Terre Haute Tribune-Star. May 14, 2021.
Editorial: Legislature again injects politics into public health
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb has handled the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic with wisdom and openness.
Holcomb, state Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box, Indiana Department of Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lindsay Weaver and their public-health team have relied on sound medical science. They enacted necessary restrictions to prevent the spread of a coronavirus that has killed more than 13,000 Hoosiers and infected 730,000, leaving many survivors with long-term complications.
Likewise, county health commissioners — appointed by their own county officials — and their staffs have generally stuck to solid medical practices in applying restrictions. Those decisions needed to be made quickly and nimbly, and be based solely on science, not politics. Those difficult decisions on mask mandates, public gatherings and capacity limits in businesses have saved lives.
Yet, the Indiana General Assembly’s ruling Republican Party has chosen to let future public health crises be guided by politics.
The Indiana House and Senate voted on Monday to preserve their idea to require elected county commissioners or city councils to approve any local health orders that are more restrictive than those issued by Gov. Holcomb, before those local orders can go back into effect. Holcomb had appropriately vetoed that bill. On Monday, the Indiana House and Senate overrode his veto, making House Enrolled Act 5 law.
Prompt decisions on public health emergencies have been made by public health officials, who typically consult the expertise of outlets such as Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Now, the final say in those situations could instead be based on the latest rant of a celebrity cable TV pundit.
Holcomb — a two-term Republican who won reelection by a 24.4% margin in November — responded to the Legislature’s override by pointing out that local health officials’ pandemic strategies are partly responsible for the state’s brisk economic recovery.
“I would have hoped that such sweeping change could wait until we gathered all the relevant experts and stakeholders to strike the right balance regarding local health authority during emergencies and avoid discouraging laudable service in the field of public health, especially knowing that it’s locally elected officials who appoint the local department of health board that hired the local health director in the first place,” Holcomb said in a statement.
His fellow Republicans in the Legislature insisted their move allows voters to hold elected officials accountable for such future public-health emergency decisions.
In reality, this legislation is a continuation of the Legislature’s super majority party exerting its power over local issues — an ongoing trend for more than a decade.
The governor’s response to the Legislature’s latest tactic mirrored that of state Sen. Tim Lanane, a Democrat from Anderson.
Lanane told CNHI Statehouse reporter Whitney Downard that Indiana had previously “left it up to the experts to decide exactly what (were) the right actions to be taken ... to strike a balance between protecting lives and livelihoods. They are having to make decisions on the spot, at the moment, to contain this deadly pandemic. So, I don’t think it’s a good idea to allow local, nonexpert politicians to override these urgent, complex decisions.”
This new law prioritizes finger-to-the-wind politics over Hoosiers’ health and safety.
KPC News. May 15, 2021.
Editorial: Public meetings should include public’s comments
Dozens of parents who attended a recent West Noble School Board meeting to air grievances about the loss of a dual-language program at the school left without having their thoughts heard.
Out of about 50 people who showed up, two were allowed to speak briefly.
As a way to suppress public comment, Superintendent Galen Mast said Monday and has said before that the school board is only a “meeting in public.”
We disagree and are dismayed by West Noble’s recent efforts to stymie public comment at its meetings.
If the public isn’t allowed to show up to raise issues, whatever those might be, at the monthly public meeting of the school board — the board that technically runs the school district — when else are they going to be heard?
Hours-long school board meetings have occurred in Fort Wayne recently as dozens of residents have lined up to demand mask requirements be repealed or to argue that they should be kept in place.
Northwest Allen County Schools also recently heard multiple comments from residents who were seeking the resignation of their board president after he made an off-color comparison between mask usage and the LGBT community.
East Noble heard from dozens of residents for multiple meetings during the time when they were discussing the demolition of the old East Noble Middle School.
Counties, cities and towns have public comment as part of their agendas every meeting, even if no one usually shows up to talk.
Local government boards are within their rights to set some parameters on public comments.
They can put a time limit on their speaking time. They can ask people to elect a spokesperson if many people show up to express similar opinions. They can even set up a separate, special public forum specifically for the purpose of taking comment on a particular issue.
But people shouldn’t be corralled to private appointments outside the meeting or shut out altogether.
It’s a public meeting, as defined by state law. Let the public speak.
(Anderson) Herald Bulletin. May 15, 2021.
Editorial: Arrest brings family closer to closure
The family of Suzanne Morphew is a step closer to having closure on her disappearance with the arrest of her husband, Barry Morphew, almost one year after her disappearance.
The Alexandria native was reported missing from her Colorado home on Mother’s Day weekend 2020.
Barry Morphew’s arrest was the result of diligent work on the part of law enforcement and community volunteers from Indiana and Colorado who refused to give up the search.
Last year, Suzanne Morphew’s family members, along with many volunteers, traveled from Indiana to Colorado to search the area of Suzanne’s last known whereabouts. Notably absent from the search was Barry Morphew, although he lived nearby.
On the day of Barry Morphew’s arrest, police in Chaffee County, Colorado, held a press conference in which they stated that although they hadn’t found Suzanne’s body, evidence has led them to believe that she is no longer alive.
On Friday, 9News Denver reported that Barry Morphew is facing two additional charges — forgery of public record and election mail ballot offense. He is accused of casting a ballot for former president Donald J. Trump on behalf of his missing wife.
Morphew reportedly said that he wanted to give Trump one more vote because “all these other guys are cheating.”
Questionable ethics aside, Barry Morphew is presumed innocent until proven guilty. His arrest will not give the family closure, but it is one giant step along that road.
For the sake of the family, we hope for a speedy trial and for the person responsible for Suzanne’s disappearance to be brought to justice.