Citizens Water confirms that the State didn’t consult prior to awarding the $600,000 grant to the CED

I recently attended the annual meeting of the board of directors of Citizens Water (the CWA Authority, Inc.) on January 13th.   Most of the business was administrative— approving resolutions for board compensation, election of officers, etc.

However, during the Public Comment section of the agenda, I asked whether or not the State had consulted with Citizens Water (re long term water supply) prior to deciding to award the grant to the Anderson CED.   You might recall that Governor Pence’s news release announcing the grant was explicit regarding the importance of water supply for central Indiana.  A couple of weeks ago, CW’s Communication Manager, Dan Considine,  had indicated that there had been no prior consultation, but I wanted to pose the question to all the board members and senior managers who were present at the meeting just in case there might have been a lapse in communication.

CEO Carey Lykins responded that there had been no prior consultation from the State on this issue. 

It’s odd that the State administration would not have consulted with the principal water supplier for the area before awarding such a large grant and then justifying the need for the grant on the basis of water supply.  There are many ways to ensure public water supply.  CW has also previously said that a new water supply reservoir is way down the list of potential new supply sources due to the high costs. 

Remembering muckraker journalist Ida Tarbell– “The Most Famous Woman in America”

I’ve been reading historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s new book The Bully Pulpit– Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism.  One of the most interesting chapters is about Ida Tarbell, one of the leading muckraker journalists of the time.

A friend reminded me that Tarbell died 70 years ago yesterday, so it is fitting to remember her for her great contributions, especially considering the extent to which our journalism has changed.

According to Goodwin, Ida Tarbell was on the leading edge of “a new breed of investigative reporter dedicated to extensive fact-finding and analysis.  Their disclosures of the corrupt linkages between business, labor, and government educated and aroused the public, spearheading the Progressive movement that would define the early years of the twentieth century.”

Goodwin quotes historian Richard Hofstadter:  “It is hardly an exaggeration to say that the Progressive mind was characteristically a journalistic mind, and that its characteristic contribution was that of the socially-responsible reporter-reformer.  Before there could be action, there must be information and exhortation.  Grievances had to be given specific objects, and these the muckraker supplied.  It was muckraking that brought the diffuse malaise of the public into focus.”

Tenet No. 23 from A Conservationist Manifesto by Scott Russell Sanders

“Only by caring for particular places, in every watershed, can we take care of the planet.  Every place needs people who will dig in, keep watch, explore the terrain, learn the animals and plants, and take responsibility for the welfare of their home ground.  No matter what the legal protections on paper, no land can be safe from harm without people committed to care for it year after year, generation after generation.  All conservation, therefore, must aim at fostering an ethic of stewardship.”

letter to the editor of THB

Below is my submitted letter of yesterday to The Herald Bulletin in Anderson which responds to a previous article by reporter Ken de la Bastide.  I hope the newspaper will publish it in its entirety.

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“Ken de la Bastide’s January 2nd report on the status of the feasibility study for the reservoir plan was incomplete, and in our view, should have included at least the following.

The reporter evidently didn’t contact either our coalition for comment, or the Indiana Finance Authority for comment or clarification of the scope of work that the $600,000 grant of public funds will pay for.

The report didn’t mention our prior written input to the Indiana Finance Authority regarding the work scope.  Nor did it report our public records request to the IFA last month for a copy of the draft work scope, the fulfillment of which was delayed by the IFA until after the signing of the grant agreement— thus limiting our ability to provide input.  It did not identify the company which will do the financial analysis and community impact assessment portions, and how those important components are proposed to be conducted.

More importantly, the article didn’t report the limited, if not arbitrary, basis upon which the state’s decision was made to award the grant.  And it did not address questions about the propriety of the grant, and the large amount, especially considering that the Anderson CED apparently had already raised $400,000 in private funds for the Phase II study.

The report was a superficial status update (not a news story) which, in our view, was slanted to favor the planned dam and its promoters.

Civic journalism might have gone out of favor and practice in these times of financial pressure in the media business. However, reports on impactful public plans such as this bear a professional responsibility to provide pertinent investigative information to the citizens and public-at-large who are concerned about both the plan and the direction of our diminishing democracy. “

Clarke Kahlo

Heart of the River Coalition