By Dan Spalding
Three weeks after Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita and the Kosciusko County Commissioners hosted a large public meeting on critical race theory, many are hoping the issue dies.
The meeting itself was intended to provide parents with an understanding of how to root out improper curriculum if they find it in public schools. But it turned into a somewhat caustic meeting that was politically charged, put a target on the backs of local educators and bothered the hell out of executives representing one of the biggest orthopedic companies in the world.
Reverberations from the meeting probably exceeded what the commissioners expected.
The commissioners held the July 8 meeting in Winona Lake despite an earlier plea from Zimmer Biomet conveying its concerns in a scolding letter to the elected officials.
The letter was released last week at the request of several people.
In the letter, Zimmer Biomet urged commissioners to abandon further efforts to prepare and pass ordinances concerning CRT and expressed growing concern over the agenda and priorities established and executed by the commissioners.
“It is clearly evident that Zimmer Biomet could be penalized significantly in the market for being headquartered in and closely affiliated with a community whose local government has imposed a CRT ban,” read Zimmer Biomet’s letter.
Rarely do you see a corporation use such strong words directed at specific elected officials. Many took the letter as a stern threat while others debated whether the company would ever leave the orthopedic capital of the world.
Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer said he reached out to two of the three commissioners to express his concern.
“I told them there didn’t seem to be any good reason to have the meeting, but certainly, they are free to do what they want to do,” Thallemer said.
Thallemer also said he called Warsaw Community Schools Superintendent Dr. David Hoffert and was told CRT was not a concern in the district.
“That’s how I feel. I take his word for it,” Thallemer said.
Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce CEO Rob Parker chose his words carefully when asked about the issue, but also offered a blunt insight.
“Zimmer Biomet is approached every day by other communities with huge incentives … and if we think that they’re going to stay here just because they’re already here is naive,” Parker said.
Former Kosciusko County Democratic Party Chairman Brian Smith, who was the first to ask about the Zimmer Biomet letter, said the commissioners need to be mindful of the economic impact an exodus by Zimmer Biomet would bring. Relocation of company headquarters and operations, he said, would be “catastrophic” for the county.
County council members Sue Ann Mitchell and Ernie Wiggins – two of the most prominent elected officials in local government over the past few decades – were recently asked about the issue. Both pointed to the importance of “staying in their own lanes” and declined comment.
The commissioners said on July 8 that they have no intention of trying to dictate educational policy because it’s outside of their jurisdiction. In hindsight, they really should have pointed that out to Chris Magiera when Magiera first called for action at a commissioners meeting.
In a responding letter to Zimmer Biomet, the commissioners defended their interest in CRT.
Commissioner Cary Groninger was asked last week where he thought the issue is headed. Without speaking for the other two – Bob Conley and Brad Jackson – Groninger said he thinks they are done with the issue and that they were able to send a message and create a discussion about an issue that is important to them.
That would be a welcomed move for many who know there are bigger issues for the commissioners to tackle than critical race theory.
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NOTES OF INTEREST – Two things worth noting:
- Kosciusko County Council member Sue Ann Mitchell’s birthday was Thursday. Her heart has deep roots in North Webster and she continues to find new ways to help the community. This week, she used Facebook to celebrate her birthday by having a donation drive for the community center. In doing so, she became one of the few people (at least from my perspective) to actually exceed their goal. She sought to raise $250 and ended up with $560.
- Chris Plack is having a good year. The former Warsaw City Council candidate is the incoming president-elect with the Warsaw Morning Optimist Club and recently joined the board of Launchpad, an initiative by the county chamber to improve childcare opportunities. The Alaskan native has also settled into his role on the Oakwood Cemetery Board. And a few weeks ago, he had a sit-down breakfast with Congressman Jim Banks. Plack said he and the Congressman from Columbia City occasionally chat on Facebook and that Banks had contacted him for a get-together which ended up at The Buzz on Buffalo in Warsaw.
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Dan Spalding is the editor at InkFreeNews.com.
He covers city government and politics and always welcomes your input.