By Dan Spalding
WARSAW – These are not the Kosciusko County Commissioners that your grandparents could have ever envisioned.
In a matter of months, county leaders have suddenly felt impelled to scrutinize United States Constitutional issues on the local level in ways we’ve never seen.
They did it when they passed a resolution declaring the board maintains a strong commitment to all of the rights under the Indiana and U.S. constitutions. They initiated a review of all ordinances to make sure they are in line with the constitution.
Another resolution declared the county to be a Second Amendment Sanctuary county. At another meeting, Sheriff Kyle Dukes emphatically promised to block any attempts to confiscate guns even though there is no talk of that happening.
And they felt the need to remind county residents with a resolution pointing out that they will not support mandating COVID-19 vaccines even though nobody has even suggested such a thing locally.
But delving into whether the county needs to protect its employees and/or residents from Critical Race Theory is significantly different.
The commissioners announced recently that they are looking into the idea of how to protect the community from CRT.
CRT is a concept that’s been around for a few decades but has been limited to academic debates at the college level until recently.
The obscure concept gained notoriety after Donald Trump declared last year that it should be banned from schools despite (as usual) not providing a shred of evidence to support the claim.
In a nutshell – according to what I’ve been able to discern – those concerned with CRT claim that it intends to divide the races and, according to some, is part of a Marxist effort to destroy the country. Those on the other side contend that CRT explains the role of systemic racism in the United States and sheds new light on the impact of slavery.
The issue came up recently when Chris Magiera, a self-described constitutionalist who ran unsuccessfully a year ago in an attempt to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, urged the commissioners to consider an ordinance or resolution addressing CRT.
Minutes later, county attorney Ed Ormsby informed Magiera and others at the meeting that the county is indeed already looking into that notion. On top of that, Ormsby then informed local reporters that Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita would be the primary speaker at a special commissioners meeting to discuss the dangers of CRT.
Anyone who thinks that that series of moves is just a coincidence is kidding themselves and should contact me about some oceanfront property in Atwood.
All of this looks like it was designed to scare parents, fire up the base of Republicans who are still aligned with Trump and provide a platform for Rokita, who appears to have his eyes set on running for governor.
Many are wondering what led to this sudden interest in assuring all aspects of life in this county fall within the framework of the constitution.
Some have pointed out that this new focus coincided with the arrival of Ormsby as county attorney late last year when he was chosen to replace Chad Miner after Miner was elected to serve as a judge.
Ormsby denied that assertion and said the three commissioners are all on board with these concerns.
The commissioners are expected to discuss the matter at their regular meeting on Tuesday, July 6, and then two days later when Rokita visits. Both meetings will be open to the public.
This issue has riled up folks on both sides of the political aisle and the upcoming meetings promise to be full of emotion and questions.
Questions like … where did all of this gain traction?
Are the commissioners relying on Fox News and other conservative media outlets to set policy?
Why didn’t the commissioners meet with local school superintendents to learn if CRT exists in local classrooms before announcing their concern?
And who the heck thinks the commissioners should be dictating public school curriculum? I’m no lawyer, but I can tell you with confidence that they have no jurisdiction on the matter.
Commissioners Brad Jackson, Cary Groninger and Bob Conley – who normally spend much of their time on constituent complaints, zoning issues and road repairs – have a lot to explain next week.
Conley told me last week that they are sworn to uphold the constitution and that that’s what they’re doing.
It’s one thing to declare the county as a 2nd Amendment gun sanctuary or watch as the sheriff promises he won’t support the confiscation of guns. None of these moves will have any real impact.
But grandstanding on what some see as a non-existent issue that could put a target on the backs of educators for the sake of political gain feels unnecessary and inappropriate. Our educators have enough to worry about following the most difficult year they’ve ever experienced.
As we enjoy the long Fourth of July weekend, there will be fireworks across the country, but it looks like more fireworks are on the horizon next week in Warsaw.
What a waste of time.
What a shame.