Chesterton Tribune



Dane Lafata and Rory McMahan vie for Democrat nomination to 3rd District Town Council seat

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Dane Lafata


If you’re the parent of toddlers and you live in the Town of Chesterton, where do you take your kids when they want to go to the playground?

Maybe Coffee Creek Park, if you know where it is (if you know that it is). Probably not Dogwood, with its hyper-retro equipment. Certainly not Dunes Friendship Land, which at the moment is nothing but the memory of a playground.

Or possibly you’re like Dane Lafata, who cuts the Gordian knot and just takes his daughters to parks in other towns.

“Everybody else has really nice parks,” Lafata says. “Why does Chesterton--which used to be so kid-frendly, with Wizard of Oz--not have that? Why is it gone? Will there be anything here for my daughters when they grow up?”

For Lafata these questions are simply different ways of asking the most important question--and the one which is front and center in his campaign for the Democrat nomination for the open 3rd District seat on the Town Council: “Is Chesterton doing everything it can to make the lives of its residents better and safer?”


Lafata, 35, has lived in Chesterton for most of his life and is part owner of Lafata Tax Service in Lake Station, in whose Chesterton office he prepares tax returns and does bookkeeping and payroll. He’s also the owner of Little Giant Consulting, which provides IT and database management services.

“My background is small business,” Lafata says. “My whole family is about small business. Small business is what I think made America great.”

Another thing that made America great is volunteerism and Lafata knows a little bit about that as well. The Town Council has twice appointed him to the Tax Abatement Advisory Committee and for the last two years he’s served as the treasurer of Liberty Rec Baseball/Softball.

Between his professional experience and his community service, Lafata reckons he’s as qualified as the next guy, and maybe more than the next guy, to sit on the Town Council. “I’ve served on town boards and with community organizations,” he says. “I’ve run small businesses and helped others to get their business off the ground and improve. I’ve helped local union halls fix tax issues and save hundreds in penalties.”

Of Parks

and Public Participation

Seamlessness, you could say, is Lafata’s watchword when it comes to municipal government. “My philosophy on municipal government is that it should do all the things that people don’t think about but make living in our town great,” he says. “Are there sidewalks? Are they safe to walk on?Are the town roads free of potholes? Are there parks? Is there a contract to have trash removed?”

When a resident starts noticing this or that service, though, it’s likely that something’s not quite right. Hence Lafata’s “concern,” as he puts it, about the parks. “We have been without a playground at Chesterton Park for over a year now and the playground equipment at Dogwood Park is the same I played on as a child. When my daughters want to go to the park, we get in the car and drive to Valpo or Portage. To me parks are a quality-of-life issue. Good parks raise property values and keep people in town to spend money at our local shops. I’ve talked with (Park Superintendent) Bruce Mathias about his plan for Chesterton Park and it’s nice. it’s a good plan. I want to make sure the town can implement this plan.”

If elected, Lafata would pursue two policies right off the bat.

First, he’s interested in resurrecting the idea of putting a trailer-mounted restroom in Thomas Centennial Park. The Town Council unceremoniously 86ed the proposal after a few folks complained that such a thing would sully Chesterton’s reputation. But members later choked on the estimated cost of a brick-and-mortar facility: right around a quarter of a million dollars. No one on the council’s talked about a restroom in the park for months and months.

“When I visited the 911 Memorial at the Pentagon, they had a trailer-mounted restroom,” Lafata says. “It was very nice. And what’s worse? Chemical toilets or trailer-mounted?”

Second, he’d like to investigate the ways and means of putting Town Council meetings on line, for folks who can’t attend them in person--or would rather spend time with their family than at town hall. “Having the meetings on line would allow people to see them at home and even have their child watch some of what’s going on,” Lafata says.

Economic Development and the Little Guy

Lafata’s view on economic development is pretty clear: bigger isn’t better, not by a long shot. “My philosophy on economic development is to create an environment where small and medium locally owned business can grow and flourish,” he says. “Although giant corporations and big box retailers grab the headlines, I want Chesterton to be a place where the next set of great businesses are started and grow.”

“I don’t see the value of a Walmart coming to town,” Lafata adds. “It didn’t break my heart when they said it wasn’t coming to the property at 49 and the Toll Road.”

How would the town go about giving the little guy--not a break--but the fairest shot possible? Lafata offers one very specific example. When the corporate fast-food outfits on Indian Boundary Road “want more signage, we can’t give it to them fast enough,” he says. “They’re rarely turned down.”

But take a small business operating in a leased space in a commercial multiplex in the South Calumet Business District. Only two monument signs serve that district and space on them is limited strictly to landlord, the owner of the multiplex. What’s that small business supposed to do? Lafata wants to know.

“There are a lot studies out there about what local government can do to encourage the growth and success of small business,” Lafata says. “But most are filled with buzz words and not much substance. I don’t have anything specifically in mind at this point. But just being available for people who put their name on a sign, that’s a good start.”

Final Thought

“Chesterton is a great town to live and raise a family,” Lafata says. “And that is what it should aspire to be: great. Chesterton should aspire to grow. It should be a place where people want to move, to open businesses in, to visit our parks, our Downtown, and our events.”


Rory McMahan


It’s time for a fresh perspective on the Chesterton Town Council--the kind of perspective that only comes with youth.

That, in essence, is the impetus behind Rory McMahan’s campaign for the Democrat nomination to the open 3rd District seat on the council.

“I love Chesterton for what it is, what it has been, and what it will be,” McMahan says. “And I think it’s time for people of my generation to step up. For so long I’ve heard from the same people. And I appreciate their contributions. But I feel the burden shouldn’t fall on the same people always.”

McMahan, 34, lived in Porter since the fifth grade but has since moved to Chesterton. He works as an earth science and health teacher at a residential treatment center for teens in Wheatfield. And he has a “love of politics.”

A “Passion for Service”

“I’ve always been politically active,” McMahan says. “I could volunteer at a soup kitchen. But the Town Council probably is more my speed. I have a firm knowledge base of the political process, I understand how the governmental structure works, and I’m interested in beginning a long-term service to Chesterton.”

He had a similar interest while living in Porter eight years ago, McMahan notes, but lost in the primary election.

McMahan is unwilling to compare himself to his opponent, Dane Lafata--“I consider myself no better than any other man or woman,” he says--but he does think he’s got a few things going for him. “I believe that my youth, my professional expertise, and my passion for service will serve as a great asset to Chesterton.”

“I’m not adverse to dealing with argument,” McMahan adds. “I’m slow to anger. I weigh all options. I would bring reason to the Town Council, which makes for a more rounded approach to problems.”

Of the Street Department

and Winter Preparations

Most generally, McMahan identifies his priorities on the Town Council, should he be elected, as these: “Fiscal responsibility, while building and improving upon our current infrastructure, business opportunities, and recreational enjoyment for the people of Chesterton.”

But McMahan identifies the Street Department in particular as “a pillar of my candidacy.”

“If elected, I would make street maintenance a priority,” he says. “The wear and tear of the season, potholes, and projects should be an issue and proper attention and funding of the department is important to me.”

McMahan is also concerned with the adequacy of the town’s preparations for the winter of 2016. “People get the feeling that sometimes the streets aren’t plowed as quick as they might be,” he says. “I want to make sure that we’re prepared for whatever the winter of 2016 brings us. A lot of us commute and if we can’t even get out of our own town, that’s a bit of a concern.”

McMahan pledges to “spend within the allotted budget while always trying to generate new avenues of revenue.”

He expresses a desire as well to “reach out to the citizens through a variety of ways: newsletters, public appearances, transparent operating procedures and expenditures, and accomplishing goals all build trust that local governments are in fact truly serving the citizens.”

On Economic Development

“Chesterton is a growing business community that retains the feel and appearance of a close-knit small town,” McMahan says. “I love that we are a community that people strive to be part of. We are pulling new residents from all over the country that desire the benefits of Chesterton: our close proximity to Chicago, the beauty of the Dunes, our ever-evolving European Market, the expanding business opportunities, and our overall beautiful quality of life. From our small locally supplied restaurants to specialty shops to industrial businesses, Chesterton truly offers an array of opportunities to create the true American dream.”

“A Fresh Perspective”

Above all, McMahan says, he brings to the table his youth and the innovative vision enjoyed by the young. “I love Chesterton for what it is: a great amount of opportunities for a lot of people. But being young you see things from a fresh perspective. I’m not so ossified in my thinking. There are people who are more cemented in their positions. I’m flexible.”


Posted 4/28/2015