Examining the history of Beech Grove while highlighting businesses that are seemingly "Invisible" by others

Beech Grove, Indiana

Friday, August 23, 2019

Too late for Refined Metals cost recovery suit

Beech Grove, IN (August 23, 2019) — U.S. Circuit Judge Diane P. Wood, writing for a unanimous panel on Thursday, said the 19 years that elapsed between Refined’s settlement, which was reached with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state regulators, and its suit against NL Industries Inc. was too long. The decision hung in part on which provision of the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act was available to Refined to pursue cleanup costs — a contribution action or a cost recovery action, which has a longer statute of limitations.

“If it were the latter, we would need to conduct a searching examination of what actions to clean up the site anyone has taken, and when. But we can skip that inquiry, because we agree with the district court that this is a … contribution action, and the limitations period had expired by the time Refined filed suit,” the panel said.

The case involves a contaminated site in Beech Grove, Indiana. Refined has owned the site for nearly four decades and agreed in 1998 to pay $210,000 and work to remove the contamination. The agreement also included a provision that the EPA and the state wouldn’t sue “on at least some of their potential claims.” In 2017, Refined sued NL, the prior owner, seeking some of its cleanup costs.

Companies can try to recover their cleanup costs under CERCLA in two ways. Companies often prefer cost recovery under section 107(a), which blocks the defendant from making certain arguments and carries a longer statute of limitations. This method is usually for “costs incurred during a self-initiated environmental clean-up.” Refined believes that under a cost recovery claim, the clock didn’t start until 2014, when the EPA agreed to "final corrective measures” after considerable work had already been done, the opinion said.

NL, however, said Refined is limited to the other section of CERCLA, 113(f), which allows for a suit seeking contribution for a party that has handled its liability through a settlement. If this provision is triggered, 113(f) is the only means for a company to pursue recovery.

The court disagreed with Refined’s argument that because it never admitted liability in the 1998 agreement, it didn’t have to face a contribution claim, and found that 113(f) applied .

Refined also argued that the agreement did not resolve its CERCLA liability but pertained to other statutes, meaning that it wasn’t forced into a contribution claim. But NL told the court that a settlement only needs to resolve some portion of a responsible party’s liability under any law.

“We agree with the latter point: a settlement need not resolve CERCLA-specific liability in order to start the clock on a contribution action,” the panel said.

Circuit Judges Diane P. Wood, Joel M. Flaum and Diane S. Sykes sat on the panel for the Seventh Circuit.

A representative for NL Industries declined to comment.

A representative for Refined did not immediately return a request for comment late Friday.

Refined is represented by Robert L. Collings of Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP.

NL Industries is represented by Joel L. Herz of the Law Offices of Joel L. Herz.

The case is Refined Metals Corp. v. NL Industries Corp., case number 18-3235, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

SOURCE: Law360

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Remembering the Hoosier State

Beech Grove, IN (August 10, 2019) — Amtrak’s Hoosier State train, Nos. 850 and 851, died on Sunday, June 30 at Indianapolis, after a long illness. She was 38. The immediate cause of death was removal from life support by Indiana state officials. During her lifetime, she ran between Chicago and Indianapolis, but her later life was difficult and plagued by ever-increasing weakness, except during one brief period in 2015-17. She is survived by Amtrak’s Cardinal, which traverses the same route on its journey between Chicago and New York, but only three days per week.

Among the mourners were 153 customers (one less than the train’s entire seating capacity) and the crew who rode eastward on the last run from Chicago, according to Amtrak spokesperson Marc Magliari. He also told Railway Age that there were 130 westbound customers on the final day, excluding private car customers. Dave Bangert reported in the Lafayette Journal & Courier that two vintage cars built by Pullman-Standard ran behind the Amtrak consist, one sporting the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Tuscan Red livery. Also among the mourners was Dr. Helen Hudson, a retired high-school teacher who had won awards for sprucing up the grounds of the Crawfordsville station.

The Hoosier State was born on Oct. 1, 1980, at a time when there were no passenger trains between the Indiana capital and the Windy City. She had a difficult childhood, with the one bright period from 1987 until 1995, running as a daily train to and from Chicago, on a schedule separate from the Cardinal. She was discontinued at that time, but came back from the grave in 1998, operating on the days when the Cardinal did not run. From Dec. 17, 1999 until July 4, 2003, she had grown to become the daily Kentucky Cardinal, serving Louisville either as a section of the Cardinal or as a stand-alone train, depending on the day. She was cut back to the four-times-weekly schedule between Chicago and Indianapolis on that date, a schedule she maintained until her death.

Related | Hoosier State Train will cease operations
Related | Amtrak: Dead train rolling 
Related | Legislators fighting for Hoosier State Line 
Related | Amtrak suspends Hoosier State line 
Related | Hoosier State train could derail without state cash

The long illness to which the Hoosier State succumbed began in 2008 with the passage of Section 209 of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA), which required the states through which they run to absorb the full cost of trains traveling less than 750 miles. The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) later sought a non-Amtrak operator to run her, but a deal with Chicago-based Corridor Rail Development fell through in 2014.

Amtrak continued to operate her on a short-term basis, and she survived on one reprieve after another, often under threat of impending sudden death.

The Hoosier State rallied in 2015, when Iowa Pacific Holdings contracted to operate her, under the leadership of Ed Ellis. During the period of almost 18 months when Iowa Pacific supplied her equipment and on-board services, she was the most luxurious train in the Amtrak system. She ran with 1950s-vintage coaches and a dome car that originally ran on the Santa Fe, and she sported the historic orange and brown livery of the Illinois Central Railroad. 1960s-vintage GP40FH-2 locomotives that had originally operated on the Central Railroad of New Jersey, and acquired from New Jersey Transit, provided motive power. Business class passengers sat and ate on the upper level of the dome car, and breakfast or dinner was included in the price of their tickets. Coach passengers ate at tables on the lower level of the dome car.

During that period, the Hoosier State served the last freshly prepared meals on any Amtrak train on a regularly scheduled basis. This writer’s only experience riding the train during that period included a dinner of chicken piccata prepared by the train’s chef, lemon pudding cake from a local supplier, and coffee served in a china cup. Nothing approaching that sort of meal had been available on Amtrak since 2005.

Amtrak re-assumed the Hoosier State’s operation on March 1, 2017, but Indiana officials balked at paying for it. Last February, Gov. Eric Holcomb proposed a budget that eliminated funding for the train, and the legislature passed it. The funding ended on June 30, so the train made her last trip from Indianapolis to Chicago and back that day.

The Hoosier State consist was denied the honor of lying in state in its ancestral home, Indianapolis Union Station, which has become a conference center owned by the Crown Plaza hotel chain and used for special events. The station building is not normally open to the public, but many of the architectural features from its debut in 1888 survive. The “Union Station” concept began in the Indiana capital in 1853, and a series of historic sign displays in the station building tells its story. The display is collectively entitled: “Take a Walk Through History. It will stop you in your tracks!”

For this writer, it did, but that was because of the severe downfall of rail passenger service in the city. There were more than 200 trains in each direction that stopped at the station in 1920, a number reduced to 59 by 1936. That number went down to three by 1971, of which only one survived until 1979. Then there were none, until the late Hoosier State was born. The station was restored as a hotel in 1986, but without trains. Concierge Richard Yarborough gave this writer a tour of the facility, and said that more than 500,000 people per month passed through the station in its heyday. He added that “Indianapolis could have been a major city for transportation” if events had happened differently.

Anyone who rides passenger trains is sad to see one removed from the rails. The loss means that a travel opportunity, or even some mobility or convenience, is no longer available. Still, questions persist about whether and for how long the ill-fated Hoosier State could have avoided becoming The Little Train That Couldn’t Any Longer, and about the best way to serve a city pair like “Indy” and Chicago.

The Hoosier State was not a mighty long-distance train that ate up one scenic mile after another. Neither was she part of a strong corridor that served the traveling public frequently and conveniently. Even her own boosters did not always realize her full potential. During the Iowa Pacific era, that railroad established a website for the train. It promoted the train, her business class and her destinations, and bore a copyright date of 2019—long after Iowa Pacific abandoned her and Amtrak took her back. While the site also contained some strange promotional copy for a vape shop for smokers, the original copy from there also presented her as a four-day-per-week operation. While that was technically correct, the point of the Hoosier State train was to provide service between Indianapolis and Chicago and intermediate stops on the days the Cardinal does not run, thereby providing daily service for those communities.

That was the reason why the service ran, but her own promoters presented her in a false light by implying that there was no train running on the other three days of the week. Indianapolis and Lafayette (the home of Purdue University) have bus service to and from Chicago. The other three stops, Dyer, Rensselaer and Crawfordsville (home of Wabash College), have no such service. Until the Hoosier State train died, residents of those communities could visit Chicago any day they wished. Now they can only do it on Thursdays or Saturdays, because of the Cardinal’s tri-weekly schedule.

Philip Streby is one of Indiana’s most active advocates. He is Treasurer of the Indiana Passenger Rail Alliance (IPRA) and serves on the Boards of Directors of two national passenger-rail-advocacy organizations, the Rail Users’ Network (RUN) and the Rail Passengers’ Association (RPA). He is also an Amtrak retiree and worked as a conductor on the Hoosier State and the Cardinal. He detailed his campaign to save the train in the April 2019 issue of IPRA’s newsletter, All Aboard Indiana in an article entitled: “Growing the Vitality in the Midwest is reason enough to Save the Hoosier State Train.” He stressed the “business case” for keeping the train, writing: “The Midwest is one of the economic regions in this country, and needs a vital and balanced system of roads, airports, waterways and railroads (including passenger trains) if it is to grow and prosper. Younger generations are moving to where good public transportation exists, and right now, Indiana is not attracting that talent.” He continued with an example: “A huge portion of Purdue University graduates look outside Indiana for job opportunities.”

Streby campaigned hard to save the Hoosier State, but he believes that the state of freight railroading today could doom trains like it. He told Railway Age: “I worked that train when it was part of the Cardinal service. The disastrous 90s should fairly well illustrate what happens when service is reduced. People left Amtrak in droves when 7 and 8 [the Empire Builder] went to four days a week.

Other trains faced a similar fate.” Many of Amtrak’s long-distance trains were cut to three or four days per week as part of the infamous Mercer Management-recommended cuts of the mid-1990s. Some of those trains were restored to daily operation in 1997, while others died completely. Amtrak President and CEO Richard Anderson has threatened recently to impose similar cuts to long-haul trains again, which has made riders and advocates nervous.

Moving forward more than two decades, Streby continued: “Worse now is Precision Scheduled Railroading, which is neither precise nor scheduled. It has been set up by the beancounters who know nothing of railroading, only the bottom line. Trouble is, that bottom line is eroding because the shippers are being short-changed and they know it. The service is going out of the [freight railroad] shipping industry, just like the service went out of the passenger railroad industry.” He also expressed that the key word is “scheduled,” and that neither freight nor passenger trains keep schedules very well any more.

Amtrak spokesperson Marc Magliari told Railway Age that “We [at Amtrak] were really saddened by the outcome” that the Hoosier State has been discontinued, and he also placed the blame squarely on the Indiana officials who commissioned two engineering firms to make recommendations on how to make the route driving-time competitive. He said, “We’ve been very public in saying the status quo was not sustainable. But the state has chosen, for whatever reason, not to invest in the service.” Magliari also cited PRIIA Section 209 and said that more decisions about train service will be made in the state capitals in the future. In the past, the Hoosier State was used to bring equipment needing repair to Amtrak’s shops at Beech Grove, and to take repaired equipment from there to Chicago to be placed back into service. He added it was hard to understand why the state “made a decision to make it harder to keep and attract work for more than 500 high-value employees.” Magliari said that the Cardinal will continue to perform that function, but the time required for it could affect that train’s on-time performance.

F.K. Plous, Railway Age contributor and longtime Chicago advocate, refuses to mourn for the recently deceased Hoosier State. Plous works for Corridor Capital LLC, the company that made the unsuccessful attempt to get the contract to operate the train in 2014, but now he is not convinced that it was worth saving. He told this writer: “I refuse to ‘grieve’ the Hoosier State. It was such an anomalous and irrelevant little gesture of a train that even the tiniest regret amounts to overkill. I often characterize pathetic and irrelevant trains like the Hoosier State as ‘rolling museums,’ but in the case of the Hoosier Stat,e that appellation is not fitting because a museum usually makes an effort to recreate as faithfully as possible something that existed in the past while the Hoosier State represented nothing that existed in the past.” Plous mentioned the James Whitcomb Riley, which began running between the two cities in 1941 on the New York Central (Big Four) route and made the trip in 3½ hours: “By taking five hours for the same trip, the Hoosier State ‘revived’ something that had never existed, a pokey, lurching unreliable streamliner between those two cities.”

Plous did not criticize Indiana for running a train per se, but for running a train that appeared to have so little going for it. He speculated about what a better operation would be like: “If we could just go back to a reliable, daily, James Whitcomb Riley-like schedule, we could probably carry 300 passengers a day. If we could invest in infrastructure as Michigan and Illinois are doing and run 110-mph trains that make the trip in three hours, we could probably fill two or three frequencies a day. And if we could extend the improved infrastructure to Louisville and Cincinnati, we could fill ten daily trains between Chicago and Indy with five going to Louisville and five to Cincinnati.”

Plous is not the only advocate who has called for a “Hoosier Corridor” instead of the single train that ran until recently. Streby and others, including this writer, have recommended such a service. Some have also said that Louisville is not far enough, that trains should continue through Kentucky and go to Nashville. In the meantime, though, it is more difficult to generate enthusiasm among politicians and their constituents for frequent service on a corridor when the only train still running on that mileage only operates a few times each week, and not even once a day.

The demise of the Hoosier State may be a harbinger of things to come. Plous explored the history of the train and its imminent termination in a feature article in the April issue of All Aboard Indiana, the same issue that included Streby’s article quoted above. He blamed the State: “The more knowledgeable rail advocates, of course, understand that the State of Indiana actually sentenced the Hoosier State to death many years earlier when it repeatedly refused to invest the money needed to make intercity passenger trains successful. The news accounts rarely mention it, but the Hoosier State farrago is simply a private shame of the State of Indiana, which will not fund passenger trains even though it has a rail map with the potential to support a very strong and functional corridor service with a high potential to enhance the state’s business growth.” Plous particularly praised Indianapolis as a destination, with its station surrounded by a compact and active downtown, and with government facilities, sports and entertainment venues within walking distance.

Although Amtrak trains are part of America’s interstate commerce, it appears that decisions about where Americans can go by train will increasingly be made in state houses, as Magliari mentioned. There are only a few long-distance trains whose routes extend 750 miles or more. Much of the rest of the Amtrak network consists of state-supported trains. Under PRIIA Section 209, the states must pay the full cost of enhancing and operating these trains within their borders. States like Illinois, Michigan and California are investing in their corridors, and those corridors are popular. States like Oklahoma with the Heartland Flyer and Vermont with the Vermonter and the Ethan Allen Express only operate a train or two, without the commitment of investing in a corridor or running multiple frequencies on a line. The trains in those states depend more on the fortuity of local politics than the trains running along strong corridors. The Hoosier State may have been the worst example of such a train, but it may end up setting the standard for a grim future for shorter-distance Amtrak trains from now on.

Plous concluded his statement for Railway Age by placing the blame directly on Indiana officials: “Sorry to be so rough on Indiana, but they deserve it, even if they’re not the only one. New York DOT doesn’t understand the wealth-generating potential of the Water Level Route [the historic New York Central main, where Empire Service trains run today]. Pennsylvania does not understand the potential of the former Pennsylvania Railroad (now Norfolk Southern) main line. Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee are totally clueless about the economic potential of their rail routes. But Indiana should be particularly ashamed, because it’s got Michigan and Illinois right next door to serve as exemplars.”

This writer will miss the Hoosier State, because it is always sad when a train dies. She was too slow, was not marketed properly, and the Indiana politicians appeared particularly clueless about passenger trains. But this writer’s ride from Chicago to Indianapolis in 2016 was a wonderful blast from the past. The ex-Santa Fe dining car provided a taste of rail travel as it once was. The chicken piccata and lemon pudding cake were delicious, and the coffee even tasted particularly good, probably because it was served in a china cup.

Written by David Peter Alan
SOURCE: Railway Age

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Ice cream trucks still banned in Beech Grove

Beech Grove, IN (August 1, 2019) — As the month of August kicks off, we revisit a topic that went National this time last year, the city's ban on mobile ice cream trucks. Almost everyone loves ice cream and with local elections gearing up, a few folks wonder if anything will change.

Banned Ice Cream Truck

Below is the reprint of the August 24, 2018 news story from along with a video  

BEECH GROVE, Ind. -- If you live in Beech Grove you won't be hearing the ice cream truck music anytime soon, but you may still have politicians knocking on your door.

For Blake Chaney, driving an ice cream truck is a family business.

“What’s the harm in having an ice cream truck coming down the street,” said Chaney. “It really doesn’t make sense to me. I wish they could change that.”

Beech Grove does not permit ice cream trucks or door to door salesmen to sell their products in neighborhoods. Although not for profits and politicians face no limitations when knocking on doors.

Mayor Buckley says credits the city’s aggressive stance with keeping its residents safe.

“Unfortunately, politicians are allowed,” said Mayor Buckley. “I wish we could do away with them as well, but a lot of people don’t want someone knocking on their door.”

He says licensed food trucks and ice cream vendors can park and sell their items, they just can’t be mobile.

“Everybody wants what’s best for their community and in order to have a good morally sound community you have to take a stand on certain matters,” said Mayor Buckley.

Mayor Buckley says Chaney does have a right to petition city council members to change the ordinance.

The Nationally syndicated Hammer and Nigel Show conducted an interview on August 27, 2018. 

Sorry Beech Grove, No Mobile Ice Cream for You!

There are few pleasures of a childhood that can compare with the quaint and charming experience of hearing the slightly off-pitch music of the ice cream man, running into traffic after his rusted-out van, and paying exorbitant prices for half-melted generic-brand treats.

Yes, with the wisdom of adulthood, you realize the ice cream man was likely a convicted felon who made the decision upon release to paint and convert his existing windowless van and go into business for himself. It's a double victory for a recently paroled pedophile gone legit: make some money and still be around kids.

But the ice cream man best stay out of Beech Grove, Indiana, according to Mayor Dennis Buckley, who told WIBC hosts Hammer and Nigel that the city does not permit ice cream trucks or door to door salesmen to sell their products in neighborhoods.

Mayor Buckley:

“Unfortunately, politicians are allowed. I wish we could do away with them as well; a lot of people don’t want someone knocking on their door.”

Mayor Buckley explained that licensed food trucks and ice cream vendors can park and sell their items, they just can’t be mobile.

"If you come into the city and sell food, who is to say that food was prepared in the right way? There has to be some provisions along with the Marion County health department that protects the people wanting to buy the food.

So if you want to have a food truck, that's no problem. You get a permit through the city, you show proof of insurance, you show your latest health department certificate, and then you can set up your shop in a stationary position."

Hammer and Nigel Show - 8/28/18
Invisible Beech Grove: The Mayor of Beech Grove on the Hammer and Nigel show on August 28, 2018 discussing the Ice Cream truck ordinance and the snake handler issue. - InvisibleBeechGrove.com -
Posted by Invisible Beech Grove on Monday, August 27, 2018


Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Beech Grove man drowns in New York

Massena, NY (July 30, 2019) — A 19-year-old man from Beech Grove, Indiana had been identified as the victim of a drowning that occurred July 29 off Barnhart Island.

State police said Aiden C. Thacker’s body was found by the Akwesasne Volunteer Fire Department Marine Unit down river from the Long Sault Dam at 7:01 p.m. June 29. St. Lawrence County Coroner James Sienkiewycz pronounced Mr. Thacker dead at 8:20 p.m. and ordered the body removed to Massena Memorial Hospital, pending an autopsy.

State police said Mr. Thacker and a friend were swimming in the St. Lawrence River, in the vicinity of the Long Sault Dam, when both were swept toward the dam by a strong current. Mr. Thacker’s friend was able to swim to shore, but ultimately lose sight of Mr. Thacker. Several bystanders search the shoreline unsuccessfully for Mr. Thacker.

Initially, two boats from the Massena Rescue Squad were scouring the water near the Long Sault Dam, while other rescue personnel observed from shore. The rescue squad’s Zodiac inflatable boat was used, in part, to gauge how the current was flowing from the Cabin 5 area, where the swimmers had entered the water.

Officials said they were initially in search mode rather than rescue mode, and because the dam was open, divers were unable to enter the water. St. Lawrence County 911 received the call about the missing swimmer at about 4:02 p.m. July 29. Dive teams were called to Barnhart Island campground at about 4:15 p.m. to search for Mr. Thacker.

Multiple assets and agencies responded to assist in the search. They included the New York State Park Police, New York State Environmental Conservation Police, State Police Underwater Recovery Team (URT), Massena Volunteer Fire Department, Massena Rescue Squad, and numerous volunteer fire department dive team members.


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Friday, July 19, 2019

Hammer and Nigel on ratings roll

Indianapolis, IN (July 19, 2019) — In two short years, Jason Hammer and Nigel Laskowski have made a big name for themselves in news-talk radio.

While “The Hammer and Nigel Show” is flourishing now, WIBC-FM 93.1 took a big risk in 2016 putting the two former rock ’n’ roll disc jockeys at the helm of a news-talk program, the station’s bread and butter.

The station took an even bigger risk when it moved the show to WIBC’s key afternoon-drive time slot. Today, with audience growing and ad sales booming, the move is paying off.

Hammer and Laskowski, both Hoosier natives, host a show that is so popular, the Emmis Communications Corp.-owned station is moving an hour of the popular syndicated Dana Loesch show to expand the local show.

“This has nothing to do with the Dana show not doing well,” said David Wood, WIBC’s program director. “This has everything to do with expanding a local show that is doing really well and that is still growing its audience. We think by starting an hour earlier, we’ll get an even bigger bump.”

The move has as much to do with expanding ad inventory as audience size.

“The Hammer and Nigel Show”—which currently runs 4-7 p.m.—has become one of WIBC’s highest revenue generators, sometimes selling out its ad inventory. The show runs 15 to 16 ads an hour, or 48 total for a sellout. So Emmis officials decided to start the show at 3 p.m. beginning July 29.

“Right now, ‘The Hammer and Nigel Show’ is a must-buy if I’m buying for an advertiser seeking the male audience. They own the male 25 to 54 [demographic] during their time slot,” said Bruce Bryant, president of locally based Promotus Advertising. “The fact that they’re selling out their show to the extent the station wants to expand it by an hour is a real strong statement about the strength of the show.”

The reason advertisers love the show is simple: It’s hitting its target audience like a sharpshooter at close range.

In the last six months, it ranked No. 1 in the market in four months and No. 2 in two months in the sought-after audience of 25- to 54-year-old men. In that demographic, it battles with classic rock stalwart WFBQ-FM 94.7 for the top spot. “That’s an important demo because it’s been proven to be one with a lot of expendable income,” Bryant said.

The show also has done better than many news-talk programs with women. In June, it scored a 5.5 share among all listeners in the 25 to 54 demographic in that time slot, which ranks it No. 7.

“‘The Hammer and Nigel Show’ is a bit different from your traditional news-talk show,” said Kristine Warski, media director for MKR, a local full-service advertising agency. “They’ve fused news and entertainment and, by doing so, are attracting a younger audience than news-talk has traditionally.”

News-talk boom

The news-talk audience has seen an uptick in size nationwide in the last three to five years as radio stations have successfully mixed entertainment and commentary with news and politics. The format’s biggest audience has traditionally been older men.

The intense political environment—juiced by the Donald Trump presidency—has also fueled radio’s news-talk format. And while the growth of the internet has hurt some formats, not so with news-talk, experts say.

“The growth of digital platforms and social media have gotten a lot of people fired up about news, current events and politics. As a result, you’ve got a lot more young people opting in to news-talk these days,” said Scott Uecker, a University of Indianapolis communications instructor and general manager of WICR-FM 88.7. “The news-talk format, if done right, is very strong right now.”

And with presidential, gubernatorial and mayoral elections looming in 2020, “The Hammer and Nigel Show” is positioned to grow even more. “There’s going to be a lot of political ad dollars flowing into this market and candidates are going to want to reach engaged voters,” Uecker said. “And listeners of a show like ‘Hammer and Nigel’ are likely to be more engaged.”

Most ad buyers say this market will see millions of dollars in political advertising in 2020—spread across radio, television, print, digital and outdoor.

But Uecker said there’s more to the growth of the show than just its position to snag political ad revenue. “Radio is about connecting with an audience, and Hammer and Nigel are really good at connecting with an audience,” he said. “They’re talented individuals and good communicators who know how to relate to their audience, so I’m not surprised at the success they’re having.”

Hammer, 41 and Laskowski, 43, attribute their show’s success to its conversational and unique style. “There’s nothing else like it on local radio,” Laskowski said. “There’s no yelling and no finger-pointing,” Hammer added. “After a long day at work, that’s the last thing anyone wants—more yelling and finger-pointing. And that’s what you get with a lot of [news-talk] shows.”

While politics is certainly a big part of the show, Hammer and Laskowski said they spend only about half the time covering politics and the other half talking about pop culture, sports and other news.

Not so right?

WIBC has long been known for conservative—some would say right-wing—content. And while “Hammer and Nigel” might not be as right-leaning as another popular WIBC show, “Chicks on the Right,” there’s little doubt it falls into that category.

Still, neither Hammer nor Laskowski would consider themselves strong conservatives. Hammer said he leans slightly right, while Laskowski calls himself “a moderate.” “We hate everybody,” Hammer said. “I tend to vote against people more than I vote for people.”

There’s no doubt Hammer and Laskowski push the edge. The show recently got a cease-and-desist order from lawyers representing Morgan Freeman, after someone on the show impersonated the actor reading Trump’s tweets. And the duo admits they have no shortage of left-leaning folks who tweet or email their complaints. “We love it when liberals tweet or email us,” Hammer said. “We always tell them, ‘Thanks for listening.’”

There was some initial skepticism the duo would make good news-talk hosts.

The duo approached Wood in 2016 when on-air host Greg Garrison was nearing retirement and WIBC officials were contemplating what to do with the station’s lineup.

Hammer and Laskowski had been rock ’n’ roll DJs early in their careers. By 2016, Hammer was working as a promotions director at Emmis and Laskowski was doing on-air work for one of Emmis’ Terre Haute stations. They also were co-hosting their own interview-heavy entertainment-oriented podcast.

“We had the best fake radio show in the city,” Hammer said with a laugh. But on a serious note, he noted: “We were trying to find a station to put us on. We knew we could attract a strong audience. It was just a matter of finding someone to believe in us.”

Their current show requires a skill set much different from spinning records. Hammer and Laskowski say they do a minimum of four hours’ preparation for each show. “We’re in constant communication with each other, even when we’re off the air, discussing potential content for the show,” Hammer said.

Hosting a music shift on radio requires minimal talk between songs. “It got to the point I could step in the studio a minute before the show started with no preparation,” Laskowski said. “It was really just a matter of doing short intros and exits. What we do now requires a lot more thought and analysis. Of course, we’re not afraid to share our opinions, but we want to have an informed opinion.”

Laskowski, who started his broadcasting career at 18, had become well-known during a four-year stint ending in 2002 as the nighttime DJ on alternative rock station WOLT-FM 103.3. Hammer made his mark spinning tunes on Top 40 station WZPL-FM 99.5 from 2001 to 2010, where he also did some news and sports.

The two joined forces in 2012 when “The Hammer and Nigel Show” debuted on WOLT, where it gained a cult following. That iteration of the show, however, lasted only a little more than a year before it was cut for budgetary reasons.

Next-generation news-talk

Despite being intrigued by the idea of putting the duo on WIBC, Wood told Hammer and Laskowski that Indianapolis-based Emmis wasn’t interested in a replication of their podcast. He wanted something more news-driven, and agreed to give “Hammer and Nigel” a tryout of sorts in June 2016 with a weekend show.

“We heard there was skepticism” from Emmis higher-ups, Laskowski said. “But pretty early on, David Wood had complete faith in us.”

With many radio station owners trying to find the next-generation news-talk format, WIBC executives quickly realized they had found theirs.

“It became very obvious [during 2016] that these guys needed to be a part of the WIBC lineup,” Wood said. “They weren’t the traditional high-brow news-talk-show hosts. They were the guys next door, the guys you want to get your information from because you trust them. And by adding an element of entertainment, Hammer and Nigel have proven that news doesn’t have to be boring.”

That element has brought the show an audience much younger than the traditional news-talk format, which normally ranks higher with audiences over age 45 and stronger yet with audiences over 55. Advertisers are looking for an affluent-yet-active consumer, and that means listeners in their 20s to 50s, media buyers said.

In addition, Wood said, Hammer, who grew up in Beech Grove, and Laskowski, who hails from Lizton, “are very plugged into the community. They’ve been a part of this community their whole lives, so they’re dialed into it.”

“Hammer and Nigel” got off to such a good start that a national syndicator contacted Emmis about using the pair as fill-ins on national shows when those shows’ hosts were on vacation or hiatus.

Wood opted to rearrange WIBC’s lineup and slot “Hammer and Nigel” into afternoon-drive time in June 2017.

“That’s obviously an important time slot for any radio station, so it was a big decision,” Wood said. “Those guys haven’t let us down in any way.” There’s no thought currently to syndicating the show, he said, because it’s simply too local.

In central Indiana, it has attracted a variety of advertisers, including financial services firms, travel agencies, home improvement companies and others, Wood said.

Ad buyers most often buy bundles of 30-second radio advertisements. Buyers told IBJ that spots on “Hammer and Nigel” run $100 to $300 apiece, based on how big a package an advertiser buys. One buyer called that pricing “strong.” “The demand for advertising has been outstanding,” Wood said. “That’s a big part of the reason why we’re expanding the show.”

While Wood would like to see “Hammer and Nigel” continue to expand its audience, station executives are being careful not to broaden the appeal too much. “If we focus on the core, we’ll likely draw in people on the fringe,” Wood said. “If you try to attract everyone, you end up attracting no one.”

Hammer and Laskowski have no intention of altering their show’s formula. Hammer called Trump “the gift that keeps on giving.” “Because there’s been a four-year buildup of vitriol, the 2020 election is going to be 2016 times 100,” Laskowski said.

It’s “going to be a circus,” Hammer added. “And we’re ready to roll.”

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