Legislative Committee Supports Public Notices In Newspapers

The voice vote was unanimous.
The Interim Committee on Government, chaired by Rep. Kevin Mahan, R-Hartford City, instructed its staff last Wednesday to draft a report that supports the continued publication of annual financial report information by cities and towns in local subscription based newspapers.
The summer committee will formally vote on the Legislative Services Agency report at its Oct. 3 meeting.
“It’s good to see the committee recognize that newspapers, not government websites, remains the best way to inform the public of what their local government officials are doing or contemplating,” said Steve Key, Hoosier State Press Association executive director and general counsel.
Accelerate Indiana Municipalities (AIM) was the only entity to testify Wednesday. Rhonda Cook, deputy director; chief federal & state policy officer, for the association of cities and towns, limited her recommendation to the elimination of the annual financial report, not all public notices in newspapers.
She called the published part of the annual report “not relevant,” but AIM’s solution was elimination, not improvement of the public notice. She noted that the entire annual financial report was on the state’s Gateway portal.
This is the same portal that HSPA testified last month only saw 7,000 unique visitors to the posted proposed budgets of local government units throughout 2017, compared to the 2.9 million Hoosiers who read at least one newspaper a week.
Rep. Bruce Borders, R-Jasonville, noted the lack of unique visitors to the Gateway Portal and said print remains the best option for keeping government units accountable to the taxpayer, whom Borders called “the underserved individual” when it comes to lobbying efforts.
Committee reaction to AIM testimony generally fell within two areas– opposition to the elimination of published public notices and calls to change the required financial report information to data more helpful to the public in the published public notice.
“You’re cutting the people off from information they want to learn,” said Sen. Sue Glick, R-LaGrange.
Sen. Victoria Spartz, R-Noblesville, said the public should be able to see how the money is spent and suggested the legislature should look at a better way to present relevant government spending information.
Spartz asked Cook about how to make the financial report better. Cook suggested pie charts as a possible solution to make information more understandable to the public.
Rep. Terri Austin, D-Anderson, said elimination the publication of the annual report would only serve to increase the public’s general disenchantment and distrust with government institutions. She also suggested an effort to improve what’s required of cities and towns in the publication.
Rep. Robin Shackleford, D-Indianapolis, said the cost for cities and towns to publish the annual financial notice “is a low price for transparency.”
When Rep. Mahan and Rep. Bob Cherry, R-Greenfield, referred to public notice advertising as an “unfunded mandate” on local government by the legislature, they received a quick reply from Sen. Glick.
“It’s the cost of doing business, not an unfunded mandate. It’s the cost of democracy,” she said.
Many of the committee members agreed with the assessment of Rep. Dennis Zent, R-Angola, who after pointing out the lack of reliable Internet service in his district said there may be a time to move from print, but “we’re not there yet.”
When Mahan asked for the committee’s instructions to LSA concerning the possible elimination of publishing the cities and towns’ financial report, Rep. Austin said, “To quote Nancy Reagan, just say no.”
Rep. Borders quickly echoed that sentiment.
Following the voice vote, Committee Chairman Kevin Mahan called it a “reluctantly unanimous” vote.

A Penny Saved Is A Penny Earned

by Curt Kovener

That quote came from printer, publisher, author, inventor, ambassador, and Founding Father Benjamin Franklin. Franklin is one of the most remarkable Americans who ever lived. Compared to him, we are all slackers.
Under the pen name Silence Dogood he offered wisdoms, parables, and witty sayings on life, politics, and human foibles, and religion.
It was most likely his religious views that caused him to not be embraced by the pulpit populace and be denied respect over the decades.
One of his religious observations, he historically correctly wrote, “If we look back into history for the character of present sects in Christianity, we shall find that they have, in their turns, been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The very early Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practiced it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England, claimed persecution from the Roman church, but practiced it against the Puritans: these found it wrong in the Bishops, but fell into the same practice themselves both here and in New England.”
Perhaps the same could be said of 21st century Christians. But that is a column for another time.
Let me share some of the wisdom on the man who lived through most of the 1700’s, but whose thoughts could have been written from today’s headlines.
•Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.
•They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
•Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.
•In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in water there is bacteria.
•You may delay, but time will not.
•Many people die at twenty-five and aren’t buried until they are seventy-five.
•Never ruin an apology with an excuse.
•Fear not death for the sooner we die, the longer we shall be immortal.
•We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.
•Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.
•Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.
•How many observe Christ’s birthday! How few, His precepts!”
•Well done is better than well said.
•Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.
•Lost time is never found again.
•An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.
•Instead of cursing the darkness, light a candle.
•If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed.
•The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.
•Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.
•Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.
•Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.
•Never confuse Motion with Action.
•He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.
•There is never a bad peace or a good war.
•Whatever is begun in anger, ends in shame.
•The heart of a fool is in his mouth, but the mouth of a wise man is in his heart.
•Be slow in choosing a friend, slower in changing.
•When you’re testing to see how deep water is, never use two feet.
•A slip of the foot you may soon recover, but a slip of the tongue you may never get over.
•We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.
•Life biggest tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late”
•Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards.
•Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.
•Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.
•It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority.

Tomato Juice Memories

by Curt Kovener

(This is an encore column from the Curt Comments archives. In light of last week’s column telling you about the decimation of our small tomato crop, this memory from my youth helps soothe the soul.)
We are in the time of cool, fog shrouded mornings when the dew hangs heavy on any surface exposed to the night, then summer-like sunny afternoon temperatures that nearly require a change of clothes from the morning’s attire.
Such are the days of September.
As I recall, this was the time of year that, as a youth, I would be pulled out of bed early in the morning and taken to Grandma & Grandpa’s farm for tomato juice making.
Grandma always determined the time that the remaining tomato plants would be stripped of their ripened fruit and then pulled from the garden. For several days before, tomatoes were picked and left on the old iron grate table in the back yard to ripen fully.
When we would arrive at the farm, Grandpa had the fire already started and Grandma would have the copper kettle half filled with washed and quartered tomatoes.
They’d let me finish waking up and eat my breakfast of Grandma’s homemade coffeecake. While Grandpa continued with the picking and uprooting in the garden, the womenfolk kept busy washing and cutting tomatoes.
“Quit playing in the fire and come put these tomatoes in the kettle,” Grandma would call to me. And I’d fetch the bucket of cut tomatoes and struggle with my load toward the copper kettle. “Don’t spill them” was always the admonishment to any grandkid helping with tomato juice making chores.
After Grandpa set the kettle on the fire, he’d start stirring the scarlet fruits. Pretty soon, after a half dozen times asking “Can I stir?”, he’d finally let me.
It was a homemade paddle made of Hoosier grown hardwood that looked like a long, narrow hoe: a flat piece of oak with holes bored in it, nailed and braced to a long 2×2 handle. “Stir it in a figure 8,” Grandpa would tell me. “That way the tomatoes won’t scorch.”
And as soon as he’d leave to go back to his harvesting chore in the garden and Grandma saw me alone she’d yell across the yard, “Don’t let those tomatoes burn. Keep a stirrin’ ’em, Curtie Boy.”
Grandma was the only one who could get away with calling me that.
In kidtime, after what seemed like hours of figger 8’s, the womenfolk (mothers, aunts and cousins alike) would come around with long handled kitchen pots, dip into the copper caldron and quickly walk away with a batch of steaming tomato pulp, skins, seeds and juice.
There were several colanders in action around the picnic table which was now serving as juice production facility. It was here that, as the juice was strained from the near boiling pulp, all of the latest news of family and friends was shared around the table with whoever might or might not be interested. Bursts of laughter would routinely interrupt the usual chatterings.
The clatter around the juicing table now reminds me of a song from “The Music Man”. “Pick a little, talk a little. Pick a little, talk a little. Cheep, Cheep, Cheep, Talk a lot, pick a little more…”
Though I occasionally was drafted into the colander service, I found that I would be better off staying at my copper kettle post and stirring. That way, I didn’t know if they were talking about me or not. And I preferred it that way. When you’re the only 12 year-old boy in a group of womenfolk, their questions of girlfriends and such talk is downright embarrassing. So I just avoided their klatch.
With the stirring and colandering done, the women packed large pots of warm, fresh squeezed tomato juice into the basement where Grandma had set up the canning factory. It was then my job to feed what was left of the tomatoes to the chickens. I was pretty popular with the ladies out in that chicken yard.
All I know about the canning process is that the jars had to be clean and sterilized or the tomato juice would spoil.
And there was always those few jars that didn’t seal and they, thankfully, could be consumed as soon as they were cool. The texture and hickory-smoke laced taste of tomato juice made over an open fire is still is one of my favorites.
Today I have found that a few shakes of liquid smoke into my glass of tomato juice (with maybe a wee bit of vodka) gets my memory bank longing for the days of my youth on Grandpa & Grandma’s farm
– – – –
“It’s a long, long while from May to December,
But the days grow short when you reach September.”
–Max Anderson

They Know…And They Lie In Wait

by Curt Kovener

Vegetable plants in the wilderness were looking good all summer. We were harvesting tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, and green beans.
Here in the middle of the forest we grow our harvestable fruits and vegetables in large pots or raised beds up near the house.
We tried growing everything in a large sunny area of the clearing down the hill by the lane. It was fenced to keep the turkeys, deer and raccoon from getting to our plants before we were ready to harvest.
But, alas, while we drove by the garden on the way out or back in the lane, we could never seem to make the time to make a garden specific trip. As a result, weeds took over which camouflaged the insects and animals eating our crops.
We gave up on potatoes, turnips, and radishes because ground dwelling voles and shrews relished the underground crop before they were anywhere near harvestable size.
Japanese beetles would make some occasional uninvited appearances to gnaw on leaves. Squash beetles trimmed zucchini in ways that were not productive. And bean beetles curtailed any green bean growth.
So we moved the garden to individual pots raised beds up near the house where they could be easily viewed, inspected and treated for any pest. There is now no need for a fence as Emma the Great Pyrenees keeps deer, turkey, raccoons and squirrels off her piece of the property all around the house.
We had been harvesting much of July and August with an occasional dusting to eliminate pests and watering every other day.
So we thought nothing when we left at noon a couple Friday’s back to attend a newspaper conference in nearby French Lick. A good time was had with renewing friendships there.
But when we returned at noon on Sunday, the joy of the weekend vanished. All was not as we left it.
Tomato hornworms, the caterpillar of the large brown-gray hawkmoth, had not only stripped the leaves of our tomatoes, but began gnawing on the green tomatoes.
We had one heirloom variety tomato called a Mortgage Lifter—a large, pinkish and meaty-fruited plant— which you can save the seed each year and it comes back as its parent. The leaves were gone; most of the green tomatoes had been chewed on.
The adults of the wilderness abound were angry and used some very adult words toward their untimely invaders.
“What were they doing? Waiting at the end of the lane for us to leave for the weekend?” sardonically inquired Becky about our opportunistic invaders.
I was already on my way fetching a coffee can and began plucking the hornworms off the tomatoes. It takes some study and concentration as they are the same color green as the tomato stalks.
I describe them as about the size of my extended middle finger. Which is exactly the way I feel about tomato hornworms.
We both searched the tomato plants, she pointing out some worms that I missed.
I took my coffee can hornworm containment device down to the dock. I threw out some floating fish food to chum the water for as many bluegill as available.
When they began popping at the food on the surface, I began popping hornworms into the water,
“Take that you #$%^&,” I said as I sent the worm filled with our tomatoes to their fate. The bluegills relished the extra protein and quickly made quick work on the green invaders. I watched with sadistic glee as the green worms were pulled beneath the surface to continue the food chain.
The tomatoes are now sending out new shoots recuperating from their attack. But I doubt that there is enough time to produce before the first killing frost when our garden and flower containers make their pilgrimage to the basement for the winter.

That’s Me, Mr. President, Enemy Of The American People

by Curt Kovener

Last Thursday editorial boards at newspapers across the U.S., prompted by the Boston Globe, were asked write to confront President Donald Trump for going on about “fake news” and calling the media the “enemy of the American people.”
Editorial boards are what much, much larger newspapers have. Here at the Times, like everything else, it’s up to me. I head up the editorial, circulation, ad sales, distribution & delivery departments as well as handle complaints and fix the toilet when necessary. And because of that, like many other weekly newspapers, we’re a week late joining in with our colleagues.
“Fake news,” so abstract and generally fake in and of itself, is such a convenient term for those who read news they disagree with so they call it “fake”. Take for instance the four photos on last week’s front page for those who were booked into jail and charged with possession or dealing methamphetamine. Go ahead. Ask them. They will tell you it was all made up; “fake news”.
We also publish the fake news of two county jails and fake news from two courthouses so maybe your neighbors filed for divorce and maybe they didn’t. Maybe your father sold some land, maybe he didn’t. And those obituaries we are sent by area funeral homes, maybe those folks really are still with us. But knowing the funeral directors’ personally and professionally, more than likely they are not.
“Enemy of the American people” is irresponsibly easy, because it works to whip up a bunch of like-minded yet simple-minded of our population.
Let’s see…I coached little league baseball back in the day, was on the volunteer fire department for 16 years, was an organizer of the local flag-waving Red, White & Blue Festival for a like number of years, and for going on 40 years now reported on town, school, township and county officials whose rulings impact you.
Yep…I’m an “enemy of the American people” right here in South Central Indiana
Matter of fact, I’m such an enemy of the people is why so many of you readers took advantage of last month’s County Fair subscription special where if you bought a two-year subscription, you got a third year free.
You sure showed me, readers…and please, please, keep it up.
And what really fits my cottage newspaper industry in Jackson and Scott Counties is being called a Media Elite.
Mr. President, I’m a one-man newspaper office in a one-stoplight town. I purposefully drive a 15-year-old mini SUV because 1) I fit in it, 2) it gets 27 mpg, and 3) it has 4-wheel drive—something important for where I travel and where I live out in the woods.
So when the President’s disciples who drive new pickups, HumVees and large SUVs call me elite, I don’t just chuckle…I guffaw. And it really is a side-splitter when elected officials who finance their own multi-million campaigns call me a media elitist.
Media Elite? Enemy of the American People?
Really, Mr. President?  All we do is inform the people.

Memories Are A Muse That Amuse

by Curt Kovener

(This is an encore column from the Curt Comments archives. About the only thing the editor hunts these days is for something to drink and a comfortable place to sit to enjoy it.)
The Ides of August, the 15th, is the opening day of squirrel hunting season and marks a five month or so greenflag to a variety of hunting and trapping seasons in Indiana.
Squirrel hunting was about the only thing my Dad and I did when I was real young and because of work obligations the trips were few and far between. But that made them all the more treasured.
I can remember him asking me on the evening before if I wanted to go squirrel hunting in the morning. “You’ll have to roll out of bed pretty early,” he would advise. Of course I wanted to go but the excitement and anticipation of the early morning adventure kept sleep from my eyes until very late. Then when Pop came in, shook my foot to awaken me, with a somewhat whispered “C’mon, let’s go”, I’d scramble for my hunting clothes. Which were older, ordinary playing clothes.
His wakeup drink was coffee. Instant stirred into a cup of hot water from the tap. I sort of embraced it as the drink squirrel hunters drank before heading to the woods. Now, though, I prefer my coffee brewed and set Mr. Coffee the night before to have a whole pot ready for me when I wake up early.
Pop used a 12 gauge 870 Remington shotgun and he provided his pre-teenage son with an over & under .22 rifle/.410 shotgun.
“Use the rifle first. If you miss, bust them out with the shotgun,” he would advise.
While a number of my hunting associates prowl, crawl, crouch, strain and hunker all over the woods looking for squirrel, I hunt using my Grandpa’s favorite technique: sit down amongst some hickory and beech trees, stay quite and keep looking up.
I was using that technique on one of my hunting trips with Pop. All was quiet but in the heavy dew laced landscape, I could begin hearing the light pitter-pitter-patter of pieces hickory shell being removed dentally by Mr. Bushytail. Try as I might I could not locate the rascal, and I dare not move around for fear of being spotted and freezing the squirrel’s breakfast activity and my chance of squirrel & dumplings for supper.
Still hearing the pitter drip of cuttings hitting leaves, I continued to look all around for the source. Suddenly, a couple of drops of dew hit the back of my neck. Looking far upthe tree canopy was the bushy back side of the subject of my attention.
Still seated I leaned one way and then another trying to get a bead on his head. Finally tuckered from all of the contortions and straining, I laid back flat on the ground to rest.
And there was Mr. Squirrel in full plain view.
As I drew up with the .22, he continued his game and to toy with my affection when he made an abrupt 180° turn and all I could see through the leaves was squirrel butt.
I had had it. I wasn’t waiting any longer and I wasn’t going to take any chances. I clicked the gun down to the shotgun side.
Laying flat on my back I drew a bead just a little north of the rear end I saw, took a breath, let it out and squeezed the trigger.
The squirrel was rolled out of the hickory and dropped with a dull thud just a few feet away. But I never saw it.
I learned a painful lessons of physics and shotgun kicks while braced against solid objects.
But the soreness in my shoulder quickly eased when Pop came over as I was picking up the squirrel. He held up the two he had bagged and, using my left arm, I held up my one and we knew what was on the supper menu that night.