Gemma DiCarlo

Reporter

Gemma DiCarlo comes to Indiana by way of Athens, Georgia. She graduated from the University of Georgia in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and certificates in New Media and Sustainability. She has radio experience from her time as associate producer of Athens News Matters, the flagship public affairs program at WUGA-FM. 

Gemma is originally from Harrisburg, Oregon, and is looking forward to covering all things Michiana. 

Gemma DiCarlo / WVPE Public Radio

Early voting in Indiana started at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 6. Less than two hours later, there was already a line outside the County-City Building in downtown South Bend.

Lisa Jackson was one of those in line. She said she votes early every year to avoid Election Day crowds. But this year, she also wanted to get her ballot in before the pandemic made voting more complicated.

“You just don’t know, anything is possible," Jackson said. "You don’t know what’s going on with this COVID, it’s been real tricky.”

Screenshot captured via Microsoft Teams

After its regular meeting was cut short last week due to technical issues, the South Bend Common Council voted at a special meeting on Oct. 5 to establish a community police review board.

 

Some council members still had reservations about the ordinance. Fourth District Councilman Troy Warner expressed concern that the board wouldn’t be able to legally subpoena police officers during an investigation. 

Notre Dame
Jennifer Weingart / WVPE

As of Friday, according to a report by the Washington Post, 18 Notre Dame faculty members were awaiting COVID-19 test results, and University President Father John Jenkins had already tested positive. That’s after they attended the nomination ceremony for Amy Coney Barrett at the White House on Sept. 26.

 

WFIU-WTIU

 

Both the Elkhart County and St. Joseph County Boards of Elections are prepared to meet voters safely when early voting begins on Tuesday.

Distancing, masking, and equipment sanitization are all par for the course. Some provisions, though, are a little more unorthodox. 

Annacaroline Caruso/WVPE

On Oct. 1, St. Joseph County officially approved funding for the Motels4Now initiative, which has worked to house homeless citizens in motels after shelters closed during the pandemic.

Previously, the initiative was funded through an anonymous private donation.

 

According to community activist Araquel Bloss, who has worked with Motels4Now since the beginning of the pandemic, the county contributed over $530,000 and the City of South Bend contributed nearly $3,500. The money can be used through March 2021.

 

The Elkhart Civic Theatre will open its first fall production, “Silent Sky,” at the Bristol Opera House and via livestream on Oct. 2. But, the company held a preview show on Oct. 1 for senior citizens and the Deaf community.

The play, about pioneering astronomer Henrietta Leavitt, has only five cast members. But at the Bristol Opera House Thursday night, there were three extra people on stage.

The Penn-Harris-Madison School Corporation Board of Trustees voted to change its elementary concurrent teaching model at a special meeting on Sept. 30.

The vote comes after teachers and parents gave feedback indicating that teachers were having difficulty balancing virtua and in-person learning.

Currently, P-H-M elementary school teachers are teaching both virtual and face-to-face learners every day. Under the new plan, elementary teachers will be responsible for either virtual or in-person classes, but not both.

 

The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project has reported a record number of drownings on Lake Michigan this year. The non-profit, which tracks Great Lakes drownings, said that 53 people have drowned in the lake as of Sept. 26.

Dave Benjamin, co-founder of the Surf Rescue Project, said the uptick can be attributed to several factors, including the lack of a national water safety program and the ability to easily track drownings via news alerts.

Gemma DiCarlo / WVPE Public Radio

South Bend Mayor James Mueller and Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski attended a meeting of the Southeast Organized Area Residents on Tuesday, Sept. 29, to discuss how to prevent community violence. 

The meeting came one month after the shooting of 7-year-old Chrisyah Stephens, which happened at a birthday party in the Southeast neighborhood.

Chief Ruszkowski said that in order to prevent similar community violence, neighbors need to communicate with each other and the police.

Jennifer Weingart / WVPE Public Radio

The South Bend Common Council was supposed to vote Monday night on its Community Police Review Board ordinance; however, the meeting ended early due to a possible hacking.

Throughout the meeting, participants reported having issues accessing the Council’s Microsoft Teams call, especially those who wanted to speak against the police review board. 

About two hours into the meeting, attorney Robert Palmer had this announcement. 

 

Jennifer Weingart / WVPE Public Radio

The South Bend Common Council will hold its third reading of the Community Police Review Board ordinance tonight, but the South Bend chapter of Black Lives Matter wants to see some changes to the measure before a vote.

 

In the current version of the ordinance, the director of the review board would be appointed by the mayor. Darryl Heller, a member of the executive board for Black Lives Matter - South Bend, said he believes that could compromise the separation of powers in local government.

 

Justin Hicks

The Bridge Anti-Discrimination Network held a memorial and candlelight vigil at the Elkhart County Courthouse in Goshen over the weekend to memorialize lives lost to racial hate crimes.

It was a breezy night for the event, but that didn’t stop mourners from lighting candles and spreading out across the courthouse lawn. 

“Tonight, we welcome you into a space where we aim to honor the lives that we have lost as a nation to racially-targeted hate crimes and brutality,” said Bridge Interim President Erin Floyd.

Rick Bowmer/AP Photo/File

On Sept. 24, Michigan's Department of Health and Human Services announced a suspected second human case of EEE in Montcalm County, leading to another night of aerial mosquito treatments.

According to some experts, the frequency and intensity of the recent EEE outbreaks in Michigan and northern Indiana could be related to climate change.

The first EEE outbreak in the area occured from 1942-1943. The next was from 1973-1975, and since then, outbreaks have become more and more frequent.

Flickr

Local elections offices will begin mailing absentee ballots to Michigan voters on Thursday, Sept. 24, the start date for early voting. Voters who have requested absentee ballots can also pick them up at to their local clerk’s office

Anyone can request an absentee ballot in Michigan without an excuse. Voters can fill out the application online or by hand, and the deadline to request an absentee ballot in Michigan is Friday, October 30. 

https://www.southbendin.gov/2020/09/16/city-opens-application-period-for-south-bend-alive-grant-program/

The South Bend Office of Community Initiatives will hold an information session on Wednesday, Sept. 23, about its South Bend Alive grant program, which will fund local initiatives to reduce youth gun violence.

Director of Community Initiatives Moe Scott said there is $300,000 of grant funding available. Grants range from $5,000 to $25,000, so anywhere from 12 to 60 local programs could benefit.

 

Sept. 22 is National Voter Registration Day, which the Indiana Citizen Education Foundation used to encourage voter registration among young Hoosiers.

On Tuesday, ICEF President Bill Moreau announced that the foundation’s One More Voice campaign will now focus exclusively on first-time eligible voters. The campaign's entire social media budget is now devoted to encouraging 18 and 19-year-olds to register to vote.

WVPE News Stock Photos

The South Bend Community School Corporation is scheduled to vote on whether to return to in-person learning at its board meeting later today. 

 

As of last week, the board had approximately 4,500 responses to a survey on how students want to proceed, with 77.6% of respondents electing to return in-person.

 

Several other school systems in St. Joseph County have already returned to an in-person learning option, including the School City of Mishawaka and PHM.

Gemma DiCarlo / WVPE Public Radio

At the Elkhart County Commission meeting on Monday, Elkhart Mayor Rod Roberson and his team presented their plan for a consolidated courthouse in downtown Elkhart. The proposal is part of an ongoing effort to try and keep a county court presence in the city of Elkhart. 

Along with city engineer Tory Irwin, Chamber of Commerce President Levon Johnson and consulting group Structurepoint, Roberson presented a combined building that would include the county courthouse, a city public safety facility and an attached parking garage. 

 

Gemma DiCarlo / WVPE Public Radio

Mayor James Mueller and the South Bend Heritage Foundation announced this morning that they will build a permanent supportive housing complex on the corner of Hope Avenue and Patty Lane, near Edison Park.

 

Heritage Foundation Executive Director Marco Mariani said that the project will take a housing-first approach to homelessness. By addressing the most basic need of the chronically homeless — shelter — Hope Avenue Homes will allow residents to focus on other concerns in their life. 

 

Gemma DiCarlo / WVPE Public Radio


  School City of Mishawaka and Mishawaka Parks and Recreation announced Wednesday that they would use a government grant to target internet deserts in their community. That means free WiFi in city parks and for some families.

Gemma DiCarlo / WVPE Public Radio


Sixty South Bend businesses received $5,000 each on Wednesday through the city’s Small Business Resiliency Grant program. The money is meant to help veteran, minority and women-owned businesses weather the current economic crisis.

DAVID ZALUBOWSKI / AP

The Indiana National Guard is scheduled to end its six-month deployment to aid Indiana’s food banks on September 30.

https://www.phmschools.org/sites/phmschools.org/files/return_to_learn_schedule_v8_9.12.20.pdf

Monday was the first day of in-person learning for some students in the Penn-Harris-Madison School Corporation. Pre-kindergarten to 3rd grade students now have the opportunity to return to the classroom.

RICK BOWMER/AP PHOTO/FILE

NEW: Today both the State of Indiana and Michigan have reported their first human cases of EEE (Eastern Equine Encaphlitis.) The case in Indiana is in LaPorte County. The case in Michigan is in Barry County. 

Screenshot from Facebook Live

Local firefighters and police officers gathered in South Bend Friday morning to commemorate firefighters and police officers who died at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

Due to the pandemic, this year’s ceremony looked a little different.

Masked officers, spaced six feet apart, surrounded the “Standing Tall” memorial in St. Patrick’s County Park Friday morning. In contrast to previous years, the public was not encouraged to attend the ceremony.

Screenshot from Facebook Live

During a biweekly news conference City of South Bend and St. Joseph County officials expressed optimism about COVID-19 statistics currently trending downward. 

"We acknowledge the impact of the cases at Notre Dame. Much of that has washed out," Dr. Mark Fox with the St. Joseph Co. Health Department said. 

JUSTIN HICKS / WVPE PUBLIC RADIO

In a virtual board meeting Wednesday night, South Bend school leaders introduced plans to return to in-person learning. Chief Academic Officer Brandon White and Assistant Superintendent Rene Sanchez proposed that students be divided into three priority groups. 

The first to return would be students enrolled in career-technical and special-education programs. The second would be students entering a new school building, or pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, sixth grade and ninth grade students. 

Gemma DiCarlo / WVPE Public Radio

Ivy Tech Community College broke ground on a new 10,000 square foot training lab in Goshen Wednesday.

 

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