Posts filed under 'Community'

Flooding in South Bend

In the ongoing flooding across the state, communities along the Wabash and Tippecanoe Rivers have suffered the hardest. However, the South Bend region - from Elkhart to Plymouth to downtown South Bend is partly underwater as well.

Here is a photo of Howard Park - the line down the middle of the river is actually the balustrade that runs along the river walk in normal conditions.
Howard Park flood in South Bend
(image from the South Bend Area Blog)

I took this photo on Friday night to try to show the huge volume of water going over the dam downtown.
St. Joseph River flood waters at the dam in South Bend

Our house is right on the river across from Leeper Park (which also flooded) - but luckily, on our side the bank is a good ten to fifteen feet up and remained high and dry.

The South Bend Tribune has several image galleries of local flooding online: Gallery1, Gallery2, Gallery3.

Add comment January 14th, 2008

Indiana Land Resources Council has been reinstated

The Muncie Star Press is reporting that Gov. Daniels will be “re-populating” the Indiana Land Resources Council sometime in August of this year:

The state will re-establish the Indiana Land Resources Council (ILRC) and take other steps to preserve Indiana’s farm land, including drafting a model zoning ordinance for local governments.

Sarah Simpson, manager of regulatory affairs for the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA), announced the administration’s plans to save farm land during a recent videoconference broadcast to 25 locations throughout Indiana.

The Governor effectively dissolved the board in January of 2005 by asking for the resignations of its staff and members just before it was to present recommendations on planning policy to Lt. Governor Skillman.

In 1999, the Legislature established the Council (IC 15-7-9) to study and make recommendations on land use and planning issues. After it was dissolved, I introduced legislation to establish a new “Growth and Development Task Force” (HB 1242) to re-establish a working group in this important field. HB 1242 did not pass, but its goals included making several policy recommendations that could be picked up by the ILRC:

(1) Ensuring a process for making development decisions that are predictable, fair, and cost effective.
(2) Establishing ways to direct development toward existing communities and existing infrastructure.
(3) Integrating fiscal, transportation, energy, and environmental policies with land use planning.
(4) Encouraging the preservation of farmland, open space, and critical environmental areas.

I hope the new ILRC looks to an integrated planning approach that not only creates quality development, but also helps keep taxes down by fully utilizing our existing infrastructure.

The initial comments on the goals of the new ILRC are encouraging:

“We have some exciting objectives for the council, (including) state incentives … and providing a model ordinance and land-use tools to local government,” Simpson said. “We have a very aggressive initiative for that council when they are reconvened.”

Indiana needs a land-use strategy because the rapid loss of prime agricultural land to development compromises the future ability to feed the nation; reduces open space, wildlife habitat and groundwater recharge; creates rural-suburban conflicts; and requires the costly extension of roads, sewers and other infrastructure, Simpson said.

I look forward to following the Council’s progress. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments about the ILRC or land use policy in general.

5 comments June 21st, 2006

Emerald ash borer hits St. Joseph County

Back in December, I wrote about the emerging emerald ash borer infestation in Indiana, and how almost 10 million ash trees in Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio had already been destroyed by the insects.

Unfortunately, the South Bend Tribune is reporting that ash borers have now shown up in St. Joseph County:

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources announced at a news conference Monday that the insects have been found in Granger… the preliminary estimate is the insects have been at that site for three to five years.

If you have ash trees in your area that you would like to save, make sure your neighbors are aware of the potential options for treating trees that are still healthy. The image below is linked to an aerial map of the one-mile zone around the latest infestation in Granger:

ash borer map

The Tribune article describes how preventative treatment can be an option for some trees:

Jodie Ellis, exotic insects education coordinator for Purdue University, said there is a chance that if an infestation is caught early, treatment with insecticides that contain imidacloprid can stop the damage.

“But if it (a tree) is already infested heavily, it probably will not survive,” she said.

It’s also up to homeowners to decide if they want to take their chances with a healthy ash tree, use insecticides to protect it or cut it down. Protecting a tree with insecticides can cost from about $50 to $200 a year.

To help stop the spread of this insect, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio have created a joint website to disseminate more information about the threat at:

Additional information is available below:

Indiana DNR Division of Entomology and Plant Pathology
Purdue Entomology Extension Inormation
National Invasive Species Council
The Global Invasive Species Initiative

3 comments June 13th, 2006

Back from a little break

Over the last few weeks, I took a short break from updating the website, but I am ready to get back to more regular postings.

One of the things I enjoy doing once session has adjourned is visiting schools to talk to classes about state government. A particularly impressive class of 4th graders at St. Monica’s School in Mishawaka has even gone so far as to create their own detailed constitution.

st. monicas 4th grade

They were a great group with many questions, and their constitution is quite a detailed document. You can read the St. Monica’s 4th Grade Constitution here.

Another fun event recently was the annual Achievement Forum Roast in South Bend. I had the (mis)fortune of being subjected to a roasting by my own father, St. Joseph County Prosecutor Michael Dvorak. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one on the menu – even former Governor Joe Kernan got his share that night.

achievement forum roast

Angie and I are also in the process of buying a new house, and we are both excited to move in toward the end on the month.

Official business does continue during the summer months, however, and the Environmental Crimes Task Force has already held its first meeting of the interim. I will be posting an update on the progress made at that meeting sometime this week.

In the meantime, please continue to let me know if I can be of any assistance.

Add comment June 6th, 2006

Dyngus Day 2006

Every year on the Monday after Easter, South Bend, Indiana marks the celebration of a great political and cultural institution - Dyngus Day.

dyngus day

The celebration is a traditional Polish holiday, but was brought to Indiana by Polish immigrants in South Bend 76 years ago. The home turf and “founding mother church of Dyngus Day” is the West Side Democratic & Civic Club.

west side club

While South Bend claims to be the home of Dyngus Day, and celebrations now pop up across northern Indiana, Buffalo, New York insists on asserting its dubious claim as well.

Because the event occurs so close to the primary elections, Dyngusing long ago became inextricably linked with politics, and Dyngus Day is viewed as the official kick-off to the campaign season.

I took some pictures at the West Side Democratic Club yesterday as local dignitaries, candidates, and even the Washington High School girls basketball team were introduced to the crowd.

dyngus day

Dyngus Day is a great opportunity to eat good kielbasa and noodles while catching up with old friends at dozens of stops across town.

While Dyngus Day is officially a Polish holiday – celebrated at Polish social clubs across the city, it has expanded to encompass almost every ethnic group in our area. In 1971, the African American community launched the official celebration of Solidarity Day to be celebrated alongside Dyngus Day. The official Solidarity Day headquarters is at the Elks Club on Western Avenue (and the food there is excellent).

The Belgians join in the fun at the BK Club in Mishawaka, and there is also an unofficial Irish “O’Dyngus Day” celebrated at Fiddler’s Hearth in South Bend. For the first time this year, there was also an official dedicated Latino celebration of Dyngus Day at the St. Adalbert’s Church parish hall.

The traditionally Democratic-leaning festival always draws political candidates from across the state. The most famous guest of honor was Robert F. Kennedy during his 1968 Presidential campaign. Today, Republican candidates also take advantage of the opportunity to greet voters in the festive crowds – but they are still excluded from the stage at the West Side Club.

dyngus day

If you haven’t had the opportunity to go Dyngusing, and you enjoy good food and good-natured politics, I highly recommend you visit next time.

For even more Dyngus Trivia, Jack Colwell of the South Bend Tribune has put together a fun quiz entitled “Think You Know Dyngus Day? Prove it.

Add comment April 18th, 2006

Young Professionals Network meeting

Earlier this week, Senator John Broden (D – South Bend) and I spoke at a meeting of the Young Professionals Network – a networking and professional development group for younger people that is affiliated with the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce.

We gave a recap of the legislative session and answered questions about different issues of interest to the members, as well as questions about our workload and how we approach the legislative process.

Groups like this are a great way to ensure that younger professionals develop roots in our community and help counteract the “brain drain” phenomenon of Indiana college graduates leaving the state for employment elsewhere.

Incidentally, the meeting was held at the College Football Hall of Fame, and if you have never paid a visit to the Hall, you should stop in some time. It is a great interactive museum with nice banquet and meeting facilities as well.

college football hall of fame

Add comment April 14th, 2006

Toll Road hearings… after the fact

The Indiana Finance Authority and the Indiana Department of Transportation are holding public hearings in St. Joseph and Elkhart Counties on the lease of the Indiana Toll Road and the rate increases associated with the lease.

Unfortunately, these hearings are taking place after the Governor has already signed the legislation into law.

St. Joseph County residents are understandably peeved that they are only now being asked to provide their input.

Actually, the hearings are required by state law, and I doubt they would be occuring at all if they were not statutory mandates.

For local coverage of the hearings and public sentiment, check out the stories below:

After fact, state sets Toll Road hearings - South Bend Tribune
Lease critics in a late stand - South Bend Tribune
Hearing Allows Many to Vent About Toll Road Lease - WSBT-TV (with video)
People Speak Out At Toll Road Rate Hearing - WSBT-TV (with video)
Major Moves faces lawsuit - WNDU-TV (with video) - with a focus on the threated lawsuit against the deal
Lease could end up in court - FOX28-TV - more on the possible lawsuit

Finally, the South Bend Tribune editorial, Too little time, too little thought, offers a critique on the Legislature’s handling of the Toll Road lease as well as HB 1279, the telecommunications bill (roll call).

Update: The South Bend Tribune story on this afternoon’s hearing contains some strong opinions from local residents:

… the“Toll Road lease scheme is destined to be seen as the greatest example of malfeasance and betrayal of the public trust ever perpetrated on the citizens of this state.”

…the “criminal actions” of Daniels and his “political running dogs” are motivated solely by “self-aggrandizement and greed” and are in “direct contravention of the will of the people and the welfare of the state.”

1 comment March 23rd, 2006

Northern Indiana in major opposition to Major Moves

Masson’s Blog recently had a post on a WNDU story that examined constituent surveys in Northern Indiana that showed overwhelming opposition to the Governor’s proposed lease of the Indiana Toll Road.

Many State Senators and State Representatives send out annual constituent surveys to sound out feelings on issues that might come before the Legislature.

I find that sending out my annual survey is a good opportunity to get feedback on general policy topics, and to help spot areas of consensus or contention on specific proposals. My survey also allows room for constituents to communicate their thoughts on other issues not on the list that might be of interest or concern.

The story noted that Senator John Broden (D – SouthBend) reported 93% of his constituents opposed the Toll Road plan, and a Republican Senator from Bremen (I assume that was Senator Ryan Mishler) showed 85% opposition.

My own results are similar. Out of 815 responses (received between December 1, 2005 and March 1, 2006), 85% of my constituents are opposed to the Toll Road plan.

major moves graph

There are few issues capable of uniting so many people in such strong opposition.

It should be noted that that a constituent survey is not a scientific opinion poll. The respondents are self-selecting, which can skew results. However, it is definitely a good indicator of how the public feels about an issue. I imagine a properly conducted poll would show similar results.

For today’s latest Toll Road/Major Moves developments, Masson’s Blog also has a good roundup here.

Add comment March 9th, 2006

Upward Bound students visit the Statehouse

Yesterday I was able to host a great group of high school students from South Bend who were visiting the Statehouse.

upward bound

The freshmen and sophomores represented most of our area high schools, and are participating in the University of Notre Dame Upward Bound program:

The program serves all students who meet the first-generation (no one in the immediate family has gone to college) and low-income student in the South Bend community.

Typically, students enter the program in their freshman year of high school and during their three years with the program they participate in the programs’ academic tutoring program and Summer Residential Program where they take college prep courses and live on Notre Dame’s campus for six weeks.

Students travel to visit colleges across the nation and are provided with the necessary resources and information, both educationally and culturally, to be successful in college.

Notre Dame’s participation in Upward Bound dates back to 1966, and has helped to prepare over 5000 students for enrollment in college.

I was able to introduce the students on the floor of the House, and their program director, Alyssia Coates, was given a few minutes to talk about the program to the assembled House members.

If you have a group that is planning on visiting the Statehouse, feel free to let me know if I can help arrange a tour or provide any information.

Add comment February 17th, 2006

More Toll Road talk on TV

steve heimI had the opportunity to appear with my fellow blogger State Representative Steve Heim (R-Culver) on the television show “Politically Speaking” this past Sunday.

The WNIT show is hosted by veteran South Bend Tribune columnist Jack Colwell, who spent all of Sunday’s episode discussing the “Major Moves” transportation plan with us.

Representative Heim and I disagree on the merits of the proposal, but I was glad to have a spirited discussion, and I think we both enjoyed the experience.

heim and dvorak

Meanwhile, the South Bend Tribune continues to weigh in on the controversial proposal:

It is hard to understand state Rep. Jackie Walorski’s explanation for why St. Joseph County was left out of the economic development area created by her amendment to House Bill 1008.

The Lakeville Republican blamed county officials for failing to engage her in discussions about joining an economic development area. County officials countered that there was no development area to discuss until Walorski introduced her amendment…

We continue to believe that authorization to lease the Toll Road should not be passed in this General Assembly session. More time is needed to properly understand this proposal. Walorski, who represents a portion of St. Joseph County in addition to a portion of Elkhart County, first had vowed that she would not vote for HB 1008. She was right to oppose the measure. But then she announced that she had changed her mind. We are sure that a great deal of pressure was applied in order to persuade her to vote for giving the governor authority to lease the Toll Road.

While the exclusion of St. Joseph County from an effort to make the switch more palatable was bad, one thing would be worse: leaving St. Joseph County out of the final version of the Toll Road bill.

Add comment February 7th, 2006

Time Zone Decision

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has handed down its final decision on time zone boundaries, and St. Joseph County was denied its petiton to be moved into the Central time zone.

Mike Smith of the AP reports:

Gov. Mitch Daniels said repeatedly during his 2004 campaign that it made best sense for most of Indiana to be on Central time but backed off that stance after being elected, saying it should be a local decision.

Daniels, however, in November recommended to federal officials that St. Joseph County remain on Eastern time, saying that it and Elkhart County formed one economic, cultural and social region and should not be split. Elkhart County commissioners decided to remain in the Eastern zone.

Masson’s Blog has in-depth coverage of the issue and the history of the debate. He also produced this map showing the new time zone boundaries in the state (pink areas = Central, gray areas = Eastern):

time zone map

The complete USDOT decision can be read here (pdf - 61 pages).

For more coverage, see below:

The ruling is in: DOT puts St. Joseph on Eastern time - South Bend Tribune
St. Joseph County will stay on Eastern Time - WNDU-TV
Local Lawmakers React to Time Zone Decision - WSBT-TV (on the video, Representative Craig Fry (D-Mishawaka) suggests St. Joseph County could simply ignore the ruling and observe Central time if it so chooses)

1 comment January 18th, 2006

Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2006

Today marks the 20th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a federal holiday. We have come a long way since the early days of the Civil Rights movement, and while there is more work to do, it is important for us to reflect upon just how dire the situation was at the time.


While many of Dr. King’s writings and speeches are well-known, one of my favorites has always been “Letter From Birmingham Jail.”

Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.

1 comment January 16th, 2006

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