Eric Halvorson’s Blog

INTransit: They “Have Our Number”

January 28th, 2013 at 4:26 pm by under Eric Halvorson's Blog

Tonight, the Indianapolis City-County Council will vote on whether to raise the tax on tickets for events such as Colts and Pacers games. 

The council will also vote on a proposal to raise the tax on car rentals.

As I discussed those concepts with council member Ben Hunter, another tax idea came up: about the mass transit proposal at the Statehouse. 

“We would, hopefully, get the ability to pass a referendum as an advisory role,” Hunter said, “and then look at whether we’re going to raise taxes more in a diverse way.  There should be several revenue sources coming in for Indy Connect.”

Ben Hunter, (R) City-County Council

Hunter noted that other cities “have our number.  They’re looking at what Indianapolis is doing and they’re starting to replicate it.  One thing Charlotte has done well is mass transit and they’ve done it around transit-oriented development.”

“For those that say, well, mass transit needs to pay for itself, there’s no road or highway that actually pays for itself unless it’s a toll road,” Hunter added.

 Will the General Assembly approve it, this year?  Hunter said he hopes so – “to at least look at it  — because I think mass transit is not the best here in central Indiana.”  So, improving our transit options “would keep individuals here in the region and would allow companies and tourism to thrive.”

 


Gun Control or Game Control

December 17th, 2012 at 10:51 pm by under Eric Halvorson's Blog

Tonight, we heard from a future Congressman who said gun bans aren’t the answer to the school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.  But, Luke Messer said: thought should be given to banning violent video games.

That discussion reminded me of a comment, last week, from a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. 

Kimble Richardson of the St. Vincent Stress Center told us: ”We want to be careful because there are some kids who — with certain video games and exposure to that kind of violence — they do get a little desensitized to it.”

“We don’t know that there’s a correlation or a one-to-one correlation between playing those kind of games and later violence.” 

“But, we definitely want to be looking at that, as researchers in the Behavioral Health field, to be sure that we’re limiting that, if at all possible.”


EV Indy: “Now Is The Time”

December 12th, 2012 at 9:51 pm by under Eric Halvorson's Blog

I talked with Mayor Greg Ballard today about making national news. An executive order he signed put him — and Indianapolis — in the Wall Street Journal. It follows his call to switch the city from a fleet of gas-powered cars to electric vehicles.

Ballard said “we didn’t have to shop it” to the newspaper. “They took it right away.”

As the mayor sees it, the national appeal of his order comes from its devotion to national security and energy security.

Ballard said he didn’t sign the order as a casual observer of electric vehicle technology. “I’ve been studying this for years. I’ve driven a lot of the cars.” And, through the city’s commitment, he wants the rest of us to see that “these are good, solid transportation vehicles. You can use them. And they’ll save you a ton of money,” in the long run.

Beyond that, “we certainly have to reduce our dependence on the foreign oil. There’s no question about it,” he said.

When he talks about energy dependence, he recalls his days “as a guy who’s been in the Gulf War … That war was completely about oil.”

“Military folks don’t mind going to war for national security,” he told me. “But, when the technology’s at a certain point that maybe we don’t have to go down that road any more, then that’s when you have to act — and I believe that now is the time.”

Ballard hopes the U.S. Council of Mayors will follow the lead of Indianapolis. “Then, we can have an impact and we can spread this throughout the country.”

 


Robo Hoosiers

November 22nd, 2012 at 11:19 am by under Eric Halvorson's Blog

A meeting with mayor Greg Ballard reminded me about the two pins in the picture here. They’re mementoes of some impressive competition, a few years ago.

The participants gathered in a gymnasium — at Southport High School, if I remember correctly. I was there as a judge. But this was not an athletic event. Instead, it was academic — to display mental and technical prowess.

Students from several Hoosier high schools wanted to win a robotics competition. The pins came from two of the competing teams.

The participants were remarkably creative — and I left the gym thinking they deserved more recognition than they received that weekend.

Mayor Ballard apparently sensed the same thing, this week, as he announced a new citywide robotics competition. He’ll tell you the news conference deserved better coverage because “it’s all about the workforce of the future.”

Not long ago, I heard a teacher say “the way to a kid’s brain is through their hands.” Ultimately, that’s the goal of this robotics competition.

Mayor Ballard wants the event to inspire students to study STEM subjects — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. “It just generates a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm, for those sort of subjects,” he told me. Building robots “really motivates them and gets them going in the right direction” — toward STEM careers.

It must be working.

Ballard said only 8 local schools had been in such robotics competition before. Now, suddenly, 30 more high schools will create robotics teams. He says the experience will serve more than the students. It “will help Indianapolis and central Indiana for a long time.”

The competition will be held at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on January 19 and 20.


Buddy, Can You Spare $3.3 Million?

November 15th, 2012 at 8:28 pm by under Eric Halvorson's Blog

The Salvation Army says what it wants and what it needs are two different things. It needs $3.3 million during this year’s holiday fund drive, the Tree of Lights campaign.  That’s just to fulfill its basic commitments. The Salvation Army will happily accept more money, if people are more generous.

I came across some new research that suggests generosity is in our genes. We want to give. We want to help. But, the researchers found a problem. They concluded: the more we think about charity, the less we give.

The Salvation Army launched its 2012 fundraising campaign today — hoping the bells and the red kettles inspire some spontaneous giving.

This season is crucial to the Salvation Army. The money it raises between now and January will have to go a long way.

“A lot of people trust the Salvation Army,” said Major John Turner, the divisional commander for the Salvation Army in Indiana, even though people aren’t always aware of the services provided by his organization.

Most people know the Salvation Army responds in times of tragedy. Early this year, its staff and volunteers scrambled to Henryville after tornadoes hit southern Indiana. Today, Salvation Army representatives are still down there – helping victims build new homes.

The every day duties are, maybe, less-familiar. The Salvation Army feeds the hungry and the homeless. It provides shelter to victims of domestic violence. And, it helps restore the lives of people with addictions.

“We still see record numbers of people coming to us for assistance,” Major Turner told me. That’s why this year’s goal — that $3.3 million — is even bigger than last year’s campaign target.

At the same time, economic conditions make fundraising more difficult. “It has been a struggle out there,” the Major said. So, the people on his staff “have to be creative” to get donations.  

One thing never changes, though: “we are there to help people in their time of need.”


Fishers: Stop or Go?

November 12th, 2012 at 7:21 pm by under Eric Halvorson's Blog

I know the leaders of Fishers are happy to have something else to talk about.  The Town vs. City debate has been settled.  On Election Day, voters chose to make Fishers a city.

Some details still need to be addressed before that happens.  So, I wondered how that might affect Fishers’ development plans between now and then. 

Town Manager Scott Fadness told me “we’re going to keep moving forward with all the plans we had underway.  It’s an exciting time in Fishers and I think there’s a lot of big things headed our way.” 

I asked whether anyone might want to just “tread water” until a mayor is in office.  “I think Fishers residents wouldn’t put up with that,” Fadness said.  “They want a progressive community and we’re going to keep moving forward.”

That determination can be seen in this plan for a new downtown development in Fishers.  The town released the design today. 

Tom Dickey, the Community Development Director in Fishers told me, after the Election Day battle, this project could be good for the town.  “It’s time to come together.  I think the Fishers residents and leadership feels that.  So I think this project will be more of a unification of Fishers and I think that’s going to be the exciting part of our role in this.”


Time to Talk Transit

November 7th, 2012 at 12:00 am by under Eric Halvorson's Blog

Political promises are like the running boards on this old Stutz sedan.  Once you’re in, you don’t need them any more.  Now, with the election over, it’s time to prepare for real policy. 

One proposal that failed in the last session of the General Assembly is expected to come back in the next: mass transit.

Tuesday afternoon, I asked Kim Irwin how her group feels about their prospects in the months ahead. 

Kim is on the Executive Committee of ICAT, the Indiana Citizens Alliance for Transit.  The group formed about four years ago, when the state had no “transit advocacy group.” 

On Election Day, ICAT and other like-minded organizations didn’t want to appear to be taking sides in the state legislative races – especially since Irwin said they “can feel really confident that we are seeing increasingly broad, bipartisan support.” 

The transit groups have big, long-term goals.  So they want to talk to the legislators – new and old – to make sure they understand what’s at stake in this discussion.

How soon will they reach out?  Kim Irwin says: probably today.


More About Mourdock

October 28th, 2012 at 6:19 pm by under Eric Halvorson's Blog

The Sunday pundits are still talking about Richard Mourdock’s debate comments.  While much of the analysis is critical, there are people who agree with what the Republican candidate was trying to say.

I know others who feel as Mourdock does.  So, I share this as a sort of “Letter to the Editor.”  The following comes from a man who regularly prays outside an Indianapolis abortion clinic, Bishop Joshua Beecham.

Wow, what a country we live in!  Finally a public official who is willing to take the pro-life stand to its obvious conclusion, willing to stand with integrity and conviction, and unwilling to compromise the truth even when it’s not popular, even when his comments are misunderstood – the kind of integrity and conviction that most Americans say they want in a politician – and what do we do; we mock and ridicule and ostracize him and twist his words to mean something different than what he intended.  As he clarified after the fact, of course he doesn’t believe that God wants a woman to be raped!  But what he does believe, as do I, is that God is the author of life, and that every life, regardless of the circumstances through which and into which it is born, is created by God and is precious to Him.

Here’s an illustration that I think puts it in perspective:  Imagine that a woman is being beaten and raped and someone happens to come on the scene, which causes the rapist to flee the in a hurry, so quickly that a bag full of money falls from his pocket – over $1,000.  People would feel like the woman should keep the money, that it was a kind of recompense for her suffering; they may even say that God was smiling on her because of the money.  But if she ended up pregnant many would consider the baby no more than an unwanted reminder of the rape.  Have we become such a twisted, materialistic country that money is more precious than a human life, that $1,000 would be considered a greater blessing than a precious baby?  I think that is what Mr. Mourdock was trying to get at, and he should be applauded for it, and those who are mocking him should consider that in doing so they just might be found mocking the value of a life.  

Bishop Joshua Beecham

I am so tired of politicians, Democrat and Republican alike, using the abortion issue simply as a means of getting votes from a particular demographic but not having any real concern about the real issues related to the matter.  This is a precious human life we are talking about, besides the real trauma that abortion brings upon a woman.  Those who are in favor of abortion, and even those who claim to be pro-life often label as “insensitive to women” those who do not think rape or incest should be an acceptable reason for abortion.  But the truth is that it is the woman who ends up paying double for the rape; first by the rape itself, then by adding to it the awful memory that will be etched into her mind and body that she destroyed her baby. Besides that, there is the emotional trauma that follows abortion, the higher risk of breast cancer, the higher risk of infertility, depression, and many other things.  By not making exceptions for rape and incest we are not only upholding the value of the baby, but also the well-being of the mother.  And women who have kept their babies in situations such as rape and incest will tell you that they are glad that they did, and that the baby has been a blessing. 

Mr. Mourdock’s words were poorly chosen, as he admitted, but his integrity in carrying through the pro-life message to its fullest ramifications is commendable.  Rape or incest isn’t the baby’s fault, so why should the baby be put to death?  Neither is it the woman’s fault, so why should she suffer the trauma of an abortion?  Every life, mother and baby, is precious to God, regardless of the circumstances.  A politician who is willing to take such a stance is rare, and should be celebrated for his or her courage and integrity.


Something New at Indy

July 25th, 2012 at 10:29 am by under Eric Halvorson's Blog

Consider this an “I remember when” story.

I remember when the 500 was the only race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  And purists considered it sacrilege to allow any other cars to cross the yard of bricks.

We heard a lot of such talk before the Brickyard 400.  NASCAR’s arrival at Indy was perfectly timed for that series’ surge in popularity.

Since then Formula One came and went.

We have Moto-GP.

This week, the Speedway tries something new, again: Grand Am racing.  The Rolex Series.

Michael Shank, the owner of Michael Shank Racing, appreciates the Speedway’s history.  “I grew up in Columbus, Ohio and this place was the world to me … It’s hallowed ground, man.  My favorite place on earth.”

I talked to Shank a few weeks ago, after getting a ride in one of his cars.  That was a chance to publicize the race, to encourage people who’ve never seen these cars to come and check them out.

Shank described it as the best road racing competition in the country.  “Our hard racing is more like NASCAR,” he told me.  “Our high-tech cars are more like Formula One.”

They’ll use the Formula One course, going the opposite direction of what people see in the 500 or the 400.  But, “we’re owned by NASCAR which means our rules are very tight.  The cars are very equal.  So, you’re going to see very hard racing, wheel to wheel rubbin’, bangin’ into each other…It’s really exciting stuff.”

It’s also timed.  The person who’s ahead at the end of three hours will be the winner.

Shank hopes racing fans will take the time to sample this series on Friday.  “We want everyone to come out here.  I think there’s something for everybody.”


History for the Future

July 21st, 2012 at 8:30 pm by under Eric Halvorson's Blog

What do you think when you see the Indianapolis skyline?  I suspect most of us see signs of progress and growth.

Marsh Davis says “a lot what’s being built today is pretty boring.”

Davis speaks as the President of Indiana Landmarks, an organization determined to save sites that might be sacrificed for something else.  It’s certainly happened before.  Davis points to the old Marion County Courthouse.

Take a look at what we knocked down.

Davis says the courthouse was still structurally sound.  But it was dirty.  And had pigeons.

It also had the misfortune of existing in an era that “didn’t appreciate the level of historicity in buildings,” he says.

So now we have tall buildings and lots of glass.  But, Davis says, “they don’t have the same character or materials that the earlier buildings did.”

For me, summer holidays inspire thoughts of history.  In this case, it was the Fourth of July that moved me to call Marsh.   I wanted to know more about how Indiana Landmarks works – and why old buildings mean so much to him.

“It’s more than just buildings,” he told me.  “We’re really preserving places.”

And, that isn’t easy.

Davis acknowledges the work of preservationists creates an image of  “people who stop things from happening – and that’s fair to some extent.”  He sees his job as that of a problem solver.  “Not telling people what they can’t do but what they can do with respect to saving our heritage.”

Our interview will be broadcast Sunday morning on My107.9 at 6 and WZPL at 7 in the morning.

Join us and hear why Davis says “we’re not about saving the past.  We’re about saving really cool stuff that happens to be old.  But we’re doing it for the present and future generations.”