Latest plans for Gary Schools

The latest plans for the Gary Schools were announced  Friday afternoon. Direct and to the point.

Gary’s  Wirt-Emerson set for closure .  New plans for Gary schools include massive layoffs. 

Imagine that’s your school.  Anxiety  and images from the  Florida school shooting  are still fresh, But it’s good to be with your classmates, your community.  Then this announcement.  Suddenly the comfort and familiarity of your school will be gone.  All because of the actions of past administrations.


Sigh, Emergency Manager Hinckley, team member$ , and DUAB agree that tough decisions are needed.  Yes. But this decision eats away at the unstable foundation of the Gary Community School System, instead of strengthening it.

Why is holding those responsible too tough a decision?

For years the community of Gary have consistently voiced concerns of mismanagement with no results. Demands for action were ignored. Yes, demands as in here is the documentation on deficiencies, here is the law, you have the responsibility to take action.

No investigations. School carried on with  select  Administration  paid even when teachers were not, those in  power were free to do as they pleased, which occasionally meant avoiding public input by refusing to respond to plans and offers from organizations.

In July 2017 GCSC was  taken over  by the State of Indiana and the Distressed Unit Appeals Board. The writing seemed to  be on the wall!  the usual suspects  re-imaged themselves and were given power on  the current  Boards or Committees. The consulting firm, Emergency Manager,  and appointees relied on the previous misadministration to inform and guide them.

Current powers rely on the previous misadministration for information and data.

A swift kick in the dupa  and out the door works wonders. That didn’t happen, and evidently no middle ground as new powers sought their sage advice.  This is not a well thought out plan. We’re not talking about masterminds with secret codes here. There is no logical reason to solicit defective and deceptive policies.

To borrow that beloved Indiana tourism slogan ,this is Honest To Goodness Indiana!  Our former Attorney General spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on unsuccessful lawsuits defending laws which the Legislature knew were unconstitutional.

These concerns are pitching underhand to the State. Documentation on GCSC actions and inactions are irrefutable. They include include financial irregularities, (i.e. missing money), unaccounted (i.e. Stolen )property, and an inventory for countless pieces of valuable artwork with more white out than the Oscars. (i.e. we know who had that piece last and sent them a note but it’s only been 6 years). Bonded, insured, and verified organizations offered without cost, to board up and secure the wide-open closed schools, remove and store artworks wherever the City chose. Others wanted to buy or rent these properties, individuals offered programming approved by the State. These and more were ignored  by GCSC , sent to a black hole of emails, or scratched from public testimony.

The plans for Wirt-Emerson , consolidations, and lay-offs are deja-vu. Unknown agendas with known and detrimental consequences.

Among the parents and teachers and community who have not waivered is Carlos Tolliver, elected to  the School board a year ago. “Fiscal transparency and accountability”   is his  mantra which echoes throughout the city.

Holding those responsible is ethical, it is just, and gosh darn it the city will recover assets, teachers will be reimbursed for payroll deductions which GCSC kept instead of submitting to 401ks, and I know of at least $30,000 coming back.

Gift of Hospital Chaplaincy

My Dad died when I was 10-I  have few memories of him.

Back in the day- that is 1969- there were  few people  who talked about him to this 10 yr old, and certainly not about his work, etc.  He was a foreman in US Steel Gary works, and 42 was way too young.


Fast forward to 2014. I am making rounds at the hospital where I served as a Chaplain.  I stop to visit an elderly man in his 80’s- he’s frail and tired. In my mind  it looks to be a quick visit.
After I introduce myself he says “Siroky. Rip Siroky.” ( “Rip” was my Dad’s nickname. ) I stammer, yesssss Rip Siroky was my Father.
“So Rip Siroky’s daughter is a Chaplain… (pause).. Your Father was one of the fairest foreman I ever worked for. He died young.”
Yes, he did, I say. And I go back to my role of ministry to him., asking what I could do for him, prayer, etc. But God intervened.
” Your Dad. he was fair. and in those times, it was rare. I was a young man, and your Dad treated all of us the same. Black, white, didnt matter. He respected your work. But dont get him mad…. so Rip Siroky’s little girl is a Chaplain.”

Now this man would  have been in his teens when my Dad was his foreman. Yet he persisted…
and for the next 20 minutes or so, I sat, and he talked about my Dad– and how proud he was of us all, and the pictures we drew in his locker. And then he reminisced as a young man the mill was always busy and you felt connected and the men there felt proud. And he spoke of Gary and his fellow Millrats , and my Dad, With pride.
A grace moment. I hope this patient is enjoying his Father’s Day. he made mine.

Happy Anniversary to my wife

Seven years ago  we ended our 18 year engagement , left Indiana to elope to Iowa. Actually our marriage  had been affirmed in a church years before. This wasn’t recognized legally.

See, we lived in Indiana. We actually met in Philadelphia in 1989.  We fell  in love later, in 1991. But marriage wasn’t legal.  Mind you many denominations and faith communities affirmed same gender marriage, but States did not. Then slowly they began to get our of religious side of marriage.

When Mike Pence and others point out they respect religious freedom they are full of it. They respect THEIR religious freedom and their interpretation. They are of courses entitled to it. But stop insulting those of us of many faiths who believe otherwise.

I was an ordained UCC minister serving as a Pastoral Associate in Indianapolis. And Indiana continued to discriminate.  My denomination was one of  the first mainline denominations to affirm same gender marriage. (in 1992 over 11 larger denominations did). Even though there is separation of Church and  State, we could not be married in our own Church. Our  pastor,   faith community I served in , our Church could not host our marriage. We wanted to be be  married IN our denomination- IN our church.

We began to look to Iowa, which had recently affirmed same sex marriages.  We spoke often with a UCC minister at Faith United in Iowa City. He properly counseled us about the commitment of marriage etc.  And we made a date. July 16th.

Without a word to my Senior Pastor on why I needed 2 days off,  and with only 2 friends, it was off to Iowa City!

Aside from Alice and Bill, we had no one coming to celebrate with us. In true extravagant welcome, Rev. Bruce Kittle asked if he could invite others.  We were thrilled. Faith UCC also provided music, a violinist ( a perfect addition as my wife plays violin). As it turned out, we were the first same gender marriage. And many of the guests were from local denominations- United Methodist, a rabbi, Presbyterian and others I forget. They witness our vows to one another. And the Church provided everything. And we were married.

Iowa was wonderful.  From the county clerks office , the  rehearsal dinner (the 4 of us),  and the wedding, there was never any bias toward us. We were married!

I never forget driving home and stopping at a rest area to upload wedding photos. A dear little old woman was manning the rest area  for hospitality. Iowa had WIFI in their rest areas in 2009. I hesitated as I struggled to get on the computer and she asked if she could help me. Discrimination runs deep..   here is this lil old lady and I  thought would she call me a sinner ?  or worse?

She was thrilled. She complimented me on my dress, and my beloved in her tux. She looked at each photo. I cried.

and then…. we crossed the State line  back to Indiana. And that Sunday, I announced our wedding. And for some in our congregation, and later my family, it sunk in how the laws of Indiana  were discriminating.  Many thought we were. Many thought we could.  And I do believe I was the first UCC  ordained openly  gay person to be legally married in the Indiana Kentucky Conference of the United Church of Christ,  if not the entire denomination.

Yet  what hurts , what resonates, is when the  the Pastoral Associate cannot be married in her own church.. ,,. then I remember Iowa and Faith UCC and look into my wife’s eyes and our wedding party. And I am happy.

Religious Freedom means all religions.

And love is love.


wedding 009

UPDATE! Cull approved- Australian wildlife needs our help- Save flying foxes!

Update– The Humane Society International has begun legal action against Australia and New South Wales for permitting the destruction of habitat for endangered flying foxes. Read more here: 

mama babybat

In this photo a Mama Flying Fox desperately tries to find home and food as Australia begins destroying canopy  of fruit trees. (note- the bats would disperse in a few weeks when flowering ends

Bats get a bad rap.They are not harbingers of disease, but are a necessary (and busy) component of our ecosystem.

I follow  Batzilla the Bat  on Facebook. These wonderful folks rescue and rehabilitate. And educate. They need us now, as their politicians are unbelievably ignorant and supporting exterminating an entire species of endangered bats!

2016-05-21 (1)

In brief, the town of Bateman’s Bay  is enjoying their flowering tree event. Weeks long, it attracts visitors of human and animals.. among them the flying fox. No detriment to humans, these awesome creatures are  Australia’s only nocturnal long distance pollinators and seed dispersers of native forests!  Australia will not survive without this keystone species. (think of the Honeybee crisis).

So.. as election time nears, the  Federal Environmental minister is actually approving culling the species. Lifting the protection. Encouraging folks to kill them off.  These bats- and their protectors- need our help

Local activists are trying desperately to bring more awareness. And it works. Of course what happens to the global ecosystem affects us all. Because- global.

There is a petition on Change.Org,  and as Narooma activists defends bats explains, aside from the dispersal being inhumane, it wont work.

Please. help the bats.

Here is a video of them releasing “Gidgee”.


ACTION ALERT- GEO For Profit Prison plans still active Gary, IN

There is something called a Friday afternoon news dump– news items come out at end of day when comments and  statements are impossible to obtain.

Take note: The GEO Group and city officials have been working hard behind the scenes for over two years to build a For Profit detention center . Wednesday May 4th the Common Council is set to hear again, public testimony and vote.  More deals and MOUs are coming to light, despite feigned ignorance of those voting that they had no knowledge.

This weekend all major political candidates will be in Indiana , many in the Region. TAKE ACTION. show up- challenge- ask for public comments where they stand. Call their offices to clarify the information given,  Demand specifics about Indiana and about Gary. It IS Gary’s time.. we have much to offer instead of the empty promises of GEO group and back room dealings.

Bernie Sanders has always maintained he is against For profit prisons, saying at an Indpls rally “it is perverse for us to profit” from incarceration. Demand that Sanders addresses Gary and GEO

Hillary Clinton has taken money from GEO parent companies (or employees) demand she take a stand now, seeing the abuse and the economic havoc these facilities leave on communities when quotas cannot be filled.

Mike Pence and many GOP have also taken money from GEO- $20k to Pence this year alone. over $85k in the past 9 years. Ask questions!

John Gregg is mute on the issue.

Senatorial Candidates all over the state- some have taken contributions, some profited- some are publicly opposed. Eddie Melton declared his opposition weeks ago, others?

And perhaps most important. Educate yourselves. Don’t believe hype. Hell, don’t believe me –until you read the facts. And trust me, in the Region facts are hard to come by.

Basics: The day after the November 2015 election, the people of Gary first heard about the  GEO group plans for re-zoning land near our expanding airport for a  private prison.  (mind you GEO had been trying in nearby Hobart for years). Within  a few weeks, she  withdrew support .  GEO pulled the variance yet came back after new council seated. Most members  and city officials publicly stated they had no knowledge of any dealings.

Yet, thanks to FOIA, here is the Memorandum of Understanding dated September 23, 2015, before election GEO.

Note: while the numbers may sound good to a job thirsty market, there is NO contract with DOJ for inmates. None.  so it is empty wishful jobs– which is what we all want in the region- jobs.

I wouldn’t  be surprised  if some sort of contract would appear last minute- yet the MOU is based on occupancy rates. Many states have cancelled contracts with GEO, and cities have gone bankrupt as the cities are often on the hook for utilities, the tax increases, and property values diminish.  The Northwest Indiana Gazette, citizen journalism outlines these here. 

In November GEO withdrew their petition as citizens rallied. Blue collar, white collar, clergy collar.But when did they reapply? Who knows. But grab your scorecard.

At the April 12th Zoning Board meeting,  the vote was 3-1 against the variance. Testimony   included the chairman of the Airport Authority Board, former Lake county Sheriff, and Gary Diocesan Bishop Hying, Northwest Federation of Interfaith Clergy  chair Rev. Cheryl Rivera, and former Mayor Richard Hatcher- all against. 

The lone yes was from  BZA President Rinzer Williams.  Now Williams is also the legal counsel for the Gary Common Council.  At he next Common Council meeting, a tie vote on the proposal second reading essentially made it dead.

However, as the video from the April 19th common council meeting shows,  legal counsel, without being asked, approached a council member with information, That member, Herbert Smith, appointed to the council after a vacancy owns a Company that provides electronic monitoring – including to Lake County. Suddenly he brings to light  a section of the bylaws and then is helped word a motion to continue the discussion.

The citation from Atty Rinzer Williams deals with committee votes, not council votes. Williams reads from Bylaws

Sec 2-217.c (below) which states (midway through section)
 “.. in the event any ordinance is not reported favorably by a committee, prior to any meeting, any one member at the council meeting may request that the ordinance be brought out of committee at the next meeting, the ordinance shall be reported out favorably or unfavorably at the next regular meeting.”
This above section pertains to COMMITTEE reports and meetings.  This vote was  not a committee vote.  He states that by not sending the ordinance to committee that is the same as an unfavorable report BY the committee. It is not the same.
Bottom line- we need to maintain vigilance. Our state matters. Our city matters. Our lives matter. Stay connected and stay involved.
There are events and meetings all over the Region this weekend. DO your part-  we must be heard.




Please stop HB1337 in Indiana. It is up to the House.

As early as today, HB1337, titled Abortion Matters, will be back for final vote in the Indiana House. Except it is unrecognizable from the bill they voted through weeks ago.

While they sent #HB1337 to Senate Committee, the Senate voted through #SB313 to House Committee. This  bill was more than the descriptor of abortion matters- it covers miscarriages, remains of both miscarriage and abortion,  removes options for families when the fetus is diagnosed with a lethal fetal anomaly , mandates procedures when a fetal anomaly or potential  for one is discovered,  and addresses perinatal hospice.

The House Committee  chose not to hear this SB313.

Yet the  Senate Committee morphed the language of this extremely full and often vague bill into HB1337.   Mind you SB313  -which is now part of HB1337 was already discussed on the Senate Committe and full chamber for hours over a period of days. And on third reading Tuesday it was discussed for an additional hour and a half.

It has moved to  the House for final passage. There will be  no input or testimony on all the new  restrictions on a family or individual ‘s choice regarding the pregnancy  No facts, no testimony from physicians, patients,  medical professionals. The people of Indiana deserve better.

HB 1337 will greatly affect not only those who may choose abortion when their fetus has been diagnosed with a fetal anomaly. It has consequences and  restrictions on miscarriages, on mandating burial or cremation of tissue, and of possible felony charges and loss of medical licenses for the providers.

This bill affects so much more than restrictions of abortion providers. It mandates procedures families must choose from at a most traumatic time – when they discover their fetus has  a disability that may very well result in death  within the first year. It interferes with the Doctor patient relationship- when an MD  suggests testing for their  patient- and with this bill what their patient chooses result in a felony or loss of license for the MD.

Senators Young and Becker,  among others, explained on the floor  the contradictions and absurdity of the bills new language. For example  woman in Indiana has the right to abort a healthy baby, but this law means she does not have the right to abort a fetus because it has a prenatal diagnosis of a severe congenital anomaly.(or any of the other 9 criteria they have spelled out.  This makes no sense!  The bill is a pro birth bill- and even there does not provide the families for the medical bills and services the bill mandates they endure.

By banning abortion for fetal anomaly without adding one cent to offset the enormous amount of care that more babies with fetal anomalies will need, this bill will increase Indiana’s infant mortality and suffering.

The scenarios are tragic and numerous. The House deserves to hear testimony on the morphed bill – from physicians, patients, providers, funeral directors,  and  all those affected. Please vote no on this bill.

Will Indiana celebrate Leap Year by voting in discrimination


No, it’s not RFRA part 2.   You see earlier this session Indiana Legislators had the chance to add civil rights protections for LGBT. But they refused to vote on it. So that misnomer of a RFRA “fix” only affects the 11 or so municipalities that have their own Human Rights Ordinances.  And Indiana had the opportunity to enact hate crime legislation- we are one of five states not to have this. But again, our Legislators  think that   Hoosiers value people differently  than those from the other 35 states – so no vote there either.

Let’s see… what discrimination could it possibly be? Actually it is related to RFRA., as RFRA was passed on two prongs- gay weddings with cupcakes and businesses going to hell because they offered health insurance that dared to cover reproductive issues. And so RFRA allows for business to not cover, or not serve people who use fertility drugs, want vasectomies, want birth control, want options,  want to adopt into their same gender family.

And that brings us to Leap year Monday.

HB 1337 “Abortion Matters” The choice to terminate a pregnancy is legal. It is also in a trap.  As in TRAP laws- Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers.  Thee laws put restrictions  on clinics and abortion providers  but exempt  others. Hence the discrimination.

And I am disgusted that Indiana legislators both men and women, Republicans and even some  Democrats  continue to discriminate against those who hold beliefs different than theirs. Especially when it comes to reproduction. THIS bill goes beyond being AntiChoice. It actually adds to the trauma of women who have a miscarriage or receive news that the fetus has an anomaly.

This bill   criminalizes providers who perform an abortion  due to fetal anomaly, sex, or race.

The bill defines fetal tissue. (which one would think is a responsibility of the medial community).The bill mandates that  said fetal remains  from abortion OR  miscarriage – must be buried or cremated. According to the bill  fetal tissue” includes tissue, organs,or  any other part of an aborted fetus. The provider needs to partner with a funeral home. (and no funeral Directors testified either)

It was amended that  if a woman receives diagnosis of fatal fetal anomaly ( meaning die with 3 months) she would be offered perinatal hospice, and all that would be explained. Except paying for this is not addressed.

So to recap- women who have a miscarriage or stillbirth already are counseled on their choice to allow the facility to dispose of the fetal tissue/stillbirth or choose a funeral home. This bill mandates it.

Indiana Legislators believe Hoosier women and families are incapable of making a moral and  informed choice on their bodies.  They may indeed have their own values and religious beliefs, but Legislators are putting into law their values and morality. Legis as Senators Liz  Brown, Young, Holdman and Banks, along with Rep. Cox, Macon, Bates and Judy feel women need to pay – literally- to bury a miscarriage.  It is a fact miscarriages can  resemble a  large blood clot. After a women miscarries at home, a surgical procedure is needed to insure no tissue remains. And now that will need to be buried or cremated via licensed Funeral Director.

People of faith realize the added trauma this bill will cause- the threat of prosecution for providers who know their patients history and respect their legal and civil right to choose termination.

And the bill is just bad legislation. During the one hearing which allowed public testimony, questions were asked . Sen. Stoops said “we have constitutional right” to abortion, yet we have religious mandates being proposed as law”,  There are many unknowns in the bill. There are aspects of the bill that have been enacted by other states, and are currently in litigation towards Supreme Court.

Scenario: TaySachs is a disease that affects the nervous system. Babies born with this will probably “live” past 3 months, but most die by ages 3-4 yrs. They become paralyzed, cannot respond to stimulation, go blind. It  can be diagnosed In Utero . Yet with this bill a woman would be forced to carry to term.  Sen Grooms said Hoosiers have exceptional Christianity. Forcing a woman and family to carry a baby for 40 weeks that will die within months when she prefers to terminate is not the Christianity of many clergy or Hoosiers.

And so again, Indiana Legislators talk about values and the “preborn”and will mandate their own values and beliefs on all of us. They will discriminate and trap women who have a civil and legal right to their health decisions. They will ignore the woman who testified about the trauma of this bill as well as ignore people of faith who who hold differing views.

Unless they hear from us. Unless we speak up.

Follow #HB1337 on twitter, Email your legislator. Call. Educate.












Does Clinton’s latest soundbyte on Wall Street mirror what she said to Goldman Sachs?

As the campaigns tightens, HRC said Friday “I take a backseat to nobody in being very clear about what I will do to make sure Wall Street never crashes Main Street again, and that you can count on.”

But does this match what she has said in speeches to Goldman Sachs?

We don’t know.  For over a year, she has been asked by different media and citizens at Town Halls about releasing the transcripts. Like  many in politics, her answer has evolved.

In January she laughed when a  a reporter asked her about releasing them

On Feb. 6th when asked, she said she” would look into it”

And now she says  “I’m happy to release anything I have when everybody else does the same, because every other candidate in this race has given speeches to private groups, including Senator Sanders.”

(For the record, Sanders received less than $2,000 for two speeches and donated money to charity. Clinton made  three speeches and was paid over $675,000.)


Clinton insisted and paid a stenographer for transcribing. She has the power to release them.

Whether she does or not,.. well  who am I kidding, she will not release them. And she doesn’t have to.

But  trust is a huge issue for her candidacy. It always has been. It is why she didn’t win the nomination in 2008. it may be why she won’t win now.  In my mind, better to say from the get go that “No, I’m not releasing them till everyone else does.” Instead she is parroting Bernie Sanders line about main street and wall street.

Not sure if it works.



It’s here!! 219Day in da Region ((( (fans face with hands))))


219Enjoy the day.. and be safe Region Rats



WHEREAS, 219 is the second month of the year, February, and the 19th day of said month, and;

WHEREAS, 219 is the North American telephone area code for the Chicago metropolitan area of northwest Indiana that includes Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Newton and Jasper counties, which constitute the area known as “DA REGION,” and

WHEREAS, living in the 219 Region entitles its residents to cheer for the Blackhawks, Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox, and favor the Bears over the Colts and the Bulls over the Pacers no matter what the odds; and


WHEREAS, living in the 219 Region entitles people to wear shorts when its 40 degrees outside and mow their lawns wearing socks and sandals; and

WHEREAS, living in the 219 Region insures that your residential block will speak at least four different ethnic languages and all residents will gather around to celebrate whichever groups music and food is the focus of an annual celebration; and

WHEREAS, living in the 219 Region insures that everyone knows how much better drivers they are than people coming from other area codes because we know how to drive around potholes and in snow; and

WHEREAS, living in the 219 Region entitles people to celebrate July 4th as long and as loud as they want; and

WHEREAS, living in the 219 Region enables its citizen to know what a “gapers block,” “dibs chair,” “Indianapolis time,” and “mill traffic” means in normal conversations; and

WHEREAS, living in the 219 Region makes us all the stepchild of the State of Indiana

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that I, Thomas M. McDermott, Mayor of the City of Hammond, Indiana do hereby proclaim February 19, 2015 as “219” Region Day in the City of Hammond.

IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused to be affixed the Great Seal of Hammond, Indiana, on this, the 19th day of February, 2015.

Thomas M. McDermott, Jr.

Mayor, City of Hammond

Civil Rights still under attack in Indiana- Especially Abortion

Abortion IS a Civil Right- even though folks *whisper* it sometimes


Civil rights refer to personal liberty. As in legal medical procedures. Abortion is heavily regulated in our country, and States keep trying to outlaw it. (See the movie “Trapped”  and realize how many laws have been passed).

And no state has tried more to infringe their version of religious beliefs via laws restricting Choice. You may have heard that the Indiana General Assembly is not voting on LGBT protections.  Well, not for this year. It will be back. It has been in General Assembly for the past decade in varying degrees. But there is that other civil right which is still being debated, with two laws already passing from one house to the other.


SB 313 passed the Senate and is now in the House Committee on Public Policy. Basically this bill criminalizes legal abortion for the reason of disability race, or sex. According to the bills, “a “lethal fetal anomaly” means a fetal condition diagnosed before birth that, if the pregnancy results in a live birth, will with reasonable certainty result in the death of he child not more than three (3) months after the child’s birth.” Yet a disability or disease where the infant will die within a few years is not considered lethal.The bill also provides for Perinatal hospice to supposedly help the woman who wanted to have a legal abortion cope with the emotions of carrying and birthing a baby that will die after 3 months or have a permanent disability.. (No funding for this provided).

So if one of the partners has a genetic marker for a disease, and despite best efforts becomes pregnant, sorry, no legal abortion for you.  So choice is taken away. Legal. Medical. Procedure.  Here is the link for the committee on Public Policy     .


Then there is HB 1337. Which is now in the Health and Provider Services. Included in this bill is verification of credentials and admitting privileges. (admitting Privileges usually demand X amount of admissions—MDs who perform abortions usually admit few patients). But the bill also states that     remains of abortions AND miscarriages must be interred or cremated. Most facilities have these in place already. But think about it. A woman miscarries early- less than 10 wks. Non-viable non survivable. But the law now says you need burial arrangements. Senate Committee on Health and Provider services will be voting this week.

The Indiana General Assembly and Governor Pence are quick to use buzzwords: respect, dignity, commitment to life, dedication to protecting religious freedom. RFRA passed on 2 prongs- cupcakes at gay weddings and birth control /fertility/abortion.  Please make your voices heard regarding a woman’s autonomy in choosing legal medical options. Time to stop whispering and shaming Choice.

Thoughts from a Region Gal