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Access to affordable, high-quality childcare is a critical issue in Indiana. Critical, to everyone except Indiana’s supermajority Republican Legislature. Countless families across the state are grappling with exorbitant costs, limited availability, and substandard quality of care. The business community cites the lack of available childcare for their low productivity. In fact, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce listed the childcare crisis as a top legislative priority. Rural Indiana suffers the most from childcare deserts, keeping women from higher education and meaningful employment, and families from self-sustainability. The Indiana Farm Bureau even listed childcare as a top legislative priority.

When the Indiana State Legislature released their final budget, we saw their priorities regarding the childcare crisis. It includes over $500 million for earmarks, or “pork”, for the benefit of their wealthy besties. Some examples include almost $90 million for a sports arena at IUPUI (think online gaming). $75 million to subsidize the construction industry with development infrastructure funding. Another $37.5 million for an adventure park at the River Heritage Conservancy. $30 million to support the orthopedic manufacturing industry in Warsaw, Indiana - really? Another $30 million for a vague plan to “increase population” and jobs in NE Indiana. A 7,200-acre industrial development near South Bend also gets $30 million to expand. And, $14 million for the Indiana Motorsports Commission. There were other one-time expenditures, but nothing to support Indiana’s childcare infrastructure.

For a minute, let’s imagine how far $500 million would go toward improving access to good childcare. We know from myriad research that access to high-quality early childhood education improves children’s educational, social, and emotional development, as well as their long-term financial success and quality of life. One-time funding to improve home and center-based structures, equipment, curriculum, outdoor learning spaces, licensing fees, property tax abatements, and more would free up revenue to pay higher wages to their currently underpaid staff.

The State could provide childcare employers with subsidies to hire, train, and certify great childcare providers (the most critical factor in high-quality childcare), just like Indiana does for the manufacturing industry. How about subsidizing childcare tuition for families making more than 150% of poverty? Afterall, the state provides families who make up to 300% of poverty with tuition subsidies to pay for private and charter schools.

Unfortunately, that’s not the Indiana we live in. Instead of tackling the childcare crisis, Indiana's Republican legislators chose to allocate obscene amounts of money – almost ten times more than in the last budget - to corporate campaign donors who use the debunked “trickle-down economics” pretense as cover for their political insider trading. I wonder how much time in closed caucus meetings our Republican legislators spent fighting over how much all their big donors would get.

I don’t wonder so much about whether they spent any time at all strategizing about the childcare crisis. Men who make up 75% of our legislators and 100% of the Republican leadership do not feel the pain of childcare like women feel it. We know for sure that they don’t spend a single minute thinking about women’s health, maternal mortality, safe reproductive and abortion care, women’s unfair pay, or the epidemic of domestic and sexual violence against women and girls. Until we elect more women and achieve fair representation in the Indiana State Legislature, the childcare crisis will continue to be just another example of the Indiana State Legislature’s agenda to keep Hoosier women uneducated, unhealthy, and poor.

Deb Chubb

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I’m impressed with the outrage of residents near Roachdale, Indiana who are shocked and frightened about the possible health impacts of toxic waste being deposited near their homes. Two hundred people showed up to confront the operators of a landfill that is one of many landfills around the country approved by EPA to accept the toxic waste from the train cars that were damaged by a derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. Likewise, Governor Holcomb publicly objected to the EPA’s plan to store some of the waste in Indiana.

In fact, the EPA reports that they will be challenged to find enough approved landfills to accept the amount of toxic waste from the East Palestine train wreck. Approved toxic waste landfills are those with proper linings to prevent contact with groundwater, leachate collection systems to keep precipitation from moving the toxic waste into the ground, and monitoring systems to ensure ground water is safe.

It seems like this might be a good time to remind Governor Holcomb and the residents of Roachdale about the toxic coal ash waste that he and our Republican supermajority legislature happily allow to sit in unlined, uncovered pits, mix with groundwater, and threaten to contaminate major rivers and lakes in Indiana with little or no monitoring.

State Representative Pat Boy has introduced multiple bills seeking a state mandate for coal burning plants to adequately clean up the toxic coal ash mess that they have made. But, Republican leaders have not allowed those bills to even be heard in a legislative committee, let alone be voted on by the full chambers. Instead, the Republican supermajority legislature and those appointed by the Governor to oversee utility rates allow the producers of toxic coal ash to inadequately clean up a fraction of their mess and to increase consumer utility rates to pay for the inadequate clean-up of their toxic waste.

What’s the difference between the appropriate management of toxic waste from a train wreck and the inappropriate management of toxic waste produced and stored here in Indiana? Why are Republicans outraged by one and not the other? It is toxic politics. The companies making and transporting toxic waste on trains apparently don’t contribute enough money to Indiana’s Republican legislators. And, without an adequate payoff, Republicans cannot resist an opportunity to toss political stink bombs at the president and his administration.

So far, the clean-up in East Palestine, Ohio includes the capture and removal of over 700 tons of contaminated soil and almost two million gallons of toxic liquid. However, the extent of the spillage and contamination is far larger and will take years to fully clean-up. Nearby communities may not return to normal for many, many years. The toxic waste will sit in lined landfills around the country for generations. Meanwhile here in Indiana, toxic coal ash will continue to sit in open, unlined pits next to the sources of our drinking water until we elect enough Democrats to bring rational thought to our legislature. If only Republicans cared about the health of Hoosiers as much as they care about toxic politics.


Progressive Democrats of LaPorte County held a Zoom forum on January 20th on "Building a Progressive Michigan City." It focused on opportunities to improve quality of life for all residents, but especially low- and moderate-income families.

Three Michigan City Council members presented proposals that could have a big impact on the community, but which have not gotten the attention and consideration that they deserve.

The context of these proposals it that the City has an unusual level of available resources; the Riverboat Fund has in balance of $4.8 million, even after $1 million was transferred to the Rainy-Day Fund, and approximately $13.3 million is available from the ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) -- Federal funds to mitigate the impacts of the Pandemic.

The proposed projects are in four clusters: public safety, human and economic development, housing and environment.

Public Safety

First Ward Councilman Bryant Dabney proposes that the City adopt three new technologies that have been effective in other cities in reducing crime and violence:

1. License plate scanners/readers

2. Ring Doorbell/Alarms for the city residents

3. Shot Spotter Technology – (

Human and Economic Development

3rd Ward Councilman Michael Mack supports the conversion of the former Elston High School into the Elston Community Center as a hub of many different programs. The facility is in good condition and can lend itself to many new purposes, all of which can combine to uplift residents. The possibilities include:

· A co-working space,

· An entrepreneurship center,

· A shared commercial kitchen for start-up food businesses,

· A childcare center, and

· A professional theater company.

The next step for this proposal is a feasibility study that addresses the physical, financial and organizational aspects of repurposing the facility.

Councilwoman Zygas brought up the need for high quality, 24/7-day care (to include our shift workers and hospital employees.) Quality child care is necessary for families and attractive to businesses considering locating in Michigan City.


Councilman Dabney described how a small investment in housing assistance can bring great benefits to our most economically challenged homeowners. This can be combined with a Weatherization Program that brings homes up to a basic level of health and safety. With the availability of a matching Federal funds for Weatherization, a limited investment of City resources can impact many homes.

Councilwoman Zygas recommended a program to incentivize development of infill housing: remodel or rebuild in the city, where utilities are already in place. This can lower costs and provide highly desirable walkable communities.


Councilwoman Zygas also mentioned the importance of Michigan City's natural environment. Top priorities:

· Safeguarding the beach and dunes

· Improving the parks

· Protecting Trail Creek

· Enhancing the urban tree canopy

· Continue development of walking/bike trails.

Grassroots Democracy

Don Briggs then made the case for the importance of a robust Democratic Precinct Chair network. Precinct Chairs, who are elected in every precinct, provide local leadership for canvassing and voter outreach. But in many precincts no one runs. He encouraged everyone to consider playing this critical role for our democracy. The filing deadline is February 4th.

Increasing Citizen Engagement

For these and other innovative proposals to move forward -- indeed to make Michigan City a progressive city -- residents need to attend City Council meetings and voice their priorities. Citizen task forces need to provide leadership and expertise to move projects forward. Council Citizen Comment Periods has to be much more than gripe sessions.

To encourage more citizen participation, Progressive Democrats will begin sending out Citizen Engagement Advisories so that residents can know when issues that concern them are up for discussion and especially track innovative proposals like those presented at this forum.

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