Music & Nightlife

Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers

South Bend Tribune. October 3, 2019

Ripple Effect choir spreads unity and inspiration on its way to Carnegie Hall

Inspiration and passion can carry people a long way in life.

In the case of Ripple Effect, a local choir, it's carrying them all the way to the big time in the Big Apple — Carnegie Hall in New York City.

The choir was invited to Carnegie Hall after organizers of the concert discovered them in a YouTube video. They were looking for groups performing music by Mark Hayes, a noted pianist and composer of Christian music.

Of course, receiving an invitation to sing at Carnegie Hall can sound too good to be true. After Sherry Klinedinst, director of the choir, confirmed it, choir members began making plans for the trip.

They've raised all but about $10,000, which Klinedinst believes can be done before their December performance date at Carnegie.

Choir members come from South Bend, Mishawaka, Niles, Goshen and a host of other towns in our region, and all have embraced the message of unity among diversity.

Klinedinst said the music has a healing power and the choir represents everyone and the common goals of understanding and acceptance.

The choir should be proud of its music and its goal of bringing everyone together through its songs. And we hope being able to perform in one of this country's most historic music venues will add to that Ripple Effect.

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The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. October 1, 2019

Continuing campaign

There they go again. A year after northeast Indiana students graduated from college in 2012-13, just over 30% of them were no longer in the region. Three years after graduation, the number was just over 47%. And five years after graduation, almost 57% of northeast Indiana college graduates were no longer in the 11-county region, an analysis by Northeast Indiana Works showed.

Among high school graduates, the statistics were only slightly more reassuring: Just over 46% were no longer here five years after receiving their diplomas.

Such statistics are, of course, worrisome for a region fighting valiantly to improve its viability as a place to live, raise a family and earn a decent living. The Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership's Road To One Million campaign is built on the premise that significantly increasing our population - last year, it was almost 785,000 - is a key to expanding our economy. Losing roughly half our high-school and college graduates just a few years out of school isn't likely to help us meet that goal.

There are efforts under way that may improve those numbers. But even with improvement, our region has to have a better strategy for growth than just retaining residents. Growing as a region also means becoming the kind of place that attracts new residents. "We need educated people," noted Rachel Blakeman, director of the Purdue University Fort Wayne Community Research Institute. "They don't have to be from here," she said. Retaining graduates is "one of the pieces - it's not the only piece."

The efforts by Fort Wayne and other northeast Indiana communities to improve quality of life and diversify business opportunities are helping to attract new residents as well as helping persuade more young residents to stay. "Last year, more people moved in than moved out of Allen County," Blakeman said. "That looks as if we're doing something right."

Blessed with many great educational institutions, Indiana has long struggled with the problem of brain drain statewide. Students come from elsewhere to attend Indiana University, Ball State, Purdue or Notre Dame and then move somewhere else, taking all that training and potential out of state. Only a third of biological-science graduates, for instance, find employment in Indiana, and the state also loses more than half of its engineering and computer and information-science grads, Building Indiana magazine reported earlier this year. Last year, Purdue President Mitch Daniels launched the Brain Gain Initiative to connect more Indiana businesses with promising graduates; Ball State signed on to that effort in August.

In the statewide context, it's important to note that, daunting as they seem, the region's numbers aren't as high as many other areas of Indiana. Northeast Indiana "had the second lowest percentage in Indiana of high school graduates who were not in the region from which they graduated five years earlier ... and the second lowest percentage of college students who were not in the region from which they graduated five years earlier," according to the analysis.

One reason has to be our rich network of college and university campuses that offer students the option of pursuing a degree close to home. Purdue Fort Wayne, for instance, reported that of its Class of 2018 graduates, "92% live and work in Indiana, 86% in northeast Indiana."

In a statement accompanying last week's analysis, Northeast Indiana Works President Edmond O'Neal said there are many efforts under way to make it easier for those graduates who want to stay here, including training programs for workers, education/business partnerships; internship programs for students; externship programs for teachers; and worker training programs.

Then, too, some of those young people may have left the region and state for more than five years to seek advanced degrees or professional experience they may eventually bring back home. That's yet another reason to continue to work on quality-of-life issues. And there's progress on another front: Last month, Northeast Indiana Works said the latest U.S. Census figures through 2017 show that more people in our region are earning high school degrees or their equivalents.

None of that, of course, argues for complacency. Even if they may eventually be lured back, too many of our graduates feel compelled to leave. As O'Neal noted, we need to keep asking why.

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Kokomo Tribune. October 4, 2019

Office requires transparency

When news first came out more than 1,100 ballots from the 2018 general election were discovered in late January of this year inside a courthouse storage cabinet, it certainly raised a lot of concerns.

What if they changed the outcome of an election?

Did my vote count?

How does this kind of thing happen?

Are there more missing ballots?

And, most importantly, why wasn't the public informed until almost four weeks after the ballots had been found?

Clerk Debbie Stewart assured county residents all votes had been tallied, meaning the debacle, although highly embarrassing to the county, would not generate the electoral fiasco that would have resulted from any major result changes.

The winners stayed the winners, and the Clerk's office moved into this year's municipal election, hoping to shed the shadow of its former leader and a mistake that threatens the trust put into the running of local elections.

Stewart, a Republican, revealed she and a Democratic election worker, Jill Quackenbush, found 1,148 unopened ballots on Jan. 21 in the Election Room. She said the unopened envelopes included ballots from early voting at the downtown Government Center and mail-in ballots.

Absentee voting for this year's municipal election begins Tuesday.

The 2018 ballots were discovered in a storage cabinet that requires keys from both parties and the clerk's own cabinet key to unlock. Stewart later filed a request with Howard Circuit Court Judge Lynn Murray for a court order to open the ballots.

The only race Stewart and Quackenbush found with a margin close enough to potentially be impacted by the discovery was the race for Center Township's three-member board.

The Howard County clerk in 2018 was Kim Wilson, who had a history of issues with local elections.

Howard County Democratic Party Chairwoman Kathy Skiles said the incident "reinforces our belief that the Clerk's office has been fraught with incompetence and a lackadaisical attitude for years, especially from the former clerk."

Stewart said she was putting together a procedures manual that would "outline responsibilities for early voting workers, confined voting workers and Election Room workers, to make certain all workers are performing their duties, with checks and backup measures, to ensure every eligible vote is counted and counted on time."

It's laudable that Stewart is making changes. But one change she should make before the Nov. 5 municipal election is to be as transparent as possible. The fact there were unopened ballots should have been announced before a secretive recount process was in place.

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