Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

April 28, 2013

Public Eye - April 28, 2013

By Ken de la Bastide and Scott Smith
Tribune columnists

— Helping the victims

It seemed a fair question to ask: What specific additional steps is the Center Township Trustee’s office taking to help the mostly low-income victims of last week’s flooding?

After all, Center Township Trustee Jean Lushin is sitting on one of the largest surpluses held by any government unit in the state, when one compares the surplus to what the unit spends each year.

As of Dec. 31, 2012, Lushin had $7.4 million in reserves, a 17 percent jump from two years prior. Lushin spent about $642,000 last year running the office, and distributed about $828,000 in poverty relief.

We put in a request Tuesday to speak to Lushin about what he’s doing for the flood victims. Other than two conversations with Lushin’s daughter, Dawn Manfredi, who works at the trustee’s office, we’ve heard nothing back. Manfredi, who wanted to know what questions we had, said she was thinking about preparing a written list of things the office is doing.

Is it public or not?

This past week the Kokomo/Howard County Convention & Visitors Bureau began discussing the development of a new strategic plan.

The CVB board hired Teresa Anderson to help with the development. During the Tuesday board meeting, Anderson said there were two public sessions scheduled, at 8:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday. She said there would also be an online survey.

Michelle Martin said board members don’t normally attend the public sessions so people can speak freely about the organization.

Anderson said the meeting allowed stakeholders to have input on the development of the strategic plan.

When asked if the two sessions were open to the public, it turned out attendance was by invitation only to local businesses involved in the tourism industry.

Kim Morgan, operations manager for the CVB, said there were 25 people invited to attend each meeting.

Martin said the sessions were to promote tourism business and involved stakeholders serving on the Tourism Council.

“People aren’t interested and don’t know what we do,” Martin said of the CVB, which is funded through the 5 percent innkeeper’s tax.

Last year the tax generated $556,000 for use by the CVB.

“We’re having a public session, but not inviting the public,” board member Kirk Daniels said, apparently unimpressed.

No one from the public will be turned away, Morgan said Friday.

Every vote counts

It’s interesting to note the influence mayoral appointee Kurt Reed has had on the Howard County Alcoholic Beverage Board, considering the two split votes he’s taken part in.

Reed, a firefighter, took over from Lance Rice, who wasn’t reappointed in December. Rice has since been charged with impersonating an excise police officer in connection with an incident which happened while he was on the liquor board.

Rice made no secret of the fact he was interested in shutting down businesses owned by Dan Dumoulin II. But Rice’s replacement, Reed, has now voted twice to renew liquor licenses at Dumoulin businesses. In both of those votes, for strip clubs Little Daddy’s and Big Daddy’s, the local board has split 2-2 after hearing from local remonstrators. Rice’s likely vote would have meant a denial of both renewal applications, and considerable additional trouble and expense for Dumoulin.

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