Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

November 8, 2013

Letters to the Editor: Nov. 8, 2013

Wind turbines are a poor income source

Our commissioners have consistently told us they were desperate to find replacement income for Howard County during the 2009 financial crisis when it looked like we might lose our two largest employers. Among the companies they found willing to come here was the wind developer who wanted to place wind turbines in the eastern part of Howard County.

For some time, I’ve been trying to determine how our county finances might benefit from these turbines, and recent help from several sources, including a Tipton commissioner, has shown that my calculation process is correct. Let me give you some property tax revenue figures, and you can decide for yourself how significant they are and whether they are worth the problems being reported by our Tipton County neighbors.

Changes to the county setback rules mean there will be fewer than the original 124 turbines here and the new number is unknown. So, let me give you the expected property tax revenue for 124 and 50 turbines. As these figures are fully scalable, you can easily determine the revenue whenever the new number is announced.

For 124 turbines, the property tax revenue starts at just over $91,000 a year and ramps up to $570,000 in the 11th year. The total income received over the first 10 years will be about $3.2 million.

For 50 turbines, the numbers are $37,000, $230,000 and $1.3 million. These figures must be judged against the needs of our county, which had a budget in 2012 of $41.8 million.

There are several other revenue sources including income and property taxes on the company, employees and leaseholders, and my annual estimate of those is about $425,000. So, if $5 million in tax revenue per year can be considered a significant figure and we are willing to wait 10 years to reach that level, how many turbines will it take? The answer is 622, and it implies they would need to be placed all over our county. Certainly this demonstrates how poor an income source turbines are.

More than once, these property tax numbers have been presented to the Commissioners who did not challenge them. Given such a weak income stream, questions must be raised over what the other benefits are we are not hearing about.

Tom Cornell, Greentown


Mom’s health key to infant mortality rate

In response to Indiana’s infant mortality rank of 45 among 51 states, Gov. Pence and Indiana Commissioner of Health Dr. William Van Ness II convened the first annual Infant Mortality Summit.

All concur that poor infant morality is heartbreaking, costly and an indicator of a community’s poor health. Dr. Van Ness said Indiana’s infant mortality has been high for a long time. That phrasing obscures the trend. After decades of improvement, it’s been worsening the last three years. Unfortunately, the summit was more theater than substance.

Many possible solutions to high infant mortality were omitted. Indiana’s rejection of the Medicaid expansion denies health care to hundreds of thousands of low income men and women before pregnancy, early in pregnancy and long after. Unintended pregnancy and short intervals between pregnancy are big risk factors that weren’t mentioned, and better contraceptive access isn’t in the plan.

Exaggerated emphasis was placed on behavioral factors. Neonatologist Dr. Niceta Bradburn incorrectly reduced social determinants of health to obesity and smoking. The keynote speaker was the commissioner of health from Texas, not a beacon of health. Curiously, no obstetrician spoke. The blame was squarely on moms.

Dr. Virginia Caine stood alone in naming stress on pregnant women as a cause of toxic cortisol levels, premature rupture of membranes, low birth weight, prematurity and infant mortality. These Social Determinants of Health are factors outside of health care like unsafe neighborhoods, financial insecurity, lack of child care, relationship conflict, isolation, unhealthy food, unhealthy elders, racism and lack of power. Dr. Caine heads the Marion County Health Department, where infant mortality has improved.

The CDC, NIH and WHO all say stress on marginalized pregnant women must be relieved to improve infant mortality. How alarming that Attorney General Zoeller has both indicated and denied that he seeks forced opiate testing on all pregnant women. He insists it’s legal. This would further stress pregnant women and drive them away from health care.

Medical and public health professionals specifically oppose law enforcement and recommend more treatment facilities for misuse of prescription drugs during pregnancy.

Gov. Pence said there’s “treasure in Heaven” for saving babies. He should heed his own words. When a mother doesn’t thrive, her children don’t thrive. We need to support moms instead of threatening them. There is no holiness in putting ideology before infant mortality.

Sue Ellen Braunlin MD, Co-president of Indiana Religious Coalition for Reproductive Justice