Tag Archives: Elkhart County

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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PETA blasts duck treatment, the Elkhart high school saga, Main Street rubble

Monday Oct. 17, 2016

Top right: Jan Hardy surveys the rubble remaining from the Main Street building next door to his, which burned down last July. Top right: Elkhart police investigators peer into the car containing the bodies of two children allegedly killed by their mother. Bottom: Elkhart school officials discuss the proposed reorganization of the district. By Tim Vandenack

Top left: Jan Hardy surveys the rubble remaining from the Main Street building next door to his, which burned down last July. Top right: Elkhart police investigators peer into the car containing the bodies of two children allegedly killed by their mother. Bottom: Elkhart school officials discuss the proposed reorganization of the district. By Tim Vandenack

Never a dull moment.

With our bare bones staff, I cover a lot of territory — animal rights activism, the double murder of two kids by their mom and moves to radically reshape the Elkhart school district, to name a few topics of late. To wit:

Inhumane duck treatment: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals released a video depicting harsh treatment of ducks at a duck farm in Elkhart County and the agency asked Indiana State Police to investigate its contention that workers violated Indiana animal cruelty laws, “PETA charges Middlebury-based Culver Duck Farms with inhumanely treating ducks,” Oct. 13, 2016.

Fallout from the killing of two children: I was winding down my day on Sept. 26, 2016, when a strange, scary message came across the scanner — two dead kids had been found in a car. Turns out it was behind the police department and a woman had flagged down an officer to inform him of the children in the back seat of her auto. She later confessed to killing them, authorities say, and she now faces two murder charges. I spent around five hours that first day camped out behind the police department, where the cordoned-off car sat, awaiting any scrap of news from police. I ended up helping dig into the sad, tragic story, among many on the staff, and attended a memorial for the children, Liliana Hernandez, 7, and Rene Pasztor, 6, both of Fort Wayne. For one story, I spoke to family from the father’s side of the family, also from Fort Wayne, who spoke of the hard feelings they felt and their suspicions surrounding the case, “After kids found dead in Elkhart: pain, sorrow and anger for family left behind,” Sept. 30, 2016.

School reorganization: Talk has been swirling for months about merging the two high schools here in the Elkhart school district, creating one super high school. A preliminary proposal came out last April and then officials in late September, after months of debate and discussion, solidified the plan with a more formal plan, which still has to be ratified. I wrote a story detailing the new proposal, published just ahead of its unveiling, “Elkhart high school consolidation still on table in latest draft of reorganization plan,” Sept. 28, 2016, then did a follow-up story that same day after the formal announcement, “New unified Elkhart high School could open in 2019, per proposal.”

Torched building: I’ve followed the seemingly slow process to remove the rubble of a building that burned down last July on Main Street in the heart of the downtown area. For my latest installment, I focused on the efforts of the next-door neighbor, the operator of a bar, to get his building back into shape and reopen the business, pulling together a quick update, “Hardy’s Bar owner anxious to reopen as clean-up of burned building next door edges forward,” Oct. 6, 2016.

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Ex-Elkhart man’s advocates turn to Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill in push for pardon

Thursday Sept. 29, 2016

Screen grab of online Sept. 22, 2016, Elkhart Truth story about Keith Cooper.

Screen grab of online Sept. 22, 2016, Elkhart Truth story about Keith Cooper.

The Indianapolis Star and Chicago Tribune have followed the case of a former Elkhart man seeking exoneration in a 1996 armed robbery here, recounting the the twists and turns that led to his unjust conviction and, ultimately, his release in 2006.

The trial and fight for his release all occurred before my time here at The Elkhart Truth and I’ve not done much crime stuff, in general, until the last year or so.

But when I learned of a new push by Cooper’s advocates to get him pardoned, I figured it was time that we, as the hometown newspaper where everything went down, look into the story. I didn’t repeat the digging done by the Indianapolis Star or Chicago Tribune — they’ve done some intense work — but I quickly got up to speed, reading their archives, talking to one of the advocates, looking into recent turns in the push.

Gov. Mike Pence also came out, saying he wasn’t prepared to pardon Cooper, who was let go from prison early based on proof pointing to his innocence but never exonerated. It turned into a pretty decent story, I think:

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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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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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There were Elkhart County angles as well to the GOP and Democratic national conventions

Monday Aug. 1, 2016

Me, Tim Vandenack, on WNIT's Politically Speaking, discussing the GOP and Democratic national conventions. Screen grab from program.

Me, Tim Vandenack, on WNIT’s Politically Speaking, discussing the GOP and Democratic national conventions. Screen grab from program.

The Republican and Democratic national conventions in July provided plenty of fodder for local coverage — reaction from locals taking part as delegates to what went down in Cleveland and Philadelphia.

With a Bernie Sanders delegate and Hillary Clinton super delegate from Elkhart County, covering the Democrats proved to be more interesting. At least there were a few more sparks than at GOP event, which resulted in the formal nomination of Donald Trump. I spoke with the local delegates by phone (didn’t make it outside the confines of Elkhart County), but it still offered a means to connect locals with national events.

I also served as a talking head on Politically Speaking, a political program on the local PBS station, WNIT, discussing the conventions (look here).

Here are links to two of my articles:

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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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Victim in Goshen double-homicide came from Mexico looking for better life; jitters linger

Thursday March 17, 2016

I was off Monday, but received a Facebook message late in the day inquiring if I’d be interested in meeting with the family of one of the two victims of a double homicide in Goshen the day before.

I had read in The Elkhart Truth about the tragedy — two men shot and killed at a Goshen home for reasons unknown.

I don’t typically write about crime. But it was a big story, I’d be able to use my Spanish since that’s the language spoken by many of the family members and I jumped at the opportunity. The next day, Tuesday, I traveled to the home of one of the victim’s sisters, spoke to several family members about the man, Marco Carmona-Gonzalez. Then I traveled to the home where the killings occurred, still cordoned off by police, and, by chance, encountered a sister of the other victim, Jose Nava-Orozco.

The end result was two stories, one about the type of guy Carmona-Gonzalez was, the other about the anguish and lingering jitters, as conveyed by the Nava-Orozco sister, of the family of the victims. Of course I tweeted and posted to Facebook and Instagram along the way. Here are the two stories I did, pulled together quickly, part of our ongoing coverage:

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Elkhart County politicos weigh in on Trump, Clinton; presidential campaigns here are fledgling

Tuesday Feb. 16, 2016

That's me, second from the right, discussing local elections on Politically Speaking, a current events program on the South Bend PBS affiliate, WNIT. Screen grab from the program.

That’s me, second from the right, discussing local elections on Politically Speaking, a current events program on the South Bend PBS affiliate, WNIT. Screen grab from the program.

It’s not just those in South Carolina and the other early primary states thinking about elections.

Almost everybody is getting a dose, whether they like it or not.

I like it, and pulled together a package of stories looking at the key elections coming up locally in Elkhart County, the status of the presidential campaigns here (pretty sketchy) and calls to move the Indiana primary up so the state has more say in selection of the U.S. presidential nominees:

I also appeared last Sunday (look here) with a slate of others as a talking head (see the screen grab above), discussing elections on Politically Speaking, a current events program on the South Bend PBS affiliate, WNIT.

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Elkhart County mom, grandma push for child-abuse registry after boy’s death

Sunday Feb. 7, 2016

A pair of Elkhart County women have been pushing for state legislation to create a registry of child-abuse convicts, spurred by the death of their grandson.

I visited Angie and Anissa Garza, grandmother and mother, respectively, of Kirk Coleman last Monday, ahead of a vote on the proposal they’re promoting, Senate Bill 357, or Kirk’s Law. Theirs is a tragic story — Kirk died after allegedly suffering some sort of blow to the head and his babysitter is charged. Turns out the babysitter had been convicted previously in connection with another incident involving a child in 2006.

Now the Garzas seek the public online registry, like a sex-0ffender registry, so people can check into the backgrounds of their children’s caretakers. Kirk was just 19-months-old.

I followed the Indiana Senate hearing on the bill, writing up a quick story on passage of S.B. 357, which now goes to the Indiana House for consideration. I also put together a quick video (see above). Here are the two stories:

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