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Ritz and CECI Dispute Halts Education Board Meeting

The Indiana State Board of Education today took the first step in overhauling the A-through-F grading system. The Board voted 9-to-1 to replace the 1st through 4th grade point average scale with a 100-point measure, but that is where the progress ended as the meeting was brought to a halt after State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz adjourned the meeting. Ritz says a resolution written by Governor Mike Pence's Center for Education and Career Innovation, which operates separately from the Department of Education, brought the meeting to a halt because it improperly inserted State Board of Education staff to take over the academic standards review process, which she called a violation of the law. Ritz says she has requested an advisory opinion from the Attorney General on the improper motion. A Board member withdrew the motion after Ritz left the meeting, but it is unclear whether the meeting had actually ended or was still in progress. ...

Donnelly Urges Senate to Close Skills Gap

Indiana US Senator Joe Donnelly this morning spoke on the Senate floor to urge his colleagues to focus their attention on growing and creating jobs in the manufacturing industry.  Donnelly is a part of a group of senators behind the Manufacturing Jobs for America effort aimed at passing bipartisan legislation to help businesses create jobs and help communities pursue economic development in manufacturing. 
Donnelly said, “Good jobs allow us to provide for our loved ones, educate our children, and ultimately retire with dignity.  Good jobs are also critical for strong communities and a vibrant economy. That’s why I’m proud to be a part of the group of senators working on ‘Manufacturing Jobs for America,’ an effort to refocus the Senate on helping businesses create jobs and helping communities pursue economic development in the area of manufacturing.”
Many jobs are being left unfilled because employers say they struggle to find workers with the skills needed. It is estimated that up to 600,000 manufacturing jobs are left unfilled due to an undertrained workforce.
Two of Donnelly’s bills address closing this ‘skills gap’ and are included in the Manufacturing Jobs for America effort, the Skills Gap Strategy Act and the AMERICA Works Act.  The Skills Gap Strategy Act would direct the Department of Labor to develop a goal-oriented strategy using existing resources to better address the skills gap.  The AMERICA Works Act would modify existing federal training programs so that they place a priority on programs and certifications that are recognized and demanded by industry.
To view a video of Donnelly's remarks, visit &">&

Senator Landske Diagnosed with Lung Cancer

sue landske
(Photo Courtesy of Senator Landske's Office)
Indiana State Senator Sue Landske, of Cedar Lake, announced today that she has been diagnosed with lung cancer. Landske says she has worked hard throughout her tenure in the Senate to be upfront with her constituents, which is why is informing the public of this very personal issue. Landske says she has no plans to step away from her official duties in the Senate, where she also currently serves as the Assistant President Pro-Tem and is chair of the Senate Elections Committee, and will begin treatment immediately in Chicago. She says her doctors are confident she will make a full recovery.  Landske was elected to the state Senate in 1984....

Death of Contractor at ArcelorMittal Ruled Accidental

A 39 year old contractor from Valparaiso was pronounced dead at 7:16 this morning at ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor West in East Chicago. The Lake County Coroner's Office reports Michael Samuelson, of Valparaiso, suffered blunt force trauma to his body and his death has been ruled accidental. Officials report two other contractors were also injured in the incident which was caused by falling debris....

Fatal Accident at ArcelorMittal in East Chicago

Officials say a contractor died in an accident at ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor West in East Chicago early this morning, and two others were hurt. The Lake County Coroners was dispatched this morning, but had not released any information at this time. Injuries to the other two contractors were reportedly thought to be non-life-threatening. No other details have been released at this hour.


CTA Releases Images in Alligator Case

Woman with Alligator CTABlueLine
The Chicago Transit Authority has released images of a woman with an alligator on one of their trains during the early morning hours of November first. That same day, someone spotted a two-foot alligator under an escalator at O'Hare International Airport. Transit officials are seeking help from the public in identifying the person in the photos.
Woman with Alligator CTABlueLine 2
Officials say it's illegal to own an alligator in Illinois.  The alligator, believed to have been lacking a proper diet and in need of medical treatment, was transferred into the care of the Chicago Herpetological Society.  [Images courtesy Chicago Transit Authority]
News Release: CTA Security personnel have secured images of the person last seen with the abandoned alligator found and recovered at O’Hare International Airport earlier this month. 
Working with information from the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and an image posted to a social media website that showed the reptile on a CTA Blue Line train, CTA Security personnel began their investigation and determined how the alligator got to the airport.
Using the agency’s extensive rail system camera network, which consists of more than 3,600 cameras, CTA Security personnel captured images of a woman who boarded a northbound Blue Line train at the Pulaski station at approximately 1:17AM on Friday, November 1 with an alligator in hand. Interior rail car cameras showed the woman holding the alligator in her hands and showing it to other passengers during her trip.
At approximately 2:17AM, the same woman is seen exiting the train with the alligator at the O’Hare Blue Line terminal. By 2:44AM, she is seen once again near the turnstiles of the O’Hare rail station, this time without the reptile in view.
Anyone with information to help identify the woman should contact CTA’s Customer Service 1-888-YOUR-CTA (1-888-968-7282) or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
Those responsible for this act can face a misdemeanor charge of cruel treatment of an animal or face a fine $300 to $1,000 for cruelty to animals for abandoning the animal in a public place.
CTA’s surveillance camera network not only assists police in the investigation of crimes committed on CTA properties, but also crimes committed near CTA properties against other people, properties and even animals.
In 2012, CTA cameras assisted police in the arrest of at least 154 individuals for crimes committed either on or off CTA property; so far in 2013, cameras have aided in the arrest of at least 140 individuals....

One Injured in Accident Near Dyer

One person was taken to the hospital after an accident near Dyer just after 6:30 Tuesday evening. Lake County Sheriffs Police say 20-year-old Taylor Wiggins of Valparaiso woman was traveling southbound on Patterson Street at West 83rd Avenue when she became distracted and crossed the center line into the northbound lane, sideswiping an SUV driven by a Cedar Lake man. Patterson was transported by EMS to Franciscan St. Margaret Health - Dyer hospital campus. The other driver, Glenn Miller of Cedar Lake, was not injured. Police say there were no citations issued at the scene....

3 Region Communities 'Best Towns for Young Families'

A consumer-resource website called NerdWallet-dot-com has listed three Region communities in a list of ten best towns for young families in Indiana – Crown Point, Schererville and Valparaiso. Criteria included public school ratings from GreatSchools-dot-com, median home values and ongoing monthly costs of having a home, average household income, and income growth over the past decade. Only places with a population over 25-thousand were considered.

Longtime Former Indiana Beach Owner Passes Away

The former longtime owner of Indiana Beach has died. Thomas Spackman passed away on Monday at the age of 100. Spackman's father founded a resort called Ideal Beach along Lake Shafer in Monticello in the 1920s, and that was changed to Indiana Beach “Riviera of the Midwest” in 1952 after Spackman took over as CEO in 1945. In 1985, the park adopted the well-known slogan, “There's More Than Corn in Indiana!”. Indiana Beach was sold to Morgan RV Resorts in 2008. [Photo/Springer-Voorhis-Draper Funeral Home, Monticello, IN]...

Emergency Sirens Being Tested in Porter County

All of Porter County's outdoor emergency sirens are being tested throughout the day today. Assistant Communications Director of Porter County's Emergency Management Agency Joseph Oparka told the Region News Team they want to make sure everyone is covered by their current network of about fifty sirens. "We're making sure with all the new population, populated areas, that they are covered and everyone is safe," Oparka said. The siren testing started at about 9:30 this morning is expected to continue through the afternoon....

Indiana Seeks Illiana Investors

The state of Indiana has issued an official call for investors for the Hoosier stretch of the proposed Illiana Expressway. The tollway would connect I-65 from south Lake County to I-55 in Illinois. Meanwhile, Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission is continuing to gather public input on the project with two more open houses – one of them today (Nov 13)  at the NIRPC office in Portage (4-6pm), and another next Tuesday the 19th at Michigan City City Hall (2-4pm). Next month, NIRPC is scheduled to vote on whether to include Illiana in their 2040 Comprehensive plan, a necessary step to move the project forward for federal funding.
News Release:
INDIANAPOLIS - The Indiana Finance Authority (IFA) and the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) have issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for the Illiana Corridor project.
The state is seeking submission of qualifications by private industry partners to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the Indiana portion of the Illiana Corridor utilizing an Availability Payment structure. Interested firms or project teams will be asked to submit a Statement of Qualifications that will be used to determine their eligibility in the upcoming Public Private Partnership (P3) process.
To ensure coordination of the bi-state Illiana Corridor Project, IFA/INDOT and the Illinois Department of Transportation are working together to coordinate technical requirements, tolling policy, the federal environmental approval process, and construction schedules.
"We had tremendous response from the private sector during an Illiana Industry Forum earlier this year and we look forward to hearing from those groups as we move forward in the procurement process," said Indiana Public Finance Director Kendra York.
The Indiana portion of the Illiana Corridor runs from the Indiana/Illinois state line east to Interstate 65. Private sector participation is being sought to spur innovation that will lead to delivery of the Illiana Corridor more quickly, efficiently and at a lower cost. The Indiana procurement will also involve the construction of added capacity lanes on I-65 between U.S. 30 and State Road 2.
"We have had great success in Indiana with the innovation and cost savings that the private sector has brought to other P3 projects," said INDOT Deputy Commissioner of Innovative Project Delivery Jim Stark. "We're anticipating similar successes with the Illiana Corridor."
The RFQ document can be viewed at the IFA website: .
Statements of Qualifications are due by Friday, January 10, 2014....

Ribbon Cutting in Gary for New Fueling Station

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and First District Congressman Pete Visclosky were among those at the ribbon-cutting Tuesday for a new compressed natural gas (CNG) public fueling station at Ozinga Ready Mix Concrete in the 400 block of Blaine Street in Gary, just northeast of US 12/20 and Cline Avenue. South Shore Clean Cities says many CNG stations already exist along the western shore of Lake Michigan, forming a north-south corridor, and said the new station in Gary is well-positioned as natural gas fueling infrastructure expands east and west along Interstate 80. South Shore Clean Cities’ Executive Director Carl Lisek said earlier, “We are excited to be helping companies like Ozinga make the important transition to alternative fuels, fulfilling our mission to reduce the nation’s dependence on imported oil.”  [Photo/South Shore Clean Cities]...

La Porte County Gets the Local Lake Effect

Parts of northwest Indiana are digging out from several inches of lake effect snow.   Winter preparedness week in Indiana is next week, but for many Region residents, winter got here Tuesday in a big way, in the first major snow event of the season. The lake effect snow machine spent a good deal of time over the easterm side of northwest Indiana, specifically La Porte County.  Meanwhile, Porter, Starke, and Jasper Counties, which all had lake effect snow advisories, got some snow, and there was sunshine in north Lake County.
Some totals through 5 pm EST Tuesday evening from the National Weather Service Northern Indiana office, showed nine inches in Kingsbury in La Porte County, and about eight inches in La Porte and Rolling Prairie... just north of there, north of the Indiana/Michigan state line, parts of Berrien County got 14-to-17 inches of snow.
For additional snow totals, click here for the National Weather Service Northern Indiana:

Hammond PD Look to Prevent Pedestrian/Bike Crashes

Hammond PD
Police in Hammond today announced they were recently awarded a 75-hundred dollar grant through the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute to reduce the number of pedestrian and bicycle crashes in the city through increased enforcement. Lt. Patrick Vicari says they have had a number of pedestrian/bicycle crashes with motor vehicles, most notably, the recent crash that occurred on Calumet Avenue that resulted in the death of a 13 year old Hammond boy.
Lt. Vicari says they will primarily look at school zones to start, but will expand to parks, neighborhood areas and anywhere else they identify as a problem area with this issue. Police are encouraging pedestrians to use sidewalks, crosswalks and obey traffic control signals and also encourage motorists to be mindful of school zones and to watch for pedestrians and school crossing guards. ...

Weight Loss TV Pitchman Found Guilty in Chicago

A federal jury in Chicago claims TV pitchman Kevin Trudeau violated an order barring him from making false claims about his best-selling weight loss book. ABC News reports jurors needed just 45 minutes to decide that Trudeau had made false claims about his diet books. In the infomercials for "The Weight-Loss Cure 'They' Don't Want you to Know About", Trudeau claims that his cure wasn't a diet, and required no exercise or supplements. However, the book requires intake of just 500 calories a day, long daily walks, and daily injections of prescription hormones. He could spend the rest of his life behind bars when he's sentenced. No sentencing date has been set.


Even for Healthy Kids, Flu can be Fatal

Even for Healthy Kids, Flu can be Fatal
As Flu season sets in, health officials have a warning for parents--even the Region's healthiest kids are at risk of dying from influenza.  According to new research from the American Academy of Pediatrics,   of the 830 children in the U.S. who died from the flu between 2004 and 2012, more than 40-percent did not have any underlying medical condition that would have put them at risk for complications, like asthma or heart disease. 

Pediatrician Dr. Lia Gaggino says the flu can make health spiral downward very quickly,even for the healthiest kids.  "Ear infections and pneumonias, and sinus infections as secondary complications, and a lot of times that's what the kids may die from, are pneumonias."
While Dr. Gaggino admits it is difficult for researchers who make the flu vaccine to predict which strains will dominate in any given year, she says this year there are two different vaccines--and both offer wide protection from several viruses.  "It covers the HINI, it covers the H3N2, and then there's a third; and then the quadrivalent, or the newer one, includes an additional virus."
Dr. Gaggino says during the last flu season, 158 children died from influenza-related causes in the U.S. including four in Indiana.
The CDC recommends anyone older than six months of age be vaccinated against the flu, if there are no health reasons preventing the immunizations--such as allergies. Frequent hand-washing and sanitizing surfaces can also minimize virus exposure.  Dr. Gaggino stresses that while the vaccine can trigger a short-lived immune response causing some fatigue or soreness, there is no way to contract the virus from a flu shot or nasal spray.

(photo/Microsoft images)...


Results in for 3 Month Law Enforcement Team Effort

A three month law enforcement team effort to help fight crime in Lake County, has lead to hundreds of traffic stops, and arrests and the recovery of over cash and firearms. 
The Region Stop Team, made up of full and part time officers from throughout Lake County is supported by the Lake County Prosecutor's Office, the U.S. Attorney's Office as well as crime mapping and analytical support by Indiana University Northwest.
According to a press release from the East Chicago Police Department, the Region Stop Team is comprised of full time officers from the Hammond, Gary, Lake County Sheriff and the East Chicago Police Departments.  Part time members include the Munster, St. John, Highland, Griffith, Schererville, Dyer, University of Indiana- Northwest Campus (IUN), Whiting and the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD).  The effort is supported by the Lake County Prosecutor’s Office, the United States Attorney’s Office as well as crime mapping and analytical support by IUN.
The team initiated on August 20, 2013 and through October, 2013, the team has recorded the following statistical accomplishments:
  • 390 Traffic stops
  • 178 Suspicious events
  • 107 arrests
  • Recovered over $13,552 in United States Currency (USC) for seizure
  • Recovered 16 firearms
On November 8, 2013 the team arrested Curtis Anthony Fields, black male, 26 years of age of Gary, Indiana after he was observed to be involved in suspicious activity near 11th and Polk Street, Gary, Indiana.  Fields fled in his vehicle and after a leaving his vehicle near 18th and Lincoln, continued to flee officers on foot.  After a short foot pursuit Fields was arrested and found to have an outstanding parole violation warrant on file.  Fields also had $680 USC in his possession and a small amount of suspected marijuana was found in his vehicle.
Lake County K 9 officers as well as air support from the Gary Police Department and the Lake County Sheriff’s Department assisted in the apprehension.
While attempting to locate Fields, officers observed another individual to be in the area who was urinating in a public alley.  This subject was approached and also fled on foot, but was captured shortly thereafter.  He was found in possession of marijuana, packaged in dealer type quantities and was taken into custody.  The subject has been turned over to the Gary Drug Unit for further investigation.
Shortly after this arrest, officers attempted to stop a vehicle in the area of 13th and Van Buren, Gary, Indiana.  The driver threw a bag out of the vehicle, later found to be suspected marijuana, and then took off at a high rate of speed.  The vehicle proceeded south from 13th on Van Buren and then crashed into a “No Parking” sign, at which time the driver fled on foot.
Lake County K 9 officers again responded and after a foot pursuit, the subject, Christopher Lee Sallie, black male, 29 years of age from Gary, Indiana, was arrested and charges are now being sought for dealing in marijuana, resisting law enforcement, failure of duty and driving while suspended. Officers recovered suspected marijuana, a scale and plastic bags associated with the distribution of drugs and $510 USC.
In total, the team arrested 8 individuals in Gary. In addition to the 3 described above, they are as follows:
  • Devin Miles, black male, a 25 year old Gary resident, wanted on charges filed by the Hobart Police Department
  • Warren Greene, black male, a 23 year old Gary resident, wanted on charges filed by the Hammond Police Department
  • Curt Simmons, black male, a  27 year old Gary resident, wanted on charges filed by the Gary Police Department
  • Joseph Bishop III, black male, a 22 year old Gary resident, arrested for felony fleeing when he failed to curb for a traffic violation and was arrested in the 3300 block of Pennsylvania
  • Alice Bryant Walker, black female, a 35 year old Gary resident who was arrested in the 2400 block of Broadway for operating a vehicle with a suspended drivers license
According to the release, other highlights for the month of October include:
  • The responded to shots being fired in the area of 150th and Magoun, East Chicago, and assisted in the arrests of 7 suspected individuals
  • A traffic stop at 49th and Washington, Gary, resulted in the recovery of marijuana, a scale and approximately 3 grams of crack cocaine, packaged in distribution amounts
  • State Parole agents requested the assistance in dealing with a home check of a parolee, who was found to be in possession of a firearm.  That matter has been referred to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
  • A traffic stop in the area of 4300 Olcott, East Chicago, resulted in the recovery of 238 grams of powder cocaine and nearly 4 grams of marijuana
  • A traffic stop at 6th and Madison in Gary found the driver to be a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. Charges are pending
  • A suspicious person in the area of the 4500 block of Van Buren, Gary, was found to be a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. Charges are pending
  • A traffic stop in the 4800 block of Carolina, Gary, found 2 convicted felons present in the vehicle and both were armed with firearms, charges are pending
  • The team assisted the Hammond Police Department in their investigation and arrest of 2 individuals involved in dealing with stolen metal, which had been removed from a location near 7th and Alabama in Gary
  • The team was assigned to patrol the Hessville section of Hammond, following a series of armed robberies that had been taking place.  As a result, Hammond and STOP Team officers arrested 2 subjects, recovered evidence linking them to the crimes and charges are now being pursued.
  • The team also assisted Schererville detectives with their investigation of armed robberies that had taken place at an ATM and at a residence in their city. The team canvassed a neighborhood in Hammond and located a possible subject in Gary
Finally, on September 24, 2013 the team executed a search warrant in the 4800 block of Walsh Avenue, East Chicago.  A pound of marijuana, 3 handguns and an assault rifle were recovered as was $12,752 USC.  In October, Ivan Brignoni was charged with maintaining a common nuisance and dealing in marijuana. ...

AG's Urging Anti-Theft Software for Smartphones

Indiana OAG Official Seal
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller today joined 30 other attorney generals to urge leading smartphone manufactures to step up security features. Zoeller says smartphones are not only stolen for their resell value, but they also contain consumers' personal and financial information. Zoeller says one method discussed to dry up aftermarket phone sales includes installing a smartphone “kill switch” which could render a phone permanently useless if stolen.
To avoid having your personal information stolen along with your phone, the attorney general's office recommends having password protection, backing up your phone regularly, signing up for a tracking service and seeking out security software....

UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage Network Changing

Indiana's Insurance Commission today advised seniors who have Medicare Advantage plans with UnitedHealthcare, including ones sold through AARP, to confirm that their preferred providers will be part of the network throughout 2014, because of reductions the company recently made to its provider network.
Medicare Advantage plans are different than traditional Medicare plans, because members are restricted to the doctors who participate in their network, so it is critical seniors understand their options during the Medicare open enrollment period, which ends December 7th. For more information, visit


Gas Prices May Not Bottom Out Until Mid-December

The U-S Energy Department reports gas prices fell another seven cents over the past week. The national average is now three dollars and 19 cents a gallon. ABC News reports Patrick DeHaan, Senior Petroleum Analyst at says prices may not bottom out until mid December and it's entirely realistic the national average could hit as little as $3.15, perhaps even $3.10 a gallon by Thanksgiving and it could march within a nickel of three dollars a gallon here by Christmas.
In the Gary metropolitan area, reports the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded is $3.02. ...

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