The (Anderson) Herald Bulletin. Nov. 14, 2020

Holcomb should pursue greatness

As Eric Holcomb prepares to embark on his second term as Indiana’s governor, he should heed a passage from Jim Collins’ best-selling 2001 book, “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap ... and Others Don’t.”

“Good is the enemy of great,” Collins writes. “And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. ... We don’t have great government, principally because we have good government.”

Holcomb has been a good governor, keeping the state in a sound fiscal position, creating a business-friendly climate and engaging Hoosiers with his affable nature.

While his leadership has been stable, it has not been inspired. In crisis, he has been cautious, not bold.

When the social justice movement rocked Indiana after the death of George Floyd under the knee of a police officer in Minneapolis, Holcomb acted conservatively, creating a state equity and inclusion officer and requiring state police to wear body cameras.

He should have done more, including convening meetings with Black Hoosier leaders to expose the depth of social injustice in Indiana as a means of pushing quickly toward reform.

When the coronavirus pandemic took hold in Indiana, Holcomb mandated mask wearing, but failed to impose penalties, and he has been slow to order additional restrictions in recent weeks as the virus has surged.

Good but not great — that’s Holcomb’s legacy after four years in office.

Early this month, Hoosiers essentially gave him a mandate to go for greatness during the next four years, electing him by a whopping 24 percentage points over Democratic challenger Woody Myers.

But about 43% of voters cast their ballots against him.

Donald Rainwater, the Libertarian candidate, garnered 11% of the vote, indicating disenchantment with Holcomb among some conservatives. Likewise, Myers’ 32% share of the vote signifies that many moderate and left-leaning Hoosiers aren’t happy with the governor, either.

Holcomb’s path to greatness must pass through these constituents who want to see him achieve real, lasting change when it comes to overcoming racism, elevating public education, providing equality of opportunities and services, including internet access, and more.

Yes, politicians make enemies when they catalyze change. But Holcomb can’t seek a third term in 2024 and won’t be saddled with the political necessity of caution. With Republican super-majorities in both houses of the Legislature, Holcomb could afford to push the envelope of conservatism, picking up Democratic support where GOP fortitude wanes.

Now is the time to strike. Indiana needs Holcomb to lead with keen foresight and unshakable courage, not timidity and caution.

He needs to break the chains of good in the pursuit of greatness.

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The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. Nov. 15, 2020.

Neighbors deserve an alert before noisy work

It was no small feat for Allen County economic development officials to land a 600,000-plus-square-foot Amazon warehouse project that promises 1,000-plus good jobs for Allen County residents. In fact, the project was a major victory for the combined forces of the county and the Fort Wayne-Allen County Airport Authority, which shepherded the project to fruition.

But Amazon’s new neighbors got an unexpected awakening three weeks ago when earth-moving and construction equipment moved into the adjacent property to begin work on the project. While it may not be possible to build a giant warehouse without a lot of noise and light, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to wonder why Allen County planning authorities didn’t notify the neighbors that construction was beginning on the land near their homes.

The process was completely legal under state law and county ordinance. Kimberly Bowman, director of the Allen County Department of Planning Services, said the land was rezoned several years ago, and the development plan submitted didn’t require any waivers, which meant that no public hearing was required. Bowman said her department often goes beyond what is required legally to make sure nearby residents are aware of construction projects.

“We issue over 4,000 construction permits each year,” Bowman said, “for everything from a fence around someone’s yard to a 600,000-square-foot warehouse, and we’re not required to notify anybody.” She said county officials often post signs and send notification letters to neighbors. She said the cost of notifying all the residents affected by 4,000-plus construction permits would require more staffing and funds to accomplish than her department has available. She argued that it would be difficult to notify some residents but not others based on the size of the permitted project.

“Where would you draw the line?” she said. “Some people are extremely concerned when their neighbors put up fences. How do they feel when we don’t notify them?”

Bowman said her department is working on a plan to make the planning services website friendlier and easier to use. The new plan would allow anyone to keep tabs on nearby properties and to watch how rezoning and permitting processes play out.

Although Allen County has an extensive ordinance prohibiting “nuisance” uses of property, it does not – unlike the Fort Wayne city government – have a noise ordinance to regulate the amount of noise that neighbors say is coming from the construction site.

It seems reasonable to ask county planning officials to add a step to the permitting process and estimate the amount of noise, light, traffic and general disruption likely to affect nearby residents, and to notify them accordingly, especially in cases where public hearings are not required.

While fence installations are generally not disruptive to neighborhood life, it would have been a good bet to assume that noise and light generated by the county’s economic development bonanza would surely bother the neighbors.

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South Bend Tribune. Nov. 15, 2020

When Hoosiers let their guard down in a pandemic

Last week, in announcing new restrictions in response to a COVID-19 surge throughout the state, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb noted, “Unfortunately too many of us have let our guard down.”

You think?

In fact, you don’t have to look far for such concerning signs right here in St. Joseph County, where hospitals are running out of beds for COVID-19 patients:

• On election night, more than 150 people attended a Republican watch party in Mishawaka, where few wore masks or social distanced. Although the invitation to the event said masks and social distancing were required, and receptionists at the entrance told attendees of the requirement, no more than a dozen or 15 attendees at any given time appeared to wear masks. The gathering, which included several candidates for local and state offices, clearly ignored guidance from the governor and local health officials.

Two journalists working the event — including a Tribune photographer who was wearing a mask — later tested positive for the virus.

• At the conclusion of last weekend’s Notre Dame-Clemson football game, students flooded the field, packing together in a scene that attracted national attention — and criticism. But it’s not just the students who merited criticism. After all, Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick, in addressing what happened in an interview with The Tribune, acknowledged that they’d anticipated such an occurrence. So why didn’t they do more to prevent it?

• On Tuesday — about four months after it was first proposed — the St. Joseph County Council passed an ordinance that allows fines against businesses for violations of the county’s face mask order. The ordinance now moves to the Board of Commissioners for consideration. As we said in an earlier comment, it’s disappointing that leaders dragged their feet on the decision for so long.

We know the current situation is frustrating for everyone, but the remedies for getting through this remain the same: wear masks, practice social distancing, wash your hands, avoid large gatherings.

Just a few weeks ago Holcomb had expressed confidence that the state could remain operating at Stage 5 of his reopening plan if Hoosiers continued following coronavirus mitigation strategies. But starting today, he’s stepping Indiana back from Stage 5 and signing pandemic requirements for all Hoosiers and restrictions for counties. Those requirements include social distancing and wearing a mask.

The restrictions will be in place for at least the next month.

The governor said they are trying to avoid businesses having to shut down. Of course, that all may depend on whether too many of us let down our guard.

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