Chesterton Tribune

Don't play politics with South Shore service

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Commentary

By MARGARET L. WILLIS

While some recent Porter County Commissioner and County Council appointments were a surprise, one in particular was more than that: It was a disappointment.

In naming county Democrat party chairman Leon West to the Northern Indiana Transportation District Board (NICTD) the two Democrat County Commissioners, Bob Harper and Carole Knoblock, have shirked their responsibility as elected officials, neither stepping forward to serve on the NICTD board themselves nor allowing fellow Commissioner John Evans to retain his seat on the board.

The bipartisan NICTD board, with representatives from all the counties served by the South Shore commuter train, oversees a multi-million dollar entity which serves commuters in the four county area from the state line to South Bend.

The South Shore commuter line is essential to our local and regional economy and to the daily lives of thousands of riders and their families.

Politicizing the board of NICTD threatens the ongoing stability of that service.

The two Democrat County Commissioners have trashed a long-standing tradition of bi-partisanship, and ended a policy of Porter County elected officials serving on major regional boards.

Commuters, and the taxpayers who pay at least a portion of the railroad’s bill, should be represented by elected officials, not party operatives who do not have to answer to the voters or the taxpayers.

West is not an elected official and has repeatedly shown himself to be partisan in the worst sense of the word favoring party-based hiring over bipartisan cooperation.

Until now the Commissioner representatives on the NICTD board for Porter County have been Commissioners themselves -- elected officials who hold a direct mandate from the citizens. This Porter County tradition goes back to when the NICTD board was first formed to save the South Shore from being shut down.

It is time for the Indiana General Assembly to step in and preserve good government at NICTD. State lawmakers should draft and pass legislation making it mandatory that County Commissioner appointments to the NICTD board be elected officials.

Editor’s Note: Margaret Willis is a former Democrat member of the NICTD board on which she served while a member of the Porter County Council.

 

Posted 1/7/2005