The Journal Gazette
Sunday, September 12, 2021 1:00 am

Democrats call out Holcomb on COVID

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

If it seems like it has been awhile since Gov. Eric Holcomb has participated in a COVID-19 news briefing, you would be right.

One hundred sixty-six days, to be exact.

State health officials have met with the press several times, but Holcomb has not attended – instead focusing on groundbreakings and other announcements.

“As it stands, Indiana schools are reaching record levels of COVID cases and hospitals are reaching capacity levels not seen since last winter – causing first responders to feel burned out from their work to save Hoosiers from this virus,” a news released from the Indiana Democratic Party said. “Eric Holcomb has failed to provide Hoosiers an update on how he'll guide Indiana through the pandemic, and this partisan decision is ignoring his promise to use the facts on the ground.”

Holcomb has addressed the pandemic numerous times when reporters have tracked him down at other events – but only a few questions in tight scrums of cameras and digital recorders.

The Democrats have been hammering Holcomb for his hands-off approach – noting his 2020 self would've been holding a news conference on Indiana's latest surge.

“But since he's not up for reelection and has his eyes on future campaigns, Holcomb is letting his partisanship dictate Indiana's response to the pandemic,” the Democratic Party said.

Rokita kudos

Attorney General Todd Rokita attended the New Haven City Council meeting last week to thank Mayor Steve McMichael and council members for opting into the state's settlement with three major pharmaceutical distributors and a manufacturer/marketer of opioids.

“The real beneficiaries of this decision will be the residents of New Haven,” Rokita said. “The state settlement will bring a significant amount of money directly to impacted communities in Indiana to support programs to help those struggling with addiction.”

The Office of the Attorney General worked with elected members of the Indiana General Assembly to create a statutory structure that will distribute this funding right to local communities. The funds will support local law enforcement efforts, drug task forces, regional treatment hubs, and early intervention and crisis support, among other important programs.

Indiana's share of the $26 billion national settlement is $508 million. At least 70% of the total will be used for opioid abatement efforts in local communities. The majority of Indiana communities – more than 580 – elected to join the state's settlement.

“I remain concerned that some communities around the state have lost out because private attorneys from large national firms persuaded them not to participate in the state settlement,” Rokita said. “Too many of those lawyers were more interested in collecting large fees representing local governments in go-it-alone lawsuits than doing what is truly in Hoosiers' best interests.”

Fort Wayne and Allen County, both of whom have Republican majorities, have opted out.

What a deal

The Fort Wayne City Council celebrated locking in an unleaded fuel price of $1.89 for all city departments last week. 

The city annually enters an agreement with Lassus Brothers Oil for a fixed unleaded gas price for the following year. City employees, including police officers, can fill up at any Lassus gas station or at the fleet garage downtown. 

Council President Paul Ensley, R-1st, told Steve Gillette, city purchasing director, that he did a great job. 

“I just filled up my car on the way down here at $3.19 a gallon,” Ensley said. “Just so everybody knows, we've now purchased an entire year's worth of fuel for our city for $1.89 a gallon. That's absolutely incredible.”

All present members (Jason Arp, R-4th, was absent) said aye when finance committee chairman Glynn Hines, D-at large, asked for those who favored the preliminary approval. 

“Any opposed?” he asked, as required. He then quipped, “Shut your mouths,” followed by a roar of laughter. 

Board foes also neighbors

Two school board members at odds with each other at public meetings can't even get away from each other at home. They live about 100 feet apart.

Kent Somers and Liz Hathaway of Northwest Allen County Schools live next door to each other on a cul-de-sac in Perry Township.

They serve as board president and vice president, respectively.

Somers criticized Hathaway for proposing a resolution reinstating masks during the Aug. 30 meeting without giving the board prior notice.

The resolution passed without Somers' support, and masks have been required at NACS since Sept. 1.

Airing concerns

Jennifer McCormick no longer holds state office, but that doesn't mean she's staying quiet about her concerns about public education.

McCormick, the state's last elected superintendent of public instruction, was a recent guest on Electable, a podcast sponsored by the Indiana Women's Action Movement.

In a 30-minute conversation with host Deb Chubb, McCormick shared multiple concerns about the future of public schools, including funding and the power of local school boards. McCormick foresees more partisan politicization of those governmental bodies, according to a news release.

Electable is available on Spotify, iTunes and Stitcher.

Indiana Women's Action Movement is an organization dedicated to getting more Democratic women elected to the Indiana Legislature.

Devan Filchak and Ashley Sloboda of The Journal Gazette contributed to this column.

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