Category: News

Hoosier says BMV gave him an offensive plate

Brenda Shelton

Reporter, 5 Rights News


There’s a problem inside John Hoover’s garage and on roads throughout Indiana.

About 900 license plates have been issued to Hoosiers with the letters S-O-T –  letters Hoover  considers offensive. He wants the license plate replaced without the S-O-T prefix which according to Webster’s Dictionary refers to a habitual drunkard and dates back to the late 1500s.

“I really wasn’t too satisfied with having to drive around town with that implication on my driver’s plates,”  said Hoover who has two cars with the plates. But the Bureau of Motor Vehicles  has refused to issue him a plate without cost because the word isn’t commonly known in today. Instead, the BMV will charge Hoover $10 to swap out the plate.

“It’s really a kind of an old English word, an old usage, archaic usage, that is not common parlance today. For that reason, we don’t see the need to eliminate that word.” says Dennis Rosebrough, a BMV spokesperson.

When issuing license plates, a combination of letters and numbers are randomly selected and afterward, a committee reviews the plates to make sure no phrases are  inappropriate.   SEX, SIN, YUK, SOS, WTF, and WWF are among the phrases that are automatically rejected.

“We really take this seriously,” said Rosebrough. “We don’t want to put something on the back of a car that is offensive to the general public.”

Downtown business at risk

Dan McMichaels stands outside his restaurant in the Biergarten that is another part of his business. The Biergarten is at risk of being lost forever

Roth Lovins

Staff Writer, 5 Rights News

On a typical evening at the Rathskeller Biergarten, there is a cornucopia of people singing and dancing along to the live performer of the night, enjoying the present company and, of course, the beer. The overall atmosphere is one of relaxation and friendliness because of the staffers who work there. Amidst the crowd, trying to enjoy the music while not drawing attention to himself sits Dan McMichaels, the owner of Rathskeller and its corresponding Biergarten.

McMichaels has been the owner of the restaurant and Biergarten since 1995. Since the start of his business, he has had to rent out the space for his companies from the Athenaeum Turners. For the most part, the deal was beneficial to both of the parties involved. That is, until the Athenaeum Turners sent some unsettling news to McMichaels.

“Two days after the 2012 Super Bowl, I received a letter from the landowners of the building,” McMichaels said. “In the letter, they asked to audit the records as a part of our leasing agreement.”

McMichaels cooperated and made sure that all demands were met in accordance with their agreement. Not long after that, McMichaels received yet another letter.

“The next letter told us that we weren’t able to use the Rathskeller name on our advertising and merchandising products throughout the restaurant,” McMichaels said.

McMichaels was upset and took actions with his attorney. After some time in court and mediation, the situation seemed to be appeased, but that was only the beginning of it all.

“The next cease and detest that we got was one that told us that we had to shut down the live entertainment,” McMichaels said.     “They basically told us that starting July 1, we had to close the Biergarten for good.”

For McMichaels, the Biergarten was the backbone for his company and was upset over losing the world-renowned creation.

“The landowners felt that they weren’t getting enough money from me, so they decided to cut off the source of all my money in efforts to get me to ‘roll over’ for them, but I’m not going to,” McMichaels said.

On top of that, McMichaels said that the foundation itself was struggling and wouldn’t be able to help out the rest of the community if they lost their main source of income.

“We have offered our space to non-for profit organizations and helped raise money for local organizations in efforts to give back to the community and without the Biergarten, it will be harder for us to support them,” McMichaels said.

One of the projects that the Rathskeller Biergarten took on was the ‘America Remembers 9/11’ in efforts to raise money for the local Fire Department Bereavement Fund.

“We were able to donate $160,000 to the organization thanks to all the support and funds that came from the Biergarten and its patrons,” McMichaels said.

Along with his contributions through organizations, McMichaels is able to help specific people in the community through a variety of ways.

“In the past, I bought an apartment building and made repairs to it so that the neighborhood wouldn’t suffer because of it,” McMichaels said. “ I have also donated free food services to volunteers who work on some of the construction projects downtown.”

McMichaels hope is that all the people who he has met through his business will be willing to band together and help join his campaign.

“People can join the ‘Save the Biergarten’ campaign and try and campaign against the Athenaeum Foundation so we can keep all the fun going,” McMichaels said. “I know the support will be there because of the traditions that are present in the community.”

For more information on how you can join the ‘Save the Biergarten’ campaign and other ways you can get involved, check out the Rathskeller website and their Facebook page at

Students Graduate Without Passing Standardized Tests

Brelyn Jefferson

Staff Writer, 5 Rights News


Marion County schools say they are graduating seniors at a high rate of between 64 and 91 percent.
This percentage has been increasing, especially within the last year.

But some of those graduates didn’t meet a big state requirement of passing a graduation test.
Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Eugene White thinks special waivers that allow students to graduate without passing the test benefit them.

“If the state doesn’t want us to use it, eliminate it. I have no problem with it. As long as we have it as a mechanism, don’t knock us for using it,” said White.

On the other hand, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett “respectfully disagrees” with White.

“We have to remember that passing English/Language Arts at 10th grade and Algebra 1 is a minimum standard,” Bennett said.  “We know the vast majority of those who graduate using waivers will need remediation in college. On top of that, it negatively impacts a students’ chance of graduating from college.”

End-of-course assessments are required for all Indiana schools. They are taken by all students, and everyone must pass them in order to be eligible for graduation; according to state law.

ECA tests are administered to ensure that students have the minimum 10th grade education criteria necessary to graduate and the potential to make it and be properly prepared for life after high school.

According to calculations of state records, about 8 percent of Indiana graduates receive a diploma even though they never pass all of their courses. They use an exception in state law known commonly as a “waiver.”

In order to qualify for a waiver, students must:

-Take all of the opportunities offered to students to try the test again.
-Have at least a C average in the subject areas of English and Math.
-Have 95 percent average attendance rate for all four years.
-Have recommendation letters; one from the teacher in the subject not passed and one from the principal.     Who approves?

By using waivers to award diplomas to students who otherwise would not qualify, school districts are able to improve their graduation rates, sometimes dramatically. For Indianapolis Public Schools, last year’s graduation rate of 64.6 percent would have dropped by 17 points to 47.3 percent if not for waivers. In Pike Township, waivers helped raise the graduation rate 11.3 points to 91.8 percent from 80.5 percent.

The percent of students who used the waiver has been slowly increasing  throughout Indiana.

The amount of waivers used in Marion County is higher in more suburban areas such as Hamilton County.

But in Marion County, some school officials think waivers make sense for certain types of students. Pike High School principal Troy Inman thinks the waiver only should  be used in “special circumstances,” such as students who have language barriers that hurt their test taking abilities.

Principal Troy Inman said it’s up to teachers to get kids to pass so they will not be at a disadvantage in life. Waivers, he said, “should be used sparingly.”

“Teachers should be doing whatever they can to help them pass,” he said. “There should be a correlation between what they learn and passing the exam.”

Students who are in danger of not graduating because of the ECA think the tests are not fair.   Brent Williams, a recent Arlington High School graduate is one of these people.

“It’s just shoving them through,” he said about the way students are being sent out into the world, ready or not. He got help in passing his Algebra ECA from a very encouraging teacher.

An Arlington High School recent graduate who passed the ECA, Ciara Mercedes Blaine, is worried about classmates who did not pass the ECA. “I know it’s going to be hard for them,” she said of their futures. They risk not being very successful in college and are at a disadvantage, she said, they are a step behind.

“That test was just ridiculous. What’s it prove? I have my classes and my credits done.” Lorenzo Lay, who also graduated from Arlington High School, said.  He did not pass the Algebra ECA and received a waiver.

He does not want to let that test define what other accomplishments he has made in high school or his future ones.

Lay will attend Ivy Tech Community College this fall to be a graphic designer and does not think failing the Algebra ECA will affect him.  “I feel I’m ready.”

Angela Buchman to move to rival station WTHR

by Katie Kutsko

Staff writer, Five Rights News


Chris Wright, chief meteorologist for WTHR-TV Channel 13, stands at his weather station.

Emmy Award-winning meteorologist Angela Buchman, WISH-TV Channel 8, plans to jump  to rival station WTHR-TV Channel 13, Indiana Business Journal (IBJ) reported Wednesday.

It is unclear whether  current WTHR chief meteorologist Chris Wright, will remain at the station. Wright also is  unsure of his future.

“Hope so [to stay at WTHR]. You just never know,” Wright said. “But, I’ll always be a weather person. I would at another station. You’d have to [move], but I would prefer not to.”

New York-based Nielsen Media research ratings released Wednesday for the May sweeps period point to trouble for the four major local stations. WTHR’s ratings fell 34.3 percent at 5 p.m., 16.3 percent at 6 p.m. and 17.8 percent at 11 p.m. However, WTHR remains the most-watched station in the market, and in order to maintain that position, the station is moving to hire Buchman, IBJ reported.

Wright also made the move from WISH to WTHR in 1999 and understands that the station made a business move.

“They [WTHR] want to help their station and hurt their competitor by taking something of theirs,” Wright said.

Changes in the industry mean that weather forecasters have to remain flexible and ready to accept whatever comes their way according to Wright.

“When I first started in the business, there were maps with metal magnets,” he said. “And then we started with older computers. That’s how I got my first job. The older meteorologist refused to use a computer.”

Wright directed comments about the IBJ report to  news director Keith Connors or general manager John Cardenas. But he did say that because of contract rules, Buchman would have to wait a year before going on-air for WTHR.

Wright said  that change is inevitable.

“In TV, the only thing to count on is change,” he said. “People who last adapt to change: technology, ways of doing things, management, ownership. It always requires change.”

Attorney claims smoking ban violates civil rights

Beatriz Costa-Lima

Managing Editor, 5 Rights News


Instead of the usual flow of regular customers to Casino, an Eastside bar, nowadays, patrons buy one drink, step outside to smoke and then leave, according to bar owner Rhoda Walker.

Walker claims the Indianapolis smoking ban is the cause for this shift in business and finds the ban encroaches upon her civil rights.

Indianapolis-based attorney Mark Small, with Ogden Law Firm, filed a motion in Federal District Court on behalf of Walker and 42 other plaintiffs. Walker stated the Ninth Amendment protects the right to smoke on private property.

The ban, which took effect June 1, strengthened the current legislation to restrict smoking in bars with the exception of private clubs, hooka bars and cigar bars.

“The right of an owner of a private business on private property to allow patrons or customers to engage in otherwise legal conduct is among those rights not specifically enumerated in the Constitution or Bill of Rights,” Small said. “[Smoking] would have been a right the framers would have believed unnecessary to specifically protect as they convened over mugs of ale and pipes of tobacco during that summer of 1787 in Philadelphia.”

Before he adresses the media, Indianapolis-based attorney Mark Small, of Ogden Law Firm, speaks with one of his 43 plaintiffs on the steps of the federal district courthouse.

While courts across the nation usually uphold smoking bans, this is the first time an opponent has used the Ninth Amendment in support of smokers’ rights. However, this approach appears more as an act of desperation rather than an argument that will hold up in court, according to Gerard Magliocca, Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis professor.

“There are very few cases that would use the ninth Amendment to do anything,”

Magliocca said. “There’s just no grounds for that kind of argument. Smoking is a heavily regulated thing. There are all sorts of cities around the world that have smoking bans and few have ever challenged them.”

Legislators regulate businesses in various ways in order to create safe work environments, according to David Orentlicher, Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis professor.

“The court recognizes that it’s important for the government to regulate this area,” Orentlicher said, “The freedom to decide how exactly to run your business the way you want is not a fundamental right. The government can tell you what minimum wage to pay employees; they can regulate overtime hours…there are all kinds of regulations to create a safe working environment.”

Despite some controversy to the ban, Mark Lotter, spokesperson for Mayor Greg Ballard, believes that with time, people will adjust to the regulations.

“When you saw the 2005 ban go into effect, there were some initial concerns, but over the course of time people adjusted,” Lotter said. “From a public health and business stand point it makes the city more attractive to employers, conventions and visitors. We are seeing generally positive response from the community.”

Small believes that the ban serves as simply one step to further restrictions on citizen’s daily choices.

“Double cheeseburgers with fries [will] probably [be] next,” Small said. “You already see 17 ounce slurpees in New York City are illegal. How can you have a decent slurpee if it’s 16 ounces or less? It makes no sense…how can a mayor, simply acting on his own, say we’re not going to do that?”

In addition, Small doubted the harmful effects of secondhand smoke Wednesday at a news conference outside the federal courthouse. Cigarette smoke, he said, produces the “equivalent of a million cigarettes.” However, a study led by the Tobacco Control Unit of Italy’s National Cancer Institute in Milan suggests that air pollution emitted by cigarettes is 10 times greater than diesel car exhaust. Due to the Clean Air Act of 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency has regulates motor vehicle pollution

With the ban in place, Walker worries if Casino will stay in business much longer with the decrease in customers.

“This is my livelihood,” Walker said. “What can I do?”

Joshwa Carlisle Verdict

Brooklyn Miller

Reporter, 5 Rights News

A Lawrence man facing murder charges for the death of his girlfriend and their 9-month-old baby was found not guilty this week.

Joshwa Carlisle, 33,  was arrested in September 2010 accused of killing  Tracie Shannon, 25,  and their  daughter, Juliana. Autopsy results confirmed Shannon was smothered to death and the baby was burned alive. Prosecutors had argued that Carlisle killed the mother and daughter to avoid paying $200 a month in child support.

Carlisle denied committing the murders.  The case ended with Marion County Superior Court Judge Mark Stoner  finding Carlisle not guilty.

Shannon’s stepmother, Ramona Shannon, was so overcome with emotion at word of the verdict that she fainted and later needed help to walk out of the court room. Despite the judge’s decision, she later asked  “How can you live with yourself knowing that you burned our baby alive?”

Carlisle’s attorneys said that Carlisle was proven not guilty simply because there was not enough evidence to against him.  David Shircliff said  that there were many inferences that his client committed the crime but there was no physical evidence, such as fingerprints to show that his client was guilty.

Shircliff added that Carlisle wants to put the ordeal in the past, get a job and continue his work in the National Guard.

Judge Stoner said “whoever committed this crime has a special place in hell.”


Bar Owners Taking the Mayor to Court

David Schiele

Reporter, 5 Rights News

This is not the first time bar owners have gone to court, but this time, they are doing it together.

Ten bar owners and two individuals filed a lawsuit against Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard and his city council members on Wednesday, in an attempt to get rid of the smoking ban. They say the ban violates their constitutional rights.

Bar owners claim that they are losing money since the ban has been in effect. Apryl Smith, owner of the Catalina Bar in Glendale, can attest to that.

“[Customers] said they’d rather grab some beer and stay home if they can’t smoke in the bar,” Smith said.

Bar owners previously tried to file a suit against the mayor, but due to the lack of an attorney, the court threw out the lawsuit. Now the bar owners have hired attorney Mark Small to pass the persecution.

“Local business have been hurt, it’s the small bar owners, it’s the small businesses that are hurt by legislations like this,” Small said.

The difference between this case and the attempted case thrown out is that the current lawsuit is filed as a federal case.

“If we don’t prevail here at the United States District Court, we’ll seek a certificate of appeal ability and take this matter to Chicago,” said Small meaning he is willing to take this case to Supreme Court if necessary.

The bar owners plan to use the 9th Amendment in their persecution against the mayor. This will be the first time that amendment is used in an anti-smocking ban case.


State officials implement policy to prevent another State Fair tragedy


Chief Operating Officer for the Indiana State Fair Commission presents the new comprehensive emergency management plan to the commission and media. | photo by Katie Kutsko

Katie Kutsko

Staff reporter, 5 Rights News


“Alina BigJohny, Nathan Byrd, Glenn Goodrich, Jennifer Haskell, Christina Santiago, Megan Toothman and Tammy VanDam … ”

Those are the names of the seven who were tragically killed in the stage rigging collapse at the Indiana State Fair Aug. 13, 2011. Emotions ran high Thursday as the Indiana State Fair Commission (ISFC) dedicated a plaque to the victims and families revisited the accident site outside of the Hoosier Lottery Grandstand.

ISFC chairman Andre Lacy and president Steve Simmerman spoke briefly to the approximately 20 family members present for the plaque dedication ceremony.

Andrea Vellinga of Pendleton, a surviving victim who suffered from a traumatic brain injury during the collapse, also attended the memorial dedication.

“Just looking at it made me sad, thinking, ‘thank goodness my name wasn’t on this plaque’ but it made me sad looking at those people that didn’t make it that night,” Vellinga said. “We’re all victims, and it helps create a legacy for all of us.”

Some family members, however, found the quick speeches by the chairman and president  insulting.

“The rehearsed five-minute speeches … I’m sorry; I didn’t see any emotion in their face,” said Polly BigJohny, mother of Alina BigJohny, one of the seven who died. “It was very hurtful.”

In response to the stage collapse, the ISFC implemented a new comprehensive emergency management plan (CEMP).

According to Dave Shaw, the newly hired chief operating officer, the plan is “the best effort, hardest worked and most researched document the ISFC has ever produced in its 156-year-history.”

The 425-page document identifies 16 possible hazards, some of which include fire/ explosion, severe weather, lost/ unattended persons, earthquake, animals at-large, animal wellness and care, elevator malfunction and more. Each hazard that is identified in the plan is specific and separate to plan for each possible emergency.

Shaw and Jessie Olvera, safety officer, also said that although the final draft of the emergency plan was published June 14, it is still a working document.

The ISFC also subcontracted Televent, a full-time weather organization to monitor the weather for the duration of the State Fair. In addition to taking supplemental weather precautions, the entire fair commission took and passed a National Incident Management System course through FEMA.

Although the lives of those who were lost cannot be brought back, the fair commission plans to train all 1,200 State Fair employees, including seasonal workers, by the start of the fair on Aug. 3.

In response to questions about a lack of emergency response policy last year, chairman Lacy said:

“My heart goes out in answering the questions. It did not exist, but it does today.”


State Police crack down on reckless drivers

Leah Johnson

Editor-in-Chief, 5 Rights News


  Indiana State Police are implementing an aggressive ‘Crash Reduction Enforcement Program’ to save Hoosier lives.

Traffic deaths have  been slowly on the rise since 2009, with 700 deaths to more than 750 in 2010. According to ISP Commander John Smithers, while traffic related deaths have been managed well in past years, the recent spike is cause for alarm.

“Over the past couple of years we’ve been pretty successful as far as reducing the number of fatal crashes. However, this year there has been a bit of an aberration in fatals- particularly in rural areas.” Smithers said.

Crashes, he notes, are the result of poor driving techniques.

“Following too closely, changing lanes without properly signaling, driving too fast for weather conditions.”

The program is an undercover effort, which will use less traditional vehicles than the department has used in the past. Helicopters, cyclist patrols, unmarked Dodge Chargers and Ford Mustangs are all a part of the campaign.

Motorist Sandra O’Brien has firsthand experience with undercover vehicles.

“I mean, people are going a lot faster than me.  I’m shocked that I got pulled over, I really am.” O’Brien said.

“I’m not even a speed demon- I’m not. I’m just trying to get on this road. That’s all I was trying to do.”

Statistically, the measures already have  proven to be effective. The more police contacts made, the lower the amount of traffic related fatalities. In March 2012 alone, police contacts skyrocketed to 22,790 while total crashes dropped to 11,660.

Indiana State Police Superintendent  Paul Whitesell said he intends on using any method necessary to save lives.

“We are steadfast in our commitment to minimize the number of crashes that injure and kill people on our roadways and will use all tools and enforcement methods at our disposal to stop such needless tragedies.” Whitesell said.

The extra measures, State Trooper Justin Hobbs said are necessary for Hoosier safety.

“If you are abiding by traffic laws you don’t have anything to worry about.” Hobbs said.

“We got a laser clock on a burgundy SUV at 65 in a workzone, and then you have workers out here still working. And that’s why we’re out here, keep those folks safe.”

State Board of Education modifies teacher licensing

~Cayla Wood Phommarath

Reporter, 5 Rights News

The Indiana State Board of Education has proposed a  change to the way  teachers are  licensed in the state.

The change would allow students studying to become a teacher to earn a degree in any field as  long as the  student passes certification tests.

Bartholomew County teacher George Vanhorn thinks that changing the licensing  is unnecessary and short-sighted.

“People can have good knowledge of content, but they don’t know how to teach,” Vanhorn said. “Just because you have good content and all doesn’t mean you’re a good teacher.”

But Alex Damron, press secretary for the state board, defended the change.

”What were really seeking to do is maximize the available talent pool for local school leaders and provide the pathway to success,” Damron said.

The public will get the opportunity to speak out on the issue during a 9 a.m. meeting on  June 21 at  151 W. Ohio St.