Better Newspaper Contest

2014 Award Winners

Hoosier State Press Association - The Indiana Publisher - Better Newspaper Contest

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Page 23 Best General Commentary/Category 4 First place Sara Clifford Brown County Democrat (Nashville) Comments: No comments given. Second place Kevin Koelling Perry County News (Tell City) Comments: No comments given. Third place Kevin Lilly Brown County Democrat (Nashville) Comments: No comments given. Best Editorial Writer/Category 5 First place Bryce Mayer North Vernon Plain Dealer Comments: No comments given. Second place Alan Stewart The Corydon Democrat Comments: No comments given. Third place Ross Schulz The Corydon Democrat Comments: No comments given. Best Business/Economic News Coverage/ Category 6 First place Real estate trends Ben Skirvin Brown County Democrat (Nashville) Comments: No comments given. Second place Putting down roots Ben Skirvin Brown County Democrat (Nashville) Comments: No comments given. Third place Techshot soars to new heights Ross Schulz The Corydon Democrat Comments: No comments given. Division 2 Sara Clifford Brown County Democrat (Nashville) To become editor of the Brown County Democrat, I had to pass a two-hour- long interview with two senior, respected, daily newspapermen on ethics, news judgment, storytelling and design, plus two other veteran journalists who peppered me with "What would you do?" scenarios. Then, when I was just getting settled into my new office, in walked Hank Swain. He sat across from me at the conference table in the middle of the room. He introduced himself. He didn't have to; I already knew. "I'd like to ask you a few questions," he said. And I knew my job interview wasn't over. I can't remember what exactly he asked. I wish I could. I recall it was generally about what my approach would be to presenting issues important to the future of Brown County, where people don't take to change easily. It takes about eight years for people in Brown County to accept anything, he told me. I wasn't sure whether to take that as encouragement or warning. He was supportive of my decision to eliminate the practice of allowing anonymous letters to the editor. I remember being able to smile at that part. But the rest of it, I was kept wondering if I met his standards. When the interview was done, he thanked me for my time, and he walked out the door. It wasn't until about three years later that I received an answer. In a crowded room, above the din of conversation, he caught my arm and my eye. "I think you're doing a good job for the community," he said. "Thank you," was all I could say before he walked away. I wanted him to say more. I wanted to ask why he thought I was doing a good job; what work specifically he had enjoyed; how he thought I could do better. But I knew that I'd already Ben Skirvin Brown County Democrat (Nashville) Chad Austin is sitting in the office of Austin Construction, his contracting business. He intended to spend this morning with one of his crews setting posts for a new pole barn going up near Bean Blossom, but, for the moment, that project is rained out. He has many projects on his list, so a delay like this isn't the end of the world. "If we get four of 10 jobs, I'm pretty happy," he said. "I've been getting nine of 10." Behind Austin's head, there is a plastic tray mounted to the wall. In it, there is a yellow folder stuffed with work orders, building plans and all the paperwork involved in a new construction project. He pulls it down and flips through the pages. "Last year, we were getting a lot of odd jobs. Interior remodels, and things that don't require permits," Austin said. "Seems like this year, I'm getting calls asking for repairs, but when I get to the site, they want a second floor or a new garage." Those projects require a permit. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in the past two years, new residential construction in Brown County was hovering near its lowest point in nearly a decade. There were only 35 residential construction permits issued in 2011, and only 34 issued in 2012. That's compared with 128 in 2010 and 166 in 2009. In 2008, that number had reached a 10-year high of 195. Through October this year, the Brown County Building Department had issued 81 permits for new residential Bryce Mayer North Vernon Plain Dealer "No taxation without representation" was the battle cry when the 13 original American colonies broke away from England in 1776. Fast forward 238 years and the cry has more or less become, "No taxation or we'll go to the ballot box and replace you with new representation." A sterling example of that came last Thursday at the Jennings County Government Center where the board of county commissioners unanimously voted down a proposal to form six fire districts. Never mind that the county's volunteer fire departments are in such dire financial condition, through no fault of their own, that two of them may run out of funding within a year or two and have to close their doors. The others are struggling, too, to the point that they are strongly considering eliminating first responder runs to save money. Yet those arguments were not nearly enough to sway the commissioners. Their chief concern was what they called the disproportionate unfairness of the property tax mechanism that would provide most of the funding for the fire districts. For farmland, the annual taxes would range from 38 to 63 cents per acre, depending on which fire district in which it is located. A few property owners – farmers who own vast amounts of acreage – would see property tax increases amounting to as much as $5,000 a year if the fire districts were put in place. Meanwhile, owners of a moderately-valued house, which are far more numerous, would pay only an extra $12 to $20 annually. By any measure, that is quite a discrepancy. Yet as one observer at Thursday's meeting dared to opine, those with more property should pay more taxes than those with less property. What a novel concept, it would seem, one that seems to be lost in today's anti-tax mentality. Sure, taxes are burdensome, sometimes Local man remembered as constant guardian New construction on the rise, but not new homes Taxation vs. public safety For complete story, see Click on "Contests." For complete story, see Click on "Contests." For complete story, see Click on "Contests."

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