City Workers Lose Challenge To Law, Must Quit To Take Office

first_imgFive Lake County civil servants lost their lawsuit challenging a state law that forbids them from serving in elected office in the same city that employs them.An Indiana law barring municipal employees from serving in office in the same unit of government passed in 2012 has an effective date of Jan. 1, 2016. This was to provide current officeholders an opportunity to decide whether to run for re-election.Matthew Claussen, Juda Parks, Susan Pelfrey, Michael Opinker and Scott Rakos sued the state in the U.S. Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division. They are city employees who were elected or re-elected to their various city councils and challenged the law as a violation of their federal constitutional rights under the First and 14th amendments and under the Contracts Clause and Takings Clause.Northern District Chief Judge Philip P. Simon rejected those claims Wednesday and dismissed the federal complaint but said the plaintiffs could pursue state law claims in state court.“Passage of the statute did not result in plaintiffs’ resignation, and the statute does not compel plaintiffs to assume public office and thereby resign their employment,” Simon wrote. “The plaintiffs alone will decide whether they want to assume public office and forego continued government employment.“They simply have not been shouldered with a financial burden that the public at large should bear; there is no taking at all here, unconstitutional or otherwise.”The ruling upheld Indiana Code 3-5-9-5 that states a person “is considered to have resigned as a government employee when the individual assumes an elected office of the unit that employs the individual.”Simon reasoned that Indiana had an interest in disparate treatment of municipal employees: preventing the appearance of corruption. “The simple fact of the matter is that there is obviously a greater risk of self-dealing when a municipal worker holds office in the same government unit that employs him, and the questioned law attempts to address that problem.”In all cases, the civil servant salaries are greater than those the employees would earn as city council members. Claussen is a Hobart police officer elected to city council; Pelfrey is a New Chicago water department worker who won a council seat; Opinker and Rakos are Hammond firefighters elected to Hammond City Council; and Parks is an East Chicago police officer elected to city council. Rakos has resigned from the Hammond Fire Department, the opinion notes.Attorney General Greg Zoeller praised the ruling in a statement Thursday. “We respect the plaintiffs’ service in their municipal governments; but the Legislature has firmly drawn the line at serving in no more than one position in a municipality at a time, and the Court has upheld that statute. Serving in municipal government is a privilege and should not be primarily about the financial reward; and there are many ways that civic-minded people can serve their communities and neighbors in non-government capacities,” he said.The case is Claussen et al. v. Pence et al., 2:15-cv-52.FacebookTwitterCopy LinkEmailSharelast_img read more

"City Workers Lose Challenge To Law, Must Quit To Take Office"

Port Augusta paves the way in coal-to-renewables transition

first_imgPort Augusta paves the way in coal-to-renewables transition FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享The Guardian:The largest solar farm in the southern hemisphere lies on arid land at the foot of the Flinders Ranges, more than 300 km north of Adelaide. If that sounds remote, it doesn’t do justice to how removed local residents feel from what currently qualifies as debate in Canberra.As government MPs and national newspapers thundered over whether taxpayers should underwrite new coal-fired power, mauling advice from government agencies as they went, residents of South Australia’s Upper Spencer Gulf region have been left to ponder why decision-makers weren’t paying attention to what is happening in their backyard.In mid-2016, this region was on the brink, hit by the closure and near collapse of coal and steel plants. Now it’s on the cusp of a wave of construction that investors and community leaders say should place the region at the vanguard of green innovation—not just in Australia but globally. There has been an explosion in investment, with $5bn spread over the next five years. There are 13 projects in various stages of development, with more than 3,000 construction and 200 ongoing jobs. The economy of this once-deflated region has been transformed and those who live here are starting to feel hopeful again.The Port Augusta mayor, Sam Johnson, a 32-year-old former Liberal member, is continually surprised at how resistant some are to the idea that the energy environment has changed. “You might choose to ignore what’s happening here now because we’re out of sight, out of mind, but the reality is that what’s happening here is going to be happening on the eastern seaboard in the next 10 years,” he says.In simple terms, the Upper Spencer Gulf transition story goes like this. Port Augusta was a coal town, home to the state’s only two lignite–or brown coal–plants, Playford B and Northern. Playford B, ageing and failing, was mothballed in 2012. Northern, the larger and younger of the two, closed in May 2016 when owner Alinta Energy decided it was no longer economically viable. The Leigh Creek mine that supplied it, by then offering up mostly low-quality coal, shut at the same time. About 400 workers at the plant and the mine lost their jobs. Roughly a third retired, a third found other employment locally and a third had to leave town to find work.At the same time, further around the gulf, the steel town of Whyalla was teetering precipitously after the owner, Arrium, put the mill in voluntary administration facing debts of more than $4bn.Yet as the doom hit, there were also rays of hope as several clean power projects were mooted for the surrounding area.Two years on, the Port Augusta city council lists 13 projects at varying stages of development. And Whyalla has unearthed a potential savior in British billionaire industrialist Sanjeev Gupta, who not only bought the steelworks but promised to expand it while also spending what will likely end up being $1.5bn in solar, hydro and batteries to make it viable. Gupta says the logic behind his investment in solar and storage is simple: it’s now cheaper than coal.Johnson says: “You can resist change as much as you like, but the reality is, if you’re in a community that has a coal-fired power station, its days are numbered. The market is dictating that change whether we like it or not. My advice is: learn from the Port Augusta experience. I wish the federal government would.”More: Life after coal: the South Australian city leading the waylast_img read more

"Port Augusta paves the way in coal-to-renewables transition"