C-SPAN Founder Lamb Looks at Past & Future of Network at Economic Club

Presidential Medal of Freedom winner and famed journalist Brian Lamb began Wednesday’s Economic Club of Indiana presentation in Indianapolis by poking fun at the C-SPAN networks he created and runs. The audience rolled with laughter as Lamb played satirical journalist Jon Stewart’s commentary on the admittedly dry nature of C-SPAN’s 24-hour congressional coverage.

With all joking aside, Lamb, a Lafayette native and Purdue alum, used archived C-SPAN video to share a variety of Hoosier success stories. Lamb demonstrated the massive archives’ true value with his uncanny ability to connect incredible happenings with the often tiny details of their origin. Lamb recently made C-SPAN’s entire 30 years of video history free and available online in hopes that educators will start making similar connections for young minds.

Going where cameras have never gone before

C-SPAN is regularly credited with gaining unprecedented government access for all media outlets – increasing the public accountability of elected officials. Not all of this access has been welcome or easily won.

“Our whole effort is public meetings and you would be surprised how hard it is to get into public meetings,” Lamb explains.

Lamb described how resistance from congressional leadership has increased over the past couple of years, but stated his belief in the need for private meetings to occur.

The times they are a changin’

Lamb, well known for avoiding even the slightest hint of his personal political views, did comment on broad changes in political media and the increasingly argumentative tone.

“I think we’re probably better off when people are at each other’s throats and challenging each other on bills,” Lamb offered, adding, “The stronger the voices are, the better…”

Lamb spoke of the three networks that dominated news when he was growing up and how much government happened behind closed doors because of the lack of available coverage. He welcomes the advent of blogging and social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter.

One aspect of media evolution that Lamb views as negative is the increasing impact of money on the trade – pointing to Walter Cronkite’s hiring of a talent agent in 1952 as the first link in this chain.

The next Economic Club event is scheduled for Tuesday, May 4 and will feature Mark Miles, president of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership discussing economic development in Central Indiana. 

Learn more about the Economic Club of Indiana.

Township Trustee Spends $20,000 to Defend $758 Decision… Sounds About Right

Since disbelief is already in the air due to the wonder that is the NCAA hoops tourney (Go Dawgs!), here’s a shocker to add to the list from the world of township governance. The Central Indiana Corporate Partnership (CICP) blog sums it up aptly, but hold onto your beverage while reading (and hopefully that beverage is just coffee since it’s only 8 a.m.):

(Thursday’s) Indianapolis Star includes an interesting article on the latest antics from the world of township government – the Washington Township (Marion County) trustee racking up $20,000 in legal bills in a dispute over $758 in poor relief aid sought by a township resident for help with her rent and water bills.

Of the many troubling issues this story raises, two stand out.  First, the idea that these sorts of fiscally imprudent decisions are being made with little or no oversight by 1,008 separately-elected township officials is disheartening given the dire financial straits of state and local governments. 

Across Indiana, local officials are debating cuts in education, infrastructure, public safety and more.  Counties and municipalities are making tough choices.  Our legislature has made these choices even tougher by not stepping to the plate and making its own difficult political decision to reform local government, at least by demanding more oversight and streamlining of township offices.  And so we continue to be burdened by another layer of government bureaucracy that consumes and squanders tax dollars.

As to the circumstances of the Washington Township case itself, it’s difficult to argue the merits of either side on the basis of any statewide or even countywide guidelines.  That’s the second issue – there are no common rules for the provision of poor relief in Indiana.  Each township sets its own, leading to a patchwork approach that’s unfair and inefficient.  More than half the state’s townships provide relief to 20 households or less, and spend three dollars in overhead for every one that actually reaches a disadvantaged family.   It’s no surprise that disputes such as the one in Washington Township arise.

While the General Assembly again failed to take action on local government reform this session, more and more communities are exploring consolidation themselves out of financial necessity.  As these efforts multiply across the state and the fiscal climate continues to worsen, let’s hope that common sense reform – starting with township government – begins to gain more converts among lawmakers.

CICP: Status Quo Not Good Enough for Indiana Literacy

Mark Miles of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership blogged about reading reform in Hoosier schools and the importance of curbing social promotion in elementary schools:

Unfortunately, some defenders of the current system would rather pay lip service to reading reform than accept the core responsibility of teaching our kids.  For example, John Ellis, executive director of the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents, recently penned an editorial in the Indianapolis Star that rejects the idea of retaining students who can’t read at the end of third grade.
 
The Indiana Department of Education and State Board of Education have made early reading education a top priority.  They’ve endorsed a policy framework that includes increased classroom time allocated to reading, intensive professional development for teachers on research-based reading instruction, and tools for assessing student reading proficiency on an ongoing basis in grades K-3, to catch problems early and devote more existing resources to struggling readers.
 
Under this model, retention is a last resort – a final opportunity to get students back on track with more intensive instruction on reading (not just holding back students in the same classroom with the same approach).
 
Mr. Ellis conveniently ignores this broader strategy and issues dire predictions of ‘mass retention.’  But if reading is the most important activity in our classrooms, and schools have 3,500+ hours of instruction from kindergarten to 3rd grade within which to teach kids to read, how little confidence must Ellis have in our public schools – his constituents – to fulfill their fundamental duties? 
 
He also attempts to undermine the progress made in Florida, which ended social promotion as part of an approach similar to what Indiana envisions.  Florida actually climbed from 31st to 21st in 4th grade public school reading scores from 2002-2007, cutting failure rates by a third.  (During the same time, Indiana slid from 15th to 27th in national reading scores.)  He implies that minority students were left behind by the Florida reforms – in fact, African-American, Latino, and low-income students all improved their reading performance in Florida from 2003-2007 while closing the ‘achievement gap’ with the general student population (Gauging the Gaps: A Deeper Look at Student Performance – The Education Sector).

Hat tip to Chamber VP of Education Derek Redelman for the info.

TechPoint Awards Honor Tech-Driven Companies, Nominations Due March 8

Indiana’s life sciences and health care technology companies are among those that may be eligible for recognition at the upcoming Mira Awards, presented by TechPoint:

TechPoint, the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership’s technology and entrepreneurship initiative, is now accepting nominations for its 2010 Mira Awards.

The annual Mira Awards put a well-deserved spotlight on the state’s most successful technology-driven companies, in industries like information technology, advanced manufacturing, the life sciences, and logistics. Mira Awards are also presented in categories like health care technology, new media innovation and corporate IT (recognizing the achievements of the internal technology departments of our leading companies). 

Mira is the largest and most prominent awards program of its kind in Indiana; finalists and winners receive significant publicity and valuable exposure to the high-tech and business communities at large.  Visit http://techpoint.org/Mira/ for more information – nominations are due March 8.

Howey Highlights Township Assessor Issue in Governor’s Race

Hoosier scribe/pundit Brian Howey recently penned a thoughtful article on township government and the gubernatorial race. The piece is worth a read, and our own Mark Lawrance is quoted:

Mark Lawrence [sic], senior vice president for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, is part of a consortium that includes the Indiana Association of Realtors and the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership that is pushing a “yes” vote on the referendum.  He said the coalition would have limited resources, though he expects some direct mail campaigns in the coming weeks.  He called the assessor referendum “a bump on the road on the way to Kernan-Shepard.”

The fact that the referendums come in each township, as opposed to countywide, means the “deck is stacked against us,” Lawrence said. The problem is that poor assessing in one township can impact property taxes for the entire county.

“We hope there will be enough interest in having fair assessments,” Lawrence said. “You want to make sure your house is assessed fairly as well as the neighbor’s down the street,” noting what he called the current “fragmented system.”

“If people understand it under those terms, they’ll see it impacts their pocketbooks,” Lawrence said.

An influencing factor may be the recent Washington and Warren township fire mergers with Indianapolis. “That went very smoothly,” Lawrence said. “It is saving millions of dollars. There has been no decrease in services.”

Conexus: Indiana Chamber is Right, Privatize Lottery

Carol D’Amico of Conexus Indiana has a guest post on the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership (CICP) blog today supporting our latest Letters to Our Leaders offering, which suggests privatizing the lottery to fund needed workforce development programs in the state.

D’Amico writes:

Such a new revenue source could provide the funds necessary to help move more young people into the higher education pipeline, building our future workforce, as well as addressing the critical need to retrain our incumbent workers.

Some worry that private management of the Lottery is tantamount to a further expansion of gambling. Under the legislation considered last session, at least, the private manager was specifically prohibited from expanding the menu of lottery games. It should also be noted that Hoosiers spend less on our lottery than the average American.  We rank 26th among the 41 states with lotteries in per capita spending ($118 per person).  All adjacent states rank higher in lottery spending, from $135 per person in Illinois to $195 in Michigan…new management would certainly be incentivized to market the lottery aggressively, but it’s unlikely to turn Hoosiers into a pack of gambling addicts.