative Illinois Policy Institute. He estimates that Illinois has lost more than 100,000 residents to Indiana over the last decade.</p><p>&ldquo;It does hurt Illinois that we have such a business-friendly neighbor right next door because the people in Chicago can look east 30 miles and say &lsquo;Look, there are jobs there, there are opportunities there and I can move there and still be close to my family,&rsquo;&rdquo; Lucci said.</p><p>But not everyone sees Daniels&rsquo; bumper crop budget as an achievement. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn isn&rsquo;t willing to stomach Daniels&rsquo; sacrifice of collective bargaining rights.</p><p>Earlier this year, the incumbent governor told a union-heavy crowd that he believes in collective bargaining.</p><p>&ldquo;I think that&rsquo;s the best way to go and I look forward to working with you on it,&rdquo; Quinn said during an April debate in Chicago. The governor has argued that strong unions improve state residents&rsquo; income and quality of life.</p><p>Some in Indiana see a darker side to the budget surplus too. Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott Jr. is among them.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/illinois icon.png" style="float: right;" title="Illinois." /></p><p>&ldquo;We do have $2 billion in the bank and we are in a much better position in Indiana than they are fiscally in Illinois, but at the same time, I think Illinois streets might be in better shape than our streets right now,&rdquo; McDermott said. &ldquo;I think Illinois is providing better services during crisis than we are because they have more tools available. It cuts both ways.&rdquo;</p><p>McDermott, a Democrat, said that last winter the state did a poor job dealing with the snow and ice that shut down several Indiana highways. (Notably, according to the most recent report by the American Society of Civil Engineers, both Indiana and Illinois received a &ldquo;D+&rdquo; in infrastructure spending.)</p><p>McDermott&rsquo;s point is this: What&rsquo;s the use of a surplus if some basic services aren&rsquo;t being met?</p><p>&ldquo;We could expand the affordable healthcare act [ACA] in Indiana right now and insure hundreds of thousands of additional Hoosiers but they just refuse to do so even though there is 2 billion dollars in the bank, those hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers don&rsquo;t deserve health care like people in Illinois do,&rdquo; he said.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Does Illinois have a chance of turning things around?</span></p><p>Of all people, Daniels is among those who say &ldquo;yes.&rdquo; Of course, it&rsquo;s no surprise that he recommends Illinois gubernatorial candidates Quinn or Rauner wrangle with public sector unions, pay more bills on time and slash spending. But the architect of Indiana&rsquo;s brand of fiscal conservatism also says Illinois can draw from its own good ideas. And he ought to know: He stole a few of them.</p><p>After <a href="http://tollroadsnews.com/news/chicago-skyway-handed-over-to-cintra-macquarie-after-wiring-1830m" target="_blank">Chicago leased its public Skyway to a private operation</a>, Daniels did the same thing for the Indiana Toll Road.</p><p>And then there was the program to let delinquent taxpayers pay with no penalty.</p><p>&ldquo;I got the legislature to conduct a tax amnesty,&rdquo; Daniels said. &ldquo;Indiana never had one. Many other states have, including Illinois. I can remember citing Illinois. It&rsquo;s kind of ironic now thinking back. I was saying then, &lsquo;Hey look, they had a successful program.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p><em>Michael Puente is WBEZ&#39;s Northwest Indiana Bureau Reporter. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/MikePuenteNews" target="_blank">@MikePuenteNews</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 22:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/two-neighboring-states-one-big-financial-gap-110718