This edition of The Bloomington Alternative closes the first year of publication for this experiment in online media. I published the first official issue - committed to progressive social change and independent journalism - on Sept. 1, 2002. Today seems an appropriate time for reflection.
It's also an opportune time for rumination because interest in the Alternative has taken a great leap forward of late. Weekly traffic to the Web site nearly quadrupled in the past two weeks. It's grown roughly 1,500 percent since that first issue a year ago.
Call it another illustration of Indiana Democrats' moral bankruptcy on the issue of I-69. Call it yet another instance of their shameless hypocrisy. Call it the O'Bannon-Simpson political death wish. Whatever the descriptor, "it" has been on full public display these past few weeks in the state's capital city.
At last Wednesday's meeting of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Development Commission (MDC), Democrats showed that they have become so smarmy on the subject of I-69 that they won't even take public responsibility for their positions. The commission voted 6-3, in secret, to approve running I-69 through the city's Southwest side. Only one Democrat voted against the plan.
An open letter to NPR's Steve Inskeep
Dear Mr. Inskeep:
As a journalist who frequently awakens to the sound of your voice, I was thrilled when The Bloomington Alternative heard last week that you were doing a piece on Southwest Indiana's struggle against Interstate 69. I appreciate your attention to this subject. It is a political and environmental outrage worthy of NPR's and the nation's attention.
But I must confess that I was somewhat disappointed by the segment. It wasn't that Sandra Tokarski didn't make the case against the highway as eloquently as possible in the time allotted. She did, per usual. Neither was it that you allowed Indiana Department of Transportation Commissioner Brian Nicol's brazen duplicity to pass unchallenged. Indiana citizens have come to expect that from mainstream, he-said she-said media coverage of I-69.
Citizens who peer deeply into State Sen. Vi Simpson's campaign for governor will be offended by far more than just her sellout to the Evansville Chamber of Commerce on I-69. Those who expect leaders to lead rather than morph into the enemy will be more than offended at Simpson's effort. They will be spurred to action.
Indeed, the contrast between Sen. Simpson's campaign rhetoric and her fund raising offers citizens a textbook case study in what is wrong with American politics today. They simply do not jibe, and the contradictions shed light on a recent survey from Lee Hamilton's Center on Congress at IU that found 86 percent of Americans do not trust politicians.
This is the second in a series exploring the history behind Interstate 69, Indiana's Billion-Dollar Boondoggle.
Like newspapers everywhere, the Bloomington Herald-Times views the world in starkly geographic terms. For both circulation and newsgathering purposes, the H-T editors subdivide the paper according to the map: Bloomington, Monroe County, the Region, the State, the Nation, and the World. The Region consists of the surrounding counties - Morgan, Owen, Greene, Brown, and Lawrence.
So, in the early 1990s, when Gov. Evan Bayh sent out the first signals of his intent to build a four-lane highway from Evansville to Indianapolis via Bloomington, the facts be damned, the H-T editors assigned the story to Region reporter Laura Lane. She covered Greene County, through which the proposed Bayh highway would pass over new-terrain on its way to Ind. 37 south of Bloomington. Laura covered I-69 when it was called the "Southwest Indiana Highway." I picked up the story when it became I-69.
As local Democrats prepare to select a new party chair tonight, hand wringing over the relationship between progressives and the Ds has reached near-epidemic proportions.
Stung by bogus charges that they beat Bill Hayden in his bid for County Council in last year's election, the Green Party - should we say green party - has apparently decided to sit the 2003 city elections out. Independent green Mike Englert has withdrawn from the at-large City Council race, announcing his intentions to run as a Democrat in next year's county election instead.
Joshua Martin speaks about civil disobedience and going to jail with the insight of one who's been there and done that. So does Charity Ryerson. Ditto Jeremy John. They have been there. They have done that. And they say they've only just begun.
Martin was arrested for civil disobedience last month while protesting mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia. He spent a couple hours in a county jail holding cell in Lexington, Ky.
First in an occasional series exploring the history behind Interstate 69, Indiana's Billion-Dollar Boondoggle.
Phil Schermerhorn is the only person I've ever talked to about I-69 who claimed to know when and where Hoosier politicians got their first whiff of the pork now popularly called Indiana's "Billion-Dollar Boondoggle."
Schermerhorn had spent most of his long career in state government promoting and defending I-69 as a political appointee in Evan Bayh and Frank O'Bannon's Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT). He rose through the ranks to the post of deputy commissioner, the agency's No. 2 position. I considered him a reliable source on the subject.
The following story was originally published in The Bloomington Alternative on March 30, 2003. It is reprinted today in response to President Bush's Independence Day declaration: "Today and everyday, the people of this land are grateful for their freedom." Its republication was inspired by two upcoming books: Al Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them … A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right, and Michael Moore's Dude, Where's My Country?
Indiana democrats fed up with being stiffed by Indiana Democrats will have a unique opportunity to voice their frustrations on Aug. 23. Every D who's any D will gather that weekend at the historic French Lick Springs Resort for the party's annual meeting of the Indiana Democratic Editorial Association. And this year, the entire Indiana political world will be watching.
Party Chair Joe Hogsett raised the usually unremarkable gathering's profile a couple weeks ago when he announced that the 250 to 500 Ds attending will conduct a straw poll to determine whom the "faithful" prefer as their nominee for governor in 2004, Vi Simpson or Joe Andrew. That means the media will be all over French Lick on Aug. 23, which translates into opportunity for citizen forces of democratic reform.