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Friday, May 28, 2010

Grade inflation and teaching standards

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:30 AM (#)

A few students taking a creative writing class at IU got a surprise when they saw their final grades had been lowered at the end of the semester. The professor supervising the course decided the associate instructor was not grading according to established standards, so some of the grades changed.

The AI's grading criteria is misguided and does a disservice to her students. (More on that later.) The grades should not have been changed after the fact, however. The students have been working with Juliana Crespo for the entire semester, and they were expecting to be judged by the standards she set in her section. While under ideal circumstances all students should be graded according to the same standards across all sections, changing the standards for this particular section after the fact is not fair and does not help students learn.

Instead, this is something that needs to be handled prior to the start of the semester. It should have been very clear to the associate instructors what the grading standards should be to ensure uniform grading across the sections. If the instructors are not grading according to established standards, that should be corrected quickly. This way, no one is surprised at the end of the semester and the students are clear on what they are expected to do.

Crespo's statement about her grading standards was inappropriate. She said "You're going to get an 'A' if you put a decent amount of work in the course" and that she does not consider grades to be relevant.

So what is the point of excelling in the class and writing the best story you can if the requirement for an "A" is a decent effort? How is that fair to the students who are genuinely putting forth the best work in the class and should be rewarded with the best grade? How is it fair to the best students to get the same grade as a student who turns in a sub-par effort, even if the student did put effort into the assignment?

The purpose of a grade is not to judge effort. It is to judge quality of work. A student who literally gets an "A" for effort but isn't learning what he needs to learn and honing his skills will not be prepared for the class that builds on what he is being taught now. Worse, if the grades are inflated, then the grades become meaningless.

Outside of academia, it is not effort that will ultimately be measured in job performance. It is results. A sincere effort to learn and improve is usually taken into consideration by good employers, who will work with employees to help them do the job. Ultimately, however, completing assigned tasks according to established standards is what will judge someone's performance. It is best to learn that sooner rather than later.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

People should not live in fear of their government

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:30 AM (#)

Earlier this month, a 7-year-old girl was shot and killed by police officers who forced entry into her home in the middle of the night after tossing a flash bang grenade into the home. The police were looking for a homicide suspect, and Radley Balko does an excellent job of pointing out why this specific raid was unnecessary and why it was excessive force.

The senseless killing of Aiyana Stanley-Jones is another in a long line of overuse and abuse of paramilitary tactics by police.

In 2006, a 92-year-old woman named Kathryn Johnston was gunned down in her own home by Atlanta police. Her only "crime" was defending her home from what she thought were criminals committing a home invasion. To cover up the botched raid, police planted drugs in her home. A Sheriff's Department SWAT team raided the home of Cheye Calvo, the mayor of Berwyn Heights, Maryland. They shot his two dogs and held him at gunpoint for hours.

The worst example of abuse of power was in Waco, Texas, where a paramilitary raid on the Branch Davidian compound in February 1993 resulted in an armed confrontation that led to a standoff with the federal government. The federal government eventually used tanks, tear gas grenades and other military equipment to invade the compound. A fire that started during the raid obliterated the compound and killed 168 people - including 19 children.

We have entirely too much of a "cowboy" mentality in law enforcement, fueled by politicians who want to appear "tough on crime" to win votes. As the "war on crime" has escalated, civil liberties have been sacrificed and too many innocent victims have been caught in the crossfire. For too many politicians, the "war on crime" is about gaining political power rather than justice. As evidence, consider that evil men like Harry Connick intentionally send innocent men to death row by withholding evidence that proves innocence, rather than "lose" a criminal case.

It is long past time to reign in the overuse and abuse of paramilitary tactics by police. SWAT teams should only be used in cases where it is absolutely necessary, such as a hostage situation or a dangerous criminal who is an imminent threat to the lives of those around him. The overuse of paramilitary tactics creates an unnecessarily confrontational situation in a high-stress environment - a situation where a split-second decision too often leads to tragedy.

The use of paramilitary tactics is a symptom of a government that treats citizens as subjects rather than constituents, an attitude that is not compatible with liberty. Either we will restrain the government or we will live in tyranny.

We need to throw out politicians who value political power more than justice, and elect politicians who place their love of liberty over political expediency. Throughout history, free people have had much more to fear from their own government than criminals - or even Islamic terrorists.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Don't punish the innocent for the crimes of the guilty

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM (#)

On a cold December night in 2007, I was awake with a nasty cold. I went to the pharmacy at 3:00 am to buy some cold medicine so I could get some sleep, but the government has mandated that I sign a piece of paper to purchase a higher dose.

It should be no surprise to anyone that the drug warriors have not stopped there. Law enforcement in Vigo County has managed to convince area pharmacies to require a prescription to purchase cold medicine, if the active ingredient can be used to make methamphetamine. If I lived in Vigo County, I would have to wait until the next morning, assuming I could even get into the doctor. An urgent care facility (or even the emergency room) would be possible, though it is more expensive.

We have just taken a huge step toward a police state, folks. The government has decided that we cannot be trusted to run our own lives, so we have to have a medical professional sign a document to permit us to purchase medicine approved for over-the-counter sales by the federal government.

What is the purpose of the Food and Drug Administration's regulations for over-the-counter sales and why are we ignoring the FDA's rulings? Is the problem that people are more stupid and irresponsible than they have been in the past, or is the problem that authoritarian statists are seeking more and more power for themselves?

We should not be punishing the innocent for the crimes of the guilty. Why should I, as a law-abiding citizen, be restricted in my ability to purchase a medicine approved for over-the-counter sale because other people use that product to manufacture an illegal drug? Why should my liberty be restricted because of the criminal behavior of someone else? Nanny-state apologists may argue that the policy presents an inconvenience, but the principle at stake is what matters here.

Does this policy represent corporate welfare? Will doctors be charging $50 (or more) for a visit so a patient can be allowed to purchase some cold medicine? How much money will flow into the coffers of doctors - from both families and insurance companies - because the police in Vigo County have decreed that the people are far too stupid and irresponsible to buy over-the-counter drugs?

There is no need for this policy. None. The current system already keeps track of the names and addresses of people who are buying "too much" cold medicine and are therefore flagged as potential meth users and/or dealers. We are already treating law-abiding citizens like potential criminals.

We have lost far too much of our liberty to the "war on drugs" and the "war on crime." We are seeing the frightening militarization of police leading to unnecessary armed confrontations and terrible tragedies. When will people say "enough" to this nanny-state extremism?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Souder’s humility a refreshing change

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:30 AM (#)

The revelation that Mark Souder has been committing adultery sent shock waves through Hoosier politics, and Souder has been blasted from all corners of the political spectrum. We can’t whitewash Souder’s sin, because it was evil. He betrayed his wife and his family. More importantly, he broke a covenant established in the eyes of his Lord and Savior.

That said, we should keep perspective on this. Once he was confronted about the adultery, Souder called a press conference, confessed his sin and announced his resignation from Congress. Souder did not shake his finger and proclaim "I did not have sexual relations with that woman." He did not pass the buck about "a series of failures" and shift blame to others. He was very open about his sin, confessing that he sinned against God. The tears he shed demonstrate that he is broken about his sin and is repenting before God.

Much has been said about Souder and his Christian faith. Since much of the attacks on Souder have been focused on his hypocrisy as a conservative Christian, it is appropriate to examine this from a theological perspective.

We are commanded as Christians to be sexually pure, but salvation does not depend on perfection. King David, a man after God’s own heart, committed adultery with Bathsheba. David then murdered his good friend Uriah to cover it up. When David was confronted by a prophet of the Lord, he repented in tears and brokenness and was restored. If Souder’s repentance is genuine (and I see no reason to believe otherwise) he will be restored to fellowship with God.

Lost in the gloating about Souder's fall is compassion for his employees. Congressional staffers know that they could be out of a job every two years. They take their jobs knowing that their employment is very unstable. What Congressional staffers do not expect is for their boss to abruptly resign from Congress with four days’ notice. Whatever we might think about Souder leaving office, his staff did not expect or deserve to have sudden economic hardship. We should have compassion on these people and pray for the staff that God will provide.

Thirteen years ago, I was offered a summer internship with Congressman Souder's office in Washington, DC. I was unable to accept the internship because I had recently been diagnosed with cancer and had to deal with the treatment of it. Mark Souder sent me a hand-written note expressing sympathy and wishing that I return to full health. It was something I did not expect and I am still grateful for it to this day.

Mark Souder is a good man. Yes, he sinned and he broke his marriage vows. Can any of us say we haven’t sinned? How many of us have murdered people in our hearts when a fellow driver does something foolish and dangerous on the road? The test of a Believer is not whether he is perfect, because there is only One Man who has ever been perfect. The test of a Believer is whether he is repentant of his sin and fights against it.

Mark Souder sinned, and his sin cannot be excused, whitewashed or ignored. But before we judge in a self-righteous manner, we should examine our own hearts so we do not fall in the same manner. (Galatians 6:1)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Another politician commits adultery

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:30 AM (#)

Mark Souder is the latest politician to destroy his career - and possibly his family - by committing adultery. Rumors had been circulating about Souder's adultery, but were not confirmed until Souder publicly admitted betraying his wife and announced he would resign from Congress.

Let's not mince words here. What Mark Souder did was evil. He sinned against God and betrayed his wife. He shattered the trust that voters in northeast Indiana placed in him not only by committing adultery, but by committing adultery with a member of his staff. This raises huge ethical concerns, because of the power imbalance involved.

Nonetheless, I am impressed with his manliness and humility now that this has been discovered. Souder's reaction reveals his character, his heart and his faith.

Souder did not shake his finger and proclaim "I did not have sexual relations with that woman." He did not pass the buck about "a series of failures" and shift blame to others.

Instead, Souder stood up like a man, said he sinned against God and his family, and announced he would resign within a few days. He did not bring his family on stage with him like most politicians do when they are admitting adultery. He said this is his failure and his alone and he should bear the shame alone.

It is not easy to stand up and admit your own failings, especially in such a public way. It takes a man to do that, something refreshing in a culture of boys. It is obvious that Souder is truly repentant.

Mark Souder is a Christian, and all Christians fail in some way. Sometimes, we fail in spectacular ways. While we are commanded to remain pure, our salvation does not require that believers do not sin. That is simply not possible. Christianity requires confessing your sin and relying on the shed blood of Jesus Christ to provide forgiveness. It's easy to judge Mark Souder, but not so easy to recognize our own failings.(See Galatians 6:1.)

Souder did the right thing by stepping down from Congress. We should all pray for him that the Holy Spirit gives him the strength to remain pure and that he and his family are comforted during this difficult time.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Evil is real

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:30 AM (#)

One of the most wicked things about our culture is the obsession so many people have with covering up and excusing things that are just plain evil. This culture does everything possible to avoid exercising discernment and recognizing that some things are genuinely evil.

A case in point was the comment section for the story about a 13 year old boy who was charged with raping a 16 year old girl. Allowing, of course, for the possibility that there was no crime committed and recognizing that the boy has not been convicted, I pointed out that children who commit sexual violence at such a young age are often abused themselves. I also said that the boy may just be evil.

One of the responses floored me:

Sexual urge is natural and built into each of us to preserve the species. It has nothing to do with being "evil". Man's laws try to govern a natural urge directed by hormones. This law puts an arbitrary age at which it is acceptable to engage in sex.

What an incredibly misogynistic statement. This accusation against the boy has nothing to do with sex, procreation or sexual urges. This is about rape. Does the poster have a daughter or a niece? What if she was raped? Would the poster then brush aside rape as the product of "natural" sexual urges? This is truly sick.

We live in a culture that hates discernment. We want to find some sort of clinical excuse for unthinkable acts, or excuse the person who commits such acts because of something in his background. We do everything we can to find any excuse other than the most obvious explanation that is slapping us across the face: some people are just plain evil.

Sometimes, our culture's hatred of discernment has tragic (though entirely predictable) consequences. Convicted murderer Willie Horton was given a weekend pass from prison. On one of his furloughs, Horton attacked a young couple, stabbing the man 19 times and repeatedly raping the woman. The scandal crippled Michael Dukakis' ambitions to be President, but Mike Huckabee proved himself to be a fool when he didn't learn the lesson and released a dangerous thug from prison who went on to murder four police officers.

We do this because we do not want to recognize our own depravity before God. Not one single person is righteous. We have all sinned and we are condemned before a holy and righteous God. (See Psalm 14:3, Psalm 53:3 and Romans 3:12.) We hate this truth and we try to pass ourselves off as basically good. some of us even go so far as to find excuses for the most heinous, cruel and abominable acts imaginable.

I understand evil. I am intimately familiar with evil because God has revealed to me my own heart. I am a wicked, violent, egotistical, selfish, arrogant, lazy monster of a man who richly deserves everlasting torment in the fires of Hell. For a reason that I cannot wrap my feeble human brain around, my Father in heaven chose to redeem me of my sins by sacrificing His only Son to suffer and die in my place.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Get the politicians off welfare

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:30 AM (#)

The sign on the post page sits near the intersection of Rockport Road and Tapp Road, conveniently placed where traffic backs up at the stop sign to remind people that Barack Obama's "economic stimulus" package was used to pay for the "improvements" to the area.

I do not believe that the federal government should be funding local infrastructure, but that is not my main concern. My main concern is the sign itself.

Why does this need to be here? How much taxpayer money was used to erect this sign, which provides absolutely no benefit to anyone in Monroe County?

Let's call a spade a spade. This is nothing more than a taxpayer funded political yard sign. The only purpose this serves is to provide a political advertisement for Barack Obama's agenda. It's more that a little ironic that as city government is more than happy to threaten an apartment complex with a completely disproportionate $95,000 fine for a couple balloons, tax dollars are used to erect a permanent sign to campaign for Obama.

We can have a legitimate discussion about the merits of the "economic stimulus" package and the appropriate use of federal tax dollars for local infrastructure. We can have a legitimate discussion about the public policy merits of the Tapp Road "improvements" and whether federal fund should be used for them.

What is completely unreasonable us the use of monies forcibly confiscated from taxpayers at the point of a gun to finance what is basically a permanent political yard sign. There is no legitimate argument for this sign. None.

We have an unsustainable budget deficit that is threatening the future of this nation. During these times of economic strain and crushing government debt, using tax dollars for a political yard sign is inexcusable.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

5 wins, 4 losses, 1 draw

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:30 AM (#)

On May 4, I was elected as a delegate to the 2010 Republican state convention in June. Nine candidates were running for thirteen seats, so everyone was guranteed to win. State convention delegates nominate the candidates for secretary of state, auditor of state and treasurer of state, but there are not any contested races this year.

My overall win/loss record in elections stands at five wins, four losses and one draw. Since 2006, my win/loss record is four wins and two losses, including a spectacular blowout loss in the 2006 general election when I ran for Bloomington Township Board. The one draw came in 2002, when my opponent and I finished with the exact same number of votes in the race for precinct committeman in Perry 14. When there is a tie, the party chairman chooses the winner.

2010 Primary Election

  Candidate      Total Votes    
  Brad Freeman    1318
  John M. Arnold    1240
  Scott C. Tibbs    1230
  Matt Wolf    1209
  Carl Lamb    1197
  Joshua P. Kelley    1185
  Nathan Smith    1177
  Allen Gilmore Woodhouse    1155
  Samuel Spaiser    1099

Overall win/loss record

  Office       Election       Year      Result    
  2000    Primary    Delegate to State Convention    Lost  
  2002    Primary    Precinct Committeeman    Draw  
  2002    Primary    Delegate to State Convention    Won  
  2004    Primary    Delegate to State Convention    Lost  
  2006    Primary    Delegate to State Convention    Won  
  2006    Primary    Bloomington Township Board    Won  
  2006    General    Bloomington Township Board    Lost  
  2008    Primary    Delegate to State Convention    Lost  
  2008    Primary    Precinct Committeeman    Won  
  2010    Primary    Delegate to State Convention    Won  

Monday, May 17, 2010

The anti-Semitism of the animal "rights" movement

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:30 AM (#)

On April 29, a letter to the editor hysterically proclaimed a sarcastic solution to the urban deer problem: "why not round all the deer up, and send them to the concentration camp in Linton? "

A concentration camp? Really?

Everyone instinctively knows that "concentration camp" is a reference to the Holocaust.

Anne Binninger intentionally and knowingly used Nazi imagery to equate the relocation of wild animals to the systematic murder of 6 million Jews and millions of others by an incredibly evil regime. The cold, calculating and efficient manner in which the Nazis confined the Jews to ghettos, and then rounded them, up and slaughtered them in the camps like some sort of assembly line demonstrates how incredibly evil the Nazi regime was. It is one of the reasons I am thankful that a holy and righteous God provides for eternal damnation in Hell.

First, let's recognize the reality of the deer problem in Bloomington. Overpopulation of deer is leading to increasing confrontations with humans, including a family pet getting trampled to death by an aggressive deer in front of the owner, and another deer that smashing through a window into someone's home. In both incidents, it was blind luck that no humans were hurt.

I've had a couple close encounters. A few months ago, I was standing face-to-face with a large buck about 15 years away, prompting me to carefully back up and get into the safety of my home. Later, my Beagle mix Nano was barking at a deer on the other side of our fence before he was quickly moved indoors. That deer could have easily hopped the fence and killed my dog. Urban deer present a challenge to drivers as well, risking property damage, serious injuries and possibly even fatalities. We're not talking about simply having a few flower gardens ruined.

Whether the deer population is reduced by killing some of them or whether some deer are captured and relocated, comparing this to the Nazi Holocaust represents a sickening level of anti-Semitism. This community is seeking a solution to benefit both the deer and safeguard the lives, pets and property of humans. Comparing this to genocide is undeniably racist and unworthy of civil discourse.

This is par for the course for animal-rights extremists waging a jihad for the earth "goddess" Gaia. Ingrid Newkirk of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals once proclaimed that "A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy," demonstrating that she believes humans (who were made in the image of God) are no more valuable than animals. Newkirk is the kind of person the Bible condemns, someone who "changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever." (Romans 1:25)

Repent, Ms. Newkirk. The fires of Hell are waiting if you do not.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Dalai Lama visits Bloomington

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:30 AM (#)

If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the Word of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Him. -- Martin Luther

The Dalai Lama is visiting Bloomington again, drawing significant coverage by the Herald-Times and the Indiana Daily Student. Since he is a head of state, it is appropriate to give him the honor that we would give any other head of state that visits our city. He is also the leader of the Buddhist religion.

And there is the problem. The Dalai Lama is the leader of a false religion. God the Father is the only true God, and those who worship false religions are actually worshipping demons. (See 1 Corinthians 10:20-21.) While it is appropriate to honor the Dalai Lama as a head of state and show solidarity with the people of Tibet as they are brutally oppressed by Communist China, it is in no way appropriate for Christians to honor the Dalai Lama as a "spiritual" leader. We are commanded to confess that the Buddhist religion is a lie.

This is not easy in a culture that worships "tolerance" and "diversity." Many people will marginalize us as "kooks" and accuse us of "hate speech" if we confess the truth of Scripture. But we need to ask ourselves where our loyalty lies. Does our loyalty lie with our heavenly Father who sent His only Son to die on the cross for our sins? Or does our loyalty lie with our own comfort and pride? Do we worship our Father in Heaven or do we worship ourselves?

See previous posts:

♣  Local Christian ministers deny Christ -- May 17, 2007

♣  Denying Christ, Part II -- May 29, 2007

♣  City of Bloomington elevates Buddhism over Christianity -- October 19, 2007

♣  St. Paul Catholic Center denies Jesus Christ -- October 25, 2007

♣  More on the Dalai Lama's visit to Bloomington -- November 27, 2007

♣  No, we do not all worship the same god. -- March 17, 2008

♣  When hatred pretends to be "tolerance" -- June 26, 2008

♣  When hatred pretends to be "tolerance", Part II -- July 15, 2008

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Monroe County residents seek long term solution for development

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:30 AM (#)

Note: I took a journalism class this semester. This is my final article for that class. This was published on the Bloomington Source earlier this month.

Butting heads with Monroe County government is not new to Franklin Andrew. It was 1993 when Andrew and other property owners filed a lawsuit against Monroe County over a plan to convert a railroad that went through his property into a walking trail, in a case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court — a case that Andrew won.

Now, Andrew is concerned that the proposed Monroe County Comprehensive Plan would destroy his retirement plans. He wants to eventually divide his land into 5- and 10-acre lots and live off the sale of the property.

Andrew was one of many concerned citizens who attended several meetings last fall regarding the proposed comprehensive plan as competing visions for future growth in Monroe County were discussed. Supporters argue development needs to be consistent and planned, in order to control costs and protect neighbors. But opponents worry about property rights issues and dispute claims that development costs too much.

A comprehensive plan is required under Indiana Code 36-7-4, and the one currently being discussed is an update to the current comprehensive plan adopted in 1996.

"I think the comprehensive plan is really a guiding document for future land use in Monroe County," said Greg Zody, director of the Monroe County Planning Department. "I think it gives good guidance to property owners about the direction that the plan commission and county commission want to move the county in terms of land use."

What will Monroe County look like in 2030?

Zody said that the plan is about how the community defines growth.

"Is growth just going to be wherever, allow people to do what they want on their property? Or is there going to be consideration to the infrastructure, to existing development patterns? And all of this is really the foundation of what our comprehensive plan is," Zody said.

Zody pointed out that one of the changes from the previous zoning plan is a move toward density zoning. The planning department’s Web site has a link to a document published by the Minnehaha County, South Dakota planning department arguing that Euclidian regulations were ineffective in preserving a rural environment.

"For several years the only requirement to build on agriculturally zoned property was for the dwelling to be located on a lot of at least one acre in size. This resulted in a scattering of residential uses which appeared as strip developments along major roads and highways or as multi-lot rural subdivisions," the document states.

Zody said the links were posted by the Planning Department for the purpose of providing background information.

Euclidian zoning has a set of universal standards for lot size based on the zoning for the area. A density-based approach takes into account surrounding development, the density of the surrounding area, and the maximum target density for the area, Zody said. Under the formula used to calculate lot sizes, a piece of land in the "Bloomington Urbanizing Area" would have lower minimum lot sizes and greater allowable density than a piece of land farther out in rural Monroe County.

County Council member Julie Thomas believes that density-based formula will make development more even.

"The density-based formula will spread development throughout the county while allowing for the concentration of development in the Urban Communities," Thomas wrote in an e-mail. "Currently, the development in the county is spread like buckshot on target – it’s sporadic and does not match the density of surrounding areas."

Andrew is concerned that the comprehensive plan will be too much of a restriction on property rights. He says that less than 10 percent of all land in Monroe County is developed, and 33 percent is set aside through various easements and restrictions. Of the remaining land, 85 percent will be unable to be developed if a development is prohibited on land with a 15 percent slope or greater, Andrew said.

Thomas argues that part of the purpose is to protect neighbors, specifically for people who buy property in rural areas.

"If a large development of 200 cookie-cutter style homes on 2.5 acre properties, for example, the residents in the area are faced with increased traffic and possibly increased commercial activity – all of which is more ‘urban’ in character than rural," Thomas wrote.

The current draft of the plan includes three options for property owners looking to subdivide, Thomas wrote. These options include "minimum lot size, excising small parcels of property off of a larger property (of at least 17 acres) to provide land for relatives (or others); or the density-based formula."

Thomas says property rights involve more than the owner’s ability to develop his property.

"There are two sides to this question: the rights of (large lot) property owners to subdivide/develop and the rights of property owners in rural areas to continue to enjoy rural living. With the three options for subdivision, the rights of ALL property owners are protected," Thomas wrote.

Andrew disagrees. "Of all of the people that serve in county government, who among them are more qualified to determine land use policy than the marketplace?" he asked.

The cost to county government

In addition to the concerns over how Monroe County should look, there are also financial considerations. Supporters of the plan argue that restrictions are necessary because uncontrolled development puts a strain on the finances of county government.

"I don’t want to spend extra money as a taxpayer to support some of these developments that are out in the middle of nowhere where it’s not consistent with the surrounding densities," Zody said.

Thomas shares the concern. In a Nov. 24 post on Pin-The-Tail.com, she wrote: "If we quadrupled the number of homes in our County, we would be tied to the same (total) property tax cap. This is why there is such a concern about the impact of subdivisions on the taxpayers throughout the County."

That opinion is not universal.

Marty Hawk, another member of the County Council, disputes that point and argues development will increase property tax revenue collected by increasing the overall assessed evaluation and says Monroe County can grow its levy.

Hawk points to the "1-2-3 cap" passed by the legislature that set the upper limit for property taxes at one, two or three percent of the property’s assessed evaluation depending on the nature of the property.

Hawk said that while other counties have faced a revenue shortfall because of the cap on which individual properties can be taxed, Monroe County has been spared that problem to some extent.

"The reason why we’ve not been hit so hard here in this county is because all the different tax levies have grown their allowable amount," Hawk said.

Hawk argues that allowing more development will allow for increased revenue to county government by increasing the overall assessed evaluation of all land. As the total assessed evaluation grows, the tax rate on existing properties does not need to be as high to get the same amount of revenue, Hawk said.

"If we continue to grow our assessed value we can continue to grow our levy increase," Hawk said. "If we stop assessed value growth we will hit that 1% cap earlier."

Andrew points out that the highway department is not part of the county general fund budget and is not funded by property taxes, but instead is funded by automobile excise taxes, gas taxes, and the wheel tax and surtax.

The county general budget is represented by the 0101 fund in the overall county budget, while the highway department is represented by the 0702 fund. There are other funds that are financed by various means such as federal and state grants, according to the Monroe County Auditor’s Office.

Hawk further argues that the cost to the county highway department is lessened because any of the new developments have cross section improvement that improves storm water issues with retention and detention ponds. Developers also put in their own sidewalks, streets and landscaping.

When developers build roads, said Andrew, it is net gain because it adds miles to the gas tax and excise tax calculations and the strain on the county budget is minimal.

Thomas recognizes that infrastructure may be built by the developer, but said there are continuing costs.

"The roads they build are maintained by the county (not the developer) – including snow removal and paving/patching, and the increased demand for sewer and water service may mean County residents will have foot the bill for the larger supply pipes or water prices will increase (as they are likely to do) because plants / supply piping requires updating due to high demand (due to increased population)," Thomas wrote.

Other costs include are public safety needs, such as sending law enforcement out into the county, but "that is probably the biggest stress you will see," Hawk said.

Hawk pointed out that if development increases income for county residents, the county’s take of the county option income tax increases. Steve Saulter, chief deputy in the county Auditor’s Office, said that the county collected $8,004,427 in COIT in 2008 and $8,899,751 in 2009. The county will collect 9,835,141 in 2010. COIT is also distributed to other units of government, such as townships and city government.

Elections determine plans and their implementation

Ultimately, the guiding philosophy of what Monroe County should look like in 20 years as defined by the comprehensive plan and the zoning ordinance is determined by who wins elections, because the philosophy of appointments changes with the philosophy of elected officials, Zody pointed out. "The people have spoken when they voted," he said.

"This is the type of paradigm or type of development or approach that they wanted to see," Zody said. "Who knows next election cycle what they will want? They might say ‘oh, we don’t want this’ or ‘we’re not doing enough’."

The next opportunity for people do voice their opinions through the ballot box will be the May 4 primary and Nov. 2 general elections.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Hypocrisy defined: placing sex over merit

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:30 AM (#)

President Barack Obama nominated Elena Kagan, prompting the National Organization for Women to send a press release to their e-mail list gushing with praise for this "historic" achievement. NOW's president whined that "women have been under-represented on the Supreme Court for far too long" and pointed out that NOW had previously "called on President Obama to nominate a woman" to fill the vacancy.

Once again, this demonstrates how many on the Left are obsessed with identity politics.

We're talking about one of nine seats to the highest court in the land, and this is a lifetime appointment. Because of the authority these justices have, it is important to select the most qualified candidate to the seat. Whether the nominee has the "correct" genitalia should not matter at all. After all, are we not supposed to be an egalitarian society where people are judged on the content of their character? NOW and Obama are clearly not treating this nomination with the seriousness it deserves.

NOW's position is filled with sexism and hypocrisy. Is NOW to have us believe that only a woman can represent women? Why does someone need female genitalia to intellectually understand how the law affects women? Does anyone doubt that NOW would howl in protest if someone dared say that what we need is another white male? Does anyone believe that NOW would prefer Phyllis Schlafly over a man with Leftist views?

Why is this even an issue? The SCOTUS is not supposed to be about shaping public policy. The SCOTUS is supposed to ensure that laws are in compliance with higher law, primarily with the Constitution and secondarily with other law. We are not talking about a Senator or a President, we are talking about a judge who is supposed to judge a case on its merits. The foundational requirement for a judge is literacy, so that the judge can read the literal, word-for-word text of the Constitution.

Richard Lugar should realize that his vote on the Kagan nomination will affect is political future. Scott Fluhr raised the interesting prospect of a primary challenge to Lugar in 2012. If Lugar supports Kagan, this will provide conservatives with motivation to take him out in two years. The question is whether a credible candidate is willing to step up and challenge Lugar. The rest of the Republicans in the Senate should also be on notice that a vote for Kagan is a vote for a revolt by the Republican base.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Coats should remember the disasters of 2006 and 2008

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:30 AM (#)

Dan Coats is the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, but he should remember that 60 percent of Republicans rejected him in the primary. Coats won because Marlin Stutzman and John Hostettler split the conservative vote, just as Peter Rusthoven and John Price split the conservative vote to hand the nomination to Paul Helmke in 1998.

Republican partisans urge support for Coats because Brad Ellsworth will be a lapdog for Harry Reid just as he is now a lapdog for Nancy Pelosi. We can't be purists, the partisans say, even though Coats voted for the assault weapons ban and the Brady Law.

This is exactly why we lost the House and Senate in 2006, folks. This is exactly why Barack Obama is President right now. Republicans cannot abandon their conservative principles and expect the conservative base to vote for them because the Democrats are worse.

In fairness to Coats, he is no Helmke. I will probably vote for him in November because the stakes are so high and because stopping Obama is so important. But Coats needs to realize that "Ellsworth is worse" will not be good enough for many conservatives. Coats must give us a reason to vote for him.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Let the kids pray.

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:30 AM (#)

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. -- The First Amendment

"Judge" Sarah Barker ruled that a Greenwood high school had violated the Constitution because it allowed students to choose to pray at their graduation.

Think about that for a minute. The school is in violation of the law because it allowed students to pray. This flies directly in the face of the First Amendment's clear prohibition against laws that prohibit the free exercise of religion.

This is shameful. We're not talking about a prayer that would be officially endorsed by the school district, which is a government entity. If it were, I would agree with the judge and support banning the prayer. This was approved b the students and would be led by students. This was in no way an action of government "respecting an establishment of religion."

The First Amendment has been perverted. It was never intended to infringe on the rights of individuals to pray or engage in religious speech. There is nothing in the literal, word-for-word text of the First Amendment that makes it illegal for a unit of government to simply allow students to pray at their own graduation ceremony. As little as 50 years ago, it would have been unthinkable for a "judge" to command a school to prevent students from praying publicly.

I think the students should engage in civil disobedience. They should agree on a time where they will stand and either silently bow their heads or cite a short memorized prayer. Tell the "judge" that she can take her ruling and her precedent and shove it. Dare the authorities to arrest them. In Acts 5:29, the Apostle Peter told the Pharisees that "we ought to obey God rather than men" when the Apostles were ordered not to preach Jesus Christ. The students would do well to follow that example.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Primary election 2010

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:30 AM (#)

The primary election offered a few surprises, and it will be interesting to see how races shape up this fall. Here are my thoughts on the races.

I am surprised that Marlin Stutzman leapfrogged John Hostettler and finished second in the U.S. Senate race. Unfortunately, Stutzman and Hostettler split the conservative vote and handed the Republican nomination to Dan Coats, an anti-gun "moderate" who voted to confirm the illiterate Ruth Bader Ginsburg and supported both the assault weapons ban and the Brady law. The situation is similar to 1998, when Peter Rusthoven and John Price split the conservative vote and allowed Paul Helmke, the Leftist mayor of Fort Wayne, to win the primary.

Despite his poor voting record, I will probably hold my nose and vote for Coats anyway. With Barack Obama in the White House, we need as many Republicans in the Senate to work against him as possible. Brad Ellsworth will be a lap dog for Obama and Harry Reid. While Libertarian nominee Rebecca Sink-Burris is a friend (and I voted for her in 1998) I will not vote for her this time.

Nonetheless, Coats should be on notice that simply pointing to the Democrats and saying "look how bad they are" is not going to be enough. That strategery caused the GOP to lose the House and the Senate in 2006, and got Barack Obama elected in 2008. The Republican base is sick of voting for Republicans just because the Democrats are worse. We need to have a reason to vote for the Republican, not just a reason to vote against the Democrat. Coats needs to give conservatives a reason to vote for him.

Unfortunately, Bud Bernitt did not win the 8th District. Bud worked harder than any of the candidates in the 8th. He traveled all over the district meeting people and trying to get the conservative message across. He ran because he wanted to advance conservative principles in Washington. As disappointing as the results were, there's no shame in losing. There is shame in not trying. Thanks for all you've done, Bud.

For the first time in 10 years, the general election contest in the Ninth District will not be between Mike Sodrel and Baron Hill. The late attacks from the Young campaign hurt Sodrel and pushed Young over the top. The problem Young faces now is bringing disgruntled Sodrel supporters on board who are unhappy with Young's attacks on Sodrel. I'm not one of those people, though. While I did not agree with some of the things the Young campaign did, I will enthusiastically support Young in the general election. Young is a pro-life fiscal conservative who can be counted on to vote the right way when he gets to DC.

Here in Monroe County, I was happy to see Pat Stoffers defeat Charles Newmann in the Democratic primary. The landslide margin of Stoffers' win brought a smile to my face and I am happy to see Newmann rejected by his own party as his wife was in 2008. However, I am looking forward to voting to unseat Stoffers in November.

Steve Hogan defeated Joyce Poling in District 60, which is a relief. Poling has gone off the reservation too many times and would not be a reliable vote in Indianapolis. Hogan faces a tough battle against Democrat Peggy Welch, who won three consecutive landslides despite representing a heavily Republican district. No Republican even bothered to challenge her in 2006 and 2008. If Welch can be defeated, 2010 is the year it will happen. Nonetheless, the odds are against any Republican trying to take that seat. It is important for Republicans to gain that seat, however, in order to remove Pat Bauer from the Speaker's chair.

If the primary turnout is any indication of the general election, Republicans will have a good night in November for the first time in a long time. Jim Fielder, Steven Hinds, Herb Kilmer and Ryan Langley all got more votes in the GOP primary than their opponents did in the Democratic primary, and Michael Hill got more votes than Stoffers and Newmann combined. However, this has happened before and Democrats have still won big in November. Republicans have to work hard on the ground. Republicans cannot allow the Democrats to dominate the field on national issues like they did between 2004 and 2008, and the GOP must take the student vote seriously.

Congratulations to all the winners, especially Todd Young and Larry Bucshon. Best of luck going into November.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Follow-up on corporate welfare for Planned Parenthood

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:30 AM (#)

When the local abortion mill requested another helping of corporate welfare, I sent a letter to the City Council opposing Planned Parenthood's request. I also had a letter to the editor published last week.

In the past City Councilor Chris Sturbaum (D, 1st) has recused himself from the vote based on the fact that his wife is employed by Planned Parenthood. He failed to do so in 2008, and should return to his former practice this summer.

I asked whether Planned Parenthood would only be giving birth control to married couples, or if PP would be subsidizing immorality. This prompted a "refutation" that unmarried couples have the same right to birth control as married couples. But we're not talking about whether anyone would be legally prohibited from purchasing birth control with their own money. We're talking about whether tax dollars will be used to subsidize fornication.

In an utterly stupid statement, one of the people who responded in the comments section for my LTTE last week whined that "the biggest abortionist of embryos" is God.

It is true that many spontaneous natural abortions occur each year. I know people who have gone through this, including some recently. However, arguing that spontaneous natural abortions justify surgical abortions is pure idiocy and has no logical merit whatsoever.

God has "killed" an uncountable number of people over the history of the planet through natural causes. Cancer, AIDS, heart disease, influenza and the Bubonic Plague are just a few of the methods God has used ti "kill" people over time. Since God "kills" far more people than anyone else in history, should we decriminalize murder? Or should we be "consistent" and protest God? No, Death by natural causes does not justify murder.

"But a fetus or an embryo is not a person!"

Well, that's the heart of the argument. The core of the argument is at what point the independent being developing in the womb deserves some sort of legal protection by government, if such a point exists. If the embryo/fetus does not have the moral status making it deserving of protection, then all arguments are moot. If, however, we're talking about a human being, then the silly and childish "God is an abortionist" argument is nonsensical.

For those who employ the "God is an abortionist" argument, are you willing to apply it to drive by shootings and serial killers? Yes or no? You don't get to hide from your own argument by whining that we're not talking about a person. Either apply it consistently, or abandon the "argument" as the foolishness you know it to be.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

8th District

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 9:30 PM (#)

It looks like Bud Bernitt will not win the 8th District, which is disappointing. Nonetheless, he worked harder than any of the candidates in the 8th. He traveled all over the district meeting people and trying to get the conservative message across. He ran because he wanted to advance conservative issues. There's no shame in losing, but there is shame in not trying. Thanks for all you've done, Bud.

Negative campaigning

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 5:00 AM (#)

It is the duty of all candidates to engage in negative campaigning, provided it is factual, truthful and relevant. The voters deserve to know why "the other guy" is not qualified. Negative and dirty are NOT the same thing.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Bud Bernitt slams rival candidate Kristi Risk

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 5:00 AM (#)

Bud Bernitt, Republican candidate for Congress in the 8th District, has slammed rival Kristi Risk several times in the last couple weeks over flip flopping on the Iraq war. Follwing are three press releases sent by the Bernitt campaign.

Press Release #1

April 21, 2010

Candidate Kristi Risk has shown a disturbing tendency to play fast and loose with the facts. Can we trust another politician that will do or say anything to get elected?

When the 8th District candidates debated in Washington, Indiana, Risk claimed that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were "unconstitutional" and said that she would vote to defund both wars if elected to the House.

Later, in Evansville, she changed her position saying that yes she would vote to fund both wars. "She did a John Kerry flip flop," says Republican candidate Bud Bernitt.

"We need a solid Republican who will support our troops," said Bernitt. "We don't need to worry about whether Risk will be siding with Barack Obama against our service members at any given time."

Bernitt said that the wars are constitutional, because the Constitution is not specific on what constitutes a declaration of war, leaving it in the hands of Congress. "Congress authorized the use of force which is sufficient," Bernitt said.

Risk has made many other misleading statements. She has said repeatedly that she lives on a farm, but actually has a couple acres, a goat, in a residential subdivision.

The covenants and restrictions in her subdivision allows for up to three dogs and three cats and no other animals. "How can we believe Risk when she says she will read 2000 page bills when she is apparently not reading a couple of pages of the covenants and restrictions in her own subdivision?"

"If she can change her tune according to her audience and misrepresent facts about minor issues, how can she be trusted on the important matters,” said Bernitt.

Press Release #2

April 27, 2010

"I am disappointed in fellow candidate Kristi Risk," says candidate Bud Bernitt. Last week Bernitt criticized Ms. Risk for her flip flops on the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. At a debate in Daviess County, Ms. Risk was the only candidate to say she would vote to cut off the funds for our troops. The Washington (Indiana) Times-Herald said, "On the war on terror, all but Risk were supportive of the troops." Later, in Evansville, she changed her position saying that yes she would vote to fund both wars.

She now even denies ever saying she would defund the troops. But audio of the Daviess County debate shows Risk not only said she would defund the troops, she went as far as to say that the war in Afghanistan, from where the 9/11 attacks were launched, irritates the terrorists and implies we should appease them and that our troops are causing the terrorists to attack us. These disturbing comments are the same as liberal talking points. No wonder Risk continues to deny and misrepresent her recorded statements.

Risk also continues to insist that she lives on a farm while she actually lives in a residential subdivision which prohibits farm animals. The covenants and restrictions in her subdivision allows for up to three dogs and three cats and no other animals. No matter what you call it, it's not a farm. Risk is still, apparently, willing to say anything to get elected, and to change what she tells the voters depending on how the wind blows. Do we need another politician who says one thing and does another, who misrepresents themselves, and who will say anything to get to Washington, D.C.?

Bernitt said, "For over 10 years, I have fought dishonest and corrupt politicians, even at the expense of death threats and other intimidation tactics. But the truth is the truth, and the voters need to know the truth about the extremist views of this candidate."

Press Release #3

May 1, 2010

Republican candidate Bud Bernitt took the extraordinary step today of calling for Kristi Risk to step aside as a candidate for Congress.

"Ms. Risk took the extremist position that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are 'unconstitutional' and said she would vote to defund both wars," Bernitt said. "That puts her to the left of Barack Obama."

"Worse, she lied about her position," Bernitt added. "She was forced to admit at a later debate that she had indeed used that extremist language."

After Risk admitted her "John Kerry flip-flop," she explained that she had been approached by voters and changed her position later that very same evening!

This raises questions of character and experience, Bernitt said.

"What does Kristi Risk believe? Is she to the left of Obama or does she support the troops? This is disturbing and it shows she is not ready for prime time," Bernitt said. "She is looking more and more like a politician who did not read the bills, who will say anything to get elected, who will twist and distort the facts on national security."

"I'm tired of dishonesty in politics," Bernitt said. "It is time for her to step aside in favor of principled conservatives who will stand up to Barack Obama rather than repeat liberal talking points used by MoveOn, the crazy '9-11 Truthers' and Code Pink."

In addition to the campaign site, you can also follow Bernitt's campaign on Twitter and Facebook.