It was an amazing week for diversity in Warsaw in two different ways.
In case you live under a rock, here’s a quick recap.
First, the more low-key effort came Monday as city and county officials quickly reacted after learning Friday of some virus hotspots in mobile home parks that were affecting primarily Hispanics.
Officials got on the phone and were able to mobilize firefighters, a handful of groups and a loose coalition of Hispanics to quickly fan out to all mobile home parks in the county with door hangers with tips on what to do to prevent coronavirus.
The outreach had support from representatives of OrthoWorx, Zimmer Biomet, Warsaw Community Church, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and Grace College.
On top of that, the city and county agreed to make $300,000 in federal money available for testing that would give those without insurance an opportunity. The rapid response was impressive.
And then there were the demonstrations organized by Ofelia Rios and Maria Medina, two twenty-something activists aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement. The first one, a week ago, was small but energized. The second, at the Kosciusko County Courthouse, was much bigger and, as Medina described it, kind of “mind-blowing.”
I checked with a few longtime residents and none could think of a single social movement event in Warsaw that ever attracted hundreds of people like what was seen Wednesday.
Rios and Medina were masterful in their control of the crowd and how they directed the tone. The potential for mayhem hung in the air, but they thumbed their noses to the few agitators who drove by and brought about a grassroots conversation that was inspiring. Anyone with an open mind and listening to stories by a dozen or so people heard some touching insights into what it’s like to live in this county for people of color.
The event was capped by the unexpected words of Sheriff Kyle Dukes, who called for bridging the gap between law enforcement, Hispanics and blacks. Dukes took a chance and delivered an impromptu message that seemed to connect with the crowd as he invited them to participate in future conversations about race and policing.
For years, Warsaw, Ind., was occasionally connected to an obnoxious, high-profile racist and was even home to a pitiful and short-lived KKK rally.
But these days, there’s a new brand of leadership – elected, corporate and grassroots – that is moving the discussion about diversity to the forefront. There are behind-the-scenes efforts and public displays such as the work of One Warsaw – Celebrating Diversity. People like Dukes and Mayor Joe Thallemer understand the importance of taking the lead on such issues.
Last week, they and others helped move the needle.
This item was written before we learned late Friday afternoon of the incredibly rude racial comment that surfaced on election day. Such a horrible comment points to the fact more work and more understanding are needed. There’s still a lot of ignorance out there.
* * *
ELECTION RECAP – Given the circumstances, this year’s primary was certainly one to remember. Here are a few thoughts:
- The pandemic had a huge impact on the entire election, including turnout. The 22 percent turnout in Kosciusko County looked pitiful, especially when compared to the primary four years ago (42 percent) when both parties had competitive presidential contests. But imagine how low it would have been if not for expanded absentee voting.
- Kathy Groninger’s victory in the four-way county council race for three at-large seats was especially striking. It’s not shocking that she won, but for a newcomer to be the top vote-getter – even topping Sue Ann Mitchell – that was pretty impressive. Looks like the name carries some weight with voters. Her husband, Cary, was unopposed in his primary victory but will be tested in the general election against Democrat Travis McConnell who was slated by Dems and filed on Friday.
- Karin McGrath did very well in the Warsaw area in her race for Superior Court 3 judgeship, but the ultimate winner, Chad Miner, did much better in the rural areas.
- Victoria Sparks was the winner among 15 Republicans vying for the 5th Congressional District. According to the Anderson Herald Bulletin, she spent upward of $750,000 of her own money in securing the nomination.
- Maureen Bauer, daughter of longtime lawmaker B. Patrick Bauer, won the nomination against two others in the Democratic primary for State House District 6.
- And the South Bend school referendum passed rather handily.
* * *
Dan Spalding is the editor at InkFreeNews.com.
He covers city government and politics and always welcomes your input.
He can be reached at [email protected] or at (574) 855-7612.