News and Tribune

October 2, 2012

News and Tribune letters: Oct. 2, 2012

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — A sad state for my old home

More than 40 years ago, a senseless storm called Urban Renewal swept through the west end of Jeffersonville. Using a term called eminent domain, blocks of houses were torn down regardless whether they were dilapidated or nice homes.

Eminent domain, an old Cherokee word translated as “White Man Wanton Land.” A term causing a lot of needless suffering and tears. A phase well known to any Native American. Vacant lots standing for years, home only to rabbits and field mice. It’s a waste.

Today, the old beast is back gobbling homes and businesses because a defunct canal idea or ongoing Big Four Bridge project. It seems like poor people always suffer at the hands of the rich and powerful. Always have, always will. Someday the last will come first and the first will be last.

In my old neighborhood on Ohio Avenue, houses are being demolished due also to the canal project of yesterday’s administration and the drainage system backup of a year or so ago. A lot of good fixable and livable houses being torn down for what now? What’s the new purpose now? Wildlife sanctuaries? A new dream of riches? Why?

There are so many families out there needing affordable housing and these houses are being demolished.

My old homestead at 715 Ohio St. sits vacant and overgrown with weeds and garbage awaiting its time on the execution block — an old house with character and so many more useful years to give someone interested in fixing up old homes for new life.

Built in the 1840s, as a two to three room house, in its infancy it was a stop on the underground railroad. Later on with additions, it sported an upstairs natural light artist studio and sometime in its history an earthbound spirit from a woman who died in surgery. Once shaded by a huge old Kentucky coffee tree in back (now gone), a couple of sibling trees have grown up over the years.

For years up to the time I moved out 16 years ago, the old house and its grounds were kept well, groomed and immaculate in appearance. During the 16 years someone else owned the house, it grew overgrown with bush and weeds and in disrepair. It’s so very sad to view now in its empty, desolate state — a once beautiful old double camelback shotgun house that is a survivor of countless wars and floods.

For once in my poor life, I wish I was rich and had the youth to rescue it from the wrecking ball. But time and fate has not been kind to my declining health. Surely the city of Jeffersonville could sell it to someone who loves old houses and restore it for another 100 years or so for a large family needing a home. A group home, anything, to give it purpose again.

Please don’t tear it down. Give it a second chance to be a home again for someone who cares and turn a bad thing into a good thing.

— Mike Johnson, Jeffersonville

Reader: Credit card deal hurts vendors

The Greater Clark County Schools board approved a program at its last board meeting to charge payments to their vendors on an American Express card. The superintendent and chief financial officer recommended this program as a way to generate revenue which they said “could be in the vicinity of $425,000.” Spreadsheets were presented to the board showing lists of vendors that accept American Express, those that may accept with restrictions and those that are “possibilities.”

The first group could generate approximately $23,000 in cash back to the school system; the second group $55,000 and the third group $330,000. While this seems like a great deal, it is really just smoke and mirrors. The only one who will gain anything from this arrangement is, of course, American Express.

By asking Greater Clark vendors to accept payment via American Express, the school system is asking them to pay a 3 percent or higher fee so that the school system can get a 1.1 percent kickback. Since most school vendors already offer special pricing and deep discounts to school systems, is it really fair to ask them to take an additional 3 percent off their already low profit margins in order to give Greater Clark 1.1 percent and American Express 1.9 percent?

And what would any vendor do that was asked to reduce their profit by 3 percent? The obvious answer is that they would gradually raise their prices to offset the added cost. Raising their prices over time would negate any “added revenue” that Greater Clark might receive. In the long-run, the school system's expenses would be higher not lower from this arrangement.

While I believe the school system needs to look for ways to generate revenue, this program is certainly not the panacea that it appears to be. Our long-time vendors might be more willing to reduce their prices to us by 1 percent rather than accepting a credit card payment costing them 3 percent.  

As it stands, this program will do nothing more than line the pockets of American Express.

— Alice Dorman Butler, Jeffersonville

Editor’s note: Alice Butler is a candidate in November for Greater Clark County Schools board.

How does Indiana measure up in fighting cancer?

If everyone were to stop smoking, get cancer screenings, eat well, exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight, we could prevent roughly half of all cancer deaths in the United States.

Lawmakers play a crucial role in the fight against cancer by passing laws that helps reduce the disease’s damage, which will claim about 570,000 lives in the United States this year alone.

Unfortunately, Indiana is falling short on legislative efforts to combat cancer, according to a recent report by American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. The report evaluates each state’s legislative activity on seven issues that are key to fighting cancer: breast and cervical cancer early detection program funding; colorectal screening coverage laws; smoke-free laws; funding for tobacco prevention; tobacco taxes; tanning bed bans for minors; and access to palliative care. Indiana only measured up in two of these seven critical benchmarks.

To prevent and fight the devastating effects of cancer, Indiana lawmakers need to increase funding for breast and cervical cancer early detection programs and  tobacco prevention.

As advocates, we have a duty to educate the public on the many ways to prevent and fight cancer, but state and local policymakers must take action. Even in a year consumed by budget shortfalls and legislative challenges, we cannot miss opportunities to enact laws and policies that could save money and generate revenue, and most importantly, save lives.

— Mary Kost, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network volunteer, New Albany