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 Daniels Seeks Legion’s Input on Home

January 28, 2009 - The American Legion Department of Indiana says Gov Mitch Daniels has asked for the Legion’s assistance in developing possible alternatives to closing the Indiana Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Children’s Home.

According to a Legion press release issued Monday, Adjutant Steve Short, the Legion’s chief administrative officer, met with Daniels following a rally at the Statehouse that morning in support of the Home. The release went on to say that Daniels asked the Legion to help come up with alternatives to closure of the Home, including recommendations for making it more cost efficient.

“We look forward to presenting our ideas to the governor,” Short said in the release. “It has always been our intent to see the home’s operating budget be returned to the coming biennial state budget to allow for a proper study and development of recommendations. Our resolution on that issue is clear. But I need to make it clear that no matter what recommendation or what findings we make, the state of Indiana cannot delegate to us or to any other entity its responsibility for those kids or the home.

“We can help,” Short continued. “We can give them ideas. But ultimately, the responsibility is theirs. The American Legion will continue to press for the government to meet that responsibility.”

Short said in the release that Daniels was “really very cordial,” and that the governor had assured him he has nothing against children.

“We certainly don’t think he does,” Short said. “As a matter of fact, we all agree that during this time of limited resources, we have a responsibility to provide the best care and education to as many young people as possible. We just don't think the decision to close the home was made for the right reason, or with all the facts in hand.”

Jane Jankowsi, press secretary for Daniels, spoke to The Banner Tuesday afternoon and confirmed Daniels’ meeting with Short on Monday. She described the encounter as an “impromptu meeting.”

“The Governor and Steve Short …have known each for a long time,” Jankowski said, “and so the Governor just invited him to come and meet for a few minutes because he was in the building.”

Commenting on the rally that drew hundreds to the Statehouse, Jankowski said, “These are good people. They care about kids. And that’s exactly our concern.” “The Governor’s objective is to serve more children and serve them better,” Jankowski continued. “And when you are spending upward of $100,000 a year per child, and … you’re looking at millions and millions of dollars more to fix the facility, then that means we can’t help more kids, and that’s what the ultimate objective is.”

The Banner asked Jankowski if the Governor’s Office conceded that the per student costs could be drastically reduced by simply increasing the number of children at the Home. She replied by saying that Daniels’ message to Short “was simply, ‘What are your ideas? If you can show us a model that will help more, then we can take a look.’”

Asked if the Governor’s Office had any comment on the Health Department not having any official report for it’s three-year study of the Home, Jankowski said, “The State Health Department has been looking at this for three years and has reached a conclusion that they believe would best serve the students and be the most responsible to taxpayers.”

 

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