In the municipal
primary election on Tuesday, May 7, Chesterton Town Council Member Dane
Lafata will defend his 3rd District seat against a challenge from fellow
Democrat Robert Allison. The Chesterton Tribune invited both to
respond to a candidate questionnaire.
set word limits for each question and reserved the right to edit for length.
Lafata: I am
39. I prepare income tax returns, do bookkeeping and payroll, and on the
side perform IT consulting.
(2) For Lafata: Why
are you running for re-election? (75 words) After college I wanted to
return to Chesterton because it was a great place to grow up. Iím running
for re-election because I want to keep Chesterton a great place to grow up
and lay the ground work to make Chesterton a place the next generation wants
to return to. There are a few things I would like to accomplish over the
next four years (see my answer to question No. 9).
For Allison: Why
are you running for election (75 words) To bring a fresh perspective to
(3) For Lafta: What
specific skill sets have you brought to the Town Council? (75 words)
When the council created an ad hoc Salary Study Group, I was added to the
group because of my background in bookkeeping. I was able to sort through
pages and pages of numbers and boil it down to what was important. Iíve also
been available to the Clerk-Treasurer when she has had payroll questions.
Another skill I bring to the council is I listen and evaluate options.
For Allison: What
specific skill sets would you bring to the Town Council? (75 words) I'm
a great listener and great communicator. I think we need to LISTEN more to
the residents of this town when they speak and give them opportunities to do
yourself from your opponent and indicate why in particular you believe
yourself to be the better candidate (100 words).
served on the Town Council the last three years, the Redevelopment
Commission the last two years and the Tax Abatement Committee the last six
years. Iím experienced and knowledgeable. Iíve served as the treasurer of
Liberty Rec baseball/softball and even though I donít have children who
wrestle I also serve as treasurer of the Chesterton Wrestling Club because I
enjoy giving back to the groups that made me the person I am today. On a
personal level, I donít overreact; I listen and think through what I am
going to say before I say it.
don't think one person is a ďbetterĒ person than any other. We are ALL
created equally and should be treated as such.
(5) What are the
key issues in this race? (150 words)
most important issue facing Chesterton is the budget. Over the last four
years the council has worked to catch up the townís employeesí salaries to
the surrounding communities. We need to make sure at a minimum we are able
to give raises that keep up with inflation. We need to make sure all
employees are treated fairly. In addition to the budget, we need to work on
bringing new businesses to town and continue to hold developers accountable
and make sure their developments fit in with Chesterton.
believe there are differing opinions on how developments or subdivisions are
being implemented in town. We are losing ďGreen Space.Ē I believe there
should be better focus on taking care of our town employees currently and
those that are retired. I believe we need to investigate the possibility of
building a second fire station east and south of the current one. We are
developing to the east and south and response times are crucial in
emergencies. There are several assisted living facilities there as well as a
terrific company in Urschel Laboratories, along with a number of medical and
health facilities, and plans for two hotels that would bring additional
people to town. Having a second fire station in that area would also assist
in wear and tear on the existing fire vehicles.
(6) At least two
members of the Advisory Plan Commission have expressed concern about the
possible over-development of duplexes and paired patio homes in town.
Meanwhile, residents of Westchester South, Stone Meadows, and Rosehill
Estates have all expressed concern in recent months about proposed planned
unit developments in their neighborhoods. What in your view should be the
optimum mix of R-1, R-2, and R-3 in Chesterton; and what is your opinion of
the value of PUDs? (150 words)
Chestertonís housing is currently at 67 percent single-family homes and 11
percent apartment complexes, with the rest being other smaller rentals. I
believe this is a good mix and would not like to see the single family rate
drop below two-thirds. Having a good mix like we do is important to give
retiring seniors and those starting families the option to live in
Chesterton. When I moved back to Chesterton, my first place was a
two-bedroom duplex, then we moved to a larger rental as my family grew and
saved money to buy my current house. PUDs are important because they allow
the town to see what a developer plans for the whole development and allows
the town and developer to discuss options to make the whole development fit
with the town.
optimum mix of R-1, R-2, and R-3 should be addressed by the Advisory Plan
Commission and the Council should listen. There are great homes in
Chesterton that are vacant. I believe there should be incentives, and
possibly breaks for future residents or companies to refurbish and occupy
these homes before we go taking homes and building PUDs that encroach on
existing homes. The residents have, and rightfully so, been upset about the
plans for some of these PUDs and the Advisory Plan Commission should listen
as well as council members. I have received numerous residents asking my
position on this topic. My position is, Let's investigate occupying the
existing homes we have.
(7) For Lafata: You
are a sitting member of the Redevelopment Commission. Explain tax increment
financing and discuss your preferences for the expenditure of TIF moneys
(150 words). Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts are a necessary
evil in this time of tight budgets. TIFs allow the town to keep and use the
property tax collected on the assessed value in the TIF over the assessed
value of the TIF in a base year. This does mean the increase in tax income
is not shared with the county, the schools, or library. There are many state
limits on how TIF money can be spent. I believe the TIF money has been well
spent on projects like the fiber-optic project, and should continue to be
used on projects that make Chesterton as a whole better. One area I would
like to look more closely at is when we have an option to use grant money we
do so outside of the TIFs.
For Allison: As a
member of the Town Council, you could be appointed to the Redevelopment
Commission. Explain tax increment financing and discuss your preferences for
the expenditure of TIF moneys (150 words). Tax increment funding can be
used in a number of specific ways. My belief is we need to get our
infrastructure inspected and repaired accordingly before we tax it any more.
We are building and annexing and yet we still have failure in aging piping
and force mains in town. Let's focus on bringing those up-to-date and
getting our equipment in top shape as well if needed.
(8) During the
current Town Councilís term, Chesterton Tribune readers have
occasionally voiced dissatisfaction with the vacant Kmart (and other empty
buildings) on Indian Boundary Road; the proliferation of senior housing east
of Ind. 49; and the proposed double-hotel project at Coffee Creek Center.
What role, if any, does the Town Council have in promoting and managing
economic development? (100 words)
Lafata: No one
is happy with vacant buildings, especially the old Kmart at one of the most
traveled intersections in town. But that and the other buildings have
owners, and we do the best we can to work with them. I donít believe we can
or should use eminent domain to fix this issue. The senior housing and the
hotels are proof businesses want to come here and thatís good. The council
has empowered the Town Manager to work full-time promoting Chesterton. He
has done a good job; unfortunately, much of his work is done outside of the
Town Council should be promoting the town as a place where people can come
for a ďOne StopĒ for all needs. Make Chesterton a place where people would
LOVE to visit, shop, live, and even retire. We NEED a place where we can go
to get this done. Our residents are spending their moneys in Portage,
Michigan City, and Valparaiso. We are losing serious moneys to the
(9) The Chesterton
Branding Leadership Team has been at work for the better part of two years.
What single action do you think the Town Council could take most effectively
and economically to improve the Downtown? (75 words)
Lafata: We need
to do three things to help improve the Downtown. We need to improve parking
in or near the Downtown, we need to implement the rail quiet zones
throughout Downtown, and we need 200 activity days a year in the Downtown.
The 200 activity days can be parades, live music, or other events. We need
to continue to work with the Chesterton Branding Leadership Team, the
Chamber, and other stakeholders to accomplish the above.
believe tax breaks or breaks in renovation fees of the Downtown buildings
are necessary to attract potential businesses. It is tragic to see so many
vacant building in town. I absolutely LOVE what they did with Riley's
Railhouse. The building and business are beautiful! Ivy's Bohemia House is
as well. Again, we need to make Chesterton a place where people of all ages
would love to come and eat, shop, live, and even retire.
(10) For Lafata:
What specific issue do you believe the current Town Council could have done
a better job of addressing? (75 words). The Town Council could have done
a better job explaining why things are the way they are. This is often a
more complicated issue than you would think it should be with
confidentiality and other issues. This leads into Question No. 11, but I
plan on taking a bigger role in explaining what I can. For example, we could
explain better how park budgets may not be used for other departments.
What specific issue do you believe the current Town Council has done a good
job of addressing? (75 words). I believe the council did a great job in
getting the town employees raises. Specifically the firefighters and police
officers. This is something that needs to continue and should have been
addressed years ago. Our Street and Utility departments do an OUTSTANDING
job as well. Our streets and sidewalks are taken care of on an amazing
level. Our Utility Department is very quick at addressing the collapse of
aging force mains as well.
(11) For Lafata:
Your first three years on the Town Council were quiet ones, with you only
rarely participating in discussion of an issue, offering your opinion on a
matter under debate, or making a motion. Do you expect to take a more active
role in council business if re-elected to a second term? (75 words) The
Town Council members receive the agenda the Thursday before the meetings. I
read through the proposed ordinances and resolutions, I do my homework, and
ask questions or request clarification before the meeting. I do take an
active role in council business, just not as verbally during the meetings as
I could be and I will work on explaining the issues in Question No. 10 when
For Allison: On
March 12, 2018, you appeared before the Town Council to apologize for
comments which you posted to social media on the subject of employee wages.
Those comments you characterized as ďinsensitive, unwarranted, and unfair.Ē
Why do you believe you have the temperament to serve on the Town Council?
(75 words) I made a promise and commitment to myself and supporters that
I WILL NOT engage in mud slinging or negativity. I respectfully request the
same. An apology was given and accepted, letís move the town forward, not