• Civic engagement will help Lake Station move forward

    The City of Lake Station began to turn the page on the Keith Soderquist era this week with the Democratic caucus selection of former Mayor Dewey Lemley as interim mayor.

    “I want to move the city on from a bad experience,” Lemley told the Post-Tribune. Voters will elect a new mayor in November between Democrat Christopher Anderson and Republican Ed Peralta.

    I got the chance to cover the Lake Station City Council for a brief time, and as many Northwest Indiana reporters can tell you, there aren’t many cities like it when it comes to an engaged citizenry.

    More often than not, municipal meetings are sparsely attended affairs with limited discussion. Councils and boards run through routine agenda items as reporters try to figure out the best angle for their story.

    Lake Station has always been different. I got a sense of that the first time I covered a meeting. At the time, Soderquist was a mayoral candidate, and during the discussion portion of the meeting, a City Council candidate called for his resignation over electioneering charges. A spirited back-and-forth ensued with random comments interjected by citizens in the audience. It would be no problem pulling a good story together. 

    As I was gathering post-meeting quotes, a city official volunteered that a group of them were heading over to the Dairy Queen and asked if I wanted to come along. It’s not the kind of offer a reporter usually gets, but like I said, Lake Station is different. It’s a city where council meetings are as much a social event as they are an administrative task.

    I covered several more meetings during the transition between the Shirley Wadding and Soderquist administrations. They were always well attended with plenty of discussion and council members who seemed to relish the sparring with citizen commenters.

    I’ve spoken with others who covered Lake Station and had similar experiences. Despite the recent difficulties, the city has the asset of citizens who are engaged with their government and aren’t discouraged from voicing their displeasure. That energy will serve the city well in this transition.

    And if you’re wondering, I did politely decline the Dairy Queen invitation -- the sacrifices we make in the name of deadlines.

  • Habitat for Humanity NW Indiana | Veterans Build

    Habitat for Humanity Northwest Indiana Veteran's Build

    Habitat for Humanity of Northwest Indiana, a Gary-based organization is the local chapter of the philanthropic organization of the same name that operates around the world.

    Their efforts are focused on providing affordable housing for needy families. The organization refurbishes old homes and selects sites on which new ones are constructed. The homes are then provided to chosen families on a low, interest-free mortgage.

    Lisa Benko Habitat for Humanity Northwest Indiana“Our philosophy is, we’re a hand up, not a handout,” Director of Development and Community Relations Lisa Benko said. “We hold the mortgage and they pay. This doesn’t just provide them with a decent place to live, it gives them a tangible asset.”

    Habitat of NWI serves local residents who earn between 30 and 80 percent of the Lake County Median Income. They mainly operate in Gary and Hammond, where they can keep the cost to the homeowner down. They do have other projects peppered about Lake County, however. The organization also operates the ReStore in Gary, which sells donated household items of all kinds.

    The economic downturn of the last half-decade coincided with a change of leadership at Habitat of NWI. Upon acquiring the position of Family Services Coordinator, Penny Triezenberg spread the word about the organization’s aim to help area families. The requests came flooding in.

    “We’ve gotten a whole lot more applicants since then,” Benko said. “We have more applicants than we can build homes for.”

    Habitat made it a priority to help area veterans who are struggling to get by. Joining forces with the Northwest Indiana Veterans Action Council, the organization launched the Veterans Build project at the start of this year.

    “There are 37,000 vets in Lake County,” Benko said. “17 percent are living in poverty. So we sought to find a veteran or surviving spouse of a veteran with a family.”

    The chosen candidate is a veteran of Desert Storm and Desert Shield who is also the single parent of two teens. Their new home recently broke ground in Merillville.

    Veterans Build brought Habitat of NWI a lot of publicity, which meant many members of the community have been willing to help.

    “Usually organizations have just one big event every year,” Benko said. “But there’s been a lot of interest in us this year. A lot of organizations put on their own fundraisers, making Veterans Build their target.”

    The most recent event raising proceeds for Habitat was the Victory for Veterans Motorcycle Ride held at Wicker Park in Highland on Sept. 28.

    Still, Benko stresses that the heart of Habitat for NWI are the volunteers, of which the organization has about 6000 on record. In addition to publicity and word-of-mouth attracting members of the community, recent high schools have made community service a requirement, which leads many students to volunteer.

    “We’ve been getting a lot more calls since then,” Benko said.

    Most Habitat volunteer work consists of constructing houses or running the ReStore. Through this, Benko says, volunteers not only help others, but also gain valuable skills.

    “It helps teach teambuilding,” Benko said. “And you can also learn new sets of skills

  • In defense of the modern library

    This summer, Gary seemed to have a plan to refurbish and reopen their long-shuttered main library branch. Such a plan, however, would have come at the cost of the closure of two of the Gary Public Library’s other branches.

    Now, of all the issues at large and in Northwest Indiana specifically, libraries might not even be on most peoples’ radar. But while it might be far from peoples’ minds, this recent turn of events is a fitting time to discuss the much-overlooked importance of libraries. The fact is, in this day and age, they’re more than simply a place to borrow books, or DVDs now that most video rental places are gone.

    Think of all the things you do on the Internet nowadays: bills, taxes, shopping, communication, work and research. The entire argument for net neutrality in the last year or two was centered on the fact that the web is an essential tool of life. So it might shock you that a U.S. Census report from 2013 revealed that more than a quarter of U.S. households lack any Internet connection. For that segment of the population, the library is vital as one of only a few ways to stay connected to the online world of today.

    The programs put on by libraries also fill many needs, in addition to the staples of story time and other children’s activities and features on arts and culture for adults. Programs aimed at adults like job-searching or resume writing can be valuable for patrons without Internet access or the funds to find such help elsewhere. Same goes for educational sessions for students of all ages. The library also makes a good meeting spot for outside organizations.

    Gary’s plan to refurbish the main library was tabled, and the two branches will remain open for now. I’d say it’s the slightly better of the two outcomes, because two locations stay open instead of being sacrificed for one. But it’s unfortunate Gary is in the position where it must choose which library branches it must close or keep open. A strong library is an asset for any community, but especially for resource-starved ones like Gary.

  • In Valparaiso, dialogue replaces divisions

    In our politically divided world, we're accustomed to divisions being drawn. Tribes align themselves on opposite sides of each conflict, fueled by social media and partisan news outlets.

    So when the actors in a controversy choose to come together in compromise rather than escalating their differences, it's a refreshing change.

    Tuesday in Valparaiso, the walls built up in the aftermath of a controversial arrest came down in dramatic fashion when a joint statement was released by Porter County Sheriff David Reynolds, Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas and local resident Darryl Jackson Jr. The statement, which you can read here, demonstrates civility, understanding and empathy too often missing from discussions of the difficult topics of race and policing.

    Jackson, an African-American, was arrested on Aug. 29 for failure to identify himself and resisting arrest after police approached him on a residential street in Valparaiso. A subsequent dashcam video of the arrest sparked the familiar script for such incidents. Fellow police, including Sheriff Reynolds, defended the actions of the white officer. Activists and Valparaiso University students criticized the officer's handling of the incident. Mayor Costas, in questioning the arrest, brought a hail of criticism from police groups.

    In such a highly charged atmosphere, it's not easy to lower your defenses, listen to the other side and admit your own shortcomings. But that's what came out of a collaborative dialogue that should be a model for others.

    Jackson said, "In the midst of my fear, I was not the best version of myself," and offered "sincere apologies" to the arresting officer, Sheriff Reynolds and members of the Porter County gang task force. Reynolds accepted Jackson's apologies, acknowledging "we know that we can do better, too."

    Costas stated his regret that his comments offended some in the law enforcement community and saluted Jackson and Reynolds for the outcome. "The strength of a community is tested by its ability to work through tough issues in a spirit of understanding and respect. This joint statement is a shining example of that spirit."

    I'm reminded of something that the late journalist Cole Campbell observed about conflict resolution. "Everyone has their trap," Campbell said, meaning before you assume the worst about someone, consider the circumstances that motivate their actions and opinions. Understanding and empathy are more effective tools than righteousness and anger.

  • Little things to do for MLK Day

    Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. If you have the day off, there are things you can do to make the most of your free time in the spirit of this day, rather than wasting it lounging around. If you’re at school or work today (Indiana’s inconsistent like that), well, it’s still possible to squeeze some things in and make this more than just another Monday.

    Here are a few little things you can do for today (also known as “the least you could do”):

    • Do a good deed: Today is a big day for volunteering in communities across the country. But if you’re unable to be directly involved in any major charity endeavors or causes, even doing little things are good. For example, help your neighbors without expecting anything in return, whether it’s something simple like helping with menial tasks or chores or something major. If someone you know is in need of personal guidance or emotional support, be there for them.
    • Look at how the other half lives: There’s a bigger world out there, one where things are more complex than your limited experience. So, instead of judging all people or events through the lens of your own individual worldview, look at the bigger picture. Read up on different perspectives on the world and its issues, and do so leaving your personal standards and biases behind (as a matter of fact, it’s not a bad idea to even intentionally seek out things toward which your first reaction is disagreement). You’ll come to understand other people and the world better, and see that things didn’t all the sudden become perfect after the Civil Rights era.
    • Talk to each other…and listen: See above. Also, you won’t see much of this in an election year (and so far, it’s looking to be a pretty nasty one), but it’s possible to talk about things like adults, with civility, substance, and facts instead of irrelevancies and cheap shots. New perspectives can only enlighten you, even if they don’t change your mind. So, start a conversation.

    After doing one or all of these things, ask yourself: would it really be so hard to behave like this every day, rather than just one day a year when you feel like you have to?

     

  • Location: Finding your community

    The location data of consumers has become some of the most valuable data to tech goliaths like Google and Facebook. This data is used in a variety of ways. One of the most important applications is to develop new features within smartphone apps.

    This got me thinking about the importance of GPS to consumers. Whenever you install an app on your phone, a good majority of apps will ask permission to access your current location. Apps like Yelp, Google Now, Uber, and Facebook are all asking for location data when you activate them. Location data is one of the most surefire ways to expose relevant information. It can be as simple as checking to see what is in close proximity to the user. For Uber, it could be a notification while you are at a known sporting venue. For Yelp it is what nearby businesses might be of interest.

    It isn’t all serious business either, there are some really fun location based apps out there that can get you more engaged with your area. Swarm is an app from the creators of Foursquare that spun off the ability to “check-in” to locations and even become a “mayor” by frequently visiting locations rom the original app. There are also biking apps like Strava that let you compete against other bikers in your area for top times on certain routes.

    As a whole, neighbors have become less social in the US. There was a time when everyone in the neighborhood knew each other. Now, some people don’t even know their next door neighbors at all. However, I think that location based apps can help us stay invested in our community in a new way. Whether it is having the best bike times on the Prairie-Duneland Trail or becoming mayor of 18th Street Brewery, these location based apps encourage users to be more involved in their community.

  • Meeting Up, Reaching Out & Working Together

    Duneland Innovators MeetupThis past Wednesday Duneland Innovators hosted it's first official Meetup at Zoseco Co-working in Valparaiso, Indiana. If you made it out to the event, we thank you for joining us for "The Open Source Way" (a tech presentationarticle coming soon) and the excellent conversations that followed.

    The aim is to gather regularly with the same type of format: learning, conversation & networking.

    Now, here's the part that gets interesting. We want you there! Not just attending but at the front of the room presenting to the folks that have come to the meeting. Do you have a topic that could fit the format?

    For Presentations:

    • Context & history
    • Topic depth & Connections
    • NW Indiana applications
    • Questions for the group

    Something you are passionate about that connects with the content focus of Duneland Innovators? Then please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and let us know about your idea.

    Look for updates about the event very soon and we hope to see you there next time if you weren't able to join us this week. Together we can grow and develop great ideas to improve the area we live and work.

  • Neighborhood Spotlight | Winners Announced

     

    And the Winners are...

    Neighborhood Spotlight has several projects lined up for 2015.

    The organization recently announced that two Northwest Indiana communities to be the recipients of generous grants. Gary-Miller and Hobart-West Side will both receive up to $50,000 next year to devote toward their vision of revitalization. Additionally, both communities will receive aid from the Indiana Association for Community Economic Development to help build consensus among community leaders, develop specific strategies for using their grants, and attract businesses to the area by establishing strong relationships with business owners.

    Legacy is also working in conjunction with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation on the Knight Cities Challenge. The Knight Foundation provides grants to 26 different cities across the nation, one of which is Gary. But unique to the challenge is the fact that any resident can submit a proposal for the grant. Proposals from anyone will be considered so long as they meet three criteria: Attracting talented people, expanding economic opportunity, and creating a culture of civic engagement.

    “The Knight Foundation is looking for innovative ideas to transform communities,” Kelly Anoe, Director of Grants & Partnerships of the Legacy Foundation, said. “These proposals can be submitted by anybody: universities, government, non-profits, activists, hackers, or just regular citizens.”

    The deadline to submit proposals for Gary is November 14. Finalist will be announced before the year’s end, and the proposal will be chosen and the grant awarded in 2015.

    How it all started [This section previously published]

    Investing in a business means taking a risk for personal reward. When investing in a whole community, opportunity impacts a much greater number of people.

     

    To the Legacy Foundation, that kind of return on investment is worth taking on Lake County and its residents. In their eyes, rebuilding local communities effectively takes collaboration among the people living in it as well as investments to be made.

     

    “Legacy Foundation is expanding its grant-making capacity into creating a strong sense of place in communities across Lake County, IN. Our traditional funding approach allows us to make individual grants to single organizations working on a specific mission-related objective. Those Legacy investments have created and will continue to have positive outcomes,” commented Tina Ronger, Interim Vice President of the Legacy Foundation.

     

    That is where the Neighborhood Spotlight program comes in.

     

    She continued by adding, “However, our goal with Neighborhood Spotlight is different. Legacy will scale-up and co-invest with a range of public, private and non-profit partners in place-making for transformational results. The before and after images of neighborhoods will speak for themselves and each of us will have played a part in making community change happen.”

     

    Generating a Plan for the Future

     

    Neighborhood Spotlight is the foundation’s signature initiative for community building. Under this grassroots approach, investors not only invest in local businesses, but in the whole community and its people.

     

    Collaboration is fundamental for achieving collective impact. Civic leaders, community members, business owners, residents and development partners set out a plan, and work together every step of the way. Key decisions on project undertakings and the use of funding resources are aligned to the community plan.  Prioritized action steps mutually reinforce fulfilling the various needs within a neighborhood. Investors ultimately invest in the overall community plan, rather than individual businesses, and their return on investment is measured by the successes of implementation.

     

    From Plan to Action

     

    Such a plan for collective impact seems like it can easily become tangled and result in all those involved tripping over each other, so to speak, or sit on a shelf.

     

    However, Neighborhood Spotlight has a solid framework that prevents that from happening.

     

    First, a combination of formal and informal leaders in concert with engaged residents and investors find a common vision and work out a specific agenda for the group efforts. Community-based organizations serve as the anchor the community change process by facilitating the stakeholders around the common agenda. All projects and programs are meant to mutually reinforce each other, not conflict with one another. Continuous communication among all involved brings a level of transparency and accountability in reaching specific goals and sharing real dollars and in-kind support.

     

    “Collective impact is another way of saying we are in this together and committing over a long haul. We know that authentic community change will not happen overnight. Building trust and reconnecting people will take time,” said Ronger.

     

    Neighborhood Spotlight will aid one or two communities each year in seeking information and funding options for such revitalization. But under this model, residents lead the charge. So, in choosing its grantees, Legacy Foundation looks for communities with distressed neighborhoods and clear needs, often with strong capacity for collaborating and community building led by a local non-profit organization.

    Tina had these sentiments regarding the project, “Legacy is creating this unique model and supportive space for people to work together over the next 3-5 years. By doing so, investors can be more certain about the intended outcomes of community plans. Neighborhood Spotlight can be the catalyst for community development in your neighborhood.”

     

    There are three essential steps for a community to be considered for Neighborhood Spotlight, however. The first is to fill out the Commitment to Change form, on the foundation’s website. The second is to attend the three required training sessions. And the third is to complete the Letter of Interest, which is required by September 1.

     

    The final training session is June 23rd, 9:00 a.m. – 12 Noon at the Radisson Star Plaza in Merrillville.

     

    To register and for more information visit their website at:www.LegacyFDN.org

  • NITCO | Service & Customers

    The Northwest Indiana Telephone Company (NITCO) has been serving the Region for eight decades, adapting to the changing modes of communication during that time. Recently, the company has taken a step to iterate itself as not only a business presence in the area, but also a communal one.

    NITCO’s redesigned website launched last week. The new site aims to be visually appealing to all visitors, while at the same time easy to navigate. In addition, a new account feature allows customers to conveniently and quickly pay all bills on the site.

    The new site enhances the experience shopping for the services offered, among them voice service, broadband Internet and cable TV with several extensive channel packages. All are available individually or in affordable bundles specialized for home or the workplace, and, thanks to the device integration, all can be connected to any chosen device via a network.

    But NITCO is not only about selling the best services to Northwest Indiana. They are also committed to improving them through better, stronger and more reliable technology.

    Through their Fiber Solutions services, the company replaces traditional copper wires with fiber optics. The advantages are many. Fiber optics can carry much more bandwidth than copper wiring. It also allows the user to utilize newer and more advanced technology that copper cannot handle. IT is much more durable, too, able to survive power surges and not susceptible to corrosion.

    NITCO’s Fiber Solutions are available in bundles in every price range. The company has already a substantial amount of copper wiring, much of it in Valparaiso, as well as several more rural areas.

    NITCO is not only committed to bring better web access to the community. What it also brings is charity and outreach, sponsoring several programs, such as sports teams and cultural events.

    This Tuesday (August 12), the company will be treating its customers to an afternoon of fun in their annual Customer Appreciation Day. Beginning at 11:00 a.m., the event will feature food, games and other activities, and will also have a Kindle Fire giveaway.

    This is no effort for NITCO, as they look at their their customers as their neighbors, as well.

    To learn more visit them at www.NITCO.com

  • NW-ISBDC | 2015 Entrepreneurial Excellence Awards

     ISBDC entrepreneur awards 2015

    E-Day ISBDC awards event 2015It's that time of year again. No, not Pumpkin Spice season... The ISBDC is hosting their 24th Annual Entrepreneurial Excellence Awards ISBDC | 24th Annual Entrepreneurial Excellence Awards during a luncheon at the Radisson Hotel at Star plaza on Wednesday November 4th.

    Anyone can attend the event, admission is $40 per ticket. This includes your meal as well as access to the keynote speaker, Julie Basich of Fair Oaks Farms.

    Winners this year include the following individuals:

    • Small Business Person of the Year: Harry Hruska, Precision Turbo & Engine, Hebron  

    • Entrepreneurial Success of the Year: John Hamstra, Leeps Supply Company Inc., Merrillville 

    • Emerging Business of the Year: Breanne Stover, BSE Inc., Griffith 

    • Young Entrepreneur of the Year: Feras Musleh, Anytime Fitness franchises, Crown Point

    • Small Business Exporter of the Year – Manufacturing: Todd Cannon, APACKS, LaPorte

    • Small Business Exporter of the Year – Technology: Robert E. Johnson III, Cimcor Inc., Merrillville  

    • Family-Owned Business of the Year: Larry Sams, Able Paper & Janitorial Supply, Merrillville

    • Small Business Journalist of the Year: Glee Renick-May, Northwest Indiana Business Quarterly 

    • Garry Bradley Small Business Advocate of the Year: Dushan Nikolovski, Purdue University Calumet, Hammond 

    • Lifetime Achievement Award: David Bochnowski, Peoples Bank, Munster

     

  • Sue Reed & Crossroads Regional Chamber of Commerce

    Crossroads Chamber Commerce Expo 2015

    Over the last few years, Duneland Innovators has spotlighted innovative local businesses throughout the Region. The Crossroads Regional Chamber of Commerce provides similar functions for the communities of Merrillville & Crown Point.

    The Chamber has over 700 member businesses throughout Northwest Indiana. Most are located in Lake and Porter County, but membership extends further east into Michigan City and south in Jasper County.

    High-profile members include NIPSCO, Fair Oaks Farms, and several area hospitals and universities. However, membership is open to any business, not matter how big.

    Sue Reed Crossroads Chamber Commerce“Any business can join,” Crossroads President and CEO Sue Reed said, “whether they’re a small, independent work from home business to a big industrial company.”

    Membership in the Chamber gives businesses the opportunity to meet and network with each other through monthly meetings. Membership also increases their brand exposure to customers, especially through the Chamber’s website.

    “We know we have consumers coming to our websites looking for jobs businesses might be looking to fill,” Reed said. “Also, some businesses do coupons or other deals through the website.”

    Another big component of the Chamber is their civic involement, as they give member businesses a voice in state and local governing.

    “We do advocacy work on their behalf and keep them up to date on their issues,” Reed said. “A lot of businesses have a stake in Merrillville or Crown Point, but they don’t live in Merrillville or Crown Point. They don’t have a vote on who’s representing them. It’s up to us to keep them updated on issues that may affect them.”

    One recent issue the Chamber took a stance on was Indiana’s recent Religious Freedom Restoration Act. At the behest of members, the Chamber sent a letter to the state legislature urging the controversial law’s repeal.

    “It didn’t make sense for businesses to discriminate against customers,” Reed explained. “[Most] businesses were not in favor of the act passing. They were ready to produce signs saying they serve everyone [after its passage].”

    Besides taking an interest in local issues, the Chamber also makes an effort to reach out to and promote the community through many events throughout the year. According to Reed, their most popular event is the yearly Corn Roast held in Crown Point’s Square every June.

    “It’s always a great opportunity to show off the great downtown area we have in Crown Point,” Reed said.

    This year’s Corn Roast is scheduled for June 12 and 13. Between that and the Food & Arts Festival the next weekend, Reed estimates the events will attract around 10,000 people.

    Before then, however, the Chamber will be hosting a more strictly business event: The Business & Consumer Expo. Taking place at the Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza on May 28, the Expo will feature many businesses from around the Region.

    “It’s a great opportunity for our members, Reed said. “It gives them a single point to showcase their products and services. We invite the community, the regular customers and the business community, to learn about [businesses] throughout the Region.”

    The Expo is free and open to the public, offering attendees a chance to not only explore local businesses, but to also meet new people and form networking connections. Among the businesses in attendance will be Mystic Waters.

  • What if the mail ended?

    It was recently announced that Gary’s mail processing center will close next year. Its duties will be outsourced to the branch in Bedford Park, Ill., by next July, although much of its service has already gone there.

    The initial reaction might be to go to the “everything is abandoning Gary” narrative, but it appears that isn’t the case this time. The Post Office is closing many branches nationwide by next summer as part of its restructuring plan. Gary is just one of several centers set to close in Indiana.

    The Post Office has been beset by financial struggles in the last decade, with closures and talk of ending Saturday mail. It’s entirely unsurprising, however, when you consider how much of its services have been usurped by technology.

    Bills and other payments can be made online. Magazines, like savvy newspapers, have moved online. Letters as a means of communicating across long distances have been all but replaced by email, which is not only free (letters are less than a dollar, but that’s still not free) but also quicker. In the age of smartphones, it’s as instantaneous as a phone call. You might still send someone a card once in a while (though there’s even a digital option for that), but generally it’s a good bet you communicate by email or other digital means.

    All that leaves is package delivery, which isn’t going away. Whenever I’ve been in the Post Office, there’s always been a line of people mailing packages. It’s still the cheapest option. But if packages aren’t enough to keep the Post Office alive, there are other options regular citizens as well as businesses can use like UPS and FedEx.

    Do we really need mail? That question was played for laughs on Seinfeld in 1997, but it’s a fair question today. Maybe older citizens who never adapted to modern technology still need it, but for people more in tune with current technology and options, probably not. If mail service ended tomorrow, people might get a little sticker shock the first time they pay to send a package through a private carrier, but otherwise their lives won’t change that much.

    Well, except for those employed by the USPS. And while mail isn’t set to end altogether anytime soon, the estimated 150 workers at the Gary branch (as well as thousands employed at other closing processing centers) will be out of work next July. My heart goes out to them.

  • Why is Midterm election turnout so low?

    Midterm elections are coming up in November, but you probably won’t vote. Statistically, I have more than a 50 percent chance of being right about that.

    Voter turnout always falls far short of the entire US electorate, with Presidential Elections generally attracting somewhere between 50 and 60 percent of eligible voters. Midterms, though, barely even reach 40 percent, despite being arguably more important than Presidential elections (midterms do after all elect the entire House of Representatives, a third of the Senate and Governors in 34 states).

    Why is turnout so low? There are certainly cases of socioeconomic disenfranchisement, which accounts for part of it. But why do citizens who are very much enfranchised not even bother?

    A few guesses:

    • They’re uninformed: A lot of people simply don’t pay attention to the political system, and only hear big news that makes waves in the 24 hours news cycle. The national media is partially complicit in this, as they only seem to think in terms of Presidential Elections, and the angle for every news story is how it will affect the public officials involved if they run for President. Most national coverage of the midterms has focused more on what it could mean about the 2016 Election than who’s running for 2014. Local media is slightly better, but often gets drowned out in the conversation.
    • A Governor isn’t running: This only goes for 16 states, but Senate and House elections don’t exactly drum up the excitement of a Presidential or Governor race. In Indiana, we’re not electing a Senator or a Governor, just Representatives. That’s even less exciting because…
    • Systematic advantages: Congressional districts are so gerrymandered along political lines that few of them are competitive. In addition, the system favors those who have money, and the winner is almost always the one with the most campaign funds, not necessarily the one with the best ideas. Generally, this favors incumbents who have ties to many donors and lobbies.

    I realize none of these definitively answer why turnout is low, but they point out some flaws in our system. Maybe in searching for solutions for these problems, turnout will increase.

    And by the way, Midterms are on November 4. The deadline to register to vote for them in Indiana is October 6.