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.

Student Field Trips

Editors' meeting at the Indianapolis Star.

Touring the Indianapolis City- County building.

NBA Lockout is ON

By David Shiele

5 Rights | staff writer

Around 12:01 A.M EDT on July 1,the NBA locked out its players due to a failure to come up with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Despite a three-hour meeting on Thursday, June 30, the players and the NBA owners could not close the huge gap between them.

The two sides will meet again in the next two to three weeks.

They’ve been discussing reducing the players income percentage from 57% down to 54.3%. That would add up to players losing $500 million over the course of five years. But 90% of players get paid from Nov. 15 – April 30, so a percentage change won’t have an imediate effect.

“We’re going to stand up fro what we have to do no matter how long it’s going to take”, says Thunder gaurd Kevin Durant about the issue.

Because of the lockout now being in effect, Free agency, which would have started July 1, is now on hold. The NBA’s summer league has also been cancelled.

NBA commisioner, David Stern, and NBA leaders are willing to give a $1 million fine and a loss of draft picks to anyone who violates the lockout.

The previous NBA Lockout was before the 1998-1999 season, and reduced the season to only 50 games. That was the first time the NBA had ever missed games due to a work stopage.

This would be the second lockout of 2011, as the NFL locked out its players in March. The NFL is still in talks to renew their Collective Bargaining Agreement.




Man on the street: Immigration Bills

“I feel that people should come here legally. You know, I was an immigrant myself and I did it legally. I took the time to get the paperwork and everything. And I have no problem with people here illegally, but I believe that’s how it should be done.”

-Betty Caputo, McCordsville Resident

Indianapolis resident Terrell Parker

“From what I’ve read so far I believe that they are unconstitutional.”

-Lee Buckley, Indianapolis Resident


“I don’t support [the bills] because they’re discriminatory. Its basically like racial profiling and I don’t support racial profiling.”

-Terrell Parker, Indianapolis Resident


“Latino Youth Collective is very involved in educating about YSB 590. They had the five students that were arrested for a sit-in in Mitch Daniel’s office. I believe their court hearing was a couple of days ago, so yeah hey, I don’t know what they were charged with. Indiana is one of the states that doesn’t do undocumented students, doesn’t give them the same tuition. It’s pretty intense.”

-Dana Black, AmeriCorps Volunteer

AmeriCorps volunteer Dana Black

IMPD helps mental health

Lieutenant David Hoffman discusses IMPD's stand on officers' mental health.

By Jana Warren

5 Rights | staff writer

A police officer’s job is to protect their fellow citizens, sometimes jeopardizing their own life. But the public isn’t likely to know that the officers are subjected to stresses that can lead not only to physical harm but undiagnosed mental health issues.

“Police officers are not immune from the same stress which can negatively affect the other members of our community,” said Lt. David Hofmann of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. At least 15 percent of all Americans, which includes police officers, suffer from some kind of undiagnosed mental illness according to Hofmann.  Whether they’re one-year rookies or 25-year veterans, the daily activities of an officer can take a toll, he said.

“As a police officer, in a matter of moments you can witness a homicide involving a mother or a son, or a house caught on fire and a fireman dragging a body out,” said Capt. Jack Keilger of theMarion County Sheriff Department. “We deal with a lot of shattered lives but if we don’t keep it (stress) in control we’re going to have a shattered life.”

Understanding what that amount of stress can lead to, departments such as the Marion County Sheriff and  IMPD provide programs and services as well as career advice and guidance to officers. The services also include coordinating professional help from therapists to psychiatrists.

“We have an excellent Employee Assistance Program,” said Hofmann, who works in IMPD’sinternal affairs unit. “We also offer department mentors for officers, and in some cases, special temporary assignments to give officers a change of scenery or additional training in areas of interest to them.” Overall IMPD has helped more than 40 officers deal with personal and professional issues. Officers are able to work on their normal assignments while getting help, as well as being given temporary assignments.

Sometimes, the best way for police officers to get through stressful situations is to talk to someone.

“Most people look at officers as superheroes when they should realize that we’re humans too,” said Marion County Sheriffs Deputy Samuel Longwood.  “When you have supervisors who work closely with you, you tend to become a family and you’re able to share and tell them what you’re going through.”

For some officers however, it isn’t so simple.

“There’s a macho sense about the job,” said Keilger. “There’s a lot of A-type in them, that they don’t want to get help.”

At that point, the situation can get worse for some officers.  Others are able to cope with the stress while contemplating whether to seek help. Longwood was one of those officers.

“Sometimes I felt that I needed to go to someone but didn’t and eventually figured it out myself,” said Longwood. When police officers encounter a lot of stress, they are encouraged to participate in activities the enjoy, Longwood said. In doing so,  officers not only relieve the stress but also find a way to deal with it in the future.

“The overall theme of what we do in our office is to try to take good care of our most valuable asset, our people,” said Hofmann. “That, in turn, will make IMPD stronger, more professional agency, which in turn will make Indianapolis a safer community.”


Curbing violent crime

By Charles Barron

5 Rights | staff writer

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard unveiled a new initiative this week  to curb violent crime among Indianapolis’ youth.

Announced at Broad Ripple Park, at the center of the program, is the Youth Violence Reduction Team: a collaborative effort between the city’s Department of Public Safety, Wishard’s Prescription for Hope, Ten Point Coalition, Peace Learning Center and Juvenile Courts and Probation.

“The team will utilize established violence and crime prevention programs and real-time crime data to build neighborhood-level partnerships that will create safer environments for our youth,” Ballard said.

Public Safety Director Frank Straub called the neighborhoods where the program will be focused – on the Westside near Speedway, the Northeastside, and the Eastside – “hot spots.”

Juvenile Court and Probation will help identify at-risk youth  while the Ten Point Coalition will provide pre- and post- incident street outreach to those teens.

Finally, the Prescription for Hope will offer consultation in violent crime situations as well as workshops on preventing violent crime. The Wishard group also will offer anti- violence education.

“Since its inception, Prescription for Hope has focused on reducing repeat violent personal injury and criminal activity by helping patients and their families make life-changing and life-saving choices,” said City-County Councillor Benjamin Hunter, chairman of the city’s public safety committee.

The plan is that that the program’s influence on youth will reduce violent retaliation crimes and subsequent hospital visits. According to Dr. Gerardo Gomez ofWishard Health Services, 31% of youth involved in violent crimes and treated at the hospital are readmitted.

Some people are skeptical whether the program will work but others welcome the initiative.

“(Crime) has spun out of control,” said Althea Ross, who lives on the city’s Northeastside. “People are afraid because nobody wants to die.”


Planned Parenthood regains funding

Planned parenthood protest photo by ABC News

By Justin Crain

5 Rights | staff writer

Planned Parenthood offices will stay open as U.S District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt ruled in the organizations favor over a new law, which strips Medicaid funding from the agency.

The decision means 9,300 Medicaid patients can again receive necessary services such as Pap tests, breasts exams, STD testings and other exams the health care agency provides.

Planned Parenthood CEO Betty Cockrum said the ruling will have an immediate impact.

“This decision will have immediate, positive consequences for our patients and our organization, the state’s largest reproductive health care provider,” said Cockrum in a press release issued Friday after the ruling.

Sen. Scott Schneider, the Republican who authored the bill during the most recent Indiana General Assembly, told the Associated Press: “The whole ruling is disappointing in my opinion. In my opinion, it’s judicial activism.” The governor who signed HEA 2011 into law refused to issue a statement on the ruling.

Even though the judge’s decision favors Planned Parenthood, the agency still seeks a permanent injunction to the law that defunds Medicaid payments. Kate Shepherd, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood said that agency officials hope that a hearing is set by the end of the year.