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A Problem We Can’t Afford to Ignore

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1937

As of 2016, 129 school-age children in our community were homeless, and this number is likely low considering many people don’t publicly identify their need for assistance.

Children sleeping on floors and/or going hungry is something that needs to be fixed. However, some will argue that the economic cost is a burden taxpayers should not have to bear. The truth is, we can’t afford not to address the issue of child poverty.

In 2015, child poverty cost our country more than $1 trillion, which represented 5.3% of our GDP. That figure could also be described as 28% of the $3.7 trillion federal budget that year.

In fact, studies show that for every dollar spent on child poverty, the country would save $7 in economic costs.

In Indiana this past year, we had a surplus of more than $100 million; however, the state still chooses to cut funding to child poverty programs and assistance. At the same time, we let our children sleep on the floors of DCS offices, quit school, and ride city buses in order to stay safe at night.

WE MUST help those in our communities who are forgotten. WE MUST invest in the organizations that provide the needed support and guidance to those in our state who are poor or homeless.

The LEAST WE can do is vote for candidates who will give a voice to the voiceless.

If you are interested in learning more about the organizations in our community working to address this issue or my own plans please feel free to reach out at harlanforhouse@gmail.com.

Millennials Are Entitled!

Every generation has thoughts about the next generation; however, no generation has been more maligned than millennials. Born between 1981 and 1996, millennials currently have the largest participation in the labor force and are expected to outnumber baby boomers by 2019.

Having been born in 1983, I often hear critical statements about my generation, such as, “Millennials are so entitled!”

At first, I couldn’t have disagreed more…but after really thinking about it, I tend to agree.

Millennials are entitled!

We are entitled to a strong public education system for our families and neighbors, one where students can learn in a safe and healthy environment and where teachers are respected and paid accordingly.

We are entitled to a fair and equitable economy, one that stimulates the working poor and middle class rather than corporations and Wall Street.

We are entitled to a clean and safe planet, one where the environment is placed above profits and politics, and where we have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink.

We are entitled to quality and affordable health care, where we can go to the doctor without worrying about how we are going to pay, and where one accident or illness will not cause us to lose everything.

Finally, we are entitled to political representation that puts the people above special interests, lobbyists, ideology, and ego.

We millennials are entitled, but so is every generation!

No matter when you were born, we should all have the same opportunities to live our best lives – and together we can make it happen!

Destigmatizing Addiction and Mental Illness

“My name is Harlan, and I am an alcoholic.”

It took nearly ruining my life before I could finally say this out loud. I struggled with admitting I was addicted to alcohol primarily because of the stigma associated with addiction. I thought society would see me as a drunk or defect and that I would fail to rise above these descriptions. However, after 6 ½ years of sobriety, I have shown myself and those around me that I am more than my addiction.

Unfortunately, society’s stigmatization of people with addiction or mental illness has caused many other people not to seek treatment. In fact, the second most cited reason for a person to avoid treatment (after cost) is the stigma surrounding these conditions. While the emotional costs of not seeking professional care are high, so are the costs related to healthcare, criminal justice, and lost productivity – estimated at $500 billion annually.

As the opioid epidemic continues, we as a society need to reevaluate how we frame addictions and mental health issues. We need to remove the stigma surrounding these conditions and approach those who are struggling with open arms rather than closed minds.

I hope my story can encourage others who are currently grappling with addiction or mental illness to reach out and get help, because there is hope for a better tomorrow.

If you or a loved one is struggling, please contact us at harlanforhouse@gmail.com and we can get you connected with people who can help.

Gerrymandering 101

“That makes no sense!”

“Your district looks like it has bunny ears!”

Funny enough, these are actual quotes I have heard when I show people my district.  It is only after I explain to them how district lines are drawn that they begin to understand the reason for the bunny ears!

I tell them that every 10 years the government completes a census, which counts all the people in the country.  Then the following year, the State Legislature redraws legislative districts while taking into account the census information.

Sounds fair, right?!  Well, when one party controls a majority of the State Legislature, the districts drawn tend to favor that party.  This is called GERRYMANDERING!

What is Gerrymandering?

Gerrymandering refers to the drawing of political boundaries to favor one party or faction over another.  It was first done in Massachusetts in 1812 by Elbridge Gerry (hence the name).

How is Gerrymandering done?

The two primary techniques used to accomplish gerrymandering are packing and cracking.

(see diagram below)

Packing is concentrating the opposing party’s voting power in one district to reduce their voting power in other districts.

Cracking is spreading the voting power of the opposing party’s supporters across many districts.

Why is Gerrymandering bad?

Many experts attribute gerrymandering to the extreme polarization of our political parties today, because it limits the power of the moderate voters in each district.

It can also lead people to believe their votes don’t matter!  For example, the 2016 election results show that Indiana is not nearly as “red” of a state as the makeup of the legislature would lead you to believe.

In the 2016 election, Donald Trump won Indiana 57% to 43%, and Senator Todd Young won 51% to 49%. However, the Indiana House is 70% Republican and 30% Democrat, and the Indiana Senate is 80% Republican and 20% Democrat.

Based on the results of the 2016 election, one could expect the Indiana House and Senate to have a breakdown more like 50-60% Republican and 40-50% Democrat.

How do we fix Gerrymandering?

Many people, myself included, are in favor of having an independent bipartisan commission draw the district lines, rather than the legislature.. This would help alleviate some of the biases that go into district making and hopefully lead to more fair and representative districts.

If you would like to learn more, please feel free to reach out to me at harlanforhouse@gmail.com. 

The ABC’s of Indiana Government

As I talk with folks in my district, some of the questions I am asked have a common theme. The questions revolve around how our State government actually works. For example, I have heard:

What is a State Representative? How many are there? How is the State government set up?

These questions lead me to believe that it might be beneficial for a refresher on the organization of our State government and the role they play in our daily lives.

The more knowledgable and informed we are as citizens, the better we can direct our government to work for us!

So, I designed a few graphics that I hope will answer some of the questions people might have and shed some light on how our government operates.

If you would like to learn more please feel free to reach out to harlanforhouse@gmail.com. 

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Campaign Announcement

Democrat Harlan Vondersaar Announces Run for Indiana State House District 28

First Time Candidate Looks to End 20 Year Republican Incumbency

Whitestown, Ind. — Democrat Harlan Vondersaar, attorney and Hendricks County native, announced today that he will be a candidate for Indiana House of Representatives District 28.

“I am running because we need more young voices in our Statehouse that are invested in the community and are willing to challenge the status quo to ensure that all Hoosiers are heard and represented,” Vondersaar said. “There are decisions being made that will have a direct and lasting impact on all our lives, and we need to make sure we have a voice in the process.”

Vondersaar believes in a strong public education system, protecting the environment for future generations, and equal opportunities for all. “Regardless of where we are born or the circumstances we are born into, all of us should have access to the tools and resources necessary to achieve the life we dream of,” Vondersaar said.

Harlan was born and raised in Hendricks County, where he graduated from Avon High School. He received his bachelor’s in communications from Indiana University, MBA from Butler University, and JD from Ohio Northern University. He currently lives in the Walker Farm subdivision of Whitestown, and during his free time you can find him at the Golf Club of Indiana or with his family and friends.

For more information, visit www.harlanforhouse.com.