[r72] A Clere view of the Statehouse: Communication will continue (9/1/2010)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Start Date: 9/1/2010 All Day
End Date: 9/1/2010

The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.

- Thomas Jefferson

I believe in newspapers, and I believe in communication and accountability. That is why I write this column. It is also a useful exercise. Before I can write about a topic, I have to understand it. The process of research and writing makes me a better legislator.

This column is No. 86. My first column appeared Jan. 13, 2009 - two months after I was elected - and I have written it weekly ever since. Now, in an abrupt reversal of the policy it established last year, The Tribune has decided to eighty-six my column.

I am not happy about the decision to stop publishing my weekly submissions, but I respect it. I have appreciated The Tribune's willingness to run my column for the past 20 months. If I win re-election in November, it will resume publication.

In the meantime, I will continue to write my column; it just won't be published in The Tribune. It will be available on my official website, www.in.gov/h72, where you can also sign up to receive my column and other updates by e-mail. If you do not have Internet access and would like to have my column mailed to you, call my assistant, Clinton Bohm, at 1-800-382-9841.

The Tribune has proposed inviting columns on specific topics from both me and my opponent, and I would welcome the opportunity. We haven't discussed topics, but I am open to anything. As an advocate of free speech, I always prefer more speech, not less.

When I met last week with Tribune Publisher and Executive Editor Steve Kozarovich to discuss the newspaper's decision, he acknowledged that I have followed the rules we established last year. At no time have I used my column to attack my opponent - either directly or indirectly - nor have I used it to comment on or influence any other political race.

In March, my opponent started writing a monthly Tribune column. His first column was based on incorrect and misleading information and directly attacked me. After that, he toned it down, regurgitating political talking points and taking potshots without naming me directly.  As a resident of New Albany, I have wished he - or someone - would let us know what's going on in city government.

Make no mistake; my column is a political column, and, especially when the legislature is in session, I have written about politics. But just as it is important for the legislature to put aside politics in the interest of progress, I try to minimize politics in my column. Politics is a big part of the legislative process, but politics should not be everything.

I looked back at the topics I have taken up over the last three months. I started June with a three-part series on funding for K-12 education. Next I wrote about funding for neighborhood revitalization, and I ended June with a Fourth of July column. My July columns included information about Indiana's new SecureID requirements, a preview of interim legislative study committees, an update on state revenue and a look at the office of state attorney general.

My August columns have featured the Indiana State Fair, information about public forums and home foreclosure and a schedule of interim study committee meetings.

Two of the online comments on that last piece provide good examples of why I write my column.

The first told me that someone connected with useful information as a result of the column: "Rep. Clere, thanks for posting this information. I had no idea about that Natural Resources Study Committee meeting and am glad to find out it's going on today because I called up there and got some information we were needing on the methane issue. Thank you."

No, thank you. I always appreciate constructive feedback, and it's good to know when a column is helpful.

The other comment was a request for more information: "After the Commission on Autism meets, could you write about what's going on with autism in a future column? I would like to find out more of what they're doing. Thank you."

Since the online comments are anonymous, I don't have a way of contacting the person who posted the comment, but I hope he or she will contact my office so my assistant can send information.

I will miss being in The Tribune over the next two months. As an aside, The Tribune will always have a special place in my heart. My wife, Amy, and I met there 15 years ago. I was an editor, and she was a photographer.

The election is nine weeks away, and I hope to have the honor and privilege of continuing to represent you.  In that case, I will be back in this space in 10 weeks. That will be the week of Veterans Day, and I already have an idea for a column.