• Throwing out democracy with the Ritz

    Even when I strongly disagree with the politics of elected officials (and I have been critical of Governor Mike Pence), I try to avoid the hyperbole of labelling someone a dictator. Still, you have to wonder if our Governor realizes the optics of what he’s been doing lately. First he tries to start a state-run news agency (maybe), and now, he’s all but gotten his way in subverting the democratic process.

    You’ve probably seen the stories in the papers: ever since Glenda Ritz was elected State superintendent of Public Instruction over charter school golden boy Tony Bennett (who, by the way, was suspected of illegal activity) in 2012, the Governor and Republican state legislature have clashed with her at almost every turn.

    Policy isn’t what really matters at this point, however. What matters is that last week, both the House and Senate voted in slightly different measures to have Ritz, for whom the people of Indiana voted and elected, removed from office. Nothing’s official yet, but it bodes not well for her.

    That very idea should alarm anyone regardless of political affiliation, for it is blatantly and unequivocally taking the power of the vote out of the people’s hands.

    If President Obama tried to remove someone from power like this, the outcry would be deafening. And unlike the many overblown and ridiculous claims made against the President, his critics would be absolutely in the right. The same goes for any President, or for that matter, any elected official.

    If there’s a silver lining to any of this, it’s that people do appear to be upset about it. From personal letters to the editor pages of local newspapers to social media, supporters for Ritz have come out in droves, including many Republicans. Considering how both houses have voted her out, though, and the fact that the Governor apparently is blind to his image among the electorate, Ritz’s fate might be sealed.

    It’s widely agreed that Pence wants to run for President, and speculation is that his supreme support of private education is meant to impress the Republican base (and big money donors). Hopefully—if, in fact, Ritz is removed, and Pence does run in 2016—the people look at his record of undermining the vote and don’t give him theirs in the primaries, let alone the election. But I’m pessimistic.

  • Who's on the ballot tomorrow in Lake County?

    Tomorrow is the Indiana Primary, and it’s looking like our state will play a crucial part in the Presidential race for both parties. But while you’ve heard plenty (and then some) about the race for the White House at this point, don’t forget that we’re not just choosing Presidential nominees.

    We’ll also be selecting nominees for local, state, and federal offices tomorrow. Several candidates are unopposed, but there are some nominations that are yet to be decided. So, here’s a little refresher regarding who is running for what office in Lake County.

    If you declare as a Democrat tomorrow, here’s who you’ll see on the ballot:

    PRESIDENT

    • Hillary Clinton
    • Bernie Sanders

    UNITED STATES SENATOR

    • Baron Hill

    GOVERNOR

    • John R. Gregg

    UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE, DISTRICT 1:

    • Willie (Faithful and True) Brown
    • Peter L. Visclosky

    JUDGE OF THE CIRCUIT COURT

    • Carrie Castro
    • Marisa McDermott
    • George C. Para 

    COUNTY RECORDER

    • Terence Hill
    • Gregory J. Sanchez
    • Carl Ivy Weatherspoon, Jr.
    • Carolyn Jordan
    • Mike Brown

    COUNTY CORONER

    • Merrilee D. Frey
    • Phyllis V. Perkins
    • Samuel Smith, Jr.

    COUNTY SURVEYOR

    • Bill Emerson, Jr.

    For the following offices, it varies depending on which part part of Lake County in which you reside. If you're registered to vote, you can find your specific ballot here.

    STATE SENATOR

    • DISTRICT 2:
      • Lonnie M. Randolph
    • DIST. 3
      • Ethel Jeanette Williams
      • Eddie Melton
      • Darren L. Washington
      • Dave Spott

    STATE REPRESENTATIVE

    • DISTRICT 2
      • Rosa Maria (Rose) Rodriguez
      • Earl L. Harris, Jr.
      • Drake Morris
      • Tammi Davis
    • DISTRICT 1
      • Linda Lawson
    • DISTRICT 3
      • Antuwan Clemons
      • Charlie Brown
    • DISTRICT 11
      • James Metro
    • DISTRICT 12
      • Mara Candelaria Reardon
    • DISTRICT 14
      • Vernon G. Smith
    • DISTRICT 19
      • Shelli Vandenburgh

    COUNTY COMMISSIONER

    • DISTRICT 2
      • Gerry J. Scheub
    • DISTRICT 3
      • David Gonzalez
      • Richard L. Alyea
      • Dan Reed
      • Christine Cid
      • Michael C. Repay

    And now, the Republican ballot:

    PRESIDENT

    • Ted Cruz
    • Ben Carson
    • Chris Christie
    • Marco Rubio
    • Rand Paul
    • Jeb Bush
    • John R. Kasich
    • Donald J. Trump
    • Carly Fiorina

    Even though only Cruz, Kasich, and Trump are the only candidates still running, all nine are still on the ballot.

    UNITED STATES SENATOR

    • Todd Young
    • Marlin A. Stutzman

    GOVERNOR

    • Michael R. Pence

    JUDGE OF THE CIRCUIT COURT

    • Douglas M. Grimes

    COUNTY RECORDER

    • Joseph M. Ramos
    • Gerald Swets

    STATE REPRESENTATIVE

    • DISTRICT 11
      • Michael J. Aylesworth
    • DISTRICT 12
      • William I. (Bill) Fine
    • DISTRICT 15
      • Hal Slager
    • DISTRICT 19
      • Julie Olthoff

    COUNTY COMMISSIONER

    • DISTRICT 2
      • Jerry Tippy
      • Daniel C. Langmesser
      • Eldon Strong
    • DISTRICT 3
      • Mark J. Leyva

    So, there you have it. Take a little time in the hours left before the polls open tomorrow morning and study up on these candidates you might not have heard of until now. And don't forget to vote tomorrow, and to bring a valid ID with you.

  • Why are people leaving Indiana?

    I and many others have written about residents leaving Illinois. Not as many people are talking about the same thing happening here in Indiana. But it’s happening.

    Since 2005, more residents have left Indiana than have moved here. The state’s total population has remained overall steady, increasing slightly each year. About half the counties in the state, including Lake County, have seen small decreases each year, however.

    I have a few ideas why this might be:

    • Wages: Incomes in Northwest Indiana fell by about an average of $3000 last year…thoughworkers here are still paid better than the rest of the state. Indiana’s median household income lags behind the national average, as well as those of 30 other states and Washington D.C. And as I’ve said before, our minimum wage still lingers at the federal level.
    •  State services: People always complain about their tax dollars funding state services, but they always use them when they’re available. Indiana lags behind a lot of states in this department, from education to public transit. A big issue in the future could be health care, as more and more people come around to the Affordable Care Act. Currently, Indiana doesn’t run its own insurance exchange and is still kicking the idea of Medicaid expansion around. This could tilt our state out of favor for employment-seekers deciding between similar-paying jobs in Indiana or in another state that does have those things.
    • Greener, and warmer, pastures: I’d imagine those moving out of Indiana do so more for monetary reasons than weather-related ones. Still, warmer climates are no doubt more attractive than the bitter cold winters in the Midwest, the Region’s being even worse because of the Lake. Another factor more in our control, though, is our state’s environmental record. While we rank higher than some Midwest states, our air quality is still pretty bad. As someone who suffers from allergies and is thus sensitive to airborne particles, I can say from experience that the difference between Indiana and Washington (one of the most environmentally-conscious states in the country) is like the difference between inhaling secondhand smoke and simply clear air.
  • Why Indiana?- An Interview with Kelly Schwedland Part 1

    Why Indiana?

    A question that has been asked many times in when someone is thinking of starting a business.  The answer for years has not been a positive one with talent from local universities flocking to Chicago and their thriving startup scene.  However, the question now is “Why not Indiana?”  I recently talked to one person who asked this question five years ago and is close to a positive response to the question “Why not Indiana?”

    The person I am referring to isKelly Schwedland and he is no stranger to the startup scene.

      

     

    How many companies have you been apart of?

     

    Kelly:I have actually been apart of about 30 different startup companies over the course of college.  Couple of them have been venture backed.  Three of them went to some type of exit.  TheGenesis Foundation was probably the largest of them.  We grew that to about $250 million before the mortgage market changed all of the regulations.  

    Any exits from companies recently?

     

    Kelly:So there were three or four companies that we had.  Myself and and a couple of partners had about five or six companies that we had started and tried and some of them we changed the business models.  Some of them we did different things.  At the time they were part of the what we called the  Business Foundry, which was a facility that we had in Valpo.  It was in the design of a pseudo-incubator.  Near the end we all decided that we have different ideas about the directions that we wanted to go personally and professionally.  

     

    Why Indiana?

     

    Kelly:Somewhat serendipitous. I grew up in Indianapolis. Went to IU and then my dad ended up taking a job in Michigan.  So there was really no reason for me to stay except for the fact, about the time I was finishing school in Bloomington, I had been apart of 2 different startup down there.  I was really frustrated about figuring out how to get them to scale.  I was chatting with a friend of mine from school and he said there was a company from Laporte and they are anInc. 500 company, and you should go up and talk to them because they are hiring.  The only position available at the time was an Installation Technician.  I figured I was kind of handy so maybe I should do that.  I started in with about 10 or 12 other guys that all started working at the same time.  At the end of two weeks, I was the only one still working.  I progressed from there and moved into a sales role when one opened up.  Eventually, I helped open up an office in England.  Then, I helped set up a distributorship in France, before finally leaving and starting another company.  But the true in answer in there was that while I was at that company I met my wife and we got married.  Then before you know it, you live here.

     

    Why did you want to get into the Indiana startup scene?

     

    Kelly:I had a little bit of a personal and financial buffer. So I started working out of Chicago.  I was up there going to school for my MBA from the University of Chicago.  Then I sort of hung out around the Chicago startup scene.  I saw a lot of things happening during that time period.  I wasn’t all that excited about commuting into the city though.  So about a year ago I moved back to Indiana and see what I can work on out here.  At a chance luncheon with a handful of business owners.  We were sitting around talking about some of the stuff in Chicago.  One of them said “Why don’t we do that here?” And I said “I don’t know.  What we need to do is take a look and see if we have the right kind of people and what would be necessary to accomplish that.”  

     

    Indiana’s outlook?

     

    Kelly:I started researching how many developers, user experience, and software companies were out here in northwest Indiana.  Basically it came to the conclusion that we had a lot of talent but most of it was working in or for Chicago companies.  So out of that we said “What would it take to get more of those individuals to recognize that there is an opportunity to take their skills and talents and build companies.  As we researched around that we found that we need resources.  There was no venture capital fund or angel investor network at the time in northwest Indiana.  There was no easy access to capital.  The part was helping people understand what the startup process could look like.  We had to build an ecosystem to help people get connected.  Which is kind of the Startup Weekend piece.  Understandinglean startup methodologies for validating your assumptions before you start building stuff.  Which is pretty common now in the Chicagoland area, but not very common in most of Indiana.

    I then ran intoElevate Ventures and explained to them what we were looking to do.  While trying to get them on board, one of the guys that handles one of the various regions said “I could really use your help and I think there is a way to partner to make this happen”  So, I came on as anEntrepreneur-in-Residence to coach existing companies and continue developing a Startup Weekend and still trying to put anaccelerator programtogether.

     

    Come back next week to read the second half of my interview with Kelly, where he discusses what Elevate Ventures,Startup Weekend Valparaiso, and much more.