Interstate 69

November 18, 2010

The final blow to the I-69 opposition was almost too poetic to be believed. Mark Kruzan standing over the victim, hiding one hand behind his back while imploring the community to believe he didn't do it, that he really meant all those things he said the past two decades. The next day, according to the Indiana Daily Student, the Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC) gave him an award for his "courageous stand on I-69."
"Enjoy your Interstate Bloomington."
That juxtaposition of events says it all, so this is the last time I will write Interstate 69 on these pages. But for the record, the opposition asked many times, and both I and former HEC director Jeff Stant told and showed them what they had to do to have any chance whatsoever to stop the I-69 boondoggle.

Enjoy your Interstate Bloomington. I suggest you call it the "Mark Kruzan Memorial Highway," in memory of the beautiful community his failed leadership left behind. (Actually, it should be broken up in three segments, with the other two dedicated to John Fernandez and Vi Simpson, who are equally culpable for this community disaster.)

It's been an epic 20-year journey. The Bloomington Alternative has now signed off on I-69.

November 13, 2010

Update: At 6:23 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 13, Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan responded to this article and declined my interview requests. "Given that you've already reached a conclusion for your article, it doesn't seem necessary to do an interview," he wrote. He sent me a link to the MPO meeting referenced below.

I believe that when an elected public official betrays his or her oft-repeated public positions as brazenly as Mark Kruzan did with his MPO vote with INDOT and I-69 proponents, he or she has a responsibility to explain that contradiction with more than sound bites and prepared defense speeches. Every other elected public official from Bloomington and Monroe County on the MPO voted "No."

I reiterated my interview request and assured the mayor that I would videotape and post the entire conversation, unedited, on the Alternative Web site so his constituents can judge his performance for themselves. - sh

November 10, 2010

Two visions of the future collided on the doorstep of my Indiana town, Bloomington, this past week. Imagine one as a bicycle rider on a rails-to-trails bikeway, the other a semi-trailer truck hurtling down an interstate. Imagine which one came out the winner.

Nestled into rolling land an hour south of Indianapolis, Bloomington -- home of Indiana University -- has declared itself a Transition Town, on the road to a sustainable future. We have a Peak Oil Task Force, a Commission on Sustainability, an Environmental Commission, and a Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Commission. We have a volunteer-run Center for Sustainable Living with green transportation, garden, building and energy projects. We have three co-op grocery stores, a Local Growers Guild, and a thriving farmers' market in summer and winter. We have bike and pedestrian paths, one of them right through the center of town.

What we do not have is an interstate highway.

I-69 threatens endangered species

October 30, 2010

Of all the obstacles that ought to stop construction of Interstate 69 through southern Indiana, one of the most impressive is the Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge and Wildlife Management Area.

A sliver of nature on a north-south flyway for migrating birds, the 16-year-old refuge has become a stopover point for endangered whooping cranes and a breeding site for threatened bald eagles. Located in an area pockmarked by coalmines and drained for farming, it is one of the Midwest's few remaining stretches of bottomland hardwood forest. It provides homes to dozens of rare plant and animal species, including the endangered Indiana bat.

State plans to take land from local citizens for I-69 boondoggle
October 1, 2010

"We're not giving up. Please don't give up! We can stop [the I-69 extension] yet if we all work together."

So said Tom Tokarski, president of Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads (CARR), at a public meeting on April 25 at the Indian Creek Township Fire Station in Bloomington.

CARR and the Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC) called the meeting to make presentations about landowners' rights under eminent domain and answer questions from landowners. Those are the people confronted with the condemnation and forced sale of their property in the path of the highway by the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) in southwest Monroe County and Greene County.

August 28, 2010

A common question raised over the past 20 years about the I-69/NAFTA Highway has been, "Who's behind this multi-billion transfer of wealth to the politically connected elite?" Until just a few days ago, the answer among knowledgeable commoners had always been to state the obvious, "The Evansville power structure," which has lobbied for a straight-line route to Indianapolis since the 1960s.

A just-released book on the subject, however, drills the answer down to a specific name and face. And it will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Indiana politics that he was an aristocratic land baron with a 1920s view of the planet, whose personal family fortunes will swell to even greater enormity if and when the highway reaches his town.

August 19, 2010

According to the Center for Constitutional Rights, a public-interest, human-rights law firm, "The Obama administration has ... continued and enhanced the use of 'terrorism' prosecutions against animal rights and environmental activists, indicating that the 'Green Scare' - the repression of environmental activists by designating them terrorists - continues in full swing."

In Indiana the Green Scare has been in full swing with two legal cases associated with construction of the I-69 interstate extension. Criminal charges brought against two activists have been settled, but Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) lawsuits intended to chill political activism continue against 16 others.

August 8, 2010

There will always be people who want to dam the Grand Canyon, divert the mighty Mississippi or use nuclear bombs to deepen a harbor or level a mountain. And there are people who see no end to the construction of transcontinental superhighways, like I-69. In opposition, there will be those who think these projects are bad ideas. How we decide these issues will depend, to a great extent, on the process that is used. Author Matt Dellinger’s Interstate 69: The Unfinished History of the Last Great American Highway lays out the process by which I-69 became the last great American highway, or how it didn’t.

Dellinger’s history of the I-69 project sprawls from Canada to Mexico, from the late 1980s to the present. He takes an objective look at both sides of the issue with detailed characterization of many of the main players. It took him eight years and thousands of miles of travel from Michigan to Texas and interviews with average citizens, politicians, lobbyists, promoters and opponents of I-69 to compile this story of a dream highway and the nightmare behind that dream.

March 21, 2010

Editor's note: On March 20, Bloomington Alternative editor Steven Higgs gave speeches in Indianapolis to the Marion County Alliance of Neighborhood Associations and the Alliance for Democracy about the state of American democracy and his new book, Twenty Years of Crimes Against Democracy. What follows is a transcript of his prepared remarks.


INDIANAPOLIS -- Thank you for inviting me here today. It's a pleasure to share some of my thoughts with you about the state of our democracy, which, it seems to me, just about every one of you understands is just about dead.

Now, I teach journalism down at IU-Bloomington, and I tell my reporting students to avoid making "Big Statements," like "just about every one of you" and "just about dead," unless they can back them up.

Well, I was invited here today to present the best defense I can muster for my use of such superlatives in this context -- namely the I-69/NAFTA Highway, or the "$3 Billion Boondoggle."

March 7, 2010

No news is good news, as the saying goes, but when it comes to the legal case of Hugh Farrell and Gina "Tiga" Wertz, no news is ambiguous.

Farrell and Wertz engaged in peaceful protests against the I-69 highway, and the State of Indiana has charged them with felony racketeering and several misdemeanors.

Wertz is charged with intimidation, a class A demeanor, two counts; conversion (unauthorized use of someone else's property), a class A misdemeanor, two counts; and corrupt business influence (racketeering), a class C felony. Her bond was set at $10,000.

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