Category Archives: Uncategorized

Ogden area Latinos flex entrepreneurial muscle, move into business

Wednesday Dec. 27, 2017

A few of the Latino entrepreneurs in Ogden (clockwise from top left): Javier Chavez, Ana Maria Medina, Gustavo Ortega and Miguel Hernandez. By Tim Vandenack

OGDEN — Ana Maria Medina, who came to the United States from Mexico as a teen, brought by her mom, used to work the fields of California, picking strawberries.

It’s tough, hard work and she eventually moved on to cosmetology, working many years in the salons of others and now, finally, operating her own beauty shop in Ogden.

“She was already running the place where she was. Might as well run her own business,” said her daughter, Gabriela Valencia, who prodded her mom to take the leap. “She went from working in the fields with the strawberries to cleaning homes to being owner of a salon.”

Many in the sizable Latino population here may stick with service-sector and lower-paying jobs, but more and more are flexing their entrepreneurial muscles, launching their own businesses. U.S. Census Bureau numbers show an uptick and it’s the focus of a recent deep dive I did for the Standard-Examiner looking at local Hispanic business operators.

Those I spoke to came from humble backgrounds in Mexico, never saw business as an alternative when they were growing up. Here in the United States, though, they see the opportunity and have seized it:

The online version contains video of those I interviewed and colleague Sheila Wang gathered up some of the data (look here) that offers a glimpse into the Latino community here.

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Ogden $106.5 mln school bond issue generates furor, remains point of debate

Sunday Nov. 26, 2017

The Ogden School District $106.5 million bond proposal generated sharp debate and still does, even after its defeat at the polls on Nov. 7, 2017. Some of the signs, pro and con, in front of Polk Elementary in Ogden on the eve of the vote. By Tim Vandenack

OGDEN — A proposed $106.5 million school bond in Ogden sparked sharp debate, failed at the polling place but remains a point of contention.

Ogden School District officials proposed the bond as part of continuing efforts to modernize schools, make facilities safer and, by offering sparkly new buildings, prevent parents from transferring their kids to schools outside the system. Foes worried plans to enlarge three schools, particularly Polk Elementary, would turn them into large student repositories and charged the proposal wasn’t well thought out.

It kept me busy on the eve of Nov. 7 elections after I unexpectedly inherited the education beat, at least temporarily, and now, after its narrow defeat at the polls, it remains a live issue. The needs at Ogden schools remain, so the question becomes — what now? Do school officials come up with a new bond proposal, do something else?

Here’s some of my coverage:

I’ve done only some school reporting, but it’s important stuff, I’ve enjoyed digging into the issue.

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Trump move to end DACA sparks concern from Ogden immigrants

Sunday Oct. 8, 2017

Clarissa was born in Mexico, brought to Ogden as a young girl, but says the United States is home. She’s one of many left wondering what comes next after President Trump’s decision to eliminate DACA. By Tim Vandenack

OGDEN — They’re here lawfully, for now anyway.

But some of the formerly undocumented immigrants who have secured permission to remain in the country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative, approved under President Barack Obama, are still uncomfortable getting too much publicity. I spoke to two young Ogden women with DACA status in the wake of President Trump’s decision to halt the program, Gisela and Clarissa, but they only wanted their first names used, worried about backlash, chiefly to their undocumented parents.

That shows how touchy the immigration issue is. More significantly, though, their comments shed light on the people most impacted by Trump’s decision, young people who regard the United States as home but, because they were brought here illegally by their parents, live in a sort of limbo.

Here’s the story: Ogden immigrants worry after Trump axes DACA, say U.S., not Mexico, is home.

It’s a big topic in Ogden, as in many places, because of the heavy Latino and immigrant population here. Some are directly impacted, like Gisela and Clarissa. Others are impacted because it affects their immigrant friends and relatives.

Here’s another related story, written in the wake of Trump’s DACA decision: Ogden advocates fear DACA decision will push immigrants back into the shadows.

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Salvadorans, Guatemalans seek new lives in the Ogden area (or, not all Latinos are rooted in Mexico)

Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017

Rufino Bocel, who now lives in Centerville, came to the U.S. from Guatemala in 1991, in part to get away from the violence of the Guatemalan Civil War, then still simmering. He’s one of many I spoke to for a package of articles on Central Americans in Utah. By Tim Vandenack

OGDEN — Most of the Latinos in Utah (like the United States as a whole) have roots in Mexico.

But not all of them.

A subset in the Ogden area and Utah as a whole come from Central America, most notably El Salvador and Guatemala. I’ve long wanted to zero in on non-Mexican Latinos and finally put together a package for the Standard-Examiner.

It took several months, gathering information here and there, searching out contacts, visiting people. I attended services at three evangelical churches, which draw a fair number of Central Americans. I also ate at a Salvadoran restaurant here in Ogden, broke bread with a group at a Pentecostal church and dug into U.S. Census Bureau numbers and other data on killings (violence pushes many out of the region).

I knew that gang activity and the civil wars of the 1980s and 1990s have pushed many from Central America, but it was eye-opening hearing the stories over and over of violence. It’s a far cry from the sorts of stories I’ve heard from immigrants from Mexico, pushed largely by economic concerns (though that country has its fair share of violence, too).

Here’s what I pulled together:
SALVADORANS, CENTRAL AMERICANS COME TO UTAH FLEEING GANGS, VIOLENCE: The main story, offering the accounts of the violence many have faced before coming here to the United States, whether legally or illegally. “If I hadn’t come, they would’ve killed me,” Rafael Moreira told me, alluding to the gang threats he faced in El Salvador.

CENTRAL AMERICANS ON FOOD, GANGS AND BEING MISTAKENLY IDENTIFIED AS MEXICAN: This is a series of photos and quick observations from several of the people I interviewed. “Sometimes the customers ask, ‘Can’t you make tacos, burritos?’ We say, ‘No, sorry,’” said Luis Pineda, operator of an Ogden Salvadoran restaurant, La Cabañita Salvadoreña. “They ask us if we’re Mexican. We say, ‘No, we’re Salvadoran. We’re from El Salvador.’”

SALVADORAN WOMAN SEEKING ASYLUM SAYS UTAH OFFERS PROTECTION, PEACE OF MIND: This tells the story of Araceli, who faced extortion from Salvadoran gangs as the operator of a small clothes stand in a market and paid twice before closing her shop and coming to Utah with her family. “If you don’t give it to us, we know where you live,” one of gang members had threatened back in El Salvador.

Some of the people I met, things I saw in reporting a package of stories on Central Americans in the Ogden area and northern Utah for the Standard-Examiner. See the stories at Standard.net, Visuals.Standard.net. Clockwise from upper right: A woman during a service at Shalom Christian Church in Ogden, home to a large Salvadoran contingent; Ana Canenguez, left, and other women making pupusas, a Salvadoran food, in a south Ogden neighborhood; Rufino Bocel, originally from Guatemala, at the Light and Truth Pentecostal Christian Church in Ogden; Iris Mencia, originally from Honduras, now living in Riverdale, photographed in Ogden; and Marcos Candray, originally from El Salvador, at Shalom Christian Church, where he serves as pastor. #elsalvador #guatemala #honduras #utah #ogden #immigration

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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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