Political Notebook

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Hoosier Ed blog strives for balanced coverage

Two longtime politicos from opposite sides of the aisle have ventured into Hoosier education policy with the announcement of a new blog.

The Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning at the University of Indianapolis recently launched Hoosier Ed, a blog-style website devoted to K-12 education issues across Indiana.

The site – at www.hoosiered.com – will publish views and facilitate discussion on a range of topics, with contributors from across the political spectrum and throughout the field of education. Other content will include breaking news and articles on education policy and related developments.

To ensure political balance, Hoosier Ed will be operated by communications consultants Robert Vane and Jennifer Wagner, who bring experience and connections in Republican and Democratic politics at the local, state and federal levels. The site will be overseen by an advisory board of more than 30 community and education leaders.

Upcoming topics will include school vouchers, charter schools, collective bargaining, early graduation scholarships, grading of schools, graduation rates, parent involvement, property-tax funding and referendums, performance-based compensation and teacher seniority.

Lots of anger

The city’s plan to renovate the parking lot at Citizens Square has caught the ire of the local GOP.

First, Council President Mitch Harper, R-4th, attacked and opposed the project because it was not being financed by the city’s renovation bond for the building. Then, Republican council candidate Russ Jehl sent a campaign email blasting the project as “siphoning off sewer bills and downtown revitalization.”

While this might seem like a lot of attention to a relatively small project – $309,921 – Jehl states it serves as a “perfect example of how the city is mismanaged.”

It should be noted the project was approved by the council, which has a Republican majority.

The city is misusing tax increment money to help finance the project, Jehl contends, because that money should be designated for downtown renewal. He also complains that part of the project is being financed by City Utilities, labeling that a misuse. The project is intended to improve the lot and increase the number of parking spaces for visitors.

City Utilities is helping finance the project so the lot can do a better job of retaining its own stormwater runoff – thus preventing it from contributing to sewer overflows. For example, a large strip of the new parking lot will include permeable pavement – blacktop that allows rain to seep through it and into the ground.

Jehl contends such an improvement was not needed.

“By the way, did I mention that the parking lot is in good condition? No wonder our City doesn’t have the money to fix neighborhood streets in disrepair,” he wrote.

Stressing unity

Four years ago, the local Republican party fractured over a controversial mayoral candidate, so this year’s nominee is doing all she can to show a unified front.

Paula Hughes and other Fort Wayne GOP candidates are sending out joint mailers for which the county party is paying. Hughes said this is an attempt to show voters that the party stands together on its platform of cutting spending, reducing debt and improving the economy.

Even the state party is getting into the unity game, with Indiana GOP Chairman Eric Holcomb attending a Hughes event last week to praise her efforts. While having a Republican praise a Republican is not that unexpected in politics, it is a sharp contrast to the turmoil of 2007.

Having state involvement helps Republicans across the state know the importance of the Fort Wayne mayoral race, which Hughes said has already led to officials offering advice or even to host a fundraiser for her.

Holcomb, while not providing a dollar figure, said the state party would do “all we can” to help Hughes win.

Lugar’s response

Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., is fighting fire with fire, nine months ahead of his next election.

Lugar’s re-election campaign began running a TV ad last week saying President Obama is “just wrong” on taxes and business regulations.

“For 35 years, I’ve battled for balanced budgets and less government,” Lugar says in the ad, which shows video of him with President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

The spot is an apparent response to an ad aired by the conservative Club for Growth that points out Lugar supported federal aid for Wall Street, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, General Motors and Chrysler. Lugar, first elected to the Senate in 1976, is being challenged in next year’s Republican primary election by state Treasurer Richard Mourdock.

Ready to race

Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-2nd, last week named Paul Tencher to manage his campaign for the 2012 Senate race.

Tencher has been communications director for Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy, D-Ohio, and campaign manager and chief of staff for Rhode Island Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts.

Tencher last year led the Democratic Party’s coordinated campaign in Vermont, where voters elected Democrat Peter Shumlin governor. Tencher had earlier managed the campaign of a Shumlin primary-election foe.

Donnelly, a Granger resident who has been in the House since 2007, is the only Democrat who has filed to run for Senate.

Economy improves?

Signs that the recession is over have started popping up – literally – at the Indiana Statehouse.

Colorful flowers have been added to dozens of large planters around the government complex that have held just dirt the last two years because of budget cuts.

And workers have been busy replacing concrete sidewalks and curbs, too.

Brian Francisco, Washington editor for The Journal Gazette, contributed to this column.

To reach Political Notebook by email, contact Benjamin Lanka at blanka@jg.net or Niki Kelly at nkelly@jg.net. To discuss this entry of Political Notebook or others, go to the Political Notebook topic of "The Board" at www.journalgazette.net.

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