New Edition: New look for TAF, new trustee for Wabash Township and more
Plus, another locally inspired township bill scheduled for a look at the Statehouse. A (slight) dip in the Omicron surge. And, get your COVID tests now
Today’s edition of the Based in Lafayette reporting project is sponsored by Purdue University’s Presidential Lecture Series, featuring a Feb. 1 conversation with Kenneth R. Feinberg, who oversaw the historic 9/11 victim compensation fund, and President Mitch Daniels. For more details, scroll to the end of today’s edition.
TAF SPORTS NEW NAME, NEW LOGO
You can still call it TAF.
But the name for the crew operating out of the Wells Community Center near downtown Lafayette is now The Arts Federation.
The nonprofit organization known for ages as the Tippecanoe Arts Federation made the move this week, with a new website – theartsfederation.org – and a new logo that soon will be incorporated into signature events, including the Taste of Tippecanoe, downtown Lafayette’s biggest summer festival.
Tetia Lee, TAF’s CEO, said the Tippecanoe Arts Federation has served and promoted art in a 14-county region – Tippecanoe County, each of the seven neighboring counties, plus Howard, Tipton, Pulaski, Jasper, Newton and Cass counties – since the Indiana Arts Commission went with a regional system in 1997.
“There was a reluctance, for whatever reason, to give up the name Tippecanoe back then,” Lee said. “People were vested in it, because this was where things were centered. But we’ve been more than that. It was time to reflect that maybe a bit better.”
David Huhnke, the TAF Board president, said the organization was ready for a rebranding and a new website, anyway. A name change, he said, made sense.
“It was a very easy decision,” Huhnke said. “It corresponds with our reach beyond Tippecanoe County.”
While TAF has worked across the region all that time, in recent years it has been more visible, particularly in a series of public mural projects over the past decade. Lee said that work – with murals in each of the organization’s counties – has been a reminder in communities of TAF’s work.
“We’ve always been all about growing the arts across all our communities,” Lee said. “Now, I think, we have a name and a brand that reflects that.”
DEMOCRATS MAKE IT OFFICIAL ON WABASH TOWNSHIP TRUSTEE, TOWNSHIP PREPS TO HIRE FIREFIGHTERS
Democrats in Wabash Township made things formal Tuesday night for Angel Valentin, selecting him to replace Jennifer Teising as township trustee. Valentin, former president of the Wabash Township Board, was installed as interim trustee Jan. 6, a day after former Trustee Jennifer Teising was convicted of 21 counts of felony theft tied to collecting her paychecks while not maintaining a residence in the township.
Jacque Chosnek, Tippecanoe County Democratic Party chair, said Valentin was the only nomination for the position before Democratic precinct committee men and women met for a caucus Tuesday evening. Valentin said he plans to run for the position in the 2022 election. Republican Eric Hoppenjans filed last week to run for trustee.
Valentin said the priority for the rest of 2022 will be to get the township’s finances in a position to rehire paid firefighters Teising laid off in June 2021, over the objections of the township board and residents, who carried petitions against the move.
Valentin and the Wabash Township Board set a press conference for 4 p.m. Thursday to make “an announcement regarding the future of the first protection in our township.”
Next up: A replacement for Valentin on the township board. (“I knew that would be your next question,” Chosnek said.) Chosnek said Democrats would hold a caucus in the next 30 days.
Since the 2018 election, Brendan Betz is the lone Wabash Township official left of four elected. Teising was convicted. One township board member resigned to move to Lafayette. Another board member resigned stating job reasons. Two other township board members were appointed and then resigned in that time, as well.
BILL THAT WOULD ALLOW TOWNSHIP TRUSTEE OUSTER SCHEDULED FOR A HEARING
A Senate bill that would set up a way to remove township trustees from office will get its first hearing Thursday. Senate Bill 304, sponsored by state Sens. Ron Alting, R-Lafayette, and Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell, is among bills on the calendar for 10 a.m. Thursday in the Senate’s Local Government committee.
The bill comes on the heels of public feuds that spilled out of Wabash and Fairfield townships in the past two years. If you’ve been reading here for any time, you know the stories. And if not, here’s a quick primer. The Senate bill is modeled after a measure signed into law in April 2021, targeting certain county elected officials – auditors, treasurers, recorders, surveyors and assessors – who were no-shows on their jobs or derelict in their duties. The law laid out a process for county commissioners to call for the elected official’s ouster. The county council also would need to agree. Then a judge would get final say whether the elected official was doing a poor enough job to lose their position. At each stage, the elected official accused has ways to defend themselves in public hearings or in court, according to the law.
Senate Bill 304 calls for one more step for township trustees, first sending the matter through the township board.
Last week, House Bill 1157, a second bill inspired by trustees’ actions in Fairfield and Wabash Township, cleared a House committee and was waiting this week for a vote by the full House. The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Chris Campbell, D-West Lafayette, would force township trustees to submit township board-approved annual budgets to the state rather than letting budgets from the previous year roll over. (That was a particular problem in the past two years in Fairfield Township, where township board cuts were simply ignored by Trustee Taletha Coles.)
COVID AND A STATEHOUSE BILL
The Indiana House advanced House Bill 1001, a measure that would block or at least temper business-led vaccine mandates, by a 57-35 vote Tuesday. The bill would force employers to offer religious and medical exemptions and then give employees the option to be tested rather than being vaccinated. It also would block schools and universities from using vaccine mandates. The bill, opposed by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce but prioritized this session by House Republicans, moves to the Senate.
The Indiana House delegation with districts in Tippecanoe County voted along party lines. Republicans Tim Brown, Don Lehe and Sharon Negele voted yes. Democrats Chris Campbell and Sheila Klinker voted no.
GET YOUR HOME COVID TEST KITS, HERE
This probably isn’t something you don’t already know, but signups started Tuesday for at-home COVID-19 testing kits through the federal government, delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. If you didn’t know, here you go: Four, free rapid tests are available per household by going to covidtests.gov. Delivery is expected in seven to 12 days, according to the federal site.
ON THE COVID FRONT IN TIPPECANOE COUNTY
Not sure two days make a sustainable trend, but Tippecanoe County’s rolling, seven-day average for COVID-19 cases was down for a second consecutive day. At an average of 549 new cases a day in the past week, that was down from a pandemic peak of 573 new cases a day registered two days earlier. It followed sharp climb that started Dec. 26 with 113 cases a day.
The actual number of new cases reported Tuesday by the state: 451. For context: The first 400-plus case day during the pandemic came a little more than a week ago, so the numbers aren’t exactly small.
The county’s weekly average positivity rate of 30.4% was down for the first time in more than a month, dipping slightly from a pandemic peak of 30.8% the day before. (Note: Positivity rates run a week behind in state reports.)
At hospitals in nine-county region, including IU Health Arnett and Franciscan Health in Lafayette, COVID cases reported at hospitals in a nine-county region that includes IU Health Arnett and Franciscan Health in Lafayette were at 132 in Tuesday’s state report. That's the fourth day of decreasing numbers. The state also reported four of 77 ICU beds available. Not good, but better than any time in the past week, when available beds were between zero and two. Patients with COVID were using 37.7% of those beds, which also was down from rates above 50% last week.
We’ll see Wednesday whether those trend lines keep moving down.
UNITED WAY NAMES INTERIM DIRECTOR
Jennifer Million, United Way of Greater Lafayette’s director of finance and operations, will be interim CEO, the nonprofit announced Tuesday. She fills a spot left when Michael Budd announced in December that he was leaving to be CEO of Indiana United Ways. Meanwhile, the United Way of Greater Lafayette board of directors indicated that they had a search committee that has started the search for a CEO. (If that sounds like you, applications go here: https://uwlafayette.org/career-opportunities/.)
Thanks, again, to Purdue University’s Presidential Lecture Series for sponsoring today’s edition. For details about Purdue President Mitch Daniels’ Feb. 1 conversation with Kenneth R. Feinberg, whose work with compensation funds from 9/11 to the Sandy Hook Elementary killings to the stage collapse at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in 2011, click the graphic below.
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