Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Many candidates skip election forum here

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By KEVIN NEVERS

Candidates in all four contested countywide races and the single contested legislative race in Duneland spoke at a forum on Wednesday at Sand Creek Country Club.

The forum was hosted by the Duneland Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by Lakeside Wealth Management Group LLC.

Each candidate was given three minutes to introduce him- or herself and to discuss the key issues in the respective race. The candidates were given the podium in alphabetical order.

Surveyor

Democrat incumbent Kevin Breitzke appeared. His Republican challenger, Bill Rensberger, did not.

Breitzke, who’s running for his sixth four-year term, spoke of his professional expertise--certified as professional land surveyor, septic system inspector, and stormwater inspector--as well as his professionalization of the office itself.

“We’re constantly improving the technology,” Breitzke said. “It’s one of the most productive and efficient county surveyor offices in the state,” Breitzke said. On top of that, “I’ve made personal, friendly service the highest priority.”

Breitzke pledged to “improve drainage and solve drainage problems in the most cost-efficient ways” and--especially given the volume of roadwork in the county--to perpetuate survey markers.

Treasurer

Both Democrat incumbent Michelle Clancy and her Republican challenger, Chuck Harris, appeared.

Clancy, who was elected to the office by a Democrat caucus, previously served as Chief Deputy Treasurer. Among other things, she cited her bachelor’s degree in accounting and international business and her MBA in finance, and noted that her first year’s budget she cut by 10 percent.

Clancy also spoke of her office’s new on-line capabilities, which she introduced in 2015 and upgraded this year, giving taxpayers access to their tax bills and the ability to pay them from all computers, devices, and smartphones. “Basically from your living room,” she said.

Harris, a licensed funeral director with a degree from Ball State University, is currently in his second term as Porter County Coroner, and said that he’s chosen to run for Treasurer because the Coroner’s Office is limited to two consecutive terms. “Treasurer would be a great fit for me. Like all office holders, I am a public servant first and foremost.”

As Coroner, Harris said, “I’ve focused on giving the best service possible to families at the worst possible moment of their lives” as well as to the professional first-responders who regularly respond to scenes.

Harris observed that many folks feel comfortable paying their tax bills on line. But not everybody. “I want to make it as convenient as possible for that certain demographic that still wants to pay in person and have a receipt in hand,” he said. For that reason he plans, if elected, to establish a satellite office in the North County Complex in Portage, followed by satellites in Chesterton and Kouts.

Commissioner

Republican Jim Biggs--who currently has the 1st District seat on the Porter County Council--is facing Democrat Jeff Chidester for the open North District seat on the County Commissioners. Biggs appeared at the forum. Chidester did not.

Biggs began by saying that he previously served two four-year terms as Commissioner, beginning in 1992, then opted not to run again for the seat. It was during his tenure as Commissioner, Biggs said, that the county pursued the largest building project since the old courthouse: the new Porter County Jail.

And it’s been during his tenure on the County Council--Biggs is currently serving his sixth year on it--that the council succeeded ing opening the jail’s third pod, thereby “relieving a serious jail overcrowding problem.”

Biggs also spoke of the establishment of the Porter County Government Non-profit Charitable Foundation, undertaken jointly by the Council and the Commissioners, which he said has secured the county’s financial position.

State House, 4th District Seat

Democrat Pamela Mishler Fish is challenging Republican incumbent Ed Soliday for his 4th District seat in the Indiana House of Representatives. Fish appeared at the forum. Soliday did not. Soliday also did not appear at a candidate forum hosted on Oct. 4 by the Valparaiso League of Women Voters. And Soliday did not accept an invitation from the Chesterton Tribune to complete a candidate questionnaire.

Fish began with her background and previous service. She’s president and CEO of Midwest Environmental Systems Inc., an industrial waste management and environmental consulting firm. Among other things, she’s served as Porter County Clerk and on the Porter County Redevelopment Commission, the U.S. Highway 6 Corridor Development Steering Committee, and the Union Township School Board.

Fish’s main issues are two. The first: “great-paying jobs.” Young people are abandoning Northwest Indiana to find work elsewhere, she said. “We need to bring jobs to the area. High-tech manufacturing is the key to get rid of urban blight.”

The second issue: public education. It makes no sense, Fish said, to try to solve the problem of “failing schools” by opening a new church school just down the street.

Her view of the House as it’s currently constituted: It has “not conducted the people’s business.”

County Council. At-large Seats

Democrat incumbent Sylvia Graham, Bob Poparad, and Dan Whitten are facing Republican challengers Travis Gearhart, Jeff Larson, and Rich Parks.

Graham, Poparad, and Whitten all appeared at the forum. Of the Republicans, only Larson did.

Graham, who’s served on the County Council for eight years, spoke first of her background: retired family nurse practitioner, retired professional bass angler, and former 4-Her. Graham got into politics, she said, when the Indiana Toll Road was leased. “I still don’t like the privatization of public property.”

Of the Porter County Government Non-profit Charitable Foundation, Graham said that “there should not be a reason that Porter County should have to raise taxes again, ever.” And she observed that, after less than a year, the foundation has already accrued $1.56 million in interest.

Poparad, for some 40 years a businessman, has served 12 years on the County Council, during which time he and his colleagues have proved to be “hard-nosed” when it comes to the expenditure of public funds. “It’s not my money,” he said. “It’s taxpayers’ money.”

And like Graham, Poparad pointed to the Non-profit Charitable Foundation as the key to the county’s fiscal health. “It’s going to benefit everyone,” he said. “My grandchildren are going to benefit.”

Whitten, a bankruptcy attorney in practice with his wife in Portage--as well as a former police officer and U.S. Army veteran--is in his 12th year on the County Council. He cited the following as accomplishments during his tenure: the new animal shelter; the Ind. 49 utility corridor, a joint project with the Town of Chesterton; and for the last three years, decreases in property taxes.

“Porter County is the most solvent county in the State of Indiana,” Whitten said, “and it always will be.”

Larson, a Liberty Township resident, taught the building trades for 18 years at Chesterton High School, and has been the owner of a contracting business since 1984. “We’re faced with a lot of tough issues in the next few years,” he said. “Our leadership has been adequate but we can do better.”

Larson spoke of three issues in particular. The drug problem: “We need to invest in young people.” Economic development: “We need to expand the county’s outreach to other parts of the country and world.” And infrastructure: not having infrastructure in otherwise developable parts of the county is a “big setback” for economic development.”

Lieutenant Governor

Dunelander Karl Tatgenhorst is running as the Libertarian Party’s candidate for lieutenant governor.

“Democrats and Republicans both have strong visions for how this state should be run,” Tatgenhorst said. “But their vision is how to run the state for Marion County. We want more say for the communities and less for Marion County.”

 

 

Posted 10/27/2016

 
 
 
 

 

 

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