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From Left Field

March 26, 2012

By BOB SHRALUKA
    Applause is due for Decatur City Council, Mayor John Schultz and City Attorney Tim Baker for the professional and thoughtful manner in which they've been  handling the proposed ordinance regulating sexually-oriented businesses that might want to settle here.
    From the outset, Baker has stressed the point, "You can't ban something simply because you don't like it."
    Now that may seem obvious, but in too many cases officials have let their emotions and their jerking knees take over. So they attempt to ban this, that or the other, labeling everything they don't like as "porn." A challenge will follow, then court cases, mounting court costs and attorney fees, and after lots and lots of wasted time and money, the ordinance or law will be tossed out and the governing body is left with nothing ... except a desire to start over.
    Here, though, there has been no overreaction. Our city leaders have done it the right way, proceeding cautiously but steadfastly. Seeking to get it right the first time, Baker has expended large amounts of time studying legal precedents and researching ordinances in other communities which have stood up strongly against legal challenges.
    What will finally be approved in early April seems reasonable and legally sound. It will strongly regulate any such businesses which may want to come to Decatur. Given court rulings and something called the Constitution, that's the best that can be done.
    Maybe you can't keep such fare out, but you can certainly keep it under your control as much as possible.

Good choice ends bad deal
    So the Charlie White nightmare is at long last over and it appears Gov. Mitch Daniels has made a far wiser choice for Secretary of State than did the voters, although he had a much wider range of candidates to choose from.
    One reads and hears nothing but positive messages about Connie Lawson, the state senator (since 1996) from Danville who takes over White's post. She is described as a moderate who is well respected by both parties.
    "Connie was an obvious choice," the governor said. "Indiana has probably never been served by a Secretary of State better prepared on day one." Better prepared than the last one, that's for sure.
    He added, “I want to reiterate our thanks to the staff of the office, and in particular, Jerry Bonnet, for their superb professionalism during some difficult months. Thanks to them, the public has been well served every day.”
     Even Democrats praised the selection. “We congratulate Senator Lawson on her appointment and wish her well in this position,” Democratic Chairman Dan Parker said.
    Democrats, of course, had been fighting hard to get their guy, Vop Osili, who had lost the election to White, installed. In the case of White, though, what mattered most was not who made the selection. What was essential was getting an obvious incompetent out and a respected professional in.
    The courts did the former and the governor performed the latter.

'Teeth' long overdue
    Congratulations to area Senator Travis Holdman and the Indiana General Assembly which approved, in the final hours of the recent session, a bill that provides civil fines of up to $100 for a first offense and up to $500 for additional violations against either a government official who violated Indiana's public access laws or the government agency.
    The law was passed 35 years ago but was totally toothless, Under it, someone could take a public agency to court in an attempt to get withheld records released. But the toughest thing the judge could do was award legal costs to a resident who won a court case over a public access dispute. 
    ‘‘There has to be an intentional and deliberate act by folks not to disclose that information,’’ said bill sponsor Holdman, R-Markle. ‘‘We have put enough speed bumps into the path of the civil penalties that it should be a rare case that those actually kick in.’’
    ‘‘It does send a message that the Legislature does intend that the access laws be complied with,’’ said Steve Key, executive director of the Hoosier State Press Association. ‘‘For those rare bad actors who otherwise would ignore the statutes, it lets them know that there is a personal consequence if they deny the public its right to know.’’
    Key is correct in the bad actors being only a few, but they are out there and they are adamant in their disdain for the public. We would have preferred bigger fines, but at least this is better than nothing, which has been the case.
 

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