VALPARAISO | The Porter County Election Board is conducting an eleventh-hour hearing Friday on a Republican-based complaint involving the financial disclosure forms of Democrat Sheriff Candidate Dave Reynolds.
Porter County Republican Chairman Michael Simpson questions whether Reynolds fully disclosed, as is required by law, the identities of all those who paid $100 or more to take part in a pair of campaign golf outings.
"If he and his committee can't follow this simple law how can Porter County residents expect him to be the man who upholds the law?" Simpson wrote in his complaint.
Reynolds said his financial disclosure report is accurate and complete.
He said the complaint is nothing more than a politically-motivated attack on his integrity that was intentionally held off until just days before the election rather than being pursued when his financial disclosure report was filed Oct. 10.
"You want to talk about integrity?" he said about those behind the last-minute move.
The three-member Republican-controlled election board will hear the complaint at 1 p.m. Friday at the Porter County Administration Center, 155 Indiana Ave., Valparaiso.
Reynolds, who served the allowed two terms as sheriff between 1999 and 2006, is facing off against Republican Mike Brickner, Valparaiso's police chief.
Simpson said Reynolds and his campaign reported taking in $53,778 from the golf outings, yet claimed no contribution amounted to more than $100. He said a flyer from the event lists the minimum participation fee at $100.
State law requires candidates to reveal the identities of any donors contributing more than $100, he said.
Reynolds said he is very familiar with campaign laws and fully complied with the reporting requirements. These last-minute accusations by Simpson are nothing more than an unfounded attack designed to embarrass him, which is very similar to an earlier challenge over his campaign signs that was later dropped.
Reynolds had posted $126,727 in campaign contributions so far this year, nearly three times that of Brickner. A large portion of those contributions are from two golf outings and a fundraiser where 1,400 tickets were sold, he has said.
Brickner reported contributions so far this year of $47,393.
EAST CHICAGO | A 57-year-old East Chicago man died early Thursday after a bizarre, chain-reaction motor vehicle accident there, officials said.
Frank Cuevas of the 5100 block of Sophia Street was pronounced dead at 2:18 a.m. at St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago, coroner's office investigators said.
The cause of his death remains under investigation by the coroner's office and East Chicago police.
Cuevas' death followed a motor vehicle accident in the 4600 block of Baring Avenue.
Sgt. Dacre Sullivan of the East Chicago Police Department said Cuevas was alone in his vehicle at 12:41 a.m. and traveling southbound on Baring Avenue when he crossed the railroad tracks there at a high rate of speed.
Sullivan said investigators believe Cuevas' vehicle became airborne, he lost control and struck a tree. That tree toppled onto two adjacent buildings, taking power lines down with it.
The power lines began to spark and caused a minor fire that was quickly extinguished, Sullivan said. No injuries were reported.
Cuevas' vehicle kept moving and struck a parked vehicle on the street, pushing it into a tree. That tree also toppled from the impact, Sullivan said.
Cuevas was alive at the scene and later was pronounced dead at St. Catherine Hospital.
Sullivan said Cuevas had a history of heart problems and was taking medication aimed at controlling the issue. It was unclear Thursday morning if Cuevas may have suffered a heart attack or other medical emergency prior to the accident or if the force of the accident caused his death, Sullivan said.
CHICAGO | A judge ordered the immediate release Thursday of a prisoner whose confession had helped free a death row inmate in a 1982 double killing — a case that was instrumental in the campaign to end Illinois' death penalty.
Alstory Simon's confession in the high-profile case led to the 1999 release of Anthony Porter, who had spent 16 years on death row and whose supporters maintained he was wrongfully convicted.
Simon was convicted and sentenced to 37 years in prison. But the Cook County State's Attorney's Office began re-examining Simon's conviction last year after he recanted his confession. Simon alleged he was coerced into making it by a private investigator who he says promised him he would get an early release and a share of the profits from book and movie deals.
Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez planned a news conference later Thursday to explain the findings.
At the morning hearing, prosecutors asked the judge to free Simon, and the judge vacated the sentence and conviction. Simon was expected to be freed from Jacksonville prison later Thursday.
The Porter case played a key part in the drive to end the death penalty in Illinois. The case helped lead former Gov. George Ryan to halt all executions in Illinois. Ryan declared a moratorium on executions in 2003 and cleared death row by commuting the death sentences of more than 150 inmates to life in prison. Gov. Pat Quinn abolished the death penalty in 2011.
PORTAGE | A Portage man was arrested Wednesday afternoon after allegedly hitting a friend in the head with a skateboard.
Joshua Lawson, 28, was charged with battery after the incident.
According to the police report, police were called to a home in the 5000 block of Independence Avenue just before 2:30 a.m. Wednesday. When police arrived, the 20-year-old victim was covered in blood from a laceration he received from being struck by the truck of a skateboard.
A witness told police Lawson came to the home wanting to hang out and play video games. The victim allegedly took a couple of Lawson's cigarettes without asking, which began the fight. When the victim threatened to get a knife, Lawson allegedly hit him with the skateboard and fled.
The victim refused transport to the hospital for his injury.
Just after 1 p.m. Wednesday, police received a call from Lake Station police that Lawson had gone to the home of a Lake Station officer in the area of Independence and County Line Road and told the officer that police were looking for him because of his involvement in the disturbance.
Lawson told police he had been struck by the victim with his fist and only hit the victim with the skateboard after the victim approached him with a knife.
Lawson was transported to Porter County Jail.
The weather on Halloween night is going to be downright scary, especially during trick-or-treat hours.
The National Weather Service forecast for Friday shows rain before 11 a.m. turning to rain and snow showers with thunder in the afternoon with a high temperature of 44 degrees.
Forecasters said snow accumulations of less than half an inch are possible.
Wind speeds are expected to be 15 to 20 mph in the morning, increasing to 25 to 30 mph by afternoon with gusts up to 45 mph.
The wind gust forecast prompted the National Weather Service to issue a lakeshore flood advisory from 11 a.m. Friday to 4 a.m. Saturday for Cook, Lake and Porter counties.
Large, battering waves of up to 23 feet are possible, with the highest waves expected Friday night. Minor beach erosion is possible.
If you're scratching your head while reading the Lan-Oak Park District referendum on the ballot, you aren't alone. The obtuse wording boils down to this: Do you want to increase taxes slightly to support capital improvements at the local parks?
And by slightly, we mean exactly that. A review of about 30 homes scattered across Lansing shows an annual tax increase of $15.46 to $46.73.
What Lansing residents would get from this tax increase is a string of capital improvements at the parks, which would make the village more appealing to prospective homebuyers. And that, in turn, would boost property values in the town.
What the park district would get is about $380,000 to $400,000 in new money that could be used only for new capital projects.
That includes redeveloping Bock Park, where the outdoor swimming pool has been closed for several years.
It also includes replacing playgrounds that are being removed from parks because they have outlived their normal lifespan. Equipment gets old, not just old-fashioned, and has to be removed to protect children.
Picnic shelters, too, are showing their age. And new amenities like a dog park would become feasible with the small tax increase.
This shouldn't be unfamiliar with Lansing residents. The issue has been on the ballot before. In fact, this is about the fifth time the referendum has been put before the voters. In 2013, it failed by just 58 votes.
This year, an advocacy group called PARK — People Advocating Recreation for Kids — is putting the word out about the need for this tax increase and how minor the financial impact will be on individual families.
This should be the year the referendum succeeds.
We urge Lansing voters to vote yes on the Lan-Oak Park District referendum.
I have a question for House Speaker Brian Bosma. If the government pays for a program, doesn't that make it a government program?
Why in the world would we want to re-elect the same people who brought us nearly the worst infant mortality rate in the nation? If you have not done your job in the past, why should anyone think you will in future?
Bosma says the government can’t do a good job, so if the government is not doing its job maybe he should quit.
- James Brown, Valparaiso
Ed Soliday is a Republican who votes to ensure that local workers like myself are employed on local projects earning decent wages and benefits.
Like many other Hoosiers, safe and effective infrastructure is important to me, and Soliday has been an advocate of the Illiana Expressway since day one.
He has built support to secure $400 million in additional road funding for our state as the chairman of the House Transportation Committee.
Ed is the kind of guy I want representing me as a state representative in the 4th District, and I hope you support him as well.
- Robert Covault, Valparaiso
On government in time of war: “In using the strong hand, as now compelled to do, the government has a difficult duty to perform. At the very best, it will by turns do both too little and too much. - Abraham Lincoln, March 18, 1864
Hoosiers have an inherent sense of right and wrong, even if they are legislators at the Statehouse.
Some of that wouldn't be apparent if you only knew of the case involving state Rep. Eric Turner, R-Cicero, whose House District 32 covers a portion of northwest Madison County. Turner attempted to kill a proposed General Assembly moratorium on nursing home construction that would have hurt his family business. A House ethics panel cleared him of wrongdoing, but House Speaker Brian Bosma pledged reform and bumped Turner from his leadership role as speaker pro tempore.
Turner's name is still on the Nov. 4 ballot. He has said he will resign if re-elected, allowing Republicans to pick a replacement.
On Monday, the House Committee on Ethics met for the second time to discuss reform. Three people showed up to testify, and one of those had been asked to prepare a report on what other states do when it comes to ethics. The committee said it would consider the report. Sadly, no one from the Senate side sat in the meeting; that's because this whole Turner case is perceived as a House problem. And that may be why only three people showed up; trouble with ethics isn't seen as a rampant Indiana predicament.
The Turner case aside, the Indiana House currently has a workable process in addressing ethics problems, based on the report given by Peggy Kerns of the National Conference of State Legislatures.
All 50 states have statutes regulating ethics. Indiana is among 47 states that require legislators to file a financial disclosure, though many Hoosiers would agree that finding a statement of economic interest can be a tough online search. And Indiana does not require the statement to offer addresses of businesses or information on real property.
When it comes to conflicts of interest, the Senate Code of Ethics stresses that high moral and ethical standards among senators are essential to free government. The House Code of Ethics gives direction about what to do when a conflict arises.
Many of the guidelines are in place. But many Hoosiers are quite aware that the Senate and House operate under different rules. Seven states have such rules written into their constitutions. No one is suggesting that Indiana amend its constitution but there is obvious concern that the legislative chambers are operating under different rules.
House members can request recusal from voting; their decision is not debatable. The Senate's guidelines permit elected officials to seek an advisory opinion from the Legislative Ethics Committee.
Only three of the House rules relate to the Turner case. House Rule 47 says any member who is "immediately and particularly interested" in the result of a vote shall ask to be excused. More clarity is needed.
Even though rules are in place, there should be no doubt that the House needs reform. In a wider sense, there needs to be a joint committee assuring that House and Senate members operate under the same codes. Both should stress fullest expectations of transparency. As any Hoosier would expect.
- The (Anderson) Herald-Bulletin, Oct. 24
EAST CHICAGO | A federal judge has approved a settlement for an estimated $26 million environmental cleanup in East Chicago’s Calumet neighborhood.
Under the consent decree reached with the state of Indiana and the federal government, Atlantic Richfield Co. and DuPont will pay for cleaning up lead and arsenic contamination at nearly 300 residential properties, parks and other public spaces in the neighborhood. The soil in the area was contaminated as a result of industrial activities occurring between the late 1800s and ending in 1985.
The defendants do not admit any liability arising out of the complaint, nor do they acknowledge the release of hazardous substances constituting an imminent and substantial endangerment to the public health or welfare or the environment, according to court records.
VALPARAISO | Up to $10 million in economic development revenue bonds will be issued in late December or January for the construction of a sewage pretreatment facility at the new Pratt Industries paper mill.
The bond issue received the approval of the city's Utilities Board at its Tuesday meeting, and the City Council is expected to take final action on the issuance at its Nov. 10 meeting. The bonds will be issued through the city's Redevelopment Commission and paid by Pratt through an additional surcharge on its monthly sewer bill.
John Julian, of the board's financial consultant H.J. Umbaugh and Associates, said having the bonds backed by both Pratt and the utilities' revenue will give them a more favorable interest rate than if it was just backed by Pratt. Under the agreement between the city and Pratt, even if the company scales back its operations at the paper mill, it will continue to pay the surcharge amount needed to pay off the bonds.
The board also has the security that it will own the plant and can sell the equipment to liquidate the debt. The utility will be getting a substantial new income from the paper mill operation, and Utility Director Steve Poulos said that income enabled the board to reduce the amount of the rate increase to other customers by 8 or 9 percent.
Julian said the additional ratio of the debt per rate paying customer could have an impact on any future major bond issues the utilities might need. However, that will be offset by the growth in customers, inflation and the pay-off of a 2000-1 bond issue for the treatment plant in six years.
The paper mill is expected to be operational in May. The bond issue resolution was approved 4 to 0 by the board with Mark Thiros absent.
The board also approved a change order to wrap up the second phase of the Chautauqua Park flood relief project. The increase of $32,239 brings the total cost of the project to $1.3 million, which is still below the $1.5 million the board originally budgeted.
Poulos said the project apparently is doing what it was designed to do. The heavy rains in August that washed away two bridges in the city, Harrison Boulevard and Vale Park Road, did not generate any calls of basement or yard flooding from Chautauqua Park. Poulos said, in the past, the city would have received a flood of calls after such a storm.
PORTAGE | The Portage Fire Department will again team with J.J.'s Pizza this year to check for smoke detectors in homes.
When available, the fire department will assist in the delivery of pizzas from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday.
If the home has a working smoke detector, the resident will receive a coupon for a free one-topping large pizza on their next order. If the smoke detector does not work, firefighters will replace the device.
MUNSTER | It’s time to get to work repairing the Centennial Park Clubhouse.
The first task Munster town officials will tackle is stabilizing the misaligned interior columns and replacing the unstable clay underneath, as recommended by a specially appointed Technical Review Committee comprised of university-level construction experts.
Re-setting of the columns, one at a time, will take 12-14 weeks so as not disturb scheduled weekend events.
The cost of the work is set at $1,789,000, as submitted by the contractor, Hayward Baker. Also on tap is stabilization of the elevator shaft foundation and raising it to be level with the basement floor, estimated at $220,000.
Both jobs are expected to commence once the Munster Town Council awards the contract, which Council President John Reed said would happen at its Nov. 10 meeting. He indicated that will leave some time to negotiate the costs with Hayward Baker.
Later in the year, the council will consider a third repair job, that being stabilization of the lakeside basement wall against further movement.
Joe Nordman, an engineering consultant with Robinson Engineering, told council members on Monday the Technical Review Committee is recommending the lakeside basement wall be completely rebuilt rather than re-stabilized.
The laterally and vertically shifting slag is causing the wall to push out at the bottom. A five- to seven-week project, it will cost an estimated $527,000 re-build and stabilize the wall. The price goes up to an approximately $800,000 if the town opts to remove six feet of slag adjacent to the wall.
Special editions of newspapers carried the announcement that Turkey has entered the war against Russia. Two Russian steamers have been sunk by a Turkish battle cruiser.
WHEATFIELD | If timing is everything, the Kankakee Valley Theatre Kompany has nailed it.
Opening night for Kankakee Valley High School's fall musical, “Little Shop of Horrors,” is Friday, Halloween night.
Performances are set for 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Oct. 31, Nov. 1, 7 and 8, in the school auditorium at 3923 W. Ind. 10. Tickets are $6 and can be reserved by emailing email@example.com, by visiting facebook: KV Theatre Kompany’s page on facebook and posting or messaging ticket needs, or by leaving a message at (219) 554-9411.
The musical is based on the 1960s B-movie of the same name. Written by composer Alan Menken and writer Howard Ashman, the musical follows a meek and orphaned florist shop worker, Seymour Krelborn (Nick Skrobul), who finds and raises a plant that feeds on human blood and flesh.
Seymour wants to impress and woo his ditzy blonde co-worker, Audrey (Annelise Phillips), so he names the plant Audrey Two and hopes his success will make her really like him. However, he soon finds out that fortune and fame comes at a high cost.
According to Ashman, the show “satirizes many things: science fiction, ‘B’ movies, musical comedy itself, and even the Faust legend.”
Catchy tunes and over the top characters fill the show with fun, toe-tapping entertainment. Street-wise urchins (Sarah Schaetzel, Alyssa Serviss, Liz Torbitt, Cassie Ooms, Kayla Gustafson and Haylie Chapman) provide familiar and enjoyable harmonies while setting up the audience for the unusual scenarios that occur on Skid Row.
A popular movie version of the musical was released in 1986 with memorable performances by Steve Martin, Rick Moranis and Ellen Greene.
This production includes local teens in the cast, crew and pit, with direction by drama sponsor and KV English Department teacher Jill Steiner. The multiple Audrey Two's, ranging from a small potted plant to a mammoth, six-foot tall puppet, were built by KVHS Art Department students and teacher Tony Cochran, giving a unique flair to the production.
HAMMOND | Members of the Indiana/Kentucky/Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters recently donated their time and labor to the rebuilding of the Hammond Chiefs baseball dugout, which was damaged by a storm in the summer of 2013. The dugout is located at Riverside Park in Hammond.
The Chiefs contacted IKORCC Business Representative John Winarski with the hopes that the carpenters could help rebuild the dugout. Six carpenters from the Local 599 MAC Committee assessed the project and agreed to donate the needed labor. Throughout the duration of the project, the union carpenters formed the dugout foundation, built the structure and framed and sheeted the roof.
“Like the IKORCC, the Hammond Chiefs have been a long-standing organization in our community,” Winarski commented. “Some of our members have children who play for the Chiefs, so this was a very special project for us. We didn’t hesitate when they asked for our help, and it’s so great to see the kids utilizing the dugout during practice and at their home games.”
The IKORCC represents more than 32,000 professional tradespeople in 43 locals in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and parts of West Virginia and Tennessee.
PORTAGE | The Red Carpet Lounge in Portage held its 13th annual car show and presented a check for $2,000 in proceeds to support the Visiting Nurse Association hospice program. Sheila Raye, owner of the lounge, said they selected VNA Hospice as the recipient for the third year in a row because it seems so many of their customers have been touched by hospice. Raye’s own mother was a VNA hospice patient 11 years ago.
“The cars show is a family affair, we all pitch in to make it happen,” saidJoyce Zaragoza, Raye’s daughter and Red Carpet Lounge manager. “We make about 40 baskets for the raffle, and even our customers help out. They’ll use a bottle we received from one of our vendors and then buy items to make a nice themed basket.”
In December, The Red Carpet Lounge will celebrate their 50th anniversary, Zaragoza said. “We don’t have all the plans in place just yet. We hope to make our annual holiday celebration an anniversary party as well.”
Best in Show this year was a 1967 Pontiac GTO, owned by Ted and Phyllis Uzelac. Awards were also presented for additional categories such as Best Paint Job, Best Convertible, Special Interest, Original, and Modified.
The VNA is a nonprofit home health care agency providing skilled nursing; physical, occupational and speech therapy; home health aides; social services, telehealth, home and inpatient hospice care and bereavement programs.