Thursday, August 30, 2012

Rules of the Road

Posted By on Thu, Aug 30, 2012 at 9:33 PM

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I hate stop signs. I loath the feeling of hitting a red light. And stopping completely to look both ways at the intersection of a bike trail and street crossing just plain sucks. But I do all three of these because it's the law. However, in the interest of full disclosure, I've been guilty of coasting at all three. This is a major point of contention between motorists and cyclists. And I believe only through mutual understanding and respect can we begin to see eye to eye.

Dear Bicyclists,

I get it; you've found your sweet spot on the bike. That place where there's a perfect balance between speed and conservation of energy. You've established momentum and as you approach a pesky stop sign or red light, letting go of that momentum is not preferred. I, too, have coasted through a stop sign or taken the head start at a red light. I know you're tired. You've worked a long hard day, and that five o'clock commute is sucking the last of your energy reserves for the day.

I've got two words for you my two-wheeled friends: interval training. Beyonce does it, and so can you... on your bike... while you commute. Interval training is a type of workout that involves a series of high intensity bursts of activity with rest periods in between. For example, pedaling your heart out on a busy road and stopping completely for five to 20 seconds at a stop sign or light counts as interval training.

Not only does this type of workout increase cardiovascular strength, it is also believed to be more effective in the fat loss game. Ergo, if even one of your reasons for cycling is to keep your shape in check, then abiding by the rules of the road is one major way to do this. It may feel easier to keep that momentum going, but in the long run by stopping at lights and signs you get more of the exercise benefits you seek.

Dear Motorists,

I hope you'll trust me when I say: I understand where you're coming from on this whole full stop issue. Unpredictable cyclists are scary, not only because they could get hurt but mostly because they could cause you to be the one to hurt them. If you read the above, then you know I tried to reason with my fellow cyclists using solid visual images (read: Beyonce) and appealing to their sense of logic.

But that doesn't mean everyone will listen. So I ask you, lovely drivers, to please be considerate of all cyclists regardless of your experience with the few who don't follow the rules. We do belong on the road. Impolite behavior and road rage only serves to make everyone, including yourself, less safe. Cut us some slack. After all, we don't have the luxury of air conditioning.

Sincerely,

Big Girl

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Just visiting? Well, good luck!

Posted By on Thu, Aug 30, 2012 at 1:18 AM

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This is part of a series of stories by Kimmel, who's given up her car and is relying primarily on public transit.

I work part-time in a bar where I have daily conversations with people from out of town. Somehow or another, transit becomes a pretty regular conversation. Whether people ask me for the best place to park, how long it takes to get some place or, usually, if places in the city are walkable.

Usually my answer is yes. When I tell a person that Mass Ave. is an easy walk from my work, and they find out that it's over a mile, the conversation gets awkward and I typically have to apologize for my idea of walkable being greatly skewed.

As for the other questions, I have NO idea where people should park or how long it takes to drive some place.

In these conversations, it usually comes out that I don't own a car and people begin to ask more personal questions.

Mostly the visitors want to know why it's such a big deal to not own a car in this metropolitan city. This question usually brings a sense of humility to me, knowing that we are greatly lacking in the world of public transit. Furthermore, it's hard to hear while knowing that many, many people close to me are working as hard as they can to ensure that people don't have to ask that question anymore.

Often people will tell me that they tried to take a bus or a cab to the bar and find it extremely difficult and/or expensive. They want to know why they can't grab the bus from their airport hotel to downtown without a huge confusion or why it costs them over $30 in a cab.

I think that the world I live in is easy enough to navigate without a car, but it says something when it hinders our out-of-town visitors.

This week I met a man from St. Louis. His intentions were good, but his opinion was voiced and difficult to hear. He had a lot of words about his experiences with traveling to and through Indianapolis.

I also talked to a man on the phone who was in town from Arkansas and staying at the Ramada Inn at the airport. He wanted to know the best way to get from his hotel to our bar and whether the hotel shuttle would take him all the way downtown. After several minutes of conversation, the realization was that he was probably better off staying at the hotel bar and having a couple drinks, rather than pay for a cab and then spend half the night lost, only to double his cab fair for his return.

This frustrates me to no end. Sure, this city has a lot to offer our visitors... the museums, the track, the bars and restaurants, the monuments and the breweries. But how the hell are the visitors expected to get to them?

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Thumbs Down: Identity crisis

Posted By on Wed, Aug 29, 2012 at 11:15 AM

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Thumbs Down: Identity crisis

A report excoriating the performance of the Indiana Department of Child Services led the front page of The Indianapolis Star last Wednesday morning. By Wednesday afternoon, however, the primary focus of IndyStar.com's homepage shifted to other "hot" news — mac'n cheese to be exact. Journalists have been wringing their hands over the future of their profession for decades. To be sure, The Star's remaining journalists continue to serve the craft by shining light in dark places to the best of their downsized ability — the DCS story, the chronicle of local flavor maker Sensient's serial record of disregard for employee health and the profile of Indiana's hate group against hate groups are just some of the most recently published examples. But when comfort food knocks the discomforted off the home page, one can only question the future.

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New Hope for IPS

Posted By on Wed, Aug 29, 2012 at 9:00 AM

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By now you have probably figured out that I am not a big fan of Indianapolis Public Schools. I think Superintendent Eugene White is the epitome of everything that is wrong with modern public education in this country and think a majority of IPS School Board members are living testimonials to Murphy's Law. Now with that said, I think the upcoming school board elections provide an opportunity for the state's largest school district to do a complete 180 and become a diamond instead of big lump of coal.

A number of candidates have filed to run for the board this year. The list is as follows:

At-Large

- Sam Odle

- Larry Vaughn

District 1

- Catlin Hannon

- James Nixon

- Larry Whiteman

District 2

- Gayle Cosby

- Sharon Dunson

- Alvin Esper

- Elizabeth Gore

District 4

- Diane Arnold

I have interviews both Gayle Cosby and Catlin Hannon. I've found both educators to be sharp, passionate and more than willing to put students first. They believe resources should be directed from the Central Office, or as I call it the politburo, and sent back to the individual schools. Principals should have more autonomy and more decisions should be made at the district level.

I know Sam Odle by his stellar reputation in the Indianapolis community as someone with keen business acumen, which would come in handy in helping run the district's finances. James Nixon has been a frequent advocate for schools and has been speaking out for the need to fix IPS for months. Even Larry Vaughn, known as "Crazy Larry" to those of us in the talk radio business, is known to find a good idea or two, but then again even a broken clock is right twice a day.

I haven't had the chance to visit with Larry Whiteman, Sharon Dunson or Alvin Esper but I do look forward to talking with them over the next few months.

I do know current IPS board member Elisabeth Gore and to be frank I wish I didn't. She has been one Dr. White's enablers for years. And it was under her tutelage, along with Mary Busch, Mike Brown and Marianna R. Zaphiriou, that the district loss control of several schools to the state. There was nothing more frustrating than watching these four wrap a school board meeting and get back into the clown car that they came in after having help ruin the lives of more students. This is why I thanked whatever deity was available at the time for Samantha Adair-White, Annie Roof and Diane Arnold.

I think there are good crop of candidates for the IPS board that the voters can pick from. I just hope the race doesn't get lost in the 2012 shuffle. School board races are at the bottom of the ballot, but they are the foundation for any community. Indianapolis will never be able to truly move forward unless its schools get fixed. Hopefully, the voters of IPS will also see it that way and make some real change for a body that really needs it.

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Riding the bus: Not what you'd expect

Posted By on Fri, Aug 24, 2012 at 6:07 AM

This is part of a series of stories by Kimmel, who's given up her car and is relying primarily on public transit.

I don't often have a lot of expectations for my bus rides anymore. Very little surprises me, and the quirks and bumps are becoming a part of my daily routine. However, today I was a little shocked by what I saw.

I was catching the bus from my place up to Broad Ripple to visit a friend. As I got on the bus, I realized it was nearly full, which is actually pretty normal.

Something felt a little off though, but I couldn't place it right away. It took a moment to sink in, but as I looked around, I suddenly realized that the bus was full of young, white males in suits.

It felt like the Twilight Zone!

I had flashbacks of other times in my life, in other cities and countries, where buses were full of young professionals going to and from work, choosing public transportation over cars.

A few of the men on the bus looked like lawyers, working on their cases, with their paperwork spread out on their laps.

One guy was reading a magazine, another texting on his iPhone.

My curiosity got the best of me, so I struck up a conversation with the guy closest to me--I had to know what was going on and why he was on the bus.

I had no better way to ask the question I was dying to know, so I flat out said to him "Why are you riding the bus?!? This seems weird."

I think he was a little thrown off by my blunt questioning, so I went on to tell him that I don't usually see a bus full of young, professional males.

He proceeded to tell me that he owns a car, but chooses to bus to work downtown from his home in Broad Ripple because it's cheaper.

I talked to another guy who told me that he and his wife only own one car and trade driving days. The reasoning, again, is because it is cheaper.

I also saw my friend on the bus who chooses to ride instead of drive whenever it's convenient to take his 2-year-old daughter to daycare downtown, something that is very rare to see.

Needless to say, this was not my typical bus ride--if there ever was a "typical bus ride."

However, it has brought a lot of excitement and giddiness to my life. I am thrilled that there seems to be a growth in ridership as people begin to embrace the system that we have in place.

I now have a whole new reason to expect the unexpected each time I step foot on the bus.

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Need to save money? Ride a bike

Posted By on Thu, Aug 23, 2012 at 3:30 PM

Via Flickr
  • Via Flickr

My bicycle saved my budget. A couple of weeks ago, I was down to my last two pennies. Rubbing together in the attempt to breed them didn't work. Thankfully, I didn't need to pay for gas to get to my part-time job. Instead, I relied on the power of my own two legs to pedal me across town.

Those rides felt different than previous commutes. Instead of pedaling because of principal, I did it out of necessity. Instead of riding on my high horse as I passed gas guzzling SUVs, I felt grateful that I had free transportation. I didn't feel ashamed that I had to ride to work instead of choosing to ride. I felt empowered.

Without the bicycle, I would have depended on others for a ride: my boyfriend, family, friends or even a bus driver. I would have been forced to conform to someone else's schedule. With a bike, I was able to maintain a sense of independence and pride in the face of my own economic meltdown.

And this week, my bicycle has helped to keep my budget in check in different way. I am a self-confessed IndyFringe fan. My involvement with the festival began in 2006 as an artist. For three years, I acted in or directed a show for Fringe. In 2009, I returned to the festival as a critic.

For the second year in a row, I've lived close enough to walk to the festival. And for the first year ever, I've been able to bike to the festival. Aside from seeing a tremendous amount of theater in a short amount of time, my favorite aspect of Fringe is the festival atmosphere: running into friends at YoguLatte, grabbing a beer on the Chatham Tap patio and swapping stories about must see shows over some delicious Yats.

Unfortunately, my budget constraints placed a strict limit on the amount of money I can spend at Mass Ave businesses. In year's past, I would have been stuck at the festival, forced to fork over food and drink money. Even the ten minute walk to my house was too long to accomplish both ways during the thirty minute break between shows. But because I bike, I'm able to jet home and back with ease, allowing to spend money at the festival a little more wisely.

I have a feeling that there are a lot of different ways using a bicycle is cost effective and money saving. It rescues us from our shackles to the almighty oil barrel. There are no parking fees for bikes. Maintenance on a bike is less expensive than a car. Perhaps, even the daily exercise induces savings on health-related costs. What are some of the ways your bike has saved you a buck?

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Indy's Income Problem

Posted By on Tue, Aug 21, 2012 at 8:30 AM

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As the Indianapolis City-County Council gets ready to take up Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard's budget and possibly come up with an alternative plan to close a $35 million - $65 million budget hole, I think it probably wouldn't hurt to take a few minutes and talk about the real root cause of Indianapolis' money problems. As much as some individuals would like to blame the shortfall on property tax caps, in fact, Indianapolis' problem is that the city does not have enough taxpayers.

Allow me to explain. Opponents of property tax caps say that because they exist, local governments have been robbed of badly needed revenue, never mind the fact that people were losing their homes because of skyrocketing assessments, but that's beside the point. Under the tax caps, Indianapolis went from collecting close to $450 million in 2007 to slightly more than $300 million in 2013. However, the big drop off in property taxes took place from 2008 to 2009, when it dropped from about $400 million to about $275 million. Since then they have stayed relatively stable at the $300 million mark.

Income taxes are a bit of a different story. First of all, you have to know how local government finance works. When the state collects income taxes it doesn't immediately disburse them to local governments. It actually takes anywhere from 18-24 months for the money to get to the local level. So the income taxes the city is receiving today was actually collected back in 2010 ­— during the worst economy since the Great Depression. Back in 2010 the city was getting disbursements based on 2008-2009 income tax collections. Today state revenue collections are up, which bodes well for the city's income receipts a couple years down the road.

Still, the only long-term solution to the city's revenue crunch is to create more taxpayers, which in turn will translate into more taxes. This is why things like TIF Districts are important. They create jobs and economic development in areas where there are none. And this is why we also need to continue to improve the quality of education in the city. Good schools mean an educated workforce and that makes it easier to attract quality employers. This is also why the city's AAA bond rating is so important. The bond rating is important because it shows the city is stable and businesses can come and set up shop here. Even things like hosting a Super Bowl help because it puts the city on the radar screen of potential employers looking to escape cities with high taxes and crumbling infrastructure.

The only real solution to the city's financial problems is long-term economic growth, which comes from making more taxpayers and creating more jobs. Until then, tighten your belts and enjoy the property tax caps.

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Letter to the Editor: Army Corps of Engineers

Posted By on Tue, Aug 21, 2012 at 8:30 AM

A rendering of possible floodwall design along the canal just west of intersection of Illinois and Westfield. - COURTESY OF THE INDIANAPOLIS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS
  • Courtesy of the Indianapolis Department of Public Works
  • A rendering of possible floodwall design along the canal just west of intersection of Illinois and Westfield.

Dear readers,

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Indianapolis North levee and floodwall project is currently designed to minimize flood damages in three areas: Broad Ripple, Warfleigh and South Warfleigh along the White River. The City of Indianapolis is the local cost share sponsor.

Regardless of how the project is completed, until all three levee sections are built, all neighborhoods are vulnerable to potential flooding. That said, the National Weather Service forecasts, flood warning systems and other preparedness plans designed to preserve public safety all help to prepare for flood risk during heavy rain.


The Westfield Boulevard alternative offered by the Corps to complete the levee system would not induce flooding in the Rocky Ripple community. The Westfield Blvd. alternative — if funded by the President and Congress in upcoming years — could lead to a completed levee system protecting those in the project footprint. The levee would tie in at high ground at Butler University property. Any Army Corps of Engineers flood protection project cannot induce flooding in any other areas near or far from the project, nor downstream, nor upstream — anywhere; this is law the Corps must follow. Rocky Ripple would be in the same position if the Westfield Blvd. alternative were constructed, that they are now. They would remain at risk for flood damages during a potential flood event — more at risk than those areas previously mentioned if the project were completed.

As a flood preparedness measure, an early flood warning system was built in 2009 as part of the first phase of the project and is currently operating. This warning system is a collaborative effort between government agencies. The warning system is tied to the White River gauge network and has been incorporated into the City's Flood Response Plan (FRP), according to Indianapolis Department of Public Works. The new system hardware and software was launched in partnership with USGS. The system is tied to the river gauge network and has been incorporated into the City's web-based Flood Response Plan (FRP). The FRP is an application for use by the City departments such as DPW and Public Safety who initiate emergency services and disaster response:

The Corps of Engineers advocates for all communities to become familiar with flood preparedness plans and learn from reputable sources to gain understanding of how neighborhoods can advocate for life safety and be ready when the water rises. If you live behind a levee, one has to embrace uncertainty about flooding. We don't know when it will flood, and we don't know how high the water could get. But, we all can learn to be prepared. Levees and floodwalls minimize the risk of flood damages, but they do not eliminate flooding.

While the completion of the project is under deliberation, it behooves all of us to inform themselves and learn about preparing for any potential flooding. I have enclosed a link to a brochure titled, "So you live behind a levee" published by the American Society of Civil Engineers and resourced by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Ultimately, the questions we need to ask ourselves are how can we reduce risk of flooding, at what cost and what can all of us do now to ensure public safety?


Sincerely,

Carol J. Labashosky

Public Affairs Specialist
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Louisville District
http://www.facebook.com/LouisvilleUSACE


Editor's Note: Corps to host open house and hearing

The Corps will hold an open house and hearing to provide handouts, answer questions and solicit written and oral comments on the various White River flood management scenarios outlined in its DSEIS.

The open house is set for 5 p.m., followed by a hearing at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 23, at Meridian Street United Methodist Church, 5500 N. Meridian St.
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(Satire) Indy ponders "9th Ward"-style project

Posted By on Tue, Aug 21, 2012 at 6:00 AM

A planned rally in Rocky Ripple on Saturday will demonstrate residents' frustration with current floodwall protection plans.
  • A planned rally in Rocky Ripple on Saturday will demonstrate residents' frustration with current floodwall protection plans.

Indianapolis has yet another opportunity to engage in a "World-Class" city initiative: The creation of a devastated New Orleans-style 9th Ward.

Via their White River (North) Flood Reduction project the Corps is ready and eager to create Indianapolis' very own version of that well-known New Orleans' community. A project of this sort would certainly result in the same kind of destruction and accompanying publicity that the ruined New Orleans area received.

The Indianapolis community slated for sacrifice is the small community of Rocky Ripple.

To achieve their goal the Army Corps of Engineers has devised an ingenious plan to "wall out" the Town of Rocky Ripple.In the event of a calamitous flood on the White River the town would be on the "wrong side" of the proposed wall. This would ensure the inundated homes, ruined lives, and possible loss of life necessary to create an area of this sort. While two bridges over the Historic Central Canal do lead into and out of the community, the Corps suggests the City of Indianapolis be responsible for sand-bagging to block the bridges off during the flood event.If the new Lucas Oil Stadium were to be used as temporary housing for the displaced victims, the comparison to New Orleans would be startlingly complete.

Of several plans the Corps put forward one actually offered flood protection for the Town. However a cost / benefit study revealed that compared to the value in creating a new devastated "9th Ward-style" area ... protecting 700 plus people is just not worth it.

For the Corps' plan to proceed — and so voters can know where to place credit for the creation of the newly blighted area — City of Indianapolis officials and the Mayor must publicly approve the "9th Ward" plan.

Other politicians are far luckier: Their fingerprints will be traced to the project merely by remaining silent. Indeed, they'd actually have to voice opposition in order to distance themselves from the plan – in which case they'd forfeit all credit for the new disaster area

Some resistance is expected. There are those who will speak out against the plan. But in sheer terms of reputation as a City, and as an attitude toward its own citizens – nothing can quite compare to a New Orleans-style tragedy. Recognition for something this big doesn't come along everyday.

Editors' note: On Saturday, come to a planned action protesting floodwall plans in Rocky Ripple.

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

To bike or to drive?

Posted By on Thu, Aug 16, 2012 at 5:23 PM

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This is part of a series of stories by Coyne, who's writing about bicycling.

The best thing about commuting on a bike is getting in touch with the world around you. Instead of winding myself up over terrible drivers during rush hour traffic, an easy bike ride home de-stresses me after a hard day's work. Of course, the physical engagement of riding loosens my muscles and provides great exercise as I get from point A to point B. But more importantly the mental engagement with my surroundings prevents me from tangling into a ball of stress.

Think of yourself. You're fighting rush hour traffic in a jam-packed downtown at 5 p.m. on a Friday. It's been a long week with one crisis after another at work. The drive home feels like eternity as every jerk with a license cuts you off. Something clicks inside of you, and you slam on your brakes. You yell a string of obscenities, perhaps with an accompanying hand gesture.

The lack of driving etiquette on the road becomes an excuse for you to forget your own manners. In frustration, you begin to tailgate. You cut off other unsuspecting 5:00 drivers. You rush to each intersection, wasting fuel with every tap of your brakes. With each unpleasant exchange, you feel your muscles tighten. And by the time you arrive home, your frustration over the drive compounds your frustration over work.

Now imagine yourself commuting by bike. Instead of rushing to your car to be the first out of the lot, you saunter to the company bike rack. You take your time; check your bike and maybe reattach a wheel or a seat. You strap on a helmet and off you go. A breeze whistles over you. The sun shines down on you. Your lungs fill with air and sweat beads form on the small of your back. You start to find a rhythm between you and the road.

Pedaling along your chosen bike lane or trail, you see a nasty exchange between drivers. They're rushing to get ahead of each other, only to be stopped at the next red light. You sail up to each intersection, catching up to the cars that whizzed ahead. In a sideways glance, you glimpse a driver with a furrowed brow and a white knuckle grip on his steering wheel. He's muttering to himself, angrily.

You feel sorry for him, but before you have a chance to put your feet on the ground and give him a smile, the light changes. He rushes ahead again, as you pick up your own pace. You're enjoying yourself as you nod to passing pedestrians, wind through a park of practicing drum lines and pause to marvel at a three-story mural.

This has been my experience over the past week. I biked some; I drove some. To get to my apartment on the Old Northside from the West side of downtown, it takes only ten extra minutes when I account for traffic. Each day I drove, I came home feeling terrible and tense. Each day I rode, I came home refreshed and ready to relax. I might spend ten extra minutes on bike, but I definitely save a whole hunk of grief.

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Just because I'm standing on the corner...

Posted By on Thu, Aug 16, 2012 at 9:40 AM

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This is part of a series of stories by Kimmel, who's given up her car and is relying primarily on public transit.

The first time the white Cadillac circled the block around me while I stood on the corner, I didn't think much of it. The second time, when it drove by, got up the road, turned around, and came back by, I started to pay a little more attention.

By the third lap, coming from a completely different direction, it became clear to me that the white Cadillac driving in circles was not a coincidence.

I should not have been surprised when the driver of the white Cadillac asked me if I was "working" and if there was anywhere he could take me.

After a few expletives and about half of what I wanted to say to him about how disgusting I thought he was, he peeled out and headed back in his original direction.

I stood there shocked. To say the least. It was 7:45 on a weekday morning.

About thirty seconds later, he was at the light in front of me AGAIN!

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, #%#*&@! I am sure!! I am waiting for the bus!"

"The bus?!"

I pointed to the sign above my head, maybe or maybe not with my middle finger, and watched as he slowly rolled up his window and rolled down the street.

Never a dull moment.

In other news, next time you see one of our City-County Councillors, give them a hug and thank them for casting the unanimous vote to pass the Complete Streets Ordinance and moving Indy, albeit slowly, into the future of transportation options.

I, for one, am pretty happy that it means I will someday have a more obvious bus stop to stand beneath.

Oh, and tomorrow (Friday, the 17th) is Indy Connect Day at the State Fair. Stop by and say hello to some of the awesome people behind the petition to get the ordinance passed. They deserve a whole lot of appreciation, as well.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Thumbs down: Blaming the victim

Posted By on Wed, Aug 15, 2012 at 9:25 AM

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Thumbs down: Blaming the victim

The saga continues for Dynasty Young, the bullied, gay teen expelled last spring from Arsenal Technical High School after deploying a noise-emitting device to deter oncoming attackers. (The electric shock component of the self-defense tool remained unused, according to a statement released by her attorneys.) IPS determined this month that Young would not be welcome back at Tech but instead would be sent to an alternative school. "The district failed to protect my son, and there are still lots of young students in IPS schools who won't feel safe until the district makes some real changes," Chelisa Grimes, Young's mother, said in a news release issued by the National Center for Lesbian Rights. The case highlights the ongoing struggles of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teens not just to achieve social parity, but, at times, to find basic security in the face of continuous physical and mental abuse. On a more positive note, however, the Indiana Youth Group will celebrate 25 years of support group services to LGBT youth at its anniversary dinner and dance beginning at 7 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 18, at Fort Harrison State Park Inn.

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