Hammond Statue an Homage to Iconic Movie Scene

If you're like me, you're already sick of hearing about Christmas. However, you can't help but smile at the news of the new statue in Hammond — commissioned by the South Shore CVA — that immortalizes a classic scene from "A Christmas Story." WTHR's web site reports on the display — part of an exhibit that will open on Nov. 9:

HAMMOND – The annual "A Christmas Story" Comes Home exhibit begins next weekend, but the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority unveiled a new bronze statue Tuesday. Flick, a character from the Christmas movie set in northern Indiana, now has his tongue permanently stuck to a flag pole in front of the Indiana Welcome Center.

Scott Schwartz, the actor who played Flick in the movie, helped unveil the statue Tuesday. Flick took the "Triple Dog Dare" in the movie scene by sticking his tongue to a frozen flag pole in the school yard.               

The Flick statue was commissioned by the South Shore CVA in January 2013 and created by the same studio that created the Orville Redenbacher statue in Valparaiso, as well as statues of Michael Jordan, Frank Thomas and Harry Carey in Chicago.

The exhibit will open Saturday, November 9 and run through Sunday, January 5. The Indiana Welcome Center is open seven days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and is located at 7770 Corinne Drive in Hammond.

Adding Up the 2010 Gaming Numbers

Indiana’s riverboats experienced slight admissions (0.4%) and revenue (1.27%) declines in 2010, according to a recently release report from RubinBrown, a St. Louis-based accounting and business consulting firm that specializes in the hospitality and gaming industry.

The company’s 52-page (the Indiana specifics are on Pages 22-25) Gaming Stats report takes an in-depth look at commerical casinos in five states — Missouri, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana and Iowa. It also examines tribal gaming in five states.

A few of the highlights:

  • In Indiana, Horseshoe in Hammond accounts for more than 23% of both admissions and statewide revenue. Next in both categories is Hollywood in Lawrenceburg — with 14% of admissions and 18% of revenues.
  • Missouri continues to lead in casino revenue growth, bringing in over $1.7 billion in revenue and more than $450 million in commercial gaming tax revenue in 2010.
  • Colorado, the only other state to see an increase in adjusted gross revenue, experienced an increase of $25 million during 2010 and generated more than $107 million in commercial gaming tax revenue. The passage of Amendment 50 by Colorado voters in 2009, which allowed the maximum bet at casinos to be raised from $5 to $100 and permitted properties to remain open 24 hours a day, can be attributed as one of the main causes for Colorado’s revenue increase in 2010.
  • Although AGR and admissions declined in 2010, 1.59 and 3.59 percent respectively, Iowa-based casinos saw patrons spending more per trip on average from the previous year.
  • Illinois, again, experienced the most marked drop in revenues among Midwestern states, with a statewide decrease of 4 percent for commercial gaming revenues. Also significant, Illinois riverboat gaming fell to its lowest levels in a decade and horse racing and lotteries remained flat. However, these revenues, according to Adams, may stabilize in late 2011 due to the opening of the Rivers Casino near Chicago’s O’Hare airport. The new facility is expected to generate $150 million in annual tax revenue and create over 1,000 permanent jobs in the Chicago area.

Hammond Mayor Proclaims Charter School Support

Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. authored a spot-on guest commentary on charter schools in the The Times of Northwest Indiana last week.

McDermott wrote about his three-year struggle to obtain a charter school in his community. He offered: "There is no reason that establishing charter schools in Indiana should take so long. Despite arguments to the contrary, charter schools do not undermine local public education. If anything, they serve to showcase how new educational methods and approaches can be applied successfully."

Read the column as McDermott puts his full support behind HB 1002, which would greatly expand charter school authorizing authority — among other initiatives.

Education in Indiana: Charter School Bill Moves to Full House

The following is an update of a very important bill currently being considered by the Indiana House:

Bill # and Title: SB 1002 – Charter Schools
Authors: Speaker of the House Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis), Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) and Rep. Mary Ann Sullivan (D-Indianapolis)

Summary: Allows private universities and mayors of second-class cities to serve as charter school authorizers. Creates the Indiana Charter School Board to serve as a statewide authorizer.  (Continues authorizing authority for state universities and the Indianapolis mayor.) Makes unused and underutilized public school facilities available for charter school use. Eliminates limits on charter schools approved by the Indianapolis mayor and on virtual charter schools. Increases funding for virtual charter schools from 80% of average state tuition support to 90%. Cancels interest payments on loans from the state that charter schools have acquired as the result of delayed tuition payments. Makes additional changes.

Chamber Position: Support

Status: House Education Committee considered 15 amendments out of 30 that were filed. Three amendments were accepted, including a substantial amendment developed by the co-authors and two additional amendments offered by Democrats. After eight hours of testimony and debate – five hours last week and three additional hours this week – the committee voted 8-5, along party lines, to recommend the bill’s passage. It is now eligible for consideration by the full House.

Update/Chamber Action: Despite the partisan vote from committee members, it certainly cannot be suggested that this bill has not had extensive consideration and debate. Nonetheless, House Democrats offered a Minority Committee report when the committee action was delivered to the full House. That effort failed, but not before a contentious floor debate in which Rep. Greg Porter (D-Indianapolis) and Rep. Pat Bauer (D-South Bend) portrayed the charter bill as an attempt to undermine collective bargaining. (In reality, the bill allows teachers in charter schools to bargain collectively if they so choose; but most charter teachers choose not to join a union.) This bill is likely to draw dozens of proposed amendments and a long, contentious debate as it moves to the full House. The Indiana Chamber will continue working with the bill’s authors and other charter school supporters to analyze amendments, fend off detrimental changes and drive the bill to final passage.  Meanwhile, we are pleased to note the steadfast support of Rep. Sullivan, who was the only Democrat to buck her caucus on the Minority Committee report. We also noted this editorial from Democrat Mayor Tom McDermott of Hammond, who has called for the bill’s passage.

Hoosier Casinos Brace for Illinois Challengers

While much has been discussed about the competition Indiana casinos may face from newcomers in Ohio, Illinois gaming is also striving to compete. The Times of Northwest Indiana reports on how casinos in "the region" are preparing for competition from the Chicago area:

Illinois’ gambit to embark on a wholesale expansion of gambling with five new casinos, including one in Chicago and one in the south suburbs, is being carefully watched by those with a stake in the success of Northwest Indiana’s five casinos.

Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said he thinks a casino in the south suburbs would be more of a competitor for Horseshoe than a downtown Chicago casino. But anyone who wants to compete with the Hammond boat will have his work cut out for him.

"In reality, at the end of the day, even if we have a boat on the other side of the border, it will have to stack up against Horseshoe and that will not be easy to do," McDermott said.

Horseshoe is Indiana’s gaming heavyweight, with its annual revenues of more than $500 million per year accounting for about one-fifth of the state’s total gaming revenues.

Horseshoe generates more than $35 million in tax and revenue share for the city of Hammond, which has used the money to transform entire neighborhoods with new streets, sidewalks, sewers and even moderate-income housing.

The other Northwest Indiana casinos are Ameristar in East Chicago, Majestic Star I and Majestic Star II in Gary, and Blue Chip in Michigan City. In Illinois, Ford Heights has a powerful coalition working to land the south suburban gaming license.

South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority CEO Speros Batistatos agreed Horseshoe is well positioned to withstand any onslaught but said that is not the case with Northwest Indiana’s other casinos.

He said the Four Winds Casino Resort, which opened in 2007 in New Buffalo, Mich., has demonstrated the effect cross-border gaming can have on Northwest Indiana’s casinos.

However, Batistatos feels the real challenge to Northwest Indiana boats from Illinois would come from a downtown Chicago casino and not one in the south suburbs.

"You can say what you want about Hammond, East Chicago and Gary," Batistatos said. "But I don’t know anyone that is going to drive to Ford Heights, even if you plop Caesar’s Palace there."

Northwest Indiana casinos have been combating the competition from Michigan and Illinois with new facilities and improved amenities.

Welcome to Higher Ed 101 Plus!

The story is an old one, repeated by many people. Years ago when most states were developing comprehensive community college systems, Indiana and Purdue universities utilized their considerable clout to steer the Hoosier state toward the direction of regional campuses.

The IU entities in Richmond, Kokomo, New Albany and elsewhere undoubtedly brought increased educational opportunities to those areas. The same with Purdue’s outreaches in Westville, Hammond and beyond. Meanwhile, Ivy Tech State College fulfilled its vocational training role.

Flash forward to this decade, a changing economy with different workforce needs and a still ongoing transformation to Ivy Tech Community College. But as the two-year campuses evolved, they found themselves in competition with the regional entities. Similar programs. Similar degrees.

As Nasser Paydar, Indiana University East chancellor, says in our current BizVoice: "We used to have an associate degree in nursing. Ivy Tech has an associate degree in nursing. What this did was confuse the students in the first place. Why would two state institutions within walking distance have the same degree program, accredited by the same agency?

Good question. It’s not that way in Richmond anymore. Missions have been differentiated and employer needs met more effectively in Columbus. Those efforts are highlighted in an in-depth BizVoice article. And it’s promising to see new regional initiatives announced by both Indiana and Purdue earlier this month.

Indiana has outstanding colleges and universities. The goal of all is to have an equally outstanding system that fully serves all students. Chamber education expert Derek Redelman discussed the importance in this two-minute video previewing the BizVoice examination.

As the higher education discussion continues, we’re proud to have the presidents of some of Indiana’s leading public institutions offer their insights this week. We’ll have a couple of guest blogs each day (sign up under Feeds in the upper right corner to receive e-mail updates of new postings) and encourage you to read, learn and comment. Thanks for helping to Build a Better Indiana.

Senate Passes Budget; Governor Urges Vote Now

The Indiana Senate definitely plays nicer than the House. Instead of zingers flying fast and furious, there was predominately a civil tone to today’s activity.  I lost track of how many times a variation of the word “respect” was used by both parties. Quite frankly, it made for some very boring talks. 

Still, when it came time for the Senate to vote on its version of the budget bill (SS 1001), the outcome was predictable – much like the House action last week – and had a distinct partisan flair to it. 

The Senate passed SS 1001 33-17; the catch being that one Democrat – Sen. Frank Mrvan of Hammond – voted for it, while Republican Vaneta Becker of Evansville voted no. 

The so-called budget contingency plan (SS 1) – in case an actual budget fails to pass by June 30 – moved from the Senate on a 32-18 vote (Republican Jean Leising of Oldenburg opposed it).

During today’s proceedings, Senate Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne) said his goal was to have the Senate vote on a finalized budget by no later than June 29. Of course, in order to do that, the House must play nice. Think they can?

The latest: Gov. Daniels issued a plea to the House Democrats to avoid a conference committee and to take a vote on the Senate version of SS 1001. The statement from the governor:

“The Senate compromise, while significantly different from either of my two proposals, protects taxpayers within the limits I’ve requested and I would sign it.  I know there are many House Democrats who would prefer a budget that keeps Indiana in the black to one that takes us into bankruptcy, and we invite them to join this compromise now and bring the special session to a successful close. Mr. Speaker, please just free your followers to vote their conscience and let’s go home.”

Surf the Great Lakes (Caucus) on the Web

Are you interested in Great Lakes legislative issues? (It’s OK, don’t be shy, we all have our niches. I, for instance, am a sucker for "Dukes of Hazzard" paraphernalia.)

If so, you might note that the Great Lakes Legislative Caucus recently established an online presence. The caucus is a nonpartisan affair, including legislators from eight states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin) and two Canadian provinces (Ontario and Quebec).

According to the site, the caucus has three primary goals:

1. Facilitate the regional exchange of ideas and information on key Great Lakes issues 
2. Strengthen the role of state and provincial legislators in the policymaking process
3. Promote the restoration and protection of the Great Lakes

In this year’s state legislature, the passage of SB 45 made Indiana the first state to adopt the Great Lakes Compact and implemenation language. The Indiana Chamber has been a supporter of the Great Lakes Compact that will restrict the diversion of waters from the basin. Prior to the session, the Chamber, in cooperation with environmental interest groups, hosted the Indianapolis public meeting on the compact. In testimony, the Chamber noted that nearly 20% of the world’s fresh water is contained in the Great Lakes and that we must do what we can to preserve and protect this valuable resource that is critical to many Indiana businesses, industries and residents.

The other seven states and two Canadian provinces on the Great Lakes must adopt the compact before it goes to Congress for ratification.

Take a look at the Great Lakes Caucus news often for the latest developments. We know Wisconsin’s own Tom Wopat (aka Luke Duke) will be checking it out.