• E-cigarettes: Regulating Common Scents

    For better or for worse technological advances have had an impact on almost every part of our daily lives. Smartphones keep us connected to everyone and everything. Speed cameras keep us safe and angry. Drones provide us with beautiful new overhead views, but also have forced governments to create legislation to regulate them. Another new technology is forcing governments to introduce legislation to counteract its unforeseen affects.

    The technology I am referring to is E-Cigarettes. For those who do not know, E-cigarettes are different from regular cigarettes in a number of ways. The main difference is that E-cigarettes use a heating chamber inside a device that resembles a large pen to vaporize the fluid inside. Vaping is the main draw of E-cigarettes since it has been found to be safer than regular cigarettes. But E-cigarettes still are not safe, just safer than the current leading cause of lung cancer.

    While some states have outlawed smoking altogether in bars in restaurants, Indiana still allows it. However, for bars that choose to be non-smoking, E-cigarettes can be a problem. Since using an E-cigarette is considered “vaping” and not smoking some users will try and get away with vaping in nonsmoking bars or nonsmoking areas. This is where the legislation needs to catch up to regulate vaping because the affects of the secondhand smoke from vaping is also very harmful, though the full affects aren’t known yet.

    It would be nice if E-cigarette users would use common sense to see that E-cigarettes essentially have the same affect on nonsmokers as cigarettes, but that obviously isn’t always the case. And on top of that, the companies producing the fluids that are used in vaping aren’t heavily regulated by the FDA yet. This has led to some of these companies using dangerous chemicals in their fluids that have known to cause horrible damage to users.

  • Liquor fine for Dunes banquet hall, but not the beach

    The Dunes pavilion refurbishment and banquet hall plan has advanced all summer with seemingly little hindrance, despite some local and vocal opposition. But the project has hit its first major snag: alcohol sales.

    As it currently stands, alcohol is not allowed on any of the Dunes’ beaches. Alcohol sales are permitted by law inside and within 100 feet of the pavilion, provided the operators have a liquor license. And on September 10, Pavilion Partners LLC, who is overseeing the project, had their application rejected by the Porter County Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

    If that doesn’t sound like much of a snag, you don’t know a whole lot about the restaurant business. Aside from fast food operations, liquor comprises a large part of sales for eateries of all stripes. And in fine dining, which is what the new banquet seems to be aiming for, drinks are not only a big chunk of change, but arguably a bigger part of the experience than the meal. Even though the hall would offer the beautiful view of the Dunes, it would still be at a big disadvantage if its cocktail hours were limited to Shirley Temples.

    The opposition to granting the hall a liquor license seems to stem from the fears that it will eventually lead to allowing alcohol on the beach. Well, my opinion on the banquet hall (which I’ve already talked about this summer) boils down to this: if the hall is the only extent to which private parties can be reserved, I’m okay with it. If the liquor stays there, too, that’s fine with me.

    But, though I hate to be a buzzkill, I agree that the beaches should remain alcohol-free. Aside from the potential for more garbage and the dangers of impairing swimmers or hikers on the trails, I frankly and selfishly would rather not have the peacefulness of the Dunes spoiled by that loud drunk we’ve all had to tolerate at a bar or sporting event at some point. Even though by and large most people who might take some drinks to the beach aren’t that person, it’s not worth risking.

  • NWI: Sightseeing in your own backyard

    northwest Indiana photography camera

    Big ticket purchases can make anyone stressed, especially when it comes to technology. Example: I am currently in the market for a DSLR camera and am trying to figure out what are some must-have features so that the camera can still be effective in the future. What I am not worried about is the subject matter that I will be photographing. I plan on taking some sight seeing trips this summer, so there will be no shortage of good shots. That got me to thinking about some of the diverse and unique scenery we have right here in northwest Indiana. 

    If it is breathtaking nature shots that you want you can head over to Chesterton to visit the Indiana Dunes State Park. There are sprawling dunes, beaches, and clear blue water. There are great sunset shots to be had over Lake Michigan with Chicago serving as a backdrop. Also, the area could get more photogenic with the renovation of the pavilion and banquet hall at the dunes.

    If you don’t want to get sand in your shoes, Taltree Arboretum is a great place to shoot some lush looking photographs. The Taltree Arboretum has a combination of prairies, wetlands, and woodlands that some wouldn’t believe are located in Valparaiso. There is also a sprawling model railway garden that can make for some unique pictures.

    From the Crown Point Courthouse to the historical main streets of the Whiting, the region has a plethora of beautiful historical architecture to be framed. These preserved historical districts stir up feelings of Americana and are a real beauty to take in no matter what the season.

    Hopefully I inspired some of you to take a vacation in your own backyard of northwest Indiana. The region has some great sights to take in and experience. Please let us know of any spots in northwest Indiana that I didn’t mention in my post.

  • Terms of Dunes pavilion lease seem fair

    About three months ago, I wrote a post on the banquet center being built alongside the pavilion at Indiana Dunes State Park, as well as residents’ concerns that it could affect the protected ecosystem or just disturb the shoreline’s natural beauty. I took the position that as long as it does no harm to the ecosystem or lead to the park as a whole becoming available for private reservation, adding a banquet hall is fine by me.

    I’ve seen no reason to change that stance. In fact, in addition to assurances that no public land will be disturbed, the project’s artist’s depiction doesn’t even make it look like that much of an eyesore (much less so than the Whiting Refinery and other industrial elements that pepper the skyline, for sure).

    But while most concerns that were raised seemed focused on the land itself, one other issue in the matter passed under the radar: money. Specifically, what does this arrangement mean for the operators of the banquet hall, Pavilion Partners, LLC, the Dunes, and local taxpayers?

    Well, for taxpayers, it means nothing, as the costs of the new facility’s construction falls solely on Pavilion Partners. In return, their lease on the facility runs for 35 years, with two 15-year renewal options.

    Under the terms of that lease (which you can read for yourself), Pavilion Partners will pay $18,000 each year in rent on the property, as well as give two percent of the center’s revenue to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

    As for taxes, the DNR did not respond to a request for comment. However, the lease agreement contains the following clause:

    “Any and all taxes, which may be lawfully imposed by the federal government, by the State of Indiana or by any political subdivision thereof upon the personal property or business of the Lessee on the Leased Real Estate, shall be paid promptly as due by the Lessee.”

     You can decide whether these terms are fair or not. I think it looks like a pretty standard public-private partnership agreement, myself, far from any sort of impropriety.