"Kyle Hupfer must be stopped

A lot has been said about how the coming election could affect our federal government. Basically it boils down to this: If you’re unhappy with how things are going, vote Democratic. That way there’s a chance of adding a little blue to a picture that’s been dominated by red for the past six years, with Republicans controlling all three branches of government. Think of voting Democratic as a kind of electoral Visine.

In Indiana, the same thing applies to our state government. Mitch Daniels, our Republican governor, has been provided with an over-sized advantage when it comes to getting his way thanks to the fact Republicans hold majorities in both houses of the state legislature. When Daniels decides he wants to do something, like change our clocks or privatize our toll road, he knows it’ll be a lot easier because most of the people in the House and Senate are fellow Republicans.

This makes things very convenient for the governor. So long as he can rely on these majorities, he doesn’t have to go through the hassle of dragging out that big RV of his, assuming his “aw, shucks” persona, and trying to convince Jane Doe in Rising Sun that what he wants to do makes sense.

According to the governor, this is how you get things done in Indiana. He has a point. The trouble with this approach, though, is that so long as the Republican party runs the state like a high school clique there’s no way to distinguish the governor’s good ideas from the ideas that are terrible – they’re all given equal weight.   

Take, for example, the case of Kyle Hupfer and the state’s Department of Natural Resources. Before being picked by Daniels to head the DNR, Hupfer was a corporate attorney with Ice Miller, specializing in mergers and acquisitions. But what may have most recommended Hupfer to Daniels for stewardship of our state’s natural resources was his personality type. Hupfer is a real eager beaver, a young guy anxious to please his boss.

Over the course of the past year, Hupfer has been Daniels’ number one envelope pusher, constantly prodding and probing in his quest to shake things up. So zealous is he in his quest to serve his chief executive, Hupfer often charges ahead with his initiatives, sometimes forgetting to inform the public about his boldness of vision.

People in Porter County were certainly surprised earlier this year to learn that Hupfer was exploring the possibility of building a hotel and conference center on the beach at Indiana Dunes State Park. The Indiana dunes are one of this state’s most rare and fragile landscapes. This is the place where the science of ecology was born. Should more people visit and learn to appreciate this remarkable place? Definitely. But Hupfer’s approach was to treat the park like a swatch of beachfront property. Fortunately, local folks were able to find out about this scheme soon enough to rally opposition against it. So far it looks as though the character of Dunes State Park will be preserved.

It remains to be seen what will happen at the other end of the state, in Daviess County’s Glendale State Fish and Wildlife Area. What better place to look for coal than a wildlife refuge? In August Hupfer gave the Black Beauty Coal Company permission to do exploratory drilling in order to see about the possibility of coal mining there. “The DNR and the administration will be neutral in this process,” said Hupfer in a press release. But by then the drilling had already been done. And you had to wonder what Hupfer meant by “neutral” when campaign finance reports show that Steve Chancellor, the president of Black Beauty, has given Daniels at least $230,000.

Once again, citizens found out about this private incursion on to public property after the fact. Once again, there were howls of protest. Hupfer says citizens need to know about the existence of potential energy resources, a legitimate point. But then he tries to sweeten the deal by saying that monies made by mining in a wildlife refuge could be used to acquire more wildlife habitat. As if what hasn’t been protected could be better than what has.

Finally, in a move the gun lobby was celebrating before the DNR would confirm it, Hupfer made it legal for people to carry handguns in state parks. Hupfer said this would make our parks safer since they have apparently become favored locations for the making of methamphetamine by drug-addled maniacs. “If my life or my wife’s life was at risk I want to be in a position to protect her and myself,” said Hupfer, offering a tip sure to encourage us to go for a tramp in the woods. Never mind that this announcement came out at the very moment Indianapolis was watching its homicide rate climb, with most of those deaths due to gun violence. Hupfer the Eager was pushing that envelope again.

And he will continue to push it for as long as Daniels is governor. That’s his job. If you want to push back, elect Democrats to serve in the state legislature. Republicans can call that being partisan; the rest of us can call it balance.



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