All posts by Tim J. Clark

General Info – County Tax Sales

Per the County Treasurer:

Mary Smith We take payments on tax sale eligible properties until 4pm the day before the sale. If someone came in the morning of the sale to pay I, of course, would take their payment, but that doesn’t happen very often.

A list of the current eligible parcels will be in the paper next week. Also current lists are available every day on our vendor’s web page. It updates every day.

BCM Facebook Post that generated the discussion

 

 

Part 1 – Discord in the community – better strategies needed ?

Discord in the community – better strategies needed?
By Tim J. Clark
UpdatedSeptember 14, 2019

The controversy over personal beliefs and professional conduct involving the Farmers Markets in Nashville and Bloomington, Indiana escalated to the point that resulted in regional, state and national attention.  The issues are unlikely to be resolved any time soon by applying current methods that include demonizing the opposition until they admit the error of their ways.   An attacking (suboptimal) approach typically results in making a situation even worse.

Background

The owners of Schooner Creek Farm (SCF) hold personal views and beliefs that are objectionable to other individuals in the community who have petitioned to have SCF removed from the City of Bloomington’s Farmers Market (BFM).   Preceding this petition, a similar effort was successful in removing SCF as a vendor in the privately-run farmers market in Nashville, Indiana.

Sarah Dye, co-owner Schooner Creek Farm, states in an August 28, 2019, online interview that they are considering legal action.

This an interesting story not only from a legal aspect but from a political and cultural perspective as well. The situation provides an opportunity for the community and all key stakeholders to re-assess the effectiveness of their respective approaches and make any needed adjustments.

Summary of Recent  Events

SCF has participated in the BFM for nine years.  The BFM coordinator reinforced the position that Schooner Creek Farm (SCF) has honored the rules of the market and has treated customers with respect.  Several lawyers that teach or have taught at Indiana University (IU) have also reinforced that the market cannot remove a vendor for exercising their first amendment right.  The ACLU has also reinforced that the city would be sued if they removed the vendor or applied workarounds with the intent of circumventing the First Amendment.

Legal Frame of Reference

Steve Sanders – Associate Professor – IU Maurer School of Law, has been among the most active on social media in providing a legal and historical context for this situation. Mr. Sanders provided a follow-up statement to my interpretation of the comments he made on the August 2, 2019, WFIU – Noon Edition – Panel Discussion in which he states:

  • I will weigh in to clarify the above description of what I said on Noon Edition. Sarah Dye calls herself an “Identitarian” and has posted on a server used by the Identity Evropa group. (1) So, there is no question she has affiliated herself with white nationalist/supremacist politics and ideology. That is not a crime and, in itself, cannot get her ejected.
  • The point I was trying to make on the radio was: So, what is it proper to infer from that?   Those advocating her ejection from the market have strongly implied that such ties are tantamount to endorsing (if not actually planning) violence, extreme forms of Nazism, etc., and have also implied she is somehow complicit in the Carmel synagogue vandalism because she had dinner with the perpetrator. That’s the guilt by association I was talking about. My point was that affiliations and linkages can be ambiguous and that it is irresponsible to use them to imply the worst possible meaning in the absence of proof of exactly what someone believes or seeks to accomplish. I’m a Democrat, but that doesn’t mean I automatically embrace what every leader of the party stands for.
  • So, in short, there is good evidence Sarah Dye has done things to affiliate herself with white supremacist groups, but the meaning of that affiliation for her, and the exact nature and contours of her own beliefs and agenda are what remain unknown.“

(1) It’s been reported that Identity Evropa has been re-branded American Identify Movement (AIM). Aim’s website lists the positions and beliefs of the group. This allows their actions to be compared to their rhetoric.  Their position include the following:  “AIM prohibits the advocacy of or participation in supremacy, violence, or illegal activity.”

Sarah Dye in an interview by Fox59  stated the following: “As an Identitarian and an American, I am disgusted at the level of lies, misinformation, falsehoods, and intimidation by those who do not know me or my family,” said Dye.”  Dye defined Identitarian as, “a way of viewing the world that emphasizes the importance of identity.

Three individuals that teach at IU and two other IU employees that have been involved in the protests, have taken action and expressed comments on social media that would appear to be in violation of IU social media policy if conducted on IU-affiliated social media accounts. Their comments using their personal accounts are likely protected by the First Amendment but may still be subject to civil action.

  • IU Legal Information, Policies and Incidents.  Make sure you’re adhering to social media policies. … you may not post any intentionally malicious, defamatory, degrading or hateful material. This does not include frank discussions, criticisms or opinion, which are protected under free speech.”  Other prohibited activity includes Lewd or indecent conduct, Threat of physical harm; Illegal discrimination, Harassment.

The mayor has made statements in support of the protestors that likely contributed to a hostile environment, escalation of the situation, and animous against SCF.  These actions also likely contributed to the market shut down for two weeks. The protests have led to a near 50% reduction in visitors to the market this year.  Can the mayor be held legally accountable for the results of his actions that include the adverse economic impact on the vendors?  When would the Mayor’s actions become a civil rights violation?  

The shut down of the market had a detrimental economic impact on all the vendors. The mayor’s justification included indications of a “threat.” Has the Bloomington Police Department charged anyone yet for making threats?  Allen for Monroe County removed a Facebook post because of the nature of the threats being posted by the protestors on his Facebook page.

Local Media

The local media with a few exceptions have also been complicit in disseminating “allegations” without context that have contributed to the escalation and perceived fear in the community. The coverage has had detrimental impacts on the reputation and safety of the SCF vendors. What are the professional ethics and legal issues associated with this story?  Laura Land, (Bloomington) Herald-Times addressed this issue in her Commentary: “Don’t forget the First Amendment.”

  • The Herald-Times has published multiple articles on the farmers’ market developments. We have done our own research. We have reviewed court documents, emails, videos and recordings that so many claim is proof that the owners of Schooner Creek Farm are white supremacists. Direct evidence, it isn’t there.
  • When a news organization publishes a false statement that damages a person’s reputation, that’s libel. I make sure, just about every day, to not libel anyone. Not just because I could be sued, but because it’s important that the information we report be accurate. We cannot and do not print accusations that can’t backed up with tangible stand-up-in-court proof.

 State and National Media Attention

The situation in Bloomington has escalated to the point that it has received attention from the traditional and alternative media within the state and nation. This includes Fox59 tv in Indianapolis as well as coverage by the New York Times, the Nation, American Greatness, and Red Ice tv/3Fourteen radio.

Individual protestors have also perpetuated allegations inferring associations absent of evidence that supports their assumptions. These include the claims that the vendors and just about anyone else that disagrees with the position of the protestors are Nazis of the WWII variety. The actions of these protestors may also be subject to legal repercussions. The “No Space for Hate” group endorses the slogan “ Don’t buy veggies from Nazis.” They recently supported a joint march on a public street with a masked and black-clad group that led to a confrontation with a motorist.

The association of “white” supremacy with world war II era Nazism is also interesting. The Nazis believed that only “certain” whites (Aryans) were racially superior. Hitler considered the Japanese as “the Aryans of the East, called by destiny to rule Asia.” Hitler’s victims were white.

Politically, the issue falls within the left (liberal) vs right (conservative) diatribe. Jonathan Haidt is a leader in the field in identifying strategies that can be used to develop understanding and help narrow the divide between liberal and conservative paradigms. For more information, see the “The moral roots of liberals and conservatives.” (TED Video)

Haidt identifies five foundations (channels) of morality and concludes. “Liberals have a two-channel morality (Harm/Care, Fairness/Reciprocity) and conservatives five.” (Reference – the nine-minute mark of the video).

  • Harm/Care
  • Fairness/Reciprocity
  • Ingroup/Loyalty
  • Authority/Respect
  • Purity/Sanctity

Indiana University

What may be just as concerning is that with the capabilities and expertise available at IU, the university – with a few exceptions, has been relatively dormant on this situation.

Politically, Bloomington is a “blue” (liberal) city in a “red” (conservative) state. This situation provides an opportunity for faculty and students in many academic disciplines to discover and apply better approaches to help develop a better understanding and resolution of controversial and systemic issues. These disciplines would include history, political science, psychology, religious studies, business, sociology, philosophy, and law to name a few.

For example, the IU Food Institute in conjunction with the IU Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society scheduled a planning session on September 3, 2019 to “discuss issues raised by the recent farmers market controversyin Bloomington and what sort of role we (IUFI, CRRES, IU more generally) might play going forward, including the possibility of planning a larger community event.” The announcement then recommended reading a post titled: Farmers Markets And Whiteness.  This post includes a link to a June 20, 2015 article published in the  New York Times titled: OPINION What Is Whiteness? By

  • We don’t know the history of whiteness, and therefore are ignorant of the many ways it has changed over the years.
  • Eliminating the binary definition of whiteness — the toggle between nothingness and awfulness — is essential for a new racial vision that ethical people can share across the color line.

IU Food Institute – Sept Newsletter – Farmers Market  – Feedback from the Sep 3 session

National Challenges – Local Solutions

The U.S. Founding Fathers designed a system of government that could be continually improved in pursuit of “a more perfect union.”  We are a nation of laws that includes a justice system that albeit imperfect,  supports the discovery of truth in pursuit of justice.  An individual can have their day in court where they are considered innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The system allows for a fact (evidence, proof) based debate between opposing parties – prosecutor and defense which presents the information needed for a jury to arrive at a decision.  The judge and appellate courts help ensure compliance with laws.

With social media, emotions can dominate the discussion and the “crowd” assumes the role of judge, jury, prosecutor, and defense. Statements lead to perceptions which become a reality for many.  Perceptions are shaped by many factors to include predispositions that are influenced by factors that include cultural, political, social, emotional, and intellectual.

In the case of SCF and with a few exceptions, the local media has helped shape the debate through the dissemination of “allegations” without context that generates “clicks” and online comments.  Individual posts in response to these articles can add to the polarization and divisiveness. This has contributed to the escalation of the conflict, incited fear and damaged reputations.

The justice system provides the checks and balances on abuse of power by the media.  Even if the media and individuals are found at fault for their actions and pay a financial penalty, significant damage has already been done.

A way-ahead

The SCF issue provides an opportunity for the media, the community, and IU to consider developing better methods and strategies for working through the controversial issues. The ideal is a method and process that produces results where everyone benefits, or at least, are not any worse off in the long-term.  The alternative is more of the same that will likely lead to more escalation, reduced attendance at the market, and a community that has decided to choose conflict over progress.

References and additional information

Part 2:  Discord in the community – better strategies needed?

Part 3:  Discord in the community – better strategies needed?

Blog post including a timeline of key events and links to media coverage:  Wanted: Tolerance, Understanding, Collaboration, Progress

 

BC Leader Network – Jackson Township

Background Information on the Program – Brown County Leader Network

Application Examples – for Jackson Township

2019_09_10 Strategic Plan – Jackson Township

20191011 Stakeholder Community Jackson Township Trustee

2019_08_15 Assessment – SWOT Jackson Township Trustee’s

Jackson Township Reports:

 

 

 

GUEST OPINION:  Septics and Sewers -major changes proposed

Guest Opinion to be published in the Brown County Democrat, Wednesday, Aug 25, 2019  GUEST OPINION: Septics and sewers — major changes proposed By Tim Clark

In his August 13, 2019 guest opinion column in the Brown County Democrat, What you can learn at the county’s Septic Summit, Brown County Regional Sewer District (BCRSD) board member Clint Studabaker reinforced the importance of septic system maintenance and raised issues that should be of concern to all Brown County citizens.

I highly recommend attendance at this educational event on September 3, 5-8, p.m. at the Brown County Fairgrounds.  Given that approximately 90% of residences are on septic systems, education should be a recurring event in the county.  I think we all want a healthy and safe environment as well as elected and appointed leaders that can credibly define the scope and extent of a problem before proposing major changes.

Mr. Studabaker references results from a non-statistically-based survey supported by the Brown County Community Foundation that was conducted in 2008. This survey identified concern for the effectiveness of septics and sewers. He mentions that more information was gathered in 2009 and then used in the “Vision 2020 Plan.”  He then uses this information to infer that there is a need and a problem that could present health issues – an association that is misleading.

For instance, the past two BCRSD board presidents stated publicly that research was needed to determine if there is evidence of a documented need e.g., failed septic systems, in the Bean Blossom area.  Another myth has been in regard to the quality of the water in Cordry and Sweetwater Lakes. Water samples required by the State Board of Health have consistently shown minimal E.Coli in the water. An independent assessment of water quality indicates that the lakes rank as the #2 and #3 clearest lakes in the States indicating that the conservancy’s plan for managing septic systems is proving effective.

Note also the vision 2020 “plan” was a private-sector plan supported by the Community Foundation and the Brown County Partnership. The partnership was dissolved due to lack of participation and commitment from elected representatives. The 2020 plan was not a county comprehensive plan. A county comprehensive plan has to meet state requirements, which includes official public meetings, and approval of the plan by the county commissioners. Approval by the county council for any associated project funding is also a requirement.

Of significant importance is that major changes are being made and proposed for wastewater treatment strategies (sewers and septics) in Brown County that will affect almost “all” residents to include those that are buying and selling homes. This may be great news if you are a realtor, developer or in the septic system business. It may not be so welcome if you are at the low to moderate-income level, have a functional septic systems and/or expect the least intrusion from your government.

Mr. Studabaker is at the forefront of the septic and sewer initiatives – he is the primary leader of the BCRSD board that is proposing a wastewater treatment plant for Bean Blossom. He is also a member of the committee that worked on the proposed new septic ordinance. Mr. Studabaker has also written a grant proposal for a Wastewater Infrastructure Strategic Plan for the county which if accepted, can be a useful document if it follows accepted practices for fact-based analysis.

The Bean Blossom sewer project is now projected to be operational in 2021 – much longer than anticipated when the project was first announced at the BCRSD board meeting on June 19, 2018.   The board has spent approximately $170,000 of the $270,000 of “seed money” provided by the county council. The BCRSD has yet to acquire land and the latest strategy has been trying to acquire land deeded to Parks and Recreation. The letter to the Parks and Recreation Board from Ladd Engineering included the requirement to provide information on the Uniform Relocation Act of 1970: When a Public Agency Acquires Your Property. The brochure provides guidance on the government’s power to invoke eminent domain.  Some elected officials have also expressed a desire to withhold funding if Parks and Recreation did not approve a land transfer.

Parks and Recreation rescinded their vote to approve a transfer of land for a wastewater treatment plant. There may also be legal issues associated with a transfer that would also result in additional clear-cutting of the proposed site. Eminent domain is the tool that can be used to acquire “private” land “if ” a project is considered to be an important public good. Nashville used eminent domain to acquire the land for their sewer plant.

I continue to be concerned over the lack of due diligence and transparency on the Bean Blossom sewer project. Due diligence includes defining the scope and extent of the problems before proposing solutions. On the issue of transparency, I had to submit a formal complaint with the State to obtain public records from the BCRSD board. I recently made a follow-up complaint with the public access counselor who is working on the issue which involves a simple request – a review of the list that contains the names of the customers. The BCRSD board also promised a website in June of 2018 that would be used to keep the citizens updated on the ongoing status of the project – a website that is not yet available.

A review of the proposed septic ordinance indicates that it is too similar to the last two attempts and I will recommend that this revision should also be rejected by the public.

Fortunately and due to Mr. Studabaker’s initiative, the State Regionalization Assistance Program has recently approved the application for a $30,000 grant by the Helmsburg and the Brown County RSDs to conduct a regionalization study to identify the best options for the county in regard to wastewater treatment and location of plants. Completion of this study is due by the end of the year.

Mr. Studabaker has an impressive private sector resume. However, when you are using taxpayer dollars to fund projects, expectations and standards of performance are much higher in the public sector. Standards include transparency, comprehensive planning, due diligence, and earning the trust, respect, and confidence of the community.  Major mistakes in the private sector can lead to firings, lawsuits, and bankruptcies. Similar mistakes in the public sector often result in higher taxes, less revenue for projects with a valid need and a citizenry that lacks trust in local government.

I hope you can attend the Septic Summit and will also stay informed on the sewer and septic issues and proposed changes. How these issues are addressed will have significant impacts on our quality of life as well as on the cost of living in Brown County.

Tim J. Clark
Tim J. Clark of Brown County is a quality improvement practitioner, educator and author who specializes in the public sector. He is a senior member of the American Society for Quality has master’s degrees in strategic studies and public administration. He has served on the Brown County Redevelopment Commission and on the Brown County Schools Strategic Planning Committee. He can be reached at tjclark2036@gmail.com.

More Info: Timeline on the project – Regional Sewer Board – Bean Blossom Sewer Project – For the Record

 

 

County and Brown County Schools – Health Insurance

The county’s health insurance is self-funded over budget on a yearly basis.   Brown County Schools have a plan that is resulting in savings.

Oct 1, 2019.  Council OKs transferring $650,000 to health trust fund Staff Reports  BCD Facebook Post

Nov 16, 2018.  Access to health care expands: Clinic now open 5 days with county, schools on board

“By opening the clinic at Eagle Park, Hammack said the impact on the school district’s health insurance fund has been “profound.”   “We are sitting right now with a health insurance fund of a little over $700,000. It’s an extraordinary thing,” she said. “… It’s almost a million and a half dollars that is a total amount saved. That’s massive in this short amount of time.”

  • County government’s health insurance fund has been stretched as well. For 2018, the county has had to appropriate almost a million dollars to help cover health insurance, including $800,000 just in September.

Aug 10, 2018, SUPERINTENDENT’S CORNER: Health care spending decreasing for school district By LAURA HAMMACK, guest columnist

  • When the school board and I first began working together in July of 2016,  one of the first areas of concern that we identified was the cost of health insurance benefits and the subsequent negative impact on our budget.
  • Before we made changes to our plan, our district had a massive deficit in the health insurance fund. We were in a situation where we had to make substantial lump sum payments to our “third-party administrator” (TPA) to catch up on bills that were due.
  • We have “lived” our new plan for just over one year. I am thrilled to share that the results have been extraordinarily positive. We have moved from a situation of paying annual lump sum payments totaling over a half a million dollars to pay the bills to a situation where we have a reserve of well over the same. This translates into a million-dollar impact in just one year.

Jan 9, 2018.  Healthy outlook: Community health clinic set to open on school property

  • All people — whether they’re associated with the school district or not — will be able to use the services at Brown County Health and Wellness Center through a membership arrangement, Brown County Schools Superintendent Laura Hammack said.
  • School district employees will have access to the clinic through their medical coverage, while the general public can pay for a membership to the clinic in what’s known as the direct-primary care model. Memberships are month to month and can be canceled at any time.

May 9, 2017SCHOOL NEWS: Health insurance costs; personnel changes

  • Brown County Schools employees and retirees will be paying more for health insurance next year.
  • In addition to the new premiums, the school board also approved a contract with Anthem for a Brown County Schools Health Benefit Trust. The trust will allow the school district to build up money to be used for emergency medical situations by raising premiums and school board contributions, Superintendent Laura Hammack said.
  • Previously, those types of emergency medical bills were paid for out of the general fund, which has a deficit of more than $1 million.
  • Premiums for a single person with a $1,000 deductible increase from $132.80 to $139.44, based on 18 pays. A single retiree with a $1,000 deductible will pay a $371.85 premium compared to $231.92 premium in May 2016 after VEBA Bridge Coverage.

Treasurer – Investment Policy and Examples of Reports

Brown Brown County Investment Policy

County Treasurers Monthly Report June 30, 2019

Brown County Treasurers Daily Balance as of June 30 2019

The amounts listed in the Treasurers reports identify funds that are obligated.

March 18, 2019. Brown County IN Comprehensive Financial Plan 2016-2021

Aug 8, 2019. Brown County Treasurer – Mary Smith – Facebook Post and comments on the status of investments

Septic Summit – Sewer and Septic Issues and Strategies

Aug 13, 2019. BCD.  GUEST OPINION: What you can learn at the county’s Septic Summit  By Clint Studabaker

CAUTION: A long post in response to the Guest Opinion article.   I highly recommend attendance at this educational event.  Given that approximately 90% of residences are on septic systems, education should be a recurring event in the county.   I think we all want a healthy and safe environment as well as leaders that can credibly define the scope and extent of a problem before forcing solutions. However ….

Mr. Studabaker references results from a NON-statistically based “survey” conducted in 2008 with more information gathered in 2009 and then used in the Vision 2020 “Plan.”  He then uses this non-statistically valid information to infer that there is a need and a “problem” that “could” present a health issue – an association that is misleading.  For instance, the past two Brown County Regional Sewer District (BCRSD) Board presidents stated publically that there was no evidence of a documented need e.g., failed septic systems, in the Bean Blossom area.  Another myth has been in regard to the quality of the water in Cordry and Sweetwater Lakes.  Water samples indicate that there is not a problem and the conservancy’s plan for managing septic systems is proving effective.

Note also the vision 2020 “plan” was a private-sector plan supported by the community foundation and the Brown County Partnership. The partnership was dissolved (2016?) due to lack of participation. The 2020 plan was not a county comprehensive plan that has to meet state requirements, requires public meetings, approval by the county commissioners and approval by the county council for any associated project funding.

Of SIGNIFICANT IMPORTANCE is that major changes are being made and proposed for wastewater treatment strategies (sewers and septics) in Brown County that will affect almost ALL residents to include those that are buying and selling homes. Great if you are a realtor, developer or in the septic system business. Not so great if you are at the low to moderate-income level and/or expect the least intrusion from your government.

Mr. Studabaker is at the forefront of the septic/sewer initiatives – he is a member and primary leader of the BCRSD Board that is proposing a wastewater treatment plant for Bean Blossom. He is also a member of the committee that worked on the proposed new septic ordinance and has written a grant proposal for a Wastewater Infrastructure Strategic Plan for the county.

The Bean Blossom sewer project is now projected to be in operation approximately 1-2 years over the initial projection and is likely over budget. The BCRSD has yet to acquire land and the latest strategy is/has been trying to acquire land (under threat of eminent domain) deeded to Parks and Recreation. Does the public support this idea?  Eminent domain is the tool that can that be used to acquire “private” land “IF” a project is considered to be an important public good. Nashville used eminent domain to acquire the land for their sewer plant.

I continue to be concerned over the lack of due diligence and transparency on the Bean Blossom sewer project. Due diligence includes defining the scope and extent of the problems before proposing solutions. On the issue of transparency, I had to submit a formal complaint with the State to obtain public records from the BCRSD board. I recently made a follow-up complaint with the public access counselor who is working on the issue which involves a simple request – a review of the list that contains the names of the customers. The BCRSD board also promised a website in June of 2018 that would be used to keep the citizens updated on the ongoing status of the project – the website has yet to be developed.

Proposed Septic System Ordinance.  A review of the proposed septic ordinance indicates that similar to the last two attempts, this revision should also be rejected by the public.

Mr. Studabaker has an impressive private sector resume. However, when you are using taxpayer dollars to fund projects, expectations and standards of performance are much higher in the public sector. Standards include transparency, comprehensive planning, due diligence, and earning the trust, respect, and confidence of the community.  Major mistakes in the private sector can lead to firings, lawsuits, and bankruptcies. Similar mistakes in the public sector often result in higher taxes, less revenue for projects with a valid need and a citizenry that lacks trust in local government.

I hope you can attend the education sessions on septic systems and will also stay informed on the sewer/septic issues. These issues will have a significant impact on our quality of life and the cost of living in Brown County.

Tim J. Clark
Co-Administrator Facebook Group – Brown County Matters

More Information – context and details