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"My Town and Yours"

  "My Town and Yours"  Thoughts and  Observations of Mark Lange

Posts from November 2013


I Hate to Complain, but...
I hate to complain about the new sporting goods store opening in Vincennes this weekend, but here goes.  The jobs supported by the new store will be important to the individuals with those jobs.  But most of the money we spend at that store will head out of town just as fast as our out of town based banks credit and debit cards are swiped through their check outs. Based in Troy, Michigan and covering fourteen states Dunham's Sports has opened six new stores just this month in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Georgia, Minnesota, and North Carolina and now has about 180 stores.  It has been inbusiness since 1937 and started out as a bait and tackle shop.

Now I'm beginning to feel a little bad.  When it started it WAS a local store.  The bait shop just got successful and expanded.  Isn't that what the American Dream was all about in 1937?  Isn't that what it sort of still is today?  Sort of, but that's for another rant.
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WOW - Was That Cold!
If you went to the Parade of Lights on Saturday night you already know what this will be about.  Cold, Windy, Really COLD and REALLY Windy.  Am I a weeny?  YEP.  But there were a lot of folks who were not.  They bundled up and jumped up and down in glee - or was that to get feeling back in their toes - as the floats blew by.

And the floats?  The Parade of Lights is the best parade all year as far as floats and entries are concerned.  They look and sound fantastic.  The work by the entrants is tremendous. 

It's just too bad it's not the best attended parade, but with the cost of health care well we're not getting into that this time...

Nice job Chamber.
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Topics: Human Interest
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Locations: Wow


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Not Really Over Yet
Seems like much of our area is getting back to normal following Sunday's tornado.  Curfews are lifted. The electric companies report that power is available.  Large volunteer group coordination and shelters are wrapping up their schedules.  But are we really back to normal?  Maybe as the larger community.  Schools are back on a regular schedule, even trash is being collected under the regular schedule after today in Washington.

But for those personally affected, the event is far from over.  Jobs have been lost or at least delayed.  Insurance payments don't generally cover everything.  And some didn't have insurance at all.  And the next time severe weather is predicted?  That will be a tough time for those directly affected by last Sunday's storm. 

Let's keep the help coming.  We're not back to normal yet even if it's starting to look that way.
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Locations: Washington


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Small Business Saturday - Can I Even SAY That?
I'm not much of a shopper.  I can't remember the last time I was in a Walmart or any big box chain store.  My wife has never been to the Walmart since it moved to Kimmel Crossing and was in the old one a couple of times.  Where do we shop?  Small stores generally.  There is support in some circles for small businesses.  Even a day "just" for small businesses.

You've seen those commercials from American Express about Small Business Saturday and heard their ads promotion Shop Small.  Isn't ironic that American Express owns the copyright to the event and the name and slogan trademark and has sold the concept to FedEx, Foursquare, Twitter, and the United State Postal Service.  Only in America.
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Topics: Human Interest
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Which is More Helpful
There is so much pressure for our children to perform on standardized tests.  I-Step seems to have become the focus of education right now and that's not good.  School should be about educating a child into a functioning adult and sometimes getting off academic tasks is important no matter what the State Legislature thinks.

Today a number of students from clubs at Lincoln High School will be working to help those affected by the Washington Tornado.  Principal Steve Combs told WZDM that those helped would reap more than those who help.  I beg to differ.  Even though there will be a lot of important help completed by the students, the students will benefit more in the long run than the people helped.  Academic testing is all about "me".  What did "I" get on the tests?  How will that help "me" later?  Community service is all about "spreading me".  How did I help?  Who was affected positively by my actions? 

I hope the Vincennes Schools don't get in trouble from the test pushers in Indianapolis for actually educating their students in an important non-academic "subject".  We'll see.  I bet the local schools had to ask if helping their neighbors was OK.
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Topics: Education
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Locations: IndianapolisWashington
People: Steve Combs


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The List
There isn't enough room to list all of the help folks are offering for their neighbors who were affected by Sunday's Tornado.  Everything from places to live, cars to loan, food to eat, help to clean up, money, and support for the losses.  Are you surprised?  Bet not.  This is a helping community - whether its helping those from other parts of the world or just down St. Thomas Road one thing we do well around here is help.  Maybe that should be one of the focuses on those Chamber of Commerce and Development Corp promotional materials we send around to get more businesses to our towns.
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What's the Plan?
There's a commercial floating around about planning for disaster.  The Knox County Red Cross just released a reminder to have an emergency plan and some supplies on hand.  And while I've thought about having a better personal emergency plan and even throught about the supplies, I'm really not any more ready today after we had tornados in the area yesterday than I was on Saturday the day before we had November Tornados.  I'm probably not alone.  This does not refer to those folks featured on Dooms Day Planners and similar TV shows, but it does refer to just regular folks with flashlights and portable radios - and working batteries, water and food for two or three days, medicine for the same period, AND a plan.  Where will you meet?  What will you take with you?  Remember two things:  The normal communications system including cells phones may not necessarily work and the internet is just as vunerable to disaster as the electric lines we depend on for so much of our existence.

Maybe yesterday's bad weather will get me moving.  We'll at least by the end of the month I should be able to put some time into the plan.
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Topics: Disaster_Accident


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One Last Pitch for Thanksgiving
We're now less than two weeks away from Thanksgiving and I feel like I need to make one more pitch to save the holiday.  It has nothing to do with Black Friday, Small business Saturday, Pre-Black Friday, Early Bird Sales, or even Super Lay Away.  It has to do with the FaceBook "Thanks" lists that are populating the electronic gossip page.  For the disconnected here's how the not so connected thinks it works:  Someone, somewhere and I'm betting on a FaceBook employee posts a number of things they are thankful for, then one of their electronic friends likes it, and then the first person tells them how many things they are to be thankful for and on and on - wait that's another annoying FaceBook thing about what you don't know about one of your electronic friends that you don't really know anyway.  Oh, it's listing new things you are thankful for each day of November.

That doesn't count.  Tell the people that are really affected by you what you are thankful for and do it in person.  Don't hide behind a computer screen or a smart phone.  Put the phone down and look to your left, you're probably sitting right next to her.  No!  Don't text her you feelings of thanks.  Tell her.  I know it's old fashioned, but try it you might like it.  She will.
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Topics: Human Interest
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Whose Ccurbs Are They Anyway
The Vincennes City Council is considering an ordinance that will require individuals who work on curbs, sidewalks, or gutters make sure when the work is done, the work is up to ADA standards.  I have a couple of questions.  Except for curb cuts for new entry and exit to property why would anyone privately work on curbs and gutters?  Shouldn't they be maintained by the city?  Shouldn't the city only need to make sure the city's work is up to ADA standards?  We pay money for streets and roads that are to be maintained by the city not by individuals.

Curb cuts require approval by the Board of Works so just add that as a requirement of new curb cuts.  And now the concept of individuals working on curbs and gutters.  That should never happen.   The only reason it does happen is that the city does not take responsibility for one of the main responsibility it has - the above listed street maintenance.

Go to cities and towns that are perceived as clean and neat and I bet those communities have built and maintained curbs and gutters.  Those communities don't allow streets to be built without proper drainage, curbs, gutters, and usually sidewalks.  Then they maintain those assets.  And while I'm betting on money I've already paid in fees and property taxes to my city, in those "clean" towns individuals don't have to maintain their own curbs and gutters.

If Vincennes can't take care of their curbs and gutters, they shouldn't have the right to tell citizens who want their property to be safer and look better what to do about the broken down poorly maintained curbs the city refuses to maintain.
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Nothing Like Good Trash Talking
It just doesn't go away.  Trash.  The Vincennes Board of Works now has One Thousand more of those big trash totes to distribute to city addresses.  There's no real record of where the other 4,000 totes are.  Mayor Joe Yochum is quoated as saying there are 2,750 pickup sites in the city.  If that is accurate each pickup site has almost two of those big dumpsters.  It's probably not an accurate number, but what is accurate is that the city has no system of keeping track of over $80,000 in totes. 

For those of us that missed all the Trash Talking the past few weeks, it's back and just like trash itself will keep piling up just like the bags the one armed bandit picks up in the wee hours of the morning around town.  Oh?  They don't use the automated system every week in your neighborhood?  That's not what was promised, but sometimes promises seem hard to keep when it comes to government.
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It's More Than Just Age
Attendees at last night's Veteran's Program at the Vincennes American Legion were generally older.  A few World War II and Korean War Vets participated, but now it seems Viet Nam Era veterans are now in the majority at such programs.  And post Viet Nam vets?  Not very many seem to participate in group programs or hold memberships in any of the veterans organizations like the American Legion.

That's a concern of veterans organizations.  Membership is dropping faster than the loss of old veterans to death.  Does it have anything to do with young vets not being proud of their service?  I don't know, but I will guess not.  If my son who is a veteran is any sort of example it is generational not patriotic.  His children are young, his wife wants a break in the evening after working in the home all day, he grew up on video games not clubs (maybe a probelm with his parenting, but that's another post), and he's working hard to get his career established.  Will he join those organizations later, when his life is a bit less busy?  Probably not.  But it's not because he isn't proud of his service and the service of the men and women he served with.  It's just the way it is today.
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Thank a Vet
A lot of us will spend some time today to thank a veteran.  But we should really set asside more than just one day to thank veterans.  World War Two veterans are passing at a rate of thousands a day.  A lot of them will not see next Veterans Day.  Korean War and even Viet Nam War vets are reaching the end of their lives and may have just a few more Veterans Days left.

Say a thanks.  Start with yourself.  If you are a vet be proud - we're proud of your service.  You should be too.  Say thanks to your kin who are vets.  Uncle Bruce, Uncle Ralph, Uncle Ronnie, Mother-In-Law Maggie, and Dad all did the WW II or Korean War tour.  Two were injured.  Three are still around to be thanked.  Thank your siblings who were vets.  Thank you kids who made a tough choice and joined the military.  Thanks Aaron.  Thank the neighbors - Ed and Brian. 

But we should also thank the support of those vets.  Spouses, moms, siblings, and dads.  Thanks Aunt Carole, Aunt Carol, Aunt Helen, Charlie, and Mom.  Thanks Maria, SKL, JL and CL.
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People: Ronnie


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The Aging of Education
Accompanied my "Temporary Life Partner" to an informational meeting at Vincennes University concerning teacher retirement.  I'm not going to speak out of school, but if that one meeting is any indication of what is happening in one of this communty's most important industries, the changes for all of us will be huge.  Over fifty teachers most with thirty to forty years experience listened intently as the representative from the state teachers pension group explained pensions, annuities, rules, and regulations all focusing on retirement before the end of this coming August.  Teachers and any employee in the state pension system will be facing smaller pensions after the end of August because of changes within the system.  Between now and then we will see thousands of retirements state wide and maybe as many as hundreds in our community.

Why should we care?  Not only will our community lose some really good, effective, and focused teachers and other covered employees, it will lose many of them to other communities.  Many will move to warmer climates.  Others will move to be near their children who have already left town.  And then there's the grand kids.  All of those reasons are fine.  Isn't retirement all about doing what you want to do?  But when retirees move they take with them more than their job skills.  They take their spending.  They take their community service efforts.  They take their experience on how things have been done successfully in the past.  Of course their replacements bring new ideas and new spending, but there won't be as many replacements as retirees and they won't be paid the same.  That's fact in the new economy.

For those of us who will be staying, it could be a sad fall.  For those of us who may suddenly have a retiree in the household there will be lots of changes.

The guy from the state said "You shouldn't retire FROM something.  You should retire TO something".  So for all of those potential retirees making there plans, consider all of the things that "need to be done" for our community and DO them.  You've got the skills.  You've proven it for decades.
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Topics: LaborSocial Issues
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Sometimes You've Just Got to Change

Sometimes you've just got to suck it up and say a change needs to be made.  That's what the Vincennes Historic Board did recently.  They ammended an October 1st approval concerning a home remodeling after getting more accurate information.  The change is not the point.  The fact that there was a change at all is important.

Too often it seems that elected officials are unwilling to make adjustments in their stands no matter what information becomes available.  But appointed boards in general and the Vincennes Historic Review Board in this case in particular are not so set in their opinions.  I wonder why.  Could it be they don't have to make decisions always with an eye of getting reelected?  Is it that they don't get paid much for their work so they can think about the facts, not about the paycheck?  Is it that most appointed board members are people who already know something about the issues they will deal with on the board they are appointed to?  Probably YES to all three.

And elected office holders?  There is nothing in the Constitution requiring a person running for an elected office to hold any skills for that office.  Sometimes we get lucky and get good ones - like many of our elected Vincennes and Knox County elected office holders.  Sometimes we miss the mark -  and get some not so qualified or focused on the real tasks elected for like some of our state and national office holders.

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Locations: Knox County


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Downtown Work
Good news about the future home of Pioneer Oil at 4th and Main.  The owners say they are going to make the building look more like the historic buildings in the area.  While the building now looks pretty good, it does not match the neighborhood and there is a group that cares about that and that group in the Vincennes Historic Review Board.  Changing the color of the building and adding brick and limestone that matches the area will be a nice, but not required touch.  It seems the Pioneer Oil folks want to fit in.  Work is already underway on the property and completion will come quickly it seems.

Now about the Pocket Park in the same block.  Lots of action and little talk on the Pioneer building.  Lots of talk and little action on the Pocket Park.  Maybe that whole thing about money coming in after construction began didn't work out so well for the Pocket Park.  I'm not even sure the work that has been done is better to look at than the old empty lot.  
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Large Item "Pickup"
The reason Vincennes' Large Item Pickup was so successful in the past was that is was Vincennes' Large Item PICKUP.  Now, the city has decided to place dumpsters around town for a one day collection.  No PICKUP for this town anymore.  Should I have time on Saturday to collect my large items and want to take them to the dumpsters, all I would have to do is borrow my neighbors pickup truck assuming he will lend it.  Then it might work for me - woops won't work.  Like a lot of us in vincennes, Saturday is a work day.  OK so I'm out - no truck and I have to work this Saturday.  What about the elderly.  Many might have the time and inclination.  Some will have pickup trucks.  But most won't have the strength to lift that old couch into the back of that pickup truck - unless of course they use that fruit blender to make smoothies that make them really strong for their age.

I guess the city has to try new things, but at least don't call it "Large Item Pickup".  It's not and what it will be now is not much a service the community has grown to expect.
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Nice Work Kids
The South Knox Boys Cross Country Team made a positive impact on the State Meet this past Saturday and the Vincennes Lincoln Pride of the Green did the same at the State Marching Band Finals.  Two different activities.  One result.  There are a lot of things we all had to do in school that were at best building blocks for our adult life.  Some activities stay for life.  What about Cross Country?  There are teams in Cross Country competition, but it is really an individual activity.  Kids turn into teens who turn into young adults, and age into full blown adults and beyond - and they can still run.  It is a life long individual activity - a way to not only build and keep your physical prowess, but to clear your mind from the pressures of life.

What about marching band?  Not many high school band members continue through life marching on a football field with 100 other adults, but marching band IS more than a simply school activity.  Most adults have to work closely over long periods of time with a large number of people.  Most successful adults are effective team members and/or leaders and that is what makes marching band a life long positive activity.  And besides, when those trumpets come out of their cases for Reformation Sunday at church, the bandy in many of us comes out again.

Nice work kids.  You did yourself proud and all those hours of practice will pay off for your whole life.
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Important Practice
While the arrest of a Vincennes man for impersonating a police office near the Vincennes campus and his detainment at Tecumseh-Harrison Elementary School yesterday turned out OK for the schools, there was a positive.  The events allowed two important community organizations to test their lock-down procedures under real conditions.  Few today believe "It can't happen here."  It happens in small town after small town as well as the big cities we have been believed were the harbors of trouble.

At least to an outsider, the two incidents allowed fast and seemingly correct actions by VU and the Vincennes Community Schools.  While real world incidents are not what either group wanted, real world situations beat a table-top expercise to check their systems every thime.
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