From Left Field
By BOB SHRALUKA
Note to the folks at OCRA: H-E-L-P!
Help us, the city officials and residents of Decatur, to get rid of that old, old building down by the city police station before someone gets seriously injured ... or a whole lot worse.
It's been sitting there for something like 116 years and, yes, it's a big — really big — eyesore. But everyone can live with that. What so many people in city government, and especially residents of the neighborhood, are deeply concerned about is the safety factor.
If the building was out in the country somewhere, it would be of far less concern. Maybe even somewhere else in the city. But its position couldn't be much more dangerous.
On this one block is a municipal swimming pool and a park with a playground, and right across the street from the park are a couple of outdoor basketball courts and a skateboard park. Need anyone say there are a lot of kids in this area during the warm-weather months? And that doesn't address the fact that a lot of youngsters live way to close to the building.
If some of them ever get inside that building — yeh, you know, kids are curious, probably more so than even cats — well... There's rotting everywhere and, at times, standing water; deep standing water.
"It's in very poor shape," Street/Sanitation Superintendent Jeremy Gilbert said this week, without the slightest hint of exaggeration. "Pieces of brick are falling off outside. Beams in the basement that hold up the floor are rusting. We do think we have the water problem under control, but if we get a heavy rain ... well, you never know.
"Let's just say if you spent 10 minutes walking around in there, it would blow your mind."
Your agency — the Office of Rural and Community Affairs — has turned us down once, rejecting our bid for a grant of $439,550 to demolish the building, get rid of all the asbestos, and make the site a green place. Okay, sure, there, no doubt, are other folks in other communities with their own urgent needs. And your agency has only so much money to go around. Understood. And there's no animosity here for the rejection.
But the city fathers have restarted the bid process and we're hoping you are able to cut us some slack this time. Your people have already been here once and checked out the old building, and apparently they'll be returning. It likely won't be warm then, but here's hoping they get a good look at the close proximity of the pool and park. That should underscore the concern so many folks here have.
So thanks for your time. We know you'll give us a fair shake. We'll be waiting ... and hoping.
So which is it?
Were it not such a critical issue, the Indiana Senate's debate over a right-to-work law would be comical.
For the last few years, Gov. Mitch Daniels has often patted himself and his administration on the back for job creation and, in most cases, rightfully so. So during the two-hour debate on Monday, Democrats repeatedly invoked Republican Daniels’ touting of the state’s high rankings by business groups.
Senate Minority Leader Vi Simpson, D-Bloomington, pointed to the decisions by nonunion automakers Toyota and Honda to build large factories in the state in recent years.
The next day, Mark W. Everson, commissioner of the Department of Workforce Development, said Indiana added 12,000 private sector jobs in December. The state’s labor force grew by 17,200, the largest increase in over 35 years, he said.
Everson pointed out, too, that the state’s labor force has increased by 2.2 percent, while the national labor force increased by 0.3 percent.
“We led the nation in job creation” during December, said Everson. “Unlike our neighbors who are seeing more discouraged workers, Indiana's labor force is growing sharply as Hoosiers return to work. The year closed out with strong growth in employment and a continued increase in the labor force. December was one of the best months for job creation in over a decade.”
But all along (in the last year or so, anyway), Gov. Daniels has been saying the lack of a right-to-work law has been hurting Indiana's ability to attract business and jobs.