The Munster Times. July 22, 2016
Where's support for rail?
After months of public comment on the proposed $8 billion railroad that would ring the Chicago metro area, the U.S. Surface Transportation Board has its work cut out for it.
There were more than 3,000 comments from property owners, railroads, elected officials, schools, advocacy groups, opposition groups and communities through which the 278-mile Great Lakes Basin Transportation rail line would run.
Frank Patton, chairman of GLBT, has promised sweeteners to the public, including free electricity to homes along the route and a promise to pick up farmers' rail cars of grain, if the farmers build a rail spur. That doesn't seem to have resonated with the public.
Nor has the acknowledgement that with the volume of freight increasing, and the Borman Expressway unable to be expanded, there must be another way to keep that freight moving through the Chicago freight bottleneck.
We have seen before the recalcitrance of major railroads in accepting new routes, including the free tracks skirting the newly expanded Gary/Chicago International Airport runway. Getting that new route to be accepted, at no cost to the railroads, took nearly a decade. And unlike the runway project, Patton's GLBT would change the competitive landscape by, in effect, building a toll road for trains.
To many, this project brings to mind the idea of a third airport for the Chicago area. That concept, put forth by the Federal Aviation Administration, has been talked about for years, with airport plans put forward in Peotone, Gary and elsewhere, but airlines haven't committed to serving a third airport.
Which railroads want this new rail line built? Which shippers want it?
And what long-term benefits, after the initial construction, would this railroad bring to Northwest Indiana and the rest of the route?
We have heard of alternate routes, including one that would avoid Porter County with the addition of new track near Wanatah and using existing rail routes south of the county.
What we haven't heard much of is support for the rail project.
The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. July 22, 2016
Pence, state relish return to national spotlight
Even those who disagree with Mike Pence's political philosophy might have felt a touch of Hoosier pride Wednesday night as the Indiana governor stepped to the podium at the Republican Convention in Cleveland. Pence proved ready for his prime-time debut on the national stage with a speech that was well structured and well delivered.
As the least-known vice presidential candidate since Sarah Palin, Pence did a good job of introducing himself and his family to voters. The personal warmth, humor and simple friendliness that political supporters and opponents alike acknowledge shone through. He made listeners smile when he talked about his late father, who "would have enjoyed this moment . and probably been pretty surprised by it," and when he introduced his mother, Nancy Pence Fritsch.
The governor spent relatively little time talking about Indiana, but he did cite the state's low taxes, rising job numbers, infrastructure spending and $2 billion surplus as examples of how the state contrasts with the liberal vision of America. Indiana's status and the governor's record are not as glowing as he portrays it, but one expects some hyperbole at a national convention. National articles about how Indiana has fared since Pence's election already have started to appear, and there will be plenty of time this fall to debate Pence's legacy as Democrat John Gregg and a yet-undetermined Republican square off in the gubernatorial election. For the moment, it is fitting to savor the attention, as Indiana - almost never a part of the political conversation during presidential election years - takes center stage.
Pence took a little too enthusiastically to his new role as point man in the mission to defeat soon-to-be Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, and he was quickly upbraided by media fact-checkers for in two instances pulling statements Clinton made out of context. He implied, for instance, that Clinton was referring to the four victims of the Benghazi attack when she said "what difference, at this point, does it make?" In fact, Clinton's statement to a Senate panel in 2013 was in answer to questions about whether the attack was premeditated terrorism or was precipitated by spontaneous anger at an anti-Muslim video.
The governor, whose words will be parsed more closely than ever now, needs to take care with the facts.
At a convention where little has turned out conventionally, though, Pence's scripted moment was upstaged by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz's non-endorsement speech.
Presidential nominee Donald Trump cried foul, and his supporters were enraged. Thursday, U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, a close ally of Pence who has never hid his disdain for Cruz, called the Texas senator a "self-centered, narcissistic, pathological liar."
But Pence's speech, widely touted as an impressive introduction of his candidacy to the nation, was the eye in yet another unprecedented storm. Perhaps the governor can inject some sanity and civility into an unsettlingly raucous political season.
(Terre Haute) Tribune-Star. July 21, 2016
Indiana governor and VP nominee
ascends to the role of GOP unifier
Mike Pence did with gusto what Ted Cruz refused to do Wednesday night at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
Their different personalities could be the reason for their contrasting behavior. Pence speaks cautiously in measured tones, a familiar trait in Indiana, where he serves as governor. Cruz, Texas' junior senator, uses biting, sanctimonious comments to bolster his conservative opinions.
Or their differing situations could be to blame. Pence has long desired a job in the White House but gave up aspirations of running for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination after he mishandled as governor a religious freedom law last year, triggering a national backlash. Then, less than two weeks ago, Pence's hopes rekindled when GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump picked him for the party's vice presidential slot.
Meanwhile, Cruz saw his relentless pursuit of the presidency squashed by Trump, while also getting pelted by the billionaire ex-reality TV star and real estate mogul's coarse, below-the-belt insults. After two years of campaigning, Cruz won 12 states with 7.8 million votes as runnerup to Trump out of a field of 17 candidates.
Yet, on Wednesday night, it was Pence wearing a smile that will adorn the official 2016 Republican campaign buttons. Thus, in their separate addresses during Wednesday night's prime-time convention show, Pence filled the role of humble Hoosier answering his party's call to serve, while Cruz portrayed the rejected also-ran. Pence dutifully endorsed his new running mate, putting aside his voluminous list of stances that significantly clash with those of the erratic Trump.
By contrast, Cruz congratulated Trump in his speech and never mentioned the Donald again. Instead, he urged conservatives to "vote your conscience" up and down the ballot, saying, "We deserve leaders who stand for principle, unite us all behind shared values, cast aside anger for love." Obviously, he was not referring to Trump. As Cruz concluded his remarks with no endorsement, the convention delegates booed lustily.
Cruz seems content with sewing discontent. He led the polarized Congress into a nearly catastrophic shutdown of government in 2013 in his party's obsessive quest to repeal President Obama's Affordable Care Act, rambling on for more than 21 hours on the Senate floor, reading "Green Eggs and Ham" at one point to an almost empty chamber. The ambitious first-term senator received more publicity than support.
Pence played unifier, instead, Wednesday. Cruz's speech, which Trump peculiarly allowed even after reading an advance copy, revealed the splintered nature of the party in 2016, as well as the Texan's defiant style. Pence enthusiastically claimed Republicans were united behind Trump, who would lead through "strength." Pence aroused cheers, vowing that Democratic presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton "must never become president," yet he did not descend to the point of repeating the delegates' chant to "lock her up."
Pence, who has his own baggage from poor decisions as governor, chose the higher road Wednesday, employing Midwestern charm and humor to convince delegates and TV viewers that Republicans are bonded behind "an independent spirit," Trump. The No. 2 man on the '16 ticket created at least the appearance of unity. The No. 2 finisher in the primaries exposed division.
The (Anderson) Herald Bulletin. July 21, 2016
GOP has homework to do on governor choice.
The shift in Indiana politics has left Hoosiers with few choices of their own in the Republican gubernatorial race for November. The state party will decide who will replace Gov. Mike Pence on the ticket, now that he's Donald Trump's pick for vice president.
The abrupt changes also mean that Hoosiers have little time to get acquainted with their options in deciding whether to go with Democrat John Gregg or the Republican choice.
Each of three Republicans vying for the spot have shown party allegiance.
Perhaps leading the pack in statewide recognition is Todd Rokita, former secretary of state who was first elected in 2010 to the U.S. House of Representatives, 4th District.
This year, he supported a U.S. House bill which would make it harder for high-poverty schools to qualify for federal assistance. Students would need to be receiving other federal assistance to qualify.
As vice chairman of the House Budget Committee, Rokita is pushing for reform of the federal budget process, one of his leading missions in Congress.
He gets high rankings from right-to-life factions. In 2015, he voted in favor of a bill prohibiting abortions from being performed after an unborn child is determined to be 20 weeks or older. However, f a woman's life was in danger or her pregnancy was the result of rape or incest which has been reported to law enforcement or an appropriate government agency at any time, an abortion may be performed.
He typically votes along party lines.
Perhaps less known but listing a longer resume is Susan Brooks, current U.S. House Representative to the 5th District, which includes Madison County. Her politics, while usually along party trends, tends to be more accessible for local voters.
Her resume underlines the scope of her knowledge: U.S. attorney (crime); senior vice president for Ivy Tech Community College (education); and deputy mayor of Indianapolis (city government). She favors military expansions and privatizing Social Security and she is tackling the growing epidemic of prescription drug and heroin abuse. She's against any expansion of Obamacare and abortion as an unrestricted right. She's bordered on neutrality on green environment issues and citizenship for illegal aliens.
Maybe Hoosiers are least familiar with current Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb, who nominated Pence for the VP spot at the national convention on Tuesday. Named as lieutenant governor by Pence in March, Holcomb has been a top aide to U.S. Sen. Dan Coats and former Gov. Mitch Daniels. Holcomb wrote a book on Daniels' political style and how it could apply to running any organization.
But in 2012, Holcomb — then state party chairman — stood by Senate candidate Richard Mourdock's refusal to apologize for a comment linking rape to "something God intended."
Holcomb's most notable misstep came in 2000 when he ran unsuccessfully for the Indiana House against John Frenz. Holcomb claimed that Frenz supported bestiality and obscene photographs of children due to his vote in favor of funding Indiana University, which houses the Kinsey Institute for research on human sexuality. Frenz won.
Holcomb has worked for Republican leaders but has never voted on an issue affecting Hoosiers.
Voters would do best to start researching Democrat John Gregg now.
And then hope that Republican party leaders do their homework, too.