Category Archives: Uncategorized

Elkhart Latinos respond to Trump and other post-election coverage

Monday Dec. 4, 2016

Participants in the Elkhart County Republican Party caucus on Friday Dec. 2, 2016, in Goshen. GOP committeemen picked a replacement to fill out Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill's term when he takes over in January as Indiana attorney general. By Tim Vandenack

Participants in the Elkhart County Republican Party caucus on Friday Dec. 2, 2016, in Goshen. GOP committeemen picked a replacement to fill out Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill’s term when he takes over in January as Indiana attorney general. By Tim Vandenack

Election coverage didn’t end with the counting of votes the night of Nov. 8.

I kept busy in the days afterward as well, analyzing and understanding the results and what they meant.

In Elkhart County, the election of Donald Trump as president alarmed some Latinos and immigrant advocates, and they gathered to mull the implications of his selection:

The election of Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill as Indiana attorney general was noteworthy in the context of racial politics. He’s the first African-American GOPer, near as I can tell, and one of only a handful of African-Americans ever elected to statewide office in Indiana, but race seems to have factored little in his contest.

“I’d like to believe that we’re at a point in 2016 where there are just people. There are Hoosiers. There are Americans,” Hill said in an interview with me.

Here’s the story:

U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski resoundingly won a third term and the GOPer was pretty ecstatic about the prospects, in combination with Trump’s victory.

“Now I see a path forward,” she said, alluding to hope for repeal of Obamacare, more aggressive action against ISIS extremists in Syria and an end to what she sees as stifling federal overregulation.

Here’s the story:

Me, Tim Vandenack, on far right, at taping of WNIT's Politically Speaking, aired Nov. 13, 2016. We discussed Nov. 8 elections. Screen grab from program.

Me, Tim Vandenack, on far right, at taping of WNIT’s Politically Speaking, aired Nov. 13, 2016. We discussed Nov. 8 elections. Screen grab from program.

Just last Friday, I covered the caucus of Elkhart County Republican Party committeemen to pick someone to fill the unfinished term of Hill, who’s term as prosecutor still has two years. They tabbed Chief Deputy Prosecutor Vicki Becker and also picked replacements for two other officials elected to higher office last November. The story was pretty straightforward (look here), but it offered the chance to flex some tweeting muscles and I reeled off 17 of them, reporting all the action — and Becker’s naming — in real time.

As in other cycles, I appeared on “Politically Speaking,” the political show on local public station WNIT, as a wonk, discussing and analyzing the election results:

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Walorski, Coleman battling it out for U.S. House seat

Monday Oct. 31, 2016

Democratic challenger Lynn Coleman, left, seeks to unseat U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, right, the GOPer seeking her third term. By Tim Vandenack

Democratic challenger Lynn Coleman, left, seeks to unseat U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, right, the GOPer seeking her third term. By Tim Vandenack

Locally, one of the big races has been the race for the 2nd District U.S. House seat.

Rep. Jackie Walorski, a GOPer, is going after her third term, challenged by Democrat Lynn Coleman and Libertarian Ron Cenkush. Among the points of contention have been Walorski’s unwillingness to debate, outside a radio debate in a more rural part of the district, and the incumbent’s thoughts on Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump.

Me, Tim Vandenack, on WNIT's Politically Speaking, discussing the U.S. House race between Rep. Jackie Walorski, Lynn Coleman and Ron Cenkush.

Me, Tim Vandenack, on WNIT’s Politically Speaking, discussing the U.S. House race between Rep. Jackie Walorski, Lynn Coleman and Ron Cenkush.

I helped analyze the race for WNIT, the South Bend-based public television station, in a program aired Oct. 23 that featured the three candidates (look here).

There’s a debate between Coleman and Walorski next Tuesday and more’s bound to occur ahead of Election Day, Nov. 8. But here’s some of what I’ve written of late:

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Elkhart County push against undocumented immigrants stirs controversy

Monday Sept. 26, 2016

Candida Rosete was one of several suspects arrested by the Elkhart County Sheriff's Department for charges related to identity fraud for using false documents to get work. The arrests have generated criticism from immigrant advocates. By Tim Vandenack

Candida Rosete was one of several suspects arrested by the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department for charges related to identity fraud for using false documents to get work. The arrests have generated criticism from immigrant advocates. By Tim Vandenack

With a sizable population of Latino newcomers here, many from Mexico, immigration is a big topic in Elkhart County.

There are many advocates for Latinos and, on the flip side, many who clamor for stronger action against undocumented immigrants. Thus, when the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department started cracking down on suspected undocumented immigrants, asking for tips via Facebook, the issue escalated.

We in the newsroom had been noticing a steady stream of arrests of people allegedly using fake and fraudulent identity cards and we jumped on it, tying it to the Facebook posts. Many in the Latino community had also noticed, and I pulled together a story, contrasting criticism of Latino advocates who saw the law enforcement action as overzealous and Sheriff Brad Rogers, who defended the moves as upholding the law and standing up for victims of identity theft:

I got a lead on one of the women arrested, Candida Rosete, and followed that story with a piece on her, offering up her viewpoint of being undocumented. Now, 36, she was brought here when she was 6-years-old, has a 15-year-old U.S.-b0rn son and sees the United States as her home:

Even Univision, the Spanish-language television, jumped on the issue.

I’m now working on a story offering up the perspective of those who have had their identities stolen, the hassles and problems they face.

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Ex-President Bush visits Elkhart to tout Young’s Senate bid

Wednesday Sept. 14, 2016

Ex-President George W. Bush waves to the media on leaving a fundraiser for U.S. Senate hopeful Todd Young at The Lerner Theatre, Elkhart. By Tim Vandenack

Ex-President George W. Bush waves to the media on leaving a fundraiser for U.S. Senate hopeful Todd Young at The Lerner Theatre, Elkhart. By Tim Vandenack

Another president, ex-president anyway, came to Elkhart.

Former President George W. Bush traveled here on Sept. 12 for a fundraiser for Todd Young, the Republican U.S. House member now seeking a seat in the U.S. Senate. It wasn’t quite as intense as President Obama’s visit here last June (look here). Not as many people were paying attention.

Still, he’s a former president and it was a rush, trying to catch a glimpse of him, trying to piece together the trip. Media weren’t allowed into the fundraiser and Bush didn’t speak with the press, aside from a few shouted greetings.

The day started with a press conference with Young. Then it was a matter of standing outside The Lerner Theatre and waiting for Bush to arrive. Us press types, three TV crews and I, were directed across the street. I dashed to the office, wrote up a story to post online after Bush arrived and entered, then returned to The Lerner to glimpse Bush leaving.

After that, I called a few Democrats and tracked down participants to get their take on Bush’s presentation. Here’s the final written product:

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Elkhart schools mull overhaul of system, parents propose alternative

Wednesday Sept. 14, 2016

Elkhart Schools Superintendent Robert Haworth, who helped pull together the proposed overhaul of Elkhart Community Schools. By Tim Vandenack

Elkhart Schools Superintendent Robert Haworth, who helped pull together the proposed overhaul of Elkhart Community Schools. By Tim Vandenack

ELKHART — One of the current burning topics of debate, at least among many parents and Elkhart school officials — the proposed overhaul of Elkhart Community Schools.

ECS leadership unveiled a proposal last April to revamp the two high schools in Elkhart, with one, Elkhart Memorial, serving 10th-, 11th- and 12th-graders, and Elkhart Central serving ninth-graders. Many view it as high school unification. The plan also outlines changes to the middle schools and one elementary school and many other tweaks in the school system, aiming to better school kids and prevent transfers out of the district, a big problem that results in loss of state funding.

Needless to say, it’s got many wondering what it all means, what would become of the high schools, whether it would really work and keep kids here. But it’s complicated.

I’ve taken on a role trying to grasp and understand the topic, a pretty hefty one, and pulled together a pair of stories that ran as a package on Monday (though one posted online on Sunday). One focused on a counter-proposal put forward by three parents following the process and their calls for more ideas from the public:

The other offered an update on the decision-making process timeline:

I wrote a pair of stories on the topic last month, too, one parsing the the high school unification issue (here), the other offering a more general look at the debate and issues at stake (here).

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Elkhart’s homeless prodded out of Tent City

Sunday Sept. 4, 2016

The Elkhart homeless camp known as Tent City, located on city-owned property. This photo is from June 8, 2016, before the city prodded them off, Aug. 31, 2016. By Tim Vandenack

The Elkhart homeless camp known as Tent City, located on city-owned property. This photo is from June 8, 2016, before the city prodded them off, Aug. 31, 2016. By Tim Vandenack

The controversy over a homeless encampment in a wooded area on city-owned property came to an uneventful conclusion with the peaceful departure of the contingent last Wednesday.

I first wrote about the issue in June after Mayor Tim Neese offered jobs to some of the homeless, hoping to prod them off the land into homes, finding three takers. The city had announced plans to clear a portion of the property and wanted the homeless to leave.

Elkhart Mayor Tim Neese, left, listens to Michael Parker, who had been living in the Tent City homeless encampment on Sept. 1, 2016, at St. James AME Church, Elkhart. Parker left the encampment and lives with two others in a home now. By Tim Vandenack

Elkhart Mayor Tim Neese, left, listens to Michael Parker, who had been living in the Tent City homeless encampment, on Sept. 1, 2016, at St. James AME Church, Elkhart. Parker left the encampment and lives with two others in a home now. By Tim Vandenack

I tracked back to see if the three were still working for the city. Turns out they weren’t, I couldn’t find them:

Meantime, the deadline loomed for others still living there to leave, Aug. 31, and that turned into the focus of coverage last week by fellow Elkhart Truth reporter Ben Quiggle and I. I wrote this:

Ben handled the main departure day story (here). Neese and homeless advocates found those who were still there places to stay and things ended happily ever after, momentarily, anyway.

I wrote another story last year (here) about a homeless man who was living in the encampment, called Tent City.

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Libertarians give Elkhart County voters a third choice, Coleman says Walorski is inaccessible

Saturday Sept. 3, 2016

Libertarian candidates Ethan Legg, left, who's running for the District 21 seat in the Indiana House, and Ron Cenkush, who's running for the 2nd District U.S. House seat. Photos supplied

Libertarian candidates Ethan Legg, left, who’s running for the District 21 seat in the Indiana House, and Ron Cenkush, who’s running for the 2nd District U.S. House seat. Photos supplied

Labor Day will soon be here, which means even more election coverage.

But we’ve already been doing plenty of it at The Elkhart Truth. U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, a Republican, and her Democratic challenger Lynn Coleman are in the midst of debating whether, when and where to debate, which I used as an opportunity to delve into Coleman’s charges that Walorski is inaccessible. Walorski is holding off on committing to a debate, same as she did two years ago, and Coleman maintains that she doesn’t mix sufficiently with constituents:

Same day that appeared in print, Walorski held a gathering — with a group of business leaders in Elkhart County (look here), hearing their lament that there aren’t enough workers. She regularly meets privately with small groups, her Facebook feed shows, but hasn’t had a town hall or public listening tour of late.

Turns out there are a pair of Libertarians on the ballot, one vying for Walorski’s seat, Ron Cenkush, and the other, Ethan Legg, running for an Indiana House seat that serves part of Elkhart County. I wrote about them, noting that voters here will have more than just Democrats and Republicans to choose from:

There will also be three Libertarians further up the ballot, for governor. U.S. Senator and president.

This, I reckon, is only the beginning of our political coverage…

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Elkhart County’s Latino population focus of series, “Hispanics at Home?”

Wednesday June 29, 2016

 

HispAtHome

Some of the people I spoke to for The Elkhart Truth series, “Hispanics at Home?” By Tim Vandenack

By now, Hispanics have a well-established presence in Elkhart County.

Aiming to take a closer look at the segment, but wanting to do more than state the obvious — that they’re an increasing share of the population — we took another approach. We’d try to get a sense of how connected the Latino newcomers feel in Elkhart, Goshen and the rest of Elkhart County.

The end result — “Hispanics at Home?”, a three-part series that ran in The Elkhart Truth last month. I helped craft the approach, but it was a team effort, largely involving myself, reporter Sharon Hernandez and Managing Editor Mark Maley. A group of Goshen College journalism students also contributed plenty of material.

A few takeaways:

  • Latinos have their own tight-knit community, their neighborhoods, their stores. Latinos have Spanish-language churches, there’s even a soccer league that caters to a largely-Hispanic population. That tends to create a sense of two parallel worlds.
  • Still, many leaders have emerged and are emerging, trying to raise the voice of Latinos, get them more involved in the broader community.
  • Younger Latinos, comfortable in both the Anglo and Hispanic cultures, bilingual, are increasingly feeling at home here, even if they were born in Mexico or elsewhere in Latin America.

I wrote several stories, shot video and did plenty of social media along the way. I crunched a ton of U.S. Census Bureau figures, which helped document the growth of the segment, where Latinos live and the nature of the population (native or foreign-born, their roots in Latin America). Some of my highlights:

Here’s a promo video I put together to tease the package before its launch:

The immigration issue is big in Elkhart County and the rest of the United States. It’s an issue that draws me, having lived in Latin America, origin of many immigrants here, and I’ve written a lot about it over the years.

 

 

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Traveling in Obama’s motorcade provides presidential glimpse

June 14, 2016

View of the people watching the presidential motorcade, from the motorcade, Elkhart, June 1, 2016. By Tim Vandenack

View of the people watching the presidential motorcade, from the motorcade, Elkhart, June 1, 2016. By Tim Vandenack

President Obama is long gone.

His visit here is not forgotten, though.

It offered me a unique opportunity — traveling in the motorcade with the press and seeing all the machinations that go into a presidential visit. Plus, I saw Obama for the first time, heard him speak.

Air Force 1

A post shared by Tim Vandenack (@timvandenack) on

I embedded as a local pool reporter when he came on June 1, writing up brief accounts via my iPhone for media consumption of the president’s movements as the trip progressed. I saw him arrive and leave on Air Force One. I watched his speech at Concord High School, getting a glimpse of The Beast, the limo that hauls him, and got access to The Lerner Theatre, where he taped an hour-long PBS town hall meeting.

Amazing seeing the people lining the road to get a glimpse of the motorcade. Incredible the security. Incredible how well-oiled a machine the motorcade is.

I wrote a first-person account of traveling in the motorcade:

Here are a few more things:

Of course I tweeted, posted on Facebook and posted Instagram pics all along.

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President Obama’s coming to Elkhart. Again. He’ll be talking about the economic recovery.

Sunday May 30, 2016

A rendering of President Obama at Tolson Youth and Community Center, Elkhart. Photo taken Feb. 19, 2016, by Tim Vandenack

A rendering of President Obama at Tolson Youth and Community Center, Elkhart. Photo taken Feb. 19, 2016, by Tim Vandenack

ELKHART — President Obama’s coming to town. Again.

He visited Elkhart twice in 2008, during his first campaign for president, and returned twice to Elkhart County in 2009 to tout his plans to revive the U.S. economy, then in the depths of the recession.

Now he says he’s coming back on Wednesday for another address at Concord High School, which will be his third stop there. He’ll also take part in a town hall meeting at The Lerner Theatre, organized by PBS NewsHour, the Public Broadcasting System news program.

The Truth staff is keeping busy tracking down the details. Here are a few of my contributions:

I did another story crunching some of the economic numbers for Elkhart County, comparing things now and then. That’s yet to be published. The economy has definitely rebounded, with lower unemployment, more people in the workforce and better wages in the manufacturing sector. The big question — does Obama deserve credit?

Come Wednesday, plans call for me to be following the president around. It’ll be exciting, exhausting, I expect.

 

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